First Published December 2019 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle
INTRODUCTION | GUIDE | MAP | RELATED POSTS
Right now, if you visit Phu Quoc Island, it’s all about the east and north coasts. Newly completed roads have opened access to beaches, bays, forests, and hamlets that were previously difficult to get to. These parts of Phu Quoc have yet to see the huge changes, developments, and construction that currently blight much of the rest of the island, and have laid waste to the natural environment and local life in the process. But, on the north and east coasts, Phu Quoc still has real island charm; still offers a chance to explore, to find empty beaches, eat local food in local restaurants, meet local people, wander through forests, and even spot some wildlife. Over the last few years, Phu Quoc’s reputation as a tropical island getaway has (deservedly) diminished, largely due to horrific over-development and environmental destruction. Indeed, the south and west coasts of Phu Quoc are far gone to both of the above, ruined by concrete and litter (save for a few lovely pockets and excellent resorts). But, on the north and east coasts my spirits are lifted. Here, there’s still a chance to see and experience the Phu Quoc of old; the one that travellers initially fell in love with: the lazy charm and rustic seascapes that pulled visitors here during the nineties and noughties. All this still exists on the east and north coasts. Today, I see Phu Quoc like this: the south and west is the tourist side of the island; the north and east is the travellers side.
GUIDE: PHU QUOC | NORTH & EAST COASTS
Below is my full guide to the east and north coasts of Phu Quoc Island, including my annotated map. If you want to experience Phu Quoc without the crowds and the construction, spend all your time in the east and the north: forget about the south and west. An entire week (or more) can be easily and satisfyingly spent on the east and north coasts. There’s plenty to see and do, lots to eat and drink, access is easy, and there are some great accommodation options. It’s all here on this page. The whole point of this guide is to get people away from the commercialized areas of the island (mainly the south and west), and into the much quieter, prettier, more characterful east and north coasts.
*Please support Vietnam Coracle: If you use the Agoda.com or Baolau.com links & search boxes on this page to book your accommodation or transportation, I make a small commission. All my earnings go straight back into this website. Thank you.
North & East Coasts of Phu Quoc Island, Kien Giang Province
View in a LARGER MAP
Location, Background & Environment:
Below I’ve written a description of the location and topography of the north and east coasts of Phu Quoc Island, followed by some information about the state of the natural environment:
In many ways, the north and east coasts are the most strikingly beautiful parts of Phu Quoc Island. The long, densely jungled ridge of Phu Quoc National Park rises dramatically behind the East Coast Road, curling up from the coast like a long, unbroken, wave, reaching its highest peak towards the north of the island, where it tapers off, before dropping into the placid waters of the Gulf of Thailand. While the northern hills are covered in thick, wild jungle (screaming with cicadas during the day, and throbbing with frogs during the night), the east coast is a garden of tropical fruit trees reaching all the way to the sea: coconut palms, mango, cashew, tamarind, eucalyptus, tropical almonds. The east coast smells of garlic during the hot, still, midday hours, when lunch is cooked in the fishing hamlets that line the road. Traffic is light, life moves at a slow pace, the sun is bright and hot, but the air seems always to be cooled by an onshore breeze, blowing in from the Cambodian mainland. And with the breeze, the shallow waters are faintly ruffled, swelling around the submerged rocks and lapping the piers and beaches, so that the day times are filled with a pleasant, hypnotic wash-knock sound. Throughout the day, narrow fishing sampans skate over the sea, punting over its smooth surface. The quality of light in the north and east of Phu Quoc is sharp and bright: perhaps because the air is clearer than other parts of the island, where dust particles from construction sites diffuse the light.
Looking out to sea from the north and east coasts isn’t just a plain horizon. From the east, the Pirate Archipelago is a hazy mirage, with the Vietnamese mainland town of Ha Tien faintly visible beyond. From the north, the green islands and distant mountains of Cambodia rise up like monsoon clouds. The two largest villages in the north and east are Ganh Dau and Ham Ninh respectively. Both are bustling, lively places with local markets and fishing fleets. Besides these, small fishing communities dot the northern and eastern coastline: tiny hamlets consisting of concrete and corrugated iron dwellings. These villages are scruffy and rough around the edges, but friendly and charming, too. Out in the shallow sea, floating fish farms and homes on wooden stilts rise above the surf. Ever since the sealing of the east coast road, linking Ham Ninh with Bai Thom, was completed in 2018, access to this previously under-visited coastline is easy. The International Airport, Bai Vong ferry port, and Duong Dong town are all just 15-30 minutes away by road. And Da Chong Port, just south of Bai Thom on the northeast coast, will surely reopen again soon, offering direct ferries to/from Ha Tien, as the east coast becomes more and more popular.
Environment & Pollution:
Currently, the north and east coasts of Phu Quoc are the only parts of the island that aren’t in a state of massive transformation due to tourist development. The contrast between, for example, the northwest coast (where gigantic resorts and entertainment complexes have utterly destroyed the forests and occupied every inch of beachfront) and the northeast coast (where the beaches are completely undeveloped and the jungle reaches the ocean) couldn’t be more apparent. Depressingly, I remember (it was only 10 years ago) when the northwest coast looked just as beautiful, empty and beguiling as the northeast coast does today. Surely it won’t be long before the bulldozers arrive on the north and east coasts, too. But, for now, at least, there’s very little major construction here. Most resort development is centered around Ganh Dau and Cay Sao beaches, where relatively small, low-rise accommodations have opened. While most of the south and west coasts of Phu Quoc are in a frenzy of construction and suffering from appalling litter, traffic, dust, pollution, and overcrowding, the north and east coasts are quiet, deserted, green and (fairly) clean.
That’s not to say that everything’s perfect with the natural environment in the north and east. Litter and sewage from the villages and hamlets is a big issue, and so is debris from the small fishing fleets. Flotsam and jetsam washed up on the beaches – mostly household plastic items – marrs almost every beach and bay. Unfortunately, it seems the Gulf of Thailand is full of trash, and much of it gets washed up on Phu Quoc’s beaches.
Beaches & Things to Do:
There are plenty of good beaches on the east and north coasts of Phu Quoc. And, unlike elsewhere on the island, most of them haven’t been subjected to major development projects. This makes the east and north coasts perfect for exploring: take your time, go down dirt lanes, get lost, have an adventure. The north and east coasts also have local life (something that’s lacking in other parts of the island) in the form of villages, hamlets, markets, and temples. And don’t forget to go inland, where there are farms, orchards and forests:
- Ganh Dau Beach
- Starfish Beach (Rach Vem)
- Rach Tram Beach
- Bai Thom Beach (West, East, South)
- Hon Mot Islet & Beach
- Bai Bon Beach
- Cay Sao Beach (North, Central, South)
- Riding & Cycling Routes
- Bee Farm, Pepper Farm, Cajeput Forests
- Ganh Dau & Ham Ninh Markets
- Nguyen Trung Truc Temples
Ganh Dau Beach [MAP]:
At the northwestern tip of Phu Quoc Island, Ganh Dau is a rocky cape with a sandy stretch on beach on either side. The southern side of the cape is a short sandy beach between two jungled, rocky bluffs. It’s an attractive spot with some seafood restaurants, a small fishing fleet, and views over to the Cambodian islands. Perhaps to best place to experience this side of Ganh Dau is by strolling along the wooden walkway at Nam Phuong Restaurant, which clings to the rocks and leads to a small, hidden, sandy cove. But the best beach in Ganh Dau is on the eastern side of the cape. A paved lane leads away from the bustling village, down to a cluster of good beachfront resorts. Here, coconut palms grow tall over sandy spits of white sand, and the sea is calm and blue. If you take the lane as far east as possible you can find a patch of beach to yourself, but really this part of Ganh Dau is best experienced at one of the mid-range resorts, particularly Gold Coast.
Starfish Beach (Rach Vem) [MAP]:
Even though it’s grown in popularity over the last couple of years, Starfish Beach (also known as Rach Vem) is one of the few places left on Phu Quoc Island that is still only accessible via a red dirt road. The bumpy, sandy, dusty lane (muddy in wet conditions) leads through trees to a large bay. Rach Vem hamlet, at the southern end of the bay, is a very scruffy, weather-beaten, rustic little settlement, with trash and sewage strewn all over the place. However, continue on the dirt lane due north and you’ll reach a lovely stretch of sand with clear, calm, shallow waters. Paddle around and you’ll see starfish on the sandy seabed. But what’s really put this beach on the map is the floating seafood restaurants (quán bè hải sản) out in the bay. Accessed via long piers or little canoes, these restaurants are good for lunch, offering fresh seafood at reasonable prices. It’s particularly popular with domestic tourists. Meanwhile, most foreign visitors rent a lounger on the sand and laze away a few hours with the jungle-clad mountains of Phu Quoc’s rugged northern coast forming an impressive backdrop. As a general rule, the further due north up the beach you go, the better the quality of the sand, the sea, the restaurants, and the price.
Rach Tram Beach [MAP]:
The most northerly beach on the island, Rach Tram is also the most remote and least visited of all the beaches on Phu Quoc. Accessed via a newly paved road through beautiful jungle and cajeput forests, Rach Tram is a long, sandy, tree-rimmed beach with high, green hills rising behind. It’s one of the most scenic stretches of coastline anywhere on the island, and there’s no development at all, yet. That will change soon, as plans are afoot to build a large ‘eco-tourism area’ here. But, for now, if you take the rough, red dirt lane to the northern section of Rach Tram, you’ll have the entire beach to yourself. It’s not perfect: there’s plenty of fishing-related debris on the sand and in the water, and each year more household litter washes up on the beach from the open sea. But the swimming is good, the scenery marvellous, and other travellers are nowhere to be seen. Rach Tram is great to explore and is one of the last such places left on the entire island. Enjoy it while you can.
Bai Thom Beach (West, East, South) [MAP]:
At the northeastern tip of the island, Thom Beach (Bãi Thơm) has a stark beauty. Silent, still, hot, sparsely populated, and filled with the scent of cashew fruit and the sound of midday cicadas, there’s something beguiling about this remote northeastern tip of Phu Quoc. Most of the beaches are pebbly, rocky, and hidden from view – reached via dirt tracks – and the water’s very shallow and tidal here. And yet, tranquil, sleepy Thom Beach is charming and characterful. There isn’t one beach; rather, there are several sprawling bays. I’ve marked these roughly on my map as west, east, and south. Bai Thom may not have the long, stretching sands of some of Phu Quoc’s other, most famous beaches, but it has calm shallow waters (hiding some coral and plenty of fish), wonderful views over to the Cambodian coast and highlands, friendly locals, lush tropical foliage, a couple of informal places to sit and to stay, and, most importantly, hardly any large-scale construction or noise pollution. Places like Local Beach Bar and Luna Beach, where you can camp by the sea under huge palms while dogs play in the surf and you order a fresh coconut and a glass of local beer before settling down to a seafood dinner in the cool evening sea breeze, remind you that Phu Quoc still has real island life. Thom Beach and the surrounding area is ripe for exploration, and it’s a place to sit back, relax, and let time stand still for a bit.
Hon Mot Islet & Beach [MAP]:
A few minutes south of Bai Thom of the East Coast Road, Hon Mot is a tiny, green and rocky islet, just a stone’s throw offshore. Accessed via a rickety wood and stone causeway, Hon Mot makes a fun little excursion. There are good views from from the islet, through the thick foliage, over to the Cambodian mainland. Rather worryingly, there’s sign warning of land mines. However, I’m told it’s safe if you stick to the trodden pathway. Opposite the islet, a couple of good seafood restaurants sell food and drinks. Quan Hon Mot has a large and attractive slice of shady, sandy, beachfront. A pier juts out into the bay, there’s a pretty garden with benches and gazebos beneath casuarina trees, and the beach is nice to look at (but not so nice to swim in, due to a build up of litter). All things considered, Hon Mot is a pleasant, relaxing, quiet, shady, peaceful stop on the East Coast Road.
Bai Bon Beach [MAP]:
Right in the middle of the East Coast Road, Bai Bon Beach is a long stretch of coast with hardly any development on it whatsoever. There are a couple of sleepy hamlets that are good for a drink or a snack, but apart from that, this section of coast is empty and lovely. The sea is very shallow and calm; fishing boats and floating fish farms sit on the flat surface. Palms and other tropical trees nod in the breeze. Oftentimes, the sea is reached via narrow, sandy lanes leading through the foliage. Sometimes you’ll find a good bit of sand, but mostly the beach here is rocky. But it’s beautiful and charming, and a relief to be on a long section of coast that hasn’t been transformed for tourism. Take your time, slow down, and explore.
Cay Sao Beach (North, Central, South) [MAP]:
Cay Sao Beach essentially refers to most of the southern section of the East Coast Road, north of Ham Ninh village. On my map, I’ve marked Cay Sao Beach in three sections: south, central, north. The southern section is a sprawling, shallow bay: sometimes very pretty with large swathes of trees leading right to the water’s edge; other times a bit scruffy with fishing and building debris. There are excellent local seafood restaurants hidden down dirt lanes around here, and some interesting sights, such as wooden boat building yards. The central section is the most up-and-coming part of the East Coast Road. This is where a cluster of lovely, small, mid-range resorts have opened up over the last year or so, thus drawing the attention of travellers. The landscape and seascape here are alluring: to the east, the water is glassy and like a mirror to the sky, while to the west the densely jungled ridges of Phu Quoc National Park rise dramatically. The northern section of Cay Sao is also starting to attract investment and visitors. Smart resorts, such as The Pier, and the relocation of Rory’s Beach Bar here, are an indication that the east coast of Phu Quoc is set for big things in the future. In general, Cay Sao is a beguiling bit of coastline and well worth exploring: head down some of the red dirt lanes toward the ocean and see what you find.
Riding & Cycling Routes [MAP]:
Exploring the east and north coasts of Phu Quoc Island on two wheels is really great fun. You can bring your motorbike or bicycle with you to the island, via the many ferry crossings from the mainland, or you can rent motorbikes and bicycles (although the latter are less available) from your accommodation. The blue lines on my map indicate roads for riding: they’re all highly scenic, well-made (with the exception of the red-dirt road between Ganh Dau and Starfish Beach), and the traffic is light. If I had my way, I’d happily spend a week or more just riding slowly up the East Coast Road, stopping for food and swims, checking-in to one of the resorts, then continuing the next day through the cajeput forests on the road to Rach Tram, camping for a night, then down the jungle-clad Bai Thom Highway to the Pepper Farm and the quiet inland road to the Bee Farm, then on the next day down the dirt road for lunch and a swim at Starfish Beach before hitting the red dirt once more, through dense jungle, to the white sands and resorts of Ganh Dau Beach.
Bee Farm, Pepper Farm, Cajeput Forests [MAP]:
Phu Quoc is famous for the quality of its black and white pepper. Along with Kampot, just across the sea on the Cambodian mainland, Phu Quoc pepper is considered by many to be the best in the world. You’ll see lots of pepper farms on the island: the pepper vines grow vertically in neat rows. At the Pepper Farm, located on a pretty, quiet, inland road, you can explore the property’s pepper production, along with other farm products, such as honey and local liquor made from the sim fruit – another Phu Quoc speciality. You can also stay overnight at the Pepper Farm in cosy wooden bungalows.
Further along the inland road, Phu Quoc Bee Farm offers the opportunity to see how the island’s honey is made, as well as tasting various honey-related foods and tropical fruits which grow on the farm. A free tour explains the production process and why bees are an important part of our ecosystem.
The newly paved road to Rach Tram Beach passes through an interesting and striking landscape of tropical trees and green hills. Not far from the junction with the Bai Thom Highway, a large cajeput forest stretches over a flat, swampy plain. The trees have twisted trunks and branches, and a white-silver, shiny bark.
Ganh Dau & Ham Ninh Markets [MAP]:
Local life is something that many parts of Phu Quoc have lost to tourism over the last decade. However, both Ganh Dau and Ham Ninh villages still have bustling local markets, which buzz with people, produce and food stalls throughout the day, but especially in the mornings and late afternoons. Just wandering around the villages and markets is enough to soak up the appealing atmosphere and energy that occurs anywhere in Vietnam when people, food and commerce come together. But to really get into these markets, stop by some of the stalls, buy some produce – maybe some fresh tropical fruit – and try some of the cooked food – noodle soups, sweet snacks etc. By doing this, you’ll genuinely engage with the people and the produce, and you’ll be contributing to the local economy outside of the resorts and restaurants aimed at tourists. Phu Quoc needs more of this, in my opinion. And, personally, after a couple of days in a resort, I crave some local interaction and food. Ganh Dau and Ham Ninh markets provide this. In Ganh Dau, the market now sprawls along two of the village’s intersections, whereas in Ham Ninh the market spreads along the road before the pier.
Nguyen Trung Truc Temples [MAP]:
A Vietnamese hero who fought against French colonial expansion in the Mekong Delta, Nguyen Trung Truc organized a militia which inflicted several defeats on the colonialists, including the sinking of the ship, Espérance, in 1861. Nguyen Trung Truc was eventually captured by the French and executed at age 30, in 1868. He is now a celebrated national hero and worshiped at temples and shrines, especially in the Mekong Delta, where he was born and was militarily active. In the last few years, temples dedicated to Nguyen Trung Truc have been erected all over Phu Quoc Island. Two of the largest and most impressive of these are in the northwest of the island: one in Ganh Dau village, the other in a quiet setting, down a series of inland back-streets. Both temples are ornate, decorative, shiny places constructed in the traditional style with pitched tiled roofs adorned with dragons and a large courtyard featuring a statue of Nguyen Trung Truc drawing his sword from its scabbard. Or the two, Ganh Dau temple is the more impressive.
*Please support Vietnam Coracle: If you use any of the Agoda.com links below to book your accommodation, I make a small commission. All my earnings go straight back into this website. Thank you.
There are two main clusters of accommodation in the north and east of Phu Quoc Island, plus several other options scattered about the region. Ganh Dau beach, just east of the village, has a row of good, small, mid-range, tasteful, low-rise resorts; and Cay Sao beach, a few kilometres north of Ham Ninh village, has a rapidly growing number of excellent little resorts for budget and mid-range travellers. As well as these, Bai Thom has a few modest, quiet places to stay, and inland there are a couple of rustic, farmstay-style bungalows. Bear in mind that rates are considerably higher during high season (November-April):
East Coast Road: It’s amazing how many places to stay have already opened along the East Coast Road, considering it’s only really been fully paved for just over a year. In the south, stretching up from Ham Ninh village, there’s a cluster of excellent, cosy, tasteful and affordable little resorts, and some are starting to pop up further north, too. Expect a lot of new developments along the East Coast Road in the coming years:
• Cay Sao Beach Resort [MAP]; $30-$60 [BOOK HERE] This is an excellent little resort with just a handful of attractive wooden bungalows raised on stilts in a lush garden studded with palm trees by the sea. Cay Sao Resort has a passion for low-impact, sustainable travel, which is exactly the kind of attitude that might save the east coast of Phu Quoc from the environmental destruction that has taken place on the west coast. Let’s hope so. There’s a small pool. $30-$60 [BOOK HERE]
• Kiki Coconut Beach [MAP]; $35-$60 [BOOK HERE] This lovely little place has a handful of simple brick-and-tile bungalows set among a sandy grove of coconut palms on a breezy seafront. Simply but thoughtfully furnished rooms, lots of garden space and hammocks to swing in, Kiki’s is a very relaxing place to be. However, prices in the high season creep up to the extent that it’s on the verge of being too pricey for the standard of accommodation. Book in advance, because there are limited rooms and demand is high. $35-$60 [BOOK HERE]
Cay Sao Beach Resort is a superb little place to stay, among many others on the East Coast Road
• Banana Homestay [MAP]; $25-$40 [BOOK HERE] Another excellent and diminutive place to stay on the east coast, Banana Homestay has just a few bungalows set on a wooden pier jutting out over the shallow sea. Rooms are sweetly and cheaply furnished. The atmosphere is relaxed, friendly, homey, and peaceful. However, the beachfront here is changing quite quickly, because other properties are following Banana Homestay’s lead by building more ‘bungalow-piers’ next door (see below). $25-$40 [BOOK HERE]
• Lotus Home Pier & Wooden Chalets [MAP]; $60-$100 [BOOK HERE] Next to Banana Homestay, and similarly centered around a long pier jutting out to sea, Lotus Home is a newly opened property with two kinds of rooms: bungalows on the pier over the water, or brick chalets set among the gardens. The former are a strange mix of wooden and corrugate iron, and the latter are sturdier, more permanent looking structures. Of the two, the brick chalets are the better furnished, but the pier bungalows get the sea views, which are fabulous. It’s a great little place to stay (there’s only a handful of rooms), but I think the rates could be $10-$20 less. $60-$100 [BOOK HERE]
• The Pier Resort [MAP]; $60-$150 [BOOK HERE] Currently the smartest accommodation on the East Coast Road, The Pier is a modern resort featuring angular chalets, bungalows and rooms on a pretty slice of seafront. The grounds are lush and the pool fronts a seafront deck shaded by tall coconut palms. The eponymous pier stretches out into the ocean with a viewing platform and bar housed in a gazebo on stilts above the water. It’s gorgeous at dawn and dusk. Rooms are classy, tastefully and crisply furnished. The most expensive are bungalows above the sea off the pier. $60-$150 [BOOK HERE]
• Mango Beach Resort [MAP]; $60-100 [BOOK HERE] Further up the East Coast Road, Mango Beach occupies a lovely steep hillside, dotted with tropical fruit trees, that slides down to the shallow sea. Attractive wooden chalets on stilts are arranged around a good pool with views out to sea. Rooms are smartly furnished by not showy. However, it was closed on my last visit. $60-$100 [BOOK HERE]
The Pier Resort is one of the smartest accommodations on the East Coast Road to date
• Cosiana Resort [MAP]; $40-$60 [BOOK HERE] Another smallish, mid-range resort with a pretty location on the seafront and a long wooden pier, Cosiana has cozy, well-maintained rooms, including a couple of beach bungalows. Most of the rooms are set on a steep hill looking out to sea. There’s a small swimming pool and colourful gardens. Service was a bit too ‘relaxed’ when I visited, but Cosiana is usually a bit cheaper than other mid-range resorts on this strip on coastline. $40-$60 [BOOK HERE]
• Cashew Villa [MAP]; $100 [BOOK HERE] A well-equipped, modern villa situated among a grove of cashews trees right by the sea, Cashew Villa is ideal for a family or perhaps two couples. It’s a beautiful place and reminds me of holiday villas on the Greek islands, set among olive groves. Book early, because it tends to be full in during the high season. $100 [BOOK HERE]
• Sunrise Resort [MAP]; $25-$35 [BOOK HERE] Although it’s on the opposite side of the road from the beach, Sunrise Resort is a nice, tidy little place to stay, with several brick, wood and tile rooms, all fitted with tasteful interiors, set back on the hillside. Prices are very reasonable. $25-$35 [BOOK HERE]
• Wildland Resort [MAP]; $25-$40 [BOOK HERE] Representing good value for money, especially compared with other seafront properties on this stretch of the east coast, Wildland features brick-and-tile bungalows set around a pleasant pool. The interiors are bright, the gardens are lush, and the beach is good. $25-$40 [BOOK HERE]
Cosiana, a cheaper option, is a good-value mini-resort on the East Coast Road
• Eastern Bay/Chez Vu [MAP]; $50-$60 [BOOK HERE] A collection of attractive brick and stone bungalows built on and around the rocks fronting a good beach, Chez Vu (also referred to as Eastern Bay) is a good place to stay, but it’s been closed the last couple of times I’ve been by. $50-$60 [BOOK HERE]
• Vaniza Resort [MAP]; $60-$90 [BOOK HERE] The stylish chalets at Vaniza are designed in a modern-meets-traditional style. With stone walls, curving glass windows, high ceilings, and palm-thatched roofs, the rooms are very striking. There’s a good pool, bar and beachfront. $60-$90 [BOOK HERE]
• Rocks Beach Boutique [MAP]; $100 [BOOK HERE] Constructed around a rocky bay, Rocks Beach Boutique has a decent pool, bar and bungalows. But, apart from its pleasing setting, I can’t work out why the rates are so high. $100 [BOOK HERE]
• Dugong Resort [MAP]; $40-$60 [BOOK HERE] A sprawling but low-rise property, Dugong Resort occupies a large stretch of land on the seafront just north of Ham Ninh village. Its rooms and bungalows are situated in gardens, around a swimming pool, and on the beach. The space and environment is good for children, and the resort is popular with Vietnamese families. $40-$60 [BOOK HERE]
• Gecko Homestay [MAP]; East Coast Road (TL48) | tel: 098 786 8877 : A large hostel with access to an undeveloped stretch of beachfront, Gecko Homestay is right in the middle of the East Coast Road. The setting is green, breezy and quiet, but when I visited it was closed. However, it’s definitely worth checking by when you’re in the area.
Kiki Coconut Beach is one of the most attractive of the mini-resorts of the East Coast Road
Bai Thom Beach & Village: At the northern end of the East Coast Road, Bai Thom is a quiet little hamlet and a series of lovely, tranquil, shallow beaches and bays. There’s a handful of modest budget options along this coastline, offering a more rustic, local, and cheaper experience:
• Luna Beach [MAP]; $250-$45 [BOOK HERE] Occupying a green patch of seafront gardens under tall, swaying palms, Lunar Beach is a small and intimate resort in the sleepy settlement of Bai Thom. Its has a few bungalows by the sea which, although minimally furnished, are cheap and good value for money. You can also camp here in the lovely gardens. The beach is very shallow, the breeze is beautiful, and the peace is enchanting. This is a good budget option. $25-$45 [BOOK HERE]
• Local Beach Homestay [MAP]; $10-$20 [BOOK HERE] Another quiet, relaxed and informal budget option on the seafront at Bai Thom, Local Beach has recently added a few simple bungalows for visitors to its cosy little beach bar. Bare but clean, the rooms are comfortable for a night. $10-$20 [BOOK HERE]
Bai Thom Beach has a handful of quiet, affordable places to stay, including Luna Beach (pictured)
• Capella Resort [MAP]; $20-$40 [BOOK HERE] Just east of Bai Thom hamlet, Capella is a small, cheap resort on an attractive bit of rustic seafront. The brick bungalows are comfortable and inside they’re neatly and brightly furnished. It’s a quiet spot with shallow water – good for kayaking – and views over to Cambodia. Good value for money. $20-$40 [BOOK HERE]
• Nam Em Rooms & Hammocks [MAP]; East Coast Road (TL48) | tel: 0938 676 555 | 150,000-250,000vnd: One of my favourite spots on the East Coast Road, Nam Em is a seafood restaurant but also has a couple of rooms and hammocks for overnight guests. The beach is sandy and lovely. There’s a wooden pier and palm-thatched gazebos right by the sea under coconuts palms. Amenities are basic, but it’s all you need for a night or two on a beautiful, isolated section of coast. This is a great little, budget option. (Camping would also be possible, if you have your own tent.)
• Quan Hon Mot Camping [MAP]; East Coast Road (TL48) | tel: 0965 648 468 | 200,000-500,000vnd: Not far south of Bai Thom, Quan Hon Mot is a beachside restaurant and chill-out area set on sandy ground in the shade of casuarina trees on a pretty bay next to Hon Mot Islet. It’s a quiet, relaxing place and, although there are no rooms available, it’s worth asking for permission to camp (if you have your own tent with you), because there’s lots of soft, sandy, shady space in the seaside gardens here.
Nam Em, on the East Coast Road, has a beautiful setting & a few, very cheap places to stay overnight
Ganh Dau Beach & Village: As the coast road veers east of Ganh Dau village, the local homes fade away, giving way to a few good-value, small, low-rise resorts. It’s a beautiful, quiet setting, with views over Cambodia and the mountainous northern jungles of Phu Quoc Island. Another good thing about staying here is the proximity to Ganh Dau village, which offers local life, street food and markets:
• Gold Coast Resort [MAP]; $50-$90 [BOOK HERE] One of my favourite places to stay anywhere on Phu Quoc Island, and definitely my favourite in Ganh Dau, Gold Coast is a small, mid-range resort set on a beautiful white sand beach. Near the end of the lane leading along the coast east of Ganh Dau village, Gold Coast is quiet and secluded with a dozen or so red brick bungalows spread along a grassy seafront and around a new swimming pool. Rooms are comfortable and large, the restaurant and beach bar are good (happy hour cocktails are great), but it’s the location that really swings it. The sand is bright and powdery, dotted with tall coconut palms; a long pier juts out to sea, from where the views over to the Cambodian islands and hills of the mainland are wonderful. Prices are pretty reasonable compared to other resorts of similar standards. This is a good place for families and couples. $50-$90 [BOOK HERE]
• Peppercorn Beach Resort [MAP]; $100-$150 [BOOK HERE] For several years, Peppercorn was the place to be on Ganh Dau beach. Its position on a stretch of white, powdery sand among a grove of tall coconut trees, and its classy but restrained brick bungalows, made Peppercorn a tasteful, isolated accommodation. However, due to erosion, its beach is now gone, and prices – which kept going up year upon year – no longer represent value for money. Peppercorn is still very nice, indeed. But, you have to ask why you’d chose to stay here instead of Gold Coast, when the latter is considerably cheaper and just as good, with a better beach. $100-$150 [BOOK HERE]
Gold Coast is an outstanding mid-range resort on a fabulous section of Ganh Dau Beach
• Kim 2 Resort [MAP]; $35-$45 [BOOK HERE] A nice arrangement of thatched bungalows near the beach and rooms in a villa-style two-storey building overlooking the swimming pool, Kim 2 Resort is a solid mid-range place to stay in Ganh Dau. It’s tasteful and friendly, and within easy walking distance of Ganh Dau Market. $35-$45 [BOOK HERE]
• Hula Hula Resort [MAP]; $60-$100 [BOOK HERE] A neat and tidy collection of red-tile roofed rooms around a pool and on the seafront, Hula Hula is comfortable, clean and well organized. It’s waterfront is attractive to look at, but there’s no beach. $60-$100 [BOOK HERE]
• Dumbo Bungalows [MAP]; $40-$60 [BOOK HERE] Part of the same complex as Hula Hula, Dumbo appears to be almost identical. I couldn’t establish whether or not they are under the same management. Either way, Dumbo is as good a place to stay as Hula Hula. $40-$60 [BOOK HERE]
• Sea Breeze/Mayfair Resort [MAP]; $40-$70 [BOOK HERE] Formerly Mayfair Resort, Sea Breeze is a smart, small, mid-range resort, right next door to Gold Coast. The bungalows are crisply furnished, including nice bathrooms, and the resort grounds are attractive. The beach is good. Sea Breeze is worth considering if Gold Coast is full. $40-$70 [BOOK HERE]
• Nam Phuong Resort [MAP]; $30-$50 [BOOK HERE] On the western side of Ganh Dau Cape, Nam Phuong is a cosy place with several wooden bungalows in a garden. The rooms are quite basic but fine, although they should really be cheaper than the asking price. The main reason to stay at Nam Phuong is its access, via a garden path, to an attractive seafront, where there’s a good restaurant, a pretty wooden walkway along the coast, and a little private beach in a hidden cove. The water is good and snorkeling is not bad here, too. $30-$50 [BOOK HERE]
• Newland Bay Resort [MAP]; $20 [BOOK HERE] A decent budget option, Newland Bay has a handful of bare but clean bungalows on the waterfront on the western side of Ganh Dau Cape. The setting is pretty and some rooms have little balconies looking over the bay and its fishing fleet. It’s not bad, although prices could be $10 less, and occasionally loud ‘vina-techno’ is played. $20 [BOOK HERE]
Nam Phuong has affordable wooden bungalows near Ganh Dau beach & village
Inland Farmstays: Inland Phu Quoc is very attractive, and it’s yet to be fully exploited by the tourist industry. But a couple of rustic, farmstay-style wooden bungalows and homestays dot the river valley just south of the intersection of the Ganh Dau dirt road and the Bai Thom highway. Quiet, eco-conscious and cheap, these places offer a glimpse of a different side of Phu Quoc Island:
• Pepper Farm Bungalow [MAP]; $10-$20 [BOOK HERE] A few rustic but comfortable and cosy wooden bungalows stand raised above the greenery on this little pepper farm. Small, quiet, cheap and friendly, Pepper Farm Bungalows is good value and low-impact – something that Phu Quoc needs a lot more of. There’s also good, home-cooked food. $10-$20 [BOOK HERE]
• Ut Phuong Resort [MAP]; $10-$30 [BOOK HERE] A quiet place to stay with a wooden house, including private rooms or dorms beds in a communal rooms with mattresses on the floor, Ut Phuong feels more like a homestay than a resort. The Bee Farm is nearby and the setting is very green and peaceful. $10-$30 [BOOK HERE]
On the inland road, there are a couple of excellent farmstays, including Pepper Farm Bungalow
Food & Drink:
In the north and east of Phu Quoc, eating and drinking is more local than anywhere else on the island (with the exception of Duong Dong town, on the west coast). Seafood restaurants and street food stalls can be found in the villages and scattered along the coastlines. Apart from the resorts, there are very few Western-style dining options, and very few English language menus. There are several good places to get a drink, too:
Eating: One of the nice aspects of the north and east coasts of Phu Quoc is that there’s still some local life, local street food, local markets, and local seafood restaurants (quán hải sản). This makes dining a lot more fun and rustic than in other parts of the island, where it’s all to often English menus, average international food, and mediocre versions of Vietnamese dishes. Most of the accommodations listed in this guide also have decent restaurants, but below I’ve listed several places to sample some street food or get a seafood feast:
Street Food & Markets: During meal times, street vendors and informal food stalls roll out on the streets of Ganh Dau and Ham Ninh villages, offering good, fresh, cheap and local food:
Ganh Dau Village Street Food & Market [MAP]: The village of Ganh Dau has grown over the last few years, thanks largely to the influx of migrant workers (from other parts of Vietnam) and the booming tourist industry. And so, the street food scene in Ganh Das has exploded, too. At the village’s main intersections, food carts, market stalls, and shops serve excellent Vietnamese street food dishes. You’ll find classic Vietnamese noodle soups, grilled shellfish, barbecued chicken, roast pork, savoury pancakes, fresh fruit and much more. When you’re hungry, just wander around the main intersections and dive in.
Ham Ninh Street Food & Market [MAP]: As with Ganh Dau, the fishing village of Ham Ninh has a local market around which street food stalls proliferate at meal times. There’s a pleasant buzz here in the mornings and late afternoons, when smoke from sidewalk barbecues fills the air. There’s lots to eat and drink in a typically lively atmosphere. Come with an empty stomach.
Seafood & Restaurants: As an island in the Gulf of Thailand, seafood is obviously a big deal on Phu Quoc. However, it’s harder than you might expect to find good quality, affordable seafood on the island. This is partly because much of Phu Quoc’s seafood bounty gets shipped to restaurants on the mainland, particularly Saigon. But, the east and north coasts still have some excellent value, good quality, fresh, local seafood restaurants:
Ganh Dau Seafood Restaurants [MAP]: On the western side of Ganh Dau Cape, several decent seafood restaurants cluster around the pretty, sandy bay, with views out to sea and over to the Cambodian islands. Although slightly overpriced, the food is good and fresh, and the atmosphere is nice, especially with the sea views stretching out before you. The Ganh Dau seafood restaurants retain a local feel. They’re great for a lunch stop or dinner if you’re staying at the nearby Ganh Dau resorts.
Starfish Beach (Rach Vem) Floating Seafood Restaurants [MAP]: Now days, Starfish Beach (Rach Vem) is a popular lunch stop for travellers in the north of the island. Even the bumpy, muddy access road doesn’t stop hundreds of visitors coming for a seafood lunch here every day. There are essentially two clusters of floating seafood restaurants here: one around Rach Vem hamlet, a very scruffy, litter-strewn place, and the other just to the north, on a very pretty stretch of beach. Obviously, the latter is the better. Some of the seafood restaurants are located on long piers in the shallow bay, others are floating wood-and-corrugated iron shacks, still others are simple concrete and wooden structures on the beach. There are dozens to choose from. Personally, I like to head as far north along the beach as possible, over the little bridge, and to the small collection of drink stalls and eateries by the sea.
Ham Ninh Seafood Pier [MAP]: The long, concrete pier jutting out to the sea from Ham Ninh village was once where boats from the mainland docked. But, now that the main ferry port has shifted south to Bai Vong, the pier has found a new life as a hub for floating seafood restaurants. All along the pier, seafood eateries (quán hải sản) jostle for space, raised on stilts above the water. It’s a very popular lunch stop, especially for domestic tourists, and things can get quite busy. The atmosphere is loud and the menus feature a host of different seafood dishes. Prices are OK and quality is fine, but not exceptional.
Bai Thom Seafood Restaurants [MAP] Although the tiny hamlet of Bai Thom doesn’t have that much in the way of dining options (save for a few street food stalls in the mornings and late afternoons), there are several good seafood eateries spread out along the coast road, often hidden down little lanes. For example, Friendly Beach is a beautiful spot for a meal, so too is the restaurant at Quan Hon Mot. Gio Bien is another local place, and Nam Em has excellent food and a very pretty location. There’s even a seafood restaurant off the remote road to Rach Tram, called Kieu Anh. You’ll also find decent food and a beachside setting at Lunar Beach and Local Beach Bar [MAP].
East Coast Road Seafood Restaurants [MAP]: Scattered at irregular intervals all along the East Coast Road are excellent local seafood restaurants. Look for signs saying ‘quán hải sản‘. Often located down red dirt lanes right on the beach, these seafood eateries offer some of the best, freshest, and most affordable food on the island. In particular, there are several good ones just north of Ham Ninh village, like Tinh Bien, for example. This is but one of many such places along the East Coast Road. Drop by during lunchtime (11am-1.30pm) or for dinner (5-8pm). Note that these restaurants rarely have English language menus, so be prepared to point, gesticulate, and make mistakes. If you’re an adventurous diner who likes to eat local, these places are exactly what you’re looking for.
Pepper Farm Restaurant [MAP]: Excellent home-cooked (and often home-grown) food in a quiet setting and an intimate environment. Stop by for lunch if you’re passing through, or dine-in if you’re staying as a guest at the Pepper Farm for the night.
Drinking: Most of the places to stay and eat listed in this guide also serve beers, sodas, fruit juices, smoothies and cocktails; they are all good places to stop by for a drink.
Rory’s Beach Bar: Cay Sao Beach, East Coast Road (TL48) [MAP] The big news for the east coast is the opening of Rory’s Beach Bar. A long-time Phu Quoc favourite for drinking and night life, the relocation of Rory’s from Long Beach, on the west coast, to Cay Sao Beach, on the east coast is a sign of the area’s increasing popularity and the confidence businesses have in its future. Rory’s is a classic, tropical island beach bar. It’s got everything you want and would expect: a creative menu of good food and drink, pool table, games, sports, activities, plunge pools, gazebos on the rocks, and a ship-wreck theme running throughout the property. The location is beautiful, sitting on the rocks and sand under coconut palms looking over the placid water towards the hills of Cambodia. I expect Rory’s new location to be just as popular as its former one, and it will be a big part of putting the east coast of Phu Quoc firmly on the map. Make sure you stop by.
Getting There & Around:
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Phu Quoc Island is well-connected to the mainland by regular air and sea routes. Once on the island, the east and north coasts are now easily accessible, thanks to newly paved roads, with the exception of Starfish Beach (Rach Vem), which is still accessed via a bumpy, dirt road:
By Air: There are dozens of flights daily between Phu Quoc International Airport and Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), as well as other domestic routes, such as Hanoi. Fares are very affordable, thanks to four airlines competing 0n the route: Jetstar, Bamboo, Vietnam Airlines, and VietJet. In addition, there’s an ever increasing number of direct international air routes, including many Southeast Asian and Northeast Asian cities. [Check air fares on Baolau.com]
By Bus: As an island, you can’t travel directly to Phu Quoc from the mainland by bus. However, there are good bus connections between Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and Rach Gia or Ha Tien, both of which have ports with regular ferries to Phu Quoc. Sleeper buses are a particularly good (and reasonably priced) option. For example, Thien Thanh Bus Line runs comfortable sleeper buses from Saigon to Rach Gia, from where you can hop on a ferry to Phu Quoc. Or Tuan Nga Bus Line operates from Saigon to Ha Tien, where there are plenty of daily ferries to Phu Quoc. [Check bus fares & times on Baolau.com]
By Boat: The ferry routes between the mainland and Phu Quoc Island have boomed in recent years. There are now well over 50 sailings every day in both directions between the two mainland ports (Rach Gia and Ha Tien) and Bai Vong Port on Phu Quoc Island. There are fast boats for passengers and motorbikes, and fast and slow car ferries. Boats leave throughout the day from both Rach Gia and Ha Tien. Ticket prices are fairly reasonable and journey time is between 90 minutes and 3 hours, depending on the route and the type of boat. For full details see my Phu Quoc Ferry Guide or check boat fares & times on Baolau.com.
By Bike, Motorbike, Taxi & Bus: Exploring the east and north coasts of Phu Quoc Island on two wheels is ideal. If you don’t have your own bicycle or motorbike with you, your accommodation should be able to organize one. With the exception of the red-dirt lane through the jungle between Ganh Dau and Starfish Beach, all the roads on the east and north coasts are now paved and excellent for riding. The scenery is lush and very pretty, the riding is smooth, and the traffic is very light. The Bai Thom Highway cuts through impressively dense jungle; the Rach Tram road passes by haunting cajeput forests; the East Coast Road is enchanting and a joy to ride; and the Ganh Dau→Starfish Beach dirt road is an adventure (although best avoided in wet conditions).
There are public buses between Duong Dong (Phu Quoc’s main town) and Ham Ninh village (on the east coast) and Ganh Dau village (on the north-west coast). I didn’t see any public buses along the East Coast Road to Bai Thom, but perhaps there is one: it’s worth asking around. Taxis are easy to find in Duong Dong town and can take you anywhere on the island. It’s also easy to order a taxi from your accommodation if you want to visit somewhere else on the island for a day trip. For example, if you’re staying at a resort on Ganh Dau Beach and want to visit Starfish Beach (Rach Vem) for a couple of hours, just order a taxi at reception. However, remember that Phu Quoc is a fairly large island, so distances can be quite far. There will usually be a set fare for your route, rather than using the meter.
The best time of year to visit the east and north coasts of Phu Quoc Island is the Southern Dry Season, lasting from roughly November to April. During these months, conditions are stable and pleasant: the sun is out, the colours are bright, the heat is dry, there’s little rainfall, and the sea is beautifully calm. However, my absolute favourite times to visit are the shoulder months: October and May, during which the weather is still good (although there’s still likely to be some rain around) but visitor numbers are low and so are room rates: the island is quiet, clean and affordable. The high rainy season months, roughly June to September, can be very wet and the seas can get rough and the water dirty.
Disclosure: I never receive payment for anything I write: my content is always free & independent. I’ve written this guide because I want to: I like these coastlines & I want my readers to know about it. For more details, see my Disclosure & Disclaimer statements here
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