Beloved in Vietnam, Phú Quôc National Park is both a nature reserve and resort wrapped into one package. Located off of the mainland on Phú Quôc Island, it has become the most visited national park in the Mekong Delta region. The reason for the park’s popularity can be attributed to its diverse character.
With luxurious resorts, perfect beaches, and a wild side, Phú Quôc has become a hotspot destination for solo travelers, families, and couples. Past visitors rave about the park’s features and even though it gets crowded, Phú Quôc reigns as the “can’t miss” destination of Southern Vietnam.
Island life is at its prime in Phú Quôc National Park, which is located about 25 miles (40 km) off the mainland in the Gulf of Thailand. Bearing the same name, Phú Quôc is the largest island in Vietnam. The island consists of one large triangular piece of land, which measures 31 miles (50 km) long and 16 miles (25 km) wide.
Additionally, Phú Quôc has 21 islets under its jurisdiction, all of which are part of the Kiên Giang Province. Phú Quôc National Park covers about 70% of the island with the remaining 30% having been mostly developed into a city and 5-star resort areas. Contrary to national park standards, most of the area has restricted access.
This means that the public cannot travel to the majority of the national park as it is strictly protected for research purposes. On the northern end of the island, Khu Tung Nguyen Sinh Forest Reserve is where travelers go camping, hiking, and view the local wildlife.
Phú Quôc National Park used to be a part of the Northern Phú Quôc Islands Preservation Zone. In 2001, the zone was upgraded to become a national park and the area has been recognized as one of UNESCO’s biosphere reserves. Though the national park is an island, its history was unable to escape the war.
Occupation under the French meant that the island once held the largest prisoner camp in all of Vietnam. The Phú Quôc Prison was built in 1949 by French colonists and used throughout the American War. By the 1970s, Phú Quôc Island became a fighting point between Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge and Vietnam.
The Khmer Rouge seized the island in 1975, but Vietnam fought to recapture it shortly after. Only one year later, Cambodia gave up all claims to the island. Though a small group of Cambodians, which are called the Kampuchea, continue to dispute the island, Phú Quôc is internationally recognized to be a part of Vietnam’s territory.
What to Do
A mix of resort and wildlife areas, visitors can spend days exploring Phú Quôc National Park and not run out of things to do. Visitors to the island can mix and match their itinerary to balance intense outdoor adventures with beachside lounging. Activities on the island and in the national park include hiking, kayaking, snorkeling, and sightseeing.
Most of Phú Quôc is off-limits to the public as the forests are preserved for biological and research purposes. However, in the northern part of the park, the Khu Tung Nguyen Sinh Forest Reserve has four areas where visitors are permitted to camp and hike. Bai Thom, Cua Duong, Ha Ninh, and Ganh Dau are beautiful areas where visitors are encouraged to explore the island’s nature trails.
Mostly flat, the trails in the reserve are easy to navigate and extremely photogenetic. Switching between bushland, grassland, and mangrove landscapes, the trails will lead visitors to some of the world’s most beautiful scenes. A few of the most popular trails include Ganh Dau and Ham Ninh. The Suoi Tranh Waterfall is another hotspot in the area, where visitors can swim beneath the cascades.
Seafood is fresh as can be in Phú Quôc and the local fishing villages have become prime island destinations for tourists. With floating markets, visitors can purchase the catch of the day and learn how to cook a delicious meal. Visiting the docks is also a great way for visitors to meet and interact with the locals. Cua Can, Rach Tram, and Ham Ninh are all fishing villages that can be easily accessed by boat.
A Day in the Waves
On the coast, the Kiên Giang Biosphere Reserve is the place to go for visitors who want to explore Southern Vietnam’s marine habitats. Like the Khu Tung Nguyen Sinh Forest Reserve, this UNESCO-protected biosphere is open to tourists and it has a slew of fun activities. Highlights in the reserve include kayaking and snorkeling to the Ganh Dau coral garden and Ham Ninh rock garden.
For families, Starfish Beach is a calm spot where youngsters can safely explore the tides. Not far from the Rach Vem Village, Starfish Beach has white sand, clear waters, and a nearly endless number of starfish. Visitors can picnic on the sand, sunbathe in the sun, and dive under the water to visit the aquatic animals.
Long Beach and Dat Do Beach are two other popular destinations where kayaking and swimming are also permitted.
The Hives and Fish Factory
Perhaps coming as a surprise, two exports from Phú Quôc Island are honey and fish sauce. The Phú Quôc Bee Farm is a unique place to tour on the island where visitors will learn all about the process of how bees make honey. Bee farmers give daily tours of their hives and frequently give visitors samples of the golden honey.
Additionally, fish sauce is made in a factory on the island. The Red Boat Fish Sauce Factory takes visitors on a guided boat ride and tour through the factory. Working with the government for a sustainable practice, visitors can learn more about anchovy fishing and the tasty sauce derived from the fish.
Plants and Wildlife
The preservation of Phú Quôc National Park has helped its flora and fauna thrive. There are thousands of species living in the park with various life forms found on the island and in the water. On Phú Quôc Island alone, there are 929 recorded plant types including the famous and rare melaleuca trees. In the water, 62 kinds of seaweed can be found growing amongst the coral reefs.
Phú Quôc also boasts several rare mammals, which is why most of the park is protected from human habitation. Out of 43 wildlife species, some of the rarest found in Phú Quôc are the slow loris, pygmy loris, silver langur, and small-clawed otters. Furthermore, Phú Quôc, one of two areas in Vietnam where these creatures can live, is also home to the dugong, a relative of the manatee.
Heading to the beach, visitors will frequently spot some of the park’s aquatic species. There are a few hundred species of fish, mollusk, and coral living in the ocean around the island. Snorkeling or scuba diving is the best way to view the animals, but some can be found near the shore too. A rare but possible occurrence on the island is when bioluminescent plankton light up the waves at night.
As an island, there are two ways to get to Phú Quôc National Park: by boat or plane. Rach Gía, the province capital, has ferries, which take about 6 hours, that go to Phú Quôc Island on a regular schedule. Ho Chi Minh City is about 4 and ½ hours from Rach Gía by car. Alternatively, visitors can travel to the coastal town of Ha Tiên, which will take about 9 hours.
However, a boat ride from Ha Tiên to Phú Quôc Island is only about 3 hours and 15 minutes. For many travelers who are already in the area, Ha Tiên is a convenient place to board a boat to Phú Quôc.
Flying to Phú Quôc Island is also an option and it is the fastest way to travel to the national park. There are several flights per day between Ho Chi Minh City and Phú Quôc. with the travel time estimated to be just over an hour in the air. There is a small airport, Phu Quoc International, on the island and from there, travelers can hire a car to take them to their accommodation.
When to Visit
The best time to visit Phú Quôc National Park is during the dry season, which occurs every year starting in October. With less rain, visitors will be able to soak up the sun and enjoy the national parks thrilling activities. It’s also safer to travel to the national park during the dry season because the ocean will be calmer without the storms.
December and January are the busiest times to visit Phú Quôc National Park because they are during both the dry and holiday season. The least busy time for the national park is during the wet season, which runs from April to September. However, even in the wet season and especially during summer holiday time, the island sees a spike in tourists.
Visitors are encouraged to make reservations for the duration of their trip, regardless of whether they visit Phú Quôc during the wet or dry season.
All Eyes on Phú Quôc
A beautiful and fun paradise awaits visitors to Phú Quôc National Park, where the island’s reputation has created a tourist boom for this Vietnamese destination. Combining the best of the resort life and a nature reserve, travelers have fallen in love with the island vibe of Phú Quôc.
Perhaps the most recognized national park in Southern Vietnam, there is no shame in following the crowd to visit Phú Quôc National Park.
Address: Huyện Phú Quốc, Kien Giang, Vietnam