#ExploreVietnam

Camping on Dragon Beach & the Northern Bays | Phu Quoc Island

Prepare for Beach Camping

Phu Quoc’s northern coast is by far the most attractive, peaceful, naturally striking and least developed part of the entire island. Along the northern bays, there are no hotels, giant construction projects, burger joints, or backpacker bars. Instead, there’s acres of dense jungle rolling down steep hillsides right to the water’s edge, where seams of white sand lie totally empty and the sea is calm, clear, shallow and turquoise and the sun sets between the Cambodian islands in the Gulf of Thailand.

This is what most people want Phu Quoc to be – a deserted, lush, tropical island fringed by sandy beaches and lapped by calm seas – and yet most people don’t experience it, because they don’t visit the northern bays and they don’t camp. Sleeping out on the sands of the northern beaches is a real adventure and an experience that will stay with you for a long time. Do it now, while you still can, and before everyone else gets here.

Phu Quoc’s northern coast

Dragon Beach

Only accessible by boat, Dragon Beach (Bãi Biển Hàm Rồng) is a long, narrow lip of white sand sliding into shallow, turquoise water backed by dense jungle with dramatic hills rising behind. There’s no development here whatsoever. It’s beautiful. The stunning 10-minute boat ride can be arranged from any of the seafood restaurants on neighbouring Rach Vem beach, just to the south. I recommend taking the boat from Ngan Sao Quan right at the northern end of Rạch Vẹm beach, because the family are friendly, the boat is a colourful, pretty little traditional fishing vessel, and the price is reasonable: 100,000vnd per person for a group of at least four people. You will need to politely negotiate first, and you can also park your motorbike there overnight. Throw all your camping gear onto the boat and either arrange a time to be collected the next day or take the family’s phone number and call them whenever you want to be picked up.

Dragon Beach

Dragon Beach has two rickety wooden piers at either end, but the boat can drop you anywhere you like along the sand. The northern end is popular with day-trippers and it looks like there’s going to be a small homestay-style accommodation there, so if you want a peaceful, quiet and isolated campsite, stick to the southern end. Not far from the southern pier, a clearing in the jungle looks as though it’s an abandoned ranger station or picnic site: ideal for a campground. Set back from the beach and raised a metre or so above the sea, the sandy clearing is in the shade of large tropical trees and looks directly west for amazing sunset views. Out in the distance, you can see the jungle-covered hills and lights of Ganh Dau, the northwestern-most point of Phu Quoc, beyond which the Cambodian islands and mainland are clearly visible. If you choose to set up camp on the beach itself, beware that the tide comes in so much that only a narrow slither of sand remains above the waterline. (You should be able to discern the hide-tide mark on the sand.) You could visit Dragon Beach as a day trip, but camping here is a much richer experience: the place really gets under your skin and stays with you. It’s magical.

Dragon Beach


Rạch Vẹm Beach

Accessed via a long dirt road, Rạch Vẹm is a rustic, largely undeveloped white sand beach fringed by leaning coconut palms and shallow water, beneath which lie hundreds of red starfish (hence its popular name: Starfish Beach). The small fishing hamlet here has been luring day-trippers to the beach with excellent local seafood restaurants housed in gazebos above the sea, reached via long, wooden-plank walkways. The southern end of the beach is quite unattractive; the central section is pretty but also increasingly touristy, including kitsch props for social media posing; but the northern end is still quiet, beautiful and charming.

After crossing the wooden bridge, ride as far north as you can along the sandy path until you reach Ngan Sao Quan (Thousand Stars Shack). This is not only the most attractive beachfront on Rạch Vẹm but also a great seafood restaurant, point of departure for the boat to Dragon Beach, and a potential campsite. To camp out on the sand here – where there are deck chairs and a couple of rudimentary swings hanging from casuarina trees – you need to ask permission from the friendly family at Ngàn Sao Quán. Alternatively, you could park your motorbike here overnight (offering the family a small fee in exchange) and then walk a few hundred metres due north along the beach where you’ll find some more good potential campsites.

Rach Vem Beach


Equipment Check-List:

Tent or camping hammock (I much prefer the former, but both available to buy in Vietnam; try the FanFan stores in several cities, or hammocks can be found at King Kong Mart on the island), cell phone and local SIM, USB power-bank, flashlight (with extra batteries or a USB-charged flashlight is a good option), cash, a camp stove, firelighters (cồn khô in Vietnamese; available in most local stores), a couple of cigarette lighters, food and snacks (dried and tinned food is easiest, but you can be surprisingly creative when it comes to camping food), big bottles of water (5-6 litre bottles are available in most stores), thermos flasks (for storing boiled water), coffee and tea, your preferred alcoholic drink, socks (underrated camping asset – great for walking around your campsite without getting sandy feet), a mat for sitting on, reading material or a Kindle, long-burning candles (comforting at night, safer, less effort and less attention-drawing than a campfire), mosquito coil and bug spray, guitar/ukulele (optional), cutlery, a good knife, waterproof rain-suit (just in case), sunscreen, toothbrush, towel, bungees for securing your luggage on your motorbike, inflatable sleeping mat or yoga mat (makes all the difference if you actually want to get any sleep), sleeping bag or some kind of covering, wet ‘baby’ tissues (great for cleaning utensils), hand sanitizer, passport, lots of common sense.

(Source: Vietnam Coracle) 

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