Novotel Phu Quoc Resort
Situated on Truong Beach, the Novotel Phu Quoc Resort sits on the island's west coast, an easy 15-minute drive from the international airport. I flew from Kuala Lumpur on AirAsia's inaugural flight (1 hr 25 mins), the new route hinting at a tourism-driven future for this little-known island archipelago (pronounced Foo-Kwok). To make entry even easier, tourists can stay visa-free for 30 days.
Opened in January 2016, the five-star resort features 366 rooms, suites and bungalows. Wide expanses of lawn dotted with ponds and palm trees add an air of relaxation, with golf buggies (and bikes) available if you'd like a lift.
A further 96 self-contained, three- and four-bedroom villas, each with private swimming pool (opened, 2017), complete the complex. These villas are not adjacent to the beach.
While the main resort has two stunning pools, the real hero is the long stretch of beach. Clear, clean and calm, it comes with its own rustic swing and hammock, a fun addition that quickly became this reviewer's favourite place. The resort complex features four restaurants, three bars, two "In Balance" spa and fitness centres, kids' club, water activities and Vietnamese cooking classes.
My "deluxe bungalow with private pool" is one row back from the beach, but clever design means it affords sneaky ocean views from the king bed, private deck and pool. A garden path has me on the sand before you can say "fresh watermelon juice".
At 39 square metres, the room is spacious enough for a chaise and coffee table as well as a writing desk and chair. Storage is ample, lights are easy to operate (and find) and the duvet is a comfortable, yet sensible weight for the climate. With the doors pushed open to the breeze and well-positioned ceiling fan, I barely use the airconditioner. The covered patio has two sun lounges and adjoins my own private pool, which is well secluded from prying eyes.
While the bedroom features earthy tones of stone, timber and rattan, the bathroom is tiled in navy and aqua mosaics bringing a contemporary, beachside vibe. My only comment is that the addition of Vietnamese artwork or artifacts would lend a stronger sense of place.
The shower is separate to the large bath, which, when the blinds are opened, looks across the room to the garden and ocean. White towels for showering and aqua towels for swimming are a nice touch, so too the pretty-in-blue kimonos for lounging around in. The resort's commitment to "Planet 21" can be seen in the "fair trade" toiletries and default reuse of linen for stays longer than one night.
A buffet breakfast is served in Food Exchange, its open-plan kitchen providing a good variety of Western and Asian options. The Ocean Bar provides indoor and outdoor dining as well as pool and beachside snacks. Don't miss the fresh spring rolls – they really are exquisite. Phu Quoc Seafood is the resort's premier restaurant with a menu featuring locally caught seafood cooked with a contemporary Vietnamese twist and flavoured with ingredients such as Phu Quoc's famous black pepper and fish sauce. The wine lists features bottles from France, Italy, Spain, Australia and New Zealand, but only two varieties are available by the glass – a vin blanc and a vin rouge.
Phu Quoc Island is only 52 kilometres by 25 kilometres, so most major attractions are within easy reach. The main town of Duong Dong and the Phu Quoc night markets are 15 kilometres to the north (complimentary resort shuttle available), while the Ham Ninh fishing village is an easy 20-minute drive to the east coast. For a bird's-eye view of the southern tip of the archipelago, take the Hon Thom cable car to Pineapple Island.
The Novotel Phu Quoc Resort offers an island getaway for anyone looking for a new, exotic destination. The vibe is sophisticated yet relaxed, the staff are warm and friendly and the beachside location unbeatable. Small details, such as family days at the resort for staff working at a nearby clinic, and the sale of reusable bamboo drinking straws to raise funds for children in Vietnam affected by HIV/AIDS, points to a caring and inclusive resort environment.
Rooms at the Novotel Phu Quoc Resort start from $110. VAT not included. See novotelphuquoc.com
The beach is not only long and quiet, but faces west, which makes for lovely sunsets.
The resort grounds are extensive, with some steps, making the walk from lobby to beach a long one.
Kerry van der Jagt was a guest of AccorHotels, Novotel Phu Quoc Resort and AirAsia