Beach + Island

Last-Chance Beaches

by Peter J. Frank

Phu Quoc, Vietnam

Phu Quoc, a sleepy tropical island off Vietnam's southwest coast, in the Gulf of Thailand, is 220 square miles of near-empty white-sand beaches, unpaved roads, and simple bungalow-style guesthouses, with a population unperturbed by the forces of mass tourism. The handful of foreign visitors who've been there say it's the exact opposite of places like Phuket—and yet, "the next Phuket" is exactly what the Vietnamese government is hoping Phu Quoc will become.

A master plan unveiled by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung in May 2010 envisions a world-class tourism center with an international airport (already under construction), cruise ports, casinos, a business and finance hub, and seven million tourists by 2030. That's quite a change from the 162,000 visitors the island received in the first eight months of 2009. The government insists that sustainability and preservation are part of the plan.

Vietnam's hopelessly convoluted and corrupt bureaucracy will make it hard to get much built on Phu Quoc, say insiders, as will the island's relative inaccessibility. So there's still a chance that at least part of Phu Quoc's peaceful, unspoiled vibe will remain untarnished. But the 12-mile stretch of paradise known as Bai Truong (Long Beach) has already seen some concrete cookie-cutter hotels crop up alongside the more charming thatched-roof bungalows.

If you go: Mango Bay, on Long Beach, maintains the low-key Phu Quoc vibe with 31 bungalows made from local materials and furnished with mosquito-netted four-poster beds and solar showers.

Next: Development spells doom for Michigan's Saugatuck Dunes >

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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