First published April 2023 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle
Tom Divers is the founder and creator of Vietnam Coracle. He’s lived, travelled and worked in Vietnam since 2005. Born in London, he travelled from an early age, visiting over 40 countries (he first visited Vietnam in 1999). Now, whenever he has the opportunity to make a trip, he rarely looks beyond Vietnam’s borders and his trusty motorbike, Stavros. Read more about Tom on the About Page, Vietnam Times and ASE Podcast.
A short, moderate hike through thick jungle, down a series of steep wooden ladders and out onto a remote beach in the northwest of Phú Quốc, the Into the Wild conservation trail is yet another way to explore the island’s lush and beautiful interior. The hike is easy to follow, does not require a guide and has information boards about the flora and fauna along the way. The trailhead can be reached by motorbike, bicycle or taxi from your accommodation on the island; you can even camp on the beach at the end of the trail. The Into the Wild hike can be combined with a trip to Starfish Beach, Dragon Beach, and Gành Dầu Beach as a rewarding day-trip, or as part of an island hiking itinerary, including Đỉnh Tiên Sơn Peak and Núi Đá Bạc Mountain, as well as the Spring-Hopping Loop.
INTO THE WILD HIKE & CAMP
A Trail through the Jungle to a Remote Beach
Although Phú Quốc is known as a beach destination, the island’s seldom-explored yet beguiling interior is increasingly accessible thanks to several hiking trails. Inland, Phú Quốc is densely forested, very pretty and surprisingly rugged; the natural environment here is clean and undisturbed, especially compared to the island’s developed coastline. Hikes such as the Into the Wild conservation trail offer visitors the chance to experience a different side of Phú Quốc: encouraging engagement with nature, low-impact, sustainable activities and slow, independent travel, as opposed to group tours and multi-billion-dollar tourist complexes, like those that now blight large swathes of Phú Quốc’s coast. Below, I’ve included a basic map of the Into the Wild trail and an illustrated overview of the hike so that people can follow it independently.
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Into the Wild Hike & Camp | Phu Quoc Island
Difficulty: easy-moderate | Time: 2-3 hours round-trip | Entry: free | Guide: not necessary
The hike begins at a point on the red dirt road running between Gành Dầu village to the west and Starfish Beach (Rạch Vẹm) to the east. Although the trailhead and the trail itself on my map are not exact, you shouldn’t have any trouble locating it: look for a big green national park sign on the south side of the dirt road; opposite this, on the north side of the road, is a distinctive entrance gate created by woven branches with a big sign above reading ‘INTO THE WILD’. The wooden gate is sometimes closed, but it’s not locked: push it open, walk under the arch, read the signs and start the hike along the clearly marked trail. Remember to bring some bug spray, plenty of drinking water, some snacks for a picnic (there’s nothing available on the trail), swimwear and decent shoes – not flipflops – especially in damp conditions.
From the entrance to the end of the trail at the beach, the hike only takes around 45 minutes at a leisurely pace. In general, the trail is easy to follow, although there are a few smaller paths branching off here and there. The hike is mostly moderately easy, passing beneath large tropical trees, dense brush and across several wooden bridges. The sun’s heat is tempered by the canopy of trees, but the humidity can be punishing, especially if you’re not used to it. All along the trail there are information signs in Vietnamese and English about the trees, plants, flowers and wildlife in the area.
The defining features of the Into the Wild hike are the large, wooden, deliberately crude benches, seats, gazebos and sculptures. Some of these are spookily reminiscent of the 1999 cult horror classic, ‘The Blair Witch Project’; others are more benevolent, bringing to mind scenes of The Shire from J. R. R. Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’. While many of these wooden creations are aesthetically interesting, they’re not very practical: sitting on one of the enormous benches, for example, would not be a comfortable experience.
After a pleasant half an hour or so of strolling through the jungle, the path gets a bit rocky and ascends slightly until it reaches a rickety wooden bridge and viewing platform. Although the views are almost entirely obscured by the profuse tropical foliage growing all around the platform, you can just about see the sea and hear the wash lapping far below. At first, this appears to be the end of the trail, but on further inspection, there’s a wooden ladder leading off the viewing platform and steeply down the cliffside all the way to the ocean. Descending (and ascending) this precarious wooden-plank ladder is by far the most strenuous and treacherous part of the hike. Be careful and watch your step, especially in wet conditions. However, the ladder looks steeper and dodgier than it actually is once you start going down it.
As the land begins to level out, the ocean comes into view, glimpsed through a kaleidoscope of foliage. A stairway leads down to a wide, wooden-plank deck raised above a stony beach with picnic benches, a couple of toilets and a beach house with a few tents, a BBQ grill, some watersports equipment and wooden bathtubs. Technically, you can ask to camp here (if, indeed, there’s anyone around to ask). When we were there, a couple of young, polite national park rangers said hiring a tent for the night was fine. But, in reality, you might find it’s not that simple. So, if you plan to camp here, try to ask in advance. It looks like it’s set up for small groups to camp for a night, rather than independent travellers. But, if you can, camping overnight here would be very nice.
The deck, decorated with a handful of woven coracles, leads to a raised wooden walkway over a sand-and-stone beach and out to sea. The swimming is pretty good and the views across to the Cambodian mainland and the jungle-clad northern tip of Phú Quốc Island provide a scenic backdrop. Once you’ve had a dip, hydrated, and eaten your picnic, head back along the trail the way you came. The round-trip, at a leisurely pace, including a swim and a stop for a snack, should take between 2-3 hours. Back on the dirt road, you can continue hiking on another trail into the jungle directly opposite the trailhead for the Into the Wild hike. Otherwise, head to Gành Dầu village if you need to use the gas station, or cocktails at Gold Coast (happy hour: 4pm-6pm), coffee at 40six Beach Haus, or a seafood dinner at Biên Hải Quán.
If more trails like this continue to open on the island, visitors will be able to come to Phú Quốc for a hiking holiday, not just for the beach. And, if that happens, let’s hope visitors and developers alike will care for the natural environment far more than they have for the coast over the last decade. (Check out other Phú Quốc hikes and activities in the related guides below.)
*Disclosure: I never receive payment for anything I write: my content is always free and independent. I’ve written this guide because I want to: I like this hike and I want my readers to know about it. For more details, see my Disclosure & Disclaimer statements and my About Page