First published September 2021 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle
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A small, mid-range resort on Phu Quoc’s east coast, The Pier features cosy, modern villas and seafront bungalows on stilts above the water with sweeping coastal views. The Pier is all about its location: the east coast of Phu Quoc is rugged, dramatic, green, peaceful, sparsely populated and has only started to attract visitors and developers in the last few years. This side of the island still has real charm and character. As the image below illustrates, The Pier occupies a fabulous position beneath jungle-clad hills. A few nights staying in one of The Pier’s seafront bungalows is a great way to experience Phu Quoc’s lesser-known east coast.
*To check rates, availability & make a reservation for The Pier please BOOK HERE
REVIEW: THE PIER PHU QUOC
Address: Cay Sao Hamlet, Ham Ninh, Phu Quoc Island, Kien Giang Province [MAP]
Average Rates: $50-$110 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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The Location: Right at the centre of the island’s sleepy, charming and beautiful east coast, the location of The Pier is its main strength. Phu Quoc’s east coast is much more dramatic, green, rugged, hilly and generally exotic-looking than the far more developed west coast. The Pier is located at the north end of Cay Sao Bay, an area that’s only begun to attract the attention of travellers and developers in the last couple of years, since the East Coast Road was paved, thus making access to this beguiling side of the island much easier than in the past. Green, densely jungled mountains rise steeply behind the Pier; the hills stretching north towards Bai Thom creating a beautiful backdrop to the resort. On the east coast you don’t get the sunset, but you do get the sunrise, which is just as spectacular (if you can drag yourself out of bed at 5.30am). But, sunsets aside, the views on the east coast are superior to the west: the green hills, the Cambodian highlands in the distance, the silhouettes of the Pirate Islands on the horizon, the white specks of Phu Quoc ferries plying back and forth to Ha Tien, the tide rolling in and drawing out, and the fishing huts on stilts above the sea hundreds of metres offshore. It has a character and lazy charm reminiscent of ‘old Phu Quoc’, which initially drew travellers to the island 10-20 years ago.
The east coast is characterized by shallow, tidal beaches and bays punctuated by boulders; not the long, sandy beaches that you find on the west coast. It’s also more sparsely populated, which means The Pier is fairly isolated. Although several small resorts and restaurants have sprung up along this stretch of coast recently, the nearest village is Ham Ninh, 10km to the south. The island’s main town, Duong Dong is roughly 20-30 minutes away by road, and so too are the main transport hubs: Bai Vong Port for ferries to the mainland, and Phu Quoc International Airport. However, Rory’s Bar – a long-running Phu Quoc institution, recently relocated to the east coast, thus raising the profile of the area – is just a short walk from The Pier, as are several local seafood restaurants.
Resort Grounds & Layout: The Pier is one of several small resorts and restaurants on the east coast that centre around a long, narrow, wooden pier stretching into the sea. This distinctive feature is an enticing photo opportunity for guests and a practical necessity on this part of the island. The water being shallow and tidal on the east coast, a long pier is necessary even for small boats to dock, and for swimming access for guests at low-tide. The resort’s main feature is the eponymous ‘pier’, with three bungalows on stilts directly on it and a gazebo bar above the sea. Where the pier meets the land, there’s a wide seafront patio, swimming pool and restaurant. Behind this is the bulk of guest rooms stretching up the hillside to the road, with tropical plants, flowers and trees growing between them. With some 20-30 neatly arranged and modern-looking rooms, The Pier is quite a small, intimate and ‘manageable’ little resort. (It may be worth noting that if you’re travelling with very small children, you might be a bit concerned about safety on the pier itself, which is slippery when wet, easy to trip on the planks or get splinters from the wood, and even fall through the rails.)
Beach, Sea, Pool & Activities: The sea off the east coast of Phu Quoc (which is essentially a mini-gulf within the Gulf of Thailand) is shallow and tidal. This area has a diurnal tide, meaning just one cycle each day. The sea recedes by one or two hundred metres, draining completely from beneath the pier, and exposing the sand and rocks, then trickling back in to fill the bay. Often glassy and calm, the sea quality is usually good, but it all depends on currents, weather and time of year. Sometimes, during the high-season (November-April), the sea isn’t as calm as on the west coast and can get murky and trashy, attracting jellyfish. During these times it’s still good to look at, but not so good to swim in. However, when the west coast is rough and stormy in the off-season (May-October), the east is calm, clean and beautiful. The sea around The Pier is shallow and therefore fun for paddling, light swimming, and safe for children. The seabed is sandy and there are lots of large boulders protruding from the water. Although there isn’t a long, sandy beach, access to the sea is very easy and the ocean looks fantastic.
The resort also has an attractive, good-sized asymmetrical swimming pool on the oceanfront beneath tall, bare palms, resembling a David Hockney painting. Kayaks are available for guests, which can be fun and easy on the glassy ocean – you can even row over to Rory’s Bar for a quick drink. If you a rent a motorbike (or taxi), Ham Ninh village is a 15-minute ride south, where there’s plenty of local life, a market, and street food.
Guest Rooms & Décor: There are several room types available, all of which are comfortably appointed, tasteful and fairly spacious, although not particularly stylish. However, by far the most attractive of the rooms are the bungalows on stilts above the sea on the pier (Superior On Sea Villas). If they’re available and you can afford it, grab one of these pier bungalows. There are only three such rooms and, before the pandemic, they were often booked up months in advance during high season (November-April). The bungalows have floor-to-ceiling glass doors opening onto balconies on two sides with marvellous views across the sea and back towards the jungles and hills behind the resort: it’s highly atmospheric. (Even the bathtubs have magnificent views north along the bay and the green mountains skirting the ocean.) Other room types are also attractive and cosy, but don’t have the same view, position or special atmosphere as the pier bungalows.
Of the twenty or so rooms at The Pier, most are modern, angular one-storey, white-painted villas with tiled roofs. Some have sea views, others are back from the sea in the gardens leading up the hill. The further you are from the sea, the lower the room price. Interiors are reasonably spacious, modern and stark, with some wooden furniture, soft chairs and large window-doors leading onto a patio. Lighting is soft and low, colours are muted and dark, furniture is functional rather than stylish, but it all comes together pretty well. Personally, I quite like the low-key, clean and cosy style of the rooms, although there is a touch of business-hotel about the décor. Room rates fluctuate between high and low season, and particularly since the pandemic. But, the general range is between $50-$110 per night. Big, multi-bed family and connecting rooms are also available.
Breakfast, Dining & Drinking: The bar and restaurant at The Pier are housed in a poolside open-sided structure. Simple, spacious and breezy, the bar serves juices, smoothies, coffee and cocktails; the restaurant has Vietnamese dishes, including local seafood, and some Western options too. (There’s also an attractive-looking bar at the end of the pier itself, but this wasn’t open when I stayed.) Breakfast is included in the room price and served buffet-style in the restaurant. While the breakfast certainly isn’t memorable, it nevertheless touches all the necessary bases for filling you up after a morning swim: fresh fruit, bread, butter, jam, eggs, noodle soup and the like. However, the food is quite greasy, and F&B in general is not one of The Pier’s strong suits. Other dining options include Rory’s Bar, just a short walk south of The Pier, which has a range of Western dishes and beverages. If you’re looking for local Vietnamese street food, head to Ham Ninh village, 10km to the south. Also, stretched out at irregular intervals along the coast between The Pier and Ham Ninh are several excellent local seafood restaurants on long, wooden piers. Look for signs saying ‘quán hải sản‘ or ‘hải sải nhà bè‘ – one of the closest to The Pier is ‘Cobia’.
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Summary: The Pier is all about its superb location and its wonderful On Sea Villas. If the weather is good and you are staying in one of the three pier bungalows, you can’t fail to fall under the spell of Phu Quoc’s east coast. F&B isn’t anything to write home about, but there are other good dining and drinking options nearby. The position is wonderful, the views fabulous, the area enchanting and peaceful. The Pier is good for short stays of 2-4 nights: great for couples or travelling friends. The Pier is a particularly smart choice during Phu Quoc’s off-season (May-October), when prices are lower and the weather and sea quality are good.
*To check rates, availability & make a reservation for The Pier please BOOK HERE
*Please support Vietnam Coracle: All my reviews are independently researched & financed. I never receive freebies of any sort in exchange for positive reviews or listings. If you use the links on this page to book your accommodation, I make a small commission. Alternatively, please consider making a donation or becoming a patron. All my earnings go straight back into this website. Thank you. Tom
*Disclosure: I never receive payment for anything I write: my content is always free & independent. I’ve written this review because I want to: I like this resort & I want my readers to know about it. For more details, see my Disclosure & Disclaimer statements & my About Page