The Shells Phu Quoc | Independent Review

First published November 2020 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle

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The Shells is a contemporary resort with a uniquely quirky – but classy – character on the west coast of Phu Quoc Island. Situated between Duong Dong town and Ong Lang beach, The Shells offers generously proportioned and well-appointed rooms (all with sea-views), a quiet location with a beautiful private beach and tropical gardens, and two large swimming pools. A sprawling but manageable and low-rise property, The Shells is modern, stylish and ever so slightly whacky due to a nautical, mollusk-based theme (hence the name) that runs throughout the resort. The Shells opened several years ago as a high-end property, but such is the pace of change and luxury development on Phu Quoc Island, the resort is now in the mid-range price bracket, especially considering current ‘pandemic rates’. I found The Shells to be a comfortable, characterful, peaceful, light and spacious place to spend a few days on the island. [To check rates, availability & make a reservation for The Shells Resort please BOOK HERE

The Shells Resort, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam, Independent Review

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REVIEW: THE SHELLS RESORT, PHU QUOC


Address: Ganh Gio Beach, Duong Dong Town, Phu Quoc Island, Kien Giang Province [MAP]

Average Rates: $65-$100 (pandemic season) | Email: [email protected]

*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. All my earnings go straight back into this website. Thank you.

[Click the image below or BOOK HERE]


MAP:

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The Shells Resort, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam, Exterior


Just 10 minutes north of the increasingly bustling town of Duong Dong, The Shells is accessed via a private lane that leads off the main road and winds through a grove of young bamboo to the reception building. A modern structure of wooden slats in a vaguely conch-like shape, the mollusk-theme of the resort begins right here at the entrance. Curving desks and hourglass lampshades adorn the lobby from where an electric buggy whisks you through the resort’s villa-studded gardens to the main guest-room structure on the beachfront. 

Private driveway, The Shells Resort, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam


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Entrance building, The Shells Resort, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam


Main guest room structure, The Shells Resort, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam


The main structure at The Shells is an interesting and fairly unique-looking three-storey crescent consisting of guest rooms, a restaurant, bar and spa. The building is essentially a pavilion fronting a large pool, lawn and palm-studded beach. Guest rooms are accessed from the back of the ‘pavilion’ via open-air corridors surrounded by tropical foliage. In the front, the building wraps neatly around the swimming pool, and each room has a balcony overlooking the pool, beach and sea. The effect is that of a modern, open-air amphitheater. Top-floor rooms have rounded overhanging roofs which is supposed to be an echo of the crenelated edges of a seashell. Overall, I think the structure works well and looks good: characterful but classy, stylish but playful, practical but pleasing to look at.

Main guest room structure, The Shells Resort, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam


Back of main guest room structure, The Shells Resort, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam


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Front of main guest room structure, The Shells Resort, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam


All the rooms in the main ‘pavilion’ building have sea-views and they are very spacious, well-appointed and comfortable. These rooms, known as Deluxe Ocean View, are the ones you should book if you’re planning to stay at The Shells. The resort does, however, also have dozens of villas dotting the property. These are all spacious, suitable for families, and good value for money, but they’re a fair distance from the beach and don’t have sea-views: rather, they look out on manicured gardens and a central swimming pool. This is all fine, but for me the point of staying in a nice place on Phu Quoc Island is to be on the beach. If I’m going to spend between $50-$100 a night, I want to be next to (or at least near) the beach and the ocean, and preferably I want to see it from my room. I imagine the villas appeal more to families, because they are self-contained homes, entirely detached and private.

Guest room in main structure, The Shells Resort, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam


Private villa, The Shells Resort, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam


Private villas, The Shells Resort, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam


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The first thing to note about the rooms in the ‘pavilion’ building is that they are very generously proportioned. All rooms are identically arranged, with high ceilings, stone floors, open-plan bedroom, bathtub and seating areas, and floor-to-ceiling sliding doors onto a wide balcony overlooking the swimming pool, gardens, beach and ocean. There’s lots of light and space, and everything is well-organized and squared-away. The room plan has been carefully considered for optimum functionality and symmetry. The shower, toilet, kitchenette and wash basin are all in separate corners of the room. The bathtub, however, is directly behind the bedstead and entirely open to the rest of the room. Furnishings are minimalist, restrained and tasteful, and everything appears to be well-made.    

Guest room in main building, The Shells Resort, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam


Guest room in main building, The Shells Resort, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam


Balcony of guest room, The Shells Resort, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam


Although the decor is modern and contemporary, there’s also a quirky edge thanks to the ever-present nautical, shell-theme. Curves, waves and swirling patterns are repeated throughout: on lampshades, faucets, wall art, crockery, and door knockers. In the wrong hands, this style might become kitsch, gaudy and unattractive. But at the The Shells the mollusk-theme holds together quite well, partly because it doesn’t take itself too seriously, which gives the resort a playful – but still classy and tasteful – tone. The one exception to this, however, is the ‘dead man’s chest’ sitting at the foot of the bed, whose lid, when lifted, reveals not golden treasure, but a flat-screen TV. This, I feel, was a step too far.

Bathtub in guest room, The Shells Resort, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam


Lampshade in guest room, The Shells Resort, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam


'Dead man's chest' with TV, The Shells Resort, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam


The main swimming pool fills the space between the two ends of the crescent pavilion. Once again, the pool is shell-themed and quirky, including a fake concrete beach, which seems unnecessary, as the real beach is only a few metres away. The pool is large and good for kids, as is the meticulously maintained lawn between it and the sea. Viewed from the pool, the ‘pavilion’ structure looks rather splendid.

The beach is a good-sized crescent of soft sand beneath a copse of coconut palms, which looks fantastic at sunset. The water is balmy, calm and fine for swimming (although watch out for some submerged rocks). There’s even a bit of light snorkeling on a reef just offshore. However, plastic and other garbage in the ocean around Phu Quoc is a tragic phenomenon that gets visibly worse with each year. It’s worth stating that the trash you’ll see when swimming or walking on the beach here is almost exclusively personal or household items: crisp packets, soda bottles, instant noodle wrappers, bottles of detergent, straws. This isn’t large-scale industrial waste: these are single-use items.

Main swimming pool, The Shells Resort, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam


Private beach, The Shells Resort, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam


Private beach, The Shells Resort, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam


On the ground floor of the ‘pavilion’ building, arranged around the pool beneath the guest rooms, are the Waves Spa, the Flow Restaurant, and the Liquid Lounge Bar. The latter has a tempting Happy Hour on Tuesdays and Sundays: free-flow cocktail of the day from 6.15pm-7:00pm (just as the twilight colours are fading on the horizon over the Gulf of Thailand). The restaurant has a short but sweet dining menu, with just a handful of Vietnamese and Western dishes, including some vegetarian options. The quality is absolutely fine (as are the prices) to justify a couple of ‘lazy’ nights eating on the premises.

Breakfast at The Shells, which is included in the room rate, is not especially memorable. There’s nothing wrong with it, but there’s nothing particularly outstanding about it either: a decent spread of everything that you’d expect from a mid-range hotel buffet, all of average quality. It’s palatable, presentable, fills you up and does its job. The dining area is indoors looking over the pool and beach. It’s light and pleasant, but I found it much nicer to sit on the little patio outside (presumably the smoking area), where you can see and hear the sea as it washes up on the beach, and catch the scent of the tropical foliage.

Ground floor, The Shells Resort, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam


Flow Restaurant, The Shells Resort, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam


Buffet breakfast, The Shells Resort, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam


Staff at The Shells are young, polite and eager, but occasionally lack a bit of confidence and initiative when it comes to serving foreign guests. In general, the resort is well-maintained and substantially made, although it could do with some attention here and there. (The property is only a few years old, but the tropical sun, monsoon rains, and salty sea-wind have taken their toll in some places.) The Shell’s location, between the bustling town of Duong Dong town and the chic resort enclave around Ong Lang beach, mean that outside dining and drinking options are only a 10-minute taxi away in either direction.

Something I noticed at The Shells was the silence: it was beautiful. All I could ever hear were the waves lapping the sand, the rustling of palm fronds in the sea breeze, the staccato rhythm of passing fishing boats, and the occasional echo of a child playing in the pool. Stillness and silence characterized my stay. This is as it should be at a beach resort on a tropical island. But, thanks to the insertion of saccharine pop music in public spaces – lobbies, corridors, elevators, receptions, restaurants, bars – guests are rarely allowed to listen and appreciate the silence of their location. At The Shells, however, music was never forced on guests. I hope this wasn’t just a temporary phenomenon – a ‘pandemic ambience’ – because the height of sophistication at a resort, in my opinion, is to let the location do the talking: leave nature to create the soundtrack; leave pop music out of it. [To check current rates, availability & make a reservation for The Shells Resort please BOOK HERE

The Shells Resort, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam

*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. All my earnings go straight back into this website. Thank you.

The Shells Resort, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam, Independent Review


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 here

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