Flanked by enormous golden Ridgeback dogs, the entrance of the JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa will make you feel as though you’ve entered a magical place… and you have.
This 5-star resort is truly spectacular. Built upon the concept of a mythical university, the “campus” is an architectural wonder by Bill Bensley. It’s been described by Helen Coffey of The Independent as Alice in Wonderland meets Disney meets Tim Burton, and that’s a pretty accurate description. But don’t think tacky… think upscale and mind-blowingly decorated.
Apparently, Bill Bensley is a bit eccentric and quite a shopaholic to boot, which turns out to be an inspired combination. He actually shopped for items for this property for years and shipped antiques in from all over the world to create this magnificent masterpiece. He reportedly personally placed each item of décor, and the result is an absolutely one-of-a-kind aesthetic. You’re definitely not going to forget this property.
The lobby alone with make your jaw drop. Passing by the “bell desk” with nearly 50 different bells curated from all over the world, you are led into the “library” with countless antique books and welcomed with a cool drink and even colder cloth, which you will need since “winter” temperatures are in the high 80s with 90% humidity. But who cares if you are sweating when there’s so much to look at? Let the picture taking commence!
After checking in, you will be taken in a golf cart to your room. Rooms are decorated according to the “department” they are housed in (Department of Zoology, Department of Anthropology, etc). Our room, 2302, was in the Department of Agriculture, and although having pictures of vegetables on your walls might sound a bit odd, it was very elegant and chic!
I was really really really hoping for an upgrade based on my Platinum Marriott status. From the pictures on the website, the suites look incredible. Because we were there over Christmas, there was no availability. But I have to say, even the “standard” room did not disappoint! It’s stunningly decorated, and we had to use panorama setting on the camera to even begin to capture the giant bathroom!
Then the pièce de résistance: the balcony. Hands down my favorite balcony ever! We love ourselves some private outdoor space, and that is exactly what you get here.
Balconies are set into the building, so you have complete privacy. They are also huge and include a very comfortable day-bed and (there’s more?!) a ceiling fan! I’m telling you, they’ve thought of everything! They even provided a mosquito plug-in to keep those pesky critters away.
Tip: If you value privacy the way we do, be sure to request a room not on the ground floor. While those rooms have direct access to the pool and beach, people walk right by and can easily see into your room.
Sunset Seekers Beware!
Just so you’re not disappointed, the position of the rooms, balconies, and resort in general is set up for sunrise not sunset. It’s not a sunset destination. It is, however, perfect for early morning coffee or tea and curling up with a good book.
Tempus Fugit: Breakfast
Wow! Just wow! Breakfast at Tempus Fugit (Time Flies in English) was an epic event every morning for us. The choices are not only extensive but also absolutely delicious! The pastry section is outstanding. Often, pastries look better than they taste, and that was my fear when I saw the beautiful creations here. Boy was I wrong! These are pastries you’d gladly pay for in a café. Another chocolate croissant, anyone? (Hint: the answer is always, “Yes!”)
Don’t even get me started on the selection of bread (which they will toast to perfection for you)! Those are just the basics! How about cooked-to-order crepes, waffles, pancakes, French toast, eggs of every kind (I highly recommend the eggs Benedict!), a pho station (alternating between chicken and beef each day), a Korean section, Japanese section, several meat carving stations, a selection of ice cream, and more!
One of our favorite things was their extensive fruit section… complete with someone to cut it all for you! It’s a great way to try all of those exotic fruits that might otherwise be intimidating. Jackfruit is now T’s new favorite fruit.
The Department of Chemistry
With staff in lab coats serving drinks and light meals, the Department of Chemistry is a beautiful place to lay back on a daybed (the ones in the back swing!) and look out at the white sand and impossibly blue water.
Take the Mixology class! Much to our surprise, the class fee (275,000++ dong/approximately $13 USD) was actually a discounted price on some of the drinks.
I made the delicious and highly recommended Emerald Bay (normally priced at 375,000++) while T shook up a refreshing Moscow Mule. In addition, happy hour is 5-7pm daily.
Pink Pearl: French fine dining
This is where we screwed up. We didn’t make reservations for the Pink Pearl. At first, I thought it seemed overpriced. However, after seeing the inside during the University Tour, I had wished we had brought nice clothes and made it a special splurge. The setting alone would have been worth it. Oh well. You’ve gotta save some things for when you go back, right?
French & Co: Afternoon Tea
Do it! The Afternoon Tea was excellent! Priced around $25 USD per person, this is a fun way to try lots of bite-sized deliciousness. It comes with unlimited tea and coffee, so it’s also an opportunity to sample various fun beverages. Our friendly waitress, Trinh, encouraged us to take our time and to order as many drinks as we’d like. If you haven’t had Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk, you’re in for a treat! (You can also order this at breakfast.)
There is also an à la carte menu with lots of tasty choices, as well as pastries and other packaged goodies.
If I’m being picky, I will say that although the ambiance at French and Co is on par with the gorgeous and detail-oriented décor the resort is known for, we were a little disappointed with the seating. The first place we sat was oddly proportioned… like your legs won’t fit under the table – the chair is too high, or the table is too low. When Trinh saw us sit, she suggested we move to a more comfortable place, and we did… but that was at two seats around a column. Although more comfortable, staring at a structural column wouldn’t be my favorite view. Other seating involves a large family-style table, which also isn’t ideal for an Afternoon Tea for 2 and was being used for a smoothie-making class.
Rue de Lamarck: Main Street
On this Disney-esque street, you’ll find little shops selling local coffee and…yeah, we don’t know what is in the shops; we don’t shop. Pretty sure there were hats and colorful scarves, but we didn’t actually venture inside any of the shops except for the coffee one. If you are in the market for some luwak coffee or a nice coffee grinder, you can find them both here.
We wish there were a convenience store on Rue de Lamarck or anywhere on the property, but no such luck.
Rue de Lamarck is also where the Night Market with street food vendors is held every Sunday night. It was smaller than we expected, but offers a variety of local food without leaving the premises.
JW Marriott Phu Quoc Activities
There is plenty to keep you as busy as you want to be at the resort. The beach is stunning, and it’s very shallow for quite a ways out. Kayaks and stand up paddle boards are complimentary. There are hammocks, lounge chairs, and daybeds to relax in and plenty of shade. There are 3 pools including the iconic shell pool, which is adults only.
When I first saw the university schedule, it reminded me of a cruise. There are different things going on at different locations all throughout the day, and many things are complimentary! We did: Beer Yoga (Have you heard of this?! You literally drink beer while doing yoga!), Thai Stretching (you must come with a partner), and Flow Yoga.
Our paid activities were, as mentioned above, Afternoon Tea and the Mixology class, both of which we’d highly recommend.
In addition to the classes and scheduled activities, you can always stop in the Lamarck Lounge to play pool, ping pong, or foosball, and the Department of Physical Education has all the workout equipment you could want.
Of course, there are things to do off property as well, like ride the world’s longest cable car to Pineapple Island. Complimentary bike tours can take you several places, but for us, it was simply too hot and humid to even consider.
There is a daily shuttle into the main town of Phu Quoc for 100,000 dong each evening departing at 6pm and returning at 9pm. Apparently it’s about a 30 minute drive each way.
We were more than happy just staying at the resort. Since we’ve been to Vietnam several times, we didn’t feel bad just relaxing, and you shouldn’t either! A great vacation is whatever you want it to be whether it’s go-go-go sightseeing or simply unwinding on a gorgeous beach with a cold drink in your hand.
The staff is phenomenal. You’re constantly greeted with a smile and “xin chao”, and they seem to be genuinely happy to help you with anything you might need. Fitting in with the university theme, employees seem to be quite young. One thing we also loved seeing was no job was too small for management to jump in on. We often saw executives clearing tables and delivering drinks. It really felt like everyone was working together to be sure guests had an unforgettable stay. We certainly did!
Top 5 Tips for a Great Stay at JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa
- Contact the concierge before you arrive to get a detailed schedule of activities and classes. In the spirit of a university, they will send you a timetable complete with both complimentary and fee-based “classes”. They are booked on a first come first serve basis, and some are limited to just a few couples, so sign up asap!
- Definitely, absolutely, 100% sign up for the complimentary University Tour. You will see parts of the resort you’d never see without it (private dining spaces in Pink Pearl, for example), and have I mentioned that everything is stunning?! You will want to see everything you can!
- BYO wine and snacks. I was really surprised that the resort does not have some sort of convenience store for beverages and snacks. In the restaurants, wine choices are quite limited (and, as is true at every resort, incredibly overpriced), and since each person can bring up to 4 bottles of wine into Vietnam in their checked luggage, why not bring your favorite to enjoy on your balcony?
- Download the Marriott app and use the chat feature for any requests. We always got friendly responses very quickly.
- Be prepared to take lots of pictures! Whether that means you should bring an extra SD card or multiple outfit changes, you will surely take frameable pictures here!
How to Get to the JW Marriott Phu Quoc
Getting to the JW Marriott Phu Quoc could not be easier. Flying into the Phu Quoc airport, exit, pick up some cash at the ATM (located under the stairwell near the taxis), and jump in either a Mai Linh or Phu Quoc taxi (both recommended by the hotel). Using the meter, it should cost under 300,000 dong each way (approximately $12 USD) and take about 15 or 20 minutes.
We’ve stayed in amazing properties all over the world, but I can honestly say the JW Marriott Phu Quoc is in the top 3 for sure. (The others being an overwater bungalow in Moorea, French Polynesia and a room with a private plunge pool in Koh Samui, Thailand.) We’re already planning a trip back to Phu Quoc next year! We hope to see you there!
E (and T)
p.s. If you think staying at a property like this is out of your reach, think again. We are far from rich, and in fact, we stayed here entirely on points! To learn about how to travel for free on points (and see some pics of those overwater bungalows and the Koh Samui plunge pool!), check out our post on credit card points and how we afford to travel on teachers’ salaries.
FYI: We were not compensated in any way for this or any other review on our site, nor do we currently have any affiliations. If you found this useful, share freely on social media!