My family and I just returned from a wonderful five night stay at Vietnam’s most whimsical resort, the JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay.
The resort’s entire design and attention to detail is just brilliant, and it’s undoubtedly the best JW Marriott property I’ve visited.
Allow me to share some of my tips and impressions of the resort in case you are planning a visit soon!
Since Phu Quoc became classified as a “Special Economic Zone” in 2005, there is a 30 visa exemption for all nationalities for those who plan on visiting Phu Quoc and no other city in Vietnam.
To be eligible for the visa exemption, your passport must be valid for at least 6 months once you arrive on Phu Quoc, you must have a valid round trip air ticket to/from Phu Quoc, and onward destination must be any country outside of Vietnam. No application is needed ahead of time, and you will receive a stamp on your passport.
There are many nonstop international flights to Phu Quoc including Bangkok and Copenhagen, just to name a few.
On our trip, we decided to spend a couple of nights in one of my favorite Southeast Asian cities, Saigon, so we needed to obtain visas beforehand. Luckily, the e-visa process was pretty simple and straight forward online. There are dozens of daily flights to Phu Quoc from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and other cities in Vietnam.
If you’re planing to visit the JW Marriott Phu Quoc soon using points, it’s still a decent value even though it increased from a Category 5 to a Category 6 property as of today, March 6, 2018.
I visited this resort in mid-February, and with standard room rates pricing out at $400-$500 per night, this redemption was one of the best Category 5 sweet-spot redemptions across the entire Marriott Rewards award chart.
Before March 6, a free night required 25,000 points per night, and was an amazing use of the annual free night certificate benefit from the Marriott Visa. For bookings made on or after March 6, it now requires 30,000 points per night (10,000 Starpoints), which is still an amazing value.
Since we had a 5 night stay, I took advantage of Marriott’s generous fifth night free benefit, bringing the total cost of my stay to just 100,000 points for 5 nights! That’s 20,000 points per night (or 6,666 Starpoints)! Talk about an incredible redemption.
Utilizing the fifth night free benefit when the property increases to a category 6 would cost 120,000 points for 5 nights.
If you were unable to book before the devaluation and have a longer stay in mind, keep in mind that another great idea is to look into the Marriott Travel Packages.
For pre-devaluation bookings, a 7-night stay in a category 1-5 resort + 55,000 United miles would cost 200,000 Marriott points (66,666 Starpoints).
The good news is that 7 nights in a category 6 property would cost 230,000 points (76,666 Starpoints), a little over 4,000 more points a night than what was needed previously.
In addition, you are getting 55,000 United miles, which is worth at least $1,100. There are other airline choices if United is not your preferred airline.
An easy way to accumulate Starpoints or Marriott points is with the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express (currently offering the highest sign-up bonus of 35,000 points), and/or the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card.
The resort is only 20 minutes away by car and a taxi will cost between 250,000 – 280,000 VND (~$11-12).
All of the rooms at the JW Marriott Phu Quoc face the ocean and are breathtaking. Maximum occupancy is 3 adults (subject to an extra person charge) or 2 adults and 2 children under 12.
Since I was traveling with my parents, we were upgraded to two neighboring Emerald Bay Front View rooms. There are no connecting rooms at this property, but this was an ideal set-up for families or large groups traveling together.
Each room was 570 square feet with a walk out patio leading directly to a pool, and we could access each others’ rooms just by walking over to the next patio. It was a nice way to enjoy privacy but still feel as if we were together. I highly recommend you chose this room type as I found it to be the most desirable on the resort.
The bathroom in our room was out of this world and simply gorgeous, featuring the highest rain shower I’ve ever seen (the ceilings had to be about 20 feet high) and an elegant soaking tub. The room’s only WC was located in a half bathroom by the entry way, for added privacy.
Aside from the beautiful and spacious room, the housekeeping staff went above and beyond in providing the best service one could ask for. Not only did we have full turn-down service every evening, the housekeepers were attentive to the fact that we were celebrating my son’s birthday at the resort and decorated the bed for him as we were out to dinner. They even left him cookies with his name on it. That nice touch had everyone smiling.
The elite benefits at the property are quite generous and almost identical for Gold and Platinum members. The the only noticeable difference was that Platinum members receive 20% off all food, beverage, and spa charges, while Gold members receive a 15% discount.
Breakfast is included for both Gold and Platinum members. For families traveling together, the benefit allows for two adults and two children under 12.
As a Marriott Platinum member, I was offered a welcome amenity of 500 points or a choice of food/beverage amenity. We chose macaroons and small bottle of white wine. Elites are also entitled to complimentary pressing of 2 pieces of clothing per stay.
When the resort first opened in 2017, the Platinum benefits were even more generous as there was a daily complimentary cocktail hour with creative appetizers each evening.
Unfortunately, this benefit went away in November 2017, and there is now a BOGO happy hour from 5 – 7pm each evening at the “Department of Chemistry”. Drinks there are reasonably-priced in a unique atmosphere. It’s a nice way to kick back and take in beautiful views while listening to live music.
The JW Marriott Phu Quoc is unique as the design plays a tribute to the mythical Lamarck University, honoring French naturalist Jean-Basptist Lamarck. As the story goes, ‘Lamarck University’ was the intellectual and academic pinnacle of Phu Quoc in the early 1900s.
The university theme here is taken seriously, and the intuitive design is imbued with authenticity, as over 5,000 ‘original artifacts’ and hidden gems can be found all over the resort.
Each building on ‘campus’ is a different department where every detail follows a theme – including the staff member’s time-period ‘costumes’ (uniforms). It’s quite fascinating!
At check in, you’re given a schedule of university activities happening at the resort, and participation and studying is encouraged! ;)
Pools & Beach
There are a total of 3 pools (excluding the small wading pool in front of the kids club) at the resort, and they never felt crowded.
The poolside service was great – as soon as you sat down, an attendant would immediately come by with a cold water bottle and towels. There are also an abundance of floats and swimmies available to use in the pools, which was a hit for my kids.
A gripe I had about the pool was that there wasn’t any sunscreen available. I know it’s my responsibility to bring my own, but I always appreciate when a 5-star resort does have it available for guests. It’s just one less thing I have to worry about. The only option for those in the same boat is to purchase a small bottle of sunscreen at the spa for about $40(!!). No thanks.
With that being said, I ended up stopping at a pharmacy on the main road during a bike ride the next morning to pick up enough for the remainder of the trip for a fraction of the price.
There is a large stretch of beach with soft sand and calm water. The issue with the beach that I definitely have to mention is that a lot of garbage washes up on the shore. Of course, this is unfortunate and out of the resort’s control, but they do a great job of cleaning it up throughout the day.
The water is otherwise clear and fine to swim in. Non-motorized sports such as paddle boards and kayaks are available and free to use.
The Kids Club is included and is available from 9am-7pm for children 4-12 years old. Children under 4 can use the Kids Club with parental supervision.
The facilities and activities were amazing. There are plenty of toys and games, and there’s also an indoor slide and ball pit.
Right outside, theres a small wading pool for wee-little ones to splash around in.
You can pre-register for capacity-controlled activities each day such as pottery painting and T-Shirt tie-dyeing.
There’s also a fantastic magic show for kids in the evening several times per week.
The food throughout the resort was delicious, and there are three restaurants. Tempus Fugit is the “main” restaurant and is where breakfast is served each morning. It’s open for lunch and dinner too.
Red Rum is the outdoor pool/beach side restaurant that serves lunch and dinner. Fresh seafood is available for dinner and is sold by weight. Pink Pearl is an elegant restaurant serving Thai cuisine.
The breakfast buffet was amazing and extensive, serving everything you could possibly imagine including typical Western cuisine, Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, and even sushi made to order. There are plenty of seasonal fruit, freshly-squeezed juices, and coconuts to drink.
The prices were high for Vietnamese standards, but not too bad for a resort. It was nice to receive 20% off on all meals.
Southeast Asia is known for having impeccable service, especially in the hospitality business.
Overall I found the service to be quite good, and the staff were genuinely warm and welcoming, though not as “polished” as one might expect at a luxury resort.
There were a few hiccups from time to time – nothing major that would cause frustration (an example would be wrong food items being brought out or forgotten several times), but these bumps were mostly due the language barrier and because the tourism industry in Vietnam is still such a very new and emerging industry.
I found this article that explains how Vietnam is trying to adapt to the influx of tourists but may be short on human resources to accommodate the steady growth. I’m confident that there will be continuous improvements as time goes on because the staff were extremely hardworking and eager to please and welcome all guests.
There aren’t many things to do outside of the resort, so keep that in mind when you’re planning your stay. This would be a perfect getaway for those who are truly looking to kick back and take in what the property has to offer. There are plenty of scheduled activities each day ranging from cooking classes, bike rides, walks, and lantern-making, which require advance registration.
When the resort first opened, all of the activities were complimentary and now many come with a nominal fee (for example the sushi-making class is 350,000 VND per person).
If you are looking for an amazing free activity, be sure to take the morning bike ride to the temple. It’s a pretty vigorous workout and you will be riding on the main highway with regular traffic, but it was such a nice excursion that was physically challenging and invigorating. It’s also a nice way to get a taste of Phu Quoc outside of the resort grounds.
For a more relaxed excursion, there is a shuttle to the night market each evening at 6pm. The cost is 100,000 VND per person for the 20-minute roundtrip ride. We didn’t visit and we continuously heard mixed reviews from other guests we spoke to.
Overall we really enjoyed our stay at the JW Marriott Phu Quoc, and it truly was [and still is] a fantastic use of Marriott points. I truly appreciate the brilliant and creative design and all of the little details that made this property charming and unique (though I’ll be honest – I was a bit surprised that the property is starting to show some age despite being less than two years old).