The JW Marriott Emerald Bay
Never before has there been so many choices for luxury destinations on Phu Quoc island.
Once a sleepy land layered in red dirt roads, Vietnam’s largest island has fast become the go to vacation spot for motorbike adventurers, beachcombers, seafood enthusiasts and high-end hospitality seekers from around the world…
You’ll find one of the island’s most lavish vacation spots in the JW Marriott Emerald Bay. Open since mid-2017, the resort is a sprawling 244-guestroom resort, which sits on an inlet of Phu Quoc’s Emerald Bay, along the coast of Bai Khem Beach on the south-east side of the island.
A 20-minute ride from the island airport, the hotel entranceway is flanked grandly by two golden statues of Phu Quoc’s most famous animal, the ridgeback dog. The larger than life figures set the stage immediately for what is in-store for your stay…pure luxury and grandiousity.
Once you enter the resort gates and gaze upon the white sand beach, you’ll find that there is little incentive to leave to explore the rest of the island, which has its pros and cons…
But with a cost of just over 9 million VND ($385USD) per night, which includes access to the Marriott’s private beach, continental buffet breakfast, a gym, a games room, three outdoor swimming pools and a variety of daily activities, perhaps its best to stay and take advantage of all that the hotel has to offer.
The Emerald Bay itself is a modern reimagining of a 1920s Ivy League school and comes complete with a full-size racing track and private villas whimsically named after academic courses such as Astronomy, Anthropology and Fine Arts.
The architecture and decoration seen throughout the hotel harkens back to the Art Deco craze made famous during the Roaring Twenties’ of Western Society.
The hipness of the jazz age and influences from turn-of-the century fashion can also be seen in the decor of the hotel lobby and uniforms worn by the hotel staff, feathered flapper headbands, jodhpur style pants and all.
Putting aesthetics aside, here is a breakdown of what a stay at the JW Marriott Emerald Bay has in store for you…
The Emerald Bay offers a variety of suites and villas, all subjugated by different wings and colour schemes. Our guestroom, known as the Emerald Bay Front, located in the Shell & Botany building was accented in pastel reds and featured a large balcony with an opulent view of Khem Beach below. Other suites include turquiose, blue, yellow or green.
At 54sqm, the contemporarily chic design of the room was quite spacious with a grandiose window filling the suite with ample sunlight.
As advertised, the room had hints of red accents scattered throughout, in the room’s artwork, detailings on the walls as well as the pillow’s embroidery. It all culminated in a comfortable scarlett red empire sofa at the foot of the incredibly comfortable king size bed.
Towels were plush and the hotel amenities were plentiful and extremely fragrant, as they leaned heavily on the lavender. The marble-rich bathroom was also incredibly spacious, with dual sinks, lighted makeup mirror, a Victorian bathtub and a rain shower fitted on the ceiling, but as an odd choice, the toilet sits in a smaller, fanless room off in another area of the suite.
The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing on the large balcony with a coffee made from the in-suite Nespresso machine followed by a dip in the seashell-shaped pool just a few steps away from the ground floor.
Fact or Fantasy?
While many hotels have themes, The Emerald Bay has gone and created its own mythos…
As the legend goes, the site was home to the fictional Lamarck University. An ivy league school which flourished on the island during the 1880s to 1940s.
It had since been abandoned until the JW Marriott resurrected it to the splendor that you see before you today.
From turn-of-the-century leather bound books, to displays showcasing Football trophies that the University teams (of course they were called The Ridgebacks) had “won”, to the monogrammed antique suitcases left behind by students, this tale of the school’s legacy is continued throughout the resort’s halls and common areas.
Although a work of fiction, the story lays enough of a groundwork to pique imaginations, helping to create an almost fantasy-like aura surrounding the entire resort and your time spent there.
Food & Beverage
There is a choice of five different restaurants at The Emerald Bay, but suprisingly (or perhaps not, given the theme of the resort) Vietnamese food was rather sparse.
The buffet breakfast is served at the airy Tempus Fugit (latin for time flies) and is well stocked with a variety of international cuisine choices such as pho, spaghetti, charcuterie meats, breads, cheeses, sushi, cereals, pastries, bacon and several egg options.
The Tempus Fugit atmosphere was relaxing and comfortable as we ate overlooking the sun rising over the beach.
All of which was enjoyed while live music was provided by a talented musician wearing a traditional Vietnamese Ao Dai and playing a Tam Thap Luc.
A traditional Vietnamese stringed instrument, reminding us just ever so slightly that we were still in Vietnam.
For those feeling peckish later in the day, the resort has several other food choices.
Besides the usual room service menu, French & Co is a bakery offering fresh pastries and pies. Red Rum is an open-air beach house featuring freshly caught seafood BBQ, which you can enjoy on the shores of the beach.
But the crown jewel for fine-dining at The Emerald Bay, and perhaps the crown jewel of all the facilities on the entire premises is The Pink Pearl Restaurant.
The 2-storey beachfront mansion offers a series of French inspired set menus as well as a la-carte options.
The restaurant is lavish in its décor, with nearly everything covered in a pastel pinkish hue.
Opened in June of 2018, The Pink Pearl comes with its own fictional story as well. That of Madame Pearl and her renowned hospitality.
Pictures of the fictional character and her artwork can be found throughout the walls of the restaurant.
I was briefly given an introduction of her story, but what I do remember mostly is that she does not take lightly to swim trunks.
This is smart casual dining…which I found out the hard way.
Besides the impressive main dining hall, The Pink Pearl also features six private dining rooms, each with their own distinguishable themes.
The most notable of all the rooms lies below the spiraling staircase at the centre of the main room. Just as every Ivy League school should have a secret society, it is only fitting to know that this is definitely where they would dine.
Like something straight out of the movie The Skulls, this members only-esque room comes complete with a fully stocked wine cellar, worldly artifacts and a round table. Future Illuminati apply here…
Nightlife & Entertainment
Besides sunbathing on the beach and relaxing at The Chanterelle Spa, The Emerald Bay offers events and activities including exercise facilities with daily Zumba, swimming and yoga classes. One of the classes offered is Beer Yoga, which as it sounds combines the delicate balancing act of yoga with the hoppiness of craft beer. Family friendlier entertainment options include lantern making, bike hikes and t-shirt painting.
The Rue de Lamarck, the resort’s main street is where you’ll find the giftshops selling Vietnamese coffees, jewellery and Phu Quoc pearls. The spa, the well equipped gym and French-style cafes are also found along this strip.
As evening approaches the street is lit up with Hoi An style paper lanterns leading to the Department of Chemistry Bar, which is a safe bet for quality cocktails and lounge style live music. The comfy bar offers large lay down cushions where you can relax the night away.
For those seeking more adventure however, this is where for me The Emerald Bay begins to show its faults. Not by the hotel’s own omissions, but rather due to the isolated location of the resort.
You will never get the full experience of all the beauty that Phu Quoc has to offer by just staying on the resort grounds.
To be fair, most of the 5-star resorts on the island, including the Vinpearl Resort in the north west area of the island are all shut away from the real essence of what gives Phu Quoc the moniker of the “Pearl of Vietnam”.
Although…chances are, those coming to The Emerald Bay are here for a pampering, carefree and relaxing stay. This is what the JW Marriott does in spades.
With that being said, for those who are looking to leave the resort, the hotel offers tours to neighboring islands for snorkeling and water sports (prices vary) and chauffeured cars are also available for half to full-days ranging from 2.2 to 3.7 million VND depending on duration and choice of vehicle (explore Phu Quoc in a Mercedes?).
The busy Duong Dong district, which is best known for its night market as well as being the epicenter of Phu Quoc’s nightlife will run you approximately 500,000VND per trip by taxi.
Unlike the Vinpearl Resort, The Emerald Bay does not offer a complimentary shuttle bus that heads to the island’s downtown area several times a day.
Is It Worth The Stay?
The visionary mind of renowned hotel and resort architect Bill Bensley has created something truly spectacular in The Emerald Bay. From the site’s mythical beginnings as the Lamarck University to its present ressurection as a hotspot for luxury tourism in Vietnam, the JW Marriott Emerald Bay resort is pure extravagance.
The hotel’s sparing of no expense to create a 1920s time capsule is a magnet for selfie-lovers, photographers and live-streamers. There’s opportunities for spectacular photos around every corner as you explore the nooks and crannies of the resort. Not to mention the beautiful Phu Quoc sunrises which The Emerald Bay has a front row seat to.
The hotel staff are more than accommodating with fresh supplies, shuttle cars to and from your room and a smile given each and every time they pass by. You can tell that everyone involved in the running of this resort are proud of what they have accomplished.
And they should be…The JW Marriott Emerald Bay is by far the most luxurious hotel in all of Phu Quoc, perhaps arguably even Vietnam. The key is always in the details, and The Emerald Bay has covered every floor, wall and ceiling to exude them.
This is time well spent for anyone seeking a couple of days of pure escapism, peace and relaxation.