Travelers’ Guide to Vietnam’s Island Destinations and Coastline

Vietnam Halong Bay

Vietnam, located in the eastern region of the Indochinese peninsula, is a tropical country mostly known from its green and leafy forests. In fact, around 40% of Vietnam’s surface is mountains, and 30% of the country is covered by forests. Still, half of the country is surrounded by water, making Vietnamese islands and beaches one of its main attractions.

If much of the trip is going to take place on the islands, holidaymakers should not forget to bring cash and charged electronic devices or power banks. Not all the islands have ATMs or 24-hour electricity.

Reminder: Applying for a visa is required to enter Vietnam’s territory including its isles.

How to Get to the Islands in Vietnam?

Travelers can fly into Vietnam through 3 international airports:

  • Noi Bai International Airport (Hanoi)
  • Tan Son Nhat International Airport (Ho Chi Minh)
  • Da Nang International Airport (Da Nang)

They cover the northern, southern, and central areas of Vietnam respectively which makes it easier to travel to most islands in the nation.

Aside from these main airports, there are also over a dozen domestic aerodromes scattered across Vietnam.

The biggest islands, such as Phu Quoc or Con Son, have connecting flights with Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi. Smaller islands can only be reached by ferry. A ferry trip usually takes over an hour although the more popular islands can also be reached by “speed ferries” or speed-boats in a much shorter time.

Traveling by car, bus, or motorbike across the country is not recommended because of the state of Vietnam’s roads. If tourists are not used to driving a motorcycle, it is not recommended to start doing so in Vietnam. However, motorbikes and bicycles are the vehicles of choice to discover the islands if one is used to riding them.

What to Do in Halong Bay and Surrounding Isles

Halong Bay is the most important tourist destination in Vietnam. It harbors spectacular islands and archipelagos, and there is a range of activities available that warrant a visit of at least 3 or 4 days.

In Halong Bay, tourists will discover amazing places such as Cat Ba Island, the biggest island in the bay. Restaurants, hotels, and pubs abound so it is very easy to socialize both with locals and foreigners.

How to Get to Halong Bay?

In order to make it to Halong Bay, travelers can purchase a combination ticket of bus plus ferry-departing from the city of Hanoi or they can just take a ferry out of Haiphong.

Cruises in Halong Bay

There are many 2 or 3-day cruises available.

Some companies offer a more luxurious experience while others specialize in adventure cruises. The best option is to check in advance what are the options and choose the one that better meets the needs of the visitor. Nevertheless, cruises are an excellent option for exploring all the small islands on the bay.

Tuan Chau Island: Beaches and Archeological Sites

Those who do not want to book a cruise should venture into Tuan Chau Island, one of the best options for both enjoying the beach and sightseeing. From its beaches, tourists will have a panoramic view of Halong Bay.

Tuan Chau offers a diversity of leisurely alternatives from five-star restaurants and white sand beaches to archaeological sites pertaining to the Halong culture from 5,000 years ago.

 Phu Quoc Island and Beaches Near Ho Chi Minh

Close to the Mekong Delta and Ho Chi Minh City is where one can find the crown jewel of the South of Vietnam: Phu Quoc Island.

Even though this island seems to belong to Cambodia because of its proximity, Phu Quoc has good flight connections with the capital. A ferry ride is also an option for the adventure-seeking traveler who can depart from Ha Tien or Rach Gia.

Phu Quoc Island offers different kinds of accommodation, markets like Duong Dong, lovely pubs on the southeastern coast, and pristine nature on the north. It is a “must-see” when in Vietnam.

How far is Ho Chi Minh City from the beach?

Ho Chi Minh City is about 50 kilometers away from the seacoast—378 km from Phu Quoc, which can be reached by plane.

It is next to the sea town of Vung Tau from where one can easily depart to other beaches. It is an extremely convenient location to enjoy one-day getaways on the sand.

Ho Coc Beach, private beaches near Ho Chi Minh. Those visitors not interested in spending much time near the capital, should head to Ho Coc Beach, 3 hours from Ho Chi Minh City. Even though they will find quite a few resorts,it is the white sand and palm trees that make this place an excellent way to disconnect from city life Many resorts offer access to private beaches as well.

Mingling with the locals in Nam Du and Con Dao

Nam Du and Con Dao are not really islands but archipelagos. Sunbathing, snorkeling, and mingling with local fishermen are some of the activities travelers will enjoy if they make the trip to this area.

Nam Du can only be reached by ferry from Rach Gia, but Con Dao has an airport in Con Son, the biggest island, which was used for jailing prisoners during the Vietnamese Civil War making this set of islands part of Vietnam’s national history.

Vietnamese Fishing Villages and The Ancient Town of Hoi An

Central Vietnam is freckled with archipelagos and isles near Hoi An, a very well-preserved ancient city where tourists can roam through its archeological sites. Hoi An represents the essence of Vietnam’s past and it is a mandatory visit once in the area.

Near the Hoi An coast, tourists can visit Cham Islands by getting on a ferry at Cua Dai Beach.

Cu Lao is the biggest island and, probably, the five-star destination for diving lovers, as they are part of Cu Lao Cham Marine Park, a UNESCO-recognized Biosphere Reserve, in the South China Sea.

Other islands worth a visit are Hon Tre Island, located in front of Nha Trang and Ly Son, a vacation destination hotspot for locals.

Hon Tre can be reached by car cable or ferry from Nha Trang. The island is better known for the Vinpearl Amusement Park, an aquatic park offering water activities and shows.

In Ly Son tourists can visit garlic fields and enjoy the magnificence of the 2 craters in the area.

Central Vietnam is well-known for its picturesque towns and quaint restaurants, where tourists can appreciate true Vietnamese cuisine. It is highly recommended to try the Banh Mi Ca Moi, a Vietnamese sardine sandwich while relaxing on the beach listening to the waves.

Swimming and Water Sports in Vietnam

Swimming in Vietnam is not only quite safe but a real treat for the senses. With some superb beach resorts, a pristine coral reef, white sand, and a palm-fringed shoreline, many Vietnamese beaches are among the best in the world.

The main risks to be aware of when diving into Vietnamese waters are undertows and possible factory spills. However, authorities do alert swimmers when it is not safe to dive into the ocean.

Is Vietnam good for scuba diving?

Scuba diving in Vietnam is a fairly new activity which means there are quite a few areas of unspoiled diving.

Despite its long coastline, the most interesting places in Vietnam to scuba dive are in central Vietnam, specifically around the Hoi An and Nah Trang areas. Divers will find soft and hard corals teeming with pipefish, seahorses, and nudibranchs.

Those interested in seeing sharks, turtles, and stingray fishes should head to the Con Dao archipelago, in the southern part of the country.

Is there any surf in Vietnam?

Surf season in Vietnam starts between September and November and lasts until March, with the first winter Monzon. My Khe Beach in Da Nang has a long history of surfing and it is also an excellent place for newbie surfers since there are plenty of surfing schools in the area.

Vietnam is a splendid destination for surf lovers since all of the country has great surfing spots from Vung Tau in the south right up to Dong Ha and beyond on the central coast..

Other sports like kayak, snorkel, and fishing can be practiced all over the coastline as well.

Island-hopping in Vietnam, a Growing Trend

Vietnam has over 3,000 islands, some already popular but many more just uncovering their potential to foreign visitors. From calm mini-archipelagos in the south to jungle-clad Halong Bay in the north all the way to the volcanic craters rising from the East Sea, the Vietnamese coast is speckled with atolls worth exploring.

How to travel between islands in Vietnam?

There’s no standard way to move between isles. Some have direct connections linking them but more frequently, island-hoppers travel by bus, train, plane or boat. Most of the tickets can be bought online.

Those using a bicycle or a motorbike will not have any issues traveling abroad the ferries except when visiting Dao Be Island.

Because there is a monsoon season, it is a good idea to find out the best time to visit Vietnam before planning a trip there.

Additionally, tourists should be aware that only about 20 countries can enter this Asian nation visa-free. Those who would like to determine whether they can benefit from the expedited online visa should check who is eligible for the Vietnam eVisa online.