Asia/ Vietnam

Cat Ba Island: Ha Long Bay’s Hidden Gem

Cat Ba Island is an emerging destination for tourists who decide to eschew traditional Ha Long Bay boat tours. We decided that by visiting Cat Ba Island, we could get the best of both worlds. The ferry sails through the famous rocky pillars surrounding Ha Long Bay then we could explore the island. Did you know that over half of Cat Ba Island is a national park? Outside of the main town, it’s relatively untouched with its dense, tree-covered hills and the scenery is stunning. Keep reading for some gorgeous landscapes and sunsets – if I do say so myself!

Discover Cat Ba Island, Ha Long Bay's Hidden Gem | Wander with Laura

How to get to Cat Ba Island

While people will try to push tourist boat tours, it’s still easy to get from Ha Long City to Cat Ba Island independently. We caught the public ferry from Tuan Chau for 70,000 dong each (around £2.50). This arrives at Gia Luan pier in Cat Ba, around an hour from the main town but a local bus should be waiting there upon your ferry’s arrival. Here, it costs just £25,000 (85p) to hop on and within the hour, you’ll be in the heart of Cat Ba town.

Unfortunately, despite the pictures of beautiful sunshine and emerald water, our morning was drizzly, chilly and foggy. This meant that our ferry ride through the towering limestone structures around Ha Long Bay was a little less picturesque than usual – although the scenery was still incredibly striking. As we sailed deeper into the bay, the water became more vibrant and before we knew it, we had arrived!

Ferry Ha Long BayCat Ba Ferry Ha Long Bay village Ha Long Bay Vietnam travel blog

Where to stay on Cat Ba Island

The main town in Cat Ba Island has sadly become pretty overdeveloped with unattractive, concrete hotels. If you can afford a more luxurious option, head backwards from the main street but beware – outside of here, your restaurant options are pretty thin on the ground. We stayed at Nam Phuong Hotel and at £15 for two nights, we were really happy with this basic hotel. The best bit? The view from our room was AMAZING…

Cat Ba Island Vietnam Cat Ba Island view

Things to do on Cat Ba Island

Surprisingly, there’s a whole load of activities available on Cat Ba Island. Along with hiking in the National Park, the island is scattered with hidden beaches and caves so renting a moped is undoubtedly a great way to explore. Plus, if you haven’t quite had your fix of Ha Long Bay, there are plenty of boat and kayaking tours around. We decided to take on a pretty challenging uphill climb and head to Cannon Fort for sunset.

Costing 40,000 dong each to enter, the views get better and better as you climb. On our way up, we came across an adorable family of goats. Oh, and rather more unpleasantly, an absolutely massive shed snakeskin which made us walk that little bit faster.

Goats Cat Ba Island Sunset at Cat Ba Island Fort Cat Ba IslandCat Ba Island Fort

The fort itself was pretty interesting: there were tunnels to explore and information about the Vietnam War. Small groups of locals were dotted around, working out to exercise videos or jogging against the beautiful backdrop. It was this which captured most of my attention, with the mist over the hills now adding to the charm of the sunset. It was honestly unforgettable – definitely a strong contender for the ‘Best Sunset’ title across my entire trip. But the pictures should speak for themselves.

Sunset on Cat Ba Island Cat Ba Island sunset Cat Ba Island during sunsetCat Ba island fort sunset

Two days in Cat Ba Island felt like enough to explore the main attractions and it was a great alternative to the popular overnight boat tours. If you want more variety in your trip, this is an excellent – and often cheaper – option!

Would you add Cat Ba Island to your Vietnam itinerary?

Laura x


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  • Reply
    Lottie Gibbons
    July 16, 2017 at 11:55 am

    I’m planning on going here next year, so this post was great!!

    • Reply
      July 16, 2017 at 1:17 pm

      That’s fab Lottie, I’m so glad I could help! And enjoy your trip, Vietnam is amazing 🙂 xx

  • Reply
    Jessica Riley (@thecrownwings)
    July 20, 2017 at 7:47 pm

    I think the photos speak for themselves! Desperate to go to SE Asia, and this is definitely on my list!

    The Crown Wings

    • Reply
      July 20, 2017 at 9:18 pm

      Aww I really hope you make it there! Asia is awesome 🙂 xx

  • Reply
    July 20, 2017 at 10:20 pm

    WOW, the photos definitely speak for themselves – every single one looks incredible!

    • Reply
      July 21, 2017 at 8:07 pm

      It was the best sunset! x

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