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!
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!
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…
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.
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.
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?
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