VIETNAM FOR BEACH LOVERS
With its entire east coast of over 2,000 miles (3,000 km) facing the South China Sea, Vietnam is a beach lover’s paradise. From the tropical palm-fringed beaches of the south to the limestone karst islets of Halong Bay, each beach has its own ambiance and is suitable for different aquatic pursuits. Dive in!
From Hoi An it’s an easy 3-mile (4-km) bicycle ride (or a quick taxi trip) to the coast. The first beach you reach is Cua Dai, great for a cocktail at sunset. For a larger beach, venture a bit further north to An Bang with its relatively unspoiled white sand. Both beaches offer excellent seafood restaurants and views of the Cham Islands.
The coastline near Nha Trang in South Central Vietnam has dozens of fine beaches. Many are good for surfing from November to March. For a more special experience, head to secluded Hon Ong (Whale) Island, which lies in a sheltered bay, and where you can sometimes spot humpbacks. As well as diving, it offers good swimming, windsurfing, and kayaking.
Of the innumerable islands in Halong Bay, the tiny islet of Ti Top is famous for the incredible panoramic views from its summit. It’s a climb of 400 steps, but well worth it, and afterward you can take a dip or just relax on the island’s small beach. If you still have the energy to burn, go kayaking among the famous limestone karst formations.
South of Ho Chi Minh City
Between Phu Quoc and Ho Chi Minh City, there are many excellent beaches, but their proximity to the city has led to overdevelopment. A wonderful exception is the isolated beach of Ho Coc, where golden sand dunes reach inland from a long beach studded with boulders. It’s perfect for long walks and swimming and is especially quiet on weekdays.
Phu Quoc Island
Lying in the Gulf of Thailand, Phu Quoc island has some of the most placid and clear waters of coastal Vietnam, as well as many alluring white sand beaches, making it ideal for snorkeling, scuba diving, and kayaking. Lovely beaches abound – one of the best is Star Beach (Bai Sao) near the southern tip of the island on the sheltered east coast. The water is unbelievably clear and the curved beach stretches for miles.
TOP 5 BEACHES FOR DIVING
- Phu Quoc The best sites are on the southeast coast.
- Hon Ko A small island south of Phu Quoc, home to a breathtaking coral reef.
- Nha Trang This offers good scuba diving courses and many dive sites.
- Cham Islands Off the coast of Hoi An, these islands teem with coral and tropical fish.
- Con Dao Archipelago These islands off the southern coast have pristine waters.
VIETNAM OFF THE BEATEN PATH
They may take a little more effort to reach than more famous tourist spots, but Vietnam’s hidden corners, though lacking in facilities, offer beautiful unspoiled landscapes and traditional ways of life.
Bai Tu Long Bay
Only 37 miles (60 km) east of the world-famous Halong Bay, Bai Tu Long Bay offers equally spectacular karst formations, numerous uninhabited islets, and a tranquil atmosphere away from tourist hordes that its acclaimed neighbor often lacks. Quan Lan island has a spectacular crescent-shaped beach, Minh Chau. Even more pristine is Tra Ban island, with its dramatic karst formations and a jungled interior that is home to many flora and fauna.
Con Dao Islands
This archipelago of 16 mostly uninhabited islands lies 80 miles (135 km) off the southern coast of Vietnam. It is a pristine environment ideal for lounging on the beach, snorkeling, scuba diving, or exploring the jungles in the interior. Parts of the archipelago and the surrounding coral reefs are a national park and home to many unique species of flora and fauna. The main island of Con Son offers a range of accommodations and good restaurants.
Pu Luong Nature Reserve
Away from most tourists’ radar, Pu Luong Nature Reserve is an area of spectacular beauty 30 miles (50 km) from Mai Chau Valley in Northern Vietnam. This very fertile region of rich forests and rice terraces has diverse landscapes, flora, and fauna. Trek the mountainous paths, swim in the rivers, visit traditional markets of the White Thai and Muong, or just relax in the peace and quiet in this idyllic spot.
Ben Tre’s quiet, pretty riverside promenade is great for strolling or cycling and is perfect for a glimpse of traditional life, away from the hustle-and-bustle of other nearby towns in the Mekong Delta. You can also explore the surrounding picturesque countryside with its coconut plantations and villages by small boat or by bicycle.
Homestay on Stilts in Mai Chau Valley
Southwest of Hanoi, the beautiful, unspoiled Mai Chau Valley is surrounded by rolling green hills with terraced rice paddies. It’s home to the White Thai ethnic minority, relatives of the people of Thailand and Laos. The friendly villagers offer homestays in traditional stilt houses in the villages of Lac and Pom Coong, a great way to experience traditional rustic life.
Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark
Designated a Geopark by UNESCO due to its unique geography, this remote area is Vietnam’s northernmost point, on the border with China. Minority villages, an amazing Sunday market, and spectacular mountain scenery are the attractions here. A travel permit is required but easy to get, and it’s heaven for motorcyclists