If you want to explore Halong Bay off the beaten track, go
to Cat Ba
island in Hai Phong province.
Located in a privileged area of Halong Bay, Cat Ba is the
largest island in the Gulf of Tonkin. Its landscapes are
just as beautiful as Halong Bay but less visited. This place
includes a beautiful national park with incredible
biodiversity and pretty mountains for hiking or even
climbing. In addition, it is home to some beautiful beaches
and a second bay often less known to tourists:
Lan Ha Bay
which includes the island of monkeys but also floating
markets much more impressive and authentic than those
visited in Halong Bay or even
Bai Tu Long bay areas.
What to do in Cat Ba?
1. Take a cruise
in Lan Ha Bay
Definitely, your main reason for coming to this island is to
contemplate the famous kharstic hills like Halong Bay. Here
you can go on a boat trip through the bay on a private
junk. In particular, these junks do not pass in the same
place as the circuits leaving from Halong so you will
probably be alone in the middle of the dream bay.
2. Discover the island by scooter
With 354km2 of surface, to visit Cat Ba inevitably requires
a scooter. There are only two scooter roads: a road that
crosses the island from North to South and a road that runs
along the south-west coast of the island. Driving through
the limestone mountains is easy because the roads are in
good condition. You can easily find a motorcycle for rent
with a reasonable price. If you do not know how to drive,
use a motorcycle taxi driver. Try to negotiate!
Here are some places to visit
- Hospital grotto, a clandestine hospital used during the
American war that was also allowed to house the leaders of
the local guerrilas
Viet Hai village
- Trung Trang Cave
- Cannon Fort, built in the French era, used in the defense
of Hai Phong during the Wars against French and Americans
3. Trekking in Cat Ba National Park
If you like hiking, Cat Ba is a perfect place for exploring.
A local guide is necessary. You need a good physical
condition to support the successive ascents and descents
through the jungle. You can go hiking between 3h and 6h in
the park. The easiest option is a 3 hour hike to the top of
Ngu Lam for a panoramic view of the island.
4. Enjoy the beaches of Cat Ba
Cat Ba has some pretty beaches. The nearest beaches are: Cat
Co 1, Cat Co 2, Cat Co 3 and some more remote and accessible
by boat. Its beaches are all pleasant to fine sand and
surrounded by limestone rocks. The best time to swim is
between March and October, avoid the months between November
and February due to the cold winter weather.
How to get to Cat Ba?
There are many ways to get to Cat Ba island from
you have to go through the city of Hai Phong. The best way
is to take a bus. There are many tour operators who sell
tickets for Halong Bay or Cat Ba Island but you have to be
very careful about prices and services as crooks are
everywhere. Then you have to take a boat to Cat Ba Island
and finally a last bus will take you to the central area of
Where to stay in Cat Ba?
If you arrive in Hai Phong late, you can stay the night in
Hai Phong. And again at Cat Ba, you will also
find a room
very easily in the center town of Cat Ba. In addition,
spending a night aboard a junk is a good choice to live in
nature. We strongly recommend this choice as it is still not
too touristy and it would be wonderful to spend a couple of
very pleasant days in Lan Ha bay.