Halong Bay looks like a piece of Heaven on Earth. It has one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world and, as a result, is Vietnam’s most visited destination year after year. Here is a list of 10 things you can do when visiting this otherworldly place.
1. Cruise Halong Bay on a traditional Junk Boat
It should come as no surprise that the number 1 thing to do in Halong Bay is taking a cruise on a traditional junk boat. What could be more romantic than sailing on calm emerald green waters through the mist and limestone mountains?
On a cruise, you have access to many of Halong Bay’s highlights, such as caves, beaches, and floating villages. There’s truly no better way to see Halong Bay as most areas can only be visited by boat.
Staying on-board overnight you will see another side of Halong Bay. It’s cool and eerily quiet, and through the darkness, you can see the twinkling lights from local fishing boats in the distance. In the morning you can take part in Tai Chi on the deck of the boat and enjoy pure tranquility.
- We recommend taking at least 2-days and 1-night for a cruise so that you can see many things at a less hectic pace.
- If you are looking for a quieter and more relaxed cruise look for a ship with fewer rooms!
- Check cruise itineraries carefully to make sure you get the right cruise.
2. Explore Cat Ba Island
Cat Ba Island has it all: lush jungle, white-sand beaches and tons of adventurous activities to entertain any kind of visitor. Cat Ba is the biggest island in Halong Bay and is perfect for both day trips and longer stays. On a day trip, you can trek through some of the wonderfully preserved forests or explore the island’s coastline and beaches, both options will give you some fantastic views of Halong Bay. Alternatively, you can stay for a few days and use Cat Ba Island as your base camp when visiting Halong Bay.
3. Monkey around on Monkey Island
Monkey Island, in Lan Ha Bay, is named after its monkey residents. This island should be on any Halong Bay itinerary. You don’t have to look far to find these cheeky monkeys, they roam freely around the island, and have developed a bit of a reputation for mischief. The island itself is also beautiful; there are mountains that you can climb to see an unforgettable panoramic view of Lan Ha Bay and sandy beaches where you can swim and enjoy the sunset.
4. Nighttime Squid Fishing
This activity is usually included in cruise itineraries but can also be done on solo trips! The most important thing to know is that squid fishing must be done at night. If you’re on a cruise the crew will turn on a very bright underwater light which attracts squid to the boat. Then they give you a rod and let you get on with it! There isn’t much skill involved and most of it is down to luck, but if you catch some squid the boat’s chef can cook it up on-board for you to eat. There’s no fresher squid than that!
- Fish at night on calm water.
- Use a strong light to attract the squid.
- Make sure you are fishing at depths deeper than 4 meters.
5. Watch the Sunset from Cannon Fort
Cannon Fort sits on top of a mountain on Cat Ba Island but we had to include this one as a stand-alone point. Watching the sunset from Cannon Fort is one experience that cannot be missed. As the sun goes down the sky turns one hundred different shades of red and orange, framed by the silhouettes of boats and mountains, the view is out of this world.
- There is a bit of a climb to the top, so if you’re not feeling up to it you can rent a scooter to get up.
- The entrance fee is around 40,000 VND which is about $1.70 USD.
- Don’t forget to take a camera!
6. Visit the Floating Villages
In Halong Bay there exist communities of people that live their lives on floating villages. Touring the floating villages, visitors get the opportunity to speak with locals, visit their floating schools and witness how people live on the waters of Halong Bay. They say travel broadens the mind, and this is certainly an eye-opening experience into another way of life. To visit one of the 4 floating villages you should go either with a cruise or local boatsman.
7. Water Sports – Kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving
If there’s one thing that Halong Bay has in abundance it’s water! The waters surrounding Halong Bay are rich in marine life, with innumerable species of fish and coral reef, much of which is protected by the government. The best way to check it out is by snorkeling or scuba diving!
The calm waters of Halong Bay make it a wonderful place to try your hand at kayaking. Many of the more secluded caves and beaches in the bay are only accessible by small boat or kayak so kayaking is also a very good way to help you explore the best parts of the bay.
If you aren’t into water sports, no worries, Halong Bay has countless beautiful beaches where you can just chill out, sunbathe and enjoy the ocean.
8. Explore the caves
“Which caves!?” You might ask. Well, take your pick! Halong Bay is home to around 60 discovered caves, all of which are impressive and unusual in their beauty. The most famous is probably Sung Sot Cave (or “Surprise Cave” in English), found on Bo Hon Island in the center of Halong Bay. Other caves that should be at the top of your list are; Trinh Nu Cave, Dau Go Cave, Day and Night Cave, and Thien Cung Cave. To visit you will either need to go on a tour or pay a local boatman to take you as most of these can only be accessed by sea.
9. Visit the Pearl Farm
Halong Bay’s pearl farm is owned by the Halong Pearl Joint Stock Company and is open for visitors! Here you can witness the intricate process of pearl cultivation and preparation and at the end, you get the option to buy a single pearl or even a full piece of jewelry. What a fantastic souvenir!
- Visiting the pearl farm is usually part of a longer cruise itinerary, be sure to check your cruise itinerary if you wish to visit.
10. Rock climbing
This is one of the most adventurous options on our list. Due to the abundance of craggy islands in Halong Bay, there is many a rock face just waiting to be climbed. Some rock faces rise straight out of the water, and some look out onto sandy beaches. Cat Ba Island has some amazing limestone cliffs that are also climbable. If you are traveling and climbing with a group, then it’s recommended to rent a junk boat and take an overnight tour of Halong Bay
- To go rock climbing independently you may need an access pass from Asia Outdoors before you climb. Make sure you research this thoroughly before you go.
- Only go rock climbing alone if you are a confident and experienced rock climber.