If Phu Quoc Island is the ‘Pearl Island’ of the South, Vietnamese northerners use the exact same name for another island – Cat Ba island. Lying next to the beautiful Lan Ha Bay, Cat Ba Island has always been considered one of the must-visit destinations of Vietnam. Let’s check out our best recommended list of Top things to do in Cat Ba Island and Lan Ha Bay.
Cat Ba Island belongs to Hai Phong City, about 10km southeast of Halong Bay, 30km from city center of Hai Phong. Cat Ba is the largest island of Cat Ba archipelago which is composed of 367 islands on the water of Lan Ha Bay. Come to Cat Ba, visitors will have chance to enjoy the wonders of nature, the idyllic way of life and the savory seafood.
*Reasons to travel to Cat Ba:
*Pros and Cons when traveling to Cat Ba
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There are three beaches on Cat Ba Island which are named Cat Co 1, 2 and 3, located pretty near the central town. The beaches are blessed with golden sandy shores and turquoise colored sea water and filled with tourist services from electric cars, food and drink to beachside activities. Water games are available at Cat Co 1 and 2.
On summer holidays, the beaches can get pretty crowded so if you want to have the beaches all to yourself, come early in the morning.
Cat Co 1 and 2 are also the beaches where you can witness a magical natural phenomenon: bioluminescent plankton. About an hour after twilight, the beach of Cat Co 2 begins to sparkle with the blue tiny dots from the marine organisms lighting up as a mechanism of defense against predators.
Like Phu Quoc Island, Cat Ba Island also has a national park which offers great opportunities for trekking and hiking. Covers more than half of the island, Cat Ba National Park is at heart of the UNESCO Cat Ba Archipelago Biosphere Reserve and home to thousands of species including higher plants, terrestrial animals, birds and more. The park contains in total 6 different ecosystem types which are tropical rain forest, mangrove forest, tidal flat, marine lake, coral reed and soft bottom.
There are up to 9 trekking trails and 5 boat trips for you to choose. The most popular tour that we’re recommending is the National Park – Frog Lake – Viet Hai Village Trail which is 14 km long, including 2 hours of boat and kayaking. National Park – Frog Lake is the most basic trail you can enjoy in the park.
*Admission: 40,000VND per adult, 20,000VND per child.
Cat Dua (Pineapple) island or often known as Monkey Island is located in the area of Nam Cat, Lan Ha Bay. To get to this island, you’ll go to Beo harbor, hire a boat to go to Monkey Island. It only takes you 15 minutes before the pristine, beautiful island appear in front of your eyes.
Monkey island is about 5 km round with the front side are 2 sandy beaches and the back side is like rocky mountain. The beaches here are very beautiful with pine apple trees on the beach and many kind of green trees on the mountain.
The most unique feature of the island are the monkeys – there are about 20 individuals living on the island’s forest. When the tourists come, the monkey come down and get close in order to get food. You can feed them but it’s not wise to tease or bother them because they do bite and fight back.
- Viet Hai Village
Viet Hai Village is the top fishing village to visit in Cat Ba. The village is located about 18 kilometers from Cat Ba town, stretching beautifully along the coastline. One choice to visit the village is trekking the trail from Cat Ba National Park, passing Frog Lake.
Come to Viet Hai, visitors can enjoy the idyllic natural scenery, tranquil atmosphere and the simple, peaceful way of life of local people. You can also the friendliness of the villagers who are mostly farmers. Viet Hai is that place to be if you want to stay away from the busy world out there.
- Cai Beo Floating Village
Located at Hung Thang Commune, Cai Beo isn’t only the oldest fishing village in Vietnam but also an archaeological site in the coastal area and the northeast island of Vietnam. It’s definitely a must-see spot to see around Cat Ba.
The village is home to more than 300 households and more than 600 people, highlighted on the backdrop of the marvelous sight of Lan Ha Bay. Floating houses are linked together into a group with cages raising fishes under the surface of water. Seafood like fish, shrimp, geo-duck …here are cheaper, and fresher even.
Lan Ha Bay is even a better place to enjoy kayaking than Ha Long. The winds in Lan Ha Bay is calmer than in Ha Long Bay therefore the waves are just ideal to glide atop. Our best recommended activities for you are kayaking and diving or snorkeling.
For kayaking, there are two options for you: you can rent a kayak or book half-day or one-day tours of kayaking and diving. Water caves in Lan Ha are the hidden spots for you to explore on a kayak.
For snorkeling, it’s often a part of tours to fishing villages. When you dive under the water of Lan Ha Bay, you’ll see the colorful coral reefs and a world of aquatic lives. Diving cost is much expensive than with average cost ranging from 1 million to 1.5 million per person.
Lan Ha Bay and rock climbing are a heavenly match. With many islands of various shapes and sizes, rock climbing enthusiasts can challenge themselves on many levels of difficulty. There are five rock-climbing routes, starting from Beo Wharf. Most beautiful cliffs can be named such as Dau Be, Van Boi Island, Fish Cave, Tien Ong Island.
With its fresh air, beautiful beaches and primary forests, Cat Ba has become the perfect destination where people can relax and experience the adventure of rock-climbing.
The Cannon Fort on Cat Ba Island has long been the famous spot to enjoy the sunset with view directly to the surrounding islands and Lan Ha Bay. Also known as High Point 177 or Divine fortress, a historical site where you can find tunnel system, cannons, and trench fortifications built about 40 years ago.
Especially when the day fades away, the sun glowing like a coal equivocal after the mountain, visitors will enjoy the sediment, romantic sunset on the sea.
*Admission: 40,000VND per person
Like every island in Vietnam, Cat Ba offers highest quality and quantity of seafood. If you’re looking for a gourmet BBQ party in Vietnam, Cat Ba is an excellent option. The restaurants here have great views of the bay, a diverse menu consisting of seafood goodies such as lobsters, shrimps, squids, fishes, abalone, and the list goes on.
One thing to take into consideration: the prices for seafood here are not cheap because Cat Ba town is heavily touristic but it comes with quality.
Nightlife on Cat Ba Island is quite limited when compared to Phu Quoc Island. However, you can still have a decent nightlife experience in Cat Ba Town. Here are our suggestions:
Have a bowl of local noodle soup: Hai Phong is famous for rice noodle soup with crab meat. There are quite a number of sidewalk stalls and small restaurants open until late. Sitting down to dig in a steaming bowl after a short walk would be a wonderful experience to do in Cat Ba town at night.
Ride the tandem bike with your friends and loved one: there are a service of renting tandem bike, charged on hours. It’s a fun thing to do, especially with your friends and loved ones. You can just ask the hotels or resorts you’re staying to arrange for you.
Pubs and bars: there’s a list to check out
- Quiri Pub Cocktail & Restaurant
- Oasis Bar 2
- Quiri Pub Cocktail & Restaurant
Lying almost adjacent to Cat Ba, Halong is a wonderful day trip you can easily combine into your day cruise around the area. Halong has been known long ago as a world natural heritage. Thousands of limestone islands and islets scatter all over the green water bay create such breath-taking scenery for any visitor come to Halong Bay.
A cruise tour combined Cat Ba with Halong Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay is a comprehensive travel experience to truly see the best of the nature in the region. Bai Tu Long Bay is comprised many primitive caves, beaches and islands that are still untouched by mass tourism. If you're seeking for a part of Halong that is not invaded by crowds of tourist, Bai Tu Long is your destination.
>>> Click to for tips on How to get the most out of Halong Cruise Experience
If time doesn't allow you to take a full trip to the two further bays, then a half-day or full-day trip to the nearby Lan Ha Bay will give enough satisfaction of being among nature and discover the fishing villages. Tour to Lan Ha is widely available on Cat Ba island and are priced at very reasonable rates.
If you have had enough of sea, limestone islands and caves, why not check out Hai Phong city?
With a lovely central park and lake, Hai Phong pulls you in with its elegant style and a much slower traffic. You can spend hours on the city centre's streets which have everything you need: cafe, bars, restaurants, wet market, book stores and historical landmark.
If you want to check explore the city in-depth, you can visit the local temples and pagodas, some of them still keep its traditional architecture style intact. Hai Phong nightlife is also pretty active with a bustling food scene.
>>> Want a combined tour of all the best bits, from just $514? See our cruise:
Summer is the best time to visit Cat Ba for the sunny skies, less rain and high temperature which are suitable for all beachside activities, trekking in Cat Ba National Park. The summertime in North Vietnam lasts from May to August. Cat Ba Island in wintertime which falls between from November to March isn't the best place in Vietnam for swimming due to the cold water and winds.
The island is accessible by boats only. You can come to Cat Ba from Hai Phong city and Halong Bay. From Hanoi which is about 100 kilometers away, you can come to Hai Phong by train or by buses.
From Hai Phong City
You can come to Cat Ba island center (Cat Ba town) by going to Hai Phong city, then go by speed boat or ferry from Ben Binh harbor to Cat Bai town.
There is a company called Hoang Long has daily buses from Luong Yen bus station in Hanoi to go package trip (bus and boat) to Cat Ba island town. If you come from Ho Chi Minh city, there is a flight to come to Hai Phong city and then you go by speed boat to Cat Ba town.
*Speed boat schedule and tickets from Hai Phong to Cat Ba island:
|Boat Companies||Routes||Departing Hour||Duration||Cost|
|Mekong Hoang Yen||Hai Phong – Cat Ba||9:00AM||45 minutes||250,000VND per way|
|Cat Ba – Hai Phong||1:00PM||45 minutes|
|Cat Ba Island||Hai Phong – Cat Ba|| |
|60 minutes||250,000VND per way|
|Cat Ba – Hai Phong|| |
From Halong Bay
You can come to Cat Ba by going to Halong bay, then take a ferry at Tuan Chau island to reach Gia Luan harbor in Cat Ba island, then take a taxi to Cat Ba town in 30 minutes more.
Above are the best 9 things to do in Cat Ba Island and Lan Ha Bay, some can’t be missed like trekking Cat Ba National Park, enjoy the beaches, watching sunset on the Divine Fortress…. They’re all included in our tours to Cat Ba Island and Lan Ha Bay. And to make even better, contact us to receive even more inspiration for your trip, we can design the most suitable tours for you and you only.