The Islands of Vietnam – Hidden Tropical Getaways | Trip Around Me
With 3,000 kilometers of coastline, Vietnam has countless beaches and spas to choose from. However, although these places are beautiful, cities, noise and traffic are often not far away. Therefore, if you are looking for a real getaway, deserted white sand beaches, historic sites and a truly local experience, the many islands of Vietnam are the ones you should visit. As many of them are simply not on the typical tourist circuit, they offer a wonderful place to relax, enjoy local cuisine and hospitality and give you the opportunity to experience the essence of Vietnam. To help you choose which islands to include in your itinerary, we have created a list of the best islands to visit in Vietnam. If you like to relax, explore or party, here is something for you, so immerse yourself.
When to visit the islands of Vietnam
Home to a warm tropical climate and high humidity, Vietnam is a great destination throughout the year. However, depending on what part of the country you look at, the weather can vary significantly, so doing a little research to find out what to expect is a good idea. This also goes for visiting the islands of Vietnam.
In general, a good time to travel to all areas of the country is in early spring. Between February and May, most regions experience warm temperatures and less chance of rain and storms. Especially if you want to relax on the beautiful beaches and enjoy some water sports that is something to consider. Another point to consider are the holidays. During this time, the desert islands often experience a large volume of local visitors. This can make the hotels a bit more expensive and the beaches more crowded and noisy. Keep this in mind when planning your trip and go for travel dates outside peak hours.
Things to keep in mind when visiting the islands of Vietnam
While the larger islands of Cat Ba and Phu Quoc are well developed and local people are used to tourists and visitors, this is not the same on many of the smaller islands of Vietnam. Some of them do not even have hotels that you can book through common online booking sites.
That said, it’s not surprising that many of the people you meet will not be very used to contacting foreigners. That is what adds a lot of charm to the visit to those places, as you will find a truly local experience that has not been diluted by mass tourism. It also makes it particularly important to respect local people and their culture. Another point to note is that some of these islands do not have the established infrastructure to deal with a large number of tourists. That could mean questionable road quality, a slow internet connection and the lack of garbage disposal systems.
Unfortunately, leaving trash behind is something tourists are known for. Do not be one of them. If there is no adequate place to dispose of something (for example, plastic containers or wrappers), consider taking it back to the mainland and dispose of it there.
The islands of northern Vietnam
Cat Ba Island
If you are already in northern Vietnam and are visiting Ha Long Bay, Cat Ba Island should also be on your itinerary. It’s where some cruises depart from, so you probably have to go there to take your boat. Even if it’s not like that, Cat Ba is a great place to visit and discover for a few days. It is one of the largest islands in the area and is home to the town of Cat Ba, as well as some smaller villages.
The best way to explore is to rent a motorcycle and get going. Drive on quiet roads, enjoy the scenic landscape, rugged rock formations, endless green fields and fishing boats that swing on the coast. Head to the Divine Fortress to get a great view of the island and maybe take a short break to picnic there. After that, check out the historic Cannon Fort, a military site used by the Japanese during World War II, the French during the Indochina War and the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. Perched on a hill 177 meters high, it offers panoramic views of the bay and a great defensive point in its day. You can climb all the way on your scooter or on foot, if you prefer.
Another cool place to visit is Cave Hospital. Half cave, half bunker, this three-story building has 17 rooms, an operating room and a natural cavern that was used as a cinema. Another interesting remnant of the Vietnam War, it is worth a visit before returning to see more of the countryside.
Not far from Cat Ba Island and easily accessible by speedboat from the city of Ha Long, Quan Lan attracts travelers who wish to leave the map for a couple of days. This small island is home to only a few simple hotels and restaurants and is the perfect place to relax, meet the locals and have an iced Vietnamese coffee on a practically deserted beach. If you feel like exploring, rent a motorcycle and tour the island, as there are some beautiful pagodas to visit and the views from the hills of the island are impressive. Take a picnic lunch so you can enjoy the breathtaking views while taking a break from driving. Otherwise, find a cozy place under a palm tree and sleep with the sound of waves that come gently to the shore.
This infamous island has made a great reputation among backpackers and holiday lovers who come to Vietnam to spend the best time of their lives. For more than ten years, a local tour operator offers an all-inclusive tour through some of the most impressive places in Ha Long Bay, as well as two to three nights (and days) of fun-filled parties and activities. After a day on the boat visiting some of the beautiful caves of the bay and sailing through its innumerable karst, the celebrations begin on board and last until dawn. Then, get ready to do it all over again! If a three-day party complete with excursions through a natural wonder and a stay on a private island sounds like yours
The islands of central Vietnam
Just nine miles from the coast of Hoi An, the Cham Islands offer a complete change of scenery. From the busy streets of the World Heritage city to the soft sands and quiet roads of Hon Lao, the main island of Cham, it’s only a short boat trip but it takes you to a whole new world.
If you have little time, you can book a day trip to Hon Lao with a local tour operator. This will include the speed boat transfer, a visit to the main city of the island, snorkeling, lunch on the beach and time to relax and swim before returning in the afternoon. There are also hotels in Hon Lao, so if you have more time, you want to fill up on delicious local seafood dishes and get to know the rich underwater world a little better, reserve one of the lovely bungalows on the beach and enjoy yourself. Relaxing in clear blue water, fresh coconut juice in your hand.
Just off the coast of the province of Quang Ngai, you will find Ly Son Island. Over the years, it has become increasingly popular among Vietnamese travelers, but foreigners have not yet grasped this trend. That makes Ly Son a great place to visit if you want a place that has not yet been invaded by masses of visitors.
While the beaches here are mostly rocky and do not invite you to relax, there are some hills that you can climb to enjoy a great view and it is worth trying the local cuisine. Known for growing garlic and mild, fragrant onions, Ly Son’s kitchen uses these two ingredients generously to create delicious seafood specialties you will not find anywhere else. To get a pleasant experience on the beach, head to the neighboring island An Binh. There you will find the kind of beaches in which blogs and travel magazines make their dream of … white sands, palm trees and crystal clear waters.
Still a new destination for international visitors, it is worth visiting Binh Ba Island for several reasons. First, it is only 15 kilometers from Cam Ranh (near Nha Trang) and can be reached by boat in about 90 minutes. Second, it offers a wide variety of activities so you do not get bored even if you stay several days.
On Binh Ba, the day starts early, as it is the easternmost island of Vietnam. Capture the sunrise from one of the beautiful beaches and take advantage of the soft morning light to explore marine life. In this area, the underwater world is rich and colorful, so if you want to practice snorkeling in Vietnam, this is a great place to do it. After that, it rests around Bai Chuong beach, Bai Nom beach or Nha Cu beach: all three are practically deserted and have soft sand and clear waters.
To get energy for exploring the island, try the freshly caught local seafood. Everything from clams and spiny lobsters to shrimp and prawns are here, so be sure to work up an appetite and try them all. If you’re adventurous, rent a motorbike and explore the island’s hills, pagodas, and war remnants. There are some great viewpoints complete with old artillery and watchtowers. Since there is still a military presence today, be aware and respectful of “no entry” and “no photo” signs.
Not far from Binh Ba, Binh Hung Island is another great place to bask in the sun on pristine white sand beaches. Easily reachable from Cam Ranh, Binh Hung is a must if you want to enjoy local seafood at its best and feel like exploring tranquil beaches and the island’s soft, rolling hills.
With little information about Binh Hung available in any language but Vietnamese, it’s not a surprise that you won’t find many foreign travelers here. There are also not many hotels, and the ones you will find are rather simple. A great option for accommodation on Binh Hung is a homestay as it will give you the chance to meet the island’s residents and spend some quality time with them.
A great way to see Binh Hung is by boat. Many locals offer tours on their own vessels and will meet you at the peer and propose their services. Agree on what you want to do (e.g. go around the whole island, stop for a swim, end the trip at a restaurant…), how much time you want to spend and how much you’ll pay, and be off on a private tour of this hidden paradise.
Feeling hungry? Stop at one of the floating seafood restaurants. See what’s on the menu today by checking the buckets full of the day’s catch outside the entrance, choose what you want and negotiate a price before you sit down and wait for your meal. Lobster is the specialty here so if that’s your thing, make sure you have it at least once.
The Islands of Southern Vietnam
Just southwest of Vietnam’s mainland coast and a one-hour flight from Ho Chi Minh City lies Phu Quoc, a beautiful tropical island slightly larger than most in the area. Over recent years it has been steadily developing into a popular destination for both local and international travelers, but it still maintains its off the beaten path charm. Our tip is to go there now before that changes.
There are plenty of things to do in Phu Quoc, so plan a few days on the island to do it all. For starters, the beaches in Phu Quoc are beautiful and the famous Long Beach offers the most wonderful view of the sunset. As the day ends, find a beach bar, get a cocktail and take at the moment when the burning sun dips into the sea. There are also plenty of other beaches to visit, so get ready to lounge and relax on some secluded stretches of white sand and enjoy the sound of gently lapping waves in the distance.
During the day, the best thing to do is to rent a motorbike to get around the island. Phu Quoc is famous for its pepper which is in high demand all around Vietnam. Visit a plantation and pick some up as a souvenir. Chances are you’ve never had such fresh pepper anywhere. The local cuisine also uses this delicious pepper liberally, so don’t miss out on the fresh local seafood prepared with this aromatic ingredient. Phu Quoc is also interesting to history buffs as it is home to former prisons used for political and wartime convicts. While this is a dark chapter in the island’s history, it is one you should check out if you have the time.
Only a quick one-hour flight from Ho Chi Minh City, Con Dao is a great place to go if you want to get away from noisy bustling cities, enjoy a tranquil beach and travel to an island rich in natural beauty and marine life. Stop by here if you’d like to discover miles upon miles of untouched coastlines or go for a boat tour to see dolphins and maybe even some turtles! Exploring the island is easy and fun by bicycle as it’s rather flat. Here is a great two-day itinerary to Con Dao.
Enjoy the scenery as you pedal from one beautiful beach to the next or visit some of the historical sights spread out on the island. These include the burial site of Vo Thi Sau, a Vietnamese national hero who fought against the French as well as a former prison ground which was used to intern political prisoners. Once you’ve worked up an appetite by cycling around, head to one of the many local eateries to get your fix of freshly made coconut milk and seafood caught that same morning. Most places will let you choose your favorite seafood from a display of fresh products. And if you prefer your food steamed, barbecued or fried, just let the staff know. They’ll be happy to prepare it any way you like.
Another place with almost no information in English about it, Phu Quy is for travelers who want to get away from the crowds and do their thing. If it’s you, take a ferry in Phan Thiet and get ready to spend a few days of calm without interruptions, endless beaches and excellent diving opportunities. Since Phu Quy has only recently been discovered by international travelers, there are still no hotels or huge resorts. The accommodation available consists of small guest houses and hostels that offer very basic but clean rooms.
Nor is there much in terms of nightlife, apart from the small places on the street where locals operate from the ground floor of your home. Do not you need all that action? Then Phu Quy is the perfect destination for you. Come here to dive around the colorful coral reefs, enjoy endless varieties of seafood, relax and get away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Accessible by ferry from Rach Gia, Nam Du is another great island getaway in Vietnam. Nam Du is the main island of a small atoll and is famous for its hidden streams and high mountains that give it a very characteristic look and feel. Come here for a few days to enjoy the rich natural beauty of this island and join local fishermen to get one of the freshest fish and seafood you’ve ever had.
Maybe he lives in a family home with someone who can take him on his boat, show him around and help him bring his own catch, which he can then prepare for his lunch. Now, with more energy, you can go out and explore once more. Get a motorcycle or a bicycle to go to the old Nam Du lighthouse or find a quiet place on the west coast of the island to enjoy a view of the sun that disappears behind the horizon as the day slowly ends in this tropical paradise.
Do you get the feeling that the tropical islands of Vietnam are a place you would like to go and explore? If talking about freshly caught seafood and barbecues, deserted white sand beaches and romantic sunsets has given you curiosity, then start researching and plan your trip there while these destinations are still unknown to most international visitors who come to Vietnam. In several of the places mentioned above, the development is progressing very rapidly and the number of visitors is constantly increasing, so head in now and let yourself be seduced by its tranquility and its unique natural beauty.