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Visiting Halong Bay, Vietnam: Things to Do & See

Visiting Halong Bay, Vietnam: Things to Do & See

Halong Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Vietnam. But what can you see there? And what should you do while visiting Halong Bay?

This area in North Vietnam is home to thousands of limestone islands, which are often compared to the picturesque snow-capped mountains seen in China’s Shangri-La.

However, this comparison does not do justice to Halong Bay as these mountains have been carved out by centuries of erosion with manmade structures on top, whereas all Halong has left are its natural wonders.

The best thing you can do when visiting Halong is just let it take your breath away through any means available: either by cruising around and admiring the landscape from afar or going on an island-hopping expedition and really getting up close and personal with the karsts.

Rising over the serene emerald-green waters of Vietnam’s Gulf of Tonkin, the 3,000 limestone islands of Halong Bay are breathtaking.

In the summer when the skies are clear, the light plays off the arching cliffs in an ever-changing display. And during the cooler months, the bay is most often shrouded in a mystical blanket of fog.

What is Halong Bay, Vietnam?

Halong Bay is one of the most beautiful and unique places on the planet. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s home to thousands of species of plants and animals that can only be found here, and it’s visited by more than 10 million tourists every year.

People travel to Vietnam to see Halong Bay. It is a beautiful and unique place. There are different places for people to stay in Halong Bay. Some people might want to stay in a hotel by the water. Other people might want to stay in a place that is more affordable.

Halong Bay was named a world heritage site in 1994, and it’s easy to see why. The ancient, wind-eroded islets and the many caves and grottoes dotting this mysterious landscape make it truly unique.

It’s an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore traditional Vietnamese culture in a mind-blowing environment.

HaLong Bay Cave
Photo: dalbera

Land of the descending dragon

Legend has it that this incredible scenery was created by a family of dragons who came to defend locals under attack by invaders. The jade and emerald boulders the dragons spewed at the enemy turned into the thousands of islands in the bay.

When the battle was over, the dragons chose to make Halong Bay their home and plunged into the sea, where they sleep today. The name Halong means “where the dragon descends to the water.”

Exploring Halong Bay

The best way to soak up the peaceful mystic vibe of Halong Bay is to spend some time here — 3 days and 2 nights on a boat in the bay is about perfect.

This isn’t the place to look for bargains, though. Luxury options are far better than their cheaper counterparts, and you’ll be glad you spent the extra money.

HaLong Bay Vietnam
Photo: daverugby83

Spending a few days on the bay will also give you the chance to sail those glassy-smooth waters, see traditional floating villages that are only found in Southeast Asia, and tour the area’s many caves.

See Related: Top 5 Ways to Experience Italy’s Beautiful Cinque Terre

What should I pack for a trip to Halong Bay?

When packing for a trip to Halong Bay, it is important to bring plenty of sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses. You will also want to pack a mosquito repellent, as there are a lot of mosquitoes in the area.

It is also important to bring comfortable walking shoes, as there is a lot of exploring to be done in the bay. Finally, don’t forget to pack your bathing suit so you can take a dip in the water.

Here’s our full recommended packing list for a trip to Ha Long Bay:

Where to stay in Halong Bay, Vietnam

There are many different places to stay in Halong Bay, but finding the right one for your vacation can be tricky. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of unique places to stay in Halong Bay that will make your vacation unforgettable.

Each option has its own pros and cons, so be sure to read through all of them before making your decision.

1. Stay on a Traditional Junk Boat

Halong Bay is world-famous for its traditional junk boats. Staying on a traditional junk boat in Halong Bay is a truly unique experience that you can’t have anywhere else in the world.

Junk boats come in all shapes and sizes, so you’ll be able to find one that fits your budget and group size. Most junk boats come with private bedrooms, a dining area, and a sundeck. 

You’ll love being able to wake up and enjoy the stunning views of Ha Long Bay from your room. And don’t forget to make time to explore the limestone caves and floating villages around the bay.

With so much to see and do, staying on a junk boat is the perfect way to experience everything that Ha Long Bay has to offer.

The downside of staying on a junk boat is that they’re not always the most comfortable or luxurious option. If you’re looking for a 5-star experience, you might want to consider one of the other options on this list.

2. Stay in a Cave Hotel

Surprise Cave Ha Long
Photo: deepgoswami

Halong Bay is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Vietnam, and it’s easy to see why. The bay is home to thousands of old karstic foot caves, and some of them have been turned into the most popular hotels. Staying in a cave hotel is a truly unique experience, and it’s the perfect way to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

There are a few different cave hotels in Halong Bay, but these are some of the best hotels: 

The first hotel on our list of best hotels is the Dragon Cave Hotel. This hotel is located in the heart of Halong Bay, and it offers stunning views of the bay. The rooms are spacious and comfortable, and the staff is friendly and helpful. 

If you’re looking for a more experience, then you might want to check out the Paradise Suite Cave Hotel. This hotel is located in a secluded area of Halong Bay, and it offers its guests privacy and tranquility. The rooms are beautifully decorated, and the food is absolutely fantastic. 

Finally, we have the Bai Tho Mountain Retreat, one of the best hotels to book. This hotel is located on a mountain overlooking Halong Bay, and it offers breathtaking views of the bay.

Most cave hotels are located in the Bai Tu Long area of Halong Bay, which is less crowded than the main bay. This means that you’ll have more opportunities to explore the marine notch caves and enjoy the quiet beauty of the area.

The downside of staying in a cave hotel is that it can be quite expensive. If you’re on a budget, you might want to consider one of the other options on this list.

3. Eco-Lodge

If you’re searching for a more environmentally friendly alternative, consider staying at an eco-lodge. Some of the best hotels in the area are these types of hotels, you’re in a national park after all.

Eco-lodges are popular hotels that have been built with the environment in mind. Many utilize recycled materials, generate their own electricity, and use native plants that require little water. Some even capture their own rainwater.

Eco-lodges are also often located in natural areas, so you can enjoy the best of both worlds – being close to nature while also having all the amenities of a hotel. And best of all, they’re usually much more affordable than traditional hotels.

So if you’re looking for a sustainable and budget-friendly option, an eco-lodge is definitely the way to go. Here are some of the best eco-lodges in Ha Long Bay: 

The downside of staying in an eco-lodge is that they can be quite expensive. If you’re on a budget, you might want to consider one of the other options on this list.

4. Budget Hotels

When it comes to where to stay in Halong Bay, you have a few different options. You could splurge on a luxury hotel, or you could save money by staying in a budget hotel. Budget hotels are a great option if you’re looking to save money, and there are many affordable hotels in Halong Bay.

Here are some of the best budget hotels in Halong Bay:

  • The Ha Long Essence Hotel is located in the heart of the old town, and it offers comfortable rooms at an affordable price.
  • The Halios Hotel is a great option with excellent customer service at a fraction of the price of other hotels.
  • The Minh Phong Hotel is located right on the beachfront and it offers modern rooms and amenities at an affordable price.

So, if you’re looking for an affordable place to stay in Halong Bay, then one of these budget hotels is a great option for you.

5. Stay in a Hostel

If you’re looking for cheap places to stay in Halong Bay, then hostels are a great option. There are plenty of hostels around Halong Bay, and they cater to all budgets. Whether you’re looking for a place to crash for a night or want to stay for a week, there’s a hostel for you.

The best way to find a good hostel is to research online and read reviews. That way, you can be sure that you’re choosing the right place for you.

So, if you’re looking for a cheap and cheerful place to stay in Halong Bay, then be sure to check out the local hostels.

No matter what kind of vacation you’re looking for, Halong Bay has a place for you. So book your stay today and get ready to explore one of the most incredible places on earth.

See Related: Most Amazing Natural Arches in the World

Best Things to do in Halong Bay, Vietnam

There are plenty of things to do in Halong Bay, and most of them are perfect for travelers.

Take a boat tour of the bays

One of the best things to do is take a Halong Bay cruise around Ha Long Bay, Lan Ha Bay, and Bai Tu Long Bay. This will give you a chance to see all of the beautiful limestone cliffs that make up the bays. You can also visit some of the smaller islands in the area sure to visit the Caves of Heaven and Hell.

These are two of the most popular caves in Halong Bay. The Caves of Heaven are said to be where fairies come to bathe. The Caves of Hell are said to be where ghosts live.

On tourist boats, you’ll be able to see all of the bay’s highlights in one go. You can explore the caves and grottoes, visit the floating villages, and even climb to the top of Halong Bay’s highest peak. Plus, you’ll get to sample some delicious local cuisine.

Overnight Cruise

HaLong Bay Vietnam
Photo: princeroy

There’s nothing quite like spending a night near Cat Ba Island and on Ha Long Bay and Lan Ha Bay. You’ll be able to see the sunset and rise, as well as all of the stars in the middle of this iconic national park. Most overnight cruises include meals and other activities, so you’ll be able to make the most of your time on the bay and enjoy this mature karst landscape.

Staying overnight on a boat cruise is the best way to make the most of your Halong Bay tour. You’ll get the best of both worlds, while a nice hotel is always appealing the views from the water are just completely different.

Halong Bay Beaches

Sunrise over Halong Bay
Photo: purple-lover

Oriental Sails Beach

Located on Bai Chay Beach, Oriental Sails is one of the only beaches in Halong Bay that’s perfect for swimming. The water is clean and clear, and there are plenty of beach umbrellas and sun loungers for visitors to use. You can also go kayaking or canoeing from Oriental Sails Beach, and there’s even a bar where you can get refreshing drinks.

Halo Beach

Halo Beach is located on Titov Island, and it’s a great place to relax and soak up the sun. The beach has beautiful white sand, and there are plenty of beach umbrellas and sun loungers for visitors to use. You can also go swimming, kayaking, or canoeing from Halo Beach.

See Related: Visiting the Apostle Islands Ice Caves

Halong Bay Caves and Grottoes

HaLong Bay Cave
Photo: dalbera

There are over 2,000 caves and grottoes in Ha Long Bay, and each one is more unique than the last. Many of the karstic foot caves can only be accessed by boat, Oriental Sails offers a variety of different boat tours that will take you to some of the most popular caves, including Sung Sot Cave (Suprise Cave), Trinh Nu Cave, and Thien Cung Cave.

The most impressive cavern by far is Sung Sote Cave (Surprise Cave). This massive two-chamber grotto features a clear pool and a strangely mountainous and mature landscape at its deepest point, and fabulous stalactite and stalagmite formations throughout.

Flocks of birds often visit Surprise Cave to feed on the fruit of banyans and fig trees that grow inside — and occasionally there are visits from local monkeys, too.

Ha Long Bay Floating Villages

HaLong Bay Vietnam

There are four main fishing villages in Halong Bay, and each one has its own unique history. We will outline each and what makes them unique below.

Ong Cam Village

The largest and most well-known of the four floating villages, Ong Cam village is home to around 600 people. Most of the villagers make their living from fishing, and you can often see them out on the water in their traditional boats.

There are also a few souvenir shops and restaurants in Ong Cam village, so young Cam village is the perfect place to get a taste of traditional life in Halong Bay.

Ong Ho Village

If you’re looking for a traditional floating village experience in Halong Bay, Ong Ho Village is the place to go. Situated on the east side of the bay, Ong Ho is one of the smallest villages and its residents make a living from fishing, farming, and selling souvenirs to tourists.

You can often see them out on the water in their traditional boats, and there are a few souvenir shops and restaurants in the village if you want to get a taste of traditional life in Halong Bay. Ong Ho is the perfect place to get away from the crowds and experience some authentic local culture.

Vung Vieng village

Vung Vieng Village is located on the west side of Halong Bay and is one of the most remote villages. The villagers here make their living from fishing, farming, and selling souvenirs to tourists.

Vung Vieng village is only accessible by boat, which makes it a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Ong Chiem Village

Ong Chiem village is located on the south side of Halong Bay and is the smallest of the four fishing villages. The villagers here make their living from fishing and farming, and you can often see them out on the water in their traditional boats.

There are also a few souvenir shops and restaurants in Ong Ching Chiem village is the perfect place to get a taste of traditional life in Halong Bay.

See Related: Best Fishing Spots in the World

Go kayaking or swimming

Want to get up close and personal in this amazing environment? This is one of the best places to go kayaking or swimming in all of Northern Vietnam. The water is clean and clear, and there are plenty of places to explore. You can even go snorkeling in some areas of the bay.

Rent a kayak and spend a few hours paddling the gentle waves. Guided kayak tours will take you around the bay to Cat Ba Island, where a contemporary shoreline of hotels sits back-to-back with some of the most Jurassic Park-like jungle you’ll ever experience.

Almost half of Cat Ba Island is a protected national park, with subtropical hill forests, coastal mangroves and freshwater lakes, coral reefs, waterfalls, and lots and lots of birds.

Looking for next hand hold
Photo: rosshuggett

For the real thrill-seekers, kayaking Halong Bay also provides the opportunity to do some serious rock-climbing — straight from the water. You’ll want to be super careful, though.

Rock-climbing is a very new sport in Vietnam and this is challenging deep water solo climbing, so find a guide in Cat Ba before you set out on your rocky adventure in a national park.

Plus, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can try your hand at cliff jumping. Just be sure to check with your tour guide about the various options and excursions offered.

Halong Bay’s Highest Peak

If you’re looking for breathtaking views of Ha Long Bay, make sure to hike to the top of its highest peak. Located on Cat Ba Island, the peak is 668 meters tall and offers stunning panoramas of the bay and its many islands. It’s a popular spot for both locals and tourists, so you’re sure to see some amazing sights.

To get to the top, you’ll need to hike for about an hour, but it’s well worth the effort. Once you reach the summit, you’ll be able to enjoy the incredible views and take some truly unforgettable photos.

Sample local cuisine

Cha muc, banh xeo, goi cuon, and pho are all popular dishes in Halong Bay. Be sure to try them all! You can find these dishes at most restaurants in the area.

Another popular dish is bun cha, which is a type of noodle soup that’s usually made with pork. The best way to sample the local cuisine is to take a food tour.

This way, you’ll be able to try a variety of different dishes and learn about the history and culture behind each one. Plus, you’ll get to meet some of the locals and get an insider’s look at life in Ha Long Bay.

There’s no doubt that Ha Long Bay is great for souvenirs

When you’re looking for gifts to bring home from your trip to Vietnam, Ha Long Bay is the perfect place to start your search. You’ll find a wide range of traditional handicrafts, clothing, and jewelry – perfect for your friends and family back home.

Just be sure to bargain with the vendors to get the best price. You can also find a number of unique gifts that are specific to Ha Long Bay, such as carved wooden horses or dragons. And don’t forget to pick up some souvenirs for yourself.

Best Time to Visit Halong Bay, Vietnam

The weather at Ha Long Bay offers a few challenges of its own. May through September, the skies are generally clear and the views are spectacular. But this is also the high season for tropical storms, and a big one will cancel your plans.

Conditions are cool and misty from February through April, and heavy fog often obscures the dramatic vistas — but it also adds an ethereal look that has its own charms.

HaLong Bay Vietnam
Photo: archer10

Whenever you decide to visit Halong Bay, it’s a good idea to find out your tour company’s policy on refunds — some will provide refunds when tours are canceled due to weather, while others won’t.

Don’t let the weather scare you, though. A trip to Halong Bay is a trip to one of the planet’s most unique and fascinating landscapes.

Sunset at Halong Bay
Photo: guldem

Whether you want to experience great kayaking, jungle hikes, and challenging climbs, or simply sit back on the deck of a boat and enjoy the unbelievable scenery, Halong Bay is an unforgettable place and a great addition to anyone’s bucket list.

See Related: Phraya Nakhon Cave

Final Thoughts

Ha Long Bay is a must-see destination for any traveler visiting Vietnam. With its stunningly beautiful landscape and a plethora of things to see and do, Halong Bay is sure to impress. Some key things to keep in mind when planning a trip to Halong Bay are to be sure to budget enough time to explore all that this UNESCO World Heritage Site has to offer.

When planning a trip to Halong Bay, be sure to budget enough time to explore all that the area has to offer. All of these items on our list are great options for things to see and do while in Halong Bay, and they have one thing in common: they’re all amazing experiences that you won’t want to miss.

If you’re looking to explore Halong Bay and all that it has to offer, be sure to subscribe to our free travel newsletter. We’ll send you all the latest information on what to see and do in Ha Long Bay, as well as other amazing destinations around the world.

FAQs

How many days should I spend in Ha Long Bay?

Ha Long Bay is a large area with many different things to see and do. We recommend spending at least 2-3 days here to get a good sense of the area and all it has to offer.

What is the best time of year to visit Ha Long Bay?

The weather in Ha Long Bay is fairly consistent throughout the year, with average temperatures ranging from 21-28 degrees Celsius. The busiest time of year is usually from April-August, so if you’re looking to avoid the crowds, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons of March-April or September-November.

How can I get to Ha Long Bay?

There are a few different ways to get to Ha Long Bay depending on your starting point. If you’re coming from Hanoi, the most common way to get here is by taking a 3-4 hour bus or minivan ride. You can also take a train from Hanoi to Ha Long City, although the journey is slightly longer at 4-5 hours.

If you’re coming from elsewhere in Vietnam, you can fly to either Cat Bi International Airport or Noi Bai International Airport, both of which are located near Hanoi. From there, you can take a bus or train to Halong Bay.

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