For those who want an authentic Halong Bay experience know not to stay in Halong City. Real adventurers know that Cat Ba Island is the best place to be. So what to do in Cat Ba island instead of Halong city
Why Cat Ba Island is Better than Halong Bay
Ha Long Bay was made famous by the interesting rocky features which stick out from the water. They are unique and gorgeous, but not singular to just Ha Long Bay. This modern natural wonder is found all over the northeast region of Vietnam, including Lan Ha Bay.Lan Ha Bay is Ha Long Bay’s southern neighbor. It has the same emerald green, bathwater-temperature water and giant floating limestone karsk islands as the more famous Ha Long Bay, but because it’s farther away from the mainland is much less touristed and more natural.
Cat Ba Island is the main island on Lan Ha Bay. It’s much closer to the famous bay features than Halong City is to Ha Long Bay, so a visit to Cat Ba Island means you’ll be able to feast your eyes on the Pandora-esque landscape to your hearts content without leaving the island.
Cat Ba Island also has much fewer tourists. It’s an area that has only recently been “discovered” and so is more natural and less built up than Halong City. Cat Ba still has hotels and hostels, many restaurants, an outdoor food market, karaoke bars, and lots of things to do, but they are kept within a relatively small city center and still lacks big crowds.
The streets and restaurants are not very crowded if you plan to stick to the city center, and it’s easy to escape people all together by renting a motor and driving just a minute out of town. If you choose to leave the city center you’ll find yourself almost immediately surrounded by natural landscape.
Forests and hills on the island side, the incredible Lan Ha Bay on the water side. It seriously feels like you’ve stepped into a combo of Avatar and Jurrasic Park!Being able to ride through such a majestic place without seeing tons of other people is such a rare gift nowadays!Not only does Cat Ba Island have the same (but closer) landscape and is less built up than Halong Bay, there are some unique things to do here which will keep your adventurous side very busy!
What to do in Cat Ba Island when you are there
Take a Lan Ha Bay Cruise
Things to know for your Lan Ha Bay Cruise:
- Bring food and beverages. If you have booked an official Bay tour they probably include lunch, but that doesn’t always include drink. Feel free to bring beer or soda to enjoy with your meal and plenty of water to have on board during the day.
- Your boat tour cold include kayaking. This is a really wonderful way to see the landscape up close and personal! If you aren’t interested in kayaking you are welcome to stay on the boat. If you do go out be sure to stay with your guide. It may seem simple to navigate, but they know the area better than you and will be able to steer you in the right direction and keep you safe.
- Bring your camera! This really should go without saying, but oh well. It’s GORGEOUS out there and you’ll want to take all the pictures you can. Be respectful when taking pictures of locals, though. You’ll see some who are working fish farms at the floating village. They appreciate tourism, but are not side shows.
Rock Climbing at Cat Ba Island Vietnam
Rock climbing enthusiasts won’t be surprised that there is great rock climbing on Cat Ba Island! A big part of the island is rocky coastline and limestone hills, which means climbers can access tons of routes right over the sand and water.A few companies organize rock climbing at the bay or even deep water soloing for more advanced climbers. For around 1 mil dong you can go out with a guide and small group to these places for around 7 hours.Its possible to access the climbing spots on your own, but not advised to go on a climb by yourself. If you would prefer to go alone you could ask local climbing places if they rent out gear. They may require a skills test before renting it to you, though!
Visit the floating village
Cai Beo Fishing Village (also known as Vung O fishing village) is one of the largest floating villages in the country that dated back in prehistoric times. Currently, Cai Beo fishing village has about 300 households living mainly by fishing and aquaculture.
The beauty of nature and the life of the fishing village create exceptional beauty. On the water surface, Cai Beo fishing village consists of many boat houses joined together into groups.
Not only boats, but Cai Beo village also has several floating houses with the fish cages. From one house, you can easily walk to another one by a small bridge across or on the cage.
Visiting Cai Beo, you can also enjoy the dramatic scenery of the bay and try out local specialties in floating restaurants.
Explore Cat Ba National Park
Recognized by the UNESCO as the World Biosphere Reserve, Cat Ba National Park is a must visit place when traveling to Cat Ba Island. This park is a paradise for those who love to explore nature and challenge themselves.
Cat Ba trekking routes
The usual route is only about 1.8 km, while the longest crossing mountain to Viet Hai fishing village is about 16 km. You can see countless endemic species, and luckily you can see the Cat Ba langur – the symbol of the archipelago.
Cycle around Viet Hai Village
Located entirely in the middle of the sea, surrounded by mountains and the jungle of Cat Ba National Park, Viet Hai fishing village is a great place to visit on your trip to Cat Ba island.
The best things to do in Viet Hai Village are trekking to Hai Quan Hill (the highest point of Viet Hai), cycling around the village or taking pictures of ancient Vietnamese house.
Cat Ba Island has many large and small caves, in which Trung Trang Cave and the Quan Y Cave are the most visited because it is located near the Cat Ba National Park headquarters, making it an ideal combination for exploring both forests and caves. Besides, Hoa Cuong Cave and Thien Long Cave are also attractive destinations in Cat Ba.
View the town from Cannon fort
Not only a historical monument, but Cannon fort is also an exciting tourist attraction in Cat Ba. The Cannon fort is located at the top of the hill which is 177m above sea level. It had a strategically important position at the gateway to the Vietnam sea, as well as being a historical witness of the two fierce anti-French and anti-American wars.
Visiting Cannon fort, you will understand a bit more about Vietnamese history and have a majestic and poetic view of Cat Ba Island at the same time.
What is better than having a drink while watching a romantic sunset?
Enjoy fresh seafood
There are many places to enjoy seafood in Cat Ba. I love wandering Cat Ba town and try out different local restaurants, but you can also buy seafood from the floating village. The seafood here is fresh and tasty, so give it a try!
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