09 Nov 2020
Located 160 km away from Hanoi, Cat Ba island is gaining the reputation as a must-see destination when exploring North Vietnam.
The island features pristine sheltered bays dotted with white sandy beaches and green forest flowing over steep hills and valleys.
To provide you with incredible suggestions so that you can enjoy your trip as much as you expect, view our top ten destinations in Cat Ba that you can consider for your upcoming Cat Ba trip.
Cat Ba Town
Holding the role of the capital and the biggest town in the whole island, Cat Ba town is one of the things you shouldn’t miss.
Located to the southeast of the island, overlooking Lan Ha bay, the town is a key link to the transportation in and out of the island.
It’s also where most hotels and stores in the islands are situated and therefore serves as the starting point of almost any trip.
Another thing to do in Cat Ba town is to explore its nightlife. Even though it is not a really big town, the pace of life in the town is compatible to that of Hanoi or Halong.
Restaurants and cafes are often not closed until 2 am. Therefore, it’s best to wander around the town, have a drink, befriend with other folks.
Cat Ba National Park
Lying farther to the northern part of the island, Cat Ba National Park is the hidden treasure and the green lung of Gulf of Tonkin.
Cat Ba National Park consists of a variety of ecosystems including marine ecosystem, inland forest ecosystem and mangrove forest ecosystem.
Covering 26,240 ha, both land and sea, the park stretches over different terrains but mainly high limestone mountains between narrow valleys.
Therefore, Cat Ba National Park is ideal for wildlife exploring activities such as mountain or forest trekking.
Trekking in the park can be tiring but it’s definitely worth the efforts as the view is gorgeous and there are many chances to encounter wild animals especially birds and butterflies.
Cat Ba Beach
There are several beautiful beaches scattered throughout the island. But the main ones are located at the South of the island near Cat Ba town. Unimaginatively, they are called Cat Ba beach 1, 2, & 3.
Beach one is the largest among the three and also the most crowded. Connected to Beach 1 through a walkway, Beach 3 is the smallest but also quite crowded due to its close location to the Beach 1.
The Cat Ba Beach 2 is the farthest but it’s the quietest and most beautiful with its white pristine sand and crystal clear water.
Lan Ha Bay
Lying to the East of the island is Lan Ha bay, one of the three bays in the Gulf of Tonkin.
Despite as charming as Halong bay, Lan Ha bay is surprisingly less touristic, less inhabited and cleaner. Moving out of Halong, entering the bay, you would immediately spot this striking difference.
Lan Ha is like of chance to find peace, to explore the original beauty of nature without much interfere of humans.
It’s not exaggerated to say Lan Ha is a hidden gem among many other natural treasures of Gulf of Tonkin.
Lan Ha is famous for its natural beauty. The bay consist of more than 400 limestone islets standing strongly out of the emerald green water.
In addition, Lan Ha was also granted by the divine creator with estimated 139 pristine beaches, which makes the bay an ideal spot for aquatic sports like swimming, snorkeling or water surfing.
The bay of Lan Ha is also noticeable for the cruise. As compared to Halong, most of cruise ships are modern and high-quality.
Usually, these cruises are quite expensive but pay peanuts, you get the monkey. Cruise ships not only provides better service but also offer a different angle to observe the charm of Cat Ba.
Butterfly Valley is the name of an isolated area at the heart of the island. As the name has revealed, the valley is packed with many different species of butterfly.
Therefore, it would be a ideal place if you are a wildlife lover, want to explore the beauty of butterflies or simply love to be around nature.
However, in order not to do harm to the insects, it is advised to be quiet and be careful as you walk as you may accidentally step over them.
Besides the butterflies, this place is also famous for its tracks. Although seeming quite narrow and dangerous, they are beautiful with breathtaking view of sky, mountain and trees.
Only 1 km off the town of Cat Ba, Monkey Island is a must-see spot for tourists going to Cat Ba island.
The island was previously known as “Pineapple Island” as it used to be covered in bushes of wild pineapple and was renamed “Monkey Island” for the fact that the island is where a troop of around 20 monkeys reside.
However, the island is more famous thanks to its beautiful white sand beach that is one of the most beautiful in the area. It is ideal for group picnics and camping.
Hiking is a “specialty” of Monkey Island. As the island is granted with diversity in landscapes, from the pristine white beach to the high rocky and dangerous mountain.
Also, you would be amazed when encountering the monkeys on the island as these cuties would not be shy but often seem curious.
Cat Ba Hospital cave
For people who have special interest in Vietnamese history, particularly around the Vietnam War, it would be a great experience to plan a trip to the Hospital Cave.
Located in the middle of a mountain in Khe Sau area, the cave may not at all enjoyable for some, partly due to the fact that it was a hospital used for the wounded for over 10 years, right up to 1975.
There’s no natural light so it is dark, damp and depressing. But even with it’s bleakness, the fact that a three story complex, with a cinema and swimming pool, was built inside a cave is impressive.
As it’s around 10 km from Cat Ba town, it will take only less than 30 minutes to get to the cave.
It opens for tourists at 7am and to enter, you have to pay for the entrance fee which is at 40,000 VND ($1.75).
As the cave only provides information in Vietnamese, you will need to hire a local guide if you want to learn more about the history of Cat Ba Island in the Vietnam war.
In peak season there will be some offering so you don’t need to care much but in low season it’s best to hire one in advance from Cat Ba town.
Located in Trung Trang valley, 1 km to the central part of Cat Ba National Park and 15 km north of Cat Ba town, Trung Trang cave is well known as one of the biggest and most unique cave complexes in Cat Ba.
It has been called by different names throughout history. Originally, the cave was known as "cave of the bats" since this is where thousands of bats resides.
Later on, during the Vietnam war, this place became the secret base for Vietnam’s Naval army, which explains why the cave was renamed into “ Navy cave”.
Now that the echo of war was in the past, it took its current name “Trung Trang”, locally translated into ‘gold treasure’.
Not only impressive for its size ( measured up to 300 m in length), Trung Trang is mysterious for the treasure it is hiding inside.
The thousands upon thousands of natural stalactites make for an impressive sight. But with its totally pitch-dark hollows and cave dwelling insects, Trung Trang cave is definitely not one for a weak heart.
Different from other sites, Trung Trang offers free entrance but only if you have a Cat Ba National Park entry ticket.
Situated to the eastern coast of Cat Ba, Cannon Fort is rumored to be a must for tourists. It’s also known with the name “Hight 177”.
The reason is due to its strategic position at 177 m above the sea. From there, you can lay you eyes across Lan Ha Bay.
But it’s not just the commanding view that’s interesting at Cannon Fort Cat Ba. The site is quite expansive with lots of tunnels to explore and you can get a real sense of the history.
Built in 1942, it was first used by the Japanese during World War II, then later by the Vietnamese during the Vietnam War.
Among tons of activities you can do in Cannon Fort, witnessing the magic of sunset from stop Cannon Fort Cat Ba stands out as everyone’s all time favorite.
To get there, you need to pay for entrance fee, usually 40,000 VND ($1.75).
The smaller outlying rugged limestone landmasses and silhouetted boats shooting across the bay make for truly incredible views over the emerald sea.
Viet Hai Fishing Village
If you’re looking for more local color, a visit to Viet Hai fishing village might be the choice to go.
It’s an experience to contemplate a much more peaceful and tranquil side as contrast to the hustle bustle atmosphere of cruise ships on Lan Ha.
Sandwiched between the deep water and high mountains, it’s a secluded spot rather cut off from the rest of the Cat Ba Island.
To reach Viet Hai fishing village you need to either trek through Cat Ba National Park jungle or arrive via the water to Viet Hai Pier.
Used to be isolated from the outside world due to its geographical separation, the village is becoming a rising travel destination.
Going to Viet Hai, tourists can experience the beauty of wildlife, rural lifestyle as well as many local specialties.
There are so many thing you can do in Viet Ha thanks to its original beauty and authentically local culture, but going on a bicycle trip is highly recommended.
As the village is connected by a very sophisticated network of tracks, it is simple but wonderful to get around the place and feel yourself close to the nature using bicycle.