- 5 Best Islands in Vietnam from North to South
- Highlights & Activities in Cat Ba Island
- How to Get to Cat Ba Island?
- I. Best Time to Visit Co To Island
- II. Highlights of Co To island
- III. What to Do in Co To Island?
- IV. What to Eat in Co To Island?
- V. How to Get to Co To Island?
- IV. Extra Tips
- Scenic Beauty of Ly Son Island
- Must-see Attractions in Ly Son Island
- Unique Culture in Ly Son Island
- What to Eat in Ly Son Island
- How to Get to Ly Son Island
- Extra Tips
- I. History of Cu Lao Cham Islands
- II. Topography of Cu Lao Cham Nature Reserve
- III. Biodiversity Values
- IV. What to See in Cu Lao Cham Nature Reserve?
- V. What to Do in Cu Lao Cham Island?
- VI. Best Time to Visit Cu Lao Cham Archipelago
- VII. Where to Stay in Cham Islands?
- VIII. How to Get to Cu Lao Cham Islands?
5 Best Islands in Vietnam from North to South
1. Cat Ba Island, Hai Phong
Belonging to Cat Ba Archipelago, which includes 367 islands, in the south of Ha Long bay, Cat Ba Island is only 30 km from Hai Phong city centre and 25 km from Ha Long city.
Not at all is it a random thing when Cat Ba is also called Pearl Island (Dao Ngoc in Vietnamese). With a 70m altitude, and the post to overlook Lan Ha lagoon, Cat Ba lures tourists by its heavenly captivation. With an area of 140 km2 and population of 9000 people, it is proud to be the biggest island among the 1,969 islands in Halong Bay. If you are considering a fresh-air and beautiful place to travel, just pack your stuff, stand up and fly to this magic land of blue Sky and Sea!
Highlights & Activities in Cat Ba Island
1. The Biosphere Reserve of the World!
The archipelago has a global significance thanks to its plentiful species found nowhere else.
It is home to the golden-headed langur (Trachypithecus poliocephalus), one of the top ten rare primates in the world due.
Besides, visitors can find several precious habitat types here, including fringing coral reefs, mangrove forest, sea grass beds, willow swamp forest and tropical limestone forest. Many of those are fiercely endangered.
With a major coastal fishing zone, and a karst seascape of outstanding beauty, a tremendous potential for agri-aqua culture and tourism is open to the area. Thanks to the special values, Cat Ba was acknowledged as the World Biosphere Reserve in 2004. So, are you curious to go? Then join a a special tour to feel a different side of Halong Bay and Cat Ba within 3 days.
2. Many Beautiful Caves and Grottoes
Cat Ba boasts many beautiful caves and grottoes such as Trung Trang, Quan Y and Thien Long…
- Trung Trang is the largest valley in Cat Ba Island with the total area of 300 ha, from 10-30 meter lower than the sea level, which is 15km northwest of the island. It is about 300 m walk. Beautiful with glistening stalactite & stalagmite it is! Visiting Trung Trang, one has learnt that it is deeply a thousand-year great work of Nature!
- Quan Y grotto. “Quan Y” means “Army medical care”. This special name derives from the Wartime against American Air force, when Vietnamese people built a hospital with hundreds of beds inside this grotto. Today, visitors can easily reach it as Quan Y Grotto is on the main way along the Island, only about 13 km from the Island’s centre.
- Thien Long grotto. About 2 hours traveling by boat from Phu Long wharf is Thien Long grotto. It has just been discovered since 1997. This is one of the most beautiful caves and grottos in Ha Long bay. As wide and deep with miraculously various shaped & colorful stalactites and stalagmites, and tree roots from the mount to the bottom, Thien Long grotto is admired by any tourist stepping inside. One even said: “It looks like a pretty and peaceful fairy land on the sea..!” after her tour here. Also, people can feel free to contemplate the coral system, salty lakes and ponds in and around, which are definitely rich of marine bio-diversity.
3. Small But Enjoyable Beaches
Go swimming & entertain yourself, or you might regret!
A peak mountain in the shape of a turtle divides the beach into 2 small beaches, Cat Co 1 and Cat Co 2.
On the right hand is fabricated rock mountain, while on the left hand is the clear and blue sea water, white and smooth sand. The beauty of the beach has been changing side by side with the flying time. Yet, never would it lose the natural luring power.
In the morning, after enjoying the sunrise on the sea, tourists will visit Monkey Island, conquering Hai Thanh mount, Hon Thot mount or Hon Guoc mount, and swimming in the pure sea as much as you can to feel how fresh a “heaven” can be!
In the afternoon, you may discover the area’s original beauty by renting a kayak to paddle to the bay. Then, should you are still well enough, perhaps we join some sports on the beach, such as valley ball, boat racing, and so forth. When night falls, the whole team would lie down in the cottages near by the beach to relax for a while, listening to the sound of rough sea waves. A romantic & relaxation experience!
4. Home to Lan Ha Bay
Lan Ha bay is situated in the southeast of Cat Ba Island. It takes about 30 minutes to go there from Cat Ba by boat. The bay is large with arched shore. Getting inside, a number of islands and beaches are welcoming tourists.
Not only is it famous for beautiful beaches, but also for the imposing caves and ideal place for fishing. A lot of visitors who are fond of fishing do not want to come back once staying here for a while!
Join a tour to discover Lan Ha Bay insights or if you are fans of adventurous traveling and want to feel Lan Ha Bay in more challenging ways, then a tour to try rock climbing or kayaking in Lan Ha Bay is highly recommended.
5. Viet Hai village
To switch into a new atmospheric space, tourists should now get to Viet Hai Village. It captures attentions by the precious retained hundreds-year traditional cultural values of Cat Ba. Viet Hai people still live in the simple house, built in bamboo, wood, leaves and soil.
If it gets late, we may stay overnight in the village in a simple and guest house at very reasonable price. You might be surprised as being treated in a friendly way, and served with special local cuisine seafood by the honest and hospitable local people. Believe me, you may not want to go back soon!
How to Get to Cat Ba Island?
Visitors can reach Cat Ba Island by 02 ways. One, by ferry from Hai Phong city, Binh ferry station or Dinh Vu ferry station. And two, from Ha Long bay. After visiting this Natural World Heritage Site, visitors can keep staying on boat and getting to the Island.
2. Co To Island, Quang Ninh Province
The Northern Vietnam is more famous for its mountainous areas and modern cities. However, if you stay in Hanoi, and you are looking for a place with sandy beaches and clear blue sea water to relax or spend your limited summer vacation, Co To Island Quang Ninh province (near Halong Bay) would be the perfect place waiting for you: a rarely-seen stunning paradise within the busy cities.
Location: Bai Tu Long Bay, Quang Ninh Province, Vietnam
Area: 47.3 km2
I. Best Time to Visit Co To Island
Co To Island is reachable for the whole year, but the best time to visit is in Summer and Autumn (April to August). The temperature is about 30oC which is rather ideal for traveling.
During this time, you will be able to clearly see the islands, islets, caves, floating villages. And this time is the greatest time to enjoy swimming on beautiful beaches here. However, in summer, there would also be storms, so it is necessary to check the weather before planning your trip. During April and May, it’s sunny enough and fewer storms than other months.
II. Highlights of Co To island
Co To island is the biggest island located within the archipelago of Co To Island District which is comfortably anchored in the area of the Gulf of Tonkin. To the northeast of Quang Ninh Province, Co To Island is the farthest island from the coast that has a residential area.
The island’s highest peak is around 170 meters, with an area of approximately 47 square kilometers, surrounded by 40-50 smaller islands which can only be accessed by boat.
Consisting of a scattering of hills, much of the coastline on Co To island are rocky cliff faces. Arriving in Co To Island, you will be immersed in a truly heaven with smooth white sandy beaches and pure sea water along with gentle wind. The most fascinating feature is the white sand on Co To Island, which is rarely seen in Northern Vietnam. Some slices of the mountains that contain sa huynh (golden sand) create a special beautiful mountain color. The golden sand color under the sunshine, by the blue of the sea and the white of the waves, creates a spectacular and amazing scene.
3. Daily Life
When traveling to the northern villages of Vietnam in August, you often see the local people dry much straw. On the other hand, local people on Co To Island dry seaweed and alga. Roads full of seaweed have a sourish scent under the summer sun. August is also the time when rice fields here are green with a light scent. Roads are small and narrow with pine ranges on two sides, and sometimes people decorate them with purple myrtle flowers somewhere.
III. What to Do in Co To Island?
1. Calm and Beautiful Beaches
There are 3 main beaches here in Co To Island which tourists visit the most: Tinh Yeu Beach, Hong Van Beach and Van Chai Beach. Among these, Van Chai seems to be the cleanest beach, while the other two sometimes get clogged with plastic. All beaches are often really calm, with clear blue sea and very smooth white sand stretches. Especially, the beautiful white sandy beaches here will immediately help you relax and unwind.
While walking and watching the scenery around the sea, you will find the bungalows that look really creative, friendly and close to nature. If you want to enjoy the gentle and fresh sea breeze, you can book a room in that house. With just an open window, you will be able to watch the sunrise and sunset everyday.
Standing in the vast sea and sky and enjoying the gentle, salty breeze, you will find yourself lost in this peaceful paradise. Here, you and your family or friends can participate in sports such as soccer, volleyball or simply cover yourself with sand,…. In addition, you can also bring camping gears to sleep overnight here a great experience for your exciting summer.
To experience more of the nature, you can go kayaking or scuba diving to watch the lovely, colorful fish weaving in the “forest seaweed” winding with the waves. The most romantic time at this beach is in the evening, in which you can enjoy a seafood feast with fresh squid, shrimp, fish or nail snails in the sound of the waves and under the shimmer the spirit of the delicately arranged lanterns.
2. “Photoshoot” material Places
2.1. Co To Lighthouse
Going to the east side of the archipelago, you will find the Co To lighthouse. The lighthouse was builts in the late 19th century, and it is one of 30 “night sea eyes” operating throughout the territorial waters of Vietnam. It is located on top of a mountain, 5 kilometers far from the town. The lighthouse is located at an altitude of 100m above sea level, and next to the main light, there is also a smaller light.
Currently, the lighthouse has been invested in solar lighting with automatic and semi-automatic control systems. Thanks to the lighthouse, the people who lit the sea lamp no longer have to row the boat to light the sea lamp with kerosene like in the old days.
To get to the lighthouse, it is quite an adventure since the forest on the mountain is dense and tropical, therefore hiking would take time and some effort. However, it is a must visit when you come to Co To island thanks to the wonderful panoramic views of the whole island that it offers that sparks great imagination in our minds.
2.2. Cau My Cliff
Cau My Cliff is a romantic place and often visited by young couples. This is the best place where you can spot the sunrise on the island, as well as enjoy the crystal clear blue water. As a product of thousands of years of erosion, Cau My is a unique sight to behold on Co To.
Coming here, people would usually think that they were walking on Mars, because the water and the rock blend together creating a really interesting and distinctive scenery that only Cau My Cliff has: The layers of stone are visible in different colors. Stratified rocks, many colors and shapes make the whole area look like a vivid picture of the tectonic process of nature. In fact, Cau My Cliff is rated as the most magnificent point in the archipelago.
3. Motorbike Tour
The island is small enough for you to tour around, but big enough to surprise you. As the tourist service in Co To Island is developing, taxis are pretty scarce. Instead, it is better for you to rent a motorbike (or bicycle) and tour the island at your own speed, at an affordable price.
IV. What to Eat in Co To Island?
1. Nail-shaped shellfish (Con Móng Tay)
The reason why it’s called “nail-shaped” is because its body is slim and long, which looks like a finger. The dish offers you a sweet and crispy taste. You can find the nail-shaped shellfish all year round, but the season when it tastes the best is the early rainy season (May to June). The price of nail-shaped shellfish in local market is about: VND 140.000 – 180.000/kilograms
2. Jellyfish salad (Salad Sứa)
The period during February to April is when the off-shore water of Co To island brightens up at night, and this is an ideal time to catch jellyfish. Jellyfish salad is often crispy, juicy a combination of the sweet and spicy taste. After being processed and got through boiling water, jellyfish will be chopped into smaller pieces. Following, they will mix it with other ingredients such as herbs, papaya, chicken, lemon, etc. to make its flavor sour and sweet.
3. Grilled Oysters (Hàu Nướng)
Co To island is actually a suitable habitat for oysters to live. Therefore, the oysters here have an unique flavor of their own. A wide range of dishes can be made from oysters, however, grilled oyster is voted the best by locals and tourists. After being processed, oysters are mixed with a little oil, and then grilled. When the oyster turns yellow, the chef will add some scallions and peanuts to it. In some places, they also put cheese in the oyster to fit the appetizer of foreign tourists. It is important that you be careful to avoid overcooking, as it will harm the oyster’s flavor and texture.
4. Be Be Mantis Shrimp (Bề Bề)
Be Be is a kind of special shrimp, or “mantis shrimp” in some places. It is a bit bigger than a normal shrimp, with tough and sweet meat. A few famous dishes made from Be Be is “Be Be steamed with beer” and “salty fried Be Be”. When trying steamed Be Be, you can add some salt, lemon juice and mustard to make the flavor more delicious. In addition, Be Be is also an amazing ingredient used in the noodle broth. Be Be can be found during the whole year and it is not expensive at all. You can buy dried Be Be as a gift for your family.
5. 1-day Dried Squids (Mực Một Nắng)
In Co To island, the Squids season is from April to July. After being caught, the flesh squids will be processed properly, and then dried under the sun for the whole day. One thing special is that, the environment in Co To actually makes these dried squids unique, with a sweet taste, tough but soft feeling.
V. How to Get to Co To Island?
From Hanoi, you’ll have to go through 2 stages:
- Stage 1: From Hanoi Cai Rong port: The distance is more than 200km, travel time is 4-5 hours.
- Stage 2: From Cai Rong Port Co To Island: Distance is about 50km, travel time is from 1.5 to 2 hours.
1) Hanoi Cai Rong port
1.1. By Bus
From My Dinh bus station (you can take a taxi here first), bus trips to Cam Pha and Cua Ong are frequent, you only have to wait for 15-30 minutes for a new bus to come. The best buses are Kumho Viet Thanh and Hoang Long (new 45-seat car) or other options such as Phuc Xuyen, Viet Thanh, Duc Phuc (24-seater car). Time from Hanoi to Cua Ong is about 4 hours, the fare is from 120,000 VND 150,000 VND / time / per person (~$8).
If you stop at Van Don intersection, take a local bus labeled “Cai Rong” to go to Van Don post office. From this location, it is only about 1.5km to reach Cai Rong port; you can walk to the port yourself.
If the bus arrives at Cam Pha bus station, it would be about 20km far from Cai Rong port. You can then call a taxi to get there, the price will stay around 250.000VND (~$11).
1.2. By car
To be more flexible, you can take the Limousine Car directly from Hanoi to Cai Rong port. The price is about 180,000 VND 280,000 VND/turn per person. Some good Limousine brands here are: Co To Limousine, Hoang Phuong Limousine … You can check out their website and call them directly to book a seat.
2) Cai Rong Port Co To Island
There are two means to move to Co To Island for you to choose: speed boat or wooden boat. The high-speed train shortens the time while the wooden train is suitable to save money, and this is also an opportunity to admire the beautiful Bai Tu Long Bay scenery.
2.1. High speed train
- 90 minutes/trip
- Ticket prices: 180.0000-200.000 VND / time / person
- Specific train hours:
- Van Don Co To: departs during 6AM to 4:30PM (schedule varies according to different train lines)
- Co To Van Don: departs during 5:30AM, to 4:30PM (schedule varies according to different train lines)
Some Co To high-speed train lines:
- Havaco (Cai Rong: 0964 655 818 Co To: 0983 500 518)
- Quang Minh (0203 3793 793 0973 755 222 0984 727 333)
- Manh Quang (0985 669 276 0985 351 833)
- Hoang Vy (0203 3877 889 0913 072 072 0975 877 889)
- Phuc Thinh (0203 6568686)
2.2. Wooden train
- Departure schedule:
- Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday: 2 trips/day (departs at 6:30AM and 1:30PM)
- Monday, Wednesday, Friday: 1 trip/day, departs in the morning at 6:30AM
- Price: 95.000 110,000 VND / time / person
- Travel time: 150 minutes
Some wooden trains go to Co To:
- Minh Dat (0978 121 376)
- Minh Ngoc (0987 986 800 0986 123 965) …
IV. Extra Tips
- Covering an area of 50km2 or so, Co To island is rather small, so you can reach the nearest and the major beach on foot. To go further, rent a scooter/motorcycle or bicycle right in your guest house/hotel. There is also a small petrol station outside the city port for you to charge the fuel.
- If you stay in large hotels, they also serve some small open minibuses that take you to the hotel and the beach with a small fee.
- Google Maps is applicable for moving (especially by motorbike) on the island. Though there will be some unmaintained mini paths, overall, using a motorbike to move on the island is the best option.
3. Ly Son Island, Quang Ngai Province
In recent years, many tourists have flocked to the pristine islands, of which Ly Son Island is a “must-go” destination in Vietnam. Different from other Vietnam trips, a trip to Ly Son Island would be really attractive and memorable, especially for those who wish to conquer and explore a new land.
Scenic Beauty of Ly Son Island
When you set your foot on Ly Son Island, you will be deeply impressed by the harmonious combination of the sun, clouds, water, mountains, and rocks along with nice and friendly local people. Being covered by the immense sea, Ly Son is captivating visitors for a plenty of stunning beaches and the black stone abysses formed by the sediment left by volcanoes jutting far out to sea.
In addition, Ly Son Island also possesses the colorful coral reefs under the turquoise sea water. All are made together to sketch a magnificent and poetic painting. Visitors can see the seaweed and many kinds of fish swimming under the crystal clear water. From Ly Son, you can spend about one hour to travel by boat to the small Ly Son Island, which has a small number of populations. The island features rocky holes in the seaside cliffs to create striking beaches.
Tourists should visit Ly Son Island one of the “must-go” destinations in Vietnam with waves flapping on the steep cliffs all year around to witness the sunset on the silver waves as well as to watch the destitute of planting garlic from the white sand.
Must-see Attractions in Ly Son Island
Thoi Loi Mountain
When visiting Ly Son Island, Thoi Loi is always the first stop of the tour. From the foothill to the summit of the mountain, the road is rather zigzagged and winding, so tourists often hire an electric car to get there. However, some people take motorbikes so that they can stop on the way up to capture beautiful and panoramic photos of the whole island.
Around the mountain, there are many scenic spots including the Light House, Hang Pagoda, the National Flag Pole,… After the tough pass to get to the top of the mountain, the spectacular view of the natural landscapes will make the tourists feel overwhelmed. From the top, the sea and the sky seem to harmonize together, creating a majestic paradise on Earth. There is also a freshwater lake on top of the mountain, and you can use this water to wash the sweat out of your face and your hands.
If you visit The National Flag Pole, you can look further and see the Hoang Sa Island. The Flag Pole is about 20 meters high, and the main side of the pole printed the ordinate of Ly Son Island. An interesting thing is that the stand is painted red as a match to the color of Vietnamese National flag, which is a symbol for Vietnam’s maritime sovereignty.
About 400 years ago, from the late 16th century to early 17th century, under the Le Dynasty (King Le Kinh Tong), Hang pagoda was built by the first inhabitants of the Ly Son Island who worshipped Buddha and the founders of nearby villages. Since it is located in a large cave, the villagers decided to call it Hang (Cave) pagoda. The pagoda is a spiritual place where local people often come to pray for good luck and prosperity, especially the fishermen from the fishing villages on the Island.
Duc Pagoda and the Guan Yin Statue
Beside from Hang Pagoda, tourists who are looking for a peaceful and tranquil place can also visit Duc Pagoda, which is located on Gieng Tien mountain a thousand-year sleeping volcano on Ly Son Island. To reach the Duc Pagoda, you will have to pass over more than 100 stairs.
The highlight of Duc Pagoda is a 27-meter-high Guan Yin statue. According to the legend of Buddhism, Guan Yin has chosen Ly Son Island to dwell, keeping the local fishermen safe from the regular natural disasters on the island.
Standing in the pagoda, you will be able to witness the picturesque beach scenery. Especially, if you like to have a small adventure, climbing Mount Liem Tu is a suitable choice. On top of the mount, you can see the volcanic crater that has become a pan-shaped area filled with green grass. Looking down from the peak of the mountain, the breathtaking scenes of the island with blue sea, white sands, immense forests and the red soil from lava will surely have you taken aback.
Unique Culture in Ly Son Island
In fact, there are a lot of spiritual ceremonies held annually in Ly Son Island. For example, there is a yearly ceremony for soldiers who sacrificed themselves to protect Truong Sa and Hoang Sa Island on the East Ocean in the Nguyen Dynasty, which is called Flag Raising Ceremony. This ceremony involves both villagers and the military, showing our respect to the brave soldiers. Moreover, Ly Son Island is also the place in which priceless, confidential and historical documents that affirms Viet Nam’s sea and island sovereignty are preserved.
What to Eat in Ly Son Island
One of the most popular ingredients in Ly Son is garlic, and the seafood is also amazing. The local people always love to cook with natural taste and smell, as well as ensure sufficient nutrition in the dish. Therefore, it is common to see Salad in the meal of Ly Son’s people.
Ly Son’s symbol dish is made with garlic, which is called Garlic Salad. For this dish, they will remove the outer shell of the garlic, then wash them and steam without water. After that, processed garlic is mixed with spices and a little peanut, herbs and fresh vegetable. The salad does not only taste amazing but also provides abundant nutrition for your health, prevents illnesses like cold, fever, sneezing, flu,…
Another remarkable dish you can try when visiting Ly Son is the Jellyfish Salad. To make this dish, the fishermen have to catch fresh jellyfish in the early morning, then soak them in water with a chopped green banana to prevent the water lost. Then, they mix the fresh jellyfish with sliced mangos, garlic, aromatic herbs, fish sauce, chili and other ingredients. Additionally, sprinkled peanuts and fried onion on the top will help boost the smell of the dish, making it an attractive, must-try dish when you come to Ly Son.
How to Get to Ly Son Island
You have to start from Quang Ngai Province in order to reach Ly Son Island. You will take a speedboat to travel to the island and then rent a motorbike to go around discovering many famous attractions on the island.
There is only one high-speed train from Sa Ky to Ly Son, which departs at 7.00am or 8.00am. Hence, you have to book tickets in advance as well as to arrange time so as not to miss the ship and wait for another day to get to the island.
Since the ship will be cancelled or terminated due to bad weather, you sohuld check the weather before booking a tour to Ly Son, preferably fine and hot days to fully experience the scenic beauty and great food that the island offers.
Summer would be the best time to visit jewel island. June is the hottest season on the island, suitable for beach trips, and between July to August is the best time for fishing. During this period time, Ly Son often welcomes flocks of visitors, including families, groups of friends and big tour groups
You should prepare sunscreen and protection suits when visiting Ly Son, as the sun in Vietnam is not suitable for sunbathing, and could harm you if you stay outdoors for too long.
Thanks to the marvellous natural scenery and the beauty of the sea combined with the innocent smiles of lovely children, the friendliness,enthusiasm and hospitality of the local people living around the island, your day trip to a wild and extraordinary Ly Son will surely make you feel attached and wish to come back there many more times.
4. Cham Islands, Quang Nam Province
The large island consists of 8 islets, 20 km off the coast from Hoi An Ancient Town in Quang Binh Province. Cu Lao Cham Island has wonderful sand beaches, forested hills, a nature reserve and the sea. With primitive landscapes, the island is ideal for camping, swimming and scuba diving to enjoy the corals and beautiful marine life.
Location: Tan Hiep, Hoi An, Quang Nam Province
I. History of Cu Lao Cham Islands
Cham islands are supposed to be the first place where Cham people landed, coming to Quang Nam Province from Indonesia (small monuments, dikes, and basin to grow rice on terraces are hidden in the forest, the 17th-century pagodas and small temples in the two villages).
Therefore, being well-known since earlier Cham domination (from 4th to 14th century), the island became one of the main ports of Champa Kingdom. Situated some eight miles offshore Hoi An, it was also part of Hoi An historical international trading. From the 15th century till the beginning of 20th century, the old city was a meeting point for international vessels and junks.
According to archaeologists, Cu Lao Cham first settled there 3,000 years ago and established business contacts with external countries some 1,000 years ago. Up to now, Cu Lao Cham has preserved many architectural constructions which date back to the 18th and 20th century. They include the shrine dedicated to Than Yen Sao, built in 1843 at Bai Huong and Hai Tang Pagoda, built in 1753 on the western hillside of Hon Lao.
Still, Cu Lao Cham has more to offer. After a three-hour canoe trip, one may hop over to the famed Well of the Cham people.
II. Topography of Cu Lao Cham Nature Reserve
The topography of Cu Lao Cham Island is dominated by two peaks: a 517m peak in the centre of the island and a 326m peak at the western end. Natural forest here covers 532 ha of the nature reserve, equivalent to 35% of the total area, while plantation forest covers a further 30 ha.
Cham island comprises an archipelago of one large island and seven smaller islands: Hon Dai, Hon Lao, Hon Kho Me, Hon La, Hon Kho Con, Hon Ong, Hon Tai, Hon Mo. The largest island of them is Hon Lao, which covers 1,317 ha and has a circular shape at the height of 500m. There are nice beaches at Bim and Ong beach.
- Bai Bim: Nice beaches and rock reefs, free swimming and taking photographs
- Bai Ong: White sandy stretch, beautiful view, clear water, lots of restaurants serving specialties of Cu Lao Cham, many entertaining services for Cu Lao Cham tour
- Bai Lang: High population with amazing tourist destinations like Champa Kingdom, suitable for understanding more about the locals’ life.
- Bai Bac: The northern beach, peaceful and isolated place that is used to make way for exorbitant resorts and villas in the future.
- Bai Xep: beautiful and pristine with colorful coral reefs, great place for swimming and snorkeling.
- Bai Chong: longer than Bai Ong, beautiful rock reefs and bridge for taking photographs, tranquil water to swim.
- Bai Huong: tasty seafood, lots of ships and boat docking, not for swimming
III. Biodiversity Values
The island is a place where shelter for value swallow birds. The natural vegetation of the islands is a lowland evergreen forest, that is natural with a lot of woods and rare animals.
Scientists report the occurrence of macaques Macaca sp., monitor lizards Varanus sp. and pythons Python sp. To date, 265 vascular plant species have been reported from Cu Lao Cham nature reserve. Furthermore, a species of swiftlet Collocalia sp. is reported to nest on Hon Kho within the nature reserve.
Cu Lao Cham is also home to salanganes, birds whose nests have long been considered a delicacy by aristocrats and the wealthy. The nests may cost as much as US $4,000 per kilogram. On a beautiful day, tourists are able to see cliffs where salanganes build their nests and talk with salangane-nest takers.
Around the island has a lot of color corals under the water. Situated in a salty-water area, this square-bottom well, amazingly, provides clear freshwater all year round. Visiting Cu Lao Cham, tourists have a chance to view the sea swallows’ nests clinging to the towering cliffs. Cu Lao Cham wins kudos for its seafood and delicacies (octopuses, lobsters, fish’s fin, abalone, kaki, hind, cholonia’s eggs, bird’s nests) and fascinating souvenirs (pearls, conchs, tortoise-shells).
IV. What to See in Cu Lao Cham Nature Reserve?
1. Hai Tang Pagoda
Built in 1758, this pagoda worshipped Bodhisattva, Buddha, sea god and local god. In the past, there was a storm attacking the pagoda so in 1848, local people decided to reconstruct and redecorate it. Now, it is 200 m away from its original location.
Hai Tang Pagoda lies on the foot of Hon Lao Island’s west mountain and is opposite a small valley in Cham Island. Hai means the sea and Tang means Tipitaka, which is a Buddhisst holy books containing Buddha’s words.
Location: Hon Lao Island, Cham Island
2. Cham people’s Ancient Well
This well was dug 2 hundreds years ago by Cham people but until now, it still works well and the locals can use its fresh water. Its architecture is not different from other Cham wells with a pipe shape, annular bricks management, a square pillar, and a surrounding square base. Even during the dry season, people can still use water from this well for different purposes.
Location: Xom Cam Village, Cham Island
3. Temple of Bird’s Nest Business Founders
Erected in the early 19th century, this temple is used to worship the bird’s nest business’s founders. The gods of the sea are also worshipped here, which is similar to Hai Tang Pagoda. Each year, following the Chinese calendar, on the 9th and 10th of March, local people often come here to pray for a new year with better harvests.
Location: Huong Beach, Cham Island
4. Cham Island Marine Museum
This museum gives you an insight of Cham’s history, traditions, customs, festivals as well as special sea creatures. In addition, you can also have a chance to know more about the lifestyle of people living on the island.
5. Tan Hiep Market
This local market is an ideal place for you to buy seafood and souvenirs. The most popular things that tourists often purchase is half-dried cuttlefish. It is because the seafood here is super cheap and fresh.
Location: Cham Island Pier
V. What to Do in Cu Lao Cham Island?
With the variety of nature, Cham Island is a wonderful place to go camping. You just need to prepare everything well before going. The best choices for you are Bai Xep and Bai Bim where nature is wild and the spaces are open. Moreover, in Bai Huong and Bai Ong, you will be provided the necessary tools for an outside camp by local people.
2. Sea trekking
This is a new type of entertainment here. You just need a functional hat and you can walk under the sea by yourself. This service is an interesting experience for every person, even those are at the age of 80. Let’s imagine yourself walking into the sea seeing beautiful schools of fish as well as coral reefs, what is better than this?
Another great activity that allows you to see the beauty of the sea is snorkeling. The price for a snorkeling ticket with a guide and full equipment is around 200,000 VND. But remember to protect the biodiversity of the sea when going snorkeling.
Cu Lao Cham has a lot of beautiful beaches that are suitable for swimming. Almost all of them are 20 m in width and 100 to 300 m in length. The waves are gentle and the water is clear and cool. So, you will definitely have a lot of fun here.
VI. Best Time to Visit Cu Lao Cham Archipelago
The tropical monsoon climate put a huge impact on Cu Lao Cham’s weather.
So, the best time for you to visit Cu Lao Cham is between March and August.
This is the time when the weather is sunny and the water condition is great. In the remaining months, there will be heavy rain and sometimes even big storms.
If you want to snorkel or dive, you should come in June, July and August. There are a wide range of tour companies and dive centers providing trips for you during this time.
Check out the seawater temperature in Cham Islands in months of the year in the table below:
|Month||Avg. Temp.||Warmest Temp.||Coldest Temp.||Ideal Activity?|
VII. Where to Stay in Cham Islands?
On Cu Lao Cham, there aren’t any five-star hotels or resorts, you will only find homestays and hostels. But don’t worry, the service here is very good while the price is not expensive. Here are some suggested accommodations for you.
1. Tam Hien’s Homestay
Location: Bai Ong Beach, Cham Island
Tel: 0120 618 3516
2. Hiep’s Homestay
Location: Huong Beach, Cham Island
Tel: 0986 651 448
3. Thu Trang’s Homestay
Location: Lang Beach, Cham Island
Tel: 0985 237 941
VIII. How to Get to Cu Lao Cham Islands?
To get to Cu Lao Cham, you need to arrive in Hoi An, Da Nang first. There are numerous flights from big cities like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh to Da Nang. When you are here, you will have to choose 1 kind of transportation to get to Cham Island.
1. Private canoe
This is the quickest and most expensive way to get to Cham Island. The trip takes about 15 to 20 minutes. A private canoe can hold up to 35 people and the price varies from the size of the canoe.
2. Standard canoe
This one is cheaper than the private canoe. The price is about 300,000 VND and you have to go with other strange people in the same canoe. You will not be able to travel freely because you need to follow the company’s route.
3. Wooden Boat
The wooden boat is the cheapest way of transportation but the time you have to wait is also the longest. Normally, the boat leaves at 8 am and you will reach Cham Island at around 10 am. And you are recommended to stay one night on Cu Lao Cham if you choose this kind of traveling.
Once arriving in Cham Island, you can rent a motorbike to go to discover every corner of this place. Almost all homestays, hotels and hostels provide motorcycles for rent with a reasonable price so you do not need to worry about transportation on the island.
Close to Hoi An town, Cu Lao Cham really cherishes high potential for tourism development. There is no reason for you to not experience the beauty of this beautiful offshore land.
5. Con Dao Island, Ba Ria – Vung Tau Province
Highlights: Last but not least, it can’t be somewhere other than Con Dao being in this list of best islands in the the south due to its significant historical values and natural beauty. The first must-go site on the main part of the island is Dam Trau, the most alluring beach surrounded by old-growth forests and magnificent cliffs.
Also, it is a great idea to explore Con Dao National park which reserves the most turtles and colorful untouched coral reefs. While most tourists flock here to enjoy the scenery, some are interested in the prison once called “the Hell on Earth” where hundreds of Vietnamese political prisoners were detained and cruelly tortured during wartime.
Con Dao, with its spectacular landscapes and wild nature, must be in the bucket list of slow living- inclined people.
How to get there: There are 3 ways to get there:
First one: From Vung Tau, you book a ticket for a 200-seat boat. It has air-conditioners, canteens and beds so you won’t feel tired even though it takes up to 12 hours.
Second one: From Soc Trang, you take a high-speed Superdong Boat. The price is 310.000, you reach the island after 2.5 hours.
Third one: Only from Ho Chi Minh city or Can Tho, there is one flight from Vietnam Airlines heading directly to Con Dao, it costs one million dong.
Things to note:
March to September is definitely the ideal time for a trip to Con Dao. Not only is it dry season, it is also turtles’ spawning-season, has it piqued your curiosity yet?
There are taxis, electric cars or motorbikes for renting available on the island.