Lan Ha Bay lies on Cat Ba Island's eastern side and Ha Long Bay's southern side, within Quang Ninh Province, and encompasses 400 islands and over 100 small and pristine sandy beaches.
Lan Ha Bay received official recognition as a member of the prestigious Club of the Most Beautiful Bays in the World in May 2020. For visitors to Cat Ba Island, a journey to explore this sightseeing route is an absolute must.
Cat Ba National Park
Situated in Cat Hai District, the park is one of Vietnam's largest special-use forests. It safeguards diverse marine ecosystems, terrestrial and submerged forests, along with rare flora and fauna. In 2004, UNESCO recognized it as a world biosphere reserve.
Explorers can opt for 4-8-hour mountain hikes or shorter 2-hour routes. Walking, biking, motorcycling, or driving for 2-3 hours are also popular choices. Routes lead through Kim Giao Forest, up to Ngu Lam Peak for panoramic views, night wildlife observation, cave exploration, and ultimately to Viet Hai Village.
Entry costs VND40,000 for adults and VND20,000 for children.
Viet Hai Village
Viet Hai Village is nestled within Cat Ba National Park, in Cat Hai District, forming a link to Lan Ha Bay. The village can be accessed from both the forested and the bay areas. Its forest-bound location meant that the road leading to it was once winding and scarcely traveled, preserving its isolation from the outside world. However, Viet Hai has now ventured into the realm of tourism, drawing a multitude of visitors, both domestic and international. Notably, it serves as a perfect hub for nature-centric bike tours and trekking adventures.
Monkey Island is the second largest island in Cat Ba, situated in the heart of Lan Ha Bay. Formerly called Cat Dua Island due to its abundance of dua (pineapple) trees, it's now home to over 20 monkeys. These monkeys often visit the beach, interact with tourists, and display a friendly demeanor. Yet, caution is needed as they might grab items or accidentally cause harm if not treated carefully.
Luon Cave is positioned amidst a cluster of islands, accessible from the sea only through a cave entrance measuring around 4 meters wide, 3 meters high, and 100 meters long. Encircled by four mountains, a brackish lake with a width of about 1 kilometer lies within the cave. Fossilized freshwater snail shells adorn the cliffs. Such caves are rare in Lan Ha Bay, making it an excellent spot for kayaking. Visitors can relish the tranquil natural ambiance by boat once they pass through Luon Cave's entrance.
Van Boi Beach
Nestled along a jutting section of the mountain range, Van Boi Beach entices visitors with opportunities for boating and swimming, offering natural vistas that include smooth white sandy shores, crystal-clear blue waters, and a serene ambiance.
Cai Beo fishing village
Cai Beo fishing village, situated within Cat Ba Archipelago, Cat Hai District, was designated a national relic in 2009 by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. It stands as one of Vietnam's largest fishing villages, currently housing over 500 households engaged in fishing and cage fish farming within the bay. To reach Cai Beo fishing village, travelers begin from Cat Ba Island and travel around 20 kilometers, encountering a cluster of villages floating on the water, forming a miniature cityscape.
Light Cave - Dark Cave
Dark and Light Cave is situated on the water's surface, spanning 70 meters through the mountain, and located approximately 12 kilometers from Beo Wharf. Exploring this cave involves rowing a bamboo boat or kayaking, making it an essential destination for visitors seeking relaxation on Lan Ha Bay, particularly for overnight yacht guests. It is also a favored spot for day boats ferrying tourists to Lan Ha Bay.
Climbing is a favorite pursuit for tourists, especially foreigners, with climbing spots scattered across Lan Ha Bay islands, the mainland, and the Cat Ba region, offering challenging experiences amid rugged cliffs.
Visitors can also engage in swimming and kayaking. For a hassle-free boating experience, renting a boat to explore the bay or participating in a kayak tour is recommended. Typically, these boats guide you to calm waters close to the shore, ensuring both ease of paddling and safety. Some convenient spots include Dark Cave - Bright Cave, Luon Cave, and Ba Trai Dao Beach.
Swimming is only allowed at designated beaches, and it's essential to wear life jackets when venturing far into the water for safety reasons.
The culinary offerings in Lan Ha Bay center around seafood, featuring favorites like horseshoe crab, geoduck clam, grouper, mantis shrimp, shrimp, and snails. Seafood can also be purchased as gifts, with reference prices ranging from around VND500,000 to VND700,000 ($21.05 to $29.50) for a pair of horseshoe crab, and VND200,000 to VND250,000 per kilogram of mantis shrimp.
In the past, seafood raft houses were available for on-site dining, but now, visitors either eat on the shore in Cat Ba Island or arrange their own BBQ meals on permitted beaches like Monkey Island or Tu Do Island.
While enjoying seafood in the Lan Ha Bay area, visitors should inquire about prices before making purchases, especially during the peak summer months from May to August.
In the past, Lan Ha Bay had many informal resorts on its islands. However, since late 2022, these places have been taken down to support the protection of marine ecosystems.
Today, tourists have the option to stay at Cat Ba Island hotels that offer bay views. For upscale accommodations, Flamingo Cat Ba Beach Resort and Hôtel Perle d'Orient Cat Ba - MGallery are excellent choices. These two resorts, situated 1 kilometer apart, are connected with each other by the road along the mountains of Cat Co Beach.
Flamingo Cat Ba Beach Resort has three buildings with 756 rooms overlooking Lan Ha Bay, positioned at Cat Co 1 and Cat Co 2 beaches. The resort features a skywalk, event space, workshop area, year-round swimming pool, fast water slide, and water activities like parasailing, jet ski and kayak. Nightly room rates start from VND2 million ($84.20).
Hôtel Perle d'Orient Cat Ba - MGallery is an Asian-style boutique hotel, offering rooms with balconies that showcase Lan Ha Bay views. It is the most luxurious hotel in the Cat Ba area, featuring a restaurant with a terrace, a Japanese restaurant, a bar, a rooftop pool, a spa, a gym, and a private beach. Room rates begin at VND3.5 million per night.
Freedom Island Retreat on Tu Do Island is a resort amidst the bay. It offers a beach with two sides of the sea, separated by a small sandy strip. Visitors can stroll between these sides to enjoy different views. This destination appeals to foreigners and those seeking untamed experiences.
Lan Ha Bay's overnight cruises offer a range of options, including Heritage Cruises Binh Chuan, Mon Cheri, Scarlet Pearl, Stellar of the Seas, and Paradise Grand. These yachts are modernly equipped, providing full guest services, including meals. Typical itineraries span 2 days and 1 night or 3 days and 2 nights, with per-person nightly prices starting from VND2.5 million ($105.30).
Viet Hai fishing village is perfect for nature enthusiasts. It lacks large hotels, so visitors can opt for homestays like Viet Hai Lan, Lan, Lotus, Whisper Nature bungalow, and Long Phuong motel. Room prices range from approximately VND200,000 to VND700,000 ($8.40 to $29.50).
Lan Ha Bay experiences four seasons following the northern weather pattern. Summer, May to August, offers calm seas, clear skies, sunshine, and wind, making it ideal for swimming, cruising, and bay exploration. This period attracts the highest number of tourists. From September to November, the bay becomes tranquil, providing a peaceful environment for relaxation. The weather remains cool, and swimming is still possible during this time. The rest of the months are perfect for visitors who seek forest activities and a chance to breathe in the fresh air.
The main transportation to Lan Ha Bay is by boat. Visitors can reach Cat Ba Island and then purchase a boat ticket at Beo Wharf in the island’s center to explore Lan Ha Bay. One-way ticket prices are VND80,000 ($3.40) for adults and VND40,000 ($1.70) for children.
For those traveling in a group, there’s an option to rent a private boat. The rental prices vary based on the size of the group and the type of boat. For groups of 10 to 20 people, the rental cost ranges from VND1.6 million to VND5 million ($67.40 to $210.60) per boat. For larger groups of 25 to 50 people, the rental prices range from VND2.2 million to VND7 million per boat. The price depends on the boat type and the time to visit.
There are several routes available for visiting Lan Ha Bay:
1. Route 1: Beo Wharf - Fishing Village - Monkey Island
2. Route 2: Beo Wharf - Monkey Island - Turtle Island - Viet Hai Village - Ba Trai Dao Islet (Three Peaches Islet) - Dark Cave - Light Cave
3. Route 3: Got Wharf - Gia Luan Commune - Tra Bau Village - Ang Ong Cam Island - Dark Cave - Light Cave
4. Route 4: Cat Ba Tourist Center Pier - Cat Ong Island - Thien Ung Pagoda
Story by Linh Huong