Check out Vietnam’s lesser-known island paradises

Tired of getting trapped in noisy, crowded resort towns during the summer vacation? Then explore these island paradises in Vietnam.  

While many popular resort towns such as Sa Pa, Da Lat and Hoi An are overrun by tourists during the peak season, some islands remain less well-known and so are spared the tourist hordes. 

If you are not constrained by a tight schedule, make sure to explore these six islands stretching from the south to the central region.

Con Son Island 

Con Son, 110 miles off Vietnam’s southeastern coast, is the only inhabited and largest island in the 16-island archipelago Con Dao. Photo by Shutterstock/an nhien

Con Son, 110 miles off Vietnam’s southeastern coast, is the only inhabited and largest island in the 16-island archipelago Con Dao, once branded “Hell on Earth”, where the French and American invaders jailed and inhumanely tortured Vietnamese freedom fighters during the 19th and 20th centuries.

With the likes of Nha Trang, Phu Quoc and Vung Tau now crowded, Con Son, which barely gets a few dozen tourists during the peak travel season, is a new darling of westerners.

It was once witness to the most horrifying scenes of oppression during wars, and there are a myriad of creepy stories surrounding them.

There are a large number of military personnel on the island and little-to-no nightlife; so don’t expect any wild parties.

In 2017 the U.S.’s Time magazine picked Con Son Island among the 13 places around the world with the bluest water and described it as an unspoiled island with granite cliffs outlining the crystalline water, where “beaches are lined with golden sand and gorgeous blue water.”

Photo by Shutterstock/Anh Anh

Con Dao is administered by the southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau and situated 230 kilometers (143 miles) from Ho Chi Minh City. The island can be reached from Saigon by air. Tourists can also book a helicopter from the nearby beach town of Vung Tau.

Nam Du, Kien Giang

Nam Du Island charms tourists with crystal blue water. Photo by Shutterstock/Minh Anh

Nam Du has found a place on Vietnam's beach tourism map in the last couple of years, so there's no shortage of travel tips when you research your trip to the emerald island.

Situated 83 kilometers from Kien Giang's capital, Rach Gia, Nam Du is the Mekong Delta province’s farthest island. It comprises 21 islets, 11 of which are inhabited while the rest are pristine.

Foreigners need to show a passport, visa and residency papers to be eligible for entry into "maritime boundary areas".

Phu Quy, Binh Thuan

An aerial shot captures the stunning beauty of Phu Quy Island in the central province of Binh Thuan.

Phu Quy, 120 kilometers (74 miles) from the resort town of Phan Thiet in the south central province of Binh Thuan, is not large or crowded like its better-known counterpart Phu Quoc.

Phu Quy has been hailed by readers of U.S. news site CNN as one of the most beautiful islands in the South China Sea, which Vietnam calls the East Sea.

From HCMC, it is a good idea to take a sleeper bus to Phan Thiet. The bus takes three to four hours and costs VND190,000-250,000 ($8.2-10.7). Once you reach Phan Thiet, get a cab or xe om (motorbike taxi) to arrive at the eponymous wharf where you can take a boat to the island for VND250,000 one way.

Keep in mind though that high-speed boats do not operate daily and depend on weather conditions. So it would be wise to check the schedules and book your tickets a week in advance.

Phu Quy Island is best enjoyed between December and June when there is little rain but plenty of sun shining down on the crystal blue waters.

Unlike some Vietnamese islands that prohibit foreigners from access due to military reasons, Phu Quy allows everyone to enter though they need to show visas and passports.

Diep Son, Khanh Hoa

An aerial shot captures the beauty of Diep Son Island near the famous resort town of Nha Trang in Khanh Hoa Province. Photo by Shutterstock/HuyHuy

The coastal town of Nha Trang in Khanh Hoa Province has risen in popularity on the Vietnamese tourism circuit for its lovely scenery, long, sandy beaches and little-known islands along its coast.

While many of its famous beaches are overrun by tourists during the peak season, don’t get discouraged: Diep Son, comprising three small isolated islets, awaits.

What makes Diep Son a trending holiday destination is an 800-meter path connecting the islets that emerges at low tide, allowing you to stroll from islet to islet.

Tourists walk on an old wood pier on Diep Son Island. Photo by Shutterstock/Minh Tri

Don’t forget to take your swimsuit since the turquoise waters are calm all year round and leave you bewitched.

There are no hotels or resorts, but the place is perfect for camping. Tourists should be aware that electricity is only available from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Nha Trang is around 450 kilometers (280 miles) to the northeast of HCMC and close to Cam Ranh Airport. From Nha Trang, drive 60 kilometers to Van Gia fishing port and hop on for a 40-minute boat ride to Diep Son.

Hon Kho, Binh Dinh

Another pristine island that still gets few tourists, mostly Vietnamese, is Hon Kho. The mostly uninhabited island is only ten minutes by boat from Nhon Hai Commune in the south central province of Binh Dinh.

A mini seaside resort with white sand and clear blue water makes Hon Kho Island ideal for swimming. Tourists could also climb a mountain with bizarre-shaped cliffs in the northeastern part of the island to get a panoramic view of the ocean.

A small sandbank in the middle of Hon Kho Island is a sea turtle conservation area. At night one could just see sea turtles laying eggs.

The tail of Hon Kho Island contains a pristine coral reef with many species of colorful fishes. With a life jacket and swimming goggles, snorkel in mouth, you should plunge into the clear water to discover the dazzling beauty of the underwater world.

Photo by Trung Pham

Quy Nhon, the capital of Binh Dinh Province, was named among the top 10 winter sun destinations of 2018 by U.K. newspaper The Guardian. To many, it is the heaven for a laidback atmosphere and the perfect place for a relaxed getaway.

Co To, Quang Ninh

Photo by Cao Anh Tuan

Co To Island in the northern province of Quang Ninh has grown in popularity among foreign travelers thanks to its natural beauty and new “open” tourism policy.

The secluded gem used to be strictly off-limits due to its proximity to the Chinese border.

In the past foreigners wishing to enjoy the crystal clear waters of Co To needed permission from local authorities in addition to visas and passports. Now they can travel freely since Quang Ninh has recognized Co To as a tourist attraction.  

Statistics from Co To Island District show that the number of visitors last year was more than 320,000, including 2,200 foreigners.

The best time to visit Co To is April to June. 

Co To Island. Photo by Shutterstock/huyhoa

Story by Nguyen Quy

By Nguyen Quy