Top 13 Things To Do In Cat Ba, Vietnam

24/01/2024
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Cat Ba Island is the largest island in the beautiful Halong Bay archipelago area of northern Vietnam. Known for its stunning scenery, endemic wildlife, historical sites, and outdoor adventures, Cat Ba Island offers travelers a wide array of exciting things to see and do. swimming and kayaking to trekking and exploring fishing villages, there are plenty of activities and attractions that will appeal to all types of travelers. With lush forests, towering peaks, and sandy beaches set against a backdrop of towering limestone islands rising out of the emerald bay, the natural beauty of Cat Ba is truly breathtaking. Whether you want to relax on the beach, embark on an adventurous trek, or learn about the island's unique ecosystems and culture, this guide covers the top 13 things to do on the spectacular Cat Ba Island, Vietnam.

Go Swimming

With its location in the Gulf of Tonkin, Cat Ba Island is surrounded by clear blue waters perfect for swimming and water activities. Some of the best places to take a dip or go for a swim in Cat Ba include:

Monkey Island

Top 13 Things To Do In Cat Ba, Vietnam

Located just 15 minutes Cat Ba Town by boat, Monkey Island's lovely beach and calm waters make it an ideal spot to enjoy swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing. As its name implies, you may also spot indigenous macaque monkeys playing or foraging on the island.

Tung Thu Beach

Top 13 Things To Do In Cat Ba, Vietnam

Known for having one of the most beautiful beaches on Cat Ba Island, Tung Thu Beach offers fine white sand and gently sloping swim areas that are perfect for swimmers of all ages and skill levels.

Lan Ha Bay

Top 13 Things To Do In Cat Ba, Vietnam

The 300 limestone islands scattered across Lan Ha Bay provide protected areas of calm, clear water perfect for swimming. Many Lan Ha Bay tours involve anchoring near an island and giving passengers time to jump in the bay for a refreshing swim.

So whether you prefer a lovely sandy beach or just want to jump the iconic seascape of Halong Bay, Cat Ba Island offers some great spots to dive in for a swim.

Paddle A Kayak

The protected bays, karst island scenery, and winding passages of Halong Bay provide a fantastic backdrop for kayaking. Gliding through the tranquil waters by kayak allows visitors to access remote beaches, hidden lagoons, tucked-away caves, and get an up-close view of the unique tower karst seascape.

Some top spots for kayaking Cat Ba Island include:

Lan Ha Bay

With less boat traffic than Halong Bay, Lan Ha Bay features excellent kayaking through mangrove forests and to deserted white-sand beaches. Most kayaking tours allow you to paddle, swim, fish, or just relax as you explore the bay.

Viet Hai Village

The small village Viet Hai lies nestled within Cat Ba National Park with a peaceful bay perfect for kayaking. Rent a tandem kayak on the beach and paddle out to see towering limestone peaks rising the waters.

Cat Co Coves

On the southeastern side of Cat Ba Island, Cat Co 1, 2, and 3 are three beautiful beaches with golden sand and excellent kayaking through caves and arches during high tide. It's an easy paddle to access all three stunning coves.

Whether you join a guided tour or rent kayaks to explore independently, kayaking is undoubtedly one of the most popular things to do in Cat Ba to experience its island scenery the sea.

Take A Boat Cruise In Lan Ha Bay - Among The Best Things To Do In Cat Ba

Top 13 Things To Do In Cat Ba, Vietnam

Taking a boat cruise through Lan Ha Bay allows you to relax and soak in the stunning scenery of limestone karsts jutting out of the sea around Cat Ba Island. Far less crowded than the tourist hub of Halong Bay, cruising through Lan Ha Bay offers opportunities to swim, kayak, enjoy a sunset cocktail, and savor a fresh seafood lunch aboard your boat.

Some top highlights of a Lan Ha Bay cruise include:

Soak In The Breathtaking Scenery

As you cruise through Lan Ha Bay, let your eyes feast upon the hundreds of forested limestone islands and islets dotting the sea around you. Changing lights, mist, clouds, and tides provide an ever-changing seascape that amazes every angle.

Visit Caves & Hidden Lagoons

Many cruises will take you to see the crowning jewel of Lan Ha Bay - the ''Surprise Cave.'' Filled with stalagmites, stalactites, and fossils embedded in the limestone, exploring this Virginia-sized cavern by kayak or bamboo boat is awe-inspiring. Secluded lagoons on remote islands also beg to be explored.

Swim In Pristine Waters

What better way to experience Lan Ha Bay than to jump your boat and swim in the postcard-perfect waters. Most boat tours will stop at secluded island beaches and bays to allow passengers ample time to splash around. Don't forget your swimsuit and towel!

Slowly cruising on a traditional wooden junk boat past the scattered islands rising the emerald waters is undoubtedly one of the top things to experience when visiting Cat Ba Island.

Watch The Sunset At Cannon Fort

Perched 110 meters (360 ft) above Cat Ba Town lies Cannon Fort, an 18th-century fort with expansive views overlooking the harbor. It's one of the best spots on Cat Ba Island to soak in a stunning sunset.

As the sun dips low over the horizon, the panorama of fishing boats bobbing in the harbor and karst islands silhouetted by the vibrant hues of sunset is truly spectacular.

Visitors can walk along old bunkers and tunnels, check out views through openings for cannons, and take plenty of photos capturing the sunset and harbor views.

There's also a small bar serving cocktails and snacks - so it's a great place to sip a drink while taking in the sunset over Cat Ba. A cannon firing ceremony happens nightly reenacting the fort's history of protecting the island.

Getting up to Cannon Fort for sunset is undoubtedly one of the best free and romantic things to do while visiting Cat Ba.

Observe Langurs’ Life In Monkey Island, Cat Ba

Top 13 Things To Do In Cat Ba, Vietnam

Cat Ba Island is home to an endangered population of golden-headed (or white-headed) langurs, officially the world’s rarest primate species with only about 60 remaining.

Most of these adorable and charismatic monkeys reside on Monkey Island - officially known as Cat Dua Island - just offshore Cat Ba National Park. Visitors can take a 15-minute boat ride to Monkey Island with local operators to get an up close view.

Peaceful and gentle, the golden langurs can often be spotted leaping rock to rock or swimming between islands - an impressive spectacle demonstrating their supreme agility. Keep an eye out for tiny golden babies riding on their mothers’ chests or backs.

Local guides help explain the conservation efforts underway to protect these endangered primates and their protected habitat. Observing these exceptional monkeys in one of their last thriving habitats is truly a remarkable and ethical wildlife encounter.

Trek Through Cat Ba National Park - One Of The Best Things To Do In Cat Ba For Adventurers

Top 13 Things To Do In Cat Ba, Vietnam

Covering over half of Cat Ba Island lies Cat Ba National Park, with jagged peaks rising over 1,500 feet, lush old growth forest, mangrove tidal zones, and offshore coral reefs. It's a spectacular nature destination perfect for challenging trekking adventures.

Some top treks in Cat Ba National Park include:

Challenging Peak Climbs

For experienced hikers seeking an adrenaline rush, the steep 6-mile trail leading 745 meters (2,444 ft) up to the summit of Mount Chua is extremely rewarding yet grueling. Peak climbing Cat Ba’s second highest mountain (Ngu Lam Mountain at 693m/2,274ft) also rewards sweat equity with phenomenal panoramic views.

Family-Friendly Waterfall Trek

An easier 3 km loop trail leads through dense jungle filled with birds, monkeys, and lush vegetation Cat Co Cove for great swimming and views of a small waterfall tumbling onto the beach. It's a great introductory hiking option for families.

Overnight Camping Excursions

Multi-day camping treks staying overnight within the national park allow backpackers to really immerse themselves within the island’s wondrous natural habitats. Guides lead small groups on 15-30 km routes with tent and sleeping bag included.

With its diversity of environments and terrain ranging rocky cliffs to jungles to mangrove lagoons, Cat Ba National Park offers amazing trekking opportunities - arguably some of the best things to do on Cat Ba Island for outdoor enthusiasts and adventurers.

Try Squid Fishing

As a hub of fishing culture and traditions, Cat Ba Island allows visitors a chance to experience a popular local fishing method at night - squid fishing.

Join an evening squid fishing tour by boat to try your hand at this unique style of angling. Powerful green LED lamps mounted on the front of the boats attract swarms of squid to the surface.

You'll be given a rod, line, hook, and lures as expert local fishermen direct your lines to just the right spots. Soon you'll start nabbing squid after squid and filling up buckets of fresh seafood.

After fishing, many tour companies will even cook up your bountiful catch a tasty calamari feast! Trying your luck at a bit of nighttime squid fishing and enjoying the fresh seafood rewards soon after is undoubtedly a favorite local experience for many Cat Ba visitors.

Discover Fishing Villages

No trip to Cat Ba Island is complete without taking time to discover and appreciate the island's historic fishing culture. Colorful fishing villages still dot parts of Cat Ba and Lan Ha Bay, offering visitors a glimpse traditional island life.

Cai Beo Floating Village

Top 13 Things To Do In Cat Ba, Vietnam

Cai Beo sits tucked within a bay in Lan Ha as a scenic community of houseboats, ferry docks, and floating structures where around 200 locals live and work. Tour groups can paddle through by kayak or take covered bamboo boats to respectfully observe daily life in this unique waterside village.

Visitors may see locals raising cockerels, cultivating pearl oysters, maintaining fish farms, weaving fishing nets by hand, or just relaxing with family and neighbors on the porches of their boats. It offers an authentic peek the fishing lifestyle still thriving around Cat Ba.

Viet Hai Village

Top 13 Things To Do In Cat Ba, Vietnam

On the edge of Cat Ba National Park, charming Viet Hai Village can be reached by boat or via an easy jungle trek. Wander through its quiet lanes to see historic army bunkers, visit a small riverside market selling produce and seafood, or just observe villagers going about their daily routines like taking water buffalos out to graze.

floating villages to remote inland villages, visiting Cat Ba fishing communities teaches visitors a lot about the island's culture, heritage, and way of life.

Embrace Rock Climbing - Among The Most Thrilling Things To Do In Cat Ba Vietnam

The towering limestone peaks, coastal cliffs, and jungle canyons across Cat Ba Island provide spectacular settings for rock climbing and deep water soloing. Even beginners can enjoy supervised climbing routes suitable for all skill levels.

Cat Ba Climbing offers great introduction climbs at Frog Pond outside of Cat Ba Town. More advanced climbs on longer routes happen on the vertical cliffs edging Lan Ha Bay. For deep water soloing, climbers scale challenging overhangs and rock faces right along the ocean, then splash down once they fall.

In addition to the thrilling climbs themselves, the epic surrounding views high vantage points make the heart race even faster. Rock climbing serves as a popular adventurous activity - arguably one of the most exciting things to do on Cat Ba Island for adrenaline junkies.

Explore Mystic Caves

The unique karst topography of Cat Ba Island has led to the creation of numerous caves cutting through the interior limestone rock. Many remain utterly untouched offering cave exploration opportunities for both beginners and experienced spelunkers.

Some top caves to explore on Cat Ba Island include:

Hospital Cave

Hospital Cave served as an emergency bomb shelter and secret hospital during the Vietnam War. Visitors can walk through narrow tunnels to see remnants of old medical equipment and hospital rooms carved solid rock.

Trung Trang Cave

Only rediscovered in 1993, the impressive chambers of Trung Trang Cave boast stunning stalagmites, stalactites, flowstones and an underground river. Getting there involves a steep but short hike through the jungle with fixed ropes.

Stalactite Grotto

Within Cat Ba National Park, this cave lies embedded inside a remote limestone mountain containing fascinating stalagmite and stalactite formations. Visitors can trek through primary forest for around one hour to access it.

historic caves converted to wartime use to scenic caverns glittering with unique mineral deposits, cave exploration provides a cool escape and plenty of wow moments when visiting Cat Ba Island.

Enjoy A Feast Of Fresh Seafood

Top 13 Things To Do In Cat Ba, Vietnam

As a renowned fishing island, it comes as no surprise that seafood rates as the star of the show when dining on Cat Ba. The rich surrounding waters provide a bountiful daily catch of fish, crab, shrimp, squid, clams and more.

Some favorite ways to feast on fabulously fresh seafood include:

Local Specialties

Don't leave without sampling classics like soy sauce shrimp, mussel rice, stir fried squid with veggies, steamed fish in caramel sauce, or spicy clam noodles. Delicious crab spring rolls also appear everywhere.

Harborfront Restaurants

Find a spot along Cat Ba Harbor to watch fishing boats unload the daily catch while you dine on just-off-the-boat seafood dishes at very reasonable prices.

Floating Seafood Rafts

At high tide, unique floating wooden raft restaurants located right offshore offer a fun and scenic dining experience. Feast on seafood platters surrounded by the beauty of Halong Bay.

street food carts to fancy hotel restaurants, the abundance of fabulously fresh and skillfully prepared seafood makes dining on Cat Ba Island extremely appetizing. Visitors quickly understand why it rates among the top things to do.

Explore The Nightlife

While not a huge party island, Cat Ba Town and beaches across the island do offer some fun bars, restaurants, and entertainment venues popular once the sun goes down.

Some interesting nightlife options on Cat Ba Island include:

Rooftop Bars

Climb upstairs to a rooftop bar like Flightless Bird for happy hour cocktails at sunset over the harbor. Goodground Bar also boasts harbor views along with pool tables, occasional live music, and late night food.

Mini Discos & Clubs

Although small in size, spots like the Rose Bar and Oasis Bar serve up cocktails, cold beer, booming beats, blacklights and dance floors for those seeking a club vibe.

Cinema Under the Stars

Cat Ba Green Bamboo Bar offers free nightly open-air movie screenings in its garden for a relaxed, sociable evening. Movies range Hollywood blockbusters to classic Vietnamese films.

While not a wild party island, Cat Ba offers plenty of chill nightlife hangouts to choose - enough to keep any night owl happy after dark.

Cycle Through Viet Hai Village

Nestled on the edge of Cat Ba National Park, tiny Viet Hai Village provides the perfect small fishing village backdrop for a scenic bike ride adventure. Visitors can rent bicycles and pedal along quiet country roads as a refreshing way to take in gorgeous vistas of limestone peaks, dense jungle foliage, and glimpses of village life.

A loop route through Viet Hai takes riders past old wartime tunnels and out to a coastal road lined with charming wood-built houses standing over the water atop concrete columns reinforced with empty US artillery shells. Friendly calls of “hello” come local children riding bikes of their own.

Riders can finish off with a hearty meal and refreshing drink at the Bamboo Cafe next to a pretty inlet often dotted with fishing boats. Then pedal back along the coast at golden hour to see the sunset over the distant karst islands before returning bikes to the rental shop. It makes for an easy, scenic half day escape.

Conclusion

With its outstanding natural scenery comprised of jungle peaks, hidden lagoons, and scatterings of limestone islands rising the sea, Cat Ba Island offers limitless opportunities for adventure, relaxation, and discovery.

hiking through impossibly green national park forests to feasting on the freshest of seafoods, visitors to Cat Ba Island will never run out of exciting things to experience during their stay.

Whether taking a sunset sail among the karsts, exploring fishing village culture, or just chilling out on a white sand beach, travelers find themselves constantly awed by both the astounding beauty and charming culture of life on Cat Ba Island.

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