Cat Ba Island is located about 15 km south of Halong Bay. With an area of 354 km2, it is the largest island of the eponymous archipelago of Halong Bay.
Isolated by its island characteristics, there is no question of playing the Robinsons or on the contrary to go to a too famous seaside resort. Cat Ba is a little bit of everything, and this is what makes its charm. You have to leave the noisy city of Hanoi, two hours by road or highway, a boat shuttle, a small winding road… and here we are in Cat Ba, the largest island of Halong Bay!
On the waterfront restaurants, hotels, small stores seem to contemplate the open sea and the harbor. Strolling from one to the other is a real pleasure.
In addition to the magnificent sugar loaf landscape of Halong Bay, Cat Ba is also famous for its natural park, with beautiful beaches between small fishing villages. Cat Ba Island is in full tourist development but it still remains preserved. It is a relaxing seaside and natural stopover in your trip to Vietnam.
A place privileged by nature
The coastline is cut by rocky cliffs, embellished by small white sandy coves. The pure waters of the coastline are conducive to a dense marine fauna. Sea turtles, lobsters, corals, oysters and more than 200 species of fish, some of which are rare, live in the Cat Ba seas.
Crustaceans are not to be outdone with several hundred species of mollusks and arthropods. Cat Ba is the perfect place to enjoy the best fish and seafood dishes in Vietnam!
In addition, the limestone hills, 330 m for the highest, are home to many lakes, waterfalls and caves. Here were found on about twenty sites, weapons and human bones dating from 6 to 7 millennia.
History and legend
The history of Cat Ba Island goes back 6000 years. The name Cat Ba means “the island of women” and as with everything in Vietnam, there are many interesting legends about it. It is said that many centuries ago, three women of the Tran dynasty were murdered. The bodies washed up on the shores of Cat Ba Island and were found by fishermen. The locals then built a temple for each woman and the island later became known as Cat Ba.
How to get to the island?
In general, the most common way to reach Cat Ba Island is from Hanoi.
Since the completion of the longest sea bridge in Southeast Asia, the road from Hanoi to Cat Ba Island has been shortened considerably.
The bus from Hanoi to Cat Ba is a good way to reach Cat ba. With a direct route and a short 10 minute speedboat ride in the middle. From Hanoi, it takes just over 2 hours to drive to the east coast and over the sea bridge to the small island of Cat Hai.
Once you arrive in Cat ba, the bus services will take you to the town where most of the accommodation is located. The Cat ba express company offers a good value service.
When to go to Cat Ba?
Spring from March to May and autumn from September to November are generally the best periods, the climate is cooler and the rains are rare. In winter, the weather is cold and foggy but this climate adds a special atmosphere to the island, we recommend this period for hikers rather than for beachgoers!
Map of Cat Ba
Where to stay?
There are a multitude of accommodation options on the island. From small hotels to luxury resorts, through many intermediate ranges, you will be spoilt for choice. If you use our services, you should know that we work with reliable partners who allow us to guarantee you a pleasant stay.
Concerning the location, we recommend the center of the small town of Cat Ba located on the sea front in the south of the island. Indeed, here is concentrated a lot of rental offer and gives you access to most services. It is here that you will find the largest variety of restaurants.
Not to spoil anything, despite the hotels that certainly disturb the landscape a little, the place is still pleasant, with a magnificent view of the sea.
How many days to spend on Cat Ba Island?
Three days on the island is probably enough. You have plenty of time to quietly enjoy all the gems of Cat Ba. With the lush vegetation, historical sites, Lan Ha Bay and the beaches. Your days will pass quickly.
10 best sites and activities in Cat Ba
baie de lan ha
The bay of Lan HaThe best thing to do when visiting Cat Ba is to discover a wilder and off-the-beaten-track version of Halong Bay: Lan Ha Bay. Indeed, the surrounding waters belong to Lan Ha Bay, which has about 300 karst islands and limestone outcrops. The landscape of Lan Ha Bay is just as beautiful as Halong Bay, not to mention the added attraction of many white sandy beaches.
Since the bay is far from Halong City, few tourist boats venture here, which means Lan Ha Bay has a more secluded appeal. You can take a cruise with an overnight stay on an authentic junk. Or simply sail on a small fishing boat for a few hours.
Here you can see a beautiful video of the Lan Ha bay. Video edited by Lyle Such
Hiking in Cat Ba National Park
The park encompasses subtropical evergreen forests on the highlands. Swamp formations and coastal mangroves are found at the foot of the hills. In addition, there are several freshwater ponds and coral reefs.
Cat Ba National Park is home to an extraordinary biodiversity. On the one hand, the fauna includes 32 species of mammals, including macaques, wild boars, deer, squirrels, hedgehogs. Then, 70 species of birds are present among which the falcon or the hornbill. Finally, nearly 800 species of plants have been recorded including trees such as bang, goi nep, sang le and kim giao, and 160 medicinal plants.
If you like adventures, you can organize a hike to the top of Ngu Lâm mountain, through the forest. This 10 km long route through the forest will give you unforgettable impressions of a beautiful, natural and wild landscape. The route leads to the fishing village of Viet Hai, which will give you the opportunity to observe the still authentic local life.
Once in the village, you have the possibility to return by boat to the town of Cat Ba where your hotel is located.
Visit to the fishing village of Viet Hai
From the center of Cat Ba you can take a boat to reach Viet Hai village in one hour. You can also arrive at the village after a hike in the national park.
Here you will have the opportunity to admire the mountain and the sea immersed in an authentic and peaceful environment. Viet Hai can also be visited by bicycle. You will have no difficulty to rent one.
In addition to the tours with hikes, 2 caves located along the Hà Sen mountain are open to visitors. Each of them is a real wonder. Jointly created by nature and man. From Phù Long, visitors can go to the Thien Long cave which is nicknamed “heavenly palace” of Cat Bà.
In addition, Trung Trang cave marks a historical aspect. It was used as an underground hospital during the Vietnam war.
The sea around the peninsula is peaceful and azure, favorable for swimming. Not far from the center of Cat Ba are the white sandy beaches of Cat Co. They are located in two charming coves. Connected by a footbridge hanging on the cliff and overlooking the reefs, they are an ideal place for swimming. Cat Co is the least crowded but the most pleasant.
So, if you want to enjoy a seaside stay combining relaxation and discovery, Cat Ba is the ideal place. Check our tailor-made tours to travel in Vietnam.
Walk on the waterfront
Another pleasant activity is to walk on the waterfront. Indeed, a path has been built to allow you to make a small hike while overlooking the magnificent view of the sea and the horizon. You can start from the city center of Cat Ba. You head to the left facing the sea.
A pleasant walk of about 45 minutes brings you to the first beach. From here you will see a staircase that will allow you to access a path. From here you will see a staircase that will allow you to walk safely over the cliffs and enjoy a breathtaking view.
During the walk you cross two beautiful white sandy coves. We recommend this walk at the end of the day. You can enjoy the sunset while sipping a drink in the small establishments with beautiful terraces overlooking the sea.
Visit Fort Cannon
Not far from the center of Cat Ba and at the cost of a small climb you can visit Cannon Fort.
This fort has been several times in history a strategic element of the defense of Vietnamese territory. Built in 1942 it was used by the French during the colonization and then the army of North Vietnam. Framed by a bucolic and country setting, the historical site contains beautiful pieces and relics of that time. You will see in particular immense cannon being used to bombard the boats in the distance!
Moreover the situation of the site, at the peak of the hill of the island allows a panoramic and unique view on the surroundings. You can have a magnificent view of Halong Bay.
Sail to the monkey island
If you go on a boat trip, you will have the opportunity to visit the monkey island. This small island is located not far from the port and can be reached in one hour with a small boat. Once disembarked, you imagine yourself on a deserted island. The beach is really wild and is inhabited only by many macaques! They are not dangerous and cute but a bit thieving. So be careful with your stuff.
The place is also worth the detour for the view it offers from its top. A small climb will indeed offer you a great panorama on Halong Bay.
Hang Vem and Thinh Linh creeks
Northeast of Cat Bat are two beautiful coves called Hang Vem and Thinh Linh. The access can be done following a hike or you can rent a motorcycle. Ask us for the itinerary. Hidden in the heart of the island in the middle of the mountains, Hang Vem is a large shallow lake where it is possible to swim, dive, kayak… The natural atmosphere in the middle of the hills is really exceptional.
Not far from there, at the price of a little sportive climbing, you reach Thinh Linh, a second circus even wilder with a limpid and immaculate water.
Visit the fishing port
A few steps from the center, you can go to the port and observe the activity of the fishermen. You will be surprised to see the rustic boats in which the crews face the sea!
You have the opportunity to discover in this place the Nuoc Man factory, the garage to repair the boats, the ice distribution chain to keep the fishes cool in the hold… In short, it is a real story that is told here under your amazed eyes: Not to be missed!
There is even a place that serves as a cemetery for jellyfish that embarrass fishermen!
We hope that the tips and information given in this article will be useful to you. If you are wondering how best to include this destination in your trip to Vietnam, check out our trip building guides:
- North Vietnam tour guide
- North to South Vietnam tour guide
You can also let us know what you want and we will send you a proposal for a program with prices.
Make your request here!
See you soon with Horizon Vietnam Travel!