If one day, you’re scrolling through your Instagram feed and you come across images of a magnificent turquoise bay with thousands of limestone karsts jutting out of the water, I bet you’ll want to know where to find this paradise… well, most of the time the hashtags correspond to Halong Bay.

This bay is famous for being one of the 7 new wonders of nature and you should visit it to witness nature’s miraculous beauty. It’s really worth the trip! There are many activities to explore in Halong, however, visiting the islands is always the most exciting. Take a cruise, kayak, explore the national park and party until dawn on the beach.

Most of the islands that belong to Halong Bay are protected and preserved by the government. It is therefore important to know which ones you can visit and how to explore the right way. In this article, I will provide you with all the information you need so you can get going!

Where is Ha Long Bay?

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Ha Long Bay is a spectacular work of Mother Nature located in Quang Ninh province. This area of 1,553 square kilometers belongs to the city of Ha Long, the city of Cam Pha, and a part of Van Don district, in Quang Ninh province.

The bay is home to thousands of limestone karsts and isles in various shapes and sizes.

When is the best time to visit Ha Long Bay?

Due to the weather conditions in Vietnam, ideally, you should visit Ha Long Bay from April to September. This is the dry season. It might be a bit hot, but that’s not a big issue if you are about to dive into the blue ocean to swim anyway.

From November to March, it will be cold in the north of Vietnam. You can still visit Ha Long Bay during this period to escape the heat of the south. But don’t forget to bring a jacket with you.

It is likely that thunderstorms frequently occur during the months of June and July. If you are present during these months, the tourism agency might have to cancel your trip at the last minute for your safety.

Lastly, August is the month of weather transition. There may be heavy downpours on some days of the month, disrupting your plans. Aside from that, it’s not a bad idea to travel to Ha Long then.

Let’s now take a closer look at some of the famous islands and islets of Ha Long.

Islands to Visit in Ha Long Bay

Bo Hon Island

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Bo Hon Island is at the heart of Ha Long Bay. It is here that you can find many famous caves, each with its own legendary stories to discover.

Your boat will pass by many beautiful green limestone karsts before reaching this island. The vertical cliffs of the surrounding landscape will surely astonish you. And more importantly, Bu Xam Islet located on the south side of Bo Hon is a wild place for those looking for an idyllic spot to relax and listen to the choirs of songbirds and the chatter of monkeys.

What to do there?

  • Visit the captivating caves such as Sung Sot Cave, Luon Cave, Tien Cave (Fairy Cave), Trinh Nu Cave (Virgin Cave), and Trong Cave.
  • Swim at the beach of Bu Xam Islet
  • Go kayaking

Ti Top Island

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In 1962, Ho Chi Minh (Uncle Ho) and Gherman Titov, a Soviet cosmonaut, landed on this island for lunch during their trip to Ha Long. Uncle Ho then named this island in honor of Titov.

Nowadays, this island is a favored stop for visitors on their Ha Long journey. From above, the beach of Titop Island looks like a romantic crescent, embracing a green karst mountain. There is nothing more wonderful than relaxing on the white sand and watching the magnificent bay.

Compared to other islands, tourism is quite developed on Titop. Some services can be found here, such as a bar, a souvenir shop, a swimsuit and clothing rental service, as well as parasailing services.

Before docking at the island, the boat/cruise will stop at a floating village to allow you to buy fresh shrimp, snails, or fish and have a picnic on the beach. This island is always full of people. So, it’s not on the top of the list if you’re looking for a solitary place.

What to do there?

  • Swim on the beach
  • Watch the spectacular sunset
  • Climb to the top of Titop Mountain for a panoramic view of the bay
  • Eat seafood

Soi Sim Island

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Located just 700 meters from Titop Island, Soi Sim Island is an ideal getaway for those who do not want to be surrounded by too many tourists. As tourism has yet to fully develop on this island, Soi Sim still retains all the pristine beauty that nature has bestowed upon it.

Come to Soi Sim Island to spend a day relaxing, doing nothing else but sunbathing on the sandy beach, falling asleep, and dreaming of being lost on an island. Additionally, there is a trail that leads to the top of the mountain, where you can follow the stairs for a magnificent view of the green limestone karst and the blue ocean. Perhaps a monkey will join you and start pulling your hair or drink from your water bottle.

What to do there?

  • Swim on the beach
  • Climb to the top of the mountain for the views
  • Engage in water sports

Ngoc Vung Island

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For a more authentic local experience, visit Ngoc Vung Island. Some romantics have said that Ngoc Vung was a princess sleeping in Ha Long Bay. Legend has it that in the past, there were a lot of pearls under the sea. At night, they shone and illuminated the whole island. That’s why people here called it Ngoc Vung (shining pearl).

Tourism has not yet touched this area, so you can explore something natural and undisturbed. What makes this island so special is that it even has a freshwater lake, and the locals living there can even grow a rice field!

The big waves also bring in large jellyfish to the seashore. People will then catch them to prepare tasty dishes that you should try, for example, a jellyfish salad. This island is also one of the few islands where you are allowed to spend the night. A trip to Ngoc Vung will be one of the most unforgettable memories of your life.

What to do there?

  • Picnic by the sea
  • Stroll around the island
  • Light a bonfire at night
  • Taste the jellyfish salad

How to get there?

High-speed boat service is available at two stations: Van Don – Ngoc Vung or Hon Gai – Ngoc Vung.

Van Don – Ngoc Vung

  • Address: Cai Rong Port
  • Departure times: daily at 7:00 AM and 2:00 PM
  • Ticket price: 60,000 VND

Hon Gai – Ngoc Vung

  • Address: Bach Dang Hall, Ha Long
  • Departure time: daily at 1:00 PM
  • Ticket price: 60,000 VND
  • Book here: 033 247 3536 – 0168 655 2222

Cat Ba Island

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Cat Ba

Known as the largest island in Ha Long Bay on the mainland, Cat Ba Island is an excellent option for those of you who suffer from motion sickness, as you are not required to go on a cruise for too long. Personally, I really like Cat Ba for three reasons:

I get seasick (as you may have guessed)! A few years ago, when I took a day cruise with my family, I really couldn’t enjoy anything because I was busy vomiting everything in my stomach and praying for the trip to end as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, taking a ferry to Cat Ba only takes 1 hour and 45 minutes of travel. Therefore, I could still enjoy the true beauty of Ha Long Bay without having health problems.

1. There are many activities to do!

escalade a la baie Halong

Cat Ba Island offers a variety of activities that cater to different interests, making it an exciting destination for travelers. Here’s a brief overview of what you can do:

  • Explore the National Park: Cat Ba National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with rich biodiversity. You can go hiking, spot rare animals like the Cat Ba langur, and visit caves.
  • Rock Climbing: With its rugged cliffs and limestone mountains, Cat Ba is a great place for rock climbing, both for beginners and experienced climbers.
  • Kayaking: Paddle through the calm waters and explore the island’s hidden lagoons and caves.
  • Beach Relaxation: Cat Ba has several beautiful beaches like Cat Co 1 and Cat Co 3 where you can relax, swim, and enjoy the sun.
  • Visit Lan Ha Bay: Similar to Ha Long Bay, Lan Ha Bay offers stunning karst landscapes but with fewer tourists. Boat tours are available to explore the bay’s islands and floating villages.
  • Visit Monkey Island: A short boat ride away, you can see monkeys and enjoy panoramic views.
  • Local Culture: Immerse yourself in local culture by visiting Cat Ba Market or interacting with the local fishermen.
  • Seafood Delight: Enjoy the fresh seafood that Cat Ba is famous for, such as grilled fish, squid, and shrimp.

These are just a few of the activities you can enjoy on Cat Ba Island, and they contribute to a memorable and action-packed visit.

2. Transport

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To get from Cat Ba to Tuan Chau port, the trip costs 60,000 VND/person/one way. The most popular way to get around Cat Ba town is to take a public electric vehicle, which costs about 10,000 VND per trip. There are three drop-off destinations: Cat Co 1 Beach, Cat Co 3 Beach, and Cat Ba Market.

Motorbike rental services are also available at most hostels and hotels. The price fluctuates between 200,000 and 300,000 VND/day, and the price does not include gasoline. Some places require a deposit or your passport. Remember to ask for a confirmation paper to ensure that you will get your deposit back.

3. What is a good tour in Halong Bay?

It’s important to keep in mind that, except for Cat Ba, most of the islands/islets of Ha Long are located in the preservation area, which is protected by the government and UNESCO.

Therefore, if you want to visit, you need to go with a travel agency. Most tours will pick up guests in Hanoi. So, if you wish to start your journey from Ha Long, you need to contact the company and ask for the appropriate details. Here are some prestigious brands you can check out:

Huong Hai Ha Long

  • Address: No 2, San Ho I road, Coral Bay Villas, Ha Long City, Quang Ninh, Vietnam
  • Hotline: 0904 223 626
  • Website: http://huonghaihalong.com/

Era Cruise Halong Bay

  • Address: 110 Tue Tinh, Nguyen Du Ward, Hai Ba Trung District, Hanoi
  • Hotline: 0948 205 335
  • Website: eracruise.com

Halong Dugong Sail

  • Address: 93 Ly Nam De, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
  • Hotline: 0923 7179 07
  • Website: dugongsail.com

These companies offer various tours and services that can provide a comprehensive Halong Bay experience, complete with visits to the islands, cave explorations, kayaking, and sometimes even overnight stays on the water. Make sure to verify the details, such as the itinerary, inclusions, and customer reviews before booking your tour.Partager

Originally from Lyon, I swapped the cobblestone streets of my hometown for the mystical mountains of Northern Vietnam. Trained as a journalist, I settled in Hanoi five years ago and quickly developed a passion for the cultural richness of the region. A specialist in Lào Cai province, I am also an experienced hiker, sharing my trekking experiences in remote areas and my encounters with local communities.

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