As a UNESCO recognized World Heritage Site, Halong Bay is one of the natural wonders of the world with 1,969 limestone islands of various shapes and sizes. Many activities range from sightseeing, cruising, exploring the mysterious caves, tasting unique local dishes, to resting on the beaches. Our Vietnam travel guide on the best things to do in Halong Bay will help your Vietnam adventure live up to expectations.
The best time to visit Halong Bay is in April and May and from September to November. In these months of the year, the weather is more pleasant without much heat or rain.
December and January are Halong’s peak seasons while June to August is considered to be the offseason because of irregular typhoons and storms. Keep yourself informed about upcoming storms to avoid unpleasant weather.
If you are not in the North of Vietnam, traveling by air could help you save transportation time. Major airport for transits to Halong Bay is Noi Bai airport in Hanoi, from there you can choose between the bus or the train to get to Halong Bay, which is 180km East of Hanoi.
Hanoi Travel Guide: Noi Bai International Airport
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) Travel Guide: Tan Son Nhat International Airport
From Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, it takes 4 hours by bus to get to Halong Bay making this the most popular type of budgeted transport for travelers. Many trustworthy bus lines running daily can be found at My Dinh and Luong Yen bus stations.
My Dinh Station: 20 Pham Hung, My Dinh Ward, Nam Tu Liem, Hanoi
Luong Yen Station: 3 Nguyen Khoai, Bach Dang Ward, Hai Ba Trung, Hanoi
Estimated fare: VND 100,000/person/seat on a seating bus from Hanoi
VND 200,000/person/seat on a sleeping bus from Hanoi
Traveling to Halong Bay by train is another option that takes approximately 7 hours to arrive to from Yen Vien Station in Hanoi.
Address: Yen Vien Station, Yen Vien, Gia Lam Ward, Hanoi
Estimated fare: VND 70,000+/person, depending on cabin class
The seaplane is the fastest way from Hanoi to Halong Bay taking only 45 minutes. If your wish is to enjoy the breathtaking landscape on the way as well as save time, flights from Hai Au Aviation is your option. Ticket price ranges from USD 175/person.
For booking and detailed information, check out Hai Au Aviation’s website.
Halong Bay Caves and Islands
Nature favors Halong Bay with 1,969 islands with different characteristics making up the unique beauty of the Bay. Here we list some famous and worthy caves and islands for exploration that could help you plan your trip in Vietnam.
Thien Cung Cave (Heavenly Palace Cave)
Thien Cung Cave lies in the north of Dau Go Island, about 4 kilometers to the south of the main wharf. It is one of the most beautiful caves in Halong, featuring many chambers with different level of height, a tall roof, and a total area of 10,000 square meters. Stepping into Thien Cung Cave, you could feel like stepping into an art museum that nature has created, a museum that goes beyond a human’s imagination and creation.
Thien Cung Cave or Heavenly Palace Cave could make you feel like exploring in a fairy place. At Halong, there is even a fairytale about the cave. The tale tells a story about a beautiful village girl who tamed the heart of a dragon prince while going on a mission to ask the dragon prince to save her village from the poor harvest. They got married and celebrated their wedding in the center of the cave. The Dragon prince along with elephants, lions, an anaconda, and eagles, all danced in the cave during the celebration.
Sung Sot Cave (Amazing Cave)
Situated on Bo Hon Island, the Amazing Cave is the largest cave in Halong Bay with such unique and distinct features that can not be found in any other ones. Ascending into the cave through a steep path covered by trees, you may mistake it for a small and narrow one. However, after few more steps, you will approach an area of stunning natural beauty and significant expansion of the cave. The title “The Amazing Cave” or its very first one “Grotte des surprises” (the Cave of Surprise) named by the French to describe the tourists’ incredible feelings of how a tiny passage can lead to such a wide-open and marvelous place. The inner space of the cave is like a giant Opera house with its ceiling decorated by the colorful chandelier of numerous stalactites and stalagmites. A sightseeing tour of the Amazing Cave can challenge any imaginative mind, leading travelers from one surprise to another.
Closely located to Sung Sot Cave, Luon Cave will give you an entirely different experience. The cave is situated on Bo Hon Island, with Turtle Island in the front and Heaven Gate on the right. Kayaking under the grotto gate opens up a peaceful and calm scenery of a tranquil circular lake surrounded by trees and steep stone walls. This experience is what we recommend you should do in Halong Bay.
Dau Go Cave (Wooden Stakes Cave)
The cave is on the same-named island, which is 300 meters away from Thien Cung Cave. Proudly mentioned in the world-famous tourism book Merveille de Monde published in France in 1938, Dau Go Cave was highly praised under the name “Grotte des Merveilles”, which means the Cave of Wonders. Passing through a 12 meter-width and 17 meter-height entrance, you will be completely amazed by magnificent stalagmites and stalactites in different shapes and sizes. Interestingly, the cave supports an ecosystem of diverse plants and living creatures thanks to the high humidity and sunlight inside the cave. Be sure to include Dau Go Cave on your travel list, so that you won’t miss the chance to capture the spectacular beauty of nature.
Trong Mai Islet
Located in the south-west of Halong Bay and about 5 kilometers away from Bai Chay Wharf, Trong Mai Islet or "rock of the kissing cocks" is widely believed to be the symbol of Halong Bay as well as Vietnam tourism. Its shape resembles 2 chickens with an incredible height of about 10 meters from sea level. The breathtaking image of two giant chickens standing together for thousands of years in spite of their little legs that can be collapsed anytime by strong waves has become a representation of faithful love to many locals. You can see this image of Halong Bay on the back of the Vietnamese Currency of the VND 200,000. We recommend that you visit the islet at dawn when the sun lights up the rocks with a stunning view.
Tuan Chau Island
Tuan Chau island, 8 kilometers away from the city, is said to be the finest and most charming island among thousands of islands in Halong Bay. The island has beautiful long, white, sandy beaches along the clear blue waters covered by green pine trees. Established as the tourism center of Halong city, you can easily find satisfactory accommodations among several hotels and resorts, as well as a variety of entertainment activities offered here such as beach sports, music, and some exciting shows.
Bai Chay Beach (Scorched Beach)
Close to the coast of Halong Bay, the 100-meter wide sandy beach spanning over 500 meters is an attractive site for tourists and locals during the summer days. Legend has it that the beach was named based on a historical event. In 1287, many Mongolian ships were set on fire in the battle between the Mongols led by Truong Van Ho and the Vietnamese led by general Tran Khanh Du. The beach, once a forest, was caught on fire and became a sandy beach, which is why it is now named the “Scorched Beach.” Today, necessary investment has been able to offer visitors high-quality services making Bai Chay Beach one of the best artificial beaches in town you should visit on your trip to Vietnam.
The Complex of Yen Tu Monuments and Landscape
Located in a mountainous region, the site is about 600 meters above sea level with its peak at 1068 meters above sea level. Pagodas, temples, and towers in harmony with beautiful landscapes create such a peaceful atmosphere for any visitors.
Yen Tu is also the ancestral land of Truc Lam Zen Buddhism in Vietnam from the thirteenth century. The cultural heritage is well worth a visit for those who want to practice their religions and enjoy the gorgeous scenery. When you're in the North of Vietnam, be sure to check out some of these amazing Vietnam Pagodas.
Cuu Van Fishing Village
Cuu Van Fishing Village is an authentic and attractive destination for tourists who both want to enjoy the dramatic landscape and learn about the daily life of the locals. Notably, the village has not been affected by the growth of tourism and remains in its natural state. Therefore, do not miss the valuable experience to learn the local fisherman’s traditions and culture, such as sailing the boat and catching seafood in Halong.
Bai Tho Mountain (Poem Mountain)
Bai Tho Mountain is 200-meters in height, situated in the center of Halong City, close to the bayside. 1948 was when King Le Thanh Tong wrote a poem on a cliff while admiring the natural beauty of the mountain, and thus, the mountain got its name as the Poem Mountain. Climbing up the mountain takes around 30 minutes. Reach the top and finally immerse yourself in the breathtaking scenery and stunning panoramic view of the bay. Be sure to ask locals the entrance located on Hang Noi Street in Bach Dang Ward to get to the staircase leading to the top.
If you travel with family or in groups and are looking for a bit of fun besides sightseeing the landscape, Dragon Park could be an ideal choice. The Dragon Park is the only theme park in Vietnam offering over 30 attractions that could satisfy any adventurous soul.
Address: Halong Road, Bai Chay Ward, Halong City
Opening hours: Mon - Fri: 3 PM - 8 PM
Sat & Sun: 10 AM - 8 PM
Pricing: VND 300,000+, depending on the season
It would be a waste to visit Halong without kayaking around the bay to explore. National Geographic Adventure voted Halong Bay to be in one of the top 25 kayaking destinations in the world. At Halong Bay, you can easily rent a kayak on the islands or at the tourist harbor. Sitting on the kayak, working the paddle on the turquoise water, and enjoying the magnificent beauty of nature will leave you a peaceful and memorable experience.
Kayaking rental: 100,000 - 200,000 VND/hour, depends on kayak seating capacity
Another alternative for traveling on water at Halong Bay is cruising on a boat. Sightseeing Halong Bay on a boat overnight, you will get to experience other services, watching the night sky sparkling with stars and waking up in a peaceful morning with magnificent views from your cabin window. Halong Bay is one of the best places to watch the sunset in Vietnam.
Additional reading: Learn more what to expect from a cruise in Halong Bay
For more information on boat booking and pricing, you can send your inquiries to these contacts:
Bhaya Cruise: Link
Tel: (+84) 933 446 542
Emeraude Cruise: Link
Tel: (+84) 906 237 899
Oasis Bay Party Cruise: Link
Tel: (+84) 163 374 4951
Hai Au Aviation is the first private airway in Vietnam to provide sightseeing service from a seaplane. Their seaplane has two pilot seats and 12 seats for passengers with large windows that allow the passengers to watch the view of Halong from the height of 150 to 3,000 meters above sea level. From the seaplane, you will be able to see some of the 1,969 islands in all shapes and sizes, floating, and decorating the turquoise water making the breathtaking landscape.
For more details on booking and pricing, please check out the Hai Au Aviation’s website
You can also enjoy the view from above when taking the double-decker cable car from Bai Chay Beach to Ba Deo Hill. The system has only two cabins and can seat 230 passengers/cabin.
Opening hours: 7:30 AM to 11:30 AM and 4 PM to 11 PM
VND 300,000/ticket for adults
VND 200,000/ticket for children under 1.3 meter in height
The ticket includes a tour of the Queen cable car, Sun Wheel, and Zen Garden at the Mystic Mountain complex
If you don’t want to stop your journey at a peaceful experience floating on a still water surface, you can challenge yourself with rock climbing in Halong Bay. The steep and edgy cliffs here won’t disappoint you. You can also go for a hike to the top of Bai Tho Mountain to enjoy the fantastic view or explore many beautiful caves in the Kong Island.
Steamed sticky rice with fried squid paste (xoi trang cha muc)
The squid paste made from fresh squid catches from the Halong Bay coast is a specialty here. The squid meat is chopped, ground into a sticky paste and then grilled or fried in boiling oil. The fresh squid sausage patty is served with steaming sticky rice and dipped in savory fish sauce. You can find this dish at the local market for a small price.
From VND 15,000 to VND 20,000 per set
Around VND 400,000 per kg for the squid paste itself
Steamed rice roll with fried squid paste (banh cuon cha muc)
In Halong, the regular Vietnamese cuisine of steamed rice roll stuffed with chopped pork and wood ear mushroom is served with the squid paste instead. The gummy texture of the squid will keep you wanting for more. There are a lot of vendors as well as small local stores that make the dish, so make sure to check out this specialty on your way exploring Halong Bay.
Address: Doan Thi Diem, Bach Dang Ward, Halong city
Price: From VND 30,000 to VND 55,000 per dish
Peanut worm (sa sung)
Peanut worm is a type of marine worm that can be found on the sandy shore of Quan Lan Island. There are two common dishes made from peanut worm: fresh peanut worm stir-fried with garlic or dried peanut worm grilled. The brown crispy peanut worm dipped in hot chili sauce and served on fresh heartleaf goes best with a glass of refreshing beer. This is a must-try dish for those who are up for a food challenge while visit Vietnam.
Mangrove horseshoe crab (sam bien)
Mangrove horseshoe crab has a flat round shell like a crab and thus its name. Its meat and the way to extract meat from its shell is also similar to that of a crab. Mangrove horseshoe crab can be used to make different dishes, from simple approaches like steam or grill to more sophisticated recipes like stir-fried with a sweet and sour sauce or with chopped lemongrass and chili mix.
Ocean quahog (ngan)
Ocean quahog is a type of clam; in Vietnamese, it is called “ngan.” Ocean quahog can be steamed, grilled, stir-fried, boiled in porridge or soaked in rice wine to make an alcoholic drink.
You can enjoy many seafood dishes at the markets or some local restaurants below.
Hong Hanh Restaurant
Address: 30 Hai Phuong Street, Hong Hai, Halong City
Opening hours: From 8 AM to 10 PM
Price range: From VND 200,000 to VND 500,000
Cua Vang Restaurant
Address: 32 Phan Chu Trinh Street, Bai Chay, Halong City
Opening hours: 10 AM to 10 PM
Price range: From VND 50,000 to VND 300,000
Linh Dan Restaurant
Address: 104 Bai Chay, Halong City
Opening hours: 7 AM to 10:30 PM
Price range: From VND 60,000 to VND 165,000
Gat Gu rolls (banh gat gu)
It is similar to ordinary steamed rice roll, but the sheet is rolled into a long cylinder, which makes it look like a person is nodding (gat gu) when holding it up straight. Ordinary steamed rice roll is served with sweet fish sauce, but gat gu roll is normally dipped in the sauce of the traditional braised pork known as thit kho tau. You can find the best gat gu roll in Tien Yen City, about 90 kilometers from Halong City.
Address: Ms. Tuyet at 32 Hoa Binh, Tien Yen City
Price: From VND 20,000 to VND 30,000 per kg
Fermented pork sausages (nem chua, nem chao)
When making your trip to Vietnam, you will come across this type of fermented sausage a lot, but it is especially famous in the north. The sausage is made from raw pig meat, mixed with shaved pigskin, fried grind rice/beans/peanut, and spices. After rolling them in a leaf, they are fermented for a few days and then served raw with herbs and sweet fish sauce. The fresh herbs help tone down the provoking flavor of the fermented meat and add texture to the gummy-felt pigskin.
Ca say is a crossbred between a duck and a goose. It can be grilled or boiled and served with a flavorful dipping sauce, combining the taste of the sea from the fish sauce, sweetness in the sassafras tree root and the heat from the ground ginger.
Hoanh Bo rice wine (ruou nep Hoanh Bo)
The special thing about Hoanh Bo rice wine lies in the ingredients; they are collected from local sources. The sticky rice is cooked and fermented along with leaves picked from Hoanh Bo forest. Hoanh Bo rice wine has a slight sweet sense that is good for digestion and makes a refreshing beverage for the summer.
Halong Bay is beautiful in the textbook and will be even more beautiful if seen in person. It has calm water and rocky mountains that is a perfect combination of yin and yang. There are so many things you can do in Halong Bay to make a memorable Vietnam trip, such as challenge yourself with some sports or simply enjoy the best seafood in town and occasionally some unusual but delicious food you cannot find anywhere else. With this comprehensive Halong Bay Vietnam Travel Guide, pack your bag and get ready for some fabulous experience.
Just got back from my first trip to Halong and didn't know I'd missed so many amazing dishes till I read your blog I need to note your suggestions down for my next trip
An incredibly amazing place to visit, and your guide did help me a lot to plan my travel. Your articles are very useful for getting to know about Vietnam's best attractions.