What to do with 3 days on Cat Ba Island – Vietnam.

Cat Ba Island is just off the eastern coast of Vietnam and is the largest of 367 islands making up the Cat Ba Archipelago. It takes around 4 hours to get to from Hanoi to Cat Ba Island via a bus-boat-bus transit. This relatively easy and painless journey will set you back around $11. Many people make a pit stop at Cat Ba Island for a night to visit Halong Bay but I think its worth spending a little more time here, (3 nights is ideal) to explore and relax. The island is full of delicious restaurants, including some great seafood ones. There’s a tonne of budget accommodation options with a plethora of activities such as hiking, snorkelling and water sports – you’ll never be short of things to do.

Cat Ba Island Vietnam
Day 1 – Halong Bay Cruise.

Spend your first day on Cat Ba Island seeing Halong Bay in style. There’s no need to pre-book a tour online – there’s plenty of travel companies on the beach front who will be able to book you a tour for the following day. We arrived on the island mid-afternoon, and we had a tour booked for the following day before sunset. If you have more time you could even book a 1 or two night cruise of Halong Bay. We opted for the 1 day trip, see this post for a full description of what you can expect from the one-day tour.

Day 2 – Cat Ba National Park.

The best way to get around on Cat Ba island is by motorbike. For this you will need to get yourself an international driving licence, if you’re from the UK these only cost £5.50 and lasts for a year. If you’ve never driven a bike in south east Asia before, then Cat Ba Island is a great place to start, with relatively easy driving conditions and quiet roads. There are loads of places around the island to grab a bike for the day, and these normally cost around 80,000 VND for the day. The drive from Cat Ba town into the national park takes around 20 minutes and is simply beautiful. After only a few minutes of driving you will find you have the long winding roads almost to yourself.  

The peak hike takes around 2 hours at a moderate pace and the view from the peak is simply spectacular. A reasonable level of fitness is needed but its not exceptionally difficult. There are small parts of the hike where the surface becomes very steep and a small amount of scrambling is necessary. The view from the peak however is completely worth it! I would however recommend getting up and doing the hike as early as you can, as the weather can be extremely hot and humid. As you reach the top of your ascent there is very little tree cover, so the sun’s rays become extremely brutal.

If you’re not too tired from the hike, you could visit the Hospital Cave on the way back. These caves were used as a secret, bomb proof, hospital during the American war. It’s very interesting and a little spooky to take a wander around. You can get a guide to show you around for a small fee, or just explore on your own.

Day 3 – Relax at the beach.

Treat yourself to a beach day. Cat Ba island has 3 beaches which are imaginatively named Cat Co 1, 2 and 3. The beaches are modest but pleasant and lovely to enjoy an afternoon in the Vietnamese sunshine. I particularly enjoyed beach 2. If you can; get down there early it stays really quiet throughout the morning, until about 3pm, when the locals hit the beach for an afternoon swim. Beach 2 is situated in a large cove, so the high cliff provides plenty of shade meaning there’s no need to splash out on a sun lounger – creating the budget travellers dream. Although the beaches are close to hotels and bars, there was no pressure to purchase anything; and it does mean you’re a little closer to that all important mid-afternoon cocktail, after all!

Cat Ba Island Vietnam
Where to stay:

Great for couples: Cat Ba Sunrise Hotel (£11/$14.3US per night) & Huong Cang Sea View Hotel (£10/$13US per night)

Great for single travellers: Secret Garden Hostel (£8/$10.5US per night) & Cat Ba Pod Hostel (£6/ $7.8US per night)


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