Last Updated 01/02/2024 | 1st February, 2024
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 is a captivating destination renowned for its stunning limestone karsts and lush landscapes. This island offers the perfect blend of natural beauty and cultural charm.
Visitors can explore Cat Ba National Park, enjoy pristine beaches, and savour delicious seafood. The island’s unique blend of adventure and relaxation makes it a must-visit for those seeking an unforgettable experience in the heart of Vietnam’s scenic beauty.
Fear not; there are plenty of things to do on Cat Ba Island for an action-packed three days. Here’s exactly how to spend three days in Cat Ba, Vietnam.
How to Get to Cat Ba Island – Hanoi to Cat Ba
It is very easy to travel from Hanoi to Cat Ba Island.
The cheapest way to travel from Hanoi to Cat Ba Island is via bus-boat-bus transit. This relatively easy and painless journey cost us $11 USD per person.
Multiple tourist operators sell the journey in central Hanoi. However, if you would prefer the security of having this pre-booked, you can do this online beforehand but expect to pay a little extra.
Many people make a pit stop at Cat Ba Island for a night to visit Halong Bay, but it’s well worth spending a little more time here. In fact, three nights on Cat Ba Island is the perfect amount of time to explore and relax.
The island is full of delicious seafood restaurants, there are a ton of budget accommodation options, and there are a plethora of activities, such as hiking, snorkelling, and water sports.
How to Spend Three Days on Cat Ba, Vietnam
Day 1 – Halong Bay Cruise
Cat Ba Island is absolutely beautiful. However, this area’s true pièce de résistance is the spectacular Halong Bay.
I recommend the one-day Halong Bay tour from Cat Ba Island. You can pre-book this online, which will cost you around $35 USD. This is an excellent option if you’re inflexible with time and like the security of having the trip pre-arranged.
However, we found heaps of travel companies on the beach that could book us onto a tour for the very next day. We paid significantly less than the online price, and at $15 USD per person, we had one of our best days in Vietnam.
If you want to spend more time in this stunning area, you can book a one- or two-night cruise around Halong Bay.
Read the Full Article Here: How to See Halong Bay on a Budget
Day 2 – Cat Ba Island National Park
The best way to get around Cat Ba Island is by motorbike. To do this, you will need an international driving licence. If you’re from the UK, these cost £5.50 and can be obtained from the Post Office. They last one year.
I met lots of backpackers in Vietnam who disputed the need for an international driving license. The small matter of legality aside, you will undoubtedly be fined if you are stopped and found not to have one. This fine will typically amount to the price of an international driving licence – therefore, getting the licence is the financially sensible option.
Cat Ba Island is a great place to start if you’ve never driven in Southeast Asia. Compared with the rest of Vietnam, it has relatively easy driving conditions and quiet roads.
There are heaps of places on the island to grab a bike for the day, and you should expect to pay around 100,000 VND for the day. The drive from Cat Ba town into the national park takes around twenty minutes and is simply beautiful. After only a few minutes of driving, you will find that you have the long winding roads almost to yourself.
The Peak Hike – Cat Ba Island National Park
The Peak Hike takes around two hours at a modern pace, and the view from the peak is simply spectacular. A reasonable level of fitness is needed, but it is not exceptionally difficult.
Small parts of the hike become very steep, and a little scrambling is necessary. However, the view from the peak is completely worth it!
I recommend getting up as early as possible to start the hike. The weather in Vietnam gets extremely hot and humid, and there is little to no shade towards the top of the hike. Of course, ensure you have a cap and plenty of water.
The Hospital Caves – Cat Ba Attractions
If you’re not too tired from the hike, you should 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 wander around. For a small fee, you can hire a guide to show you around, or you can explore on your own.
Day 3 – Cat Ba Beach
After two busy days of exploration, it’s time to treat yourself to a beach day.
We explored three of Cat Ba Island’s beaches, imaginatively named Cat Co 1, 2 and 3. These beaches are modest but pleasant and fantastic for enjoying a day in the Vietnamese sunshine.
I particularly enjoyed Beach 2. I recommend getting there as early as possible, as it was very quiet throughout the morning. At around 3 pm, 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. This means there’s no need to splash out on a sun lounger or umbrella – a budget traveller’s dream!
Although the beaches are close to hotels and bars, there is 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 Accommodation
As mentioned, there are tonnes of budget options for accommodation on Cat Ba Island.