The Amazing Cat Ba Island of Vietnam: A Complete Travel Guide

The Amazing Cat Ba Island of Vietnam: A Complete Travel Guide

Cat Ba Island (đảo Cát Bà) is the biggest island in the  Cat Ba Archipelago within Lan Ha Bay (vịnh Lan Hạ). This island / town is in Hai Phong (Hải Phòng) city, around 25 km away from Halong city, and about 150 km away from Hanoi.

Cat Ba Island has a surface area of 25 km2 with a tropical monsoon climate. The rainy season is from July to August, and the sunny period is from April to August. The average temperature is 25 – 28 oC.

Things To Do in Cat Ba Island

Things To Do in Cat Ba Island
[ by Rowan Heuvel from Unsplash ]

For the longest time, Cat Ba has only been known as a place to book Halong Bay tours for cheap. Being overlooked as a major destination has allowed Cat Ba to preserve more of its natural beauty. However, more tourist development, for better or for worse, is already underway.

Nowadays, more and more people come to Cat Ba Island as a quieter alternative to the busy and crowded Halong Bay. It also has just as many quality things to do.

Cat Co Beaches

Cat Co Beaches
Cat Co Beaches on Cat Ba Island
[ by Hoài Sơn Lý from Flickr ]

Cat Co Beaches (Bãi Cát Cò) are the most popular beaches on the island and include Cat Co 1, 2, and 3 surrounded by mountains. You can take a leisurely stroll from one beach to another, or swim in the emerald, turquoise waters. 

A nice way to finish off the day is a seafood sundowner with a few drinks. If you’re lucky, on Cat Co 2, you may catch the mesmerizing phenomenon of bioluminescent plankton after twilight. 

Cat Ba National Park

Cat Ba National Park
Cat Ba National Park on Cat Ba Island
[ by Cyrille Lemoing from Flickr ]

Cat Ba National Park (Vườn quốc gia Cát Bà) is a great place for trekking or hiking, and a chance of seeing the Cat Ba Langur. You can also explore Trung Trang Cave, or hike the 2-hour trail to Ngu Lam Peak (đỉnh núi Ngự Lâm) for the view of the entire island. 

The most highlighted trekking route starts from the entrance and crosses Frog Lake (Ao Ếch) to Viet Hai Fishing Village. This route is around 15 km long including a 2-hour boat ride or kayaking. Remember to keep your tickets while you’re there.

Viet Hai Fishing Village

Viet Hai Fishing Village
Viet Hai Fishing Village on Cat Ba Island
[ by Lê Tân from Unsplash ]

Viet Hai Fishing Village (làng chài Việt Hải) is an ideal place to unwind from the busy towns. You can bike around enjoying the calm atmosphere of the village and the friendliness of the local farmers.

Hospital Cave

Hospital Cave on Cat Ba Island
Hospital Cave on Cat Ba Island
[ by Giang Chinh from Vnexpress ]

Hospital Cave (Hang Quân Y) might deceive you because its entrance looks just like any other natural cave. However, once inside, there’s an entire infrastructure that was used for treating the wounded in the American War.

Cai Beo Floating Village

Cai Beo Floating Village
Cai Beo Floating Village on Cat Ba Island
[ by Kai H from Flickr ]

Cai Beo Floating Village (làng chài Cái Bèo), or Vụng Ó Fisherman Village, is one of Vietnam’s oldest floating villages dating back to the stone and bronze ages. You can get there by boat from Beo Terminal (Bến Bèo).

The village consists of boathouses as well as platforms with living quarters and aquaculture farms. Here you can also get bargain-priced local delicacies cooked on the spot, and served with a magnificent sea view.

Monkey Island

Monkey Island on Cat Ba Island
Monkey Island on Cat Ba Island
[ by Constant Loubier from Unsplash ]

Boats from Beo Terminal also go to Monkey Island (đảo Khỉ) if you’re interested in wildlife— especially monkeys. This island also has a nice beach to relax on. The resort there provides rental kayaks and snorkeling to the coral reef. 

The monkeys are familiar with humans so keep an eye on your belongings because they may snatch your purse or phone. However, they are still wild animals, so be careful around them.

Kayaking 

Kayaking on Cat Ba Island
Kayaking on Cat Ba Island
[ by MICHOFF from Pixabay ]

Cat Ba Island is an excellent place to rent a kayak and paddle around the islands and islets of Lan Ha Bay. Kayaks can be rented for half a day at Beo Terminal, Monkey Island, and Cai Beo Floating Village

Highlighted attractions are Dark and Light Cave (Hang Sáng Tối), Three Peaches Beach (Bãi Ba Trái Đào), Vem Cave – Thinh Linh Valley (Hang Vẹm – Áng Thình Lình).

If you’re new to this sport, book a tour that includes kayaking instead of venturing by yourself. Tours usually include snorkeling and fishing.

Rock climbing

Rock climbing on Cat Ba Island
Rock climbing on Cat Ba Island
[ by Jody McIntyre from Flickr ]

Cat Ba Island is a climbers’ paradise whether you’re seasoned or new to the sport. Climbing spots can be found on Van Boi (Vạn Bội) and Dau Be (Đầu Bê) Islands, near Beo Terminal, and the most popular in Butterfly Valley (thung lũng Liên Minh).

You have to get a day permit for Butterfly Valley. They also have gear for rent and guides to tag along if you’re a novice.

Cannon Fort

Cannon Fort on Cat Ba Island
Canon Fort on Cat Ba Island
[ by Thanh_Do from Pixabay ]

Cannon Fort (pháo đài thần công) has a turret-turned-bar for a perfect sunset view of the entire Lan Ha Bay. The fort is a historical monument with a tunnel system, cannons, and trench fortifications of the First and Second Vietnam War.

Nightlife

Nightlife at Cat Ba
Nightlife on Cat Ba Island
[ by Cole Keister from Unsplash ]

After a day of going around Cat Ba Island, it’s nice to chill a bit at the bars, and pubs. Or better yet, have dinner and maybe sing karaoke on floating barges near Cat Co Beaches.

Head to Halong Bay

Head to Halong Bay
Head to Halong Bay from Cat Ba Island
[ by REVOLT from Unsplash ]

Cat Ba Island is an ideal middle ground between Hanoi and Halong Bay. You can find tours to Halong at a much cheaper price, or take the ferry from Gia Luan Terminal (bến phà Gia Luận) to Tuan Chau Island.

How to Get to Cat Ba Island

Hanoi – Hai Phong – Cat Ba Island

You can book a tour directly from Hanoi

Alternatively, there are coaches straight to Cat Ba Island from designated pick-up points in Hanoi and online. The ticket covers the ferry from Got Terminal (bến phà Gót) in Hai Phong city to Cai Vieng Terminal (bến phà Cái Viềng) on Cat Ba Island. Coaches provide wifi, air-conditioning, and water.

Coaches (Travel Buses) cost around 250 000 VND per person with around  20 seats or more. Reliable brands include Hoàng Long bus and ferry company or Kumho Việt Thanh intercity bus services. Good booking agencies are Vexere and Viator.

Alternatives include booking a flight or train to Hai Phong from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, then going to Hai Phong’s Got Terminal and buying a ticket to Cat Ba’s Cai Vieng Terminal.

Check out our curated maps for the directions.

Halong Bay – Cat Ba Island

You can book Cat Ba tours from Hanoi that include Halong Bay. If you’re on your own, the ferry from Gia Luan Terminal on Cat Ba Island is connected to Tuan Chau Terminal on Tuan Chau Island.

If you want to get to Halong Bay first, check out our article on ‘15 Things To Do in Halong Bay: A UNESCO World Heritage Site’.

Check out our curated maps for the directions.

Traveling Tips for Cat Ba Island

Be as mindful of the environment as possible, especially at natural attractions.

Getting Around Cat Ba Island

Tours are always a stress-free option. You may also find some unexpected gems this way. You can find booking agencies on sites like Tripadvisor.

Motorbike and bicycle rental services can be found close to the ferry terminal or via booking agencies. Bicycles allow for the most freedom in getting around the island.

Taxis are also available on the islands. It’s better to choose reliable companies like Vinasun and Mai Linh.

Electric vans are convenient for moving short distances to beaches on the island.

Best Time to Visit Cat Ba Island

April to June and September to November have nice weather. From September to November, there are also fewer visitors and you can get better deals on tours. 

Avoid weekends and holidays, especially summers, as this island is now quite a popular attraction.

Where to Stay in Cat Ba Island

Local hostels or homestays tend to be cheaper and you can find them via Google Maps. You can also get luxury cruise ship tours at hotels or online.

What to Eat in Cat Ba Island

Besides everyday seafood which you can get in any local hotpot restaurant, Cat Ba Island has many exotic signature dishes:

Crawfish (bề bề) fresh out the sea and then crispy-fried is amazing with beer. Crawfish noodle soup makes for a light and hearty breakfast.

Geoduck (tu hài) is well-known for its peculiar shape and it tastes particularly delicious grilled, in a salad, or with rice congee.

Where to Eat in Cat Ba Island

You can use Google Maps to search for nearby local diners, rather than fancy tourist restaurants. They can save you some money while delivering the same freshness.

What to Bring to Cat Ba Island

  • Drybags are a life-saver when you’re kayaking.
  • A GoPro is great for recording your trip.
  • A USB power pack will come in handy for long treks to make sure your phone doesn’t run out of battery.
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