Danang

Son Tra Peninsula: Thrilling Views from Da Nang Monkey Mountain

Da Nang city lies just below the geographic dividing line of the Son Tra mountain range. The last of these mountains taper off in the Son Tra Peninsula (Vietnamese spelling: Bán đảo Sơn Trà). It’s a designated Special Conservation Area with over 100 animal species. 

These include especially the endangered Redshank monkey, but also rhesus, golden, and long-tailed macaque monkeys. Other encounters could be with small deer, a rare python slithering along, but probably not the pygmy slow loris (cu li nhỏ)— which is pretty small and nocturnal. 

The peninsula is also home to an 800-year-old giant banyan tree. Son Tra is also known as Tiên Sa which means Fairy Landing Place. It’s believed these little people still come to dance and play here. 

What to Expect and Prep for on Son Tra Peninsula 

Redshank Monkey Son Tra Peninsula
Redshank Monkey Son Tra Peninsula
[ by Thuyhaibich from Pixabay ]

The Son Tra Peninsula is mostly a scenic route with some fun stop-offs along the way. There are fabulous views of the East Asia Sea all the way to the northern point. You can get panoramic vistas of the Danang from the ground and from up high. 

If you want to enjoy some cultural stop-offs, those are at the start of your journey. Along the eastern side are some nice beaches, rock pools, and restaurants so you may want to take along your swimwear, a towel, or even some snorkeling gear.

In some parts, especially if you venture down to beach viewpoints, rocky areas, or the giant banyan tree, you will need a good pair of sneakers rather than sandals or flip flops. All the roads and sites are generally well signposted.

How Da Nang Son Tra Peninsula Became Monkey Mountain 

South Peak of USAF Monkey Mountain Facility 1967
South Peak of USAF Monkey Mountain Facility 1967
[ by Tommy Japan 79 from CC ]

The Son Tra Peninsula has always been home to the peculiar Redshank monkeys and other simian troupes, but it was during the Vietnam War that American occupying forces coined the nickname Monkey Mountain (Núi Khỉ). 

Due to its strategic elevation and views over the Danang plain and towards China Beach or My Khe Beach (biển Mỹ Khê), the US Air Force constructed the Monkey Mountain Facility and a supporting ground station base. 

Part of the mission was to build a radar station to intercept North Vietnamese communications on the north peak, construct a road to there, and a road linking the north and south peaks— which was actually a difficult task.  

In the process, the south peak was partly leveled to provide 20 acres of space for a missile battery, living quarters, and some shops. Later, the north peak became the new tactical air control – north center (TACC-NS) which controlled air operations over North Vietnam and liaised with navy aircraft tracking systems. 

Best Way to Get Around Son Tra Peninsula

Best Way to Get Around Son Tra Peninsula
[ by Stacy Bellestri from Facebook ]

You need a car, a van, or a motorbike to get around Danang’s Monkey Mountain. But, if you’re really up to it, there’s no reason not to rent a mountain bike. Going by tour is often a good choice, and these may include Marble Mountain Caves and Dragon Bridge— especially if you’re coming from Hoi An. 

More About Marble Mountain Caves

Another tour favorite is to do both the Son Tra Peninsula and then move up the coast to the Hai Van Pass (đèo Hải Vân) all the way down to Lang Co Beach (biển Lăng Cô). This way you can experience two of the best scenic routes of Danang and central Vietnam. 

It’s always nice though to make a day of it on the peninsula. The best way is by motorbike and you should make sure to fill up with gas because the roads take their toll. There are steep and bumpy sections with possible rock slippage around corners. It’s best to get a bike with a bit of power and to ride carefully.   

If you go by motorbike (or bicycle) you’re far more likely to spot the Redshank monkeys. If a motorbike is not your first choice, then you can either hire a private car and driver for the day or a ride-hailing service like Grab. Hiring a taxi for all the sites would be expensive.

Things to See and Do on Son Tra Peninsula: Da Nang Monkey Mountain

If you’re traveling by car you can easily get to most of these places. A few of the beaches are better accessed if you just have a bike.

View all the locations mentioned

1. Museum and Zen Garden near Son Tra  Peninsula

Museum and Zen Garden near Son Tra  Peninsula
[ by Sơn Trà Tịnh Viên from Facebook ]

Before you even get to the Linh Ung Pagoda, which is often the starting point of the Son Tra tour, there are a couple of local public spaces nearby worth a visit. 

One is Sơn Trà Tịnh Viên. It’s a kind of Zen Peace Garden with a small Koi Lake and neatly curated bamboo groves of over 100 bamboo species. Before you turn right up the peninsula road, hang a left and go up the mountainside as far as you can. 

The other place is Dong Dinh Museum (Bảo tàng Đồng Đình). It’s a kind of quirky private museum with a nice garden and objects dating to even the Sa Huỳnh and Cham eras, There’s also a house built of old bamboo fishing boats. The entrance fee is only 20 000 VND. It’s on your left on the bend before you come to the big pagoda. 

2. Linh Ung Lady Buddha Pagoda

Linh Ung Lady Buddha Pagoda
[ by thanhhoa tran from Pexels ]

The Linh Ung Pagoda (chùa Linh Ứng), otherwise known as the Lady Buddha Pagoda is most certainly a place not to be missed while in Danang. It’s free to enter with just a small bike parking fee. 

Here you can get your first glimpses of the Peninsula and great views of Danang. At the bottom end of the Lady Buddha, you may even have your first monkey encounter, but the monkeys here are not the Redshanks.  

If you’re in Danang for a while, you may want to just skip this pagoda and visit on another day. This way you can have more time to see and do other things on the Son Tra Peninsula, and it’s easy to get a taxi to the pagoda any time you want. 

Discover more about Linh Ung Pagoda 

3. Beaches and Restaurants on Da Nang Monkey Mountain

Bai Ran Beach
Bai Ran Beach on Son Tra Peninsula
[ by Nhà hàng BẢY BAN from Facebook ]

As you head away from the pagoda and just before the Son Tra Spa & Resort, there’s a turn off down to a couple of beach enclaves. There are restaurants here and stilted sala pavilions with picturesque views. 

Bay Ban Restaurant is the best place here with good seafood, while the others are kind of hit and miss. The shoreline is very rocky, but if the tide is out there’s some sandy beach to paddle around, and you can do some snorkeling too. 

Bay Ban Restaurant
[ by Nhà hàng BẢY BAN from Facebook ]

However, if you continue along past the resort you’ll come to Bai Nam or South Beach. South Beach has some wonderful views and is fairly well known. This beach is great for swimming, there may still be some watersports you can do here, and you can get food. 

If you just want to stop by a smaller, quainter kind of beach, then you can head a little further down to Bai Da or Da Beach. This little enclave is a mostly rocky shoreline with some beach and wooden Sala platforms. It can get really busy with locals and kids on the weekends, and there’s also a good quality restaurant here called Trường Ngọc Quán.

4. Ghenh Bang Rapids and Cliff Face

Ghenh Bang Rapids and Cliff Face
[ by James Owen from Facebook ]

Ghenh Bang Rapids (Ghềnh Bàng) is a nice stop, but you need a motorbike to get down the bumpy road. The walk to the shore also requires good shoes, and unfortunately there’s quite a bit of litter around. 

At the bottom, you can walk along the rocky shore flanked by bare cliffs. The turn off is just after the main peninsula road, Hoàng Sa, forks and you follow the right fork which will also take you to the giant banyan tree.

5.  The Giant Banyan Tree and Mui Nghe

The Giant Banyan Tree and Mui Nghe
[ by Nhacsi Minhchau from Facebook ]

This tree, known as ‘Cây đa Sơn Trà’, is one thing you don’t want to miss on your Monkey Mountain tour. You continue along the right fork in Hoàng Sa road and then take a right. The road leads you 4 km through the eastern part of the peninsula and Danang’s giant banyan tree is at the end of the road. 

The tree is quite something to behold. It’s 22 meters high and 85 meters wide and about 800 years old. This area was also used by guerilla groups during the war. 

Mui Nghe (Mũi Nghê), or Lion Nose Cape, is a more recently popular locale. Not far from the banyan tree, you will find a tricky forest path down to this area. The large rock boulders, big rock pools, and photo spots are quite impressive. Recently the path down here has been closed or access restricted for safety reasons, particularly in the stormy season.  

6. Son Tra Peninsula Lighthouse

Son Tra Peninsula Lighthouse
[ by Vietdung from Pixabay ]

The lighthouse, or ‘Hải đăng Sơn Trà’, is situated more or less towards the north point of the peninsula. It’s about 4 km from the Banyan Tree. As you head back up the road, you will come to a turning and sign that perhaps you noticed before. This road leads directly to the lighthouse. 

If you’re all for scenic views, especially of the ocean, it’s worth the trek and you can go up into the lighthouse. You have to double track back along the same road, so depending on the time, going here is a strategic decision. 

7. The Exclusive West Side 

The Exclusive West Side
[ image by Vishwas Katti from Unsplash ]

Coming back from the Banyan tree, at the intersection of Hoang Sa road, if you turn right and head north, you’ll reach the western part of the peninsula. There’s a number of exclusive resorts and other hotels here, including the Intercontinental Danang. 

They share one of the nicest beaches in Danang, namely Bai Bac Beach (Bãi Bắc). Part of this beach is closed off for turtle protection, other parts are exclusive to resorts, but locals do come here. You have to find a place to park your bike at one of the local shops and ask about a nearby public entry point.

8. Monkey Pass to Ban Co Peak on Monkey Mountain

Monkey Pass to Ban Co Peak on Monkey Mountain
[ by An Bàng Blue Dolphin Homestay from Facebook ]

From the banyan tree intersection, Money Pass doubles back a little parallel to Hoang Sa and then heads off through the center of the peninsula. Eventually you’ll come to the elevated scenic spot of Ban Co Peak (Đỉnh Bàn Cờ) with a giant Confucius statue, also known as Chess Table. It’s from here that you can get those amazing vista views of Danang city. 

Just before you get to this point is the turn off the paragliding spot. But due to the 2020 pandemic, paragliding has come to a temporary halt and may continue again in the future. 

9. Radar Station and Boom Boom Rock 

Boom Boom Rock during the Vietnam War
Boom Boom Rock during the Vietnam War
[ by Tourane – Đà Nẵng xưa from Facebook ]

As you head over the Peninsula towards the west, you’ll come to the last of the sightseeing attractions namely the scenic viewpoint Nhà Vọng Cảnh, and the nearby historic Radar Station, but you cannot enter the buildings. 

As you meander down, the last stop is Boom Boom Rock (tảng đá Bùm Bùm), so named by American troops. It’s a large boulder that became popular at the time and GI’s also inscribed graffiti there. Things are pretty overgrown now and you could miss it, but it’s right behind powerpost 74.

Other Places on Son Tra Peninsula

Other Places on Son Tra Peninsula
[ by Happy Alma from Facebook ]

Once you pass the Boom Boom Rock, the road takes you back down to the end of your tour. However, if you have time, then you can always work your way around to the west side of the peninsula towards Tien Sa Port on the Bay of Danang. 

Here you can stop by Tien Sa Beach (bãi biển Tiên Sa). It’s not so well known to foreign tourists, but it’s a really beautiful beach and the absolute best place to catch the sunset at the end of your tour. The beach also has free showers. This location is part of the Tien Sa Ecotourism Site. 

Just before you get to the beach parking there’s a cemetery park just off the main Yết Kiêu road. It’s a resting place for Spanish and French who were buried here towards the late 1800s. 

Boat Tours, Diving, and Fishing Around Son Tra Peninsula 

Boat tours can take to more inaccessible areas and also include caves and coral diving around rare coral. Tours will pick you up from your hotel, and boats often depart from Bai Nam or South Beach.

Locations can include Bai But and Bai Rang beaches, Bat and Yen Caves, the rocky Nghe Cape, and Ngoc Island. There are also fishing and canoe tours available. 

Discover more about Things To Do in Danang

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