10 Things To Do in Phan Thiet – Mui Ne— Vietnam’s Surfing Paradise

10 Things To Do in Phan Thiet - Mui Ne

Phan Thiet (Vietnamese spelling: Phan Thiết) city is in Central Vietnam, about 200 km north of Ho Chi Minh City. It has a tropical climate with the coolest months being October to February, and the hottest April and May. The total population is around 350 000.

Phan Thiet was just another city in Binh Thuan (Bình Thuận) province until a fateful day changed things forever. On 24 October 1995, a total solar eclipse attracted hundreds of  visitors and researchers from around the world. Since then, the hitherto hidden attractions were brought into the light and international tourism took off.

Mui Ne (Vietnamese spelling: Mũi Né) is a cape and one of the most popular tourist attractions 14 km away from the center of Phan Thiet city. Far from its humble roots with a scattering of fishing villages, its tourist industry has bloomed into numerous resorts and other investments. 

With its shallow waters, year-round sunny skies, and stormless weather, Phan Thiet – Mui Ne is an ideal beach getaway. Besides Vietnamese, many visitors here are from Russia and China.

Top Things To Do in Phan Thiet – Mui Ne

Mui Ne has some of the best things to do in Phan Thiet. You can ride the waves at Surfers’ Paradise, surf the Red Sand Dunes, or stroll along to the photogenic Fairy Spring.  

For some adventuring out, explore the ancient ruins at Po Sah Inu Cham Towers, or go on a spiritual quest up the heights of Ta Cu Mountain Pagoda. At Van Thuy Tu Temple you can see hundreds of whale skeletons that were washed ashore.

For some sea ventures, the Ke Ga Cape is a masterpiece of natural scenery and it’s a fun bamboo basket ride away. And a boat trip to Phu Quy Island will take you to some stunning untouched beaches with coral diving just off shore.

If you want to know more about Vietnamese cuisine in Phan Thiet, join Mui Ne Cooking School. There’s also the Mui Ne Fishing Village where you can sample some of the freshest and most exotic seafoods. 

View all the locations mentioned in this article.

1. Surfing is One of the Best Things to Do in Phan Thiet – Mui Ne

Surfing is One of the Best Things to Do in Phan Thiet - Mui Ne
[ by Tri Nguyen from Flickr ]

The beaches of Phan Thiet – Mui Ne are fast becoming a surfers’ paradise. The best time to surf in Phan Thiet – Mui Ne is around October when the surf is clear and consistently good.

You can find schools for surfboarding, windsurfing, and kitesurfing with Russian and English speaking instructors at the beaches, or via Tripadvisor. They are a great help to newcomers and seasoned surfers alike.

  • Phan Thiet Beach (Bãi biển Phan Thiết) is close to Po Sah Inu Cham Towers.
  • Mui Ne Beach (Bãi biển Mũi Né) is close to the Red Sand Dunes.
  • Ong Dia Pier/Ong Dia Rock (Bãi đá Ông Địa) is also close to Po Sah Inu Cham Towers with a lot of resorts around.
  • Hon Rom (Hòn Rơm) is an onshore island 14m away from the city center where you can book not only jet skis, but also paragliding and even hot air balloon rides.

2. Freshest Catch of the Day at Mui Ne Fishing Village

Freshest Catch of the Day at Mui Ne Fishing Village
[ by Matias Malka from Unsplash ]

The best thing to do in Mui Ne Fishing Village (làng chài Mũi Né) is to handpick the tastiest looking seafood and have it cooked up right by the beach. The village is 23 km away from the center of Phan Thiet and the place where local fishermen gather before and after the catch.

The best grub comes early morning around 6 AM when the first catch arrives, but the market will continue until around 4 PM. The seafood here is even cheaper than at local markets. 

You can have the vendors quickly steam your pick for a hearty take-away to enjoy by the beach or in your hotel room. It’s way cheaper than a restaurant but remember to pay attention to your batch in case they mix it up.

3. Sliding Down the Mui Ne Red Sand Dunes

Sliding Down the Mui Ne Red Sand Dunes
[by shadoweng93 from Unsplash ]

The Red Sand Dunes (đồi Cát Hồng) are a unique natural landscape about 10 km away from the city center. The reddish-brown sand slopes surrounded by vegetation look like a miniature Middle-eastern dessert.

Sand-sledding from the top of the dunes is one of the favorite things to do in Phan Thiet – Mui Ne. For 20 000 VND, you can have a simple plastic sled all to yourself and slide into the sunset.

Speaking of which, the tallest hilltop here has the perfect view of the sunset over the beach. It’s 5km to the top and you can rent quad bikes or sand buggies. If you choose to get there on foot, bring a good pair of walking shoes as the sand can get pretty hot.

You can bargain politely if you find the sleds, quad bikes, and sand buggies overpriced. People sell water and snacks around so you don’t have to carry them. Wear sunscreen if you’re gonna hang out here for a while because the sun can get quite hot.

Protip: Bau Trang White Sand Dunes (Đồi Cát Bàu Trắng) is a less crowded alternative with a lotus lake and pine trees for shades.

4. Stroll Along to the Photogenic Fairy Spring

Stroll Along to the Photogenic Fairy Spring
[ by roosterd1992 from Unsplash ]

Fairy Spring (Suối Tiên) is another fascinating natural landscape in Phan Thiet – Mui Ne. The adventure there takes you through a water fissure between red and white sand dunes, and rock formations in the Red Canyon. Palm trees along the way make it all quite snap worthy.

Don’t be shy about taking off your shoes and walking in the stream. It’s only ankle-deep and never gets above your knees. You’ll need a good pair of walking shoes though to hike up the hot sandy dunes or on the jagged rocks.

It takes around one hour to reach the end of the stream and there are food and drinks vendors as well as diners en route. There’s also a fishing spot with shade and refreshments provided near the entrance.

5. Explore Hindu Ruins at Po Sah Inu Cham Towers

Explore Hindu Ruins at Po Sah Inu Cham Towers
[ by Dmitry Lopatin from Facebook ]

Po Sah Inu Cham Towers (Tháp Chăm Phố Hài) is another key cultural Cham structure in Vietnam alongside My Son Sanctuary and Po Nagar Tower. It’s about 15 km from the city center on top of Ong Hoang Hill (đồi ông Hoàng) or Ba Nai Hill (đồi Bà Nài).

The complex comprises ruins of three temples dedicated to Hindu deities Shiva, Agni, and Andi dating back to the late 8th century. There’re also temples worshiping Princess Po Sah Inu from the 15th century, hence the name. Many sources mistake the name as Po Shanu. 

The local Cham community still gathers here for annual festivals and ceremonies. Local fishermen also come to pray before setting sail.

From its hilltop location, you can catch a view of Phan Thiet city and the coastline. If you continue walking around, you’ll find the ruins of an old French building (Lầu Ông Hoàng) where Vietnamese poet Hàn Mặc Tử used to spend time with his lover Mộng Cầm.

6. Giant Whale Skeleton at Van Thuy Tu Temple

Giant Whale Skeleton at Van Thuy Tu Temple
[ by Dvdl Tuấn Vũ from Facebook ]

Van Thuy Tu Temple (đình Vạn Thuỷ Tú) is the largest and oldest temple some 22 km from the center of Phan Thiet. Construction started in 1762 and it was built to worship the Whale (Cá Ông) or Lord of the South Sea (thần Nam Hải). 

Today, this temple houses over 500 skeletal remains of whales that were washed ashore— including one which is 22 meters long. Also on display are artifacts from the Nguyen Dynasty such as 24 royal decrees from different kings.

Locals believe that whales are benevolent creatures and protectors of fishermen out at sea. Festivals and ceremonies are held annually to pray for a safe voyage. Visitors are welcome to watch and participate.

7. Spiritual Quest to Ta Cu Mountain Pagoda

Spiritual Quest to Ta Cu Mountain Pagoda
[ by Anton Shuvalov from Unsplash ]

Ta Cu Mountain Pagoda (Chùa Núi Tà Cú) is on Ta Cu Mountain about 52 km away from the city center. This 400-meter-high mountain is a gathering place for people in search of spiritual and natural presence.

The easy way is by cable car which is 15 minutes to the top with great surrounding views. The way of the seeker has around 1000 paved steps from the bottom and it takes around 3 hours to complete the quest.

The complex includes the Ancestor Cave (Hang Tổ) where Trần Hữu Đức, the first monk of the pagoda, lived. Then there’s the Lower Pagoda (Long Đoàn), the Upper Pagoda (Linh Sơn Trường Thọ), and the popular sleeping Buddha.

Visitors can combine the cable car with walking to explore the pagodas. On the mountain, there’s also the Ta Cu tourist area with hotels, restaurants, cafes, swan boats, and a fishing spot.

8. Get Choppy at Mui Ne Cooking School

Get Choppy at Mui Ne Cooking School
[ by Mui Ne Cooking School from Facebook ]

Mui Ne Cooking School is a great place to get to know your Vietnamese dishes with hands-on English speaking instructors. You can choose to join the cooking class with or without a visit to the fresh market, and if you’re feeling it, book their street food tour by night.

Depending on the day, you will get to cook dishes such as  Vietnamese beef noodle soup (phở bò), Vietnamese pancakes Mui Ne style (bánh xèo), fresh spring rolls (gỏi cuốn), and other popular favorites including desserts.  For more information, check out their website at muinecookingschool.com.

9. Nature’s Masterpiece at Ke Ga Cape

Nature’s Masterpiece at Ke Ga Cape
[ by evgeny nikolaev from Flickr ]

Ke Ga Cape (Mũi Kê Gà) is an untouched natural formation of granite rock. It’s about 54 km from the center of Phan Thiet and once you get there, you can join tours to the local seafood market or go boat fishing. In the evening, there’s crab catching, or you can hang around a beach campfire.

Visitors can take a short 500 m bamboo basket boat ride to the Ke Ga Lighthouse which is the oldest and tallest in Vietnam. It’s noted for its octagonal shape and was built between 1897 and 1899 by the French. 

The path leading to the lighthouse is surrounded by weeping willow ranges and scattered boulders. After 183 steps up the spiral staircase to the top of the lighthouse, this view over everything is no less than breath-taking. 

10. Coral Diving at Phu Quy Island

Coral Diving at Phu Quy Island
[ by Nguyễn Anh Tuấn from Tripadago ]

Phu Quy Island (đảo Phú Quý) is a hidden gem of Binh Thuan Province 56 nautical miles away from Phan Thiet. Boats depart from Phan Thiet Terminal (cảng Phan Thiết) and take three to six hours depending on the boat you choose.

Coming here, you can explore the untouched beaches, take some great photos at the natural miniature sea pools, and do some coral diving. You can also buy seafood for cheap and have it cooked at the local market.

This area has some of the tastiest exotic seafood on offer including true conchs or strombidae (ốc nhảy), red groupers (cá mú đỏ), sea urchins (nhum biển/cầu gai), Caulerpa lentillifera (rong nho) which is an edible seaweed usually found in Japanese cuisine, and sea cucumber (hải sâm).

How to Get to Phan Thiet – Mui Ne

Coaches (travel buses) to Phan Thiet – Mui Ne can easily be booked from Ho Chi Minh City at the city’s bus terminals, main stations, and also online. Futa Bus Lines is a popular choice to get to Phan Thiet. Bookaway (can get you to Mui Ne) and Vexere are good booking agencies. Travel coaches provide water, air-conditioning, and possibly wifi.

Getting Around Phan Thiet – Mui Ne

Grab is the equivalent of Uber in Vietnam with an English homepage. For a single person, Grab Bike is really cheap. Grab Car is still less expensive than a taxi and can be booked for the day. An Internet connection and a phone number to receive SMS are required. 

Buses are convenient to move around the city with Google Maps. With our Google Maps Link, you can get directions to your destinations. In the Public Transportation tab, you can see which bus to take (each bus has a number for the route), where to get off, and the extra walking distance. Tickets for one stop are around 7 000 VND. 

Motorbike Rental Services can easily be found online via Tripadvisor and at your hotel or homestay. A passport is required to rent a bike. Just in case, it’s recommended to carry your international and national driving license when riding, and purchase an insurance. Having a motorbike is the most convenient for getting around Phan Thiet – Mui Ne.

Traveling Tips for Phan Thiet – Mui Ne

Best Time to Visit: October to February when the weather is nice and the sea is calm.

Food: You can use Google Maps to search for nearby diners for cheap breakfast options and fresh seafood at a cheaper price than tourist restaurants.

Accommodation: Local homestays are a good way to save some money.

Environment: Be mindful of the environment. For example, don’t absentmindedly leave trash on the beaches.

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