Vietnam

Vung Tau Beach City — Overlooked Waves near Ho Chi Minh City

Vung Tau (Vietnamese spelling: Vũng Tàu) is known for offshore petroleum drilling and being a nice city near Saigon. The name can be translated to ‘anchorage’ referring to the European port trading activities here during the 14th and 15th centuries.

Vung Tau City spans over 141 km2 in Ba Ria – Vung Tau Province with a tropical savanna climate. The city’s population is over 500 000 with the majority following Buddhism, and then Catholicism.

How to Get to Vung Tau

How to Get to Vung Tau
[ by Long Bún from Unsplash ]

Vung Tau beach city is about 86 km, or around two hours from Ho Chi Minh City. Vung Tau just has a small cargo airport, so the only way there is by road.

1. Limousine buses, or VIP limousine as they like to call it, is probably the cheapest and most comfortable way. They provide air-conditioning, water, and possibly wifi at around 150 000 VND on the booking website Vexere.

2. Motorbike rentals can easily be found online and they can come with insurance. Requirements include your passport and your international driver’s license, in addition to your national one.

3. If you fancy enjoying the sea breeze on a boat trip, then take a hydrofoil ferry from Bach Dang Harbor in Ho Chi Minh City. It’s just a little bit over 200 000 VND and you can get some good deals on Klook.

Interesting Things To Do at the Beach of Vung Tau

Hop on a bike or feel the ocean breeze rustling your hair as you cruise the coastline of Vung Tau. Interesting destinations are scattered along the shorefront, or not far inland hugging the mountainsides.

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1. Front Beach and Back Beach of Vung Tau

Vung Tau Beaches
[ by Kon Karampelas from Unsplash ]

Vung Tau as a city is partially surrounded by modern coastline developments comprising the Front Beach and Back Beach. There are more untouched beaches in the city’s outskirts and also across the province waiting to be exploited.

The Back Beach (bãi Sau) or Thuy Van Beach (bãi Thuỳ Vân) have the best scenery of Vung Tau. It’s where people like to dip in the ocean and even score some easy surfing. It also has hotels and diners of different price ranges. Not to mention, some of the best vantage points in Vung Tau are also in this area.

The Front Beach (bãi Trước) or Tam Duong Beach (bãi Tầm Dương) is arguably the actual hub of Vung Tau. It’s filled with French colonial architecture, religious buildings, other tourist attractions, and also resorts and restaurants.

2. Statue of Jesus Christ

Statue of Jesus Christ
[ by harryruhr from Pixabay ]

The Jesus Christ Statue is officially known as ‘Christ the King, of Vung Tau’ — the tallest one in Vietnam. It’s 170 m above sea level on the top of Small Mountain (Núi Nhỏ) — a great point to view the city. This National Heritage Site is just a bit taller than the one in Rio de Janeiro at 32 meters.

Built in 1974, its pedestal has a carving of ‘Christ and the 12 Apostles’. To get to it, you’ll have to climb 1 000 steps or 500 m of a stone-paved path. Then, you’ll need to take another 133 steps of spiral staircase inside the statue. It’s quite narrow and steep — so be careful and don’t push.

The arms actually serve as balconies for visitors to climb out and soak in the scenery. Prepared to be blown away, but since the wind can get pretty strong, make sure it’s not physically. Being the physical challenge that it is, the statue still welcomes hundreds to thousands of visitors daily.

3. Vung Tau Lighthouse

Vung Tau Lighthouse

Vung Tau Lighthouse (Hải đăng Vũng Tàu) is 18 meters tall, first built in 1862 and relocated in 1919. It’s another great tall vantage point also on the top of Small Mountain. The way up, however, is entirely different and super photogenic. 

The nicest time to visit is during Summer when the trees around are brimming with life. If the Jesus Christ Statue is ideal to visit during the day, then the afternoon suits the lighthouse best.

It takes around 30 minutes to reach by vehicle but you can also go on foot. Similar to the Christ Statue, you’ll often see locals walking up here as daily exercise.

It’s a residential area at the base of the mountain, but there are directional signs pointing to the only way up. Along the way up are a few coffee shops for resting and taking in the view. Make sure to reach the top by sunset to get the sweetest photos and leave before it’s too dark.

4. White Palace or Villa Blanche

White Palace Vung Tau

The White Palace, or Villa Blanche (Bạch Dinh), is the best-preserved piece of French colonial architecture in Vung Tau. Paul Doumer, Governor-General of French Indochina from 1897 to 1902, dedicated this building to his daughter, Blanche Richel Doumer.

It was built on Big Mountain (Núi Lớn) from 1898 to 1902 as a vacation villa for French officials. There are two paths to the building, both surrounded by trees, one for vehicles and one with 146 stone steps. The present palace serves as a museum for Chinese Qing Dynasty pottery and cannons used in the Vietnamese wars.

5. Hon Ba Island

Hon Ba Island
[ by Chí Dũng from Facebook ]

Hon Ba Island (Hòn Bà) is a peculiar small rocky body just less than 200 m offshore Back Beach. During most days in the month, you’ll need a boat to get on it. 

However, during low tides, a rocky trail will appear and you can walk straight to the island. On Hon Ba Island is a little temple to the local sea goddess built in 1881.

The remaining temples for local worshipable figures are on land. They include Thang Tam Temple (Đình Thần Thắng Tam), Ba Ngu Hanh Temple (Miếu Bà Ngũ Hành), and Whale Temple (Lăng Cá Ông). Local festivals for them are held a few times a year.

6. Surfing on Vung Tau Beach

Surfing on Vung Tau Beach
[ by Vung Tau Beach Club from Facebook ]

As mentioned above, you can catch some nice waves to surf off Back Beach, especially from October to December. Nonetheless, the waves are small so they’re only good for beginners.

There aren’t many surf schools operating in Vung Tau, especially during the pandemic. Vung Tau Beach Club Surf Station is a consistent choice for surfing, kitesurfing, paddleboarding lessons, and equipment rentals.

Discover more about Surfing in Vietnam

7. Robert Taylor Museum of Worldwide Arms

Robert Taylor Museum
[ image from Baotangroberttaylor ]

Robert Taylor Museum of Worldwide Arms has a fascinating collection of over 4000 objects spanning history. The museum is privately owned and officially authorized to operate. Robert Taylor has spent 50 years amassing and curating a large number of weapons, uniforms, and other artifacts.

The blades and armors belong to ancient Greece, Rome, China, and Japan. The military uniforms and all kinds of guns come from France, Russia, Holland, Bulgaria, German, and Australia. The English and Vietnamese descriptions are very well-done, the guides are helpful, and the entrance ticket is reasonable.

8. Vung Tau Cable Car to Ho May Park

Ho May Park
[ by Hồ Mây Park – Vũng Tàu from Facebook ]

Ho May Park (khu du lịch Hồ Mây) on Big Mountain is currently the largest amusement center in Vung Tau. The all-inclusive ticket provides morning to evening recreation at a reasonable price.

First, you take a cable car from Front Beach to the mountain. The ride is 500 m, or around 5 minutes, and up 210 m. Then, an electric car will take you to the center of the park.

Seize the day with a unique dry slide, 5D cinema, paintball guns, zipline, obstacle course, go-karts, roller coaster, and more. Additionally, there are a small zoo, Vietnamese traditional games, and a waterpark with slides. In the evening is the spectacular Ho May Grand Show with 3D laser mapping music performance.

If one day isn’t enough, Ho May Park has a hotel and a 3-star resort. Young people may prefer overnight camping in the designated area.

9. Best Coffee Shops in Vung Tau

Vung Tau coffee shops
[ by Gazebo Beach Front Lounge & Cafe from Facebook ]

Gazebo Beachfront Lounge and Cafe, Lightroom Coffee, Ô Cấp Coffee, are some ideal choices for a cup of brew while watching the light and colors fading over the sea. They are avante garde coffee shops on Vung Tau’s Front Beach with nice design and decor.

Sơn Đăng Quán is on the way to Vung Tau Lighthouse and it’s been around for a while. The coffee shop offers an amazing view over the city stretching out to the sea below.

Upside Down House is a themed coffee shop for some interesting photos in the city center. The concept revolves around typical rooms in a building like bedrooms and kitchens — but everything is upside down.

Protip: Some coffee shops in Vung Tau may be closed during the pandemic period.

10. The Many Pagodas of Vung Tau

Pagodas of Vung Tau
[ by Nam Ha from Facebook ]

Vung Tau mainly follows original Theravada Buddhism as opposed to Mahayana, which is more common in Vietnam. The city boasts many beautiful and tranquil pagodas. Moreover, they are often situated against a mountain and have a view over the sea — like the Nirvana Vihara (Niết Bàn Tịnh Xá).

Thích Ca Phật Đài is arguably the biggest pagoda in Vung Tau with many large-scale Buddhist structures and statues. Linh Sơn Cổ Tự isn’t near the sea but it’s believed to be the oldest pagoda in Vung Tau.

Chon Khong Monastery (Thiền viện Chơn Không) belongs to the native Truc Lam Yen Tu Zen sect of Vietnam. Visiting the monastery is a pilgrimage itself as it’s quite large and located on a slope of Big Mountain.

11. Marina Vung Tau

Marina Vung Tau
[ by trandinhhuy241 from Pixabay ]

Marina Vung Tau is a tourist dock with a number of canoes and catamarans. If you only want to look around and take photos, the entrance fee is 30 000 VND as of 2021.

Their tours include catamaran lessons and canoe trips around the Vung Tau Oil Rig and to two nearby islands. The islands are nice offshore tourist areas where you can do some kayaking in the mangroves and eat fresh seafood.

12. Delicacies of Vung Tau Beach City

Vung Tau stingray hotpot
[ by Nguyễn Hoàng Anh from Tripadago ]

Besides the obvious choice of fresh seafood like crabs, lobsters, and oysters, don’t forget to try mantis shrimps (tôm tích). They taste great steamed or stir-fried and can only be found in a few beach cities in Vietnam.

Stingray hotpot (lẩu cá đuối) is a local signature of Vung Tau beach city. Stingray is cartilaginous so there are no bones and the meat is very lean. The soup is sweet, sour, and also filled with vegetables. Most places selling stingray hotpot are on Truong Cong Dinh Street.

salted egg sponge cake
[ by Markus Winkler from Unsplash ]

Banh Khot (bánh khọt) in Vung Tau are bite-size crispy deep-fried savory ice flour pancakes with pork, shrimps, or squids. They are then dipped in a house-made fish sauce mix and eaten with fresh greens.

The most popular diner for this dish is on Nguyen Truong To Street. Nearby is a shop selling salted eggs and cheese cupcakes which make for a nice snack.

Surprisingly, Vung Tau gathers quite a variety of international cuisine. David Pizza has been around for a long time and they serve the best Italian dishes in Vung Tau. Alibaba is a shop known for only selling Turkish homemade ice cream. There are also a few good Indian restaurants in the downtown area.

13. Minera Hot Springs Binh Chau

Minera Hot Springs Binh Chau
[ image from minera.vn ]

Minera Hot Springs Binh Chau is a modern high-quality wellness resort. While in Central Vietnam, Danang has hot springs and Nha Trang has mudbaths, Minera is for people in the south. It’s 60 km away from Vung Tau and 126 km away from Ho Chi Minh City.

Minera is an official member of FEMTEC — World Federation of Hydrotherapy and Climatotherapy (WHO). The resort is divided into two main areas, Minera Springs and Minera Forest. Day tickets include almost everything except for some premium treatments and packages may include a lunch buffet.

Minera Springs has over 30 types of springs bath including Japanese-style onsen, a large pool, and all kinds of spa tubs including mudbaths. Additionally, the 82 Degrees is an artificial well where you can make yourself some soft-boiled eggs in a bamboo basket.

Minera Forest is all about relaxing under the trees with yoga sessions, some easy horseback riding, and fishing. This area also has a mini zoo, crocodile pond, and camping area. More facilities are also in development.

14. Ho Tram Beach

Ho Tram Beach
[ by Quentin Dang from Unsplash ]

Ho Tram (Hồ Tràm) is an extensive untouched coastline in the same province, but 40 km away from Vung Tau beach city. The tranquil waters are ideal for high-end resort retreats, namely the Grand Ho Tram Resort & Casino.

There are also cheaper accommodations, and you can save your budget for the fresh and inexpensive seafood by the beach. For even more secluded waves, a further 5 km is the Ho Coc (Hồ Cốc) beach area.

15. Con Dao Island

Con Dao Island
[ by Tran Duyet from Pixabay ]

Con Dao Island (Côn Đảo) is an exotic retreat 97 nautical miles or 3 hours on a hydrofoil from Vung Tau. It’s 185 km from Ho Chi Minh City but there are direct flights from Tan Son Nhat Airport. The beaches of Con Dao are ideal for some easy coral diving and fishing.

The history of this island is closely tied to Vietnamese wars which you can glimpse at the infamous Con Dao Prison. A nice way to discover the natural beauty of the island is through the paved trails of Con Dao National Park. If you want the premium experience like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie had, stay at the Six Senses Con Dao Resort.

There are helicopter services for sightseeing Vung Tau and arriving on Con Dao Island. However, their current English interface isn’t very developed and not affiliated with any good booking agency online.

Discover more about Con Dao Island

Traveling Tips for Vung Tau Beach City

The way up Vung Tau Lighthouse
The way up Vung Tau Lighthouse
[ by @zacklu90 from Unsplash ]

Travellers can basically visit Vung Tau beach city at any time of the year. The rainy season is from May to October and the sunny season is from November to April. However, you may want to avoid crowded periods like the Summer, Lunar New Year, and weekends.

Getting Around Vung Tau

In Vung Tau beach city, it’s very easy to book a Grab ride, the equivalent of Uber in Vietnam. Nonetheless, the highlighted destinations are not too far apart so you can affordably rent a car, motorcycle, or bicycle to get around. You can easily find rental shops on the Back Beach and in the downtown area.

Best Hotels on Vung Tau Beach

Vung Tau offers a wide array of resorts, hostels, and homestays across the city. Hotels and resorts at different price ranges are mostly on the Front Beach. If you’re looking for cheaper choices, go to the alleys of the Back Beach.

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