Boasting some 2,000 miles of coastline plus a handful of renowned island destinations, Viet Nam naturally has no shortage of beautiful beaches. Sure, you could just stick to cities, what with the colonial architecture and history of Hanoi, the imperial charms of Hue, and the bustling nightlife of Saigon. But you'd be remiss to plan a Vietnamese vacation without hitting the water at least once—plus, most cities are just a day-trip from the coast, if not on the coast already.
To help you decide, we've put together a guide to the most notable beach destinations in Viet Nam. From the shores of the UNESCO-designated Ha Long Bay to the rolling dunes of Mui Ne and the island getaways of Con Dao and Phu Quoc, here are the best places to enjoy Viet Nam's surf, sun, and sand.
Though typically spoken of as one island, Con Dao is actually an archipelago of 16 islands on the southern coast of Viet Nam. Once the site of brutal French prisons, Con Dao is now known for its coral reefs, diverse marine life, and soft sandy beaches. On the main island, Con Son, you'll find local homestays, budget hotels, and a few high-end resorts, most notably the Six Senses Con Dao, which offers access to the beautiful Dat Doc Beach. North of Con Son town (and bordered by no hotels) lays the tranquil Lo Voi Beach. And beyond the main island, nature lovers head to the beaches of the nearby Bay Canh island to witness the annual releasing of baby sea turtles. (Photo: Con Dao island - GETTY)
Ha Long Bay
If you're in Hanoi, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a quick and totally worth-it day trip that takes roughly four hours each way by bus. Though known primarily for its world-famous limestone outcroppings, Ha Long Bay boasts a number of its own number of beaches, the most obvious being Bai Chay, the artificial setup that lures in most tourists. For the full experience, opt for a boat tour that'll take you to Ti Top Island, an island in the center of the bay with its own beach. And, if you've got the time to make an overnight affair of your visit, visit the less-trodden, white-sand-laden Ban Chan beach. (Photo: Ha Long Bay - GETTY)
Nestled in the Gulf of Thailand a stone's throw from Cambodia, Phu Quoc is Viet Nam's largest and westernmost island. While over half of the teardrop-shaped island comprises Phu Quoc National Park, a dense tropical jungle draped around scenic mountains, its many beaches remain the main attraction. Most notable of these are Khem Beach (or "Cream Beach"), recognized as one of the world's best beaches, and Sao Beach, both sitting in on the southern end of the island and offering palm trees, white sand, and stunning views. If you're looking for cheap accommodations and a social, tourist-heavy atmosphere, head to North Long Beach, which can be accessed from the majority of the island's hotels. In recent years, Phu Quoc has been increasingly threatened by over-tourism and development, so plan a visit soon to enjoy its natural beauty. (Photo: Phu Quoc island - GETTY)
A one-time French colonial port on the central coast, Viet Nam's third-largest city is also home to some of the country's best beaches. And it's got a little something for everyone, from the bustling beaches located a short drive from city to the more secluded spots for those keen on adventure.
Fans of water sports can visit My Khe Beach, the closest beach to the city center and a world-renowned favorite for surfing, snorkeling, and jet-skiing. Meanwhile, those who prefer some privacy can hop on a motorbike to the untouched Tien Sa Beach on the north side of the Son Tra Peninsula. Other nearby attractions include the stunning Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is home to Son Doong, the world's largest cave. (Photo: My Khe Beach - GETTY)
This south-central city long boasted some of the world's most beautiful beaches, though tourism and development have made quite a dent in its landscape in recent years. Still, there remain a number of pristine, well-kept beaches and islands that are worth a visit if you find yourself in the area.At the city's main beach, called Nha Trang Beach or City Beach, you'll find that iconic view of the bay, along with a decently-sized crowd during peak hours. For more secluded options, check out the beaches on the nearby cluster of islands, including Hon Lon and Hon Tre, which is home to the gaudy but popular resort Vinpearl. (Photo: Hon Lon Beach - GETTY)
Boasting around 11 miles of chalk-white shores and turquoise waters, Doc Let is a quick, one-hour trip from Nha Trang. The north section of the scenic bay is frequented by tourists, and is home to most of the beach resort and hotels. The central section, meanwhile, has sections of pristine shores, but beware the Hyundai shipyard and busy port area.Lastly, the southern part of Doc Let, known as Jungle Beach, is a longtime backpacker favorite surrounded by fishing villages. Note that most of Doc Let is not as developed as Nha Trang, with mostly family-owned shops providing food, kayak rentals, and accommodations. The closest city is Ninh Hoa. (Photo: Doc Let Beach - GETTY)
If you're able to drive, take advantage of the newly-developed road out of Saigon and head to the lesser-known Ho Coc Beach on the picturesque eastern coast. Located north of the Ho Tram hamlet in the Ba Ria-Vung Tau province, the beach here is situated in a curved bay and set against a backdrop of forests and sand dunes. Though there are a number of hotels and resorts along the way, the area is mostly un-trafficked by tourists, with plenty of local seafood shacks and beach chairs for rent. (Photo: Ho Coc Beach - GETTY)
A hop-skip from the hustle and bustle of Saigon, the area commonly referred to as Mui Ne (though it includes portions of Ham Tien ward and Phan Thiet city) is renowned for its coastline as well as a number of other natural wonders. A small fishing town with beaches to rival those on this list, Mui Ne is differentiated by a majestic, nearby expanse of desert known as the White Sand Dunes and Red Sand Dunes, which are popular for sand-surfing and even hot-air balloon rides. The best-known beach portion of the Mui Ne area, however, is actually located a quick 15-minute trip away in the Ham Tien ward, which is also home to the surreal Suoi Tien, or "Fairy Stream," known for its hardened sand embankments and waterfall. (Photo: Mui Ne - GETTY)
With a remote location off the central coast of Vietnam, the lesser-known Ly Son Island is a cluster of volcanic craters that's not yet well-known among tourists. There aren't as many palm trees and beach resorts on the two main islands, known as Dao Lon and Dao Be; instead, find many fascinating geological formations as well as over 50 temples and shrines and world-famous garlic and seafood. Much of the Dao Lon is taken up by the garlic farms, which can be smelled from miles away, but the acclaimed To Vo arch (pictured above) opens up to clear blue waters and fossil reefs. If you've got time, take a 15-minute ferry to the tiny Dao Be, also known as An Binh, where you can swim off the shores and enjoy the underwater views of seaweed fields and colorful reefs. (Photo: Ly Son island - GETTY)
Dating back to the 15th century, Hoi An is a tourist-loved city in central Viet Nam, whose well-preserved architecture speaks to its history as a trading port influenced by the French, Chinese, and Japanese. Nearby, find ancient ruins of the Islamic Champa kingdom that once occupied the region. After checking out the Ancient Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, carve out some time to hit the nearby Cua Dai Beach, where three major rivers converge before reaching the sea. The calm and crystal blue water have traditionally attracted those seeking an escape, but recent resort developments have attracted larger crowds and an array of dining and drinking options. Hoi An's underrated gem, however, is the Cham Islands, a group of eight pristine islands lying along the coast. UNESCO has recognized the Cham Islands as one of the world's biosphere reserves for its stunning variety of plants and marine life, which includes over 200 varieties of fish. On the main island, Hon Lao, swim at Chong Beach head up to Bac Beach to enjoy natural caves. (Photo: An Bang Beach - GETTY)
Forbes, Jun 29, 2019