After trying out a bunch of the things to do in Halong Bay earlier this year, I really fell in love with Vietnam. So in preparation for my return this year, I have researched everything Halong Bay has to offer. I have put it all together in an easy-to-read list so you can cherry-pick what interests you most.
Going on cruise tours to the limestone islands is the most popular activity in Halong Bay. But there are great options for hiking, swimming, and rock climbing in the area. Halong City and Cat Ba town offers lots of historical and cultural sights, as well as excellent seafood markets and restaurants.
In this article, we will have a look at Halong City, Cat Ba Island and the cruise options to the surrounding islands. There are lots of popular and exciting things to check out, and I have also found some lesser-known places and activities for you to visit.
I have broken the article into 3 parts based on location. Feel free to jump to the section covering the area that interests you the most.
Halong City is the busiest part of Halong Bay. While many travelers head straight for the cruises, there are still lots of both interesting and fun activities to enjoy in the city of Halong itself.
Sun World Halong Complex
Sun World is an enormous amusement park located in Halong City. The park itself is split into three separate parks. One is a traditional amusement park, one is a waterpark, and the last one is the large cable car you can see hanging over Halong City.
You can buy tickets for all three parks together for a rebate, or pick the individual park you wish to visit. You can also often get a significant discount if you go in the off-season.
Make sure to avoid going during public holidays, as locals all the way from Hanoi tend to flock to Sun World.
Address: Bãi Cháy, Thành phố Hạ Long, Quảng Ninh, Vietnam
Cost: 50,000-350,000 VND depending on season.
Dragon Park is a quite large amusement park located in Halong City. There are lots of rides, both tea-cups, and rollercoasters.
There are also a lot of restaurants inside the park. And also note, that you can’t bring your own food and drink to the park.
If you go during the off-season, you can usually get a significant discount, but a good portion of the rides may be closed for maintenance.
The park can be pretty busy during holidays and the weekend.
Typhoon Water Park
Đường Hạ Long, Bãi Cháy, Thành phố Hạ Long, Quảng Ninh, Vietnam
Cost 300,000-350,000 VND.
The Typhoon Water Park is the waterpark in the Sun World Complex. Here you can find 10-15 waterslides depending on what is open. There are lots of slides in varying sizes. There are also a few pools, including a typhoon pool!
Unfortunately, this park is closed during winter. So you won’t be able to go between October and April. The rides also tend to be shut down during storms.
Just like Dragon Park, you won’t be able to bring you own food inside the park, but you can purchase whatever you would like for a small premium inside the park.
You will be able to rent lockers for your stuff for 30,000 VND (+20,000 VND deposit)
Queen Cable Car & Mystic Mountain
Hồng Gai, Thành phố Hạ Long, Quảng Ninh, Vietnam
Price: 300,000-350,000 VND.
The Queen Cable Car is the longest two-story car in the world. You can get a great view of Halong City if you are lucky enough to be by the window. Otherwise, you won’t see much.
The queues here tend to be pretty long during peak traffic times. But if you have some time to spare you will be able to get a great view of the city (with some luck).
At the end of the trip, you get to experience Mystic Mountain which has a beautiful garden. There are also other activities up here suitable for both children and adults.
Perhaps try to take the cable cars during the less busy times like weekdays, or low season for the best experience possible.
Right by the Bai Chay beach, and close to the old ferry terminal, you will find the night market in Halong City. This two-floor market has over 100 stalls, that start opening around 6 PM daily.
Since this is a rather touristy market, you can expect most of the souvenirs and products for sale to be overpriced. You are free to barter for a better deal, but in my experience, you can find better deals elsewhere if you are a frugal person.
On the positive side, since this market caters primarily to tourists, you will be able to communicate reasonably well with the sellers here.
Fresh Seafood Barbeque
Unless you are a vegetarian, you should not miss out on all the delicious sea-food that Halong Bay has to offer. Due to the location of Halong City, seafood is always fresh and plentiful.
Whether you buy the fresh seafood yourself at the market and cook it yourself in one of the many self-barbecue pits around, or order it in a beach restaurant, the king prawns, crab, lobster, fish, and squid are sure to satisfy all your seafood cravings.
Long Tien Pagoda
If you are interested in temples, then Long Tien Pagoda is the best one to visit in Halong City. It is clean, calm and very well-maintained.
Here you can find a mix of local Buddhist praying, as well as a few tourists enjoying the culture experience. We found that the temple was a great break from the busy city.
A visit is best combined with some other activities, as you will feel finished here after 10 min unless you’re a Buddhist.
Taun Chau Island
Right over the bridge from Halong City, you will find Tau Chau Island with its beautiful, artificial beaches and a nice view of the limestone formations in the distance.
The island offers a lot of restaurants and seemingly high-end hotels if you are interested in spending some time on this beautiful little island.
We did find that this area, and especially Tuan Chau Beach to be very deserted. Check the video above for reference. This could be both a good thing and a bad thing depending on what you are looking for.
Apart from wandering around the enormous 2 KM long beach area, there is also a sizable harbor where a lot of the cruise boats leave from but more on that later in the cruise section of the article.
Taun Chau Park
Tuần Châu, Island, Quảng Ninh, Vietnam
Cost: 350,000 VND.
If you are in the mood for seeing animal shows, then head over to Taun Chau Park. Located in the middle of the island, this park offers both a monkey and crocodile show, as well as a dolphin and seal show.
For your convenience, I have listed the different times the shows start in Taun Chau Park.
|Crocodile and monkey show||09:00–09:20|
|Dolphin and seal show||10:00–10:30|
Perhaps the park is a little past it’s prime, but it is still an interesting place to go if you want to see the dolphin show.
Halong Bay Casino
Hạ Long, Bãi Cháy, Thành phố Hạ Long, Quảng Ninh 200000, Vietnam
Cost: USD 60 per night.
For those looking for some gambling there is also the Royal Halong Hotel (Agoda affiliate link) which has a casino!
While this 4-floor casino is most popular with foreigners, and generally people with money to spend, it also serves as an excellent luxury hotel for those looking for some time to relax.
Be prepared to see lots of Asian businessmen and tourists in this casino.
Quảng Ninh Museum
Trần Quốc Nghiễn, Tuần Châu, Thành phố Hạ Long, Quảng Ninh, Vietnam
Cost: 40,000 VND.
The Quang Ninh Museum is a great combination of modern architecture and interesting exhibits about the Vietnamese people and Halong Bay.
The exhibits focus mostly on the coal mining history of the area, and ancient Vietnamese culture from the north of the country.
There are also guided tours available. And you should be able to enjoy the museum whether you speak English, French, or Vietnamese.
Surprisingly, this museum easily rivals some of the fantastic museums in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City.
Cost: 300,000 VND per dive.
While Halong Bay may not the best place to go diving, there have in recent years sprung up dive centers around the bay which will take you on trips.
There are areas of Halong Bay that are of interest to divers, and with a professional guide, you should be able to see plenty of fish and coral during your dive.
On some of these guided boat trips you can also just go snorkeling if you are not up for diving. Another option for snorkeling is renting a kayak and going out on your own.
Cost: 40,000-100,000 VND per person.
Other water activities such as kayaking are also available for those who prefer to go out on their own to explore the area.
Kayaking in Halong Bay is becoming a popular option, as you get to explore the limestones and cliffs on your on.
There are often kayaks available for rent at the fishing villages and other areas where it is proper to paddle a kayak.
Cycling & Motorbiking
Cost: 50,000-200,000 VND per day.
On land, the best way to explore Halong Bay is on two wheels. Renting a cycle or a motorcycle (if you’re brave enough) are good options.
Halong Bay has lots of beaches and islands like Taun Chau or Cat Ba (via ferry) that is accessible on bikes. And the freedom of having your own transport is priceless.
Apart from the traffic inside of Halong City, it is generally very easy to move around in the region.
Cruises to Halong Bay
Out of all the things to do in Halong Bay, going on a cruise is most definitively the main attraction.
These cruises will take you out into the sea to have a look at the beautiful limestone formations that Halong Bay is so famous for.
There is a huge variety of different cruises to choose from. Generally, the most popular options are either a day-cruise like this one, where you go out for a full day to explore, and head back into the harbor at night.
If you are strapped for time I think you should book the one day cruise, since you get to see the most popular attractions in a short amount of time.
You may feel that you only scratched the surface by going on one of these day cruises though.
Two Days One Night
I recommend staying for at least one night on the cruise, as you get to go out and explore a whole lot more than you do on the single-day cruises.
One these overnight cruises you have a lot more options for activities, like kayaking and fishing. And you get to retreat back to your tranquil room on the cruise at night.
Overall, it is a relaxed and fuller experience compared to the day trip.
Here is a great option for an overnight cruise on Agoda that you can check out.
Three Days Two Nights
The two-night cruises are probably the best way to explore Halong Bay, as you won’t feel rushed.
There is lots of time to relax on the cruise, and you get to enjoy all the thing you would on the shorter cruises, plus more.
If you have the time, you can make a booking for the two-night cruise here.
If you have the coin, this is a great way to spend a few days. Bellow I will tell you a bit about the most popular places to visit on your cruise trip.
Sung Sot Cave
Ha Long Bay, Halong City, Quảng Ninh
Cost: Included in cruise trips.
Sung Sot cave is usually one of the main caves that are visited during the day-trips (or longer trips) into Halong Bay.
The cave itself is quite impressive, with parts of it reaching 30 meters in height.
The cave takes about 45 minutes to walk through, and you will certainly be impressed by the natural formations.
Most people I have talked to found this cave to be one of the highlights of their Halong Bay Trip.
Tuần Châu, Thành phố Hạ Long, Quảng Ninh, Vietnam
Cost: Included in cruise trips.
Just 3 KM from Sung Sot Cave you will find Bon Hon Island. On this island you can explore the beautiful Virgin Cave and it’s dark legend.
There is a story that a woman trapped in an unhappy marriage ended her life here and that her body turned to stone!
The cave itself has a large shrine inside it. And is quite impressive even if you look past the legend.
Cost: Included in cruise trips.
Also known as the Me Cung Cave this is another of the picturesque caves that you get to see during your trip out into Halong Bay.
After squeezing through the tiny enterence, the cave opens up into a beautiful limestone cave full of winding tunnels and even fossils!
Dao Cat Dua (Monkey Island)
đảo Cát Dứa
Cost: Included in cruise trips.
One of the most beautiful islands in Halong Bay is Monkey Island, also known as Dao Cat Dua. With its pristine beaches, this secluded island offers a great view of Halong Bays limestone formations, as well as hiking trails, and ..wild monkeys!
While the monkeys are accustomed to having humans around due to the high level of tourists visiting, they can still be aggressive if you get to close, or try to touch/feed them.
To get out here, you will have to go by boat. Either as part of a cruise, or you could make your way there on your own.
Squid Fishing at Night
If you are looking for an experience a little out of the ordinary, you can sign up for a night of squid fishing in Halong Bay.
Squid fishing in Halong Bay is generally offered as part of a two-night cruise.
You will be equipped with a rod, and the fishing itself is quite easy, as you will be guided by a local fisherman.
If you catch anything, you get to enjoy it freshly cooked right after for dinner!
Cat Ba Island
Cat Ba Island is a very popular budget alternative to Halong City. There are a lot of activities to enjoy on Cat Ba Island that you won’t find in Halong City.
Since Cat Ba Island is located so near Halong City and Taun Chau, you can easily reach Cat Ba Island by ferry from Taun Chau Islands harbor. The ferry ride takes about one hour and leaves in the morning and afternoon.
|Tuan Chau to Cat Ba||Cat Ba to Tuan Chau|
|7:30 AM – 8:30 AM||9:00 AM – 10 AM|
|9:00 AM – 10:00 AM||11:30 AM – 12:30 PM|
|11:30 AM – 12:30 PM||1:00 PM – 2:00 PM|
|1:30 PM – 2:30 PM||3:00 PM – 4:00 PM|
|3:00 PM – 4 PM||4:00 PM – 5:00 PM|
The amount of trips per day varies depending on demand, but the first and last trips scheduled will always leave.
You can also take a bus or minibus over to Cat Ba Island, but I recommend the ferry as it will take no longer than an hour, while the minibuses will take four or more hours each way.
Cruise from Cat Ba Island
Đặng Bá Hát, Yết Kiêu, Thành phố Hạ Long, Quảng Ninh, Vietnam (Agoda)
50-200 USD per night onboard.
Taking a cruise from Cat Ba instead of the popular Taun Chau harbor is an excellent option. The cruises from Cat Ba often goes to the more secluded Lan Ha Bay, which is just as beautiful as Halong Bay, just less crowded.
Two Days and One Night
One of the two most popular options for cruises from Cat Ba is the two days and one night options like Azela Cruise (Viator).
On the two day cruises, you generally get to see and explore Lan Ha Bay and all it’s surrounding islands on the first day and then have a look at the beautiful caves on the second day.
Three Days and Two Nights
If you have the time, the three days and two nights is a more relaxing experience. The activities are mostly the same as on the two day cruises, but you get more time to relax on the cruise ship.
A luxury option like Orchid Ha Long Cruise (Agoda) is a great choice for the three-day cruise as you get to spend more time enjoying the food and comfort of the ship.
Lan Ha Bay
Vịnh Lan Hạ
Cost: USD 10-200 depending on the transport.
Lan Ha Bay is just as beautiful as Halong Bay, but since it is more isolated, it is also more untouched by tourists. This is very appealing, especially during high season, as Halong Bay can become quite crowded.
Lan Ha Bay offers a lot of the same activities as Halong Bay such as kayaking, swimming, and rock climbing.
If you have the chance, take a cruise from Cat Ba Island (Agoda) and explore this less spoiled area of limestone formations.
Hiking Cat Ba National Park
Vườn Quốc Gia Cát Bà
Cost: 80,000 VND entry fee.
With 32 different animals, and it’s beautiful flora and fauna Cat Ba National Park is an excellent place to go for a hike and explore.
There are lots of beautiful hiking trails around the island, with the most impressive being an 18 KM climb to the top of the main lookout point of the national park.
Luckily, there are also lots of guides available for hire to show you around this magnificent park. Having a local guide you around can be an excellent option if you want to explore the wast nature and wildlife.
It could also be a way to pack the most interesting parts of the island into a single day.
Cat Ba Seafood Market
Cat Ba has a wonderful little intimate market where you can buy fruits, vegetables, and lots of fresh fish.
This market is known as one of the cheapest around, and always keeps fresh products, as it is very popular from morning until late into the night.
For those looking to have a meal prepared for them, there is also a food court that serves fresh seafood in the market.
Ho Chi Minh Monument
The Ho Chi Minh Monument in Cat Ba is just a short hike from central Cat Ba. The monument is a rather popular viewpoint that was built back in 1951.
It is worth the walk up to have a look on a clear day, as you can get a great view of Cat Ba town and the surrounding nature and sea from the viewpoint on the top.
You will also get a nice little walk up the steep stairs leading up to the monument.
239 Cái Bèo, TT. Cát Bà, Cát Hải, Hải Phòng, Vietnam
Cost: 30,000 VND entry fee
Cannon Fort used to have a museum, but the place seems to be abandoned these days. It is still worth visiting, as it is a great hike, there is a little cafe at the top where you can grab a drink.
From the top of the fort, you can also get a great view of Cat Bas surrounding areas. There are a bunch of old bunkers, and some cannons you can look at as well.
Trân Châu, Cát Hải, Hai Phong, Vietnam
Cost: 30,000 VND entry fee
This is a rather interesting cave. It was used as a hospital during the Vietnam War, as it couldn’t be bombed.
If you have seen a bunker before, this might be a little bit underwhelming, but for those who haven’t this is a fantastic look into the war.
There are 17 different rooms inside the cave, and a guide will take you around and see them.
Bonus: Quan Lan
Vân Đồn District, Quảng Ninh, Vietnam
Cost: 230,000 VND for speedboat + tuktuk
This island has one of the most beautiful beaches I have seen in Northern Vietnam.
While it is under development still, there are a few hotels and restaurants to enjoy on your stay. This is a good thing since the island has not gotten too popular and overcrowded yet.
There are also a bunch of opportunities to go hiking on the island.
To get here you can take a speedboat from Bến tàu Hòn Gai in Halong Bay. The trip usually takes 90 min (get there before 2:00 PM!).
Now that you know what to do in Halong Bay, I recommend that you check out my guide on how to get to Halong Bay from Hanoi here.
Have a great trip!