Cat Ba Island is located in the North of Vietnam. It is a 3.5 hour bus ride from Hanoi, or an hour boat ride from Halong Bay. This article will outline the things to do in Cat Ba Island, and why you should definitely visit.
How to Get to Cat Ba Island
If you are in Hanoi, it is very easy to make your way over to Cat Ba Island. There are many bus companies who offer you a return service from Hanoi City. We paid around 300,000 VND ($18AUD) for a one way trip (as we were heading straight to Halong Bay from there). The journey takes around 3 hours, and there is 1 stop along the way in case you need the toilet, etc.
From Halong Bay, it takes 1 hour on the ferry to get to Cat Ba Island and vice versa. The ferry ride is simply stunning, and takes you through the most picturesque scenery.
Things to Do in Cat Ba Island
Once we arrived, we were slightly regretting the decision to visit the island. The town of Cat Ba itself is unattractive and has an eerie feel to it.
The area is very dirty, and quite tacky to be honest. It didn’t help that the accommodation on the island is expensive, so with our budget, we ended up staying in what resembled an old hospital.
We went for a wander that afternoon to get out of our ‘hotel’ and were pleasantly surprised.
We found 3 beautifully hidden beaches along the shore line, which come with a historic tale. After making our way down to the white sand, and found a few locals playing football on the beach. Of course we joined in for a little kick about, and our mood completely changed.
The next morning we set out to discover Cat Ba National Park and oh boy am I glad we did!
Cat Ba National Park
Getting away from the main town is the best thing you’ll do. Beyond the town, are stunning beaches, limestone forests and vacant caves to explore.
We hired a scooter from the town (a baby blue Vesta to be precise!). It took us around 40 minutes to arrive at Cat Ba National park entrance. There is a small parking fee of around 5000 VND ($0.30AUD), and an entrance fee of 40,000 VND pp ($2.36AUD). If you plan to visit the national park (and you definitely should!) then try to arrive as early as possible.
TIP! If you are not comfortable hiring your own scooter, there are tourist buses and taxis (motorbikes) that will take you to the park.
Walking up to the top of the park is a difficult one, especially with the high humidity levels in Vietnam. I have honestly never sweat so much at 10AM in my entire life. The heat was real, and there were many other tourists to confirm that. Every single person we saw was completely dripping with sweat haha. Many people were stopping on their way for a quick breather and to re-hydrate before powering on.
Things to do in Cat Ba island
The hike to the top of the mountains is around 1000ft. There are many steep parts throughout the hike, but it is definitely do-able. It is made 10x harder with the humidity. The air is hot, thick and it has an impact on your hiking ability but the feeling you get as you reach the top is in explainable.
You cannot help but feel extremely rewarded. You take a quick look at how wet your clothes are and appreciate what you have just achieved.
As we made it to the top I was absolutely speechless. There is an incredible 360° endless view of colourful green mountains. The hike up is worth completely worth it. Take a seat at the top for a moment and let your surroundings sink in. It is the best thing you’ll do.
Other Things to do in Cat Ba Island
Visit Gia Luan
As we were making our way to Gia Luan ferry port to take a boat over to Halong Bay, we passed a beautiful side of Cat Ba Island. We hadn’t seen this side before and we were wishing we hadn’t booked to leave so soon. There were lakes, limestone cliffs, small piers out into the water. The views were so picturesque.
TIP! If you have time, make an effort to drive to Gui Luan for the day to explore this side of the island.
Watch the Sunset in LePont Sunset Bar
This bar has the perfect panoramic views of the sunset and is a fantastic place to enjoy a few cocktails.
Take a Ferry to Halong Bay
If you have booked to return to Hanoi from Cat Ba Island, it doens’t make sense to get a ferry over to Halong. However, if you are planning to visit Halong Bay, then making your way straight from Cat Ba is very ideal.
Not only is it a short 1 hour ferry ride away, the journey is one of the most beautiful things we have seen. Between Cat Ba Island and Halong Bay are 100’s of small limestone islands and the ferry makes it way straight through the middle of them.
If you are heading to Halong Bay, my next blog post will be up soon with tips to visiting Halong Bay!