Things To Do in Halong Bay
Top things to do in Halong Bay
Featuring magnificent cluster of limestone towers rising from the sea, Halong Bay has always been a must for any tourists to Vietnam as well as to Southeast Asia. If you are planning a Halong Bay trip and not sure what to see and do there, this list will be a good place to start.
From kayaking, trekking to enjoy a luxury overnight cruise, there is a never-ending collection of things to do in this UNESCO Worlds Heritage Site. Here is our guide on what and how you can experience the best of Halong Bay. It is hard to explore everything in just one trip, so pick what interest you the most and can be well arranged into your itinerary.
1 – Explore caves
There are hundreds of caves (name and unnamed) that scatter throughout Halong Bay. No one knows the exact number. Many caves have remained untouched where majestic limestone formations are still building up. The caves in Halong Bay is the result of tectonic movement and different types of erosion over millions of years. Let your imagination run wild with giant stalactites and stalagmite found inside the caves.
Where: some of the most famous caves in Halong Bay are Surprise Cave, Wooden Stakes Cave, Drum Cave, and Virgin Cave, Maze Cave, Dark, and Bright Cave. Surprise Cave is the largest one with a total area of over 10,000 square meters while Maze cave offers a scenic view over the hidden lagoon.
How: Basically, there are two types of caves which allow different ways to approach. The dry cave which is situated entirely above the water surface, often. You will need to climb stone steps to get to the cave’s entrance.
The other type is semi underwater cave which looks like a limestone arch over the water. To get into the cave, you have to kayak or use the bamboo boat. In the rainy season when the water level rise, sometimes you cannot visit these caves.
Tips: Define the type of cave before you go. If it is a dry cave, prepare a good hiking shoe. Some caves require lots of walking. If it a semi-underwater cave, you’d better make your camera and phone waterproof because you are likely to get wet visiting the caves.
2 – Kayak
Kayaking is always one of the guest’s most favorite activities. For those who are the fan of this sport, Halong Bay is a paradise for kayak-lovers with the calm water current and the breathtaking scenery.
Where: the ideal places to kayak are Cua Van floating fishing village, Tung Sau Pearl Farm, Dark, and Bright Cave
How: most of the kayak service in Halong offer sit-on-top kayak. There will be people who guide you on basic techniques. Don’t worry if you are new to kayaking. Halong calm water makes it easy for even beginners.
Tips: Follow your guide and the group while kayaking. Numerous limestone towers can also be a maze that you easily get lost in.
3 – Swimming
What could be more relaxing than taking a dip into the emerald water of the Bay? This is a favorite activity for a family with kids and a group of friends. There will be certain spots that guests are allowed to do swimming.
Where: The most popular place for swimming is Titov island which is included in most of the cruise itinerary. For those who prefer to swim by the beach, Three Peaches beach, Ban Chan beach are great choices.
How: If you are joining a cruise, they will either take you to the swimming spot by tender boat or let you kayak to get there. If you are on a private cruise or a 3-day cruise, the big ship might anchor near these areas, and you can plunge right into the water.
Tips: Halong Bay is safe to swim. This is proved by thousands of guests coming here each day. However, during summertime, fire jellyfish can cause a little trouble. You will get itching and irritating if touching them. Luckily, this can be simply treated with lemon or vinegar. The itching feeling will disappear after 2 hours. Another good news is the incident with fire jellyfish is very rare. You even cannot see one in the whole 3 days on the bay.
4 – Try bamboo boat
The bamboo boat is actually a traditional vehicle of local villagers for hundreds of years. They use the bamboo boat to go from their place to another. Girls and boys use bamboo boats as a hangout place. The same boat cannot be missing from the wedding. The bamboo boat is an integral part of local life, and the local people are master of rowing it. Don’t be surprised if you see someone rowing the boat with their feet!
Nowadays, when tourism thrives in the area, traditional bamboo boats become a tourist transport service. Each boat can accommodate up to 4 people. The local villager will row the boat for you. Compared to kayaking, this is an effortless way to enjoy the scenery.
Where: Cua Van floating village, Dark and Bright cave are the most popular place to try bamboo boats. It often comes with kayaking as two options for guests to choose.
Tips: Feel free to bring your camera and phone without any waterproof cover. Be aware that the bamboo boat cannot go into small tunnels as kayak does.
5 – Sunbathe in private beach
Halong Bay is not a place where you find large, palm-fringed beaches but instead, you can easily find a private one. Imagine you and only your group relax on a beach with no other strangers. There are hundreds, even thousands of small white sand beaches stretch between karst mountains. At first look, many think they are man-made beaches, but they are all natural!.
Where: Three peaches beach, Ban Chan beach are some of the most favorite spots
Tips: Vietnam is a tropical country, so the sunshine during summer is harsh. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen and reapply after 2 – 3 hours.
6 – Biking
Many people think there is only water activity in Halong. In fact, Halong Bay has a lot more to offer. Heading south to Cat Ba which is the largest island in Halong Bay, you can do biking here. The boat will take you to the island, and you will bike around the island. The scenery along the way just makes your bike a wonderful experience.
Where: Viet Hai village is the most popular place for a biking tour.
How: the distance is often not too long and doable for most travellers. Bikes prepared are regular bikes which are easy to use.
Tips: check your bike carefully before start using it. Especially, make sure the break is working well cause you will pass mountain hills and slopes. If needed, adjust the height of the saddle.
7 – Hiking
The limestone mountains covered in green is an ideal place to go hiking. During the hike, you will get the chance to immerse in the pristine nature or explore a cave in the middle of the jungle which is a part of a national park.
Where: Titov Island where you can witness the jaw-dropping 360° view of Halong Bay from its look-out point. The other place is Cat Ba island with Cat Ba national park.
- Apply insect repellent.
- Wear comfortable shoes.
- Be careful with sharp rocks when looking for handholds.
8 – Floating village
With a long history of human inhabitation, Halong Bay has its own cultural value. Floating fishing villages best represents this unique culture. You will visit the village with houses, the school, a museum that are built entirely on water. Nestled between limestone mountains, the villages are insanely beautiful as ones you find in science-fiction movies. Cua Van village was voted as one of 16 world’s most beautiful village.
How: Normally, you have two ways to go around the village – either by bamboo boat or kayak.
9 – Squid fishing
If you stay overnight on Halong Bay, trying squid fishing is a must. This is a fun late night activity which is very easy that anyone can do. However, how much squid you can catch is another story. The point is you have fun doing it.
How: you just need a fishing rod and a glowing plastic fish as bait. Yes, plastic fish!. Because squid is attracted by light. Keep moving the bait up and down in the water then squid will come to you.
Tips: You’d better try squid fishing with friends. Grab a cold drink and enjoy the night fishing! It can be way more fun than you think.
10 – Look out for unique species
Halong Bay has great biodiversity with numerous rare fauna and flora species in which many are endemic to the bay. If you are a nature lover, Halong won’t let you down.
The most famous species is Golden-headed Langur aka Cat Ba Langur. They are one of the most critically endangered primate species in the world. There are about 60 individuals survive who only can be found in limestone cliff in Cat Ba.
How: there is no itinerary that focuses on looking for these species. But you still can see them because you are actually visiting the protected area of Halong Bay where they grow or lives.
Tips: just watch and make no harms for the local environment here. If you meet the Langur, don’t make noise; otherwise, you will scare them away.
11 – Discover the art of pearl farming
Emerald water of Halong Bay is home to famous pearl farm of Vietnam. The proper salty level of water and calm wave make the bay an ideal environment for cultivating pearl.
You will get to see the whole process of produce pearl, from how they raise oysters to how they attract pearls.
Where: Tung Sau Pearl Farm is the largest pearl farm which is beautifully appointed in the middle of a cluster of karst pillars.
How: there will be an on-site tour guide to give you more in-depth information. You can also buy products made from pearl and oyster in a shop inside the farm.
Tips: Wear comfortable cloth because you will be walking on narrow floating docks. Bring swim suite in case you want to do kayak.
12 – Rock climbing
Boasting limestone cliffs that rise directly from water and stunning rock formation blanketed in green vegetation, Halong Bay is a fantastic place for rock climbers. The area is also a Deep Water Soloing paradise.
Where: Cat Ba island and beaches all over Halong Bay.
Tips: the best time to go are spring (April – May) and autumn months (September – November) when the weather is cool and dry.
Source: Lonely Planet
13 – Sunset and sunrise
Sunset and sunrise over Halong Bay is something you cannot miss when visiting this World Heritage. The magical moment when the sun touches the sea, turning limestone peaks into golden color, is a lifetime experience.
How: The best place to watch the sunset and sunrise is from a ship’s top deck. What could be better than lying down on a sun lounger with a glass of wine and watching the sun goes down? The morning on Halong Bay is just as magical as the sunset. It is when the mist fade away o reveal a masterpiece sculpted from limestone and jade emerald water.
Tips: Summertime is the best season to watch sunset and sunrise due to the clear sky.
You can check with the captain the time, so you don’t miss a second of these enchanting moments.
14 – Take an overnight cruise
Taking an overnight cruise is the best way to enjoy Halong and all of its charm. The cruise guarantees a stress-free vacation with most of the best things to do being arranged into 2 or 3 days. Most of the things mentioned above are what an overnight cruise can offer. Depending on each cruise operator and their specific itinerary, the activities may differ. In general, you can expect kayaking, swimming, cave exploration, the floating fishing village in your cruise.
How: You can easily find a cruise by searching the internet. Many are available on online travel agency like booking.com, Agoda or Viator. Or you can contact them directly for the best price. Basically, you can have anything from budget cruise to luxury one with comfortable and luxurious accommodation.
- Avoid ultra-budget cruise; they are not safe.
- Consider the time of travel because the price might be different between low and peak season.
15 – Take scenic seaplane tour
Aerial view of Halong Bay will blow your mind! The only way to get this eye bird view is taking a seaplane tour. The tour lasts about 15 minutes when you can fly over the legendary bay and see it from 300m above.
How: the exclusive provider for this service is Haiau aviation. The cost is around $119 per person. The seaplane will take off at Tuan Chau Habour and take guests through many famous spots like Chicken couple islet, Cong Do area, Bo Hon island, etc.
- Check the weather forecast to ensure you will fly over Halong on a sunny day when the scenery comes out much more stunning.
- Consider book cruise package with seaplane tour included. It is easier and saves you lots of time.
Source: Haiau Aviation