Legend says a descending dragon created the majestic limestone karsts that rise from the emerald waters of Halong Bay. While a peaceful cruise is a perfect way to witness the breathtaking scenes of nature, there are numerous things to do in Halong Bay to keep you busy.
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Halong Bay is known as one of the most famous tourist destinations in Vietnam and has been recognized many times by UNESCO as the world's natural heritage. It can be said that Ha Long Bay is a paradise with a mysterious and majestic beauty that everyone must admire. Here, tourists can join a great diversity of Halong Bay activities that can’t be found anywhere in Vietnam. Halong is home to thousands of limestone caves to go spelunking, plenty of untouched places to go swimming and kayaking, a handful of floating villages to visit, some uninhabited islands to go hiking, a variety of food and drink to savor, etc. Never get bored in this wonderland as here are these 25 best things to do in Halong Bay for you to relax at your leisure.
Top 25 things to do in Halong Bay
Above all, one of the must-try things to do in Halong Bay, Vietnam is to stay at least one night on the cruise, the most expecting experience to admire the bay much closer up in a more special manner. With a natural complex of some 2,000 islands and islets, the bay is best discovered through waterways by a 3d2n or 2d1n cruise tour to call on either well-known or less-touristy Halong Bay attractions. Furthermore, you don’t have to worry about where to go and what to do in Halong Bay as the cruise itinerary has already covered transportation, activities, food, accommodation, and other services.
Up to date, there are various choices of Halong overnight cruise which are categorized by different length of excursion (half-day, full-day, 1-night, or 2-night), budget (cheap, mid-range, or luxury), destinations (Bai Tu Long Bay, Lan Ha Bay, or Cat Ba Island), types of boats (modern style, wooden junk, or small boat), and purposes of your holiday (family outing, honeymoon vacation, or private trip). Also, you can opt for the highlights of each cruise, such as large cabins, kid-friendly itinerary, Halal food certificate, Michelin-starred dining, Jacuzzi/ swimming pool, Royal-styled dinner, and other more.
If you are a newbie to cruising in Ha Long, the following tips for choosing the best Halong Bay cruises may be of use.
Take an overnight Halong Bay cruise
If you are looking to further enhance the sense of calm, then attending the Tai-chi morning class is the best way to start your new day. Tai-chi is an ancient Chinese martial art that has been performed for thousands of years characterized by controlled and soft movements. As you join the Tai-chi morning class, Tai-chi master will help you improve the health of your mind by preventing the ills of aging and the stresses and strains of modern life. Hence, is it a great idea of practicing Tai Chi when being surrounded by the sublime natural beauty of Halong Bay?
Tai-chi exercise on Halong Cruise
The majority of Halong Bay boats offer a cooking class or demonstration to teach you how to make the most basic traditional Vietnamese dishes. Some cruises hold a cooking class of making spring rolls, while the others offer demonstration lessons on decorating fruit and vegetable. Whichever type of the class is, this is one of the best things to do in Halong Bay Vietnam with a view to learning about traditional cuisine and culinary.
For more details of Halong Bay Cooking Class
Join a Halong cooking class onboard
Sunset and sunrise moments are two things you should have never missed for Halong Bay sightseeing. It goes without saying that the sunset is much more stunning from the Halong cruise view. You can choose to sit back and sip a cup of tea amid the scenic atmosphere at dusk. Or you can decide on joining the amusing sunset party on the sun deck.
Catch the sight of mesmerizing sunset in Halong Bay
Known for a magnificent land of million-year-old karst formations, Halong Bay offers a lot of photogenic attractions. You can find the rock formations amazing in different shapes and sizes. For example, one represents a couple of Fighting Cocks, one illustrates Chopstick Islet, and another demonstrates Thumb Islet. The best way to check in with awe-inspiring formations in Halong is to take a cruise into the middle of the sea. You will be shown around and catch the best sight in the close distance.
Check-in with karst formations in Halong
Halong Bay is home to numerous beautifully breathtaking caves that worth paying a visit to. Undergoing million years of the formation of stalactites and stalagmites, Halong caves possess exquisite beauty and valuable archeology systems. Considered the best Halong Bay attractions, the top must-visit grottoes include Thien Cung Cave – one of the most massive in Ha Long’s cave systems with three ponds offering in-depth adventures, Sung Sot Cave – a highlight of Halong Bay sightseeing with a steep pathway to hike up for spectacular views, Dau Go Grotto – a beautiful cave with a maximum height of 25 meters, Virgin Cave – a mysterious cave with the legend of a young woman trapped in an unhappy marriage, and Hospital Cave – an underground cave once used as a secret hospital during the Vietnam War. All Halong Bay caves and grottoes are decorated with colorful artificial lights to illuminate the rock formations and certain areas.
Come to the 9 worth-visiting caves in Ha Long, you can discover a lot of mysteries and feast your eye on the magnificent gifts of Mother Nature.
Thien Cung Cave is perfect for Halong Bay sightseeing
Cat Ba is the largest one in this part and among the most popular destinations when you visit Halong Bay. This island is home to a national park covering one-third of the area, a number of adorable hotels and resorts, a handful of historical tourist attractions, some rustic local villages, and three main beaches. All makes it a perfect place to join numerous things to do on Cat Ba Island. You can explore Cat Ba with a Halong Bay cruise trip, go swimming and soak up the sun on the beach, snorkel around the island, get a kayak to explore the untouched areas, go rock climbing, take off on a hike through the off-the-beaten-path trail, go cycling to the scenic countryside, or simply walk around the greenery.
Just don’t miss out on our recommendation of top Cat Ba Island things to do. You’ll never get stuck in what to do in Halong Bay.
Explore Cat Ba Island with a Halong Bay cruise trip
For those who are not keen on the crowds, Lan Ha Bay is a favorable alternative to enjoy the best things to do in Ha Long Bay. Set location in the southwest of Halong, the bay possesses similar geological and cultural characteristics that offer more tranquil and authentic ways to discover. It is home to 400 limestone cliffs scattered throughout the emerald waters, pristine beaches, lush vegetation, several fishing villages, rocky mountain, and peaceful islands. Here you can enjoy a fantastic seascape with plenteous activities: swimming, kayaking, overnight camp, private beach BBQ, sea kayaking, rock climbing, and other more. Don’t hesitate to take a 2-day or 3-day Lan Ha Bay cruise as you will regret not visiting this underrated attraction.
Visit Lan Ha Bay on a cruise trip from Halong
Another alternative among worth-visiting Halong Bay attractions is Bai Tu Long, located in the east of Halong. Covering an entire area of 15,000 ha, the bay boasts a massive natural complexity of uninhabited islands, a national park, and the rich biodiversity of ecosystems. There are some highlights of Halong Bay sightseeing you should not miss, including Quan Lan Island, Ngoc Vung Island, Ang Du Area, Vung Vieng Fishing, Thien Canh Son Cave, Ban Chan Beach, etc. Bai Tu Long is worth spending at least 1 night immersing in the tranquility and admiring the hidden charm of this natural heritage. For further details, let’s check the top-rated Bai Tu Long Bay cruises out.
Cruise to Bai Tu Long Bay from Halong
Remaining only a few existing sites, the floating villages are among the top Halong Bay attractions which offer you a fascinating and genuine experience. Take a boat ride to one of the 4 main floating villages including Cua Van Fishing Village, Vung Vieng Floating Village, Ba Hang Floating Village, and Cong Dam Fishing Village. You will see how isolated the local life here goes on day by day. The local fishermen earn a living from the sustainable fishing industry and tourism. Some of them live in small boathouses while others live inland but spend most of their time in floating villages for work.
Vung Vieng, the largest of the 4 remaining villages, welcomes a lot of visitors to get a deeper insight into the local culture. Moreover, the scenic view of the water-based complex of houses nestled in natural landmarks is actually a must-see while visiting Halong Bay.
Call on Vung Vieng floating village
Whenever you want to splurge on extraordinary things to do in Halong Bay, taking a Halong seaplane from Hanoi is a not-to-be-missed experience. Flying over the scenic karst formations and emerald water, you will feast your eye on an awe-inspiring bird’s-eye view of Halong Bay. There is no better way to go Halong Bay sightseeing from the height of 300 meters on the seaplane. In addition to scenic flights, you can book a scheduled flight from Hanoi to Ha Long for the fastest and most convenient transportation.
Provided exclusively by Hai Au Aviation, the cost of a scenic flight in Halong is 99 USD per person while a round trip between Hanoi and Halong costs from 400 USD. Despite the high fare, many travelers desire to try out the Halong seaplane ride at least once due to its unique experiences, professional services, and magnificent views. If you take interest in Halong Bay seaplane, check this travel guide out for further details.
Admire the magnificent aerial views from Halong seaplane
Halong Bay is blessed with a calm sea and beautiful beaches to sit back on the white sand, get a tan, enjoy the fresh sea breeze, and indulge in crystal clear water. The top highlight is Titop beach which is located on a crescent-moon-shaped island. Titop Island is a common stop of Halong Bay day cruises for a couple of hours. You only have enough time to climb up to the top for the panoramic view of the bay and have a swim/kayak. Another beach attraction is Soi Sim, which is well-known for its emerald waters, verdant foliage, and the ultimate display of flora and fauna. Additionally, there are many other must-visit beaches including Quan Lan, Ngoc Vung, Ba Trai Dao, and Tuan Chau Beach. Most of them give refreshing air, crystal water, and idyllic sands; so you can let your hair and take part in numerous interesting things to do in Halong Bay.
Soak up the sun on Halong Bay beach
Kayaking in Halong Bay is one of the amusing activities you definitely must do. This is the best way to explore the grandeur and magical beauty of Ha Long's nature at a close distance. Sitting on a small kayak, paddling through the islets to discover cliffs beneath the waves, watching the birds on the cliff, feeling the calm water, wriggling into water caves, or touching stalactites, etc. what's more amazing than that! With the specific instructions about how to use paddle and guide on the safe area, you’ll find kayaking extremely simple and fun.
According to most visitors, kayaking is not only the best means of transportation but also entertainment in Halong Bay. Kayaking through every cave and island of Ha Long will be an unforgettable experience for any visitor. There are different types of kayaks such as those made from composite plastic, molded rubber, or inflatable kayaks. So, why don’t you put kayaking into the list of best things to do in Ha Long Bay?
Kayaking is a must-try thing to do in Halong Bay
Another among the must-do Halong Bay activities is cycling to explore the mesmerizing biking trails and enjoy the physical experience. To gain the best experience, renting a bike/double bike is the perfect choice for you. The cost of a rental bike/ double bike is about 20,000 VND per hour. Tourists can rent right at the hotel or services along the city road. Start a new day with this kind of entertainment in Halong Bay, a fitness activity that will help you feel relaxed and healthy.
Besides, floating villages provide tourists with beautiful biking routes as well as deep insight into the local life in Halong Bay. A lot of cruise ships will anchor near a floating village so that you can take the opportunity to pay a visit on a cycling tour. Taking your time to cycle around the village, chat with local people, and meet playful kids, you can experience the most authentic thing to do in Halong Bay.
Read more: A Guide to Halong Bay Biking
Cycling is great for a family outing in Halong Bay
Not only does Halong boast spectacular water-wise landscapes, but it also possesses adventurous sceneries to get on a hiking route. The top suggestion is Cat Ba National Park, a common stop of some Halong cruise itinerary. The park is home to the wildlife flora and fauna with a collection of distinct species like civets, macaques, hawks, hornbills, cuckoos, and the most world’s endangered golden-headed langurs. You can go hiking along the amazing trails with an 18-kilometer climb to the mountain top, but it requires a lot of time and endurance. So, you can go on a soft adventure to a few viewpoints.
Hiking tips in Halong Bay
Go off-the-beaten-track at Cat Ba National Park
Diving and snorkeling are among the top water-based activities in Halong Bay. Thanks to the crystal clear water and the scenic underwater delights, Halong Bay offers a range of lesser-known diving and snorkeling spots. The areas around Cong Do Island and Van Gio Island make it perfect to dive/ snorkel around and explore the diverse ecosystem. The island is home to unique corals, seagrass beds, and living spaces for aquatic creatures (sea turtles, sea horses, stone crabs, lizards, hornbills, etc.). Go explore the wonderful underwater for the best experience of Halong Bay sightseeing.
For further details Diving and Snorkeling in Halong Bay
Go snorkeling in Halong Bay
Fishing is one of the daily activities that local fishermen do for a living in Halong Bay. To tourists, fishing is an interesting activity to experience the feeling of being a true fisherman. Here, fishing trips with the locals are one of the top things to do in Halong Bay. You can learn a little about the local fishing legend and try your luck going out with them at dawn. During the trip, visitors will not only enjoy the scenic beauty of Ha Long and its surrounding sceneries but also witness how local people catch fish, listen to stories about their experiences.
Night squid fishing is another enjoyable activity for what to do in Halong Bay. If you are actually a night owl, you can spend tranquil night fishing with lights hanging on the side of boats to attract the squids. You’ll be guided by the instruction from local fishermen about how to use a fishing rod and how to catch a squid in the sea. Interestingly, the caught squids will be cooked to make dishes for you, and Halong Bay is known for its famous specialties made from squids.
Night squid fishing on Halong Bay Cruise
For those who are desired to experience brand-new feelings, try out a once-in-a-blue-moon dinner in a magnificent cave. This Halong Bay activity is definitely perfect for couples since the mystical scenery with thousands of sparkling candlelight creates a romantic space and unforgettable sweet moment together. After an amazing day full of activities, you will have a chance to indulge in the mysterious night relaxation.
Normally, Trong Cave and Trinh Nu Grotto have drawn many tourist attractions thanks to their legend of two lovers. Also, foreign visitors can seek a chance to try cave dinners in Thien Canh Son Cave, noted for its magnificent seascapes. Dinners in the cave are mainly held by luxury cruises with a 3-day itinerary or chartered boat. The additional price is high as it includes: cave hiring, set-up fee, food, and personnel. But this activity is quite special and still worth paying extra money for.
Cave diving in Halong Bay Cruise
Continue with another venturesome thing to do, Halong bay rock climbing must give the most thrilling experiences. Halong Bay is naturally gifted with a few sport climbing routes which offer much potential for additional development. It is your decision on what level of difficulty you wish to take on as a challenge. The level of difficulty, however, does not affect the level of safety. All you have to prepare is a healthy body, an adventurous mind, and much endurance. Let’s engage in the challenging activities to conquer the rock formations in Halong Bay.
Adventurous rock climbing in Halong Bay
Gifted an abundance of seafood and many calm beaches, Halong Bay is such an ideal spot to hold a beach barbeque with baked king prawns, squid, crab, lobster, and other more. There are various choices of beach BBQ in Halong, from restaurants along the coast to a 3-day cruise itinerary. You can either join a BBQ lunch to grill seafood with self-barbecue fire pits or treat yourself to a private barbecue under the candlelight. Both are worth trying to soak up the chilly atmosphere on Halong beaches. If you are traveling in a group, a BBQ lunch is the best fit. In case you travel in couples, nothing is better than the dreamy ambiance of a private barbecue in the melody of waves and wind songs.
Have a private BBQ lunch on Halong Bay beach
Apart from the discovery of waterways in Halong Bay, you can explore the city on the mainland instead. In contrast to the laid-back landscapes over the bay, Ha Long City is far more vibrant and exciting with a great collection of must-do activities. Contemplate the Bai Chay Bridge, sample the authentic dishes at local restaurants, taste the street food dishes, enjoy nightlife activities, visit Halong night markets, shop for local souvenirs, etc. All makes them the best things to do in Halong Bay. Let’s see the differences between rural life in floating villages and urban life in the provincial city.
Bai Chay Bridge in Ha Long City
Sun World Halong Complex is one of the rare amusement parks in northern Vietnam, so what a miss if you set this attraction aside. Covering an area of 214 ha, Sun World Halong Park is separated into 2 sections: the Mystic Mountain Complex and the Coastal Amusement Complex. The two parts are connected by the Queen Cable Car, also called the Sun Wheel Halong, which offers captivating aerial views by a 12-minute ride. This option is one of the best things to do in Ha Long Bay for families with kids. There must be endless fun of entertainment at the Dragon Park, Typhoon Waterpark, Sun Wheel, Zen Garden, and so on. If you don’t afraid of the thrilling roller coaster rides and water slides, the Sun World Park is a perfect destination to cool off.
Get thrilling at Sun World Dragon Park
Located right in the central heart of Halong City, Quang Ninh Museum is a complexity of museum, library, and exhibition space. From the outside, you can be amazed by the unique architecture designed to function as a massive mirror. When it comes to the inside, you can find an extensive collection of cultural items depicting the Buddhist culture and the effort against French Colonialism. However, the most outstanding attractions include a giant whale skeleton, a massive book collection, and sailboat models. Also, you can sit back at the reading room or coffee shop at the library. If you are tired of the hustling outdoor, you should find your own space at Quang Ninh Museum, where you can get an in-depth knowledge of Vietnamese history and culture.
Visit Quang Ninh Museum
As a dynamic city in Vietnam, Ha Long offers a wide range of things to do at night both onboard and on the mainland. On Halong overnight cruise, the evening is time for interesting board games and puzzles, drinking at a bar, spa, and massages, and night squid fishing. In contrast, Halong City is somehow more exciting with energetic local pubs and bars, luxurious casinos, lively night markets, and other more. You will find the city sparkling and exciting even at midnight. Never get monotonous at nightlife as you can experience one of these best night activities in Halong Bay.
Lively Halong City by night
Vietnam has a richly diverse cuisine and culinary with thousands of delicious dishes, and Halong Bay isn’t an exception. As a coastal city, Halong specialties mostly include seafood dishes varying from crab, prawn, squid, snail to oysters. Everyone visiting Halong Bay definitely must try the following 5 best street food dishes: chả mực (squid sausage), sam (horseshoe crab), ngán (austriella corrugate), sá sùng (sipunculus nudus), and gật gù cake. These specialties can’t be found anywhere else in Vietnam. Hence, a street food tour is absolutely a must-try thing to do in Halong Bay.
You may also like: Best of 5 Street Foods in Halong Bay
Taste Halong Bay street food
So there you have it, a list of the top must-try things to do in Halong Bay. You can participate in one of them or all if you have enough time. If you are unsure which to opt for, check out Best Price Travel to find inspiration, and a guide on popular things to do during your vacation in Halong Bay. Check this out for various types of Halong Bay package tours.
You might also like: Halong Bay Tourist: Useful Information for First-time Visitors
(Image sources: Internet)