Cat Ba Island, Hai Phong City is located about 10km southeast of Halong Bay and 30km from the city center. It is the largest island in Halong Bay, consisting of 300 small islands. There is plenty of places to visit and things to do on Cat Ba Island.
Table of Contents
There are a lot of Cat Ba Island things to do: swimming at Cat Co Beach, kayaking to explore the amazing caves, visiting Cai Beo Floating Village, cycling to Viet Hai Village, and other more. If you are looking for something more adventurous, you can trek to the Cat Ba National Park to see the rare animals and plants, go rock climbing, as well as go snorkeling and diving. Moreover, the seafood is so incredible that you should not miss your chances to savor all specialties like Horseshoe Crab and Vietnamese Geoduck Clam.
If you are short on time and cannot do all the above things, below is a list of the top 15 things to do on Cat Ba Island that you should try at least once while visiting this wonderful island.
Enjoy the best things to do on Cat Ba Island
Kayaking should be on the top list of the best things to do in Cat Ba. Unlike the touristy routes in Halong Bay, kayaking routes here are so tranquil that you can independently explore the wondrous nature in your own space. The most popular Cat Ba kayaking destination is Lan Ha Bay, where a great number of beautiful caves, islets, and karsts are calling for you. Thanks to the calm water and unspoiled routes, Lan Ha Bay makes it pretty perfect to spend either a half or whole day paddling around.
Don’t mind if you are a newbie to Cat Ba kayaking! It is a piece of cake to use the paddle and explore the scenic water after learning several kayaking tips and instructions. You can self-organize your kayak or book a half-or full-day kayaking tour in Cat Ba Island. The cost of kayaking is 2 USD per hour per person. However, we highly recommend you take a Cat Ba Island cruise which includes kayaking in its itinerary. Then, you are not required to pay any extra fees as well as pick up a kayaking route when you have no idea what to see on this island.
Kayaking is on the top list of best things to do in Cat Ba
One of the most authentic things to do in Cat Ba is to explore the unspoiled beaches and islands without the hustle and bustle. Here, we suggest an excursion to Van Boi Island, a hidden spot offering the idyllic views of pristine beaches, crystal clear water, colorful coral reef, impressive karsts, and greenery surroundings. Set location on a small island opposite Tortoise Island, Van Boi is a laid-back attraction isolated from the modern world outside. Let your hair down and immerse yourself in the restful wilderness at the slower pace of life.
Van Boi Island offers a wide range of what to do in Cat Ba for beach lovers, from swimming, sunbathing for tanned skin, diving for beautiful corals, to kayaking across amazing limestone. In case you are an adventurer, get a trek and climb through the canyons instead. The rocky mountain in Van Boi Island actually gives you an exhilarating retreat with the picturesque mountainscape.
Don't forget to explore pristine beaches in Cat Ba Island
Among the top must-see attractions, Freedom Island is a hidden gem that is conceivably more stunning than Van Boi Island. Since Freedom Island is far more untouched, its name partially describes the soul of freedom here. On a private and restful island, you can completely enjoy a heavenly getaway with an abundance of top things to do in Cat Ba. Possessing two pristine beaches, Freedom Island makes it ideal to have a swim, kayak, bask in the sun, play volleyball on the beach, and other beach activities. There are only a few cruises heading for Freedom Island and holding party celebrations.
Take notice of the wilderness here because you might easily get lost while wandering around. There are no signs, no landmarks, and a handful of tucked-away places. Remember to bring along your phone to screenshot your starting point and follow the route on Google maps.
Freedom Island is a hidden gem to discover in Cat Ba Island
Hiking up the Ngu Lam Peak is a must-do for any hikers. Ngu Lam is an incredible hiking spot to soak up the wilderness of Cat Ba National Park. To conquer the peak, requires a lot of effort and sweat but still worth a mesmerizing view of the top hills over the scenic island. It takes around 45 minutes up and 30 minutes down to conquer the route to Ngu Lam Peak. The majority of the uphill path is in good condition, but you should be careful of the rough trail with steep drop-offs in the middle of the jungle.
There are two viewpoints that you should catch the sights of both. The first one is a multi-tiered watchtower offering the surrounding views. The second one is far more spacious without any barriers. Here you can feast your eye on a 360-degree panoramic view and let your hair down after the draining hike.
Conquer Ngu Lam Peak for the awe-inspiring mountain views
Apart from taking a cruise from Halong Bay to Cat Ba Island, you can experience the public ferry from Tuan Chau Island. This is one of the top things to do in Cat Ba to travel like a local. With only 2 USD per person, you will get a ferry ride through the most scenic parts of Halong Bay on the way. The public ferry is a cargo boat with benches and low amenities, but the views from the ferry boats are as good as any luxury cruise. This kind of activity is suitable for solo travelers, backpackers, and those in pursuit of a real venture. If you feel uncomfortable with the public ferry, let’s find other ways to get to Cat Ba Island.
Travel like a local by public ferry boat from Halong to Cat Ba
Cat Ba Island has plenty of small and large caves to discover. Most of them are renowned for primitive beauty and multi-shaped stalactites and stalagmites. One of the most worth visiting is the Hospital Cave, a huge complex that used to be a hospital to treat the wounded for over 10 years during the Vietnam War. There’s no natural light so it is dark, damp, and depressing, but you will be able to learn a lot about the Vietnam War during the visit to this cave. This is one of the most time-saving Cat Ba Island things to do, as you will probably spend 30 minutes or less exploring Hospital Cave.
The massive space at Hospital Cave
Built as a three-story complexity, Hospital Cave boasts a cinema, a swimming pool, and plenty of creepy mannequins dressed in Vietnamese soldiers. It is quite horrifying to wander around the mostly empty rooms and witness the represented scenes under the dim lights. However, you definitely need a local guide who shows you the resilient history of the Vietnamese. To enter the cave, you have to pay an entrance price to Cat Ba National Park of 2 USD. Hence, people usually take a half-or full-day tour to explore what to do in Cat Ba.
The mannequins at Hospital Cave
Set location on the top of the 177-meter High Point, Cannon Fort is known as a sunset viewpoint rather than a historical site. Nevertheless, most tourists haven’t heard about the history of this fortification dating back to the 20th-century struggles between Vietnam and the West. Considered an excellent strategic lookout point for marine and air attacks, the island was invaded by the Japanese during World War II. They built an underground system of tunnels and trenches connecting the cannons and many other infrastructures. Since then, Cannon Fort was used as a defense post by the Vietnamese during the French and American Wars.
At Cannon Fort, you can find a resemblance to Cu Chi Tunnels in Ho Chi Minh City. Here you can learn about the historical Vietnamese victory and wonder how this little country could shoot down American planes over the Gulf of Tokin.
Learn about Vietnamese history at Cannon Fort
Out of the best what to do in Cat Ba, an exploration from the water on an overnight cruise is a perfect alternative to the touristy Halong Bay boat tour. Cat Ba Island possesses a hidden gem named Lan Ha Bay, where hundreds of islets and jagged limestone formations stand out from the calm and emerald waters. What makes a boat tour much more desirable represents the low-traffic kayaking destinations and spotless swimming spots.
Like cruising in Halong Bay, there is a great selection of cruise tours in Cat Ba Island. You can choose a day cruise, a 2-day/1-night, or a 3-day/2-night trip. Furthermore, the cruise type, itinerary, activities, amenities, and purpose of your vacation also matter. We offer a variety of the 10 best Cat Ba Island Cruises to join all the must-dos around the island.
Peony Cruise - One of best Cat Ba Island Cruise
Another destination you should not miss out on is Monkey Island, just a 10-minute boat ride from the town. It is a small island which is known for hiking trails and the resident monkeys. As a stop off of some overnight cruises, Monkey Island attracts a lot of tourists to see the monkeys and feed them with snacks. Remember to keep the distance and watch out for them as they can get aggressive. Also, this island is a hiking destination for those in search of physical things to do on Cat Ba Island. There is only a short hike to reach the top of Monkey Island and soak up the spectacular views over Lan Ha Bay. Make sure you wear proper shoes to avoid being slippery.
Cat Ba is home to various types of monkey
Located about 15km from the central town, covering almost half of the island, Cat Ba National Park was recognized as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. This national park is a paradise for those who love to explore nature and challenge themselves. Visiting the park, you will be able to see enormous tropical rain forests, freshwater lakes, secluded sandy beaches, coral reefs, and an abundance of rare species. It is highly recommended to take a short hike to the top of Ngu Lam Mountain for a panoramic island view. Or else, pay a visit to Hospital Cave for a brief of the Vietnamese history. Amongst the rich biodiversity in Cat Ba National Park, you might be lucky to see the world’s endangered langur, a type of small monkey with golden hair and a long tail.
Cat Ba National Park can be visited every day of the week, from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. The entrance fee is almost 2 USD and you can visit a variety of must-see attractions.
Cat Ba National Park is among the most worth-visiting attractions in the island
Viet Hai is the largest floating village in Vietnam, surrounded by mountains and the jungle of Cat Ba National Park. This village attracts a large number of tourists to visit and enjoy the idyllic natural scenery, tranquil atmosphere, and the peaceful way of local life here. The must-dos are trekking through jungles, valley, and Ao Ech area, Hai Quan Hill - the highest point of Viet Hai; cycling around the village to see floating houseboats, spectacular surroundings, or taking pictures of ancient Vietnamese houses. Some Cat Ba Island cruises offer itineraries to visit Viet Hai Village such as Mon Cheri, Orchid, etc.
The rustic atmosphere in Viet Hai Village
If you are an adventure lover, you should try out rock climbing. There are more than 120 sport climbing routes on 13 crags in Cat Ba, making it one of the best spots in Vietnam for rock climbing. Dau Be Island, Ben Beo Mountain Cliff, and Ba Trai Dao Island are the most popular climbing sites. From the high, you can see an overview of the island and try deep water solo if you want. The winter months are pretty ideal for sport climbing when the temperatures are cool (10 - 20°C) and there is only moderate precipitation (5 - 25mm per month).
Go rock climbing at Butterfly Valley
There is a little fact that the Vietnamese are really into karaoke. Instead of spending time singing at lively karaoke in the town, you should try floating barge karaoke as a brand new thing to do in Cat Ba at night. Just head down the town pier, entertain by present your best Madonna or Beyoncé impersonation. It is the most authentic way to experience like a local on a floating barge karaoke. This cool place is so vacant that there are very few people in peak season. Don’t be shy if singing is not your forte. Just grab a microphone and have fun at karaoke by night.
Floating barge karaoke
Have you ever heard about bioluminescent plankton or fluorescent plankton? It is a magical natural phenomenon of tiny luminous sparkles caused by a set of chemical processes. In Cat Ba Island, you will have a chance to feast your eye on dazzling predators dancing with the movement of the water. The best way to admire bioluminescent plankton here is by taking a multiday Lan Ha Bay cruise. It is possible for cruises to anchor near the little light environment where you can get the most invisible dip. Additionally, there are other ways to experience this unique phenomenon on Cat Ba Beach 1, 2, or 3 after dark. However, it breaks the rules of not allowance to a spot of trespassing. If you mean to bend this boundary, be careful of being caught red-handed. We highly recommend you to take an overnight cruise to try out this magical Cat Ba Island thing to do.
Amazing bioluminescent plankton on Cat Ba beach
The last but not least thing to do in Cat Ba is catching the appealing sight of sunset from Cannon Fort. Not only does Cannon Fort represent Vietnamese history, but it also treats you with stunning views over the surrounding bays and islands at dusk. It is such an adorable place to soak up nature and sip a cup of Vietnamese beer at the bar. There are also dodgy picnic benches and a playground for kids. From here, you can contemplate the views of colorful fishing villages nestled in mountain ranges protruding from the emerald sea. As the sunset viewpoint at Cannon Fort is quite busy at twilight, you should better get there before sunset and pick up the best views over the bay.
Catch the best sunset moment at Cannon Fort
All in all, Cat Ba Island has plenty of must-do activities beyond sightseeing and cruising. Hope this list of the 15 best things to do on Cat Ba Island will help you out to enjoy your trip to the fullest. If you are in need of any Cat Ba Island tour arrangement, contact us for more details and support.
You may also like Cruising to Lan Ha Bay - New trend for Halong Bay Cruise
Jenny Tran & Rosie Dang
(Image sources: Internet)