Cat Ba Island
The largest of the islands sitting in the Halong Harbour, Cat Ba Island is home to a massive national park, stunning beaches, and the last home to the most endangered primates in the world. The second you step foot on the island you easily understand why it has quickly grown to be one of the most popular spots to visit on your tour through Vietnam. Whether you like rock climbing, hiking, watersports, relaxing on a beach, or eating top-notch seafood, there is something for everyone. Add in the low costs for everything and you have the ideal budget destination. The island is also a perfect jump-off point for cruises through Lan Ha Bay and is an easy connection for the main port for Halong Bay Cruises.
What to do
Cat Ba is the perfect home base for a few days of adventure and a few days of relaxation. Take advantage of the top-notch beaches- many of which can only be accessed from the water, or hop on a motorbike and cruise through the hills to explore the national park. It doesn't matter what your interests are as there is something for pretty much everyone!
Cat Ba National Park
Over half of the entire island is covered in a national park. Though it is 80,000VND to enter, it is worth every penny as the area is stunning. There are several main trails that you can explore but the most common is a few KM hike up to one of the tallest peaks in the park. Though it is quite steep at points, it can be easily done on your own with no need to hire a guide. The other main hike is very long and tiring but takes you through the park to a small fishing village that can only be accessed by boat or this trail. With many unexploded bombs and mines in the park, it is advised to have a guide with you for this trek as it is complicated and dangerous if you get lost.
The national park is also home to the last few Cat Ba langurs in the world. These colourful and cute animals are the most endangered primates in the world with only about 60 left. It is definitely worth it to spend a few hours and explore the area!
Trung Trang Cave
Just down the road from the National Park office is Trung Trang Cave, an easy to explore cave, that snakes its way through a mountain. Climbing the hundred or so steps to the entrance gives you a great view of the area before you plunge into the narrow sections of the cave. At over 300M long, the cave narrows to the point of crawling before opening up into large caverns numerous times. Make sure to go through the entire cave as the ending opening is massive! Entrance is free as long as you purchase the national park pass and visit them both on the same day.
During the Vietnam-American War, Cat Ba Island was the sight of extensive bombings by the Americans. To stay safe, residence and the military took a massive cave with a hidden entrance and built an entire hospital inside. Entering through massive steal bomb-proof doors, you find yourself in a long hallway which used to be the operating rooms, sleeping quarters for the staff,
and munitions rooms. Walking up a flight of stairs, you pass the swimming pool to the soldiers' training room and living space. This massive concrete pad was where hundreds of soldiers lived and trained for 10 years! Hidden up a narrow staircase is even a third level that contains the captain's quarters. During the many bombing raids, many of the locals also moved into this space. At its max, it was able to hold 2,000 citizens, several hundred soldiers, and about 50 medical staff. Even after over a decade of bombings, it was not able to be destroyed and is another example of the ingenuity and strength of the Vietnamese people.
During the summer, the beaches of Cat Ba are some of the top in Vietnam. Backed by gorgeous mountains that come straight up from the water, it's hard to beat these beautiful coves. While there are dozens that dot the edge of the island, the most popular ones are just a few minutes' walk from Cat Ba Town. Unfortunately, development has started and will impact the beauty of Beaches 1 and 2. On the other side of town, is another amazing cove beach with one of the deepest stretches of the beach we have ever seen!