Cat Ba Island, Vietnam

Cat Ba town at the base of the hills

Rugged, craggy and jungle-clad Cat Ba is the largest of 367 islands in the Cat Ba Archipelago, and 25km from the UNESCO Heritage site of Ha Long Bay.  The region is famous for its karst topography featuring thousands of towering limestone islands and islets, stunning caves and white sandy beaches.  This spectacular scenery took 20 million years to create and today is visited by 2.6 million people per year, ranked 4th among the most visited natural wonders of the world.

There is little to do on the island other than get on cruises around Lan Ha Bay and Ha Long Bay.  We originally looked at overnight cruises, but we were unable to find a cruise that went where we wanted and did not drop you off to hike on an island for hours.  So, we ended up staying in Cat Ba town for 3 days.  Temperatures hovered around 32C with 84% humidity making the feel like temperature 38C.  Our energy was sapped 🥵 relegating us to short walks around town.

  • A nice boardwalk along the water


Rock trail is listed as one of the top activities in Cat Ba Town.  It is a lovely, paved trail along the cliffs between two beaches, dazzling us with fantastic views of the limestone islands dotting Lan Ha Bay.  We walked the trail out and back rather than return on a heavily trafficked road, adding up to just under 5km round trip.  The scenery along the trail is captivating!

  • Rock Trail


The hotel we stayed at is owned by Cat Ba Ventures, so we booked a 9-hour cruise with them touring Lan Ha Bay and Ha Long Bay.  WOW what a day!!!  2 swimming stops, 90 minutes of kayaking, and cruising around the bays was spectacular.  We joined all the young folk jumping off the top deck of the boat into the water, it took a bit of extra courage but we both jumped twice.  We are not fans of big tours, but this one was exceptional and the company was very organized.  Our day flowed smoothly, lunch was delicious, and they tried their best to avoid the busy spots.  We highly recommend them if you are staying on Cat Ba Island.  The tour cost USD $32.30 each.


On our way back at the end of the day we were fortunate to see 4 Cat Ba Langur monkeys.  They are one of the world’s most endangered primate species with only 82-85 remaining.  The entire species is confined to a 22 square km area and with the hard work of conservationists the population is increasing.  The babies are born a bright orange color so they are easy to spot with the mothers on the grey rocks, our guide seemed pretty excited that we saw the monkeys. (click on any photo to enlarge)

3 days on Cat Ba Island was more than enough to see what we wanted and enjoy a day cruise around the islands.  If the weather was cooler there is a National Park with some hiking trails that would be a fun activity, just not in this heat.

Next up, Ninh Binh, and I hear it’s even hotter there…..






Rather than try and put together the various modes of transport from Sapa to Cat Ba Island we hired our private driver Ken once again.  It was a long 8 hour day, including a ferry, which he organized and included in his price of 6,120,000 VND (USD $240).  We thought this was pricy but for the convenience of taking one vehicle the entire way, it was worth it to us.  Ken can be reached on WhatsApp at +84 96 908 10 94  He drives a nice SUV and is also a tour guide if you require more than just getting from A to B.

If you want to see where we stay in our travels, head over to our accommodation page.



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