A spot that is easily missed by many travelers during their trip to Vietnam and also a place from where you can score best deals for Halong Bay Cruises.
- Vietnam Overview
- Vietnam Chapter 1 – Sapa
- Vietnam Chapter 2 – Halong Bay
- Vietnam Chapter 3 – Cat Ba Island
- Vietnam Chapter 4 – Hoi An
- Vietnam Chapter 5 – Da Nang and Ba Na Hills
About Cat Ba Island
Also called the “Pearl Island”, Cat Ba Island is the largest and only populated island in the archipelago of Halong Bay which consists of approximately 367 islands.
Cat Ba lies in the northeast region of Vietnam in the Hai Phong province and is easily accessible from Halong and Hanoi. Approximately half of its area is covered by National Park and hence preserving the ecosystem. Cat Ba’s Town is the commercial spot with all the hotels and restaurants and is at the southern tip of the island.
Though it is a spot which you should include in your itinerary for rest & relaxation purposes, still there are many activities which can be enjoyed while you are here. You can spike your adrenaline rush through kayaking, take out some me time and go cruising along La Han Bay, relax and swim on gorgeous beaches, go on a hike in National Park or just rent a motorbike and ride it around the island.
Cat Ba can woo you with its mesmerizing landscape consisting of close-knitted mangrove creeks, dense green forests, beautiful beaches, and limestone caves.
Things to do in Cat Ba
Cat Ba National Park
About half of the area of Cat Ba Island is a National Park designated as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. There is an entrance fee of 80,000 VND for the national park and is approximately 15 km from the Cat Ba Town.
A short hike of approximately 1.8 km can be enjoyed while you are in a National park. The route is straight and simple and won’t require any guide.
Do you love swimming? Or, do you like to just lay down on the beach chaises with your reading glasses on? Because Cat Ba is for both!
Cat Ba offers you 3 sandy beaches named Cat Co 1, Cat Co 2 & Cat Co 3, which are at a walkable distance from main Cat Ba town. These beaches are not too big but are surrounded by mountains and will surprise you with its crystal clear water.
A walkway joins the Cat Co Beach 1 with the Cat Co Beach 3 and is a mesmerizing walk. This walkway requires a special mention because of the landscapes it provides. Wooden staircases throughout the route gives you a chance to peek through the cliff edge and enjoy the unspoiled beauty of turquoise water. These 15 minutes of the magical walk can send you in a peaceful and relaxed state of mind, which, you won’t mind walking twice.
Unfortunately, Cat Co Beach 2 was closed during our time due to some construction on the way.
La Han Bay
Acqua-turquoise water, dramatic landscapes, sandy beach shores make La Han Bay and Halong Bay one of the most beautiful bays in the World.
You can enjoy La Han Bay Cruising which has exactly the same things to offer which Halong Bay cruise does but at a cheaper price. It was once the part of Halong Bay itself but got separated out later.
The activity on La Han Bay usually includes kayaking, visiting Monkey Island, swimming & relaxing on dazzling beaches, and watching impressive limestone karst.
Cat Ba is connected with all the major cities of Vietnam and is easily accessible.
- From Halong Bay – You can get a ferry from Cat Ba Island ferry terminal which is at the end of the harbor, south to Tuan Chau Terminal. You have 2 options from there:
- The fast ferry takes 15 minutes to reach Cat Ba and runs twice a day costing 2,50,000 VND.
- Hydrofoil (big ferry which transports other vehicles as well) takes an hour and runs 5 times a day in peak season and 3 times a day in low season costing only 80,000 VND.
Both the ferries will drop you to Bến phà Gia Luận ferry terminal from where you can get a shared minibus which takes approximately 30 minutes to reach the town and costs another 30,000 VND. The timing of this bus is synced with the hydrofoil ferry, therefore, it leaves after the arrival of that ferry.
- From Hanoi – There are many private transport services that will pick you up from your hotel and drop you to Cat Ba Town.
It takes approximately 4 hours from Hanoi to Hai Phong and then 30 minutes of Hydrofoil ride from Hai Phong to Bến tàu Cát Bà pier and then another 30 minutes ride to Cat Ba town. A bus will cost you approximately 4,00,000 VND including everything and you don’t have to get down of the bus to board the big ferry.
You can take the same route while returning back or there are buses from Cat Ba directly to other cities if you plan that way.
If you are staying in the main Cat Ba town then all the beaches, restaurants, cafes and hotels are at walkable distance.
But it is advisable to rent a motorbike for a day to explore the whole town of Cat Ba. Motorbikes are quite affordable and hence make it easy to get around and explore. Motorbikes can cost between 80,000 to 1,00,000 VND per day i.e. approximately 300 INR.
There are many hotels and hostels in Cat Ba ranging from budget to luxurious ones. I will recommend you to base yourself at the center of Cat Ba town because this is where most of the restaurants, cafes, and shops are.
We stayed at Cat Ba Family hotel which had 2 queen size beds with all other amenities and cost us approximately 1,50,000 VND (450 INR) only and that too with breakfast.
If you want a luxurious experience and a quiet place then there are few resorts on Cat Co Beach 1, 2 and 3.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit this place is in summers between April and November. Since this is a peak season, many Halong Bay Cruise tours make a stop here and hence the beaches and town can be pretty crowded.
We went in January and experienced very few people in the town. We were the only ones on the beach and hence felt like we owned it 😀
We did not face language problems in Cat Ba as most of the hotel and restaurant staff knows English or at least are learning English.
Food is not at a problem when you are in Cat Ba. Since Cat Ba hosts many foreign tourists, it has plenty of restaurants and cafes serving a variety of food. From local cuisines to all other foreign cuisines, you can expect great taste and variety.
So this was my experience in one of the hidden hamlet of Vietnam, Cat Ba Island. Please let me know in the comments if you liked it. Please share it with your friends who are planning a trip to Vietnam.
Keep traveling and keep sharing experiences!