Cat Ba is located on the northeastern coast of Vietnam, near the city of Hai Phong. The island has long been seen as an overlooked destination yet it is a stunning must-visit spot for all sorts of local and international travellers.
Top must-do experiences in Cat Ba
Cat Ba Archipelago comprises of 367 islands, with Cat Ba Island remaining the largest and only populated of all, and it is well-known for its widespread limestone and karst above the ocean, dramatic grottoes, rocky hills, diverse natural ecosystem, and hidden sandy beaches.
Its untouched and wild natural beauty is such a charm that you will be surprised to find many foreigners who stay here for weeks to travel and explore the island completely. Whether you are an adventurer or travel with your friends or family on a leisure trip, find below the best things to do in Cat Ba.
Cruising around Lan Ha Bay
Many tourists pass by Cat Ba as an overnight stop or part of a tour to Ha Long Bay. However, the coastal area of Cat Ba, known as Lan Ha Bay, is certainly one of the greenest and most exquisite bays of Northern Vietnam. It comprises hundreds of limestone islands covered by rain forests, similar to Ha Long Bay. If you are considering this alternative, mind that the water is calmer, cleaner and greener outside the summer months due to fewer tourists.
From Ben Beo Port, purchase the entrance ticket for the bay and rent or share a boat with other tourists to cruise around the bay according to different routes. You will be passing beautiful floating villages and small islets. Visiting the bay can take up from 3 to 5 hours or even the whole day. Most tours through Lan Ha Bay cost between 15 USD to 20 USD. Do not be afraid to bargain. Going with a local boat through the bay costs around 200.000 VND (10 USD) per person.
Sunbathing on sandy beaches
Not only around Lan Ha Bay but also within Cat Ba Island you would be surprised to find many quiet and hidden beaches next to each other such as Cat Co 1, Cat Co 2, Cat Co 3, Cat Ong, Cat Trai Gai, and Duong Danh. Come here to relax outside peak summer season to avoid the crowds of local tourists and enjoy the beach all for yourself.
Trekking through Cat Ba National Park
Cat Ba National Park is home to 200 animal species, 700 types of trees and plants, along with many hills, ponds, and rain forest spreading through a total area of over 16,000 hectares. Trekking through the park can take many hours. Going with a guide is not necessary but for safety reasons you should not go alone. Wear your most comfy shoes and sport outfit. Take plenty of water and as little luggage as possible to endure the long track.
Cycling around Viet Hai village
Cross Cat Ba National Park to reach Viet Hai Village and enjoy the beautiful and quiet local town by bicycle or by foot. There is a small 5-kilometer path leading to the port, surrounded by mountain cliffs and clear river path nestling beneath. From Viet Hai you can take a boat back to Ben Beo port for 100.000 VND (5 USD).
Admire Cat Ba Island from the top at the Cannon fort
Looking for a great panoramic shot of the island? You do not need to spend hours climbing up the mountains of the national park, but few minutes driving from the town center to the Cannon Fort. There is also a cafe up there for visitors to sit and chill whilst waiting for a majestic sunset scenery over Cat Ba.
Practice outdoor activities
Kayaking: Floating through Lan Ha Bay on a kayak is the best way to explore the different islands and discover caves. Renting a kayak costs only around 100.000 VND (5 USD) per kayak for 2 people.
Rock climbing: There are two main areas in Cat Ba Island for rock climbing. Look for a professional guide before venturing above the karsts.
Snorkelling: The ideal time to dive under and be allured by the beautiful coral reef hidden in Cat Ba is between May and September.
How to get to Cat Ba Island
Cat Bi International Airport (HPH) serves the city of Hai Phong with domestic and international flights from Thailand and South Korea. Hai Phong Railway Station is directly connected to the capital by train. Coming by air or rail to Hai Phong, travellers can reach Cat Ba Island by ferry. There are also direct bus routes connecting Cat Ba with the major tourist destinations in Northern Vietnam.
– Within Vietnam, Vietnam Airlines, Jetstar Pacific and VietJet Air operate domestic flights connecting Da Nang to Hai Phong, Nha Trang to Hai Phong, Da Lat to Hai Phong, Ho Chi Minh to Hai Phong, Can Tho to Hai Phong and Phu Quoc to Hai Phong.
– From Thailand, VietJet Air operates international flights connecting Bangkok to Hai Phong non-daily.
– From South Korea, VietJet Air operates international flights connecting Seoul to Hai Phong.
For more information, check our guide of domestic flights in Vietnam and international flights from Vietnam to Southeast Asia and East Asia.
– The Hanoi–Hai Phong railway line connects Hanoi to Hai Phong. Trains depart from Hanoi Railway Station and arrive to Hai Phong Railway Station, the gateway to Cat Ba Island. Passenger services are designated with code HP for express services stopping at main stations and LP for slow services stopping at all stations along the line.
For more information, check our guide of trains in Vietnam.
Once in Hai Phong, travellers can connect with ferries departing from Pha Binh Port.
– Cat Ba Island operates regular ferry services connecting Hai Phong to Cat Ba.
For more information, check our guide of ferry routes in Vietnam.
– Cat Ba Express, Daiichi Travel and Good Morning Cat Ba operate joint bus + ferry services from Hanoi to Cat Ba.
– Good Morning Cat Ba operates joint bus + ferry services from Sapa to Cat Ba and Ninh Binh to Cat Ba.
For more information, check our guide of bus routes in Vietnam.
Updated on May 20, 2019.