Cat Ba island is a magnificent natural area located in Hai Phong. Recently, this rugged, primitive island has experienced a tourism surge. Visiting this beautiful site must be on the bucket list of almost every traveler to Vietnam. Cat Ba island has a reputation for its gorgeous and untouched charm as well as its diverse culture. Visiting Cat Ba island, you will be fascinated by the beauty of the sea, the limestone mountains with many interesting caves alternating with smooth white sand beaches. Surely, you will want to set off your journey immediately.
If you’re having no idea about worth visiting places or still not getting enough information about this island , you are at the right place now. This article will give you the full details of everything you need before visiting Cat Ba island. Let’s make a trip plan to Cat Ba island with us!
I. OVERVIEW OF CAT BA ISLAND, VIETNAM
Cat Ba island is located in Cat Hai district, which is about 30 km away from the center of Hai Phong city and about 10 km away from Ha Long Bay. It is the largest island of 367 ones lying in unique and beautiful Cat Ba archipelago.
Cat Ba Island is a huge green carpet containing a lot of mystery and attractiveness. Also, Cat Ba is considered to be the third biosphere reserve in Vietnam and now recognized by UNESCO as the World Biosphere Reserve. The total area of Cat Ba Biosphere Reserve is over 26,000 ha with two core zones (strict conservation and no human impact), two buffer zones (allowing economic limited development but in combination with conservation) and two transitional areas (economic development). Cat Ba biosphere reserve is a convergence of tropical rainforests on limestone islands, mangrove forests, coral reefs and especially cave systems. Besides its incredible natural beauty, Cat Ba island is home to great numbers of species, which leads to an unbelievable biodiversity. It is recorded to have 1,561 species of flora and 279 species of fauna. Also, there are 160 bird species, 276 species of insects and more than 1000 of aquatic species. Especially, Cat Ba island national park is habitat to the golden head langurs– the most seriously threatened primates in the world.
II. WHEN TO TRAVEL TO CAT BA ISLAND, VIETNAM
1. Weather in Cat Ba Island
As a coastal area, Cat Ba island has a tropical marine climate which makes this island hot along with great deal of rain from April to September and cool, or even chilly from October to March. There are four seasons in Cat Ba Island, however, there are only summer and winter has the most different characteristics. The average annual temperature here is 23,8 °C, while the average annual rainfall is 2061 mm. In Cat Ba Island, it rains most in April, May, June, July, August, September and October. If you don’t like too much rain, you should avoid September because it is the wettest month. In contrast, the driest month in Cat Ba is January.
2. Best time to visit Cat Ba island
Cat Ba Island has a cool and mild climate around the year so you can travel to in Cat Ba at any time. However, the island is visited and busy most – or its peak time is in June and July when the weather is hottest and people tend to spend time enjoying the cooler weather on the beach.
While domestic tourists often travel to Cat Ba from April to October, international visitors often cruise to Cat Ba from November to March. Therefore, you should consider which time of the year in Cat Ba matches your interests. Cat Ba has a different beauty in each season. If you like the hustling and busy and want to join in the street crowds, visit it in the summer and autumn. If not, you can go there in winter and spring to enjoy the tranquil atmosphere and have your own space.
III. HOW TO GET TO/AROUND CAT BA ISLAND, VIETNAM
1. How to get to Cat Ba Island from Hanoi
There has been not any direct road to Cat Ba island up to now, so tourists have to follow two main routes to get to the island: From Hanoi to Quang Ninh/Hai Phong and from Quang Ninh/Hai Phong to Cat Ba. However, you don’t have to worry about the inconvenience because there are a lot of travel companies providing an economical combo of the shuttle bus or train and boat to take you to Cat Ba Island.
a. Getting to Cat Ba Island by shuttle bus
Shuttle bus service is the best choice to get to Cat Ba from Hanoi because of its proper price and the definite safety for tourists.
Hoang Long Express Bus
- Phone: +84 225 392 0920
- Price: VND 220,000/person/one way
- Departure: 7:20, 11:20 from Hanoi
- Duration: 3,5 hours
- Service cost includes:
– Pick up at 28 Tran Nhat Duat Street, Hoan Kiem Dist, Hanoi.
– Bus and speed boat.
Cat Ba Express
- Phone: +84 1248 244 999
- Price: VND 240,000/person/one way
- Departs at 7:30, 10:45 and 14:00 from Hanoi
- Duration: 3 – 3,5 hours
- Service cost includes:
– Pick up at Hanoi Old Quarter and drop off at your hotel in Cat Ba Town.
– Bus and speedboat.
– A tour guide from Hanoi.
– Wifi, tissue, water, and snack available.
Good Morning Cat Ba
- Phone: +84 243 237 3186
- Price: VND 360,000/person/one way
- Departs at 8:00, 11:00 and 14:00 from Hanoi
- Duration: 3 – 3,5 hours
- Service cost includes:
– Pick up at Hanoi Old Quarter and drop off at your hotel in Cat Ba Island.
– Bus and speedboat.
– Tour guide during the trip.
– Wifi, tissue, water, and snack available.
b. Getting to Cat Ba Island by train
The railway system in Vietnam was first built by the French Colonial in the 19th century in order to transfer the natural resources to France. Now, the railway is becoming an experience worth trying for both local and international travelers.
Route: Train (Long Bien Railway Station, Hanoi – Hai Phong Train Station) – Taxi (Hai Phong Train Station – Ben Binh pier) – Hydrofoil (Ben Binh pier – Cat Ba Island).
– Train: VND 340,000/person/one way
– Hydrofoil: VND 220,000/person/one way
- Departure: Details at vietnam-railway.com/train/route/train-from-hanoi-to-hai-phong
- Duration: 2.5 hours
2. How to get around Cat Ba Island
a. Getting around Cat Ba on foot
Almost every tourist destination in Cat Ba is easily accessible on foot, even the beach. Therefore, if you love to enjoy each and every moment exploring the town, or you just don’t want to rent local vehicles, you can always walk to any location in Cat Ba.
b. Getting around Cat Ba by bike
Cat Ba has various bike rental service, so you can effortlessly find a bike and get around the town at any time. It is an economical way to go around, and maybe you will get fitter when you are back home. Almost every hotel along the street in Cat Ba Town can provide you with the rental bike so that you can easily choose one to start your exploration.
Where to hire: any rental store on 1/4 street. It should cost you around VND 20,000 per hour and VND 100,000 per day.
c. Get around Cat Ba island by scooter
Like the bike, you can always find a scooter in Cat Ba with the hiring price less than VND 100,000 per day. Buy gasoline at a petrol station so you only have to pay the listed price, or you can get gasoline in bottles in the streets but it will cost a lot more.
IV. WHAT TO EAT IN CAI BA ISLAND, VIETNAM
1. Salt Roasted Sea Crab – Cua Rang Muoi
Sea crabs can be found at any coast religion; however, each region has their own ways to cook the crabs. There are various ways to cook crab like crab hot pot, crab soup, steamed crab with sauce, etc. If you visit Cat Ba or Hai Phong city, you will have a chance to enjoy roasted crab with salt. It is the combination of sweetness and salt sweetness and salty taste, which makes a brand new experience for those who try it.
2. Cat Ba Rice Vermicelli with Shrimp – Bun Tom
This noodle dish is made with fresh shrimps, some fishcakes, tomatoes, green onion, a little lemon juice and bone broth. This Bun Tom is an elegant combination of the sweetness of the broth and the sour taste of lemon juice, along with the juicy shrimp. Try it with some salad and a punch of chili and I’m certain you will never forget this incredible taste.
3. Seahorse Crab: Limunoid – Sam
This kind of crab is probably the most popular dish here which has the sea flavor: strong, fresh, delicious and unique. They are skillfully cooked in many ways to create different flavors such as, salad, sweet and sour stir-fried limuloid legs (chân sam xào chua ngọt), limuloid stir-fried with lemongrass and chili (sam xào xả ớt), fried limuloid eggs (trứng sam chiên giòn), steamed limuloid (sam hấp), fried limuloid (sam bao bột rán), limuloid stir-fried with vermicelli (sam xào miến)
4. Pacific Geoduck – Tu Hai
Pacific Geoduck is a species of very large and edible clam living in the saltwater environment. It has a considerably nutritional value and special taste. Although this dish is not as popular as other seafood, its fresh flavor will still amaze you. The locals in Cat Ba cook this special seafood in many ways such as making the salad, cooking porridge, grilling with fat, onions, pepper, garlic, nasal nose, but the most delicious is steamed geoduck, which keeps the sweet taste of food.
5. Squids – Muc Ong
You can easily find this dish in almost every restaurant of Cat Ba. Squids are one of the most favorite and famous food here because of its tenderness and sweetness. The most popular way to cook this kind of seafood is to steam.
6. Mantis Shrimp – Be Be
As a pretty typical seafood in Cat Ba island, this kind of shrimp is very attractive and delicious because of its tenderness and unique flavor. Mantis shrimp or Be Be can be cook into various dishes such as Mantis shrimps fried with butter and garlic, Mantis shrimps steamed with beer, Mantis shrimp vermicelli. All of them are really must-try dishes and believe me, they will not disappoint you.
V. WHERE TO GO IN CAT BA ISLAND, VIETNAM
1. Canon Fort – Phao Than Cong
Located at the height of 177 meters, this is a historic site built by the Vietnamese army in the 40’s of the 20th century, and now there are still two well-preserved guns, each weighs up to tens of tons. What is more, besides visiting the fort, visitors can also enjoy the astonishing panorama of Cat Ba – the two gorgeous beaches: Cat Co 1 and Cat Co 2; various islands with different size: Long Chau, Cat Ong, Ang Tham. Also, from this height, Lan Ha bay looks so lively and hustling with hundreds of fishing boats in the harbor.
It takes about 10 minutes to get to Cannon Fort from the center of Cat Ba town, so you can rent a bike, motorbike or have a walk to the destination.
2. Lan Ha Bay – Vinh Lan Ha
Geologically, Lan Ha is a part of Ha Long Bay but lies in a different province of Vietnam. The ecosystem here is also great, around 200 fish species, 400 species of arthropod and numerous types of coral live in the water, while larger marine animals in the area including seals and three species of dolphin. Besides, Lan Ha Bay has 139 small sandy beaches, as many islands have a sandy beach lie between two limestone mountains. Many tourists come to these beaches for kayaking, sunbathing, swimming or have a picnic on the beach.
Since it’s quite far from Ha Long Bay, there are not many tourist boats here, which makes Lan Ha a quite remote and primitive place. You can rent a boat or join a tour to come to visit Lan Ha bay. Some resorts like Monkey Island resort provide small boat for a small group of 2 – 3 people and the price is very reasonable. Most of the tourists visiting Lan Ha bay say they really enjoy this place because it is not so crowded and nature here is so stunning with lovely sandy beaches and thousands of islets around. Visiting Lan Ha in 3 to 4 hours is a reasonable time.
3. Cat Ba National Park
Cat Ba National Park is about 20 km from Cat Ba town. This dense tropical jungle covers half of the whole island and among many other animals and birds is home to the endangered Cat Ba Langurs. Cat Ba National Park is an attractive eco-tourism destination and is particularly attractive to adventure lovers. To get to this national park, you can rent a car, a motorbike or a bike if you love biking. Besides, you have to buy an entrance ticket, which costs VND 40,000 with adult and VND 20,000 with children. A guide is not compulsory but is highly recommended to help you understand clearly about the jungle with various kinds of trees, animals, insects. Moreover, there are different routes so you can choose the most suitable one for your interests and your health condition as well. The most popular, most proper for hiking ones are Ao Ech (Frog Lake) – Viet Hai route; May Bau – Hang Quan Y (Hospital Cave) route; Kim Giao – Me Con – Tung Di route, Kim Giao Forest – Ngu Lam Peak route.
It will take about 4 to 6 hours for each trekking trail, so remember to take proper trainers and bring some necessary things with you like water, mosquito repellent, a raincoat and flashlight in case you visit Trung Trang cave on the hiking trip. You can buy some basic snack in small shops in Viet Hai, a small village outside the park.
4. Hospital Cave – Hang Quan Y
Hospital Cave is a famous stop off for visitors on Cat Ba Island. Set at Tran Chau – the road that links Cat Ba town to the National Park, but is difficult to reach without private transport. The easiest way for you is to rent a motorbike in one of many rental stores in Cat Ba(the price is from 100,000 to 150,000VND), then drive 10km North until you see the signs for the cave. If a motorbike is not suitable for you, getting a taxi could help. Located in the high mountain so the road to the cave could be rough and steep.
This strategically important concrete bombproof cave is a 17 room underground hospital as well as the safe house for Viet Cong leaders which was used during the war in Vietnam until 1975. It contains rooms for various specific purposes: recovery rooms, doctors’ office, a giant natural cavern used as a cinema room, and even escape tunnels for soldiers in an emergency. With a very cheap entrance fee of 15,000VND, you can rent a guide so that you will have a chance to learn a bit more about the cave.
5. Cat Co Beach
Traveling to Cat Ba island, don’t forget to visit the most beautiful and famous Cat Co beach. You can get there to chill, lounge around, sunbath or go swimming. Cat Co beach is separated into 3 parts by the limestone mountains. The first one, Cat Co 1 beach which is about 1 km from the center of Cat Ba city, is the most well-known so if you want a quiet and peaceful atmosphere, this beach is not really suitable, especially in summer months when a lot of tourists come here. Cat Co 2 is less popular one, however, it is still a stunning and attractive beach with such a lovely swath of white sand and suitable for those who want to enjoy the peace. The nearest one to Cat Ba town is Cat Co 3. It is also a pretty beach with white sand and bright sunshine. There is a new 700-meter wooden seaside walkway around the mountain, so you can easily move from one beach to another.
6. Viet Hai Village
Viet Hai belongs to Cat Hai District, Hai Phong City, and is about 10km from the center of Cat Ba Town. Considered as ‘isolated heaven’, it is located between the valley and surrounded by huge mountains and jungles. Despite the rapid development of the modern world, Viet Hai people still remain ‘primitive’ of the ancient. Despite the fast development of Cat Ba town, Viet Hai still remains unspoiled natural primitive landscape. Additionally, the hospitality and warm welcome of the locals in the village will make you want to stay here longer. Despite the quite poor living condition as a remote area, people here seem to be satisfied and enjoy their life. Besides, you can also enjoy the food grown by the locals in some restaurants opened here, especially after you have a trek through the national park.
VI. THINGS TO DO IN CAT BA ISLAND, VIETNAM
1. Explore the beautiful caves
There are some famous caves in Cat Ba like Trung Trang cave, Thien Long cave, Da Hoa cave. All of them are famous for the gorgeous landscape with spectacular limestone formation and they still all remain the primitive charm although they become the tourist attraction. Tourists will be amazed by this gift of nature, so give it a try!
2. Contemplate the sea in the evening
In nice weather day, don’t miss the chance to see this stunning scenery. You can join a tour to get to the sea at night. You will never forget a scenery of the endless ocean with starry night, and the breeze blowing so gently.
3. Visit Cai Beo Floating Village
This floating village is thought to be the residence of ancient fishermen until now and is about 2 km from Cat Ba town. You can get there by taxi or motorbike and then enjoy the attractive scenery of hundreds of floating house on the sea. Also, you can buy fresh seafood here.
Cat Ba Island is a tourist destination which cannot be missed when traveling to Vietnam. The above is the complete Cat Ba travel guidebook we share with you. Wish that you will have an interesting and memorable trip to Cat Ba Island.