If Phu Quoc Island is named "Pearl Island" of the South, Vietnamese northerners can use the exact same name for Cat Ba Island. This is truly a destination for nature lovers who want to explore the beauty of the sea, forest and mountain.
Cat Ba Island is an archipelago in Cat Hai district, Hai Phong city. The island is located offshore and about 30 km from Hai Phong city and 25 km from Ha Long city.
The only way to get to Cat Ba Island is by boat. There are a lot of tour agencies in Hanoi that offers one-way trips to the island. You can also buy a bus ticket from Luong Yen Bus Station which costs around 240,000 - 250,000 VND.
Alternately, if you're staying in Ha Long City, you can get the ferry from Tuan Chau Island. The ferry takes 45 minutes and ticket price is around 80,000 - 100,000 VND per passenger.
Day 1: Monkey Island - Cat Co Beaches - Cannon Fort
Monkey Island is one of the highlights in Cat Ba thanks to dozen of fun monkeys as well as bewitching nature. The island was previously known as Cat Dua (Pineapple) Island because of a large amount of wild pineapple. However, the pineapples here are inedible. The locals only use them to make traditional medicine.
Monkey Island is located in the area of Nam Cat, Lan Ha Bay and is about 5 km round with the front side are 2 sandy beaches and the back side is rocky mountain. There are also diving tours here if you want to see life under the sea.
Monkey Island, Cat Ba, Cát Hải, Haiphong, Vie...
Cat Co beaches
Cat Ba Island has plenty of large and small beaches. But Cat Co beaches (Cat Co 1, 2, 3) are the most popular tourist attractions due to the rich natural landscape. These beaches are connected by a cliff-side walking trail offering magnificent views. They are not far from the center of Cat Ba town. You can rent a motorbike, take a shuttle or even walk here.
Cat Co 1 is the largest and the most beautiful beach. Hence, it's the crowded of all. Meanwhile, Cat Co 2 and 3 are smaller but more peaceful.
Cat Co 1 Beach. Credit: worldbeachguide.com
Cat Co 1 Beach
Cat Co 1 Beach, Cat Ba, Cát Hải, Haiphong, Vi...
Bãi tắm Cát Cò 2
Bãi tắm Cát Cò 2, Cat Ba, Cát Hải, Haiphong, ...
Cat Co 3 Beach
Cat Co 3 Beach, Cat Ba, Cát Hải, Haiphong, Vi...
Watching the sunset in Cannon Fort
Cannon Fort, also known as Point 177 (or Divine Fortress), is a historic area located on the top of a hill with a height of 177 m. It's also the best spot to enjoy the sunset in Cat Ba Island with view directly to the surrounding islets and Lan Ha Bay. Coming here, you can explore the tunnel system, cannons and trench fortification built in the 40s of the 20th century.
Cannon Fort, Cat Ba, Cát Hải, Haiphong, Vietn...
Day 2: Trekking from Cat Ba National Park to Viet Hai Village
Cat Ba National Park will offer you a great trekking experience. Like Phu Quoc National Park, Cat Ba National Park covers more than half of the island. The park is home to 1,500 species of plants and 32 species of mammal, including the world's 65 remaining golden-headed langurs - one of the most endangered primates. The ecosytem is comprised of 6 different types: tropical rain forest, mangrove forest, tidal flat, marine lake, coral reed and soft bottom. Moreover, Cat Ba National Park is a World Heritage Site that contains some of the most stunning limestone karst landscapes.
Cat Ba National Park
Cat Ba National Park, Cát Hải, Haiphong, Viet...
From Cat Ba town, you can take a bus or rent a motorbike to go to Cat Ba National Park. The park opens daily from 8 am to 5 pm. Admission prices are 80,000 VND for adults and 60,000 VND for children. Parking fee is 5,000 VND. You can still park your motorbike for "free" at one of the nearby vendors if you want (but I don't recommend this).
Cat Bat National Park - Viet Hai Village is a moderate to difficult trail and provides a harder challenge. The adventure starts as you walk from Cat Ba National Park entrance, through the forest, Ao Ech (Frog Pond) to Viet Hai Village, which is located on a valley and surrounded by high mountains.
Despite being one of the poorest communes in Cat Hai district, Viet Hai is a land of joy, peace and happiness. More and more tourists come to this land but it still retains the hidden beauty. Houses here are made of bamboo, wood, leaves and soil. The locals make a living by fishing, farming and breeding just like their ancestors.
Viet Hai Village
Viet Hai Village, Viet Hai Village, Việt Hải,...
After exploring Viet Hai Village, you can follow the same route to come back to Cat Ba Town or book a kayaking trip as an alternative option.
Below are some other trails available for trekking in Cat Ba National Park:
Ngu Lam trail
This a short, moderately trafficked loop trail (only 1.6 km). The trail offers you the chance to see wildlife and enjoy scenic views.
Kim Giao Forest - Ngu Lam Peak trail
This 1.5 km trail meanders through the forest up to Ngu Lam Peak. The trail will allow you to explore the forest which is home to the rare, big and ancient Kim Giao trees. To follow this route, you will hike in the forest, past some main points as butterfly garden - zoo - botanical gardens - natural forest on limestone mountain - Kim Giao Forest - Ngu Lam Peak. After reaching the 220-meter high Ngu Lam Peak, you can enjoy the wonderful panorama of the whole greenness of Cat Ba Island.
NGU LAM PEAK
NGU LAM PEAK, Trân Châu, Cát Hải, Haiphong, V...
Day 3: Lan Ha Bay
As part of the Cat Ba World Biosphere Reserve, Lan Ha Bay is dubbed the "paradise on earth" due to its tranquility and picturesque beauty. Moreover, Lan Ha Bay is more peaceful and has less tourists than the famous Ha Long Bay.
Lan Ha Bay
Lan Ha Bay, Vietnam
Lesser crowds mean that you can easily explore Lan Ha Bay by kayaking. You can rent a kayak or book a half-day or one-day tour of kayaking and diving. Lan Ha Bay is made up of 400 uninhabited, jungle-covered limestone islets, hidden caves and enormous mountain ranges. So you will never run out of things to explore here.
Ba Trai Dao islet is the most popular spot for kayaking in Lan Ha Bay. From afar, this complex of three mountains resemble the image of three giant peaches with a majestic beauty.
Ba Trai Dao
Ba Trai Dao, Việt Hải, Cát Hải, Haiphong, Vie...
Besides kayaking and diving, rock climbing is another activity in La Ha Bay that you can challenge and reward yourself at the same time. There are many tours which provide climbing and safety gears. Most beautiful cliffs with various shapes and sizes and many levels of difficulty are Dau Be, Van Boi Island, Fish Cave, Tien Ong Island and Moody Beach.
Moody Beach, Việt Hải, Cát Hải, Haiphong, Vie...
Discover Dark & Light Cave
Dark & Light Cave (Dark & Bright Cave) is located on the border of Ha Long Bay, Bai Tu Long Bay and Lan Ha Bay. It's actually a system made up of two separate small caves. Dark Cave is quite deep and narrow, and sometimes "swallowed" by the tides. Meanwhile, Light Cave is always accessible.
Dark and Bright Caves
Dark and Bright Caves, Việt Hải, Cát Hải, Hai...
The cave boast a mysterious beauty with a dim natural light, green vegetation, clear water and thousand-of-year natural habitat within the ecosystem. Once arriving the cave, a dazzling combination of arch-shaped ceiling, sparkling stalactites and emerald green waters create a wonderful mysterious atmosphere. Passing through the cave, you will see an absolutely different world. The cave leads to a peaceful sea valley surrounded by magnificent limestone mountain cliffs. These cliffs look like huge green walls covered by luxuriant plants.