Things to Do in Halong Bay
Amid the lush islands and karst cliffs of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Halong Bay; Surprise Cave (Hang Sung Sot) is one of the most memorable highlights. The bay’s largest cave earned its name for its startling natural scenery—a trio of immense caverns adorned with stalactites, stalagmites, and karst formations.
Named in honor of Russian astronaut Gherman Titov during his 1962 visit to Halong Bay, Titop Island (Đảo Titop) offers a striking sight from a distance—a swooping tower of limestone rising out of the sea and blanketed with thick rain forest. Its main highlight is the crescent of pristine white sand lining its shore.
Remote Lan Ha Bay (Vịnh Lan Hạ), situated off the southeast coast of Cat Ba Island, is an idyllic spot and quieter alternative to the popular and often busy Halong Bay. The area features some 300 karst islands and limestone outcrops, as well as several white-sand beaches. Active travelers come here for swimming, rock climbing, hiking, and kayaking.
The fairy-tale limestone seascapes that made UNESCO-listed Halong Bay famous continue into Bai Tu Long Bay (Vinh Bai Tu Long). Quieter, less developed, and more difficult to reach than its famous sibling, Bai Tu Long Bay is an increasingly popular choice for day cruises and overnight adventures.
A national park made up of dense jungle canvasses half of mountainous Cát Bà Island, the largest island in Halong Bay. Recognized by UNESCO as a biosphere reserve and known for its golden sand beaches, the park is home to an extraordinary diversity of animals, including the endangered Cát Bà langur.
A distinctive pair of karst islets jutting out from the calm waters of Halong Bay; the unique Hon Ga Choi Island (Fighting Cocks Island) has become one of the bay’s most memorable landmarks and among the most photographed attractions for cruise visitors. Located right in the heart of the bay, the jagged rock formations loom 12 meters over the water, improbably perched on narrow, weatherworn bases and appearing to lean towards each other.
It’s this peculiar creation of nature that afforded the island its name - Hòn Gà Chọi (Fighting Cocks Island), or Hòn Trống Mái (Cock and Hen Island), depending who you ask. For the full effect, pass by the islands at sunrise or sunset, when the dreamy sunlight casts a red hue over the rocks, further enhancing their cockerel-like appearance.
Carved into the karst cliffs of the eponymous island, the eerily beautiful Dau Go Cave (Hang Đầu Gỗ) is a mesmerizing sight, with dramatic cascades of stalactites and stalagmites. The cave’s name, which translates as ‘Driftwood Grotto’ or ‘Wooden Head Cave’ depending which version you prefer, is said to hark back to the 13th century, when it was used by General Tran Hung Dao to store the giant, steel-tipped wooden stakes that were used to defend themselves against Mongol invasion.
Today, Dau Go Cave is among the most visited caves of Halong bay, accessible by boat or kayak, and featuring three large chambers, reached via a 90-step rock stairwell. Inside, highlights include the spectacular rock formations, made all the more atmospheric by the streaks of natural light that dance off their surface, and the 25-meter-high domed roof.
Monkey Island (Đảo Cát Dứa) is accessible only by boat, but travelers who make the effort to get there are rewarded with numerous outdoor adventure possibilities, including access to a private beach. Visitors to the isolated Halong Bay island can spend time sipping coconut water on a white-sand beach; snorkeling or kayaking in the shallow turquoise waters; hiking the well-marked trails to the top of the island, or simply taking in the fresh air and lush island scenery.
While the island is perfect for a day trip, accommodations such as the Monkey Island Resort also exist for travelers who prefer to spend several days enjoying this out-of-the-way place.
With its primeval forest and stretches of white sand, it’s easy to see why little Soi Sim Island (Đảo Soi Sim) has become a firm favorite among cruise visitors. Soi Sim, which takes its name from the native sim trees that cover much of its landscape, is located near Titop Island at the heart of Halong Bay and most often visited on overnight cruises.
Quang Ninh Museum (Bảo Tàng Quảng Ninh) is housed in a striking modern building located along the coast of Halong Bay. Spread across three blocks, the structure includes the main museum, a library, and a convention center, all connected by an overhead bridge system. The ground floor is dedicated to the flora and fauna of the region, and the second floor focuses on the history of the province, with displays of US wartime military and some fascinating ancient artifacts dating back to 2000 BC. The third floor of the museum is predominantly about the coal industry in the province, covering its history with stories of the miners and displays of various artifacts.
To get a real insight into the history and culture of this region, join a full-day Halong City tour and visit all of the important landmarks, such as Hon Gai Church, Long Tien Pagoda, and Quang Ninh Museum and Library. If you’re short on time, you can include a visit to the museum on a private half-day Halong City tour, where you can enjoy the stunning views over Halong Bay from Bai Tho Mountain — the highest point in the city.
More Things to Do in Halong Bay
Bai Chay (Bãi Cháy) translates as “Scorched Beach,” a nod to the 13th-century forest fire that swept across the mainland. Though most visitors come to Bai Chay as the departure point for Halong Bay cruises, it’s worth stopping to visit its wide sandy beach and lively waterfront, which buzzes with activity day and night.
Maze Cave (Hang Mê Cung or Động Mê Cung in Viatnamese) stands out among the many caves of Halong Bay for more than just its beauty—it’s also an important archaeological site where significant prehistoric remains have been found that date back as far as 7,000 to 10,000 years. It is occasionally called "Bewitching Grotto".
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