Staggering limestone mountains, lush forests and sandy beaches await
A mere 50km east of Hai Phong City, the largest island in Halong Bay, Cat Ba Island is known for its staggering limestone mountains, lush mangrove forests and mostly untouched sandy beaches. Meanwhile, the central hub of Cat Ba Town houses a number of hotels, restaurants and bars. That’s the reason why Cat Ba is much sought after by visitors both domestically and internationally.
- Enjoy sunbathing or swimming in the cool water during summer months.
- Visit Cat Ba National Park and enjoy trekking, caving and rock-climbing.
- Admire wonderful sunset on Cat Co Beach.
- Savor a wide variety of local specialties, especially seafood such as geoduck clam, mantis shrimp, oysters and Cat Ba song fish.
Best Time To Visit
Cat Ba Island is best to see between April and November. This is also the peak time for tourism in Halong Bay. These months fall into summer and autumn, which come with favorable weather, perfect for kayaking, rocking, climbing and hiking. However, the beaches may be less attractive because of throngs of crowds during this time. Meanwhile, going to Cat Ba Island in the period from September to November is more ideal as you can enjoy a peaceful, quieter atmosphere and pleasant climate on transition into monsoon season.
Getting To Cat Ba Island
Cat Ba Island is easily reachable with endless queues of speedboats, ferries and hydrofoils. If you’re in Hanoi, the best way is to take the bus to Hai Phong City. Normally, Luong Yen bus station offers frequent buses from Hanoi to Hai Phong City (around 2.5 to 3 hours) costing about 250000 VND. The buses leave Hanoi at 05:20, 07:20 and 11:20. Upon arrival, board a hydrofoil which costs 150000 VND to Phu Long Pier for about 30 minutes. From there, you continue hitch another hour-long ride on the bus to Cat Ba Town. Alternatively, you can negotiate a taxi or motorbike taxi.
Getting Around Cat Ba Island
Cat Ba Island is relatively easy to get around as everything including hotels, restaurants, shops, bars and even the beaches (if your hotel is on the harbor) is accessible on foot. Touring the island by motorbike taxi is also very negotiable and affordable. However, renting a motorbike is more advisable to explore more remote areas with daily prices from 80000 VND to 100000 VND.
Cat Ba doesn’t features top-notch accommodation, however with the dizzying development over the town, there are still some good options with a chain of low-rise hotels at all prices ranges. Most basic hotels and backpacker hostels with good values are placed in Cat Ba Town. The closer lodging towards the beaches is, the more expensive and luxurious it is and there are some interesting accommodations outside the island. Room rates from June to July can double and most hotels are fully booked in August, especially during weekends. In order to avoid problems in finding a room, you’ll need to book in advance.
Seafood is a must-try when visiting Cat Ba Island. Cat Ba Town is lined with a range of decent seafood restaurants, mostly around the harbor. For a cheap feed and casual dining style experience, you can head to the food stalls in front of the Cat Ba Island market. Alternatively, you can head to Nui Ngoc Street and stop over some high-end restaurants, frequently visited by foreigners.
Shopping here is not highly recommended because a vast majority of things except seafood must be transported from land. However, you can still buy some souvenirs while shopping at Cat Ba night market. You’re advisable to bargain for better prices.
Phone and internet
Internet and free WIFI are available at hotels and restaurants on the main tourist strip in Cat Ba Town while mobile phone service covers the town and some parts of the island. It’s not difficult to buy a mobile phone cards there.
Because Cat Ba Island is still largely remote and untouched, ATMs are in scarce supply and credit cards are not widely accepted, except for the town with a few. Therefore, bring enough cash with you.