Halong Bay spreads over around 150,000 hectares and includes close to 2000 limestone islands and karsts emerging from pristine waters in the Gulf of Tonkin. Most islands are uninhabited and covered by dense, green foliage, giving the area a feeling of pure serenity. There are countless places to see and explore here and just as many ways to do it. For more details about what to see and do, which cruise to book and how to get to Halong Bay, keep reading! This will serve as a guide that touches on all aspects of your upcoming research.
Developed over millions of years, Halong Bay has been inhabited for nearly 20,000 thousand years, most notably by the Soi Nhu (16,000 – 5000 BC) and Cai Beo (5000 – 3000 BC) culture. Today several archeological sites show evidence of their lives, habits, and cultures, giving insights into how early peoples survived and thrived in this area.
Best Time to Visit Ha Long Bay
The climate in Halong Bay is tropical with two main seasons: a hot, wet summer and a dry, cool winter. Average temperatures range from 15°C – 25°C.
The best time to visit this area is from March to May and from September to November. During these months, the weather is largely dry and quite pleasant. At this time, you’ll also find the largest variety of interesting activities available, so if you’re planning on spending a few days and trying plenty of different things, this is the time to go.
The low season in Halong Bay is from May to September. It can get pretty hot during this time which is why fewer people travel then. If you are on a budget, you might want to consider these months as you will likely get a good deal from most cruise companies.
Going early in the year, from January to March, will assure you cool weather but you risk having a lot of fog. While this can create a beautiful, eerie atmosphere, you might find that you would have preferred November’s clear blue skies for better views and nicer photos.
July and August should be avoided as they can be quite stormy and rainy. At best you will face a lot of mist and low visibility, and at worst, your cruise or other activities might be canceled (or extremely uncomfortable) due to turbulent weather, strong winds and waves.
How to go to Halong Bay
When you are planning your trip to Halong Bay, there is a lot to be aware of. It is a very popular destination for visitors, both local and international, so of course, the scammers are never far. This is why we recommend going to Hai Phong city first, then to Cat Ba island and start your trip from there. You’ll be less likely to fall prey to some kind of trick and have an easier time finding tours and activities you enjoy.
- Bus line: Hoang Long Bus/Boat/Bus Combination.
- Price: 170,000 – 250,000 VND (may fluctuate seasonally)
- Duration: 4.5 hours (Hanoi to Cat Ba Town)
From Cat Bi airport – Hai Phong city
- Take a taxi (about 100,000 VND on the meter) or motorbike taxi (about 80,000 VND) to Ben Binh Harbor from the airport. From there, take either the Hydrofoil or the Hadeco boat. The fastest from Ben Binh is Hoang Yen Hydrofoil.
- Price: 180,000 VND
- Duration: 45 minutes – 1 hour
Thing to do and see in Halong Bay
Whether you want a relaxing trip to enjoy time with your family and friends or prefer the occasional adrenaline rush and exciting outdoor activities, Halong Bay offers something for everyone.
While some cruises offer the chance to relax on spacious decks and take in the amazing views, others will let you take a kayak to explore your surroundings more closely. Tired from all the paddling? Make sure your cruise includes a stop at a quiet beach where you can relax and enjoy the sun. Or maybe you prefer a crazy party with fellow backpackers from around the world? This too can be arranged!
Whatever it is and however much you can/want to spend, you are sure to find something that will work for you. To get a good idea about all the different options there are, see this article on how to best explore Halong Bay, whether you want to chill out, have adventures, party or take your family on the trip of a lifetime.
Which Islands to Visit in Halong Bay
Halong Bay is home to countless islands, which can make it feel a bit overwhelming to choose which ones you want to include on your trip. Depending on your cruise packages, you will be stopping at some of the most popular islands, but if you feel like you are missing out, you can always catch a boat on your own to get to the places you really want to see.
- Cat Ba Island: The largest island in the area, Cat Ba is where many visitors start their tour of Halong Bay. But there is a bunch to see on the island itself as well, such as the national park which covers most of the island and some interesting remnants of the Vietnam War. While the main town is nothing special, you can enjoy the pristine nature, untouched jungle and beautiful beaches here. The wonderful and rather quiet Lan Ha Bay can also be reached from Cat Ba, so if you have some extra time, this is something you should add to your itinerary.
- Ti Top Island: If beaches are your thing, this place is for you. Plan a stop here to spend some time on the famed Ti Top beach with its fine white sands and crystal-clear water. Lay out in the sun, sip a cocktail and enjoy the views of the bay and the lush, green landscape surrounding you. And even if beaches are not so much your thing, Ti Top Island is worth a visit to discover the tropical forests and enjoy delicious local cuisine.
- Ban Mun Island: Another larger island in Halong Bay is Ban Mun Island. Stop here if you are looking for beach less frequented than Ti Top but with equally beautiful tropical greenery and breathtaking landscapes.
- Dau Be Island: Another beautiful destination to include in your itinerary is Dau Be island. It’s known for its stunning landscape and rock formations, complete with lakes and caves. The adventurous traveler will find their joy here while exploring hidden nooks and crannies and leaving the crowds behind.
- Cong Do Island: Also located in Bai Tu Long, Cong Do is a fun place with several things to see. It features one of the highest mountains in the bay, a salt lake home to plenty of local plants and wildlife and an interesting old port that has played an important role in sea trade for many years.
- Cong Tay Island: If you are venturing out of Halong Bay into the neighboring Bai Tu Long, make sure this island is on your list. It is not nearly as well known as some of the others and therefore offers quiet beaches perfect for a relaxing afternoon. Hotels and hostels here are very simple and basic, so if you are a budget-minded traveler, this is your paradise.
Outdoor Activities in Halong Bay
With the many wonderful islands and pristine waters, it comes as no surprise that there are tons of activities to take part in while you are exploring Halong Bay. While booking your cruise, be sure to check what they include and pick the one with the things that most interest you. Also, be aware of what is inclusive in the price and what you will have to pay extra to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
The most common activities by far are kayaking, swimming, and beach games. The bay’s gentle waves and countless beaches pretty much make these past-times a must. You can also get tours of the many caves, most notably Sung Sot Cave or Thien Cung Cave. It is like stepping into another world full of eerie yet enchanting sights and sounds.
Many visitors also enjoy treks on some of the islands’s hills and through the tropical forests. That way you get a great feel for the local flora and fauna and see an unforgettable close-up of Halong that you’d miss if you stayed on the boat. And if you want to end the experience with a thrill, there are great places for some cliff jumping too. Be sure to have a good guide show you where though so you are safe.