Dubbed the pearl island of the North Bay, Cat Ba Island owns an unspoiled and imposing beauty captivating tourists. Every year, Cat Ba attracts many homes and outside tourists to visit and relax.
It is distant the center of Hai Phong City about 60km and is a popular tourist destination on each summer or at the weekend. You can spend about 2 – 3 days to visit as well as enjoy the open space of this archipelago. Below is the complete Cat Ba island travel guide for your reference before starting your holiday in Cat Ba.
The best time to travel Cat Ba Island
Cat Ba Island has the cool and fresh climate so tourists can travel Cat Ba all year round: any season, anytime. Normally, Vietnamese tourists will travel this place in the summer months mainly while international tourists love traveling about November to March.
On weekends of summer from May to August, tourists of Cat Ba are very crowded. Thus, if possible, you should visit it on weekdays to avoid overbooking or the service quality can’t be guaranteed.
How to get to Cat Ba Island
Use your own car: From Hanoi, you can come to Hai Phong City directly. Obviously, it is essential to ask the way to the Dinh Vu Station then take a ferry across Cat Hai, Cat Ba. Ferries run from 5:00 am to 5:00 pm, there will be a trip after each an hour in the Vieng Station. The Got Station is smaller so their ferries run more.
Get to Cat Ba by Hoang Long coach: Start in the Luong Yen Station (the office is next to the gas station in its station) to Cat Ba Town, all-in price including coach and ferry is 200.000 VND per a passenger. The daily time departure is about 5:20, 7:20, 11:20, and 13:20
You can also travel by train to Hai Phong then come to the Binh Station in order to buy a ticket for the high-speed train to Cat Ba. The time operation of the high-speed train on summer is from 8:00 am to 13:00 pm. There is one trip after each 2 hours.
Take Ha Long Road: You can come to Tuan Chau Island (Ha Long). Here, there are ferries moving from Tuan Chau Island to Ha Long Bay then Gia Luan Station of Cat Ba Island. From here, if traveling by your own means, just need to follow the only way (a quite beautiful road) to the Cat Ba Town. Otherwise, you can get on a bus (8:00 am – 5:00 pm), taxi (about 500.000 VND per a trip), or motorcycle taxi (80.000 VND per a person) to Cat Ba.
Now, if tourists travel from HCM City or Da Nang, you can refer to travel by plane to the Hai Phong Airport then get on a taxi coming to the Binh Station, finally buy a high-speed train ticket to Cat Ba.
Where to stay in the Cat Ba Island
In Cat Ba now, there are many motels and hotels from affordable to luxurious. They are scattered throughout the town but there are most in the coastal road area. The number of rooms can completely meet thousands of tourists.
The hotel and motel prices in the weekday (Monday- Thursday) are usually lower than the prices in the weekend about 50% (Friday – Sunday) even the hotel price on the traveling season is double compared to the normal season.
For that reason, if possible, you had better arrange your schedule as long as you can spend about 2 days in the weekday to explore this Cat Ba Island. This way is really effective in saving your budget and traveling without too many people.
Or you ought to book a hotel before your trip at least 2 weeks to get the best price. If you are in a hurry, you can book a room via the travel agent. The price will change not too much.
Hotels where are highly appreciated including Cat Ba Island Resort, Sunrise Resort, Monkey Island Resort, Sea Pearl hotel, Hung Long hotel, Holiday View… When booking room, you should pay a deposit to make sure that the booking recipient can get money and keep a room for you obviously.
The tourist destinations in Cat Ba Island
The Cat Co 1, 2, 3 Beach:
In Cat Ba, there are hundreds of large and small beaches but the group of Cat Co 1, 2, 3 is the popular beach due to its rich natural landscape, clear water beach especially it is near to the center of the town. Cat Ba is also belonging to the top best beaches in Vietnam.
The widest beach is Cat Co 1. It has 3 sides and is surrounded almost by mountains with year-round waves, fresh air, and blue water so most tourists choose this place to swim and relax. Meanwhile, the Cat Co 2 Beach is peaceful plus a little mysterious while the Cat Co 3 Beach looks like quite modern. Three of them are connected by a small road along the mountainside.
From the center of the town, tourists can walk or rent a motorcycle taxi, electric scooter to come to one of these 3 beaches. If don’t bring a swimsuit, you can rent one at the service store in the beach even that place has a changing cubicle and you are allowed rinsing with fresh water in advance. You should go ashore before 18:30 because of high tides and very strong water waves.
After swimming, you can lie on the sandy beach to relax and drink or enjoy seafood specialties. You will feel the whole beauty of this beach especially when sunset.
The Money Island (Cat Dua Island):
The small Money Island is distant the Cat Ba Town about 2km. This place has a group of funny monkey so it’s very appropriate to tourists with children. A beach has 1km in length, is located on the Monkey Island where is called Cat Dua. This is really a beautiful beach of the Lan Ha Bay.
To come to Money Island, tourists should take a boat from the Beo Wharf where is distant the Cat Ba Town about 2 km. At this place, tourists just have the real feeling of swimming in the Bay because the water here is clear and clean completely.
When visiting Monkey Island, some tourists can buy for themselves a bottle of alcohol soaked a few kinds of precious seafood such as sea cucumber, starfish, sea dragons, and abalone about 200.000 VND.
In fact, this beach is mainly for high-end tourists including both Vietnamese and international tourists. Besides, there is also a Monkey Island Resort with the traditional house areas made from bamboo, neohouzeaua or thatched house. If you want to have a private space for your family, friends or lovers, this is an ideal destination of Cat Ba.
Climbing: This is a dangerous and attractive tourist form with intrepid tourists to Cat Ba. The favorite climbing destinations including the Dau Be Island after 2 hours of boating from the tourist Cat Ba Port, cliff at Beo Wharf (is distant the center of Cat Ba 2km), Ba Trai Dao Island (is distant the tourist port 22km southbound as the flying line of bird)… If you swim at the Monkey Island, or book a room at Monkey Island Resort, you can climb here to take pictures of the panoramic Lan Ha Bay.
Express fortress (Pháo đài thần công):
Located at an altitude of 177 meters, this fortress is a historical relic where was built in 40s of the 20th by the Vietnam Army. Now, people have still kept two large cannons in this place, each weighs up to tens of tons. Aside from visiting the fortress, tourists are able to observe several familiar locations of Cat Ba from on high such as Lan Ha Bay, Guoc Island…
You can rent a motorbike taxi to come to the Express fortress (peak 117m) where is near to the Cat Co I, II, III Beach to be enjoyed the panoramic view of Cat Ba on high. From that position, if you take your eyesight far away, the Cat Ba Island will appear with incredibly beautiful beaches and mountains extending endlessly.
The whole Cat Ba Bay is encapsulated in sight with the highlight spots of ships. When sunset is coming, the red sun behind the mountains draws a beautiful painting of nature with sunset light and silhouette of ships stretching on the surface of the water.
Walking on the coast at night: You can rent an electric scooter, bicycle or motorbike to ride along the coastal city, breathe the fresh air. Price for renting a bicycle with four seats is 30.000 VND per an hour. However, at the weekend, this place bans all kinds of means so you can just walk. Some tourists love walking along ways connecting to 3 main beaches at night to immerse themselves in the cold of the night beach.
Lan Ha Bay:
Normally, tourists of Cat Ba will spend one day to rent a boat and explore the unspoiled beauty of Lan Ha Bay. Located at the South of Ha Long Bay, Lan Ha has a lot of familiar features with the world natural heritage – Vinh Ha Long because its four sides are undulating small islands and rocky mountains.
However, Ha Lan Bay has what Ha Long Bay doesn’t have. Just standing on a boat, you can easily recognize the strange shapes of mountains which were named closely by the locals such as Guoc Island, Turtle Island… If you would like to feel the whole beauty of this Bay, you can rent a kayak to come to closer the water caves and limestone islands hidden in the rocky mountains.
Tourists usually rent a boat from 3-4 hours with scheduling Beo Wharf – Cai Beo Bay – visit floating fish farms (if buying fishes, remember to ask price careful in advance) or visit Ba Trai Dao Island – swim, relax and quench your thirst in Monkey Island finally, come back to Beo Wharf. If you stay at Monkey Island Resort, just need 3 hours to visit Lan Ha Bay. What you will do is to visit floating seafood farms – swim in the Monkey Island, finally, come back to your resort.
The Cai Beo Fishing Village:
In Cat Ba, not to mention Cai Beo – the most famous fishing village, it has more than two hundreds of households living in the houses where are designed on buoys. And it has been learned its history in thousands of existence years by the home and foreign archaeologists.
Not exciting as the wharf to Lan Ha Bay but Beo Wharf has quite diverse types of ships, boats. They are always ready to take passengers discover the peaceful beauty of Vietnam’s oldest fishing village – Cai Beo.
If travel with a group, tourists usually rent a ship, a big boat but to learn the life of the coastal residents, nothing more exciting than sitting ferry-boat. This helps you enjoy that beauty as an ink wash painting of Cai Beo with the sound of oars brandishing water, especially tourists will listen the interesting and close stories about ferrymen and their fishing village. You can also stop by a household here to admire from familiar to exotic species of seafood and aquatic products.
Cat Ba National Park:
World Biosphere Reserve – The Cat Ba National Park has a rich and unspoiled flora and fauna environment so it is an interesting and unmissable attraction when traveling Cat Ba Island. It was found on 31/3/1986. This national park is located on way connecting to the center of Cat Ba. With the price of a ticket about 15.000 VND per a person, tourists can choose any eco-tourism routes to admire the inside landscape of the national park or visit some famous caves.
You can try to experience the feeling of walking in the forest, riding on the forest ways, or immersing yourself in nature to suddenly encounter the rare animals such as red-headed monkey, white-headed langur… When visiting Cat Ba National Park, you will also be enjoyed this place’s natural products such as forest honey, hibiscus tea…
Visiting caves: Da Hoa Cave is located in the mountains in the Northeast where is the home of Gia Luan Town community. Although it is not too far from the residential area, Da Hoa Cave is almost intact and is a familiar destination for tourism and research. Other attractive caves include Trung Trang Cave (in the Trung Trang Valley where is distant Cat Ba 15km from the Northwest), Doi Cave, Quan Y Cave…. with the stunning stalactites in the variety of shapes
Viet Hai Village:
From Lan Ha Bay, you can dock in the Viet Hai Port where is at 45 minutes boating distance from the Beo Wharf of Cat Ba. Also, you can ride a bicycle or motorbike 6km crossing the forest road (beautiful way) to visit this village.
Some tourists want to walk 6km to visit Viet Hai Village where is situated among beach area, is covered by high mountains and the jungle of Cat Ba National Park. There are not many Vietnamese coming to here but Viet Hai is an attractive tourist destination with several international tourists.
The locals in Viet Hai Village have still retained the life with the “primitive” features as in the past. In the village, there are some restaurants so it is pretty convenient for tourists to relax and drink, eat. Some tourists love buying chicken right at the locals’ houses because they are raised in the garden or fields, it’s very popular.
What to eat in Cat Ba Island
When traveling this Cat Ba Island, in addition to relaxing and immersing yourself in the beach waves moments, enjoying seafood (seafood in Cat Ba is very rich, delicious, and fresh) seems to be one of attractive things with tourists here.
Limuloid (sam biển):
This is a typical dish of beach taste: strong, tasty and unique. Their origin is from nature so always make sure the freshness.
Limuloid is used to make many different dishes such as blood pudding, salad, sweet and sour stir-fried limuloid legs (chân sàm xào chua ngọt), limuloid stir-fried with lemongrass and chili (sam xào xả ớt), fried limuloid eggs (trứng sam chiên giòn), limuloid eggs stir-fried with lolot (trứng sam xào lá lốt), steamed limuloid (sam hấp), fried crispy limuloid (sam bao bột rán), fried limuloid’s cartilage (sụn sam nướng), limuloid stir-fried with vermicelli (sam xào miến)
Pacific Geoduck – Tu Hai (tu hài – ốc vòi voi):
Pacific Geoduck is a bivalve mollusk living in the saltwater environment. Pacific Geoduck is a kind of rare seafood with high nutritional value and special taste. Although this dish is not as popular as others such as clamp, scallop, and snail, once you enjoy, you won’t be able to forget the very typical taste of this type of seafood.
There are many dished made from Pacific Geoduck such as grilled Tu Hai, Tu Hai salad, Tu Hai Porridge. How to cook is that soaking it from 2 to 3 minutes in a pot of hot water about 80-90 degrees then rinsing their outer shell, finally, using a knife to lightly slit along the length of their tentacle. The meat of Pacific Geoduck’s tentacle is very tasty, chewy, soft and sweet.
If you want to cook a good Pacific Geoduck dish, this depends on a lot of spices such as garlic, scallion is minced and mixed well after that it’s essential to soak them with fish sauce, monosodium glutamate and pepper. Especially not to mention steamed Pacific Geoduck dish. After steaming about 15 minutes put Tu Hai into a plate. The result is that fragrance of Tu Hai mixed the smell of spices glamorously.
Mantis shrimp roasted salt (stomatopods):
Mantis shrimp is also known as stomatopod. Cat Ba has many ones. The characteristics of these mantis shrimps are big and shiny so dishes made from mantis shrimps are always attractive.
To get this unique dish, the cook must choose the main ingredient – mantis shrimps carefully especially they have to be alive so that when completing, their meat is still intact without breaking and has a distinctive fragrance.
Portunus pelagicus is quite popular throughout beach areas in Vietnam and is also a specialty in Cat Ba. Portumus pelagicus in Cat Ba is not only freely caught but also raised in the brackish lagoons even people polyculture with other types of seafood on the cage areas of Cat Ba, Ha Long.
Perhaps oysters are a kind of the most reasonable seafood in Cat Ba because the beach environment here is very appropriate with raising oysters. I am sure that no one can resist the fragrance of the greasy oysters with sauce grilled on hot coals.
Normally, if want to catch squid, people have to come to beach but due to the specially deep beach, high salinity and big waves, Cat Ba Beach has become a suitable place for squid species living near to the coast…
For this reason, squid is also one of the quite popular specialties in Cat Ba. At night, it’s very easy for you to find out the grilled squid shops at Cat Ba Wharf.
Garoupa is a type of fish in warm water, for example, the Pacific region has up to 37 species. In our country, there are about 30 species including many species of high economic value.
In Cat Ba, there are 3 types: greasy grouper, black-tipped grouper, and E. Megachir. Garoupa is a kind of wicked fish eating animals and giving high economic value. People cooked many attractive and nutritious dishes from Garoupa such as salad, porridge, hot pot, sauce, steamed and grilled dishes…
What to buy in Cat Ba
Like other tourist areas near to the beach, Cat Ba has also souvenirs featuring the beach such as key chains, decorative items by shells with only 5.000 – 20.000 VND, depend on each kind and size.
Besides, Cat Ba has Mam Chat specialty (Mắm Chắt) with price about 100.000 -150.000 VND per a bottle, butter sponge cake and crispy coconut rolls (chả dừa) with price from 15.000 – 20.000 VND per a package.
Some notes when traveling Cat Ba
• Taking a boat to visit a very beautiful Lan Ha Bay and swim in the Bay with quite waves may lead to your scratched legs and knees.
• Nights in Cat Ba are very cold so remember to bring at least a warm coat
• All services in Cat Ba Island have the appearance of intermediary so you need to learn carefully before taking a purchase or using any services.
• Be careful with invitations of night squid fishing if you are not sure about the reliability.