Cat Ba Island

5 best things to do on Cat Ba Island

Cat Ba Island is known as the ideal starting point for exploring Halong Bay, but did you know there’s more to it than just that? This island is bursting with adventure, from exciting hikes to breathtaking views and cave discoveries. After the bustling city of Hanoi, we were glad to escape into Vietnam’s natural beauty. Grab a scooter and set off for a few days of exploration. Let’s delve into the top 5 things to do on Cat Ba Island together.

1. Halong Bay overnight cruise

Halong Bay

Exploring the stunning scenery of Halong Bay is best done by cruise. While many people opt for a day cruise due to time constraints, we highly recommend going on an overnight cruise. It was the highlight of our Vietnam trip! We booked our cruise months in advance, with pickup from Hanoi. Looking back, starting from Cat Ba Island would’ve been the smarter choice, saving us time and money on the journey from Hanoi. Our travel time from Hanoi was almost 4 hours, whilst departing from Cat Ba would’ve lasted for 45 minutes to one hour tops. Quite the difference! But, wherever you depart from, be sure to choose a cruise that also visits the quieter Lan Ha Bay.

5 best things to do on Cat Ba Island: Halong Bay overnight cruise

Side note
We had an incredible experience on our 2-day cruise through Halong Bay booked through GetYourGuide. The cruise, including all meals, cost us € 272,92. Visiting the quieter Lan Ha Bay was a highlight, and we highly recommend finding a cruise that includes it. Our room was luxurious with a private balcony and bathtub, offering dreamy views. We could even enjoy the scenery from our bed! The cruise ship had a jacuzzi and a top deck bar where we savored delicious cocktails during happy hour. And let’s not forget the amazing food! This was our first cruise experience, but it certainly won’t be our last. We’re already craving more! 😍 You can check availability of the 2-Day Cruise Trip in Halong Bay here.

2. Try one of best banh mi spots in Vietnam

Banh Mi Hoi An 1991

We tried countless banh mi stalls in Vietnam, but one of the best banh mi spots was definitely Banh Mi Hoi An 1991 on Cat Ba Island! It was so delicious that we went back like 4 or 5 times. We highly recommend trying the chicken banh mi or the vegetarian option. Believe us, you don’t want to miss out on this place! Make sure to have your Google Translate ready, as the menu is only available in Vietnamese. 😉

3. Hike to Ngu Lam Peak

5 best things to do on Cat Ba Island: Ngu Lam Peak

More than half of Cat Ba Island is covered by the beautiful Cat Ba National Park. This special place is home to 1500 types of plants and a variety of wildlife including deer, squirrels, and macaque monkeys. The best way to experience the park is by hiking. Among the many trails, we’ll talk about our favorite: Ngu Lam Peak. It’s a short but challenging hike, about 3 kilometers round trip. The trail is steep, buggy (so remember your mosquito repellent!), and involves some rock climbing. At the summit, you’ll be treated to stunning views of the forest and valleys below. Absolutely breathtaking!

We suggest starting the hike around 8 AM to beat the crowds. When we reached the top, there was only one other person, but by the time we descended (we lingered at the top for over half an hour), a whole group with a tour guide was on their way up!

Good to know
The cost to enter Cat Ba National Park is 80,000 VND (about € 3), which also covers entry to Trung Trang Cave (we’ll talk about that in the next paragraph). Additionally, we had to pay a 5,000 VND parking fee for our scooter, which is about € 0,20.

4. Explore Trung Trang Cave

5 best things to do on Cat Ba Island: Trung Trang Cave

The ticket for Cat Ba National Park also includes a visit to Trung Trang Cave, and we really think it’s worth checking out! It’s one of the biggest and most stunning caves on the island, and it’s less than a 5-minute drive from the park entrance. Since you probably already bought a ticket, why not make full use of it? 😉

To reach the cave, you’ll need to climb some stairs first. The views from the top of the stairs are really nice! While not as stunning as the views from Ngu Lam Peak, it’s still very beautiful and worth visiting. The cave itself is about 300 meters long, and you can walk all the way through it. Just be aware that there are many low passages, so you’ll need to bend down at times. This made the whole experience so much more fun! We felt like Indiana Jones at times. 😂 However, don’t think that the cave will make you feel claustrophobic, it’s still very big and spacious. The entire cave is illuminated too, which adds to the magical atmosphere and provides enough light to see clearly. It feels like walking through a fairy tale, especially since we had the place all to ourselves!

The walk takes around half an hour in total. When you exit, you won’t be at the same spot as the entrance, which means you’ll need to walk back on the main road for about 5 minutes to return to the entrance.

5. Visit Hospital Cave

Just a short 5-minute drive from Trung Trang Cave lies Hospital Cave. While it may not offer the same adventure as the previous one, it’s incredibly fascinating! Constructed between 1963 and 1965, it served as a secret bomb-proof hospital and a shelter during the American War. In operation until 1975, today you can explore its rooms. You’ll find an operating theater, medicinal areas, and even a huge natural cavern that was used as a movie theater and swimming pool. Inside the cave you’ll find an operating theater, medicinal rooms, and even a large natural cavern that was used as a movie theater (including a swimming pool). You will definitely visit Hospital Cave more for the history behind it than the natural beauty of the cave itself. That’s the reason why we feel it’s definitely worth visiting, just because it offers something different compared to all the other caves!

Good to know
The entrance fee for Hospital Cave is 40,000 VND per person, which is about € 1,50.

Where to stay on Cat Ba Island

Cat Ba Hongkong Hotel

We spent three nights at Cat Ba Hongkong Hotel and can’t speak highly enough about it. Firstly, the staff is incredibly friendly and helpful. When we mentioned needing to work during our stay, they kindly upgraded us to a room with a desk, free of charge! We also took advantage of their scooter rental and laundry service, both of which were excellent. The rooms are simple yet clean and spacious. The breakfast options were also a highlight: delicious and with several choices to pick from. And the best part? We only paid € 4,80 per night per person, making it our most budget-friendly stay in Vietnam! And yes, that’s with breakfast included. 😳 Here are our hotel recommendations on Cat Ba island for every budget:

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