Cat Ba - why to start your Halong Bay Tour on the little Island
Updated: Dec 12, 2019
Cat Ba Island is the largest island in Halong Bay and is home to plenty of hotels, bars restaurants. You can reach it easily and cheap from Hanoi and it is a good alternative to start your Halong Bay Tour from here.
Where to book and what to book
The reason why you should book your Halong Bay Tour on Cat Ba Island is really simple. Most of the tourists start from Halong City and hundreds of boats start here every morning to explore the bay.
The tours you can book from Cat Ba explore the southern part of the bay and during our trip we have maybe seen around four other boats, that have almost never been at the same stop.
We booked the tour with Cat Ba vision for 25 $ per person, including hotel pick-up, lunch and one big water bottle.
Make sure you are not booking the tour with the stop at Monkey Island.
Three reasons why:
- All the vietnamese tourists want to go there and visit the monkeys, so it is super crowded
- Because of the stop there you won't go far into the bay, because there is not enough time
- The monkeys are not in their natural habitat, someone brought them from Thailand to Vietnam. The tourists feed them with sweets and even with beer and the monkeys are not willing to eat fruits and the food they should normally eat. Because of all the sugar they are eating and all the tourists coming too close, there have been several attacks happening already. These poor animals need some more space and not so many tourists around.
The boat trip
The trip started in the morning and we got picked up at our hotel.
After some instructions we got on the ferry. A nice little boat with a sun deck and sadly not enough shadow, as it was super hot!
We spent the first 2-3 hours driving through the bay and the tour guide gave us a little insight to Halong Bay and Vietnam, which was really interesting.
After these hours, that honestly were a little boring at the end ;) we had some lunch on the boat, which was suprisingly good. There were loads of meat, fish and as well vegetarian options.
After a refreshing swim in the sea we went kayaking through Halong Bay for about an hour.
The views were amazing and we had a lot of fun while paddling through caves and all the limestone rock formations.
The last stop on this tour was a secret little beach in the middle of the sea between two rocks. It looked amazing! Usually you can go snorkeling at this spot, but the weather conditions were not ideal, so sadly we couldn't see anything.
Afterwards we headed back to the pier and they dropped us off at our hotel at around 5 pm.
How to get to Cat Ba
From Hanoi you can easily reach Cat Ba via bus and ferry. It costs about 8 € / 10 $ per person and takes about 3,5 hours.
You can book the bus ticket online or via a travel agency, which offers exactly the same price.
We usually go for the second option, so we have someone to talk to, in case anything is not going like it was planned.
Where to stay in Cat Ba
At this point we can not really recommend a hotel, as we were not satisfied with the one we stayed at. Make sure not to stay in the city center, as it is full of vietnamese tourists, loud and not really a relaxing Island get-away ;)
We saw some cute little homestays and hostels along the way during the mountains, that should be a much nicer location to stay at.
Where to eat in Cat Ba
Really cheap and really good!
We have been there three times and every dish was delicious.
There are two restaurants with the same brand, we believe they belong together.
Make sure to go to the one that is a bit up the hill, as the food was way better here and the atmosphere is super nice.
Secret Garden Hostel
Awesome for vegan and vegetarian food - but they also serve meat.
Smoothie Bowls, Avocado Bread with feta, Hummus, Burger, ... and amazing infused waters!
Absolutely reasonable prices, even cheaper than most of the other restaurants around.
They offer a vegetarian buffet for only 50.000 Dong every night. Sadly we didn't make it, but it sounded great and the price is amazing!
What else to do in Cat Ba
- Visit the Cat Ba National Park and it's amazing cave - Trung Trang Cave. We were almost alone in this cave and it takes you only about 20 minutes to explore it.
- Go hiking in the National Park - we actually wanted to hike up to Ngu Lam Peak, but due to the 40 degrees and Tina passing out on the way up, we had to cancel this plan.
- Rent a motorbike and drive through the scenic mountains along the costal road and enjoy the views.
- You can also visit an old fort on top of a hill, which was sadly closed while we were there. This is supposed to be a great spot fur sunset. It also houses several bunkers and rooms filled with war remains and propaganda posters.
- Hike up to the best view point on Cat Ba Island