Starting in the Far North, bordering China is Tra Co, not a beautiful beach by anyone’s standards what with its muddy flats at low tide; but it’s a pleasant place to stay if you’re on your way into our out of China, before heading to Halong Bay.
Bai Chay beach is the nearest to Hanoi, so it draws a huge crowd of people on the weekends and in summer. It too doesn’t live up to the beauty of the southern beaches, but does serve up some good seafood harvested from nearby Halong Bay. It certainly isn’t a place to come in winter as temperatures can drop to the 15 degree C mark.
Halong Bay offers plenty of small beaches, most of them on islands in the middle of the Bay (though the majority of islands are too steep and rocky to have beaches).These are best visited by kayak because large touring boats don’t have the shallow depth to approach the rocky shore.
Hoi An Beach
Hoi An is an enclave of beautifully preserved yellow and blue buildings that makes you feel like you just stepped back in time into an 18th-century trading post. Sapphire waters lie on the other side of a 10-minute bike ride north through stagnant rice paddies, old French colonial villas, and the occasional propaganda billboard. The beachfront of the famed China Beach — the beach where soldiers were sent for R&R during the war — makes up the southern stretch. Recently named one of the most luxurious beaches in the world by Forbes, this white sand beach is home to comfy resorts and secluded swaths of sand.
Hoi An, however, has much more to offer than just a beach. Declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1999, this coastal village was once known as the premier trading post in Southeast Asia for the Chinese and Japanese. A bike ride around town takes you back to life in a small far-flung trading settlement. However, since the influx of visitors, shoppers are more likely to come across trinkets and “made-to-measure” one-day tailors than authentic goods.
Market life is still prevalent next to the river where you will find fishermen paddling along in their boats, stirring up their catch of the day. For a sense of life before modern times, head into select buildings in the Old Quarter where you can view 200-year-old interiors that have been preserved for public viewing.
Nha Trang - Doc Let
Nha Trang has always been popular with the Vietnamese, but lately more and more backpackers and affluent travelers have been making their way here. The busy southern strip of the city is crammed with restaurants, SCUBA schools, and tour companies ready to take you out to sea and to one of the numerous islands scattered just off the coast. For those not ready to take the full plunge into the world of SCUBA, snorkeling is a great way to get intimate with the ecological kaleidoscope beneath the surface (and even copious amounts of alcohol found on the boat ride out).
Mama Hahn’s Booze Cruise runs daily tours to four islands under the sails of their two lanky dinghies: the “lazy boat” and the “party boat.” Steadfast swimmers up for socializing with other international miscreants and an accompanying jovial Vietnamese guide should bee-line it to the party boat. As long as you stay buoyant and don’t swallow too much salt water, you’ll be sure to make it back to nurse that lingering hangover by nightfall. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.
This tranquil and secluded beach just north of popular Nha Trang offers a few small, hard-to-finds, resorts. As Lonely Planet enticingly puts it, “the resorts on the beach are fairly isolated. If you’re staying here, be prepared to do nothing but lay around.”
When I was there I stayed at Paradise Resort, a small, 25-bungalow resort run by Mr “Chere,” a French expat who has lived in Vietnam for over 20 years. You can rent a bungalow for the night, and the price includes three meals a day. The gregarious owner is very inviting and keen on getting all his guests to have a great time, making this resort seem more like a stay at a friend’s than a hotel.
The resort is flanked by a small fishing village that proves an interesting excursion when not baking on the beach. During the midday you’ll find hawkers rocking in hammocks to escape the sun while children run a-muck between farm animals and the streets.
Mui Ne Beach
Mui Ne, in Southeastern Vietnam, is a notable backpacker and resort beach, especially for those interested in kite surfing. On those windy days so common in Southern Vietnam, throngs of kites can be seen making polka-dot patches in the sky. The resort side of the beach is heavily subtitled in Russian to cater to the growing amount of tourists escaping the Russian winters. A manager at one of the multitude of seafood BBQ restaurants that checker Mui Ne road astutely observed, “[The Russians] are coming here a lot. I think it’s because it’s hot and very cheap.”
Though not easy, you can still find budget accommodations on the resort side of the beach for about $10-15, which is great considering that the backpacker side of the beach has lost nearly all its beachfront to erosion. A grey, impending concrete wall is now slammed by waves during high-tide leaving any idea of beach strictly to the imagination. There are a few bars and generic sit-downs here, and the low volume of traffic makes a motorbike tour up the 6-mile street safe and the best way to scope out the rest of what the area offer.
The resort side of the beach, lying on the southern end of Mui Ne, still has its sand, and the restaurants and bars there enjoy a party atmosphere well into the night. Just remember, Vietnam is not nearly as rife as Southern Thailand when it comes to beach parties, bean bag chairs, and fire twirlers — not that you’ll miss any of those things when you’re here.
Vietnam is blessed with a coastline stretching 3,000 kilometers with hundreds of beaches up and down the country that cater to all tastes; from white sand beaches where you can view sunsets, to beaches with 5 star facilities, and beaches with nothing at all to do except swim, relax and enjoy the local culture.
Phu Quoc Island
This peaceful tropical paradise, floats in the warm turquoise waters in the Gulf of Thailand, 50kms from the Vietnamese mainland and a 50 minute flight from Ho Chi Minh City.
In one day, visitors can experience the culture of Vietnam at the local market in the morning, relax on a remote and Map of Phu Quoc stunning beach in the afternoon, enjoy a delicious dinner and drinks at one of the restaurants and enjoy accommodation at the variety of hotels and resorts on this superb island getaway. Open year round with a peak season from November to March, Phu Quoc is becoming well known for stunning beaches, untouched natural environment, the easy going and relaxed atmosphere, friendly locals, and fantastic scuba diving and snorkeling.
The majority of Phu Quoc Island is dedicated to National Park and protected marine environment, providing a memorable experience, with plenty of exciting activities and places to visit to keep you and the family entertained during your stay.