Nicholas Eager

How to Visit Cat Ba Island and Lan Ha Bay, Vietnam

Last updated: 28 January 2023

Cat Ba Island is a true gem in Vietnam, known for its natural beauty, quiet tranquility, and adventure. The island offers a variety of activities, such as hiking through lush jungle and national parks, rock-climbing on the islets, kayaking in the crystal clear waters of Lan Ha Bay, and staying on a floating house to witness the beautiful sunsets. The island is home to diverse landscapes and wildlife, from towering limestone cliffs to hidden caves and lagoons. Personally I think Lan Ha Bay is better than Halong Bay because it's less crowded and more secluded. If you want a more authentic and peaceful experience, keep reading :)

Best Time to Go

I've been to Cat Ba and the surrounding area a few times. From my experience, the best time to visit Cat Ba Island and Lan Ha Bay in Vietnam is during the fall season, particularly in September and October. The weather is perfect for outdoor activities, with comfortable temperatures and clear skies. The sea is also calm, making it perfect for kayaking, boat tours and swimming. During this time of the year, the island and the bay are less crowded, and you can enjoy the natural beauty and serenity of the place without the crowds. Plus, you'll see the island and the bay in its full glory with lush green vegetation and the colors of the fall.

Dry Season (November to April): Dry, sunny and cool, with clear skies and calm waters ideal for water-based activities such as kayaking, swimming, and snorkeling.

Rainy Season (May to October): Frequent showers and storms, making it less ideal for kayaking, swimming, and snorkeling. However, the rain can bring new life to the bay, making it a great time for nature lovers to visit.

If you prefer to avoid the peak season and crowds, I suggest visiting between February and April. The weather is still pleasant and you can enjoy most of the outdoor activities. On the other hand, if you're not a fan of rain and the heat, I would recommend avoiding the monsoon season which runs from May to August. The heavy rain and strong winds can make some activities difficult or even impossible. Of course the best time to visit will depend on your priorities and preferences, but I hope this gives you a good idea.


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There is so much to do on and around Cat Ba island that coming up with an exact itinerary to suit your personal needs would be impossible. However I would recommend spending at least a week here with a few days on the island and a few days in the bay.

Brief Itinerary

Phase Itinerary Distance / Elevation
1 Hanoi to Haiphong to Cat Ba - / -
2 Cat Ba Countryside Homestay - / -
3 Floating House - / -
4 Return to Hanoi - / -

Detailed Itinerary

Phase 1: Hanoi to Haiphong to Cat Ba

The most common way to get to Cat Ba is by taking a ferry from Haiphong or Hai Phong City which can be reached by bus or train from Hanoi. After flying into Hanoi, take a bus or train to Haiphong. From there, you can take a ferry to Cat Ba Island. This is a convenient option if you want to save time, as the ferry ride takes around 2-3 hours. You could fly to Cat Bi International Airport in Haiphong if you want to save even more time.

Phase 2: Cat Ba Countryside Homestay

We stayed here and loved it! From this homestay, you can rent a motorbike to explore the island, or go hiking. Check out more info on the Points of Interest map.

Phase 3: Floating House

Spend a couple nights on a floating house, you won't regret it! There are lots of options available. Check out more info on the Points of Interest map.

My Favorite Highlights

Of course there are a variety of things you could do here. But here are some of my favorites.

Kayaking the Bay

kayaks sunset in lan ha bay
eating lunch in lan ha bay
kayaking around lan ha bay
kayaking around floating house in lan ha bay

Kayaking around the different islands and lagoons is a great way to see the diverse landscapes and wildlife of the area. You can paddle through hidden caves and lagoons, discover secluded beaches, visit fishing villages, and witness the unique limestone formations. Each islets offers a unique and picturesque view. You can take a leisurely paddle around the island, or you can also explore the more remote and uninhabited islands. Go for a swim in the crystal clear and warm water, or go climbing if you like. You can also stop for lunch on one of the many secluded beaches. The view of the bay while eating a delicious seafood lunch is an unforgettable experience.

Hiking in the Jungle

hiking through taro leaves on cat ba

Hiking through Cat Ba National Park is a great way to explore the island's natural beauty. A popular route is to hike to Frog Pond and Viet Hai village. The hike starts at the park entrance, and it takes around 4-5 hours, passing through lush jungle, towering limestone cliffs and dense vegetation. Along the way, you'll reach the peaceful Frog Pond, a small lake set in a lush clearing, take a break and have a snack. After that, the trail continues to climb, passing through a dense forest, and reaching the picturesque Viet Hai village. The hike is considered moderate and offers great views and the opportunity to learn about the local culture and lifestyle.

Staying on a Floating House

enjoying the sunset on the floating house

Being surrounded by the beauty of the bay while the sun sets is truly magical. The colors of the sky change and the sound of the water creates a peaceful ambiance. The floating houses are usually equipped with basic amenities, such as a bed, bathroom, and a small kitchen. They offer a unique and secluded way to experience the bay and to sleep in the middle of nature. The floating houses are usually anchored in the secluded areas of the bay, so you can enjoy the peace and quiet and the tranquility of the bay.


Check out a video that I made about the entire trip! I tried my best to capture all of the little beautiful moments by letting them speak for themselves. So there are no explanations or speaking in this video, just moments :)

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Safety Disclosure This travel guide is intended for educational purposes only. Readers are urged to conduct their due diligence, verify current conditions, and research the most recent information independently. Conditions along trails and relevant details may change, necessitating the confirmation of accurate and updated information from reliable sources or local authorities before undertaking any travel or outdoor activities.

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