There are many things that come to mind when you hear ‘Vietnam’: motorbike-filled cities, streetside pho, the mighty Mekong, the Buddhist pagodas. And with all this allure, it’s easy to forget the joys of a good old beach. But don’t travel to Southeast Asia and neglect the country’s near-endless coastline. The best beaches in Vietnam – all turquoise waters and white-sand wonders – are destinations you don’t want to miss.
The good news is that there’s quite a few beaches in Vietnam (have you seen how long and thin the country is?!), so you’re bound to bump into one. The bad news is exactly that. There are simply so many beaches that it’s tough to know where to begin. Worry not, because we enlisted the help of Intrepid Travel’s very own Vietnam expert and Destination Manager, Laura Farnell, to show us all the must-visit spots.
And here they are. Check out these eight outrageously beautiful beaches in Vietnam, and you won’t return home disappointed.
An Bang Beach, Hoi An
Just 30 kilometers from Da Nang International Airport lies paradise. Yes, quite literally. An Bang Beach is not just the perfect day (or afternoon) trip from Hoi An, but is one of the country’s most pristine beaches. And for the price of just one drink, you can use a restaurant’s sun lounger for the day, so sit back, relax and take in the views. You’ll be able to see the turquoise Da Nang Bay right by you and the Cham Islands in the distance.
Aside from sunbathing and swimming, paddle-boarding and surfing is pretty big here. There are plenty of places to rent boards from, as well as classes for beginning, so no excuses! The beach is also suitable to visit all year: wet season (September to March) means cooler conditions but six-foot waves that are perfect for surfers. Whereas, dry season – between March and September – is better for lounging around with a cocktail (or three).
An Bang is also Laura Farnell’s favorite beach (Intrepid’s Destination Manager for Vietnam knows her stuff!). Here’s why:
I love it because it’s a gorgeous bike ride from Hoi An to get there. It’s also less busy than Cui Dai (see below), but still has some bars and restaurants. I have fond memories of lounging around with a coconut on An Bang beach.
Cua Dai Beach, Hoi An
Even closer to Hoi An than An Bang, Cua Dai Beach is just a short bike ride from the city’s Old Town. And if you’re on our 15-day ‘Vietnam Discovery’ trip, you might even visit it on the countryside cycle with the group. The beach itself is palm-fringed and the perfect combination of lively and laid-back. Though coastal erosion has began to make its presence known the past decade or so, there’s still plenty of beautiful coastal vistas and delicious seafood spots to leave you satisfied.
Bonus: it was also voted the best-value for money beach in the world, according to the 2017 Beach Price Index. (310 popular beaches from 70 countries were ranked based on the price of a typical day at the shore, and turns out Vietnam is where the bargains are at!)
Ti Top Island Beach, Halong Bay
You’re hardly going to visit Vietnam without venturing to the crown jewel: Halong Bay. And if you do go, it’ll be pretty hard to resist its shimmering blue-green waters. Luckily, you won’t have to if you visit Ti Top Island Beach. Ti Top island itself, located in the center of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, has a small summit you can climb to, for breathtaking, 360-degree views of the entire bay.
And the beach! What a reward for the aforementioned climb! Every trip that goes to Halong Bay will visit it, and for good reason. It might be fairly small and it might be fairly crowded, but it’s absolutely stunning. It’s also the only place where swimming is allowed in Halong Bay for overnight junk cruise trips. Chill out, swim in the clean, blue waters, and take all the quintessential Halong Bay snaps your memory card will let you.
Nam Cat Island Resort Beaches, near Halong Bay
We’re letting you in on a little secret here: your Halong Bay trip doesn’t have to be filled with tourists. Although Cat Ba, the largest island in Halong Bay, has become more busy and developed in recent years, much of it remains rugged and jungle-like. But that isn’t the secret. The secret is Nam Cat Island, just off Cat Ba.
Nam Cat Island is close enough that it has the same picturesque landscape as Halong Bay (towering limestone islands, emerald waters etc.), but none of the crowds. And in our humble opinion, this region has even more to offer. Why? Because you can kayak as much as you like . Due to restrictions imposed on kayaking in Halong Bay in 2017, travelers can only kayak there in strict allocated zones (with all the other tourists). But because adjacent Nam Cat Island is technically part of a different province, the kayaking opportunities are endless.
That’s right, Nam Cat Island (and nearby Lan Ha Bay) is tiny, exclusive and oh so scenic. Perfect for the intrepid explorer. Perfect for the Intrepid one too: from 1st Jan 2018, our 10-day ‘Vietnam: Hike, Bike and Kayak’ itinerary includes kayaking in Lan Ha Bay and an overnight stay on a small resort on Nam Cat Island. Bliss.
Thom Beach, Phu Quoc
Now this is seriously getting off the beaten path. Phu Quoc is a Vietnamese island off the coast of Cambodia in the Gulf of Thailand (still will us?) that only recently began being developed by resorts. Though much of the east and southwest coast is now filled with hotels, the rest is heaven on Earth.
Over half the island is part of a national park featuring mountains, tropical jungle, hiking trails and more. And the white-sand beaches throughout it are simply unbeatable. One of our favorite beaches, however, is a little more rugged. A charming motorbike journey away from Duong Dong Town, Thom Beach boasts volcanic rocks, coconut palm trees, untouched vibes and some of the island’s best sunsets.
A beach resort and the scuba diving center of Vietnam, Nha Trang has something for everyone. There’s a glitzy city with great nightlife, gorgeous islands to explore, a mud bath to relax in, and, of course, beaches. If you’re looking for something convenient, Nha Trang Beach is bang in the middle of town. The 6 kilometer-long golden-sand beach and turquoise waters are pretty hard to beat.
Insider tip from Laura Farnell, Intrepid’s Destination Manager for Vietnam:
If you visit Nha Trang with Intrepid (on our ‘Best of Vietnam’ or ‘Classic Vietnam’ tour) you’ll get an included boat trip out to the islands of Nha Trang. Here you can visit the fishing villages, ride in a traditional basket boat and also go snorkeling. It’s a highlight for many of our travelers!
If you’re looking for something quieter and a touch more ‘local’, head to Bai Dai Beach. Just south of Nha Trang, it attracts a mix of locals, domestic tourists and travelers from abroad. The sand is white, the water’s blue, the seafood shacks are tasty, and it’s the perfect place to spend a relaxed day at. And if you’re in the mood, you can rent a jet-ski or speedboat too.
Tam Giang Lagoon, Hue
So, we’re slightly stretching the definition of ‘beach’ with this entry. But Tam Giang Lagoon is worth it, and it really sells itself. Just look it up on Google Images – the gorgeous waters and golden hour shades speak a volume. An hour drive away from Hue, the former imperial capital of Vietnam, the lagoon is 100% worth a visit if you’re in Central Vietnam.
We recommend visiting it on a local-led, half-day trip with Urban Adventures. Their motorbike tour offers a unique, exciting visit to Tam Giang Lagoon at sundown. Ride a sampan (small East Asian boat) to a fish and prawn farm to help fisherman with their catch for the market. See one of the most gorgeous sunsets of your life reflected in the lagoon. And visit the countryside just outside Hue, where you can enjoy fresh fruit and tea with a local host.
Lang Co Beach, Hue
And to end: a final often-overlooked gem. Lang Co Beach is more geared to Vietnamese day trippers than Western travelers. And that’s a shame for the latter group, because this small fishing village makes for the perfect stopover between Hoi An and Hue (we visit it on this 10-day trip).
As the above picture shows, Lang Co boasts a super-pretty, island-like stretch of white sand. There’s a turquoise lagoon on one side and oysters to eat that are simply otherworldly. Whether you spend a few days here or just a few hours, we really think it’s one of the best beaches in Vietnam. Trust us – that ocean is calling your name.
Tempted to give this incomprehensibly beautiful country a visit? Check out our range of small group adventures in Vietnam.
(Image credits from top to bottom: iStock/Sapsiwai, iStock/Lquang2410, iStock/pjrimages, iStock/Sapsiwai, iStock/laughingmango, iStock/Leo_Dang)