to suit all tastes
Vietnam’s nearly 3,500km of coastline means plenty of beaches.
Most are of sand, and face either the East Sea or
the Gulf of Thailand. In general, the best beaches are to
be found along the central coast and on the islands, although
there are a few exceptions.
people do not sunbathe – unlike people in the West, they
do not consider a sun-tanned skin attractive. Most beaches
are practically deserted during the day: those that are
popular with Vietnamese people are usually busy in the early
morning and evening, when the sun is at its weakest.
North to South
Ha Long Bay
In the northern areas, the only beaches worth considering
are on the distant shale islands of Ha Long Bay. Getting there
involves a long boat journey, or a long road journey and a
shorter boat crossing. Recently, a couple of reasonable hotels
have opened but apart from that, tourism infrastructure is
At the eastern
extremity of Ha Long Bay, Cat Ba Island has a couple of small,
but very popular beaches. Tra Co Island, in the far north
close to the Chinese border, has a long flat beach of hard
sand, but the gradient is too shallow to make swimming practical.
The beaches in
the Ha Long Bay tourist area are artificial, made of sand
imported from Taiwan. Do Son, not far from Hai Phong, is a
faded resort that has seen better days. The beach is unremarkable:
the main attraction there is one of Vietnam’s few casinos.
River Delta to Danang
Nearly 300km south, Vinh has a couple of reasonable beaches.
Sam Son is very popular with Vietnamese people weekending
from Hanoi, but is marred by ugly hotel development. Cua Lo,
about 20km from Vinh, is better. Two hundred kilometres further
south, Quang Binh has several sandy beaches and dunes, nearly
Near Hue, Thuan
An beach on an attractive lagoon on the estuary of the Perfume
River, is very popular with Vietnamese people. Further south,
35 km north of Danang, Lang Co beach is a seemingly endless
strip of silvery sand with a lagoon at one end tucked away
under the Hai Van Pass. Several resorts are now springing
up, but apart from the beach and sea, there is little else
to do there.
to Nha Trang
The good beaches begin at Danang, with ‘My Khe Beach’, made
famous during the American War, being a popular destination
for foreign visitors. It’s one of a long string of excellent
beaches scattered along the coast, most of which are little
commercialised. However, for much of the autumn the sea can
be rough in the Danang area, making bathing inadvisable for
all but the most powerful swimmers.
Cua Dai beach,
near Hoi An, is fringed with palms, attractive and comparatively
Approaching Nha Trang, Doc Let beach is very good. Not far
away is Whale Island, a get-away- from-it-all exclusive resort
set among a number of superb beaches. Nha Trang itself has
a good public beach with plenty of room, and a range of other
attractions. Both Whale Island and Nha Trang have diving centres.
of Nha Trang
Mui Ne beach, 200km from Ho Chi Minh City, is an 18km stretch
of sand with many attractive hotels and resorts. Although
commercialised, the development has been done well and there
is something for all tastes, from exclusive luxury bungalows
to backpacker resorts.
Vung Tau has some reasonable beaches, but its proximity to
Ho Chi Minh City (128km) means it’s over-commercialised, crowded
and somewhat polluted.
Some of the best
beaches in Vietnam are on Phu Quoc Island, a short flight
from Ho Chi Minh City. However, the infrastructure is undeveloped,
and the level of accommodation generally poor. Scuba diving
there is good, and there is a newly opened diving centre.
The Con Dao archipelago
is another possibility. Previously hard to reach, a new air
service has made a visit more straightforward. We’ll be inspecting
the area during the summer of 2004 – further details pending!