There are an overwhelming amount of untouched beaches, palm tree-rimmed islands and crystal clear, emerald waters in Vietnam that are waiting to be explored. The country has over 3,400 kilometers (2,113 miles) of coastline, so to say that we’re spoiled with options is a colossal understatement. The simple task of creating a condensed list of the country’s best beaches, while also finding the best way to get to each of them, is enough to fill anyone with anxiety as well as the immediate need to book a flight straight to Hanoi, without further considering what other options there are to discover.
That being said, since organizing a vacation can send you down a rabbit hole of decidophobia, we are here to simplify the paralyzing problem of trip planning when faced with too many choices. You can breathe a breath of fresh air because the ultimate list of Vietnam’s best beaches, the best times of year to visit them, how to get there, and what to do/eat/see once you’ve arrived has officially been compiled.
What to know about Northern Vietnam
In Northern Vietnam, you will find that the summer tends to last through October, marking the end of the hottest time of year and the start of the most pleasant months of the year, temperature-wise: October-December. Autumn and winter are typically very mild, rarely dropping below 17-19 degrees Celsius (mid-60s Fahrenheit). It is important to keep this in mind when visiting Vietnam so you’ll know when to go and where. Seeing as the north is widely known for its natural beauty and mountainous regions, you’ll want to ensure that you visit at a time when you can be outdoors more.
Northern cuisine is also quite different from that of the rest of the country. This region prefers rice to noodles and tea to coffee. Some of Vietnam’s most popular dishes, bun rieu, bun cha and pho, all originated in the north.
When it comes to the people and way of life, northerners tend to be more traditional and initially distant. It takes a bit of banter to break them out of their shells, but once you do, they are some of the warmest people you’ll meet. Additionally, most foreigners who have decided to pack up and live in Vietnam are based in the south. One reason being that in the north, because of the more traditional ways, bars have an early curfew, usually closing at 11:00 pm.
Where to go in northern Vietnam
Check “See a World Wonder” off your bucket list in Ha Long Bay
No list of can’t-miss Vietnamese destinations is complete without the world-renowned, Natural Wonder, known as Ha Long Bay. Translating to “descending dragon,” Ha Long Bay boasts thousands of rainforest-topped, limestone islands and islets, secluded white coral beaches, wave-eroded grottoes, and completely surreal views that simply cannot be topped.
This 1,600 square km (618 square mi) natural masterpiece offers a wide range of activities for everyone in every single age group, whether you are traveling independently, on a family trip, on an excursion with friends, or with your partner. You can easily book a trip from Hanoi and arrive in less than three hours.
Scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, fishing village exploring, climbing; whether you choose to keep your head above or below the water, the amount of activities to choose from is nearly endless.
Pro tip: Climb the 450 step staircase to the top of Ti Top Island for panoramic views of the romantic landscape surrounding you.
If you prefer to relax on the beach with snacks and then go swimming, you can rent beach chair here and enjoy the view from sea level.
Discover jungle-lined beaches in Cat Ba Island
The largest of the 367 island Cat Ba archipelago, Cat Ba Island is dotted with jagged limestone pinnacles and lush green jungles, sandy beaches, and is home to 32 different types of mammals, including the world’s most endangered primate, the white-headed langur. Easily accessible from Hanoi, Ninh Binh and Sapa, most of the island itself is a national park, filled with lengthy, scenic hiking trails and wistful views around every corner.
You can also plop yourself at any number of the off the beaten track beaches that the island offers, or you can visit one of the three more popular beaches on the south side of the island, ever so creatively named Cat Ba Beach 1, 2 and 3. On your way here, be sure to see the butterflies at Butterfly Valley and to stop for some freshly caught fish and shrimp salads at the ports along the way.
Pro tip: if you decide to rent a motorbike on Cat Ba (highly recommended and only costs around 116,000 VND, or $5, from most hotels), be sure to keep your eyes peeled for goats on the road. Seriously.
Walk alongside different animals in Monkey Island (Cat Dua)
It is impossible to come all the way to Cat Ba without planning a side trip to Monkey Island. Aside from the obvious monkey-watching (be careful, they can be vicious), the true star of the island is the short hike to the peak of the island, where you’ll have sweeping views of Lan Ha Bay. Put your feet up at the Monkey Island Resort, where you can have a relaxing stay in a wooden bungalow on the private beachfront. What more could you ask for?
Pro tip: Once you’ve gotten your ferry to Cat Ba, you’ll want to take a 10 minute long boat ride from Beo Wharf in order to get to Monkey Island.
What to know about Central/Southern Vietnam
If you find yourself in Vietnam during typhoon season, this is easily the best region to visit because beaches are accessible via ground travel. However, if you will be near the Mekong Delta region, reaching roughly from Ho Chi Minh City to the Cambodian border, it does occasionally flood so you will want to keep an eye out for that just in case.
Although the weather patterns are a bit unpredictable here, you can guarantee experiencing temperatures in the mid to upper 30s Celsius (80s and 90s Fahrenheit) from June through August.
While the north is known for its mountains and greenery, the south is known for a different type of beauty: beaches. Although northern Vietnam is truly a sight for sore eyes, with beaches that are sought-after the world over, the south is really where you go for the quintessential beach holiday.
The south of Vietnam is also known for bars and clubs that stay open all night long, unlike its northern counterpart. As a result of the more open way of life, foreigners flock here and the locals are a bit more outwardly friendly. With the influence of foreign lands has come a love of fast food, which is much more prevalent here than in the north.
That being said, because the south has a warmer climate, more livestock, rice and fruit are produced, showing themselves in more local dishes than other parts. You’ll find yourself eating pho for breakfast, but later in the day you’ll be stuffing your face with some sort of combination of rice with pork, seafood and/or egg. You’ll also be drinking lots and lots (and lots) of coffee.
Where to go in Central/Southern Vietnam
Find adventure and serenity in Da Nang
Located on the coast of the South China Sea, Da Nang is one of Vietnam’s most vital port cities. Travelers typically head here from Hanoi or Hue, in search of the perfect balance of adventure and relaxation. Although a great destination for any traveler and any age group, Da Nang is increasingly more popular among backpackers, digital nomads and young entrepreneurs as a result of the city becoming a budding startup hub.
Hike the Marble Mountains, a well-known pilgrimage site composed of limestone and marble and ripe with caves and grottoes, Buddhist monasteries and even bullet holes from when Vietnamese troops used to spy on American soldiers during the war.
Cycle or scooter the Son Tra Peninsula where you will have the opportunity to visit an 800-year old banyan tree followed by sweeping views from Monkey Peak.
Learn about and experience Vietnam’s French colonial history at Ba Na Hills, a mountaintop resort resembling a medieval castle that is filled with top of the line restaurants, accommodations, and an amusement park.
Surf at the breathtaking, white sand Non Nuoc Beach.
For some out of this world local cuisine, be sure to give Tam’s Pub and Surf Shop a visit for some hearty food (the vegetarian burgers here are meant to be delicious) as well as the chance to hear riveting stories about what Tam’s life was like growing up during the war.
Pro tip: For a fun alternative, grab some street food and walk the Dragon Bridge. Catch the water and light show every Saturday and Sunday at 9 pm.
From here, you can head straight to…
Get cultured in Hoi An
Rated one of the best beaches in the world for not having succumbed to the spoils of beach over-tourism, An Bang Beach is just an hour from Da Nang and is a mere 10 minutes from Hoi An’s city center. This beach is very clean (both the water and the beach itself) and is still relatively unspoiled by commercial development, making it ideal for the traveler who is looking to spend the day swimming and/or sunbathing on a white sand beach. The beach does, however, have several cafes and restaurants with affordable food and drink options. If you prefer to pack a picnic, bring your bags to one of the shoreline umbrellas or sun beds, for about 50,000 VND ($2.15), and relax the day away.
The city of Hoi An itself is one that dreams are made of. A taste of Europe in the center of Vietnam, Hoi An offers beautiful, colorful architecture, an eclectic food scene, wild nightlife, top of the line shopping, and rich history. Easily one of the most fascinating and unique cities in the country, the center of Hoi An is only a 100,000 VND ($4.31) taxi ride to An Bang Beach.
Chill out away from tourists in Quy Nhon
If you prefer to chill and stay away from the touristy areas, Quy Nhon is the place for you. Specifically, Xep Beach (also known as Bai Xep) or, if you prefer rocky beaches with dramatic views, visit Queen’s Beach. Catch an hour long bus ride to Quy Nhon from Phu Cat, take a train from Hanoi, or catch a sleeper bus from Ho Chi Minh City, if you don’t mind the (very) long travel time.
Because of its chilled, romantic atmosphere, Quy Nhon is best suited for couples young and old or even solo travelers. Once you’ve made it here, be sure to try the local soup dishes, spicy and crispy fish, pig’s ears, bouncing shrimp pancakes, and perhaps the area’s most famous dish: Quy Nhon fish cake noodle with the local chili sauce (if you’re feeling spicy). You’ll also want to pay a visit to Quy Hoa Beach, where you can visit the village that is now home to the descendants of and the hospital for the city’s former leper colony.
Find thrills in Nha Trang
Continue making your way down south from Quy Nhon to Nha Trang, a coastal resort city known both as the Riviera of the South China Sea and for being one of the most high-energy destinations in Vietnam. There are picturesque promenades and delicious seafood restaurants galore, with coral reefs that are accessible by boat, an amusement park and water park that are both accessible via the Vinpearl Cable Car, and 6 km. (3.7 mi.) of the most strikingly beautiful beaches that the country has to offer.
Known also for its numerous diving sites, Nha Trang offers up alluring beaches in conjunction with a vibrant seaside city, giving you the opportunity to get up close and personal with the city’s diverse locals, both underwater and above. Tran Phu Beach is the most accessible from any point in the city and offers beach beds or lounge chairs that can be rented for 35,000 VND ($1.51) for the entire day. For more secluded beach options, head to Bai Dai Beach or Bai Tru Beach, the latter of which has an entry fee of 1,100,000 VND ($47.39), both boasting seafood restaurants and fresh fruit juices. Jungle Beach, popular among backpackers, is also more secluded than other beaches, but doesn’t have much to offer when it comes to dining options.
Let out your inner adrenaline junkie in Phan Thiet
Sand-sledding down red sand dunes on the water? Check. (Don’t forget to haggle)
Kite surfing? Check.
Outdoor markets? Check.
Untouched, pristine beaches? Check.
Cute fishing community? Check.
Scenic hiking? Check.
If this wasn’t enough to convince you, nothing will.
Live in luxury in Phu Quoc
Though it is the country’s largest island, Phu Quoc is often referred to as “Vietnam’s Secret Paradise.” You’ll come here for the luxury resorts along long stretches of remote sandy beaches that are enclosed by flourishing greenery. You’ll stay for the local conservation park and bustling night markets.
Located just 120 km. (74.5 mi.) from mainland Vietnam, arriving to the island is very simple. You will want to take a bus from Ho Chi Minh City to Rach Gia, in order to get to the coastline. From Rach Gia, simply on a 30-minute long ferry to Phu Quoc and voila… you’ve reached paradise!
The beaches you really must visit are Long Beach and Star Beach (Sao Beach). Long is more developed, with a much more spirited atmosphere, given the amount of jet skis and martinis that can be found in the area. Sao, on the other hand, is much more low-key. Although less developed, Sao is more scenic, with white, powdery sand and plankton that light up at night.
Have a romantic getaway in Con Dao
Beach camping, lighthouses and sea turtles, oh my! Con Dao is a honeymooner’s dream and the main island of Con Son is a mere forty-five minute flight from Ho Chi Minh City. Start your day off right at this secluded tropical paradise with a dip in the clear sea. Dam Trau Beach is by far one of the most breathtaking options. Dry off while walking along the white sand beach, cocktail in hand, to the seafront promenade.
After tasting some local Banh Mi sandwiches, hop on your motorbike and make a beeline for your afternoon jungle hike. Be sure to grab some bánh xèo (fried savory pancakes) and gỏi cuốn (fresh spring rolls) for a snack along the way. End your day with pho noodles or an informal rice eatery experience along the north side of Nguyen Hue boulevard for a truly authentic experience. End the day by watching the sunset at An Hai Beach, then turn in early to do it all over again.
Although Con Dao doesn’t have much of a nightlife scene, you won’t be missing that with everything else you have to do here.
Let us know what your favorite beaches in Vietnam are in the comments!