Mui Ne, once (in the recent past) a quaint little fishing village, is now an attractive weekend getaway from Ho Chi Minh City. With a couple of beautiful must-visit attractions, water sports for the adventurous, a beach nightlife that is hard to top and all-you-can-eat seafood literally everywhere, two days in Mui Ne is the breath of fresh air away from the chaos of the city that you need.
The best part? Two days is perfectly enough for a bit of must-do sightseeing mixed with pleasure and relaxation, and we’ve crafted an optimal itinerary for you.
An extra night at your hotel isn’t necessary
Start your trip by taking the early morning bus or hire a private car to Mui Ne. If you depart around 7:00 AM, you can avoid paying for another night at your hotel. The journey from Ho Chi Minh City to Mui Ne is about 5 hours, meaning you will have time to sleep on your way if you opt for one of the more comfortable methods of getting there. Of course you can also drive a motorbike, but this would be only recommended if you are a skilled driver.
A quick check-in and lunch
Departing Ho Chi Minh City at 7:00 AM would mean you’d arrive at Mui Ne just around lunch, which is also the typical check-in time at hotels. So drop your bags off, freshen up a bit and head out for some lunch.
Remember to book your hotel at the main Mui Ne beach strip (Nguyen Dinh Chieu st.) – this way you have easy access to dining and drinking venues. A huge bonus if you manage to get a hotel in the Ham Tien area. Within a quick walk, you’ll be able to find a restaurant to your liking.
Put your driving skills to the test
As it is in the rest of Vietnam, the best way to get around this beach town/fishing village is by driving a motorbike. Taxis are available but a little inconvenient and pricey. There are also motorbike taxis (xe oms) that you can hail to take you from one spot to the other, and of course tours that arrange your transport to various sights. But if you are a skilled driver, we’d recommend you get around on a motorbike. Make sure you have your driver’s license and adhere to local safety rules.
Tick-off the historical spots
As your first stop, head over to Po Sah Inu, an ancient temple similar to the Po Nagar Cham Towers in the central beach resort city of Nha Trang. These towers were built in the 8th century, during the reign of the Cham Kingdom, as a tribute to God Shiva in Hinduism. Within the nearby vicinity is also the Prince’s Castle that was built in 1911 by a French Prince known as Duke De Montpensier. From up here, you can enjoy beautiful views of the surrounding hills, Mui Ne’s peaceful coastline and charming countryside.
Nearby is also a Buddhist pagoda that goes by the name Phuoc Thien pagoda. Together, these three sites can take up an hour or two of your afternoon, leaving enough time for you to catch the breathtaking sunset at the Red Sand Dunes of Mui Ne.
For just a moment, feel like Lawrence, Prince of Arabia
As sunset approaches, make your way over to the Red Sand Dunes. The coastal drive in the afternoon sun is an experience in itself. Make sure not to rush it and to take in the sights, smells, and sounds.
The White & Red Sand Dunes are the two main attractions of Mui Ne, with the Red Dunes being the smaller of the two, located directly by the main coastal road running out of Mui Ne. They are named as such because the sand is a rusty red/brown color. Under the setting sun, your camera will be able to capture some beautiful moments.
The Red Sand Dunes do get a little bit crowded come sun down, but don’t let this dishearten you. Simply walk in further from the entrance and you will be able to find an empty spot to sit on the sand and to watch the sun as it sets below the horizon. Nearer to the entrance, you will also likely find yourself chased by a bunch of children trying to get you to rent their sandboards.
Don’t give in to the outrageous prices if you are quoted them. Rather, haggle it down to what it’s worth, which is about a dollar or two (VND 22,000 – 45,000) to rent one for 30 minutes. Try sliding down a few dunes – it’s really not as easy and graceful as it looks. Prepare for sand to get lodged in places that may be… a little hard to reach.
Seafood made any way you can think of
After washing the sweat and sand off, make your way over to the Phan Thiet night market. Here, not only will you be able to get your hands on a delicious array of seafood prepared in various ways (boiled, grilled, stir-fried… you name it!), but you can browse through shelves of various beautiful local products. Embroidery artwork, souvenirs made from shells, handicrafts made using Cham traditions passed through generations… you can take a bit of Mui Ne back home with you.
As for food, you can choose from simple grilled fish to sea snails, tiger prawns, crab, lobster and more. You can even choose them fresh and watch as they are made right in front of you. A must-try is the Phan Thiet fried rice pancake, which is fried on ceramic pots made by the Cham people. Most vendors have their own version of the recipe and the ingredients for this pancake are kept a secret, except flour of course. That way, no one can replicate their delicious recipes.
If you head to the market on Saturday, you will also be able to enjoy some cultural performances. Dinner and a show – how better to end your night, right?
A sunrise to remember
Wake up early for the sunrise (happens around 6:00 AM in Mui Ne) and make your way over to the White Sand Dunes. The bigger of the two, this set of dunes look straight out of the Saharan Desert. The weather is also cool at this time, meaning you can calmly walk barefoot on the dunes without dancing around like a fool.
The sunrise is spectacular. You’ll be able to watch as the dunes wake up from their slumber as the sunrays dance across the smooth surface. Make sure you have your camera ready because it’s a beautiful sight. There are also several lakes and swamps within the dunes that you can walk around.
A great (and fun!) way to save yourself from slogging up and down the dunes is to rent a quad bike at the dunes and drive it around. This will cost you around 400,000 VND ($20.00 USD) and we recommend you only do this after the sunrise. Why? Because many tourists come here for the tranquil morning experience and the last thing you should do is kill everyone’s mood. Renting a jeep is an equally fun alternative.
If you have enough cash to shell out, you can also do a hot air balloon tour over the dunes. Mui Ne is also one of the only places in Vietnam in which you can board a hot air balloon (the other being Hue), so if this is on your travel bucket list, you can check if off right here! Tours can be booked via Vietnam Balloons.
A glimpse of the humble fishing way of life
Once your tour of the White Sand Dunes is done with, it’s time to explore the fishing village and the morning market. If you head to the fishing village right after the sunrise (don’t waste any time!), you will be able watch as the market comes to life. Fishermen will be coming back to land after a long night out in the waters, their wives eagerly setting up stalls to sell their husband’s daily catches.
Some set up beach-side restaurants or humble stalls, selling delicious and fresh seafood dishes made right then and there. This is a great way to grab a morning bite and a coffee to keep you energized for the rest of the day. You’ll need the coffee, especially, for what’s coming next.
Finally – beach time!
For the rest of the morning, it’s time to hit the waves! Mui Ne is one of the most popular spots in all of Asia for kite surfing so it’s a great place to tackle this water sport even if you’re a beginner. There are a bunch of kite surfing schools that have been set up over the years, offering lessons for all levels at affordable prices. We recommend Jibes Beach Club, where you will be trained under the supervision of an expert kite surfer. You can try your hand at other water sports here too such as windsurfing, paddle boarding, and even sailing.
Jibe’s Beach Club is not only a watersports center, but also a beachside bar and restaurant that is as cosy as it gets. The menu here is one of the best in town with a variety of options for you to choose from including local delicacies, fresh seafood, and Western favorites such as pizza, burgers, spaghetti and more. After conquering the waves, treating your tummy is ideal.
Walk through a fairy tale
As the afternoon sets in, drive over to another one of Mui Ne’s amazingly picturesque sites – the Fairy Stream. This stream really does look a little out of a fairy tale as it flows through colorful limestone formations on both sides that are topped with greenery. You take your shoes off at the entrance and wade barefoot through the stream and if you wish, you can walk all the way to the end. The source is a small waterfall which you can climb all the way to the top. The whole experience is very therapeutic. There’s no need for a massage.
For the rest of the afternoon, drive around aimlessly and find yourself a secluded beach where you can chill under the setting sun, all by yourself. This is the best part about renting a motorbike as you can explore wherever you wish, and veer off the typical map. Go for a dip if the terrain isn’t too rocky and play around in the sand for a while and enjoy the pastel colored Mui Ne sunset.
Some… iguana for dinner?
You can’t leave Mui Ne without trying one of the region’s specialties… iguana. The sand dunes are inhabited by many of these reptiles (called dong in Vietnamese) and so over time, they’ve become somewhat of a staple. Iguana can be cooked in seven different ways: Grilled, steamed, fried, roasted, cooked in porridge, baked in pie and lastly, raw.
You can try iguana at Vietnam Home Restaurant where you will be presented with a full seven-course dinner with iguana cooked in the different methods mentioned above. If you’re not brave enough, don’t worry, the menu has plenty of other dishes for you to eat.
So there you have it. Mui Ne really is the perfect weekend getaway. You get a mix of everything, from history and culture, to beach, water sports and an awesome culinary culture to explore. Go through this itinerary at a slow pace and of course, if you don’t have enough time to cover it all, you can always come back again or extend your stay. We have a feeling you may want to.