A Complete Guide to Vietnam's Cat Ba Island

by - March 24, 2019

After soaking up everything Halong Bay had to offer by boat, it was time for us to live among the hundreds of islands! Cat Ba Island is the perfect extension to your Halong Bay experience. I'm a sucker for island life (aren't we all) and was looking for a beach, a Tiger beer and Pringles. And also Oreos. 

Cat Ba being the largest island in Halong Bay is completely underrated, but to be expected when its show stopper of a brother is Halong Bay. However, it is the perfect place to escape the busyness of Hanoi and get that laid back, chilled out, "bro-that-was-gnarly-bro" atmosphere we all crave at times.

 How to Get There...

After we finished off our Halong Bay cruise, part of our package was to be dropped off back in Hanoi however, about 20 minutes outside of Halong City lies a feryy port that will take you straight to Cat Ba Island. Your tour operator will most likely drop you off on the side of the road close to a very large bridge where you'll have to hail a taxi that will take you straight to Bến phà Tuần Châu Port. From there it is about a 1-1.5 hour ferry ride through the islands to Bến tàu Du lịch Đảo Cát Bà Port. Pretty cool and inexpensive. Bonus!

Cat Ba is located off the coast of Hai Phong City, so if you are for some reason already in Hai Phong City, you can board a ferry there to Phu Long Pier which takes about 30 minutes.
Regardless of which port you arrive in to, you will need to take some sort of hour long, bumpy AF bus ride into Cat Ba Town. Literally just try to get on any bus by paying the driver. We paid đ 200 000 for 2 tickets ($8 USD) and jumped on a Chinese tourist bus. Nǐ hǎo ya'll.
Side note: if you are coming from Hanoi there are plenty of tour agencies that offer one-way trips to the island. For around $20 USD and these include a hotel pickup in Hanoi and then a speedboat trip to Cat Ba Town. 

Where to Stay...

Have your pick, Cat Ba has resorts, hotels, hostels, you name it. We opted for a more budget friendly stay and chose the Central Backpackers Hostel. It was extremely clean, super cheap, breakfast is included and there's a pool with a view of the lake. This might even be the best hostel I've stayed at.

The staff is super friendly and helpful, which is always a bonus and they have tons of motorbikes and regular bicycles to rent! I definitely give this place a huge thumbs up. Check it out here!

Photo by: Nomad Pad

Where to Eat...

This is pivotal. 

Moana Rooftop Restaurant

If you want the best views in town and the greatest damn coconut coffee that will ever graze your lips, then Mona Rooftop Restaurant is your place! The food is also on par with the view and really this rooftop is the place to be for an epic Cat Ba sunset over the bay. 

Photo from Tripadvisor
Location: Moana Rooftop Resturant, Số 180 đường 1/4, Thị trấn Cát Bà

Casa Bonita

Casa Bonita, a cute and cozy place where you can get so many options from vegetarian-vegan to traditional Vietnamese dishes to your typical Western pasta dishes.

Photo from Tripadvisor
Location: Casa Bonita, 82 Núi Ngọc, TT. Cát Bà

Kayak Cafe

Kayak Cafe is one of the prettiest and insta worthy places to grab your cà phê sữa đá in the morning before heading out to explore the island!

Photo from Tripadvisor
Location: Kayak Cafe, 175A Một Tháng Tư, TT. Cát Bà

What to Do...

Head to the Beach

Have your pick of beaches close to town. Cat Co 1 and Cat Co 2 are great for sunbathing and swimming during the summer, but if you’re not a fan of crowds on the beach, you can charter a speedboat or rent a kayak to Monkey Island and Lan Ha Bay, where the beaches are cleaner and quieter.

Venture Out to Monkey Island

We decided we'd spend a day on Monkey Island because a. it was raining and b. why not venture out. We drove our motorbikes to the Bến Bèo Port where we got a long-tail boat to drive us round trip to Monkey Island for about đ 200 000 per person. 

Once there we kicked off with the short trek up to the peak of the island where you get one of the best views of the bay! We both wore flip-flops, instant mistake, but in the end we managed to get to the top with some sketchy manoeuvring.

We finished out our Monkey Island adventure with some tanning, monkeys and Oreos.

Hike Cat Ba National Park

Woah. This is a must.

Another day another hike. We geared up and rode our motorbikes from Cat Ba town to the National Park Headquarters and Entrance, which took a total of about 30 minutes. The entrance fee was a mere đ 40 000 for the Peak Walk and parking was another đ 10 000.

It'll take you about 15 to 20 minutes to walk from Cat Ba National Park Entrance to Kim Giao forest. The first 500 meters from the garden to the foot of the mountain is flat and easy to navigate. From the bottom of the mountain, you can start to climb the 500 meters along sections of rugged limestone stairs to get that epic view.

On the way down we grabbed some lunch at the Hoi Lake Farmstay which was right inside the National Park. What a lunch, surrounded by the mountains and overlooking a lake this was just the spot we needed after that hike! 

 Check Out Hospital Cave

This is a great pit stop to take on your way back from the National Park. The Hospital Cave served both as a secret bomb-proof hospital during the American War and as a safe house for Viet Cong leaders. Pretty cool. It was built between 1963 and 1965 with three stories of rooms to explore.

Photo from Cat Ba Express

The Verdict...

Placed among thousands of beautiful limestone rocks, Cat Ba Island has a beautiful landscape and enviable location. It’s the perfect way to live among the limestones, adventure through lush forests and relax by the beach, Tiger in hand. These are true island vibes and I'm here for it!

If you have any questions you can also find me on Instagram at @AlyshiaTurchyn! Definitely reach out, there's nothing more I'd love than to help you plan your next stop in Hoi An!

Looking for a place to stay on Cat Ba Island? Checkout all your accommodation options here!

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