Halong Bay is one of the most famous spots in Vietnam and consists of a series of amazing limestone islands which are also a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are some 2,000 islands located in Halong Bay and you will find many of them uninhabited and covered in gorgeous lush vegetation, making them perfect for hiking. If you like walking then you can also enjoy the craggy bluffs that cover the islands of Halong Bay, and you can also explore and discover isolated bays and dainty inlets.
Many of the islands are also home to famous caves where you can go spelunking and although Halong Bay can get quite busy during the high season, there are still some secluded spots to uncover if you are willing to island hop. If you prefer to stay in the thick of things, then you can enjoy seafood barbecues, sea kayaking and a whole host of attractions in the main towns such as forts and other monuments.
Here are the 25 best things to do in Halong Bay…
1. Take a cruise
If you truly want to see all the beauty of Halong Bay then you need to take to the water and sign up for a boat cruise.
There are a huge number of companies to choose from and you can go island hopping in Halong Bay.
With some 2,000 islands to choose from, you will have lots of different options about where you want to go and what you want to see, from the main ‘big hits’ to less well known and smaller islands.
Many of the boats used are built in the traditional style and are known as ‘junk boats’. Depending on the tour operator you can also enjoy a buffet meal as part of the cruise or even stay on the boat overnight for a truly memorable cruising experience.
2. Go spelunking at Hang Sung Sot Cave
Hang Sung Sot Cave is located at Bon Hon Island and you will need to hike up a steep path to get here, although it is worth the effort for the inner views.
There are two different chambers in the cave which soar to a height of some 30 meters.
The inner chamber is known for having a number of stone formations that are said to look like sentries lining up and there is even a stone in the center of the cave that looks like a general talking to his troops.
As the light streams across the water and makes flickering patterns on the inside of the cave, it looks as if the formations are coming to life.
3. Go diving
Diving is one of the top activities in Halong Bay and the islands are the perfect place to enjoy the underwater delights in this part of Vietnam.
The waters here offer excellent visibility and you can go diving and swim through scenic underwater caves grottoes.
There are a number of diving schools here, or if you prefer you can just take a boat to the islands and swim and snorkel around.
4. Visit Cat Ba Island
Cat Ba Island is the most popular attraction in Halong Bay and it is also the biggest island in this part of Vietnam.
The island sits around an ancient fisherman’s port and as such has a relaxed atmosphere that makes it the perfect place to spend an afternoon.
One of the best things to do here is to rent a bicycle and ride to the idyllic countryside just outside the main town.
This is also the spot where many of the boats leave for island trips so it makes a good place to base yourself while you are in Halong Bay.
5. Explore Me Cung Cave
Me Cung Cave is also known by its English name which is Bewitching Grotto.
This is one of the most picturesque caves in Halong Bay, which is saying something as there are many other pretty attractions here.
The entrance of the cave is through a narrow entrance which you need to squeeze into.
Once inside however, the chamber opens up and you will find winding tunnels that are covered in gorgeous stalagmites and stalactites.
There are also fossils in the cave so if you are a fan of spelunking then this is a great spot to explore for an afternoon.
6. Take a cycling tour
Halong Bay is well known for its laid back atmosphere and if you want to check this out for yourself then you need to rent yourself a bicycle.
There are bicycle tours that you can take all over the region, or you can go it alone and explore at your leisure.
There is no better way to tour Halong Bay than by cycling down to the various beaches on Cat Ba Island and the going for a refreshing swim at the end of a long bike ride.
7. Travel to Monkey Island
Monkey Island is also known as Cat Dua in Vietnamese and is a great spot if you are looking to take a boat trip in Halong Bay.
There is an idyllic private beach here and you can spend your time topping up your tan on the white sand or go swimming and snorkeling in the azure seas.
If you are feeling adventurous then you can also go sea kayaking here or you can hike across the island as there are a huge number of scenic trails that take you through the lush greenery.
8. Travel to the shrine at Virgin Cave
Virgin Cave is located at Bon Hon Island.
The cave is also known as Hang Trinh Nu and is one of the most famous grottoes in Halong Bay.
The reason for this is the legend that is associated with the cave.
The story goes that a young women committed suicide here after she was trapped in an unhappy marriage and then her body turned to stone.
One alternative theory is that she chose to end her life here and was then buried by the local fisherman who found her.
There is a shrine now inside the grotto to commemorate the legend and this is a top attraction in Halong Bay.
9. Check out Fighting Cocks Island
Fighting Cocks Island is called Hon Ga Choi in Vietnamese and this is also one of the best known landmarks in the Halong Bay area.
The island is made up of two large rocks that jut out of the sea and resemble two cockerels fighting.
The best time to visit the island is at sunset as the sky looks stunning when it sets behind the two pretty stone formations.
10. Visit Lan Ha Bay
Halong Bay is a very popular destination in Vietnam which means that many of the islands get crowded in the high season.
With that in mind, if you want to explore a quieter part of the region, then consider a trip to Lan Ha Bay.
The island is known for white sandy beaches and there are a plethora of activities on offer here.
These include swimming, rock climbing and sea kayaking and you can also visit the Cai Beo Floating Village.
This is one of the oldest floating residential areas in Vietnam so if you want to see a slice of history then this is not to be missed.