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Ha Long Bay and Cat Ba Island Cruise

Halong Bay is one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. And I assure you that it is one of the most impressive places I have visited in my life, and an essential place to see in Vietnam. I would always come back and come back… it is a place of extreme beauty, but, in addition, it is a place full of peace, without coverage, perfect to connect with nature, with your inner self hehe and do a reset.

I have visited Halong Bay twice and without a doubt, this last trip was the best. We traveled in May and were lucky to be alone. And when I say alone, it is that our cruise ship was the only one sailing, we only crossed paths with another cruise ship once and where we anchored there was no one else. Absolute silence. And if that were not enough, on our cruise we were only 10 people. That is one of the advantages of traveling in low season.

You have several options to visit Halong Bay. From one day, to a multi-day cruise, routes through the area... In this post I explain how to visit Halong Bay and our experience with this last cruise, we sailed through a part of the Bay where we were alone and we met the island of Cat Ba.


On our first trip to Vietnam we visited Ha Long Bay leaving Hai Phong. It was only a 1-day cruise where we could see a brushstroke of this natural wonder.

We were left wanting much more and two years later we returned to Vietnam, to tour the country for 30 days, and that's when we hired a cruise that left from another isolated port almost 1 hour from Hai Phong. I tell you our experience.

Day 1. Departure from Hanoi to the port from where we will embark on our cruise

In our case we booked the cruise for 3 nights. They have the option of making departures of 2 and 3 nights. Once we had the reservation made, they contacted us to inform us from what time the boat left and the exact location of the port. It is not the normal port from where all the cruise ships depart and to get there it is through a half-hidden secondary road and with a ferry ride. Therefore, we asked the ship if they had the option of transfer from Hanoi to that port (round trip) and although the option was a little more expensive, it was worth it.

Hire the cruise you hire, none leaves from the same port, especially in high season, to avoid crowds. Therefore, contact your cruise ship to request the transfer option.

We left Hanoi around 8 am in a mini bus where we were 10 people. We arrived at the port around 12:00 and embarked immediately. The surprise was when we saw that only the same 10 people were going to go on the boat, in addition to 4 more who arrived the night before. We are practically alone in an incredible boat, and the best thing was when we set sail and saw that it was not just the boat that was empty, there was no one else in the entire bay! One of the advantages of traveling in low season and more so in April or May (months that are beginning to be considered rainy) is that you can fall in love with these incredible places without queues, without people...

As soon as we boarded and were assigned a cabin, we began to tour the ship and enjoy the first views, while waiting for lunch. After eating, you have time to contemplate the landscape, take a nap and enjoy this wonder, since the ship will be sailing for a few hours. In our case, it was not until 5:00 p.m. that the ship docked in an incredible area, with no one else, and where we were offered to enjoy the kayaks that the cruise ship had, a swim… before dinner.

Every night after dinner the cruise had an activity prepared. For the first night it was "trying" to fish for squid from a small boat that was placed next to the cruise ship, with disco lights and music on full blast. It sounded “slowly” sung by our Vietnamese guide at the top of his lungs. Yes… karaoke in Vietnam is in fashion and you will see it everywhere. And yes, they also love reggaeton.

Although they defend themselves better in Vietnamese. As you will understand between the lights and the songs, we fish nothing. Although the truth, the intention was to have a fun time and leave the poor squid in peace swimming happily.

Day 2 and 3. We finally get to know the island of Cat Ba

After a good breakfast and a few more hours sailing, we arrive at the area where the main jetty of Cat Ba Island is located. It was then, for the first time, that we coincided with another small cruise ship, from where another 10 or 12 people got off. Being a larger group, they offer us the possibility of reaching the first stop, the town area by bicycle or in a kind of electric golf cart. What do we choose? The bike of course. Did we know that the road was going to be practically climbed for 3 kilometers? No, hehe but there we went.

Once you arrive at the first stop in the town, you will visit some houses open to the public where they make fabrics, homemade alcohol, traditional dishes... On the walk you can walk among the plantations and fields.

Our next stop is to return to port. We could not believe that after the beating going up with the bicycle we only visited this town. But it is that there was not the main port of the island! So yes, we returned to the port, we took the small boat again and now yes, they took us to the official port, where we could see that there were already more people (not many). From there and with a minivan they took us to visit the places of the island of Cat Ba.


In our almost we visited the island of Cat Ba for a day and a half approx. It is a fairly large island with several places to visit. Although not all cruise ships stop there and few visit the island for two days, practically all of them stop for about 8 hours to visit the most essential places.

There is the possibility of going to the island of Cat Ba, staying there and moving on your own. Although it is not the most common.

Go trekking through Cat Ba National Park

The Cat Ba National Park occupies practically the entire extension of the island and is declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. In it, there are different types of mammals such as the White-headed Langur, a primate endemic to this island and which is currently in danger of extinction.

You can do different routes, there are a total of 4 well-signposted routes with different durations and difficulties. In our case, we could only do route 1 and route 4. (We chose these options since they included destinations from route 2 and 3, and they were the most complete). In our case, since the cruise guide is so few, we will consider these options and choose together. I imagine that if the cruise had been full they would have “imposed” a route on us without giving us the option to choose.

Route 1. Kimgiao Forest, Ngu Lam Peak and Trung Trang Cave

This is the short route that goes up to the viewpoint. The ticket price is 40,000 dong. Includes admission to Trung Tran Cave, so don't tire of the ticket.

It is the most popular path since it is not a difficult climb and the views are very beautiful. By the way, once you get to the viewpoint, don't stay there! Cross to the other side of the viewpoint and you will have other spectacular views of the park.

The cave is incredible, in it you can see rock formations, stalactites and stalagmites, bats...

Route 2: Educational Trail – Trung Trang Cave

This one is a bit longer than the previous one. So I recommend you choose one of the two. It also costs 40,000 dong.

Route 3: Frog Pond

This trek is the easiest and shortest. You will arrive at Frog Pond. Admission is 40,000 dong.

Route 4: Frog Pond and Viet Hai Village (7km)

This is the longest route and goes from one end of Cat Ba National Park to the other. Admission is 80,000 dong. Once in Viet Hai you have to turn around and come back the same way. If you go on an organized trek, they will take you from Viet Hai by boat back to the city.

This option will take you to several viewpoints from where you can see the bay from above with fishing boats dotting the landscape and some cruise ships.

Visit the Cat Ba Hospital Cave (Quan Y)

This cave was used during the Vietnamese conflict as a military refuge and as a hospital to treat the wounded. It is open every day from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission costs 45,000VND.

In it you will be able to appreciate how rooms with beds were literally built, made with concrete walls to isolate the humidity of the cave, the corridors have different doors to block the passage at all times and there are larger areas of the cave where the ceilings can be seen. and the walls with rock formations where they were not modified with concrete. In these larger areas is where they ate, cooked...

Enjoy the beaches of Cat Ba

The island has three beaches Cat Co 1, Cat Co 2, and Cat Co 3. You can swim, although currently (since 2017) only Cat Co 1 is open to the public for swimming. it is 10,000VND.

In our case, as we had the possibility of bathing in the bay from our cruise ship, we took advantage of the time on the island to continue touring it and we did not go to bathe in any of them. But if you love the beach, don't miss them, they are beautiful.

Visit Cat Ba Fort

In the same city of Cat Ba you will find the Cannon Fort. A Japanese construction that was built during the second world war. Admission costs 50,000VND. You will be able to see canyons, enter some of the tunnels and above all, enjoy the incredible views from its viewpoint.

We finished day 3 exhausted after two days touring the island. When we got back to the ship, there were still two hours of daylight left and since there was no longer any sun to scorch us, we decided to enjoy the bay on a kayak ride, ending with a swim. We finished the night with a Vietnamese cooking class and cooking Vietnamese spring rolls.

Day 4. It's over...

During the night we were sailing while we slept and as soon as we woke up we saw that we were approaching port. We had a couple of hours to go and it was time to have breakfast, pack our bags (close them lol) and say goodbye to the crew to start our way back to Hanoi.

Our 3-Night Halong Bay Cruise Experience Is It Worth It?


It is true that the experience is not very cheap if we compare it with the rates in Vietnam. However, it must be taken into account that within this cost there is the cruise itself, the meals, the guide, the visits, activities... and if we take into account that the trip to Vietnam is quite cheap, adding this experience is worth it. . Also, if we compare it with Spanish prices, it is quite well priced (now I add prices). It is unlikely that you will return to Halong Bay again in your life. Don't miss it!

In our case we chose the Unicharm Cruise. It was not the cheapest or most expensive option. We finally opted for this option because it offered the possibility of staying 3 nights (normally cruises are 2 nights) and also included all meals, activities, guide, etc... In addition, it indicated that there was Wi-Fi (spoiler... it was a lie lol. We didn't have no coverage, no Wi-Fi throughout the journey, but they had a satellite Wi-Fi that they lent it to you for a while in case of emergencies).

Our experience was 10/10. The price was 320 euros per night (in a double cabin + 1 child) + the supplement for an additional bed, about 60 euros per night, for our oldest son. (Rates 2019 with full board).

Here you have to add the cost of 120.00 euros for the transfer from Hanoi to the port + 120.00 euros for the transfer from the port to Hanoi.



I hope you enjoy your trip to Vietnam very much and that this article has been useful to you. You can continue reading many more related articles on the blog.

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A hug and see you soon!


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