Top 5 Things to do in Ha Long Bay

Top 5 things to do in Ha Long BayAs I mentioned in my post, The Legend of Ha Long Bay & How To See It, this iconic and beautiful bay has a hell of a lot to offer. Keen photographer? Adrenaline junky? Adventurer or foodie? Budget or luxury traveler? Ha Long Bay ticks all the boxes. If it’s not on your to-travel to list… then it blooming well should be.

……. but what are the top 5 things to do here I hear you yell? Well you’re in luck. Here are my top 5 things to do in Ha Long Bay…

1. Explore Sung Sot & Dau Go Caves

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Also known as ‘The Amazing Cave‘, Sung Sot & Dau Go Caves are must sees in Ha Long Bay. These caves are vast and truly beautiful, you’ll feel like you’re stepping into another world. Thinks Stars Wars meets Lord of the Rings.

The junk boats dock below the steps to the caves entrance. Handy! The dock is impressive in itself as boats are literally pushing their way between each other to tie on. Here, we had a bit of a close call with another junk as they got slightly too close…. in fact the front of the other junk got so close it broke one of our windows and pushed the wooden sides of the dining room in. I think they call this, “too close for comfort”.

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Once you enter the caves, you’re surrounded by corridors of rock, perfectly lit lofty open spaces and stalagmites and ‘tites. Stunning!

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After you’ve explored the caves from bottom to top, you’ll be able to pick up the steps to the lookout. This spot offers great views over the dock and bay. Not a bad spot for all you snap happy photographers.

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2. Spend a Night on a Junk Boat

There are a tonne of junk boat cruises to choose from. Some offer day trips, others overnight or even private charters, all with varying prices. If you’re unsure which to chose, I’d check out travel companies such as STA Travel to find inspiration and seek advice that will help you find the cruise most suited for you. Just make sure you get yourself on a junk. They are the best way to navigate the bay!

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3. Kayak Around the Islands

Most junk boat cruises will carry kayaks or if not, they’ll have a drop off point where you can hire them out yourself. Whichever way, try to make sure you do this! Kayaking through Ha Long Bay was one of my favourite experiences in South East Asia.

Ha Long Bay KayakKayaking among these hundreds of islands is amazing. The limestone forms are overwhelming when seen from a junk boat, let alone being sat in a kayak gazing up at their high peaks. Some new travel friends and I kayaked off the junk once we had anchored for an overnight stay. We headed out for a couple of hours, led by one of the junk’s crew.

Ha Long Bay kayak
Ha Long Bay kayak
There was an island near by that had a tiny clearing between the waters surface and the rock. The crew member said to follow him.
We took a long run up to the clearing, paddling as fiercely as possible and as we reached the gap, we stopped paddling, leant right back. Laying flat on the kayak, we glided what must have been 40 feet through the gap and under the mountain……
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Photo Credit: Fahara & Logical Realist 
As we came out, into the daylight, my eyes had to adjust before I could take everything in. We were in the hollow of the mountain. This mountain was hiding a secret lagoon in its core and what’s more, the inner walls were home to a load of monkeys. Talk about a hidden gem.
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We spent some time taking in the solitary setting before building up speed and gliding back through the clearing, returning to the bay’s open waters. Once we got back to the junk, we’d had a bit of a workout, but what an experience!
Ha Long Bay kayak

4. Visit a Floating Village

Floating villages are a common sight in Ha Long Bay. They are home to many Vietnamese who work in the bay and are quite something. There are floating houses, bars, shops and schools. One bar was made famous by Top Gear who, after making their motorbikes amphibious, made their way to a Ba Hang Bar (good luck navigating here though. If you find it, tell me).

floating-villageA lot of junk boats will anchor near a floating market or village so that you can take the opportunity to visit. If you do then local villagers will come to your boat, collect you and take you round the village themselves on their own made rafts and canoes. They will often stop off at a shop or bar to break up the tour and for you to spend an extra dollar or two.

floating-village

Photo Credit: Aschaf 

This is a great experience. Perfect for any keen photographer and something that will offer a unique and close up insight into working life on the bay.

5. Climb to the Lookout on Ti Top Island

There are a few good vantage points in Ha Long Bay. The best of these however, must be Ti Top Island’s lookout.
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Ti Top is unique to other islands in the bay as it has a manmade beach. Although this brings a lot of tourists flooding in, there are quieter times to visit. We arrived in the morning, about 10am.
Although the morning fog hadn’t quite lifted, it was nice not to be inundated with snap happy tourists…. mainly as it means you can happily snap away for a little longer.

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So there we have it! Although there is so much to see and do in Ha Long Bay, these 5 are my definite must sees.

Visited Ha Long Bay? I’d be fascinated to find out what you would rank in your top 5 so please do share them below. 

  • Kerry Rose

    Hi James, could you please give some some advice on how to Ti Top Island? It seems a lot of the overnight cruises don’t go to this island. Thanks

    • http://www.theglobewanderers.com TheGlobeWanderers

      Hi Kerry.
      I’ve had a little look. Sadly the cruise I took isn’t running anymore.
      You can always get a water taxi to Ti Top from wherever you anchor. Most cruises stay near the top spots so you won’t be a million miles away. Maybe run this by the cruise you opt for. It should be something the junk’s crew can arrange for you. A water taxi will cost you very little and they’ll wait to take you back to your junk boat. You may even be able to kayak there if the junk anchors close enough.
      Hope that helps. Keep us posted on how you get on and fingers crossed you’ll make it to Ti Top. When are you planning to visit Ha Long Bay?

      James

  • http://www.theglobewanderers.com TheGlobeWanderers

    Hi Kerry.
    I’ve had a little look. Sadly the cruise I took isn’t running anymore.
    You can always get a water taxi to Ti Top from wherever you anchor. Most cruises stay near the top spots so you won’t be a million miles away. Maybe run this by the cruise you opt for. It should be something the junk’s crew can arrange for you. A water taxi will cost you very little and they’ll wait to take you back to your junk boat. You may even be able to kayak there if the junk anchors close enough.
    Hope that helps. Keep us posted on how you get on and fingers crossed you’ll make it to Ti Top. When are you planning to visit Ha Long Bay?

    James

  • http://www.thetouristoflife.com Yvonne – The Tourist Of Life

    Thank you for this article! I’m traveling to Vietnam in December so every tip is a good one. Would love the hike on Ti Top Island!

    • http://www.theglobewanderers.com TheGlobeWanderers

      Ah I’m very jealous that your heading to Vietnam in December. Hope you have an incredible time.
      If you head up Ti Top Island then make sure to have your camera charged 🙂
      Thanks for reading, Yvonne 🙂