1. Halong Bay Cruise, April 2018. After a few gloriously peaceful hours cruising around the beautiful Lan Ha Bay, Green Trail’s day-long boat tour chugged into the much better known Halong Bay. So what’s the difference? Basically nothing! The spectacular limestone peak scenery is just the same; just expect more water traffic with an increased number of speedboats, houseboats and traditional junks competing for space.
1. Lan Ha Bay Cruise, April 2018. As beautiful as Cat Ba Island is, for most visitors the main reason to come out here is for a boat cruise through the region’s spectacular Lan Ha & Halong bays. Choose your tour operator VERY CAREFULLY, as the scene is riddled with tricksters and scammers. Some have shoddy boats not fit for purpose, others blatantly lie to you about the itinerary, either rushing you through key points of interest or even skipping the highlights completely. After much research I opted for a cruise with the highly rated Green Trail, who have an office on the main drag in Cat Ba Town.
1. Sweet Potato Homestay, April 2018. If I could only give one piece of advice to someone planning a trip to Cat Ba Island, it would be a categorical “Don’t stay in Cat Ba Town!!!” Check out My 5 on Cat Ba Town for more info. Instead, base yourself at one of the many charming guesthouses out on the island’s deep country lanes. You’ll be closer to The National Park and the Hospital Cave, while your nighttime meal comes with the gentle backdrop of buzzing grasshoppers. My Cat Ba base was the excellent Sweet Potato Homestay, a family-owned hostel famed for its laid-back vive and friendly service.
1. Cat Ba National Park, April 2018. Having walked the town harbour, hung out on pretty Cat Co Cove 3 Beach, taken in the awesome views from The Cannon Fort and explored the eerie corridors of The Hospital Cave, it was time for me to tackle Cat Ba Island’s island’s main draw, the gorgeous World Heritage-stamped mountain trails of Cat Ba National Park.
1. The Hospital Cave, April 2018. Whether you’re staying on Cat Ba Island or just nipping in and out on a whistle stop boat tour, do try and make time for this curious Vietnam War site, set deep in the countryside about three kilometers from the entrance gates to Cat Ba National Park.
1. Cat Co Cove 3, April 2018. The trail to Cat Ba Town’s three beaches is just a ten-minute walk from the main drag. Interconnected via a gorgeous walking trail cut into the cliffs, I’d originally intended to visit all three, starting here at the modest sliver of beach known as Cat Co Cove 3. But on arrival I discovered that beaches and 2 and 3 were closed for renovation. Ah, nuts.
1. Cat Ba Cannon Fort, April 2018. Feeling a bit disillusioned with the grubby main drag of Cat Ba Town? Fear not, there are several spots of real beauty within walking distance. The pick of the bunch is the island’s historical cannon fort. Follow the signs from the town and work your way up a hill to the fort’s ticketed entrance.