We Love Danang!
Danang (check out our travel guide here if you’re unfamiliar with the city) is known for the lack of chaos and beautiful beaches. Its greatest offering is Son Tra Peninsula, also known as Monkey Mountain, which lends itself to the best motorbike day trip in the region. Son Tra Peninsula by motorbike offers something for everyone. It could be a secluded beach, a visit to a pagoda or for the more adventurous, paragliding. Just driving around the area trying to spot monkeys is a joy in itself. Here is a suggested tour taking in what we think are the 6 most interesting sites plus more.
The local police have banned AUTOMATIC bikes from the mountain and will not let people, especially tourists, on to the mountain with this kind of bike. Therefore, it is much better if you have a semi-auto bike or a fully manual one.
The reason for this many fold and we give a little more detail below. Basically, there were too many inexperienced drivers on the mountain, which has some steep inclines/declines that are covered in earth and gravel. This was leading to problems of brake failure, loss of control and accidents in general.
The Son Tra Peninsula Route Map
What to See
In our opinion, taking an anti-clockwise tour is best as this will give you the morning light as you start and head eastwards and the fading evening light as you end the day. This should allow for some great photo opportunities.
1. Linh Ung Pagoda
The first stop on this route will take you to Linh Ung Pagoda. This pagoda is important to the people of Vietnam as during the XIX century, a Buddha statue drifted onto the shore. No one knew how it got there. The Linh Ung Pagoda was therefore erected to mark the footprint of Buddhism in Vietnam. After this stop, you will then go past Ghenh Bang, which is a small and remote cove with interesting geographic features. This hidden beach is not easy to get to and have caution when making your way there, but a beautiful hidden gem along the Son Tra Peninsula.
2. Banyan Tree
Who doesn’t want to see an 800-year-old tree along Son Tra Peninsula? There are one or two local stalls set up and you can buy some snacks and drinks. It is quite shady here and can be a nice place to hang out (among the 25 or so aerial roots) and take some photos.
3. Son Tra Lighthouse
Built by the French in the 1950s, Son Tra Lighthouse is a great place to experience the sea breeze and hopefully catch a glimpse of the Grey Shanked Douc Langur. It sits just more than 200m above sea level and offers wonderful views. On your way to the next stop, you will pass the entrance to the Intercontinental Sun Peninsula Resort on the Son Tra Peninsula. This is a great place to stay if you have the budget. You have the choice of taking the coastal route or going up Monkey Pass. Both of these are good routes but Monkey Pass is a little steeper.
4. Chess Board and Paragliding Take-off Site
At what is almost the highest point of the island, near the chessboard and an old helicopter landing site, is the paragliding take-off site. All of these spots are quite close to each other along the Son Tra Peninsula, so we have combined them for one-stop. Heads up: the Chess Board monument to Confucius can be very busy at the top of the mountain. You might find yourself jostling for a position to get that selfie. The helicopter landing pad is now just a patch of grass and is very easy to miss, so keep your eyes open. You want to catch that view! If you are lucky, you will see pilots taking off and you can contact Danang Paragliding in order to book a tandem flight.
5. Black Rock Beach/Golden Sand Beach
On your way back down Monkey Mountain, you can stop off at one or both of these beaches for a refreshing dip in the sea. Black Rock Beach is quite wild and exposed. There are many rock pools to explore and it is also good for snorkeling. 2. Golden Sand Beach is a little more populated and there is a resort here. It is also a good place for fishing, snorkeling, and general swimming. A good spot for relaxing and getting that island feel.
6. Y Pha Nho Cemetery
A fantastic site for history buffs. This is the burial ground of French and Spanish soldiers who fought and died trying to take control of Danang in 1858. It is possibly the only place in Vietnam where foreign soldiers lie buried. It is an inconspicuous little place but worth taking the time out for a stop. Other places to see are the Boom Boom Rock, an old war site where the GI’s were stationed. It is hidden by trees and bushes, but there are a couple of people that have found it. After, you can make your way through to the Lookout near the Radar station.
There is very little petrol for sale on Monkey Mountain along the Son Tra Peninsula. Occasionally, there are some makeshift stalls near the Sun Peninsula Resort. We have marked several petrol stations near our shop and at the base of the mountain. You should fill up at these places or prepare for a long, hot walk!
There are often landslides on these steep roads. So, you will need to be a competent driver to avoid boulders that have fallen and to cope with the gravel. Also, good footwear will protect your feet and prevent slipping.
Protect yourself from the sun as it is very easy to get burnt. Use sun cream and cover-up. You may get a little hot but a day on the mountain will fry you.
Take a bottle of water with you. You will not notice how dehydrated you get. The wind on the bike wicks away moisture from your body. You can buy more to drink as some stalls by the Banyan Tree and a few vendors at Linh Ung Pagoda, but other than this there is little else on the mountain.
There are several military installations here, mostly radar facilities on the peninsula. So if you see military personnel, slow, stop and follow their instructions.
DRIVE WITH CARE
A day out on Son Tra Peninsula by motorbike is well worth the effort. There are so many things to see and do though it seems like a world away from the city area. The history, culture, wildlife, and adventure are sure to satisfy you.
The Son Tra Mountain is popular for its beauty and sites to visit, however, it is important to be very cautious on the roads. The roads on Son Tra are steep and at times covered in loose earth and gravel from landslides. Out of the tens of thousands of people that visit each year, most will get away without harm. They rarely have barriers to prevent you from sliding over the edge and into the trees. The local government is starting to take notice and issue warnings.
In the case of automatic bikes, it is hard to brake on these bikes. Excessive heat can cause the brakes to become ineffective and on such steep inclines, this can be catastrophic. On semi-autos and manuals, you can select a low gear and use the engine as a brake. This will mean that the brake pads do not become worn or overheat. Using the engine as a brake allows you to save the brakes for when they are most needed and increase your level of safety.
On all kinds of motorbikes, the risk of sliding on gravel is high. This is especially true when trying to climb a steep incline that is covered with loose rock and earth. In this situation, the rear wheel can slip out of control. On descents, the use of the front brake on a slippery surface can cause the front wheel to slide out of control.
All in all, driving on Son Tra Mountain is not a simple task. It should only be undertaken by drivers that have some experience with steep roads and driving on loose surfaces. A good holiday can, at best, be ruined by a small accident and become a nightmare if anything more serious happens. We encourage you to chat with us before you go on the tour so should anything happen, we are there to help you.