Cat Ba Island | Travel Guide

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Cat Ba

Cat Ba islands are located in Hai Phong city, about 10 km southeast of Halong bay. It is the largest island in Ha Long Bay and approximately half of its area is covered by a National Park, which is home to the highly endangered Cat Ba Langur. Come to this beautiful island, visitors are not only bathed in cool blue beaches, but also can discover mysterious nature through primitive forests on the island. Cat Ba National Park is extensive 15,200 ha of tropical forests with system-wide 570 ha rich flora and fauna, the species characteristic white head and Kim Giao trees. 

You can reach Cat Ba Island from Hanoi by riding to Hai Phong on Road 5 and then put your motorbikes on the high-speed boat from Binh wharf in Hai Phong city to Cai Vieng wharf in Cat Ba island. Jump on motorbikes again to explore Cat Ba National Park on a beautiful road across the island until reaching Cat Ba town. Cat Ba is perfect for exploration by motorbike. Navigation through the spectacular limestone mountains is easy. The roads are in good condition and traffic is light. All the places listed in Cat Ba see and do suggestions can be accessed by motorbike. If you want to see a map of Cat Ba itself to plan your exploring.

little boat being tugged behind a bigger one in Ha Long Bay, near Cat Ba Island
little boat being tugged behind a bigger one in Ha Long Bay, near Cat Ba Island

How to Get to Cat Ba Island

Getting to Cat Ba Island by Motorbike

There are two main ferry terminals a similar distance from Hanoi where you are able to catch a ferry to Cat Ba Island. Both terminals are well connected to Hanoi and are both approximately 120km from the city. Driving to either ferry terminal by motorbike is straight forward. Each route takes you along flat main roads through Vietnam’s countryside and farmland.

It is important to note that you must follow the route that avoids the QL5B car only motorway from Hanoi.

Both routes take approximately 4-5 hours in total.

Ben Pha Got Ferry Terminal

Bến Phà Gót Ferry Terminal is a pretty straightforward motorbike ride that takes approximately 3 hours from Hanoi. Ferries from the port run hourly and costs 12,000VND ($0.70) for the bike and 20,000VND ($1) for one person.

The ferry takes 30 minutes to dock on Cat Ba Island. Following this, the drive from the docking point to the town is jaw-dropping from the very beginning!

The winding route has you driving through the island’s incredible mountainous scenery and along its stunning coastline for 45 minutes. At this point, you’ll begin to seriously appreciate choosing to travel by motorbike.

Ben Pha Got Ferry Terminal, for Cat Ba Island
Ben Pha Got Ferry Terminal, for Cat Ba Island
passenger on the Ben Pha Got Ferry to Cat Ba
passenger on the Ben Pha Got Ferry to Cat Ba

Ben Pha Tuan Chau Ferry Terminal

Bến Phà Tuần Châu Ferry Terminal is easily reachable from Hanoi by motorbike and the route is also simple to follow from Hanoi. This terminal is mainly associated with Ha Long Bay tours but also runs a ferry to Cat Ba Island. Ferries from here run 3 times a day in the low season and 5 times a day in the high season.

The ferry cost is slightly higher than option one at 70,000VND for one person ($4) and 20,000VND ($1) for the bike. The drive from the docking point on Cat Ba Island to the town takes around 30 minutes and too will have you winding through lush mountainous scenery.

It is important to check the ferry schedule in advance to ensure that you’re not caught short.

When to go?

The weather is the most appealing during the months of October and November. During this time, Vietnam is beginning to come out of its monsoon season of both heavy rain, tropical storms, and heat. Around this time, Cat Ba island weather is cooler with less rain as the winter season begins creeping up. However, it is still advised that you bring both your sunblock and a raincoat. Clouds can roll over at any time with a short downfall for about thirty minutes while you are doing your site seeing. The sunblock is to ensure you are protected from the sun at all times because the summers are getting longer and the UV rays are getting stronger. If you forgot yours, don’t stress. there are many shops and vendors that will be happy to supply all the skin protection such as hats and sunblock.

sunset on Cat Ba Island
sunset on Cat Ba Island

What To Do On Cat Ba Island

Once on the island, you will find yourself overwhelmed by its stunning natural beauty. The rolling jungle-covered mountains spread across the entire island, only dropping off where they meet the sea.

There is an illusion that the island just appears from nowhere, surrounded by hundreds of small mini islands that too just crop up from the ocean. It is truly one of the most magnificent sights to behold in Vietnam.

Ha Long Bay in the early evening
Ha Long Bay in the early evening

Hiking in Cat Ba National Park

Cat Ba is home to a UNESCO protected national park is best explored by foot and has various well mapped out hiking trails to explore. The entrance to the park can be found in the very centre of the island, approximately 40 minutes by motorbike from the town centre. Cat Ba island has few roads, so finding the park from Cat Ba town is relatively easy.

The park entrance is on the main road that leads directly through the middle of the island. It is signposted from the roadside and is hard to miss. The cost of entry to the park is 30,000VND ($1.5). The park staff will direct you on either the 4-hour hike or the 2-hour hike to the viewpoint. Hikes in the park are relatively easy, well walked and can be completed by most.

At the very end of the two-hour hike, you find yourself stood on what appears to be the highest peak on the island. From this peak, you have a full 360 view of Cat Ba. Looking out from this point is truly one of those pinch-yourself moments. The lush green jungle sprawls across the rolling mountains for as far as the eye can see.

You can set aside 1 day of your trip to explore the national park and all that it has to offer.

hiking in Cat Ba National Park
hiking in Cat Ba National Park

Trung Trang Cave

There are a surprising 150 caves on the island, Trung Trang is one of the biggest and the most impressive. Hidden within the Trung Trang valley, this cave goes to depths of 300 metres and it offers a cooling experience for visitors.

Over millions of years, stalactites and stalagmites have formed into some strange and uncanny shapes. Visitors are left to use their own imagination to form these shapes into objects. The cave sits just off the road that joins to the national park. Exploring the cave will take about an hour and can be done before or after hiking in the national park.

Rock Climbing on Cat Ba Island

Known for its jagged limestone mountains and vertical cliff faces, Northern Vietnam has some of the best rock climbing destinations in the world. And Cat Ba Island has some of the best rock climbing destinations in the region.

Rock Climbing: Butterfly Valley (Liên Minh)

Liên Minh, also known as Butterfly Valley is just a 10km drive from Cat Ba town and is accessible by bike. Liên Minh is one of the oldest villages on the island and is a peaceful escape from the busy nearby Cat Ba town.

The stunning valley is made up of huge limestone cliff faces that have an impressive 65 mapped climbing routes. All routes range from intermediate to advanced. It is possible for experienced climbers to access the area with their own equipment and set up for a day of intense climbing. For those who don’t have access to their own equipment or are new to the climbing scene, it is worth considering contacting a tour agency.

Rock Climbing: Lan Ha Bay

Lan Ha bay is made up of limestone islands that have their very own hidden beaches and exposed limestone walls, which are ideal for rock climbing. If outdoor adventures are your thing, then the Bay is the ideal destination for you.

Rock Climbing: Tiger Beach

At the very southern part of Lan Ha Bay, you will find the well inhabited Tiger Beach. The beach that sits at the base of one of the bays larger limestone islands is home to two of the most climbed walls in the bay. Tiger beach itself is used by Hanoi Backpacker Hostel for overnight stays in the bay.

The two walls are the first to be explored and used for sports climbing. Offhiemers Creation and Slow Pony wall both have a number of well-mapped routes that have been climbed for a few years.

Here you will find routes for both beginners, intermediate and advanced climbers. Making it the ideal location for outdoor adventurers visiting the bay. Both walls have various different climbing features, such as wombs and dihedrals that make climbing here a diverse experience.

Rock Climbing: Moody Beach

Hidden well within the depths of Lan Ha Bay you will find the peaceful and uninhabited Moody Beach. The tiny beach sits at the base of a small island and is secluded by jagged limestone outcrops.

This hidden beach offers a sense of tranquility and calms among the well-traveled and explored bay. Tours use the beach as a climbing destination for beginners.

Two walls on the island have been mapped with a range of climbing routes. And alike Tiger Beach, there are routes for all abilities.

the view from Moody Beach, Cat Ba
the view from Moody Beach, Cat Ba
rock climbing at Moody Beach
rock climbing at Moody Beach
Rock Climbing: Deep Water Soloing

Depending on how brave you are feeling, deep water soloing is an experience that you won’t forget. There are various walls hidden amongst the bays many islands that can be climbed WITHOUT any equipment and offer a safe landing in the sea.

This completely safe, yet terrifying activity is one that attracts climbers from all over to Lan Ha bay. Climbers advance up walls that hang over the sea, only to stop when their bodies can physically no longer grip the wall. At this point, they fall from whatever height into the deep blue ocean.

Warning: Although DWS is relatively safe, MAKE SURE TO CHECK THE TIDE TIMES, so that you go out at high tide !!

All the above destinations are accessible from Cat Ba Island. And are not adventures you often find yourself with the opportunity to embark on!

Langur's Adventures: Cat Ba Island Tours

If making the most of Cat Ba Island and Lan Ha Bay’s many outdoor adventures is something you’d like to embrace, then Langur’s Adventures can be your guides! The company offers various different tours that include paddle boarding, canoeing, rock climbing, deep water soloing and the overnight boat stays.

Langur’s Adventures are made up of experienced and qualified adventurers who offer tours from Cat Ba Town to various destinations both on the island and in the bay. Their shop can be found on the seafront and tours are run daily.

Contacting them before your arrival is advised to secure places on your preferred tours. 

Cat Co and Storland Beaches

At the very southern tip of the island, just a 20-minute walk from the main town, you can find the beaches of Cat Co and Storland. The small bays are completely secluded by cliffs, making ideal places to rest and enjoy some time by the beach.

The seas in the coves are generally calm and are ideal for swimming. From the shoreline you can see some of Lan Ha Bay’s islands peeking out from the sea, protecting these little coves even further.

Cat Co Beach Cat Ba Island
Cat Co Beach, Cat Ba Island

Cat Ba Town

The island’s town is surprisingly large and is home to a large majority of the island’s inhabitants. A long stretch of the town faces the shoreline, overlooking the Viet-Chinese fishing villages. The seafront bars, cafes, and hotels offer a wide range of places to eat, sleep and drink. In the evenings the town is alive with tourists, creating a real buzz.

Off the shoreline, there are various floating restaurants where you can enjoy some of the freshest seafood there is. You can even watch fishermen return to their floating homes from their long day out at sea. A fantastic place to watch the sunset on the horizon.

fishermen off the coast of Cat Ba town
fishermen off the coast of Cat Ba town

Boat Tours

Along the seafront, there are a few travel agents who run various different boat tours from the town. Tours will last for half or a full day and are definitely worth adding to your itinerary. You will leave Cat Ba in the early morning and will set sail around the beautiful Lan Ha and Ha Long Bay’s.

Tours will stop at a few points to allow you to explore some of the smaller islands hidden beaches and viewpoints. You are also able to experience the smaller fishing villages that float above the sea. Often hidden by the various different islands.

Exploring the 366 islands that cover the ocean surrounding Cat Ba by boat is something that should not be missed.

little boat being tugged behind a bigger one in Ha Long Bay, near Cat Ba Island
little boat being tugged behind a bigger one in Ha Long Bay, near Cat Ba Island

Where to Stay on Cat Ba?

Cat Ba Island has thousands of tourists visiting every year. There is now an endless number of hotels, hostels, and homestays to choose from. When arriving by motorbike you may wish to consider staying in one of the homestays or hotels outside of the town centre. Having access to your motorbike to explore, there will be less of a need to be close to the hustle and bustle of the town.

Cat Ba Mountain View

Cat Ba Mountain View is a bed and breakfast just a 15-minute ride from the town centre. The bed and breakfast have small bungalows and rooms at the very top of a mountain that looks out over the island. Mountain View serves food and drinks at the very top of the mountain, where you can enjoy the view as the sunsets over the coastline. Google Maps Link

The Noble House Hotel

Right in the heart of the town, The Noble House Hotel has basic rooms and a restaurant for those wanting to be part of the island’s lively atmosphere. You can also benefit from the great view over the bay and indulge in some people watching. Offering a place to rest and grab a cold beer, the hotel is all you’ll need when staying the town. Google Maps Link

Green Homestay

This is a beautiful newly built homestay run by a local family. It is set on a hillside overlooking a secluded bay and benefits from a refreshing sea breeze. The rooms are concrete built and new, with air-con, hot water, and en-suite bathrooms. All bed linen is provided and is clean and the family will cook dinner for you. Room rates include Breakfast. And BEST OF ALL you needn’t go to the main town at all !! Google Maps Link

Why Is Cat Ba Island One of Northern Vietnam's Most Popular Destinations?

Northern Vietnam is known for its jaw-dropping mountainous scenery, vast jungle and winding mountain roads and Cat Ba Island offers all of these with the added bonus of the coast and that island feel.

It is easy to spend a full 3 days on the island absorbing its sheer natural beauty. Delve into its tasty fresh seafood. Immerse yourself in the local fishing culture and overall make the most of being in Vietnam.

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