The Hai Van Pass | Travel Guide
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Vietnam's Number One Coastal Road
Somewhere between the historic city of Hue and the coastal city of Da Nang you can find Vietnam’s number one coastal road, Hai Van Pass. This short, yet impressive mountain pass attracts thousands of visitors to central Vietnam every year. All hoping to experience the overwhelming beauty this 21km road has to offer.
There are different ways to experience the drive and as a result, so it is easy to get to for everyone. Some may decide to complete the drive alone and make their own routes. You can join a tour of other riders taking a route with an experienced guide. Another option is riding on the back of a tour guides bike, or you can hire a Jeep. There are also different start and endpoints to consider depending on the time you have and your final destination. But however you decide to experience the drive, you are sure to be blown away by it!
Why Ride the Hai Van Pass?
Hai Van Pass is a section of road that winds along the stunning coastline of central Vietnam. The drive has some of the best views of the Vietnamese coastline in the country and it is easy to complete on two wheels!
The route became a world-famous mountain pass when it was featured on the 2009 Hai Van Pass Top Gear: Vietnam Special. In this episode, the three presenters complete a South to North tour of Vietnam with the pass being the highlight in the middle. Since the show broadcast in 2009, the mountain pass has become an attraction growing in popularity. And as a result, it is now considered one of the best things to do when visiting Vietnam.
The drive itself is broken up into different sections with different places to stop and enjoy the surrounding scenery and attractions. Many choose to add in extra stops in order to make the most of their journey through the stunning Hai Van Pass from start to finish.
Things to See on the Hai Van Pass
For many, completing Hai Van Pass is best done during their travel from north to south or vice versa. Because of this, it is easy to add the mountain pass to your route plan. There are various different places to stop and explore.
To make the most of this journey from Hue to Hoi An we suggest stopping at the following places in their arranged order:
20 kms north of Hai Van Pass you will find the beautiful and natural Elephant Springs. This cluster of natural rock pools has formed where the water cascades down the mountainside and through a gathering of large rocks. It is now a popular place for tourists completing Hai Van Pass and has become an ideal swimming spot.
Visitors are able to leave their bikes in the organized car park and head uphill toward the crystal clear pools. Here you are able to take a cooling dip and enjoy a swim at the base of the waterfall. It is an ideal spot to take a break for a couple of hours after being out in the midday sun.
Lang Co Beach
At the northern tip of Hai Van Pass, you can find a beautiful stretch of beach known as Lang Co Bay. This beach is visible from the mountain pass. It is home to a number of different resorts, mainly used by Vietnamese tourists.
Although resorts on this beach are considerably built up, the beach itself still remains very untouched and vast. Visitors are able to enjoy some quality time by the sea after or before driving Hai Van Pass. Lang Co beach offers a slice of tranquility away from the hustle and bustle of Da Nang.
Lang Co Bay
The fishing bay off the coast of Lang Co Beach has a number of different fresh fish restaurants, offering some of the best fresh fish in Vietnam. The bay is surrounded by lush green mountains and each restaurant sits out above the water on stilts. Customers are able to watch fishermen go about their day to day lives whilst enjoying delicious fish that has been caught that day.
Lang Co is an ideal place to stop and grab lunch, a nap by the sea or a place to rest for the evening. Its peaceful setting seems a million miles away from the busy streets and beach of Da Nang. If possible, try to enjoy a sunset at one of these restaurants. It truly is a stunning sight to behold.
At the very center of the Vietnamese coastline, is the coastal city of Da Nang. Located just 20-25kms from the start of Hai Van Pass, it makes the ideal place to stay for those wanting to experience the drive. Not to mention the road that connects the two runs alongside the stunning coastline, only extending the experience.
Some may also choose to complete Hai Van Pass as a day trip from Da Nang. This is an ideal option for those wanting to experience Da Nang and it’s surrounding attractions.
Overlooking Da Nang from 10kms south is the Marble Mountains. A fantastic place for those traveling between Hue and Hoi An to stop!
These 5 limestone and marble mountains stand tall at the southern tip of Da Nang, towering above their surroundings. The area in which they stand has a sense of industry and culture and attracts visitors from all around. The roads are lined with impressive hand made marble sculptures, all for sale.
The mountains themselves are home to ancient temples that have been cut into the mountainside. Still used as a place of worship today, visitors are able to experience the sites holy element. However, the main attraction on the site is the mountain peak. Here visitors are able to take in a 360 view of My Khe Beach and Da Nang.
Located only 30km south of Da Nang you will find the all famous small city of Hoi An. Known all over the world for it’s winding, quaint and lantern-lit streets, Hoi An is bursting with history and culture.
Because of its location, many drive Hai Van Pass from Hue and choose to make Hoi An their final stop. After completing the 3-5 hour drive from Hue to Hoi An, many riders are looking forward to a well-earned rest in a peaceful town.
With easy access to relaxing neighboring beaches, this beautiful city offers a tranquil escape for visitors.
The best time to travel Hai Van Pass is during the months of April to September. However, no matter the weather, you are bound to have a scenic experience.
Fun fact: “deo” means pass, “hai” means ocean, and “van” means cloud. So, that gives you pass ocean cloud and means that Deo Hai Van can be called Ocean Cloud/Mist Pass. This is because of the mist rolling off the sea. So please take note when traveling in the misty conditions:
- Make sure you have cloth/absorbant material – to wipe the droplets on your visor or glasses.
- Watch your mirrors – Motorbikes don’t have mist lights and this means that other vehicles won’t see you so easily in the mist. Be aware that vehicles may come upon you from behind rather fast.
- Signal early – give extra time and warning to any drivers approaching from behind and do not make sudden swerving movements.
- Use the road and road markings – Use the right-hand side and stay left of it. this will keep you away from oncoming traffic that strays into your lane but also away from any dangerous drops or culvert on the right-hand side.DO NOT follow the vehicle in front’s tail light as they may be inexperienced or may swerve or brake suddenly. Accidents feel better when they are your mistake only and not because of other people.
- Slow down – Visibility is limited so you need to be able to stop within that limit of visibility. It may seem like you are going really slow because you have no visual reference so keep an eye on the speed.
- Turn your lights on – so that you can be seen more easily.
- Don’t use full/high beam – The bright light will reflect off the mist droplets and create a ‘white wall’ effect. This makes it harder to see. High beams also annoy and blind oncoming traffic.
- Pay extra attention to sound – In the mist, the sound gets slightly reverberated and since you are lacking one sense (sight) you need to place more reliance on others and you can’t exactly feel the road so (hearing)
- Keep your lights on when making a stop – Get far off the road. If you do stop and are near the road, keep your lights on so that any other traffic can see you. If you can, pull far off the road. Parking behind a solid object like a tree can also be a good idea.
- Yellow Glasses. They have been known to improve visibility. It’s not a must but an extra pair will not hurt anyone.
Our suggestion for completing Hai Van Pass for an overnight loop
Da Nang to Hue:
- Leave Da Nang and head north toward the mountains in the morning
- After one hour, arrive at the beginning of Hai Van Pass
- Take your time to enjoy the drive, stopping to embrace the scenery and jaw-dropping views
- Arrive in Lang Co and visit one of it’s floating fish restaurants over the bay
- Visit one of the many resorts and enjoy a beer by the sea on Lang Co Beach
- Return to Da Nang and enjoy Hai Van Pass once again from a different angle
Hue to Da Nang:
There is a new section of road called the DT601 that cuts around the back of the Bach Ma National Park. This road links up with the DT14B and connects Hue to Danang. This allows you to drive through some pristine forest and to drive very fast as the highway is very well built and has little traffic. It is an excellent option if the weather is bad.
- Head South on the QL1A to Loc Son, then turn onto the DT14B
- Go along the base of the Bach Ma Mountains to Khe Tre to the DT601
- Both roads run parallel for distance but take the new road
- Go through the Mui Trau Tunnel and follow the Cu De River
- You will then meet the QL1A again and be only 4km from central Da Nang
This is a fast route, but it doesn’t have to be. The scenery is glorious and worth slowing down for.