Blog

Cat Ba island, Vietnam : The Ultimate guide 2024

Cat Ba island travel guide

This post includes everything you need to know about traveling to Cat Ba island in 2024 with the lastest updates, and practical information. This Cat Ba island travel guide is written by a local guide who has been travelling to Cat Ba tons of times. I includes things to do, where to stay, what to eat, day trips and overnight tour options around Cat Ba, how to get around, best time to go, pro tips for travelling Cat Ba and more 

Why do I write this Cat Ba island travel guide

I have seen tons of articles written about Cat Ba, most of them from foreign visitors, expats, and travel agents but none of them from a tour guide. What I aim to do is to give practical, accurate information about Cat Ba. 

Lots of writers who have never been to Cat Ba but they still wrote about the place. I have been there lots of time, guided tours so why I can’t write anything about Cat Ba. This is why I decided to write this Cat Ba travel guide and things to do with all my hearts. 

Cat Ba island : The basic

Cat Ba island travel map

For this section, I will write about basic information about Cat Ba island to answer simple questions : What, where, when and how. I also give my personal opinion about “Is it worth visting Cat Ba island?”. 

You may skip it, if you have done your research

Where is Cat Ba island?

Cat Ba island is located in Vietnam’s Northestern part, off the coast, and belongs to the province of Hai Phong. 

Known as  “the Pearl island” of the North of Vietnam and the third largest island after Phu Quoc and Van Don,  and recognized as  the Unesco site since 2014 with the value of biodiversity and ecosystem 

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET TO CAT BA ISLAND FROM HANOI?

It takes approximately three and a half hours to get to Cat Ba island from Hanoi with 03 legs :  2-hour  and 15-minute drive from Hanoi to Got ferry, half an hour ferry crossing from Got Ferry to Cai Vieng (Cat Ba) , and a 40-minute drive to the town of Cat Ba from Cai Vieng.

Following the Expressway 5B connects Hanoi and Hai Phong. Then drive along the Tan Vu – Lach Huyen road to get to Got Pier, then take a ferry crossing (Every 30 minutes) and transfer from Cai Vieng to the town of Cat Ba. 

In case you miss the ferry, kindly wait for another half an hour. 

HOW MANY DAYS IS ENOUGH FOR TRAVELLING IN CAT BA ISLAND?

At least 3 days 2 nights, if you have more time,  3 nights would be the ideal choice with  a full day cruise tour of Lan Ha Bay from Cat Ba and another full day trekking the Cat Ba national park and a day leisurely exploring the Cat Ba town including Canon fort, the local market and so on. 

You can also sleep overnight in a cruise in Cat Ba 

Another day to explore Cat Ba island : The national park trekking, visiting caves of Trung Trang and Viet Hai, walking Canon fort. 

The last day is to relax on the beach. 

CAN YOU VISIT CAT BA ISLAND AS A DAY TRIP FROM HANOI?

Yes, you can take a day trip to Cat Ba island, it should be Lan Ha bay for a day trip from Hanoi.Hanoi Eco Tour offers a private organized Lan Ha Bay day cruise from Hanoi that departs early from Hanoi to maximize your visit to Lan Ha Bay and you will see as much as possible. 

CAT BA OR COTO ISLAND?

  • Cat Ba is a more Western-friendly travel destination
  • Lan Ha Bay offers little title beach and nice boat tours whist Coto island only offers the fishing trip. 
  • There is more hiking trails to trek along the Cat Ba national park 
  • There are more accommodation choices in Cat Ba island

HALONG BAY or LAN HA BAY, WHICH ONE IS BETTER?

Lan Ha Bay offers amazing towering limestone karst mountains which is similar to  Halong Bay but way less touristy. 

There are both options of day trips Lan Ha Bay boat tour from Hanoi and overnight cruises in Lan Ha bay. If you want to focus on more activities, pick the day cruise. For those who just want to relax, and chill out, please take the options of the overnight cruise. 

Best time to visit Cat Ba island, Vietnam

Weather in Cat Ba yearly

I don’t suggest you come in the summertime from May to August (also typhoon season), especially the weekend because it is full of Vietnamese. Also, because of the high temperature which makes it so hot but lots of sunshine for your outdoor activities.

Also, avoid national holidays like Reunification Day 30th of April, May Day, and Independence Day which is super crowded.

In my opinion, September to early November would be the best time to explore Cat Ba island since it is not so hot, not so cold. But the weather is unpredictable, it can be changed suddenly. 

From Feb to April, you have to be aware that it will be misty and foggy so the view isn’t great! Usually, when the sun rises, it looks way better. 

How to get to Cat Ba island from Hanoi

Hanoi to Cat Ba island with tourist-friendly bus option

To me, taking a tourist-friendly shuttle bus from Hanoi is a great choice with a comfortable bus ride, affordable cost, and more. There are a few tourist bus companies to Cat Ba to choose from Cat Ba Express, Good Morning, Daichi, and Cat Ba Discovery.

The ticket fare is about 12 USD per person including pick up from your hotel in Hanoi and drop off at your hotel in Cat Ba. Sometimes, you will be dropped off near the hotel.

Hanoi to Cat Ba island by private transfer

If you are traveling to a party of 4 or 5 people, the private car costs is double than the shuttle bus fare. If you want to save the cost, you can take two cars, one car from Hanoi to Got Ferry, and another car from Cai Vieng to Cat Ba town

You have saved 400k (17 USD) for two two-car ferry tickets. If money isn’t a big deal so you just get one private car for the entire ride from Hanoi to Cat Ba island without getting off the car. 

Hanoi Eco Tour offers private car service from Hanoi to Cat Ba  . The price starts from 130 USD with reliable, safe, and efficient drivers. Please contact us via WhatsApp 

How to get to Cat Ba island from Hai Phong/Halong

From Hai Phong, there are two options to choose from. Option 1 is to take a speed boat from Binh Pier to Cat Ba (only be available during the high tourist seasons for Vietnamese from May to August) or you also take a combo ticket including bus ride from Binh Pier to Cat Ba island (bus ride, ferry crossing and bus ride again) 

From Halong, there is a ferry that runs from Halong to Cat Ba within 45 minutes. You’ll see amazing Halong during the ferry ride. 

Read more : Hai Phong/Halong to Cat Ba island

How to get to Cat Ba from Ninh Binh

Again, the shuttle bus is about 15 USD per person which is affordable, whist a private car cost around 125 USD per ride per car which is affordable. 

Best things to do in Cat Ba island 

There is a ton of interesting activities to choose from: swimming, kayaking, deep solo water, trekking, birding and more. 

Hike Cat Ba National Park 

Trekking Cat Ba national park

There are a couple of trekking routes in Cat Ba National Park to choose from. The shorter trekking route to Ngu Lam Peak is a 1-hour hike to reach its summit. The longer route is to trek through Cat Ba National Park which is four and a half-hour trek (HQ – Frog Lake – Viet Hai village) 

Exploring limestone caves

Trung Trang cave, Cat Ba

Trung Trang cave

Trung Trang is the best limestone cave which is close to the Cat Ba National Park. Nice cave and less touristy. Of course, you can’t compare it to the one in Halong Bay. 

Learn history about the war at Hospital cave

Hospital cave, Cat Ba

Hospital cave, Cat Ba

Bomb-proof hospital during the Vietnam war,  which is hidden away from the main tourist trails. To reach its entrance, you need to walk on steep stairs. During 60s and 70s, it was used as a hospital for Northern Vietnamese soldiers. There are 17 rooms in the caves including a theatre, swimming pool, cinema

Explore hidden Blue Butterfly valley 

Blue Butterfly Valley, Cat Ba

If you want to stay away from the big tourist hub, then this hidden and isolated valley is an ideal place to relax, chill out and enjoy peaceful scenery 

Enjoy a great panoramic view of Cat Ba and Lan Ha bay at the Canon fort

Canon fort Cat Ba

Canon fort Cat Ba

A great viewpoint to see Cat Ba and Lan Ha Bay is the Canon Fort, 2 kilometers from the town and Cat Ba with an altitude of 177 meters above sea level. You can see weapons, tunnels, military airports, and lookout points.  This place is managed by the military with an entrance fee of 50,000 VND. Walk around the area with viewpoints 

Take a boat tour in Lan Ha Bay

swimming lan ha bay

It’s a must whilst staying in Cat Bai Island. A full-day tour in Halong includes lots of interesting activities including kayaking, swimming, push bike ride. Lan Ha Bay has a similar landscape to Halong Bay with towering limestone cliffs but is way less touristy than Halong Bay. It’s great for those who like to travel off the beaten track and avoid big tourist hotspots.

If the water is too cold to swim, there are activities on land like island hopping at Viet Hai village by taking a push bike ride or buggy car ride or taking a sampan boat ride at the Dark and Light cave.

This Lan Ha private boat tour is for those who want your personalized experience that I highly recommend in this Cat Ba island travel guide

Swim at Cat Co 3 beach

It is known as the best one among the 3 Cat Co beaches in Cat Ba island but there is a construction site on it but pretty crowded during the summertime with lots of Vietnamese tourists.

Enjoy a drink at sunset at Lepont cafe

The best-view cafe in Cat Ba overlooking the sea. Grab a drink and enjoy million dollar view is a great thing to do in Cat Ba island 

Sign up for Cat Ba fishing tour

Cat ba is home to tons of seafood. Joining a Cat Ba fishing tour   is a great idea to learn how the local fishermen catch fish from the sea.

Push bike ride in Viet Hai village

Viet Hai is a peaceful village, 1 hour boat ride from Beo pier or four and a half hour trek from the Cat Ba national park. From the pier, you can also take either the push bike ride or buggy car ride to get to the center of the village. 

You can also hike Navy peak which offers great view point to Halong bay during the good clear weather

Top places to eat in Cat Ba island, Vietnam

I would like to send both options of local eateries and tourist standard restaurants in Cat Ba for budget and reference. 

Top Local eateries in Cat Ba island, Vietnam

Viet Hai restaurant is the one I often pick for breakfast since their moring soup is so tasty, called Banh Da Cua (Freshwater crab meat soup with brown noodles)

Mai Lieu local a style buffet restaurant in Ha Sen Street for a buffet rice meal for both lunch and dinner. It is an option for those who dont care much about the food because the food isn’t hot since they have cooked already. 

Banh Mi Hoian is a place to go for a Banhmi sandwich for breakfast. 

Top Tourist-standard restaurants in Cat Ba island 

  • Quan Cat Ba family restaurant, a place to go to eat Vietnamese food and seafood. It offers good location, located  is the heart of town
  • Oasis Bar and Restaurant serves both Vietnamese food and Western food. You can also try out good cocktails  I would say it’s a party-friendly restaurant
  • Yummy restaurant, a great choice for those who want to try out local cuisine and seafood. Located in Nui Ngoc Street which is the area where lots of Western tourists staying. 
  • Casa Bonita: One of the Cat Ba best restaurant with great food and great services. They serve both Western and Vietnamese food
  • Celery Vegan Restaurant : Top choices for Vegan-friendly food in Cat Ba 
  • Quang Anh Floating Restaurant: You are a fancy of romance and fresh seafood. Head  out to this restaurant to enjoy sunset and have a seafood dinner meal.
  • Ganesh Indian Restaurant: Top choice for Indian food in Cat Ba 

Top cafes in Cat Ba island 

Here is the list of the best cafes in Cat Ba 

Lepont Bar sunset view

I Highly recommend this place to see the sunset. It offers quiet settings enjoying the sunset and away from the center of town. 

Kayak Coffee

Rooftop view cafe with quick-serve drinks.

Guna Tea Coffee 

Want to try out Buble tea and Egg cofee, this is the place for you. 

Where to stay in Cat Ba 

There is a tons of homestays, guest houses, hotels, bungalows and resorts to choose from

Luxury accommodation in Cat Ba town

There are three top accommodations in Cat Ba town

  • Hôtel Perle d’Orient Cat Ba – MGallery 
  • Flamingo Resort
  • Wyhham Grand Flamingo Cat Ba

Top Deluxe hotels in Cat Ba

Room rate  ranges from $50 to 70 USD per room per night

  • Cat Ba Paradise hotel 
  • Hung Long Habour hotel
  • Cong Khanh Boutique Inn (new place – highly recommend)

Superior hotels in Cat Ba

Room rate : $30 to $55 USD per room per night 

  • Quiri hotel 
  • Whisper nature bungalow
  • Cat Ba View Hotel
  • Cat Ba Eco Lodge
  • Roza Palace
  • The Moon boutique hotel (new Place)
  • Cat Ba Spring homestay
  • Sadu Garden Inn

Standard accommodation in Cat Ba 

  • Sweet potato homestay
  • Cat Ba Violet Hotel 
  • Cat Ba mountain view

We, Hanoi Eco Tour hope this Cat Ba island travel guide helps you some ways to plan your perfect trip to Cat Ba island. If you have any further questions, please contact us via email 

Rate this post
Related post