Van Don travel guide: Cruising off the beaten track Bai Tu Long Bay

See this ultimate Van Don travel guide for cruising Bai Tu Long Bay by Hanoi Eco Tour with everything you need to know before travelling Van Don. 

Halong bay is top things to do in bucket list. There are also other two bays which you have heard is Lan Ha Bay and Bai Tu Long bay known as less touristy area. In reality, those two destinations is getting touristy now. Most of travellers choose either Lan Ha bay or Bai Tu Long bay because they thought it is getting touristy. Most of the cruise companies for tours in both bay Halong and Lan Ha Bay so there are many cruises in Lan Ba bay. 

What is the option for those who like off the beaten path? Here is an answer : Bai Tu Long Bay from Van Don. 

or Van Don bay day cruise 

Thanks to new express way, Hanoi – Hai Phong – Halong – Van Don, it takes only 3.5 hours to get there which is the same duration if you are taking a drive from Hanoi to Halong bay by new road which is still used by lots of companies. 

1. What makes a cruising day trip of Bai Tu Long Bay from Van Don port unique

Bai Tu Long private beach

Swimming in a private beach in Bai Tu Long bay

+ Truly off the beaten path, untouched by tourism. It is a real paradise for great escape to tranquil setting area with amazing nature beauty.

+ What’s do you think about going swimming on a “private beach” which are only you and other family members there. Relax and soak up in cool, clean emerald water. 

+ Kayaking amongst sea, limestone karst which is very unique, no where else can compare

+ Visiting authentic oyster farm of locals

+ Checking a cave on an island with secret view point for panoramic view of Van Don Bay, floating village, island.

2.Who is suitable for this cruise day tour ? 

+ You aren’t a big fan of mass tourism

+ Like to do unique cruise tour in Vietnam

+ Couples who love romantic moment, romantic place and fun experience

+ Family with kids who want to travel in your own paradise

+ Group of friends who want private beach, private boat but fun and meaningful

How long will it be for Bai Tu Long cruise from Van Don?

Only day trip available, but you can also stay longer by extending your trip for another one or two nights stay in Quan Lan island which is all truly off the beaten track. 

3. How to get to Van Don from Hanoi 

Van Don Xanh Limousine

Van Don Xanh Limousine – The first transfer service company to Van Don

Very comfortable, fast transfer service is limousine Dcar, a new type of transport from Hanoi to Van Don. It takes around 4 hours including pick up in a few different places in Hanoi with 15 to 20 minutes for short break on the way. It may takes longer when it comes to national holidays. Taking a good companies is an essential for lots of travellers. There are good one offer Dcar limousine with 9 comfortable seats such as Van Don Xanh limousine, Viet Kite Travel, Phuc Xuyen limousine and Tam Bao Anh. 

Tam Bao Anh and Van Don Xanh bus are only two companies with a drop off at Cai Rong port

Note:  You should ask a Vietnamese help you call and reserve at seat. The hotline staff isn’t good at speaking English, so it’s great if you have someone to help. Ask for the phone number of the hotel and let them know. 

Rate: For most of the limousines companies, the current charges are per person and per trip:

–    180,000 VND for 02 front seats near the driver. Keep in mind that these seats have limited room to stretch the legs. They are not comfortable, especially for foreigners.

–    200,000 VND for 03 back seats.

–    240,000 VND for 04 middle seats.

Van Don Xanh Limousine

There will be a 4 seaters car pick you up from your hotel in Hanoi Old Quarter half an hour to one hour before departure

Note : If you have two or three pieces of luggage, you’d better to call and check if there is enough room for the luggage, or may be there is small extra fee required. 

Hoang Phu Limousine

If your hotel is located in Hanoi Old Quarter which is far from their office, they may ask to pick you up at Hanoi Opera House. 

Tam Bao Anh Limousine

They offer both 24 seaters limousine and 9 seaters Dcar with door to door pick up and drop off. In my opinion, the seat behind the driver is the best. On the other hand, they offer a combo including bus, hotel and entrance ticket to Sun World Amuseum park in Halong

Bus schedule : Every 30 minutes from 5.00am to 9.00pm

Vietkite Travel 

If you would like to combine with a trip to Quan Lan island , then this company is a good choice by including sleeping bus and speed boat ticket to Quan Lan. This option is good for those who would like to save time and money. 

Rate : $22 USD includes speed boat to Quan Lan and sleeping bus with 7.5 hours trip. They do offer midnight trip for those who want to save time and money.
The bus departs from Hanoi at 00.30pm, 01.00am, 5.30am, 6.00am, 6.30am and 7.00am
From Van Don :  13.30pm, 14.30pm
For sure, you can’t find this valuable information in any Van Don bay travel guide

4. What to see Van Don bay

Ban Sen – A hidden gem of Van Don bay

Ban Sen

Panoramic view of Ban Sen – Van Don

Ban Sen is a commune, located in the South of Bai Tu Long Bay, 30 minutes by speed boat and one hour on a wooden junk boat from Cai Rong port. This place is perfect for those who like authentic local experience, off the tourist trail route and enjoy tranquil setting among local community. The total area is 139 square kilometers, including 72 square kilometers is the main land and the rest are rocky cliffs. 

How to get to Ban Sen from Cai Rong port

There are two speed boats trip from Cai Rong is at 7.00am and 8.00am

From Ban Sen : 13.00pm, 15.00pm

Ticket rate : 50.000VND around $2.5 USD per person

How to get around Ban Sen 

Borrow a motorbike or hire a tuk tuk to get around the island. 

Things to do in Ban Sen

Oyster farm in Ban Sen

Oyster farm in Ban Sen – Van Don

+ Check out lots of untouched caves by tourism. According to locals, there are 6 different caves in the region includes one called Nha Tro cave and 05 others caves near Quyet Tien village

Insider tip : Bring along a torch because there is no light in the cave. You’d better hire a local to show you around. 

+ Do rock climbing in some isolated mountains where you can only reach by boat. Don’t forget to bring gear and rock climbing safety equipment.

+ Cycling around the island among wonderful nature, breath fresh air. It is a cool experience you must try when you are at Ban Sen. 

 + Paying a visit to a local village and learn more about their lives.

Insider tips : Bring some candies, clothes or small changes of money in local currency to say “Thanks” to local family to welcome you. 

+ Visiting the oyster farm and collect oysters on the sea shore 

+ Collecting tea with locals and ask to join in processing. 

+ Taking night squid fishing with locals. What’s better than enjoying boiled fresh with beer on board. 

Where to stay in Ban Sen

There is only one homestay called Banh Sua homestay at Ban Sen, which is a clean homestay. I’d better called it guest house than a homestay. There do offer foods for 3 meals!

Specialties in Ban Sen 

Local speciality in Ban Sen

Sen orange – Local speciality in Ban Sen

Sen orange is organic fruits grown in the area with unique tastes different from any other type of oranges in Vietnam

Van Tea is a must-try when travelling to the island, it is unique to this region. When brewing, the tea color turns to red. It is good for heath with aroma flavor but not too bitter. 

Enjoy farmed fresh seafood such as  geoduck, sea oysters, snails, and etc 

Nearby tourist destination from Ban Sen

Minh Chau, Quan Lan and Coto islands is the closest attractions near Ban Sen. Each of them has their own charm. But all are rising destination for beach travellers in Northern Vietnam. 

Phat Co island 

Phat Co island

Entrance to Phat Co island – Van Don

Located in Bai Tu Long Bay, only 1 miles away from Vietnam – American port. During the French colonial period, people called it Marquis island. In 1968, the Vietnamese government has changed its name to Phat Co up to nowadays. 

Like many other islands, there is a beautiful limestone cave called Phat Co, known as one of the biggest caves in Bai Tu Long Bay . 

There is a yellow sandy beach 15 meters wide, 50 meters long, which is good for relaxing, swimming. The cave itself looks like an egg, the way up is the middle of the egg. Climb stone steps with 10 meters high, placed under the foliage and craggy cliffs which makes you feel like climbing to the heaven gate which is the entrance.

Rock formation looks like happy Buddha in Phat Co cave

There is a ton of amazing limestone stalagmites and stalactites which creates magnificent beauty.  The rock formations with various shapes such as a person, flower or dragon. Everything makes you feel like being in a wonderland. 

Giant Water melon rock formation at Phat Co cave

Giant Water melon rock formation at Phat Co cave

Cai Rong floating village, fish farm 

Cai Rong floating village is which the local fishermen settle their lives. Stroll around the village, you’ll see people live in harmony with nature, amongst amazing natural beauty of the limestone islands and sea. The village is truly off the tourist trail from the world famous heritage site of Halong Bay . Taking a Bai Tu Long day cruise from Van Don  , you’ll see this village which is a tranquil setting place. What is better way to experience as a fisherman in Bai Tu Bay by getting involved into fishing trip with locals .

Bai Tu Long bay day trip from Van Don is truly an authentic adventure .We do include a visit to floating village to Bai Tu Long Bay area. 

Oyster farm in the Van Don area 

Oyster farm in Bai Tu Long

Oyster farm in Bai Tu Long, Van Don

Local people earn their living by growing oyster so there are oyster farms in Bai Tu Long bay . According to recent statistic, the farm itself is three times bigger than it is used to be. 

Thanks to good natural condition such as nice temperature, emerald water, reasonable level of salt, which is everything for oyster farms. They grow oyster into a basket with full of sand and hang them on the floating bamboo raft. The farm should be surrounded by island which is safe when it comes to typhoons. It takes up to 8 months for oyster to grow. 

If you want to learn more about the techniques of growing oyster farms, just take a day tour to Bai Tu Long from Van Donwhich is only 3.5 hours drive by New express way with coll activities such as caving, kayaking, swimming with 4 hours on the cruise with lunch included

Dong Trong island –  Van Don

Dong Trong grotto

Entrance to Dong Trong grotto

Dong Trong island is located in Bai Tu Long bay in Van Don District,   is 10 minutes away from Van Don tourist wharf. There is a cave called Dong Trong cave which isn’t as famous as Surprising cave, Heavenly palace cave in Halong Bay, because Van Don isn’t a well-known destination but the cave itself has own beauty and historical values with the existence of Pre-historic people from Stone age because the scientists have discovered fossils,  ceramic fragments, stone tools etc… 

The island is covered by  emerald water of Bai Tu Long Bay. There are sandy beaches on the island. From Van Don port, Dong Trong island looks like a giant tiger looking toward the wharf. 

Stalagmite in Dong Trong grotto

Stalagmite in Dong Trong grotto

There are a few entrance from different direction : West, East and North but the Eastern gate seems to be the most convenient. With quite large entrance, high ceiling. Walking 4 meters from the entrance, you’ll a rock formation look like a giant turtle, on the opposite site is a rock formation looks like a happy Buddha riding a turtle. Walking further, you’ll see mysterious beauty like in a Wonderland with various limestone stalagmites and stalactites in various shapes : four holy animals in Vietnamese culture : dragon, unicorn, tortoise, phoenix, Buddha, Jesus statue. From eastern peak, you are able to see panoramic view of Bai Tu Long bay, Van Don port with chaotic boats and ship and look further is Halong Bay. 

 Dong Trong grotto

Interior Dong Trong grotto

According to archaeologist who found the vestige of  ancient Viet people lived there 4000 years old with stone axes, jewelry, household etc… They earned their living by fishing, hunting, picking up fruits..

Dong Trong grotto is a promising destination in Van Don tourism. The local goverment decides to focus on promoting this new tourist attractions and make it a highlights in Bai Tu Long bay in the near future. That’s why we would like to mention is this Van Don Travel Guide

Nearest airport near Van Don port

Van Don airport is brand new airport only 15 minutes drive from Cai Rong port.

Read more : Bai Tu Long Bay travel guide 2020

Bai Tu Long bay tours

Is this Van Don travel guide helpful?

Hanoi Eco Tours hope this Van Don travel guide for cruising off the tourist trail in Bai Tu Long Bay will help you some ways to plan a wonderful day trip to Bai Tu Long bay in Van Don

If you find it helpful: like, subscribe and share this article. Hanoi Eco Tour will by very much appreciated that

Click to rate this post!
[Total: 2 Average: 5]
The following two tabs change content below.


David Nguyen : Freelancer tour guide as well as a passionate writer for Hanoi Eco Tour, who has been working over 10 years in the tourism industry. All articles are written by him from his REAL travel experiences, down to earth and unique.

Related Posts