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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 the top thing to do on the bucket list. There are also two other bays that you have heard is Lan Ha Bay and Bai Tu Long bay known as less touristy areas. In reality, those two destinations is getting touristy now. Most of travellers choose either Lan Ha bay or Bai Tu Long bay because they think 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 expressway, 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, and limestone karst which is very unique, nowhere else can compare

+ Visiting authentic oyster farm of locals

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

Want to book this private Bai Tu Long day trip from Van Don, please contact us via Whatsapp at +84974313104

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

Don’t go to Quan Lan island during the summertime because it is the high tourist season for Vietnamese. 

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

A 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 a short break on the way. It may take longer when it comes to national holidays. Taking good company is essential for lots of travellers. There are good ones that offer a Dcar limousine with 9 comfortable seats such as Van Don Xanh limousine, Duy Khanh limousine 

Van Don Xanh bus is the only bus company with a drop-off at Cai Rong port/Ao Tien 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 limousine companies, the current charges are per person and per trip:

–    260,000 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.

–    280,000 VND for 03 back seats.

–    300,000 VND for 04 middle seats.

Van Don Xanh Limousine

There will be a SUV 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. 

Private car/minibus options from Hanoi/Halong
We do offer private transfer services from Hanoi/Halong to Van Don from 4-seats, SUV and minibus options to suits all your taste. 
Please note that we don’t offer baby car seat. If you require one, please let us know in advance 
 
For price and inquiry, please contact us via Whatsapp at +84974313104 (click on the link for direct chat) 

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 experiences, off the tourist trail route and enjoy tranquil settings among the local community. The total area is 139 square kilometers, including 72 square kilometers is the mainland 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 other caves near Quyet Tien village

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

+ Rock climbing in isolated mountains, which 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 at Ban Sen (The road is going up hill so push bike with gears are the best

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

+ Motorbike riding to explore the island

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

+ Visiting the oyster farm and collecting oysters on the seashore 

+ Collect 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 a guest house than a homestay. There do offer food for 3 meals!

Specialties in Ban Sen 

Local speciality in Ban Sen

Sen orange – Local speciality in Ban Sen

Sen orange is an organic fruit grown in the area with unique tastes different from any other type of orange in Vietnam.

Van Tea is a must-try when traveling to the island, it is unique to this region. When brewing, the tea color turns to red. It is good for health with an 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 destinations for beach travelers 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. 

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 you are climbing to the heaven gate which is the entrance.

Rock formation looks like happy Buddha in Phat Co cave

A ton of amazing limestone stalagmites and stalactites create 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 where the local fishermen settle their lives. Stroll around the village, you’ll see people live in harmony with nature amongst the 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 a better way to experience as a fisherman in Bai Tu Bay by getting involved in fishing trip with locals .

The Bai Tu Long bay day trip from Van Don is an authentic adventure.We do include a visit to the 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 statistics, the farm itself is three times bigger than it is used to be. 

Thanks to good natural conditions 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, take a day tour to Bai Tu Long from Van Donwhich is only 3.5 hour’s drive by New Expressway with coll activities such as caving, kayaking, and 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. Still, the cave itself has its own beauty and historical values with the existence of Pre-historic people from the Stone age because scientists have discovered fossils,  ceramic fragments, stone tools etc… 

The island is covered by the 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 entrances from different directions: West, East and North but the Eastern gate seems to be the most convenient. With quite a large entrance and a high ceiling. Walking 4 meters from the entrance, you’ll see a rock formation that looks like a giant turtle; on the opposite side is a rock formation that 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, and Jesus statue. From the eastern peak, you can see a panoramic view of Bai Tu Long bay, Van Don port with chaotic boats and ships, and look further is Halong Bay. 

 Dong Trong grotto

Interior Dong Trong grotto

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

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

Van Don guided tour from Hanoi/Halong/Hai Phong

At this moment, there is only private guided tour from Hanoi/Halong/Hai Phong so this tour isn’t for everyone since the price is a bit high, reach out to Hanoi Eco Tour at +84974313104 on Whatsapp for more information

This Bai Tu Long Bay day trip in Van Don area is less touristy than Halong Bay, you may see a few tourists here and good for families, couples, groups of friends who want to travel off the beaten track. 

Nearest airport near Van Don port

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

Cai Bi airport from Hai Phong is 2-hour drive from Van Don, you may find more flight options to Central and South Vietnam.

Read more : Bai Tu Long Bay travel guide 2024

Bai Tu Long bay tours

Bai Tu Long bay tours from Van Don

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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

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