What to do in Ha Long Bay is probably the number one question people ask when initially planning a trip to this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its increasing popularity among tourists, both local and foreign, paved the way for the public and private tourism sectors in improving the services provided in the area.
The rise of overnight cruises, high-end hotels, land tours, and even the continuous development of infrastructure in the region are just a few signs that the province is doing its best to cater to all kinds of travellers.
From kayaking and trekking to staying on board on a luxury cruise and doing Tai Chi exercise in the morning, Ha Long Bay, being the number one destination in Vietnam, offers many things. Here is our favourite list:
#1 Cave Exploration
There’s possibly hundreds (or even thousands) of caves (known and unknown) that inhabit the Gulf of Tonkin, from Ha Long Bay to Bai Tu Long Bay to Lan Ha Bay. This we are not entirely sure about. But what amazes most visitors is the unblemished beauty waiting to be discovered upon entering the islands and islets of Ha Long Bay. A few of these must-visit caves are the Surprise Cave and Dau Go Cave, which are included in most overnight cruise itineraries.
#2 Cooking Class
Something that should not be missed when you’re on a Ha Long Bay cruise. Cooking classes, which are also included in almost all overnight packages, are a great way to immerse yourself not only with your fellow passengers on board but also with the Vietnamese culture that cannot be compared anywhere else, all whilst looking out into the staggering panoramic views of Ha Long Bay.
#3 Tai Chi Demonstration
A popular Vietnamese exercise that has been practised throughout generations, the Tai Chi demonstration, which again is included in most overnight cruise packages, is something you should definitely try when visiting Ha Long Bay. Typically starts early in the morning before sunrise; it’s both a refreshing and rejuvenating way to wake up in the middle of the world wonder.
#4 Seafood Galore
Ha Long Bay is located on the east side of northern coastal Vietnam. There is an abundant supply of delicious and fresh seafood being delivered in major areas, including Hanoi and other nearby provinces, every morning. Going on an overnight cruise, you’ll have an excellent opportunity to try them out yourselves throughout your voyage from breakfast, lunch, or your a la carte dinner on the bay. If you’re staying on land, you can expect to find them in the seafood market, located in central areas such as Bai Chay and Hon Gai.
Surrounded by thousands of karst limestone islands and islets across an incredible serene landscape, hopping on a kayak either alone or with someone is one of the most satisfying ways to witness the beauty of Ha Long Bay up close and personal. No matter what the weather is, may it be cold or sunny, paddling through the thousand-year-old rock formations will be something you’ll probably remember for the rest of your life.
Advised mostly during summertime due to weather constraints, swimming in the waters of Ha Long Bay is a must. Depending on which cruise itinerary you choose, there are plenty of spots in the area where you can just literally plunge right into the open water once the boat anchors. For those who prefer to swim by the beach, the popular overnight itinerary is enough as it usually makes a stop at Titov Island, where a small beach is waiting to be occupied. Otherwise, you can always swim by the Three Peaches Beach, another popular destination for swimming.
#7 Sunbathe in Style
Is there any point in flying from the other side of the world if you’re not going to experience some good old sunbathing, right? The great thing about Ha Long Bay is that the place allows you to do just that in a few yet very stylish ways. Want to go old-school and the old-fashion way? Then you may sunbathe by the beach during the island excursions. For those who prefer complete privacy, silence, and their own timing, then you may sunbathe by your cabin balconies. And for those who’d like to get most of the sun while still enjoying the panoramic views of the bay, then the cruise sundeck is your prime spot.
#8 Enjoy the Spa Treatments
One great thing to do on a cruise is to try spa treatments. Think about the most relaxing therapy you’ve had in your life and imagine having that while cruising along with one of the 7 New Wonders of Nature? A lot of these floating gems offer different kinds of techniques, but for sure, there’s not enough time for you to try them all on an overnight trip.
#9 Overnight Cruise
A night cruise is a popular way to discover the wondrous landscapes and soaring limestone islands of Ha Long Bay, one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. With a diverse option of cruises depending on your budget and preferences, from classic cruises to luxury cruises and private cruises, you’ll never run out of options. Explore the islands, get to know the legends, and meet new people in an adventure of a lifetime.
#10 Visit Floating Fishing Villages
Initially built at the beginning of the 19th century, the remains of what’s left in the original floating fishing villages of Ha Long Bay is one of the most cultural immersions you’ll ever experience in the country. With the largest of four villages, Cua Van, as the main attraction for most luxury Ha Long Bay cruises, it has been by far the most exceptional excursion for the past visitors of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
#11 Tea Ceremony
Mainly available through joining the three-day cruise itinerary on the Au Co, the tea ceremony is the perfect opportunity for those enthusiasts to learn more about the Vietnamese people’s thousands of years old tradition, its origins, its purposes, uses, and of course, its unique tastes.
#12 Cycle Through the Jungle
Located in Ha Long Bay’s largest island, cycling through the jungles of Cat Ba is as bracing as you can imagine. With so much fauna and flora available, this one’s always included in the top activities for adventure travellers.
#13 Look Out for Rare Species
With thousands of fauna and flora scattered all over the archipelago that makes up Ha Long Bay, the idea of having some rare species lurking around these islands are not too far-fetched either. One best example of these rare animals that you can find while discovering Ha Long Bay is the Cat Ba Langurs, who are well-known for their tiny size and golden heads. But since they’re a bit extinct, it can be very hard to spot them.
#14 Put Your Squid Fishing Skills to the Test
Everyone’s favourite after-dinner activity on the overnight cruises, squid fishing is very popular not just because a lot of people haven’t done it before, but also because of the fact that it’s a way for the travellers to mingle with each other and with the staff on board before everyone calls it a night. Be prepared and learn how to do it before joining any cruise, as success rates are pretty low.
#15 Try Local Delicacies
As much as you’d like to enjoy the views, activities, and excursions prepared for you, make sure that you also get the chance to try the local delicacies that Ha Long Bay can offer. Specialised in seafood dishes, these mouthwatering recipes will put your taste buds on an adventure of a lifetime. For recommendations, we suggest you try Banh Da Cua and Cha Muc for an introduction.
#16 Take Tons of Photos
The blue waters, sky-high mountains, lively fauna and flora, and the impeccably friendly locals of the floating fishing villages are more than enough reasons to take tons of photos in Ha Long Bay. Add the romantic views and spectacular sunsets to the scene, and you’ll have countless picture-perfect moments to look forward to.
#17 Discover the Art of Pearl Farming
An activity that is part of the overnight and 3-day cruises in Ha Long Bay, the art of pearl farming, is something that every visitor should check out if time (and budget) permits. Although it hasn’t been established for a very long time, pearl farming is one industry that the area is becoming famous for because of the quality of the products they produce and the process they use in farming. Using the latest Japanese technology, these pearl farms attract more and more tourists that visit Halong Bay in recent years.
#18 Learn New Vietnamese Words
And since you’re already on a boat filled with Vietnamese locals, then why not learn a few words and phrases for fun? Since there’s a lot of ample time between the excursions on the boat and while doing some activities with your local guides, there’s no better way to spend those by learning a few phrases that you may find helpful throughout your stay in the country. The best part of it is that you can end up making friends with the locals.
#19 Experience Mother Nature
Apart from the towering karst limestone formations that make up the majestic landscape of the Gulf of Tonkin, Ha Long Bay is also a great place to experience Mother Nature in its purest and undiluted form. Surrounded by lush greens, exotic creatures, and unparalleled beauty like nowhere else, the bay’s natural appeal is definitely something to be anticipated with.
#20 Rock Climbing & Cliff Jumping
Rock climbing and cliff jumping in Ha Long Bay are two of the most exhilarating activities you can do and something you can look back to in the years to come. Organised by only a few travel companies in the area, these options are indeed not for the faint-hearted. Though you can book it throughout the year, the best time to do it is during the summer days when the weather is sunny, the skies are blue, and the waters are calm and warm enough for swimming.
#21 Explore the Outskirt Areas
With so much history and culture, visitors can explore more by travelling to the surrounding mountain ranges and villages that make up Quang Ninh Province. This option allows you to witness hill tribe villages go about their daily lives, learn about the other industries such as mining and fishing, or just get a feel of what else is there to see aside from the towering limestone formations.
#22 Be Amazed by the Sunsets
Imagine yourself sitting by the sundeck of a luxury cruise in Ha Long Bay while having a glass of wine, munching on some canapes, and watching the sunset at the same time. A mixture of orange and yellow hues paint the skies above and are reflected by the pristine waters and the soaring islands of the bay. Dreamy and utopian yet a reality for those who take the time and effort to do so.