Table of Contents
1. Welcome to Cat Ba Island!
Cat Ba Island, Vietnam, is one of the country’s best adventure travel locales, especially for those who want to combine thrill-seeking with the sea and sand of beautiful Lan Ha Bay. From Rock Climbing to kayaking to heart-pumping water sports, it’s a fantastic place to live life to its fullest… and raise your heart rate a little while you’re at it. We already have an entire guide to Visiting Cat Ba Island, but in this article, we’re going to focus on the most exciting activities for thrill-seekers and adrenaline junkies.
2. Water Sports: Jetskiing, Parasailing, and Cliff Jumping
First, let’s talk about what Cat Ba Island and Lan Ha Bay are known for above all else: marine activities. More importantly to thrill-seeking travelers, extreme water sports.
The aquatic nature surrounding Cat Ba Island is a sight to behold, and a jet ski is the most thorough way to explore it. It is much faster than taking a boat and allows you to get into the nooks and crannies that boats can’t. Jetskiiers can tour the entire island perimeter, the rocky Cat Ba archipelago, and even the beautiful Lan Ha Bay if they’re advanced riders.
Parasailing and Kite Surfing
Parasailing entails attaching yourself to an open parachute and towing through the air by a moving motorboat. Kite surfing involves strapping into a surfboard and holding onto a kite that pulls you through the waters of Lan Ha Bay. Both sports are popular among thrill-seekers on Cat Ba Island, and plenty of local agencies offer package experiences for each.
They’re pretty intense experiences; participants will likely be too focused on the heart-pumping ride to enjoy the stunning landscapes around them. Many such agencies will be clustered around the island’s most famous beaches: Cat Co 1, Cat Co 2, and Cat Co 3 (more on each Cat Ba beach at the end of the “water adventures” section below). Both parasailing and kite surfing are unforgettable experiences, though, and are all but essential for thrill-seekers visiting Cat Co Island.
For a heart-stopping experience that ends with an up-close-and-personal plunge into the depths of Cat Co’s deep blue waters, cliff jumping is the way to go. Cat Ba is home to countless towering cliffs, many of which hang high over a deep expanse of water. Taking the leap is extremely intense and might be too much for some thrill-seekers, but it will certainly be memorable.
Unsurprisingly, cliff jumping can be extremely dangerous for those who haven’t done their research. Make absolutely sure you’re diving somewhere locals have cleared as safe. To be extra secure, we recommend going on a cliff jumping tour with a professional agency like Cat Ba Climbing.
3. Water Adventures and Marine Excursions: Kayaking, Swimming, and Boat Trips
Not all thrill-seekers want to engage in activities quite as extreme as cliff jumping and jet skiing. Some prefer instead to get their thrills from adventure on the high seas, something the Cat Ba Island tourism scene offers in spades.
Kayaking in Cat Ba offers a unique way to explore the enchanting Lan Ha Bay and the captivating coastline of Cat Ba Island at your own pace. With the agility of your kayak, you can venture into stunning hidden lagoons, only accessible through narrow cave passages where larger boats can’t go. It’s your ticket to uncovering secluded sandy beaches, floating villages, and the vast tropical rainforests lining the island’s edge. Immerse yourself in the idyllic natural scenery that frames the periphery of Cat Ba, all from the intimate perspective of your kayak.
Vietnam Insider offers kayak rentals for about $20 daily and $25 more for a local guide.
Swimming & Snorkeling
Cat Ba Island in Halong Bay is not just for beach lovers but also for snorkeling. The island’s three main beaches, Cat Ba 1, 2, and 3, offer perfect spots for swimming and sunbathing.
Cat Ba is teeming with underwater wonders. Home to 193 identified coral species, including both hard and soft corals, the island’s marine ecosystem is vibrant and diverse. However, it is important to acknowledge respectfully the environmental challenges facing Cat Ba, which may affect visibility at times. The issues of over-tourism and pollution impact the natural beauty of the island and pose a threat to the marine environment. While there are opportunities for snorkeling, it is important to note that it may affected by environmental concerns. For the environmentally conscious traveler, this experience is a stark reminder of the delicate balance between enjoying natural wonders and preserving them for future generations.
That being said, swimming through crystal clear waters with stunning landscapes like karst formations and fishing villages in the distance is a unique experience. It’s also a way to soak up some of the tranquil atmosphere of island life, which will be a nice break after many of the pulse-pumping activities discussed in this article.
A boat trip is the most effortless way to explore the aquatic landscape surrounding Cat Ba Island. You can kick back on the deck with a drink in hand while being introduced to one magical natural phenomenon after another. You’ll pass by secluded beaches inaccessible by land, through hidden caves, and past many a small island while you relax. Boat tours are still thrilling; after all, what’s more compelling to the curious mind than exploring a tropical island?
Explore Lan Ha Bay
Before you dive into the island adventures, consider starting your trip with a relaxing and comprehensive cruise around the breathtaking Lan Ha Bay. We offer a variety of options to suit every traveler’s taste, from luxurious to budget-friendly cruises, including lively party boats. Each cruise comes with the convenience of pick-up service and transfer, ensuring a smooth start to your adventure. And if you have any questions or special requests, our dedicated customer support team is always on hand to assist you. Whether you choose to embark on a cruise before hitting the island for some thrilling activities, or prefer to unwind on a cruise after your adventures, we’ve got you covered. Don’t miss out on exploring our diverse Lan Ha Bay tours to find the perfect cruise for your journey!
4. Cat Co and The Most Beautiful Cat Ba Beaches
A bit about the four most popular beaches on the island.
- Cat Co Beach 1 is the most centrally located of the three and has the most amenities, like loungers, umbrellas, and restaurants on the beach. Unsurprisingly, it is also the most crowded.
- Cat Co Beach 3 is the most secluded of the three main Cat Ba beaches. It has minimal facilities to help preserve its unspoiled beauty and draws the least crowds.
- Cat Co 2 falls somewhere between Cat Co beaches 1 and 3 in terms of amenities and crowdedness.
- Tung Thu Beach. While the Cat Co beaches are clustered near the center of Cat Ba town, Tung Thu is located to the city’s northwest. Its remote location makes it the most peaceful and untouched beach near the busy part of the island, and the lush greenery and limestone cliffs within eyeshot of the beach make it one of the most beautiful beaches on the largest island of Cat Ba.
5. Nature Sports: Rock Climbing, Trekking, Caving, and Hiking
Oceanic experiences aren’t the only activities Cat Ba has to offer for adventure-seekers; the island’s land is also alive with adventure and excitement. Limestone mountains, enormous tropical rain forests, golden sand beaches, coral reefs, endless networks of trails leading through varying landscapes… the list of natural wonders on Cat Ba Island continues.
Cat Ba Island and the surrounding area are paradises for rock climbing enthusiasts. The natural walls offer a fantastic experience, and the panoramic island view from each is breathtaking. A few of the most popular routes include:
- Butterfly Valley, the most popular climbing area on Cat Ba Island, is located in Cat Ba National Park. The large valley offers over 60 bolted routes ranging from beginner to advanced levels. The valley is surrounded by lush greenery, adding to the scenic beauty of the climbs.
- Hidden Valley is a more secluded and less crowded alternative to Butterfly Valley in the National Park.
- Ben Beo Mountain Cliff is a series of climbing routes near central Ben Beo Harbor. The Ben Beo Cliff is smaller than many climbing routes in the area, and its central location means it’s often more crowded.
- Mood Beach is particularly famous for its deep water soloing opportunities. Climbers scale routes over water without ropes, falling safely into the waters of Lan Ha Bay if they slip.
- Ba Trai Dao Island is a bit further from Cat Ba proper than most of these routes but offers a more tranquil atmosphere and views of remote and pristine beaches during the climb. Like Mood Beach, Ba Trai Dao has several deep-water soloing opportunities.
- Van Boi Island is a tranquil island with some interesting rock formations suitable for bouldering.
Biking, Trekking, and Hiking in Cat Ba National Park
Most adventurous souls have probably daydreamed about going on an honest-to-God tropical adventure. One that would require you to navigate uneven dirt paths and tromp through jungle terrain, never knowing when you would come across some fascinating and exotic wildlife. In Cat Ba National Park, you can make those daydreams a reality.
Cat Ba National Park is the island’s crown jewel when it comes to land-based adventuring. It is home to countless kilometers of rustic dirt trails that shoot up and down rocky mountain cliffs before snaking through enormous tropical rainforests. Go on foot or on the back of a mountain bike with a tour like [Cat Ba Trekking Tour Company Here], or go with your own group if you’re comfortable handling what this tropical wilderness will throw at you. If you do go on your own, be sure to bring a map.
Cat Ba National Park is also home to some of the coolest caves in Vietnam (arguably, in the world). Some of the most popular caves on or around Cat Ba include:
- Hospital Cave, which has three stories and 17 different “rooms.” Hospital Cave was actually used as a bomb-proof hospital during the Vietnam War, and it also served as living quarters for Viet Cong leaders. It’s a creepy but amazing experience to wander around the mostly empty rooms and imagine what once was.
- Dark Cave, which is unlit and has to be explored via headlamp. Visitors can experience many nature activities by lamplight, including mud-bathing, zip-lining, and swimming in a mud pool inside the Cave.
- Trung Trang Cave is the largest Cave in Cat Ba National Park at over 300 meters. Trang Trung Cave is known for its incredible stalactites and stalagmites and its easily accessible location.
- Hoa Cuong Cave is located on an island in Halong Bay, but it’s a popular destination for Cat Ba Island visitors. It’s more peaceful than the caves on the island itself because of its remoteness, and it’s known for its stunning limestone structures and a large, open chamber with impressive stalactites and stalagmites.
6. Cultural Immersion and Local Experiences
All tourists, whether they are thrill-seekers or not, will want to get a feel for the culture of Cat Ba Island and experience some of its unique things. Some of those experiences are more conducive to thrills than others (for example, did you know Cat Ba Island has a bumpin’ party scene?), but all of them are worth consideration on your trip.
Exploring a Local Fishing Village
The fishing villages dotting Cat Ba Island and the surrounding even smaller islands are the purest representation of authentic Vietnamese seaside communities that you’re likely to find in Northern Vietnam.
The fishing villages nearest Cat Ba town, such as Cai Beo floating village, or Viet Hai fishing village (the largest floating village in Vietnam), are more likely to have English speakers than the more remote villages. However, they’re also going to be more touristy and less authentic than Viet Hai. We’d strongly encourage you to venture to the towns on the other side of the island instead.
For translation, you can go with a tour guide or a local friend, or, for the extra adventurous, with Google Translate. Go where the wind takes you inside the villages, but take every opportunity to immerse yourself in the distinct Cat Ba island culture.
Visiting Monkey Island
Monkey Island, also known as Cat Dua Island, is located in Nam Cat, Lan Ha Bay, only 1 kilometer from Cat Ba’s downtown via ferry.
The main attraction on Monkey Island is the large tribe of macaque monkeys living there. The monkeys are quite friendly and interactive with visitors compared to most macaques in Vietnam. However, being cautious and respectful when near them is important, as they are wild animals.
The monkeys aren’t the only thing to see when visiting Monkey Island and Nam Cat. You can also check out the island’s famous viewing tower, which offers an utterly spectacular panoramic island view. From the tower, you can gaze at Cat Ba Island, Halong Bay, Lan Ha Bay, and Long Chau Island.
Other sites of note on the island include the Monkey Island Resort and the island’s two famous beaches, Cat Dua 1 and Cat Dua 2.
Partying Hard in Cat Ba Town
Given how many lush forests, quaint fishing villages, and pristine beaches are on Cat Ba Island, you’d expect Cat Ba town to be a sleepy burg. That’s far from the case, though; Cat Ba town is as busy as a large city despite only having a population of 16,000. After all, the town gets 2.5 million tourists annually, and you can tell by its thriving businesses and active nightlife.
Experiencing Sensory Overload at a Local Market
Bustling local markets are found all throughout Vietnam, and they’re always a fantastic window into the local way of life. The markets on Cat Ba Island are no exception, and they put a distinctive seaside spin on what you’ll see at markets in most of the country. The sounds of locals selling their wares and the scents of dried fish being sold in every direction, all underscored by the salty fresh air of the seaside, will provide a sensory experience you won’t be able to replicate any other way. It’s definitely a thrilling experience in its own way.
Soaking Up History at Cannon Fort
Cannon Fort is a bunker atop a 177-meter-tall hill on Cat Ba Island. Visitors to Cannon Fort can explore the well-preserved remnants of a military fort used during the French colonial period and later in the Vietnam War. The fort’s underground bunkers and gun emplacements tell a story of the past, providing a glimpse into the island’s strategic military importance.
Cannon Fort is also an incredible vantage point to get the “lay of the land” for Cat Ba Island and some of Lan Ha Bay.
7. How to Get to Cat Ba Island
Cat Ba Island is located off the coast of Northern Vietnam, about an hour’s ferry ride from Tuan Chau Pier, the port for Ha Long Bay and Lan Ha Bay.
Tuan Chau Pier is easily accessible by bus from Hanoi since Halong Bay is one of Vietnam’s most popular tourist destinations. The Pier is located on Tuan Chau Island, connected to the mainland by a bridge.
8. Safe Travels!
Are you ready to visit Cat Ba, Vietnam? This article has got you covered, from rock climbing in Cat Ba National Park to partying in Cat Ba Town’s nightlife! But hold up, safety first! It would help if you didn’t spend your Vietnam vacation in a Cat Ba hospital, so be smart about your actions and take safety precautions. Pack your sunscreen, mosquito repellent, and adventure gear, and get a seasoned local to guide you through your experience. So, buckle up and prepare for a thrilling experience, but remember to prioritize safety to make it memorable and enjoyable!
Top Tips & Recommendations from Halong Hub.
After an exciting adventure on Cat Ba Island with various activities, we highly recommend choosing a 1-3 night cruise in the beautiful Halong and Lan Ha Bay with Halong Hub. We offer trusted cruises with various recreational activities, leisure, and dining options.