Best Things To Do in Halong Bay

If you think breathtaking scenery is Halong Bay’s only specialty, big mistake! One thing for sure: one day is never enough to enjoy all the fascinating activities. Here are the top things to do in Halong Bay you can’t afford to miss.

More Than Just a Cruise: Top 8 Halong Bay Cruise Activities

The growing demand from tourists who visit Halong Bay has spurred cruise companies to develop more unusual and unique activities in order to remain competitive and satisfy guests’ longing for adventure.

Halong Bay has experienced an explosion of tourism interest in the past few years, so naturally, the number of tour operators has been multiplying in order to meet the increasing demand. With near 100 different cruise companies operating in Halong Bay, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s hard to tell the tours apart from each other.

In part, perhaps, to remain competitive or to differentiate from each other, customised Halong Bay cruise activities have become the norm. The significance for travelers is that there are now multiple activities which offer a very personalized experience and a fresh way of engaging with the world famous Halong Bay.

These 8 Halong Bay cruise activities go to show that visiting the World Heritage site is no longer just about sitting on your cruise ship.

1. Water Sports: Kayaking & Snorkeling

girl snorkeling looking at some coral
Checking out Halong’s coral

Taking to the Halong waters is one Halong Bay cruise activity that puts you right in the action, and many of the tour operators will carry snorkeling or kayaking equipment onboard the vessel, which you can rent out.

Halong Bay and the surrounding region has very rich marine life (dolphins, seals, coral, and hundreds of species of fish), so grabbing a snorkel mask and some fins is the best way to check it out.

Expert tip: The Bai Tu Long Bay area falls under the protection of the National Park, so the waters and marine life here are even better.

Some of the most exquisite parts of Halong Bay are the secluded beaches and caves, which are very often not accessible in the larger cruise vessels. Taking out a kayak is the perfect Halong Bay cruise activity to give you the chance to explore the area at your own speed, and to experience a part of Halong Bay that few others have seen.

2. Swimming

group of people sitting and floating in shallow water on halong bay beach
Taking a dip

Halong Bay is packed full of white sandy beaches that are perfect for taking a dip in.

While many tour routes will include at least one of the more commonly visited beaches, there are a number of tours that have insider knowledge about Halong Bay’s secluded beaches, which are really worth a visit if you’re the type of traveler who seeks an “off-the-beaten-track” sort of experience.

3. Exploring caves

interior rock formations in a halong bay cave
One of Halong Bay’s caves

Part of what makes Halong Bay’s ecosystem so unique are the numerous caves and grottoes scattered throughout the area. Now considered to be Vietnam’s most valuable natural asset, the 59 discovered caves significantly contribute to the natural biosphere here.

Most cruises will include at least one cave on their tour route, where you’ll have the chance to jump off the cruise ship and explore the cavern yourself. If there is a guide onboard your ship, this is the time to take advantage of their knowledge!

The Halong Bay caves are rich in folklore and learning these stories provide a wonderful insight into the traditions and culture of the area.

4. Visiting floating villages

green and blue houses in one of halong bay's floating villages
The brightly coloured houses contrast the misty ethereal scenery

Many of the original inhabitants of Halong Bay once belonged to the communities in the floating villages. These villages were originally set up hundreds of years ago by fishermen who, upon their return from sea, would need a place to trade and sell their catch. Eventually, these floating villages became the home of hundreds, in some cases thousands of people.

Although in the past few years, the government has directed the people of the floating villages to move inland (so these areas are no longer residential), they have been authentically preserved so that tourists may still get a sense of what daily life was like here.

This isn’t just your average Halong Bay cruise activity; there’s a lot to be learned at the floating villages- from ecological conservation and marine education to the culture and history of Halong Bay’s indigenous people.

5. Squid Fishing

3 squid cooking on a barbecue
Halong Bay squid fishing

Historically, Halong Bay is a place that has survived and thrived on the fishing industry. Admittedly modern tourism has changed this, but nevertheless, the traditions have carried on.

Under the watchful supervision of the experts, many of the cruises will organize night time squid fishing sessions- and if you catch one, you get to eat it. I’m sure many will agree; any Halong Bay cruise activity that involves eating is a sure winner!

6. Cooking Class

halong bay cooking class
A Halong Bay cooking class

We always say that food is the most effective way to connect people; what better way to learn about Vietnamese and Halong culture than to learn how to cook a few of the traditional dishes?

By taking part in one of the cruises’ cooking classes, not only will you get a taste of the local flavours, you’ll also have some pretty impressive culinary skills to show off when you get back home.

7. Tai Chi Exercises

view from back of a man's head as he teaches a tai chi class on top deck of a halong bay cruise
Tai Chi in Halong Bay

If there is a better view than watching the sun rise over the islands and waters of Halong Bay, I can’t think of it. That’s the view you’ll be greeted with in the morning if you get involved with one of the tai chi classes held on the top deck of your cruise ship.

This Halong Bay cruise activity promises panoramic views of the towering limestone stacks, and a bit of fresh air and light exercise- a winning formula to start the day, guaranteed.

8. Spa

woman smiling at the camera while having a massage
In a Halong cruise spa

If you feel like indulging (and why not, you’re on holiday!) you can always take a load off at the spa. Many of the cruises offer luxury spa services, including traditional massages.

Follow that with a sunset cocktail on the top deck, or a quiet sundowner on your private balcony, and you’re set for the evening.

Think we’ve left something off the list? Let us know of any other Halong Bay cruise activities you’ve heard about or tried!

Why all Adventure Travelers Should try Kayaking in Halong Bay

The World Heritage site is well known as a luxurious holiday destination, and for its relaxing cruises- but fewer know of its appeal for adventure travel. Taking to the waters in a kayak is a way of putting yourself right in the action and totally immersing yourself in your surroundings. Not only that, but you’ll have the chance to gain a fresh new perspective on one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World, and explore it in a way few others have ever done before.

Halong Bay kayaking

Kayaking in Halong Bay, Bai Tu Long Bay or Lan Ha Bay is an amazing experience you have to try. Sailing by yourself on the pristine water and discovering the bay is what many would call a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity. It also presents an exciting alternative to the usual activities when traveling to Halong with your family and friends.

Where to Kayak in Halong Bay

Since the bay itself is extremely large (when people refer to “Halong” they are generally referring to the entire region, which encompassed not just Halong Bay, but also Bai Tu Long and Lan Ha Bay), you’ll need to do a little background research about the route your cruise is going to take; this will help you plan where the best places to kayak will be. For example: if you choose a Bai Tu Long Bay itinerary, the most chosen route to kayak is through Hang Luon (Luon Cave). In fact, this cave is not actually a cave, it’s more like an entrance gate. After passing through Luon Cave, you’ll come upon one of Halong’s remaining floating villages, Vung Vieng fishing village.

Kayaking Paradise - Lan Ha Bay
Kayaking Paradise

If you’re planning to remain within Halong Bay itself, you’ll have near limitless potential routes to take by kayak, from secluded sandy beaches to some of the more challenging reaches like the caves and tunnels. Whether you choose to paddle with purpose and speed, or take it slow and soak in the sights- kayaking in Halong Bay is always worth the effort.

When to Kayak in Halong Bay

In the summertime, the heavy air and intense heat serve as motivation to hit the waters and cool down; in the wintertime, you’ll see that Halong is quite different-although the weather is still pleasantly warm by anyone’s standards. No matter what time of year, kayaking in Halong Bay is always a fantastic activity.

Kayaking halong Bay

Cost of Kayaking in Halong Bay

The price of renting a canoe is about $10 if you go on a day tour, but you won’t pay any extra if you book a 2-days-1-night cruise tour of your choice; the cruise covers all fees.

Safety and Preparation for Kayaking in Halong Bay

For your safety, it is very important to follow your tour guide, listen to the route, time and rules; check with your tour guide about the weather, tide and wind strength. Keep away from the places that have a strong current, or move against the wind. Always take advantage of the wind strength and flow.

Kayaking halong Bay

You need to be well-prepared for kayaking in Halong Bay. Prepare suitable clothes: a T-shirt and shorts and a swimming suit in the summer, warmer clothes in the winter; sandals, hat, sunglasses always.

Ensure that your life jacket is securely fastened. Bring a waterproof camera, and don’t hesitate to ask staff to help you keep your cell phone and other electronics.

Have you been kayaking in Halong Bay? We’d love to hear about your experiences, memorable times, and stories in the comments below!

Whole new experience with seaplane in Halong Bay

It may very well have won itself a place on the list of “7 Natural Wonders of the World”, but viewing the Halong Bay landscape from above puts things into a whole new perspective.

Since 2014, you can now travel to and tour around by seaplane in Halong Bay, and every since these tours first began operation, they have been inundated by adventurous travelers in search of special experiences.

Overview of seaplane tours

Halong Bay seaplane tours

The first reason tours by seaplane in Halong Bay stand out from other types of transportation is their time saving factor.

Normally, it takes you about 3 to 4 hours traveling by car, shuttle bus, or private bus from Hanoi to Bai Chay wharf in Halong Bay. From here you would be transferred to a cruise.

With just a 40-minute flight, and tons of stunning views from high altitude, the tours (pun alert) fly by.

Traveling by seaplane in Halong Bay is one of the best ways to view the entire archipelago.  According to Claire Boobbyer, who made a film about Halong Bay for telegraph.co.uk, “From the air, we could see parts of the bay not visible from the cruise boats. Sculpted valleys, hidden lakes and deep craters, all carpeted in an iridescent green which looked beautiful in the late afternoon sun.”

The final reason for choosing a seaplane tour is safety.

Vietnamese roads are not always an ideal way to travel due to traffic jams and careless drivers. Moreover, the Cessna Grand Caravan 208B – EX amphibian aircrafts, which are used for these tours, are the safest single-engine aircraft in the world, manufactured by the Textron Group (USA), with pontoons assembled by Wipaire Company, Minnesota, USA.

25 mins Scenic Flight in a Seaplane in Halong Bay

From the exhilarating moments of the seaplane taking off or landing on the glimmering water at Tuan Chau Marina, to the breathtaking sights as the plane hovers above countless islets, you will never be bored when traveling with these pilots.

As our flights are scheduled at the optimum time of day for sightseeing, the 25-minute scenic flight are guaranteed to impress.

Halong Bay seaplane tours Halong Bay seaplane tours

For the reasonable price of $99, you can take a flight tour from Dau Be – Cong Do – Bo Hon island.

Here, you’ll find tons of caves and grottoes, such as the Thien Cung cave, Luon, Virgin and Male grottoes, and a high concentration of high mountains with vertical cliffs.

60 mins Hanoi – Halong Bay plus Scenic Flight in Halong

Instead of spending half a day in a shuttle bus with traffic-clogged streets, hop  on a seaplane to Halong Bay from Hanoi which takes you only 45 minutes.

This is a perfect solution for a comfortable, fun-filled and luxurious trip.

Halong Bay seaplane tours
Peaceful Hanoi rural area from above.

Traveling by seaplane to Halong Bay offers a totally unique experience. Only with seaplanes can you enjoy the incredible aerial views over the countryside the thrill of a water landing.

The flight can be extended to include an additional 15-minute scenic tour over the bay, which allows you to enjoy a bird’s eye view of the incredible scenery before landing at Tuan Chau Island Marina.

Need further information about traveling by seaplane in Halong Bay? Get in touch for further details, pricing, and bookings.

Halong Bay seaplane tours
Inside view.

At the end of the day, Seaplane tours are still the best opportunities for the most exciting moments. Have you ever tried a seaplane tour? Could you share with us your feelings and experiences at that time? That would be great! We’re excited to read your stories in the comments below.

Halong Bay Heritage Marathon

To continue the previous success of the 2015 event, Halong Bay Heritage Marathon will officially return on 26th November 2016 with a wide range of distance options: a 42km Full Marathon, 21km Half Marathon, 10km and 2km Fun Run. This year’s running course has been designed to cross over Bai Chay Bridge, the longest single-span bridge in Southeast Asia, to provide a spectacular view from above over the magnificent landscape of Halong Bay.  The route continues through picturesque mountain scenery and coastal vistas along the bay.

Halong Bay Marathon 2016
Source: Halong Bay Heritage Marathon

4 Routes at UNESCO World Heritage Site

2KM FUN RUN “Best for Beginner”: This route brings the most joyful and exciting atmosphere. Joined by young adults as well as children, it is a lighthearted run focusing on enjoyment and a fun atmosphere.

10KM FUN RUN “Boost your Endurance”: Run and simply enjoy Halong Bay. This run is mostly taken on by local tourists and international travellers, this is quite the memorable experience.

Halong Bay Heritage Marathon
Source: Halong Bay Heritage Marathon

21KM HALF MARATHON “Long Distance running at a World Natural Heritage”: The half marathon. We can’t imagine this not being a lifelong memory for those that love to run marathons.

42KM MARATHON “We Are the Champion, My Friend.”:  Conquer “Bãi Cháy” Bridge.  Are you ready to push yourself to the limit? Both mentally and physically? Then step up for this full marathon, set in one of the most beautiful areas in the entire world!

Halong Bay Heritage Marathon 2015

“After an impressive performance from all runners who participated in today’s International Halong Bay Heritage Marathon 2015, it is our pleasure to announce the top 6 runners from today’s 21 kilometre half marathon. These outstanding runners received a medal, trophy, certificate confirming their performance as well as a cash prize.

The third place finisher received $300, second place received $600 and finally the top runner received $1000 for their performance.

For the men’s division, coming in third place with a time of 1h. 30m. 52s was a Vietnamese national Nguyen Duc Quang, who’s a part of a growing running club. Placing second in the men’s division is Anatoli Gridnev from Russia with a time of 1h. 28m. 35s. Finally, with the top time in the man’s division was Florian Deichmann from Germany with a time of 1h. 26m. 24s.

Halong Bay Heritage Marathon
Source: Halong Bay Heritage Marathon

For the women’s division, we have AnetaRadaczewska from Poland with a time of 1h .45m .43s. In second place with have Lisa Anderberg from the US with a time of 1h. 38m. 16s. A special congratulations to our fastest female runner and overall champion with the fastest time among all participants, Pham Thi Hue from Vietnam. Hue posted a good time of 1h. 25m. 07s, beating the second place finisher by over a minute.”

About the Organizer

In attendance at the first inaugural International Halong Bay Heritage Marathon, were the representatives from the organizers. The event was made possible by the cooperation between Quang Ninh’s Department of Culture, Sports, and Tourism and DHA company. Their preparation and hard work ensured that the event was safe and successful.

Both organizers agree that this first year has been a success, but next year will be even better. For those who participated, as well as though who are interested, should be happy to know that the two organizers are very much looking forward to hosting more marathons in the future. Furthermore, they promised next year will even be bigger and better! Stay tuned.

Did you join the marathon last year? Was it great? We’re glad to hear your stories and experiences in the comments below.

Top 5 delicious food in Halong Bay you must try

Whenever visiting any tourism destination in any country in the world, most travelers spend a considerable amount of time exploring and enjoying the wild wonders of cuisines there. Travellers to Halong Bay are no exception, and for good reason. There is so much incredible gastronomy at this charming Bay, for foodies and newcomers alike.

Favoured with the gifts of Mother Nature, Halong is famous for its variety of fresh and delicious seafood like crab, prawn, squid and snail as well as plenty of Vietnamese traditional foods. Travelling to Halong Bay, Vietnam without feasting on the following dishes would be a shame. Don’t miss out!

Cha Muc (Squid Sausage)

Cha Muc is the most famous food of Quang Ninh and also in the top 50 specialties of Vietnam. The main ingredient of Cha Muc, of course, is squid. However, according to local fishermen, the high quality dishes must use squid from the Halong area.  The crunchy and delicate texture of this specific variety of squid, and the juicy flavour and attractive aroma of this dish goes perfectly well with Xôi (boiled rice, sticky rice) or Bánh Cuốn (a type of thin, steamed rice cake). This beautiful piece of culinary mastery is sold at many stores and stalls around the city and especially at Halong Market.

Banh cuon cha muc Halong Bay foods
Rolled Rice pancake with Cha Muc
Xoi cha muc halong bay foods
Steamed glutinous rice with Cha Muc

Sam (Horseshoe crab)

The meat of Sam can be processed into a lot of different foods, such as pudding crab, crab salad, sweet and sour crab legs, crab sauté with peppers and lemongrass, fried eggs and crab, steamed crabs, fried crab, fried crab’s cartilage, stir-fried crab and glass noodle. The endless menu of horseshoe crab is always awaiting the visitors in Halong, and it is ALWAYS fresher than you can get anywhere else!

Sam bien nuong halong bay food
Yummy Grilled Horseshoe crab

Prawn, lobster and oyster

Halong Bay has many kinds of prawn, lobster, white pearl shrimp, or tiger shrimp. However, the most valuable and most delicious are prawn and lobster. There are two popular methods of prawn/lobster processing, steaming and breaded frying. However, steaming with using additional ingredients like beer or tubers lemongrass to remove the fishy smell is more preferable because people love to enjoy the natural taste it provides.

hai san halong bay foods
Many kinds of seafood can be found in Halong

The best quality lobster and prawn are usually served on cruises, especially in top cruises. In luxury cruises such as Signature Cruise, Paradise Peak Cruise and Orchid Cruise, you would be definitely blown out by high class lobster dishes. It is always a wonderful moment to enjoy these dishes along magnificent scenes in Halong Bay.

Hau nuong mo hanh halong bay foods
Another well-known seafood in Halong Bay is oyster. Oyster is a nutrition-rich food and provides a plethora of energy for your body. Inside its hard-shell is blood-like red bowel, which carry the most delicious and nutritious part of an oyster. It can be eaten raw with a lemon slice or grilled with cheese.

Ngan

Ngan is a type of hard clam. In Vietnamese, Ngan means tasteless but in fact it is quite delicious and carries a very delicate and pleasant aftertaste. If you are planning on visiting Halong, you may have many Ngán dishes like grilled, steamed, deep-fried with vegetables. Amongst all products made from Ngan, the most famous one is Ngan wine. You should not miss the chance to experience this unique seafood when you come to Halong Bay. You can easily find it anywhere from street foods style to seafood restaurants in Halong.

ngan hap halong bay foods
Ngan has high amount of nutrition and benefit men’s sexual ability.

Banh gat gu

Banh gat gu is made from steaming rice flour mixture. When you eat it, the cake is dipped in a special sauce, along with a piece of caramelized pork. This sauce is really a star of this dish. Having an okay or amazing experience with this food all depends on the sauce. The feeling of cool, soft cake and juicy pork is an enchanting culinary experience.
This would be a nice choice after devouring many seafood dishes. The origin of this cake is in Hoa Binh Street Tien Yen Town, Quang Ninh but you can easily try it in Halong.

banh gat gu halong bay foods
When you hold the top of the cake, its tail’s going up and down like we nod our head. That’s why the name is Nodding Rice Cake “Gật Gù”
khau nhuc banh gat gu halong bay foods
“Khâu nhục” – pork served with Bánh Gật Gù

These foods will absolutely make you fall in love with Halong Bay, so you must be sure that you try them all at least once. Try your best not to eat them all every day! Eating nice foods, meeting awesome people, visiting one of world heritage sites and sharing memorable moments with your beloved, how could it be more incredible!! Let’s take a tour to Halong to give a try!

Do you agree with our selection or have we missed your favourite foods in Halong? Leave your comment below.

9 Fascinating Things To Do In Halong Bay

The World Heritage site, famed throughout the world for its scenic beauty, has long been regarded as a top destination for a relaxing cruise holiday, but apart from just cruising, there are so many things to do in Halong Bay; here’s our top 9 activities:

1. Seaplane tours

View Halong bay on seaplane
View Halong bay on seaplane

Seaplane is a truly special way to bear witness to the beauty of Halong bay. Tours leave from Hanoi every day, and there are 25 minute sightseeing trips from Halong that start from as little as $99. Hai Au Aviation is currently the only company offering this stunning opportunity.

2. Enjoy Halong Bay on cruises

Luxury-Cruise-in-Halong-Bay

There are many cruise boats operating in Halong Bay, from shoestring budget options to lap of luxury liners. Many of the cruise boats are built in the style of old Chinese trading junks, whilst others are more like the old fashioned riverboats. Thanks to the comfort and convenience offered on these tours, cruising is a crowd favourite, and one of the most popular things to do in Halong Bay..

3. Explore caves in Halong Bay

Sung Sot Cave - Supprise Cave
Sung Sot Cave – Supprise Cave

There are 59 ‘discovered’ caves in Halong Bay to date, and experts believe there could be as many as double this number still waiting to be found. The most famous of these are the Sung Sot (or Surprise Cave); Thien Cung Cave (Paradise Cave); and Trinh Nu Cave (Virgin Cave). The Surprise Cave is the one most commonly visited by tour boats, but don’t be put off by large numbers of visitors; they are a must-see and one of the most interesting things to do in Halong Bay.

4. Watersports: Kayaking, Canoeing, Diving, Fishing

kayak-in-Halong-bay--halong-Hub

The tourist boats cannot navigate some of the really tiny channels that cut between some of the 1960 islands of the bay, which is why taking out a kayak or canoe is one of the best things to do in Halong Bay. In some instances you can paddle through tunnels in the rock to access secret hidden lagoons within the islands. Swimming and diving from rocks are also popular things to do in Halong Bay, and for the less active-minded, fishing is always a great way to relax.

5. Visiting Floating villages

Cua-van-foalting-village---Halong-Hub

The floating villages of Halong Bay have existed for hundreds of years; one of the most famous of which is Cua Van. Originally set up as a place for fishermen to sell their catch upon their return from sea, the floating villages eventually became the homes of Halong’s indigenous people.

Recently, the government directed the residents to move inland in effort to improve their standard of living and the children’s access to education, as well as to protect the fragility of Halong’s marine environment that was beginning to suffer from the fishing trade. The floating villages are now preserved, a museum of sorts, for tourists to come and learn about Halong Bay’s indigenous people and their way of life.

Visiting the floating villages is one of the most educational- as well as inspiring- things to do in Halong Bay.

6. Squid Fishing

Squid-Fishing--Halong-hub

As night falls on Halong Bay, flashlights can be seen all over the place, a display from the activities of night-time squid fishermen- most of the tour boats will offer you the chance to try for yourself. The squid will be attracted to the light and hopefully take the bait. Some times of the year are better than others, but it is always fun up on deck in the still of the night, enjoying a beer and trying to catch these local delicacies.

7. Amazing Parasailing

For the more daring among you, parasailing in Halong Bay offers the chance to get a totally unique view of the scenic beauty of the bay. The karst rock features for which the bay is famous, tower above the cruise boats. This is one of the things to do in Halong Bay that is rarely offered by tour companies, so you will have to seek it out for yourself.

8. Photography, catching beautiful moments

selfie-on-Bai-tho-Mountain---Poem-Mountain

Never visit Halong Bay without your camera; this is one of the most beautiful places on earth, and capturing this beauty on camera is one of the obligatory things to do in Halong Bay. You’ll find yourself rewarded with vista after stunning vista; as your tour boat rounds each island you’ll be greeted by a completely fresh view. From high up on some of the islands to deep in the bowels of others, you will have some of the best photo opportunities of your life.

9. Eating Fresh Seafood

seafood-in-Halong-bay

Lovers of great seafood hit the jackpot in Halong Bay; the food on board the cruise boats is exceptional, and seafood makes the base for many of their menus. Simply stopping off on an island and enjoying barbecued seafood on a quiet beach is also a very pleasant experience. Seafood is always best served fresh and it comes no fresher than fishing it out of the water and tossing it straight on the fire.

What are the other top things to do in Halong Bay? Let us know if you’ve experienced anything different!