15 Fascinating Things To Do in Halong Bay

Ha Long Bay, South China Sea, Vietnam, Southeast Asia
Tourist junks floating among limestone rocks at Ha Long Bay, South China Sea, Vietnam, Southeast Asia

A UNESCO World Heritage Site famed throughout the world for its scenic beauty, Halong Bay has always been regarded as a top destination for a relaxing cruise holiday. One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, Halong Bay boasts almost 2,000 karst formations and untouched tiny islands.

Located in North Vietnam in the Gulf of Tonkin, With picturesque limestone mountains, wondrous caves, sandy beaches, and wide tropical biodiversity, the seascape is simply breathtaking.

The name of the majestic bay translates into ‘Bay of Descending Dragons’ and it’s not hard to understand the mythical allure of the place.

What’s The Best Way To Explore The Bay?

Cruise ships allow you to explore the endless wonders, including secluded beaches, floating houses in fishing villages, astonishing caves, rock climbing opportunities and water sports that will make your heart skip a beat. It is a veritable haven for adventurers and nature lovers alike.

Look no further, here are the 18 most fascinating and fun activities that will keep you busy while visiting Halong Bay – specially available on Halong Hub cruises.

More interested in the cruise? Here are the best cruises in Ha Long Bay.

1. Enjoy a Leisurely Cruise

Truly, to enjoy the best of what Halong Bay offers, one has take it all from the deck of a cruise.

Decide if you prefer to sail in a traditional looking junk or a modern yacht, choose amongst different amenities and services, such as a swimming pool, cocktail bars, wine cellars, personal dining rooms, spacious jacuzzis, cooking classes, massages, kids rooms and more. From shoestring budget options to luxury liners, from boats with 5 to 200 rooms, Halong Hub has it all.

There is cruise option for everyone, whether you are going with friends, with family, or even to host a wedding.

Junk boat cruise to Ha Long Bay
Junk boat cruise to Ha Long Bay – Famous destination of Vietnam

Mon Cheri Cruise Lan Ha Bay

The Mon Cheri is a world-class cruise and one of the most luxurious ships that operate in the area. Behold the beautifully appointed cabins, decked out with floor to ceiling glass windows, and decorated with dark wood and mahogany.

All rooms come with a private balcony and have full ocean views. What makes Mon Cheri even more special is that every single cabin is adorned with a bathtub. This rare luxury can be enjoyed with a cheeky bubble bath and a bottle of bubbly.

Peony Cruise Lan Ha Bay

The Peony is another top of the line luxury cruise that sails from Hanoi to Hai Phong, Halong Bay, Lan Ha Bay and Cat Ba Island.

Your comfort is of the utmost importance, there is only 18 cabins onboard. Each room on this exclusive cruise ship is fitted out a panoramic balcony, a shower as well as a bathtub. With a fine itinerary, discover the hidden caves and fishing villages, and kayak or swim to isolated lagoons and grottos.

All of our cruises are designed to inspire you with the beauty of the bay. Read on to find out what amazing activities you can do while cruising with Halong Hub.

2. Go Parasailing

For a more daring experience, parasailing should be on your list! It offers the chance to get a unique way to explore Halong Bay.

Parasailing will give you chance to enjoy the seascape and experience an adrenaline rush of flying in the sky while enjoying the view of the rock formations from above.

Colorful parachute in the blue sky
Colorful parachute in the blue sky

3. Make a Whistle-Stop at Cat Ba Island

Cat Ba Island is the biggest island in the Halong Bay area and is home to a menagerie of bars, cafes, hotels, and restaurants. Almost all Halong Bay cruises start from Cat Ba Island, allowing tourists to enjoy a day of sightseeing before jumping onto their cruise boats.

The beaches are perfect for swimming and sunbathing during the summer months. If prefer, you can rent a kayak or a speedboat or even visit Lan Ha Bay, where the beaches are more secluded and therefore quieter.

From lush forests to mangroves, the Jurassic Park-like feel of the surroundings creates a sense of exploration not usually experienced in other parts of Vietnam. No wonder blockbuster Kong: Skull Island was filmed there.

Halong bay archipelago top view from Cat Ba island, Vietnam
Halong bay archipelago top view from Cat Ba island, Vietnam

Insider tip: Find out why the famed Cat Ba Island is an adventure you don’t want to miss.

4. Take a Hike, Go Trekking

Before setting foot on your cruise boat, why not go hiking? UNESCO has recognised Cat Ba National Park as a world biosphere reserve, as its ecosystems include tropical jungles, wetlands, mangroves, and coral reefs. Try to spot the white-headed Langur which is one of the most endangered primates in the world. Visitors can also get fantastic hilltop views of the small island throughout the national park.

Tourist in Vietnam Backpacker Enjoys the view of The Cat Ba National Park from the Viewpoint
Tourist in Vietnam Backpacker Enjoys the view of The Cat Ba National Park from the Viewpoint

5. Seaplane Tours

A seaplane is a truly special way to bear witness to the beauty of Halong Bay. Enjoy the scenic flight with the birds-eye view of the karst formations of Halong Bay and Cat Ba island. From the sky, it is also hard to miss two rock formations resembling two cocks fighting jutting out of the sea which is known as the Fighting Cocks Island or Hon Ga Choi in Vietnamese and this is also one of the best-known landmarks in the Halong Bay area.

Tours leave from Hanoi every day, and there are 25-minute aerial sightseeing trips that start from as low as USD 99. Taking the seaplane before going on your cruise trip is the superstar way to start your unforgettable holiday.Hai Au Aviation is currently the only company offering this one-of-a-kind activity.

Ha Long Bay scenic from seaplane , Hanoi, Vietnam
Ha Long Bay scenic from seaplane , Hanoi, Vietnam

6. Go Explore Caves

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 caves of these are Sung Sot Cave (Surprise Cave), Thien Cung Cave (Paradise Cave) and Trinh Nu Cave (Virgin Cave) in Bo Hon island. 

Sung Sot Cave has two chambers that rise to a height of about 30 meters with a steep path, hence it’s perfect for spelunking. If you are a fan of folklores, there is also a legend about Trinh Nu Cave (Virgin Cave) that might interest you.

Take the opportunity to explore an underground cave. The oldest caves are at least two million years old with impressive chambers and amazing stalagmites and stalactites, Thien Cung Cave and Dau Go Grotto. Another cave that you should not miss when you visit Ha Long Bay is the Hospital Cave. Cat Ba Hospital Cave was used as a secret hospital during the Vietnam War as it could not be bombed or even found. Nowadays, the Hospital Cave is one of the main tourist attractions in Cat Ba National Park.

Insider tip: Caves are not only for adventurers, it can also be a venue for a one of a kind wedding!

Surprise cave, Halong Bay, Vietnam
Surprise cave, Halong Bay, Vietnam

7. Snap an Insta-Worthy Photos

Make sure your camera has a lot of memory left before heading to Halong Bay. It’s is one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and capturing this beauty on photos is one of the obligatory things to do in Halong Bay. You’ll find yourself rewarded with vista upon stunning vista.

As your tour boat rounds each island you’ll be greeted by a completely fresh view of towering limestone cliffs. From high up on some of the islands to going deep in the underwater territory of others, you will capture some of the most Insta-worthy photos of your trip yet.

Running out of ideas? Read on for more insta worthy locations.

Dreamy sunset landscape Halong Bay, Vietnam view from above
Dreamy sunset landscape Halong Bay, Vietnam view from above

8. Feast on Fresh Seafood

Lovers of seafood will find their haven in Halong Bay. The food onboard some of the cruise boats is truly exceptional. Apart from on deck, there is an abundance of seafood all over the place, fresh and affordable.

Simply stop by a floating village or even make your own self barbecue fire pits by the beach to enjoy fish or other seafood.

Seafood is always best served fresh and it comes no fresher than fishing it out of the water and tossing it straight on the grill!

Foody? Here’s the ultimate guide to Halong Bay food!

Various seafood arranged on the food market street
Various seafood arranged on the food market street

9. Go Scuba Diving and Snorkeling

Our cruises offer the fantastic opportunity to go scuba diving or snokrling around the famed karst of the bay. Immerse yourself in the depths of the marine waters, and enjoy up to 163 kinds of colourful corals, including red and forest corals. Explore deep grottoes and seagrass beds that are home to sea turtles and sea horses on your scuba trip.

For divers, take a boat ride into the sea, and explore what lies below the emerald waters. There are plenty of PADI-authorized operators in the area for a safe and memorable experience. Don’t forget your underwater camera!

Scuba Diver, Tropical Fish and Coral Reef
Scuba Diver, Tropical Fish and Coral Reef

10. Climb Bai Tho Mountain

Rock climbing is one of the most appealing activities to do in Halong Bay! The hills are alive and ready for rock climbers. Imagine seeing one of the Natural Wonders of the World from atop of one of those rock formations!

Bai Tho Mountain or Poem Mountain is the mountain of choice, standing at 200 meters tall, it is located in the heart of Halong city. This mountain is quite special: half of its foothills rove over the land, and the other half are immersed in the ocean.

Its peak is an ideal location for you to admire the entirety of the bay and the city from above, and it is well worth the hike. Find out how to get to the best viewpoint.

Happy smiling tourist at Bai Tho mountains top enjoys the view
Happy smiling tourist at Bai Tho mountains top enjoys the view

11. Ride the World’s Highest Cable Car

Budding landscape photographers head to the Sunworld Amusement Park in their droves. It offers one of the best all-embracing views of the UNESCO Site. The big attraction is the Queen’s Cable Car from which panoramic views abound. It actually holds a couple of Guinness World Records: the biggest reversible aerial tramway capable of carrying up to 230 passengers, and the highest cable car at a height of 188.88 meters. It’s no surprise tourists have coined the Sunworld Amusement park as one of the top things to do in Halong Bay. Not only is it a comfortable ride but it is very affordable too at 300k for adults and 200k for children (under 1.3m).

Insider tip: if it’s the golden hour you’re chasing, we know just the places tocapture the best sunrise and sunset in Halong Bay.

Halong city aerial view with Bai Chay bridge in Quang Ninh province, Vietnam
Halong city aerial view with Bai Chay bridge in Quang Ninh province, Vietnam

12. Go Sea Kayaking and Canoeing

The tourist boats cannot navigate some of the narrow channels that cut between some of the 1960 islands, 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.

The best places for these activities are the beaches like Tuan Chau, Bai Chay, Bai Dai, Quan Lan, Ti Top and Tra Co. On a side note Bai Chay is the closes beach to Halong Bay.

Discover more beautiful beaches of Halong Bay.

Mom, dad and son travelers rowing on a kayak in Halong Bay. Vietnam
Mom, dad and son travelers rowing on a kayak in Halong Bay. Vietnam

13. Be Amazed by Sun World Halong Complex

Sun World Halong Complex is a world class amusement park , a pinnacle of amusement, excitement and endless joy! The complex 214 hectares of land and is divided into two sections:

  • the Mystic Mountain Complex which is known as the Ba Deo Hill Park
  • and the Coastal Amusement Complex.

The two sections of the park are connected by the Queen Cable Car, a sea-crossing cable car system stretching 2km carries passengers to Ba Deo Amusement Park,

Some must-visits on Ba Deo Hill include the Zen Garden, indoor game zone The Mysterious Castle and in particular the Sun Wheel Halong, one of the tallest Ferris wheels of the world.

Panorama of Ha Long City, Vietnam, with Sun World Halong park and Bai Chay bridge
Panorama of Ha Long City, Vietnam, with Sun World Halong park and Bai Chay bridge

14. Visit a Floating Village

Visit the floating villages of Halong Bay to understand the unique culture of the people living within a UNSECO Heritage site.

Floating villages have existed for hundreds of years. By far one of the most famous is Cua Van floating village, with its brightly-painted huts and fishing boats. It has over 700 villagers and about 170 families, most of whom rely on fishing.

Come here to experience local life for yourself, go on A tranquil and peaceful area, Cua Van Village allows you to experience local life for yourself. Join the fisherman to take a boat trip and try your hand at night squid fishing, dragging fishing nets, and prawning.

Floating houses at the Cua Van floating village, Halong Bay, Vietnam
Floating houses at the Cua Van floating village, Halong Bay, Vietnam

15. Go Night Squid Fishing

As night falls on Halong, flashlights can be seen all over the place – a display from the activities of the night squid fishing. Most of the tour boats will offer you the opportunity to test your skills on how to catch a squid – a lovely way to enjoy the beautiful evenings in the Bay while surrounded by huge squids that make their appearance only at night.

The squids will be attracted to the light and hopefully will take the bait. Certain times of the year are better than others, but it is always fun to be out on the deck in the still of the night, enjoying a beer and trying to catch these local delicacies.

Fishing vessels are catching squid at night
Fishing vessels are catching squid at night

16. Find Serenity in Lan Ha Bay

Lan Ha Bay lies just off the south and east coasts of Cat Ba Island and is the next big thing in the world of UNESCO heritage sights. Due to its sustainability and eco-friendly tourism policies, Lan Ha Bay is unspoiled and uncrowded with a number of ‘hidden gem’ locations still left to explore!

Lan Ha Bay certainly rivals Halong Bay when it comes to its stunning natural beauty, with the bonus of being much quieter and less touristy. Encompassing over 300 karst islands and islets, the bay has some absolutely gorgeous white sand beaches for you to enjoy. It is a perfect spot if you are looking into some rock climbing too.

Sunrise at Lan Ha Bay, Hanoi, Vietnam
Sunrise at Lan Ha Bay, Hanoi, Vietnam

17. Get lost in Bai Tu Long Bay

Bai Tu Long Bay is located in the far east of Halong Bay. The bay is very quiet since it is not as famous as Halong Bay or Cat Ba island. Bai Tu Long Bay caters fewer tourists than the rest of the region’s many attractions. This is perfect for people looking for an off the beaten path experience.

Make sure to visit Vung Vieng Floating Village. One of the famous floating villages, it is located in the centre of Bai Tu Long Bay, and is about 40 km from Halong City. Bai Tu Long Bay was a trade gateway between Vietnam and China, making this village the prime spot for traders and merchants.

Not sure which bay suits you? Consult our guide to the big 3 bays in Halong.

Cruising in Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay, Vietnam
Cruising in Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay, Vietnam

18. See what is Underground in Cannon Fort

Cannon Fort can be found in Cat Ba Island. To enjoy the best panoramic views of Cat Ba Island, head over to Cannon Fort, which is atop a hill of 177 metres.

Cannon Fort was built during the Japanese occupation and used by the French and the Vietnamese during more recent conflicts. Currently, there are two artillery gun emplacements preserved, a little museum, and underground tunnels.

Soldier on the battlefield artillery cannon gun
Soldier on the battlefield artillery cannon gun

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Get to Halong Bay?

Getting to Halong is now a lot easier than it used to be, thanks to recent upgrades in infrastructure, particularly road works. By far the most commonly used departure cities are the capital Hanoi and the industrial city of Hai Phong.

From Hanoi you can book a cruise package that includes two-way transfer. Via Halong Hub, you may also book a private car transfer, or travel in style by going for a seaplane tour.

From Hai Phong, there are three options: taxi, bus and ferry. To travel by ferry, you will need to go to Ben Binh Terminal and then the ferry will take you to Cai Vieng or Cat Ba. 

The best way to decide whether to go to Halong Bay from Hai Phong or Hanoi is by first booking your cruise. The cruise will often advice on and even include complementary transfers from their destination of choice. Read on for more tips on getting to Halong Bay.

How long should I visit Halong Bay for?

For most travellers planning to visit Vietnam’s top tourist destination, a commonly asked question is ‘How many days should I stay in Halong Bay?’

While there is no right or wrong answer, most tourist visit Halong Bay go on a 1 to 2 night cruise, and often spend another night on Cat Ba island.

If you have a tight timeline, you will probably only get to visit Halong Bay. While if you have the luxury of time, you should look for a cruise ship that goes to Lan Ha or Bai Tu Long Bays, this will allow you to explore and see the hidden side of this UNESCO gem.

Can I Swim in Halong Bay?

Man jumping into water from a cruise boat on a sunny day in Ha Long bay, UNESCO world heritage site, Vietnam
Man jumping into water from a cruise boat on a sunny day in Ha Long bay, UNESCO world heritage site, Vietnam

Absolutely! The World Heritage Site is considered as one of the best places to swim in Vietnam because of its numerous pristine waters. The bay is not only a perfect place for sunbathing, it is also ideal for taking a dip in the clean, refreshing, emerald coloured waters.

The best sites for swimming are areas where the waters are calm and the beaches are not overcrowded. Swimming in the bay is a one-of-a-kind experience that you should not miss!

Cruise Away at Halong Bay

Halong Bay is an astonishingly beautiful breath-taking place. Whether you love sitting by the beach, looking for adrenaline thrills, or hoping to try your hand at a cooking class, there is something for you at Halong Bay on your cruise.

Visiting this great destination should be on every one’s bucket list. You will find that the activities to do here are endless – be sure pick your favourites from our list!

Or if you are ready to get sailing, simply choose your cruise and let the adventure begin!

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