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!

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