As more and more people flock to visit the famous World Heritage site, visitors are craving a more intimate experience. If you’re one of these travelers seeking a Halong Bay cruise “off the beaten track”, then this article is for you.
Which are the best Halong Bay cruises off the beaten track?
Below you’ll find details of a couple of the best Halong Bay cruises off the beaten track, both of which promise to take travelers on a unique adventure shared by few others, far away from the crowds, and deep into the wild Halong landscape.
Orchid Cruise Halong
Value, authenticity, and originality are just a few of the factors that make Orchid Cruise Halong one of the best Halong Bay cruises off the beaten track. Spread across 14 luxury cabins, Orchid Cruise is one of the newer cruises to ply the Halong Bay waters.
Orchid Cruise pride themselves on offering their guests a unique Halong Bay experience, thanks to their route which visits the far less populous areas of Bai Tu Long Bay and Lan Ha Bay, as well as Halong.
In terms of the cruise ship itself, nothing was spared in terms of comfort or facilities. If you really want to indulge you could even soak in the scenery from your own private balcony!
Azalea Cruise Halong
Azalea Cruise Halong is brand new in 2017 and will be open from November onwards; despite their short operation period so far they are already set to establish themselves as one of the most popular choices for travelers in search of a Halong Bay cruise off the beaten track.
The cruise ship offers 21 cabins, across 3 decks- including a massive sun deck up top for panoramic views of the bay. The ship has been designed to include all modern functionality and comforts, but always with an eye for traditional style and design.
Where Do They Visit?
Both Orchid Cruise and Azalea Cruise are great options for those looking to get a well-rounded Halong experience without having to sacrifice anything and make choices between where you visit.
As well as touring through Halong Bay and the quieter neighboring region of Bai Tu Long Bay, you’ll visit some of the really secluded areas that few cruises go to.
Lan Ha Bay
Although it’s considered to be an extension of Halong Bay, it technically belongs to a different province- and due to its respectable distance from Halong, few cruises venture this far.
If you do though, it will certainly be worth it, as Lan Ha Bay loses nothing in comparison to Halong or Bai Tu Long Bay in terms of scenery, but still it is not uncommon when visiting there to find yourself completely alone.
If you’re into snorkeling or diving, Lan Ha Bay is an absolute paradise, thanks to its clear blue waters and rich marine life (3 species of dolphin, 200 species of fish, hard and soft coral, and seals). Factor in the almost completely secluded white sandy beaches, and you can easily see why Lan Ha Bay has an appeal.
Ba Trai Dao Beach
Many people assume it’s near impossible to find solitude on a beach in Halong Bay, but the truth is you really just need to know where to look (any decent Halong Bay cruise off the beaten track is sure to take you to one of Halong’s secluded beaches). Situated in Lan Ha Bay about 22km away from Bai Chay Wharf, Ba Trai Dao Beach is located on an island of the same name.
Also sometimes known as the “Three Peaches Beach” (because of the supposed peach-like appearance of the rock formations), it’s a sheltered shoreline perfect for swimming, kayaking, or just taking in the scenery.
When planning your visit here you should be aware (although your cruise guide will surely advise you on this) that Ba Trai Dao Beach is heavily affected by the tides (at high tide the beach will all but disappear), so swimming is only permitted at certain hours of the day.
Viet Hai Village
Enshrouded by dense jungle and towering mountains on one side and ocean on the other, it’s no wonder Viet Hai Village has such an isolated feel. The few visitors that come here will get treated to a genuine impression of everyday life for the indigenous people here, who invariably greet guests with warmth and openness, as is their way.
Nestled in the valley, bordered by bright green rice paddies guarded by buffalo, Viet Hai Village still maintains an air of the olden days. A handful of activities have begun so as to cater to the tourists who come to visit Viet Hai, which serve to entertain as well as educate about local life- think rice wine cooking, and animal care.
Touring through Lan Ha Bay is the easiest way to access Viet Hai unless you feel extra adventurous and fancy doing an 8-hour mountain trek!
Dark and Bright Cave
Only accessible by kayak or rowboat, Dark & Bright Cave is one of the least visited and most intriguing of all the Halong Bay caves. The partially concealed entrance is sheathed in orchids and fig trees, which, once you pass through, opens up to reveal a 100-meter long tunnel- the ‘dark’ portion of the Dark & Bright Cave.
Paddling through this tunnel is an adventure in itself, as there is very little natural light, but once you approach the end you’ll see streaks of sunlight peeking through, signifying the entrance to the ‘bright’ area (and the secret lagoon!).