Measuring an area of just 2.2 square kilometers, Tuan Chau Island is a newly developed touristic zone just outside of Halong City, known for its recreational offerings and beachside resorts. It can serve as a wonderful starting point for your Ha Long trip, but make sure you’re properly informed before you set out for the bay! Read our list of top 20 tourist attractions in the Halong Bay area here.
Sitting in the northwest of Halong Bay, Tuan Chau Island is located 8 kilometers south west of Halong City. Connected both by river and road, Tuan Chau is a mere 18km away from Highway No. 1. It takes about 2 hours to get there by boat from Mong Cai (although more like 3 by road), and just 1 hour from Hai Phong.
Much of Tuan Chau’s reputation and tourism have been brought around by modern times, so you may not think it at first glance but the island has an extraordinarily rich historical background. Let’s start with the etymology of the name: in feudal times Tuan Chau Island was used as a guard station so the Royal Army could defend and patrol the borderlands. Therefore, Tuan Chau is a combination of the words ‘Linh Tuan’ (the patrolman) and ‘Tri Chau’ (district chief). Back in the late 1950s, President Ho Chi Minh used to vacation on Tuan Chau Island along with other political leaders (the house where he stayed is now open to the public as a massive mausoleum).
Up until 1999 residents of Tuan Chau Island had a very modest, and largely undeveloped way of living: no power network and little or no clean water. Infrastructure was rudimentary, roads were no more than sandy trails and the fisherman, equipped with the most basic of tools, were more or less the only ones making a livable income. Tuan Chau had no direct connection with the mainland, so life there remained somewhat marginalized until the construction of the road connecting Tuan Chau Island with the highway. With this connection came the rapid development of an entertainment center and modern tourism hub that we now recognize as the new version of Tuan Chau Island.
What to do in Tuan Chau Island
A far cry from the days just before the turn of the century, Tuan Chau Island now boasts a myriad of recreational activities and markets itself as a relaxed beachy alternative to the bedlam of downtown Halong City.
Thanks to the diversity of the natural ecosystem here, getting out in nature is one of the best things you can do. The island is quite hilly, so mountain climbing, trekking, and camping are all good choices for the nature lovers out there.
If you’re more of a beach bum type, there are two beaches on Tuan Chau Island, one on either side. They’re known to have lovely soft sand, and clean cool waters- a welcome change from the heat and urban mania of the neighboring city.
Maybe lying around on the beach is a little too inactive for some! If you’re feeling the itch to get some activities ticked off your list then why not try out a bit of jet skiing, windsurfing, fishing, or boating – just a few the water based activities on offer here.
Sea animal performances
Vietnam’s answer to Seaworld, Tuan Chau hosts a variety of sea life shows with animals such as dolphins, seals, sea lions and crocodiles. There’s also a circus and a martial arts show open for viewing every day of the week except Monday.
Developed to support the rapidly growing demand from the tourism industry, there are a generous number of resorts available to suit most budgets and travelers. Halong Paradise Suite Hotel is the top pick according to TripAdvisor, which sports a beautiful bayside pool and luxury spa facilities. As of August 2017, there are quite a lot of ongoing renovations and construction happening, so if it’s a quiet room you’re looking for we recommend checking with the hotel in advance.
Halong Bay sightseeing
If you’ve come to Tuan Chau, let’s face it, the Island itself is probably a byproduct of your Halong Bay tour. There are a number of great ways to combine your visit to the island with a complete tour of the Bay, and its outstanding scenery. Among the tours that go to from Tuan Chau Marina are: Aclass Legend Cruise, Aclass Stellar Cruise, Carina Cruise, Glory Legend Cruise, Pelican Cruise, and Rosa Cruise.
Another option, which admittedly is not going to be within a lot of budgets (but it’s still worth mentioning as it is undoubtedly the best way possible to see the bay) is the seaplane- imagine viewing the world famous Halong Bay, its limestone karsts and aquamarine waters, by air.
How to get to Tuan Chau Island
From Hanoi, you can depart from either Luong Yen or My Dinh bus station. It takes about 4 hours by road to get to Halong City. A private car is the most comfortable way to travel, which can be arranged easily. Taxis and motorbikes bound for Tuan Chau Center are plentiful and always waiting to transport visitors from Halong City as well as the port of Tuan Chau. Tuan Chau Island ferry routes operate regularly to Halong and Cat Ba.
In a massive effort of construction and mining, the development of the Ngoc Chau Marina in the southwest of the island is already underway. This is set to be the largest man made marina in Southeast Asia upon its completion, which will hold 600-800 luxury yachts.