Almost everyone who visits Halong Bay agrees that one day of touring is not enough. But what exactly will you miss on a Halong Bay day tour, and is it worth it?
What You’ll Miss if You go with a Halong Bay Day Tour
Considering that most people will be traveling from Hanoi (or maybe Hai Phong in some cases) which takes around 4 hours of road travel, by the time you reach Halong Bay and board your cruise, you’ll probably be left with somewhere near 4 hours to explore the bay.
Realistically, you won’t be traveling far in that space of time, and you might be limited to 1 hour to either visit one cave or go for a quick kayak session. Here’s what you’ll miss if you go with a Halong Bay one day tour:
Bai Tu Long Bay
Halong Bay has become a household name across the world, but far fewer know about its quieter, yet equally beautiful neighbor. Bai Tu Long Bay sits just to the northeast of Halong, but still remains relatively under-visited in comparison.
It lacks absolutely nothing in terms of scenery, and the whole experience is intensified so much more when the other ‘junk’ boats slips away.
Lan Ha Bay
Perhaps even lesser known than Bai Tu Long, Lan Ha Bay is another quiet and serene alternative to the Halong Bay. Lan Ha homes about 300 of the 1960 karst limestone islands that populate the Halong area, as well as a number of secluded beaches and caves.
Touring through these otherworldly formations is so much more impressive when you feel you are virtually the only boat in the bay. Halong Bay day tours generally don’t sail this far into the bay, so it’s likely you’d end up missing out on this one.
Ti Top Island
Known for its white sandy beaches, azure waters, and panoramic views of the bay, Ti Top Island tops the list of must-see areas of Halong Bay.
What it lacks in size (it’s far from the biggest beach in Halong) it makes up for in atmosphere, it’s the perfect spot to take a break from the boat and clock in some beach hours. Halong Bay day tours tend to stick to the larger beaches closer to the wharf, so there’s a slim chance you’ll make it this far unless you go for an overnight tour.
Sung Sot Cave
The caves are a big part of what makes the Halong Bay ecosystem so unique. Out of the 59 caves discovered so far, Sung Sot Cave is the biggest of them all.
Located on Bo Hon Island, Sung Sot Cave was discovered back in 1901 by some French explorers, who gave it the name “grotte des surprises” (because of its unexpected beauty and intrigue), which is why today it’s also known as Surprising Cave. The interior cavern is covered with stalactites and stalagmites, which are said to represent all sorts of different things- from demons to dragons. You’ll be filled in on all the Halong legends when you visit Sung Sot; unfortunately, the Halong Bay day tours often miss it.
Ban Chan Beach
Still widely unknown by most visitors to Halong Bay, Ban Chan Beach is nothing short of paradise. Seemingly unaffected by the tourism boom in Halong Bay, Ban Chan Beach has remained quiet, peaceful and isolated- the appeal is obvious.
It’s situated in Bai Tu Long Bay, much of which falls under the protection of the National Park, which means that the ecosystem and the marine life here are rich and flourishing as they should be.
Beach activities, exploring the coastline, snorkeling, kayaking, and taking in the views of Bai Tu Long Bay at your own speed, in peace, is what Ban Chan Beach is all about. Like we mentioned before, most of the Halong Bay day tours will hover around the beaches close to the wharf (which tend to be much more touristy). If you’re looking to get off the beaten track, this one is for you.
A Visit to a Floating Village
Many of the indigenous people of Halong Bay lived, at one point, in the floating villages. There are 4 main floating villages remaining in the Halong Bay area, and although a couple of years ago the permanent residents were moved inland, the villages remain possibly the most culturally rich places in Halong Bay.
Interestingly, the villages have undertaken some really forward-thinking programs when it comes to environmental protection and ecologic awareness, and tourists are getting in on the action (you can find out more in our previous article about Vung Vieng fishing village), so if you’re interested in getting educated about Halong Bay, the floating villages should be high on your list. It’s a shame that many Halong Bay day tours don’t include them in their itineraries!
Swimming & Kayaking
Taking to the water offers a welcome relief from the heat and humidity of the Halong climate. Most cruises have a couple of favored places to anchor up and let their guests go for a dip. Taking a kayak out, although it requires a little more time (many one day cruises won’t offer it at all), is really one of the best ways to see Halong Bay and the surrounding areas.
A lot of the best beaches, caves and natural tunnels are only accessible by kayak, which means not only will you be able to gain a perspective most other visitors have not, you’ll also get the chance to cruise around and explore at your own speed.
The Halong Bay day tours generally don’t include kayak time in their itineraries (or if they do, it’s only for a very short period of time), so your in-water experience will almost certainly be cut short.
Squid Fishing, Cooking Classes, and Tai Chi Workshops
Overnight cruises include some amazing activities you shouldn’t miss.
These are just a few of the master classes offered on board the Halong Bay cruises. Taking a workshop is a great way to gain a bit more insight into the local culture, connect with people who have deep knowledge of Halong Bay and of Vietnam, and it’s also a chance to learn some skills you can show off back at home!
And trust us when we say there is no view in the whole world better than watching the sunrise over the Halong Bay islands, on the top deck of your cruise ship during the morning tai chi session. You can thank us later!
Find out further info on why a 2 or 3 day cruise of Halong Bay is the way to go.