Halong Bay, one of Vietnam's top sightseeing spots, is an area of beautiful limestone islands coming out of the ocean.
The bay is named Halong, which means descending dragon, and is located in Quang Ninh Province in Vietnam about 180 kilometers (110 miles) from Hanoi (3 hours by car) and has a tropical climate.
Spring (February to April) is the best time for sightseeing in Halong Bay, as well as to partake in watersports, with moderate temperatures and clear skies.
What to Expect When Cruising in Halong Bay
Halong Bay is a UNESCO-listed landscape in which you'll find 1,900 beautiful towering limestone pillars and tiny islets worth exploring and appreciating.
Sung Sot Cave, also named Surprise Cave, is the most famous cave in Halong Bay and is right in the center of the UNESCO World Heritage area.
It is divided into two parts, covering about 12,200 square meters (131,000 sq ft). The first part is a huge space with many stalactites hanging from the high ceiling, while the second part includes a flow of natural light that bathes the surfaces.
Sung Sot Cave in Halong Bay
Titov Island is another major attraction in Halong Bay, it features a beach shaped like a crescent moon and is one of the most perfect destinations for swimming, kayaking and climbing. The sandbank on Titov Island is clean and white, as if washed by the tide. The quiet atmosphere and beautiful scenery make it a perfect stopover for passengers to enjoy recreational activities.
Castaway Island is a party island where you can enjoy drinks, fun, and games with backpackers. It's a very social destination, so you'll definitely be able to meet other people and experience guided canoeing and kayaking through tiny fishing villages, caving, rock climbing, wakeboarding and tubing.
Cua Van Floating Village is also one of the most popular sights of Halong Bay. It is the largest fishing village with a population of 733 residents and is about 20 kilometers (13 miles) from the tourist boat wharf. Its residents live in floating houses, and Cua Van Floating Village is a great place to experience the authentic lifestyles of local people.
Cave exploration, swimming, and fishing are indispensable activities and are usually included in a cruise trip. Sundeck barbecues and spa services are provided upon request at an extra charge. Cooking classes are only available on specific cruises, such as the Glory Legend Cruise.
Cruises around Halong Bay leave every day, and your departure time will depend on the cruise line you decide to go with. There are 1-day, 2-day and 3-day cruises for you to choose.
A 1-day tour is a rush as you have to spend 6 hours on the road. It's too hectic to enjoy the beautiful scenery and we recommended you do not choose this option.
A 2-day trip includes an overnight stay at sea, which is a common choice for travelers with more than 5 days to spend in Vietnam. There is enough time for you to enjoy the natural beauty and Vietnamese dishes, and is highly recommended.
A 3-day cruise in a high-end cabin means less noise and more tranquility, which is suitable for senior travelers, returning travelers, honeymooners, and anybody who enjoys peacefulness. For active travelers, a Halong Bay cruise lasting three days can be too slow-paced.
Who Would Enjoy a Halong Bay Cruise
A Halong Bay cruise trip is undoubtedly an excellent way to relax in natural surroundings, and is especially good for honeymooners, couples and senior travelers as it is a slower pace of travelling. You'll be immersed in the magical karst scenery and be able to enjoy all of the natural beauty, partaking in activities if you want to!
6 Things to Consider When Choosing a Halong Bay Cruise
When choosing a Halong Bay cruise, we recommend considering 6 things:
- your timeline and how many nights you want to spend on the cruise,
- your budget when visiting Halong Bay,
- a detailed itinerary and what you want to see,
- who you are traveling with,
- what is included in the trip (will they pick you up at the hotel and are meals included?),
- the condition of the cruise boat and facilities on board (for example, do you want to have your own private balcony, or are you happy to have a smaller room with no balcony).
Our Cruise Recommendations
We recommend the following cruises, most of which have 1-day, 2-day, and 3-day options depending on your preference. As mentioned earlier, we highly recommend taking at least 2 days in Halong Bay to make the most of it.
We always takes a client's needs into consideration and is dedicated to offering the best travel experience. We customize travel plans based on price, service, facilities, and so on.
For 3-star clients, our choice will be around US$240 to US$280 per cabin and US$300 to US$500 for a 4-star cruise. If you want an extravagant holiday, we can certainly meet your requirements. Our service is up to Western standards with well-trained English-speaking staff. You can enjoy fabulous views as well as good service.
Cabin footage should be at least 25 square meters, possibly with a private balcony. Activities, such as a spa, cooking classes, sundeck cocktails, and barbecues are available for you to choose. Safety precautions, such as life vests, medical aid, and professional lifeguard training, make sure you have a wonderful journey.
||From USD130 per person
||2 days, 1 night
||From USD180 per person
||2 days, 1 night
|Paradise Luxury Cruise
||From USD250 per person
||2 days, 1 night
|Paradise Peak Cruise
||From UDF420 per person
||2 days, 1 night
|Au Co Cruise
||From USD420 per person
||3 days, 1 night
Important Tips About Cruising in Halong Bay
As with any trip, it's good to be prepared ahead of a trip to Halong Bay! Here are some of the main tips we have before heading out:
- Driving from Hanoi to Halong Bay takes 3 hours and we will stop for a rest and bathroom break, but make sure you bring motion sickness medication if you need it.
- Soft drinks and wine are not included in most of the Halong Bay cruises (especially those that are more budget), but your tour guide will take you shopping in advance for anything you need. Make sure to stock up on supplies you'll need for the duration of the cruise, such as drinks, fruit, and snacks.
- The food available on board of Halong Bay cruises is mainly seafood. If you are vegetarian or have food allergies, please make a special request in advance.
- Because most food on board is seafood we recommend bringing diarrhea medication just in case: it is no fun being stuck on a boat with food poisoning without having any medication handy!
- The transfers between Halong Bay and Hanoi are both done by a shuttle bus. At Asia Highlights, we will include the private transfers with English-speaking guide if you need.
- Land excursions will involve some walking and climbing, and because the caves are slippery we recommend wearing non-slip shoes for safety.
- Tipping the cruise crew is at your discretion, but for a 3-5-star cruise we recommended USD 15-20 per day per person.
- If you want to fly to your next destination, we suggest that you book a flight that departs no earlier than 5pm, as most cruises finish at 11am and it takes about 3 hours to get to the airport.
- Don't forget to pack a swimsuit, sun protection, an extra towel, and potentially a waterproof cell phone case or your waterproof camera case if you want to take photos underwater!
Top 5 Recommended Restaurants in Halong Bay
While you are in Halong Bay, you'll have a lot of restaurants to choose from! Here are some of our top recommendations so you know where to go when you leave your hotel or cruise to get some of Halong's best food. We particularly recommend the seafood here, as it's extremely fresh!
Serving both Vietnamese and International food, Papa's BBQ is a favorite with travelers in Halong Bay. Recommended dishes include the tenderloin steak and the lamb and pork dishes.
Address: C346 Sun World Area, Cong Vien Road, Halong
Linh Dan Restaurant
A popular local restaurant offering many Vietnamese dishes, Linh Dan is known for its great seafood and hot pot. There are also a lot of vegetarian dishes available for vegetarians.
Address: 104 Bai Chay, Bai Chay, Halong
Specializing in Vietnamese and Thai food, particularly seafood, this is one of the best places to go to get food and a cozy atmosphere. May Corner's take on the steak salad also comes recommended for those looking for a break from seafood!
Address: HO 2-1 Little Vietnam, Halong Marina, Hung Thang, Halong
Avocado Restaurant in Halong Bay has lots of Vietnamese, Asian, and European options, as well as vegan and vegetarian dishes. Lots of seafood options are highly recommended, including the pomelo and squid salad and the prawn and beef in coconut.
Address: C342-343 Old Street Zone, 9 Halong Road, Bai Chay, Halong
Cua Vang Bai Chay (Golden Crab)
As one of the most popular Vietnamese seafood restaurants in Halong Bay, this is one not to miss if you have the time! The seafood is extremely fresh, and it's great value too. Open for lunch and dinner.
Address: Bai Chay Ward, Tuan Chau, Halong
Cruising Halong Bay with Asia Highlights
Part of our service is customizing a variety of Halong Cruise routes for different clients at reasonable prices. We can offer anything from a high-end luxury Halong cruise with top-notch facilities and private balconies and spa services, to a more budget-friendly family cruise that won't break the bank.
Just let us know what your preferences and needs are, we can choose exactly what you want without the hassle and the fear of potentially falling pray to a scam.
Check out the following links to learn more about our tours and get a head start on planning your hassle-free vacation today!
10-Day Best of Vietnam with Mekong Delta
13-Day Vietnam Classic Wonders with Sapa
14-Day Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos Tour
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