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10 Best Things to do on Cat Ba Island

Cat Ba Island sits in the southwest of the Ha Long Bay – Cat Ba Archipelago UNESCO World Heritage site. The island brings together a wonderland of untouched beaches, lush forests, and peaceful floating fishing villages.

It is the perfect base to discover the fascinating Han La Bay, the less renowned but equally stunning inlet near to the world-famous (and very touristy) Ha Long Bay.

Cat Ba is a favored destination for nature lovers who seek adventure.

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About Cat Ba

In the heart of Cat Ba island is the protected Cat Ba National Park – home to many rare species of flora and fauna.

To the south of the Cat Ba National Park is the small but modern Cat Ba town. This is the main place for the hotels and restaurants on the island. While Cat Ba town is a tourist town, for the time being at least, it is still a calming and relaxing place to stay.

The rest of Cat Ba Island and the wider Han La Bay are practically untouched, making it a great alternative to the overly touristy alternative, Ha Long Bay.

What to do on Cat Ba Island

1. Kayaking in Lan Ha Bay

Kayaking just off Cat Ba Island is a fun and exciting way to explore the stunning Han La Bay.

Rent a kayak and paddle across the crystal waters and between the magnificent limestone karsts. You’ll discover many hidden beaches, floating villages, and mysterious caves leading to hidden lagoons.

From Cat Ba town, we recommend booking a Kayaking Tour with a local operator like Cat Ba Ventures. The price is around $30 for a day trip.

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2. Day Trip to Visit Cai Beo Fishing village

Cai Beo Village is the oldest fishing village in Vietnam that still preserves its longstanding traditions. The fishermen and their families have lived in their floating houses for thousands of years, seafood farming and fishing.

The village has about 300 floating houses, a small fresh seafood market, and even a pearl farm.

Cai Beo is a unique and authentic village in keeping with the strong fishing heritage of the region.

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How to get to Cai Beo:

  • By yourself: Cai Beo fishing village is about 2 kilometers from Cat Ba town. Grab your scooter or bicycle to the Ben Beo pier and take a small boat to visit the village.
  • With a cruise: another way to see Cai Beo floating village is to sign up for a Lan Ha Bay cruise with a stop at the village.

3. Hike between Cat Ba’s beaches

Only a 10-minute walk from Cat Ba Town, there are three Cat Co Cove white sand beaches that are great for sunbathing and swimming.

The best way to visit the Cat Ba beaches is by walking on the Rock Trail that connects Cat Co Beach 1 and Cat Co Beach 3. Head to Cat Co Beach 3 to start the trail. There are umbrellas, sunbeds, and many beach restaurants on the beach.

The best part of the walk is the cliff edge path, with a panoramic ocean view of the beautiful Lan Ha Bay.

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4. Explore Cat Ba National Park

Cat Ba’s beautiful national park covers almost half of the entire island. There is impressive wildlife in the national park including one of the most endangered primates in the world, the Cat Ba langur. Only 68 golden-headed langurs remain in the park today.

Cat Ba National Park is a World Biosphere Reserve and its flora and fauna are internationally protected.

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20231124 cat ba national park views

There are several trekking trails in Cat Ba National Park with different levels of difficulty.

A guide is not mandatory but is recommended. You can book an organized tour in Cat Ba Town to visit the park, but you can also find guides at the park headquarters.

  • Ngu Lam Peak Loop: short but tricky 3.6 km loop hike taking around 1h 30 minutes to complete. Reach the peak to enjoy an incredible panoramic view of the surrounding jungle and mountains.

  • Viet Hai Village Trek: challenging 12 km route starting from Cat Ba Park’s Headquarters and passing through Frog Pond, before reaching Viet Hai Village. It takes between 4 to 5 hours to complete, and you will need to arrange boat transportation back to Cat Ba town.

Cat Ba National Park Key Information:

  • Entrance Fee: 80,000 VND – $3.50 per adult. (the ticket includes entrance to Trung Trang Cave)
  • How to get there: From Cat Ba town to the entrance headquarters, you can take a taxi, public bus, or rent a scooter. The entrance is 13km away from the town center.

5. Overnight cruise with Cat Ba Ventures

If you want a once-in-a-lifetime experience, book an overnight cruise in Han La Bay. Day trips are much cheaper but sleeping on an authentic boat in the magical Han La Bay is an unforgettable experience.

Sail between the limestone cliffs, spend the day kayaking and swimming and finish with a relaxing evening watching the sunset. Great quality meals are provided onboard.

The next day, wake up for sunrise in one of the most iconic parts of the world.

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We did the overnight Cruise with Cat Ba Ventures, an experienced and notable tour operator in Cat Ba. It is one of only two companies on the island that provide tours covering both Han La and Ha Long Bays.

Cat Ba Ventures provides tours with small groups – we were less than 20 on board so it did not feel packed at all. Our captain Jack was funny, knowledgeable, and shared many anecdotes about Vietnamese culture.

And most importantly, our boat was often solo or the first one to arrive at famous spots like the Dark Cave.

Lan Ha Cruise – Key Information:

  • Price: $130 per person for one double cabin, lunch, dinner, breakfast, and all activities (kayaking) included!
  • Meeting point: At Cat Ba Ventures office in the center of Cat Ba Town.

6. Visit The Cat Ba Caves

Besides its sandy beaches, Cat Ba has many incredible caves in the heart of the National Park. These caves might not be as impressive as the caves in Phong Nha but they are certainly worth visiting.

Hospital Cave

Hospital Cave is an incredibly engineered three-story cave that was used a secret hospital for wounded soldiers in the Vietnam War. During this time it was also used as a bomb shelter, and a safe house for Viet Cong leaders.

  • How to get to Hospital Cave: 13 km north of Cat Ba Town (30-minute ride on scooter).
  • Entrance fee: 40,000 VND – $1.66
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20231124 hospital cave cat ba

Trung Trang Cave

Trung Trang Cave is a narrow cave over 300 meters long with spectacular stalactites formed millions of years ago. This cave has a mystical atmosphere and a unique ecosystem including birds, bats, reptiles, and insects.

At the end of the cave you’ll see the dense forests of Cat Ba National Park.

  • How to get to Trung Trang Cave: 15 km from Cat Ba Town – roughly 30 min ride on scooter.
  • Entrance fee: 40,000 VND ($1.66)
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7. Go rock climbing

Just off the island there are hundreds of striking limestone cliffs strutting out of the water. Across these cliffs there are several climbing sites (suitable for both beginners and experienced climbers alike!).

The best part about this attraction is seeing the cliffs from a perspective that most people don’t see. Of course, if you like adventure activities, the cliff jumping afterward can really pump your adrenaline.

Cat Ba Climbing offers great rock climbing, kayaking, and cliff-jumping tours!

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8. Cycle around Viet Hai Village

Viet Hai Village is a must-visit while in Cat Ba Island. This authentic fishing village is surrounded by jungle-covered mountains, throughout the years it has retained its traditional charm and peaceful ambiance.

Cycling through the jungle to the village is the best way to explore the beautiful countryside of Cat Ba island.

If you are up for an immersive experience, you can stay overnight in one of the village homestays. You will see typical Vietnamese bamboo houses, eat delicious authentic cooked meals, and meet the friendliest locals.

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9. Sunset from Bieu Tuong Dao viewpoint

Many blogs recommend seeing the sunset from Cannon Fort in Cat Ba Town, however in recent years, locals are now strongly advising against it.

Unfortunately, there is a local man who occupies the site now who local man who forces visitors to pay an entrance fee to access the Cannon Fort – even though it is public land. Unfortunately, there is no way to avoid it.

Instead, you can try watching the sunset from the Bieu Tuong Dao Viewpoint in Cat Ba Town. The start of the trail is slightly hidden but once you’ve found it it’s only a 10-minute walk to the top.

Take some beers or cold drinks to watch the sunset over the bay!

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10. Cat Ba Nightlife

Despite its recent boom, Cat Ba town has retained its charming atmosphere. Whether you fancy eating traditional seafood or something more Western like a pizza or burger, you’ll find something to suit.

There are also many nice rooftops and bars offering great views of the bay – perfect to watch the sunset with a cocktail!

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Best Restaurants & bars in Cat Ba Town

  • Ganesh Indian Restaurant Cat Bapopular spot for tasty Indian food
  • Quirki Pub Cocktail & Restaurantlovely pub with great food, beers and original cocktails
  • Casa Bonitagreat veggie dishes, good music
  • Restaurant CatBa Yummy 1cheap Local cuisine and seafood
  • LIKE COFFEE Vegetarian Food Cat Ba – best banh mis and veggie food
  • Cat Ba Oasis Bar & Restaurant best happy hour for cocktails

Where to stay on Cat Ba Island

There are more and more options to stay in Cat Ba Town as it’s developing quickly. We stayed at Bao Phuc Hotel .
We loved staying in this family-run hotel that is perfectly located just over the bridge – 5 min walk to town center.

Bonus: the owner was extremely helpful, the pancakes at breakfast were amazing and there is a nice rooftop!

How to travel to Cat Ba Island

Cat Ba is around 150 km from Hanoi city. From Hanoi, the best transport option is a combined ticket (bus-speedboat-bus) sold by Cat Ba Express. The price of the combined ticket is 280K VND ($11.50) per person.

The Cat Ba Express website mentions a $13 price but it may be slightly cheaper if booked directly at the agency.

The journey includes a 2h 30 drive from Hanoi Old Quarter (including hotel pick up) to Got Speed Boat Terminal, near Haiphong. You then take a speedboat for 10 minutes to Cai Vieng Port in the north-west of Cat Ba Island and transfer to another bus for 40 minutes to Cat Ba Town. There are three departures per day.


Don’t take the speedboat from Tuan Chau Port in Ha Long to the main Cat Ba port. The journey lasts less than 10 minutes and costs 300K VND ($12 per person by itself)! There was no way to negotiate.

Getting around

Cat Ba Island is one of the biggest islands in the Ha Long Bay archipelago. If you want to visit the attractions like the caves or the Cat Ba National Park in the Northern part of the island, you will need to arrange a scooter rental or to book a tour with a local agency.

Cat Ba Town where you are likely going to stay is small and easily walkable. You can also rent a bike to cycle to the fishing villages in the eastern part of the Island.

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Best time to visit Cat Ba

The best months to visit Cat Ba Island are from October to December – this is peak tourism season as the weather is dry and the temperatures are pleasant so expect more people to visit the island.

January to April are also good months to see Cat Ba Island, the only drawback is that the weather can be too cold to swim.

Avoid the summer months (June to August) which are very humid with heavy rains and typhoons.

How many days do you need

We recommend at least 2 to 3 full days on the island, including a one night cruise in Lan Ha Bay.

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