Cat Ba Island is the largest of the 367 islands of the Cat Ba archipelago with an area of over 300 square kilometers. It was declared as a Biosphere Reserve in 2004. More than half of the island is covered by a national park which is home to the endangered Cat Ba Langur. Cat Ba Island belongs to Haiphong municipality, which is located in northern Vietnam, only 170 km from Hanoi.
In reality, Cat Ba Island is considered to be the largest island in Halong Bay as the island is located to the southeast of Lan Ha Bay which is part of the world-famous Halong Bay.
Cat Ba means 'woman's island'. The legend attached to the name is that several centuries ago, 3 women of the Tran dynasty were killed and their bodies floated along the water until they reached the 3 beaches before local fishermen found them. Islanders built temples for each woman and this island became well-known as Cat Ba.
Cat Ba Island is a famous destination among Vietnamese tourists. The island also attracts many foreign travelers because of many activities available for tourists in Cat Ba.
What to do in Cat Ba
Swimming at Cat Co Beach
There are many beautiful beaches on Cat Ba Island. The most popular beaches to visit are Cat Co 1, Cat Co 2, and Cat Co 3. These 3 beaches are located not far from the center of Cat Ba Town. You can walk, rent a motorbike or take a shuttle to the beach easily.
The beaches of Cat Ba boast clear water and amazing views of the surrounding islets. Cat Co 1 Beach is the largest beach of all that is surrounded by cliffs. Cat Co 2 Beach and Cat Co 3 Beach are smaller in size but more peaceful.
The beaches are connected by a cliff-side walking trail offering magnificent views.
Enjoying the view from Cannon Fort
Cannon Fort is considered to be the best viewpoint on Cat Ba Island. The fort is located on the top of the hill, at 177 meters above sea level. Cannon Fort not only offers spectacular views, this place also has a historical significance because it was a fortress built in 1942 during the French colonial times. Here you can see the remains of the Vietnam War's history and whole military complex including two canons, observation system and complex of tunnels.
Admission fee is 40,000 VND per person.
Remark: Currently, Cannon Fort is closed due to the reconstruction works being carried out there.
Cruising along Lan Ha Bay
Lan Ha Bay is located south of Halong Bay. The surrounding waters around Cat Ba Island belong to Lan Ha Bay. Highlights of Lan Ha Bay are more than 300 scenic karst islands and limestone outcrops along with numerous small white-sand beaches.
The landscape of Lan Ha Bay is as beautiful as the one of Halong Bay. Even if Halong Bay is larger than Lan Ha Bay, but islets in Lan Ha Bay are covered with greenery and there are many white sand beaches stretching between the rocky cliffs. Lan Ha Bay is quite far from Halong city so not many tourist boats visit the area, making Lan Ha Bay much more peaceful and gorgeous than the more touristy side of Halong Bay. This is an ideal destination for anyone looking for a peaceful exploration of the magnificent scenery.
Lan Ha Bay is often visited as part of day tour to Halong Bay from Cat Ba. Our review of such a tour can be found here: Day Tour to Halong Bay & Lan Ha Bay from Cat Ba (on a Budget!).
Trekking around Cat Ba National Park
Cat Ba not only attracts tourists with the beauty of the sea but also with its still rich forest resource. Cat Ba National Park covers a total area of 26,240 hectares, 17,040 hectares of land and 9,200 hectares of sea surface. This place has three different ecosystems including mangrove ecosystem, forest ecosystem on limestone hills and marine ecosystem with coral reefs. More than 2,320 species of plants and animals can be found at Cat Ba National Park.
If you love hiking, there's nothing too extreme at this national park. For anybody who's not sure about own skills, taking a guide for trekking can be a good option. There are several routes to choose from based on the length of time. The shortest route to the peak can take about 45 minutes – 1 hour and the view from the top is absolutely worth the hike.
Visiting Hospital Cave
Quan Y Cave or Hospital Cave on Cat Ba Island is located about 15 km from Cat Ba Town. The military hospital cave was built in the area of Tran Chau ward at Cat Ba National Park.
During the Vietnam War, Cat Ba was used as a safe haven for the North Vietnamese army. Heavy bombing of the Americans resulted in the creation of a secret hospital and safe house for leaders in the cave. The hospital has 3 floors and cannot be seen from the ground or air. The exit of the cave is on the other side of the mountain with a path surrounded by trees. Even if you climb the mountain, it is difficult to notice the cave entrance, making it one of the safest places on the island.
The hospital was abandoned after 1975, but now is becoming a popular tourist attraction on Cat Ba Island. The admission fee is 15,000 VND per person. Hiring a tour guide is recommended as it will help you to know the history of Hospital Cave much deeper.
Touring Halong Bay from Cat Ba
Travelers can also buy a tour to Halong Bay that starts at Cat Ba Island. There are many tour companies on the island that are ready to offer tour packages including a visit to this beautiful bay. Halong Bay tours departing from Cat Ba can also be booked online and one of the best rated tours can be found here: Halong Bay Full-Day Cruise from Cat Ba.
Most of Halong Bay tours starting at Cat Ba Island also include a boat trip to Lan Ha Bay, which is the bay located south of Halong Bay and east of Cat Ba.
These tours normally include many activities for tourists such as picnics, swimming, or kayaking. There are also many beautiful beaches such as Van Boi Beach, Ba Trai Dao Beach, Nam Cat Beach to visit.
Some of 10 Best Halong Bay Cruises also start their 2-day or 3-day trips at Cat Ba Island.
Visiting Fisherman Village
There are several fisherman villages in the area around Cat Ba. The most popular of them is Cai Beo Fisherman Village. Cai Beo Fisherman Village is located near Ben Beo Pier, which is just 2 kilometers away from Cat Ba Town. You can come here by taxi and then take a small boat to visit the village. Here you will be able to visit village of floating houses and enjoy beautiful views of the surrounding islands.
Cai Beo Fisherman Village is one of Vietnam's oldest prehistoric villages. The evidences indicate that the village of Cai Beo has been established more than 4,500 years ago. This fishing village has a total of 300 houses, most of which are inhabited by people who make a living by fishing and farming sea animals such as scallops and oysters.
Visiting Viet Hai Village
Viet Hai Village is a small village located in the heart of Cat Ba National Park, in the midst of dense forest covered by high mountains. The village is located about 18 kilometers away from Cat Ba Town. Visiting Viet Hai Village gives you a chance to enjoy a peaceful atmosphere and see the way of life of the villagers.
Traveling to Viet Hai Village can be done in 2 ways:
1. Trekking to the village through the forest of Cat Ba National Park.
2. Taking a boat from Ben Beo Pier to Viet Hai Pier and then trekking for about 1 hour to the village.
Spending time at Monkey Island
Cat Dua (Pineapple) Island, also known as Monkey Island, is located in the area of Nam Cat, Lan Ha Bay. The front side of the island is the place where you can find 2 sandy beaches and the back side is a rocky mountain.
Monkey Island is another popular tourist destination for visitors to Cat Ba as almost all tours starting from Cat Ba Island take tourists to visit this island. The highlight of this place is the monkeys. There are more than 20 monkeys on this island to welcome visitors. In addition, there is a beautiful sunset viewpoint, white sand beach, clear water, and pine trees.
Getting to Monkey Island is easy as you can travel there by boat from Ben Beo Pier in just 15 minutes. The famous accommodation Island Catba Monkey Island Resort can be found on the private beach of the island.
Where to stay in Cat Ba?
A complete guide to the best places to stay on Cat Ba Island with the best and most affordable hotels and other accommodation on Cat Ba Island can be found here: Where to Stay on Cat Ba Island: Cat Ba Accommodation.
Cat Ba Transportation
Cat Ba Island is located approximately 160 kilometers from Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. Most of travelers come to Cat Ba from Hanoi as there are plenty of options for traveling between Hanoi and Cat Ba and everyone can choose the best way depending on their preferences. Detailed guide about traveling from Hanoi to Cat Ba Island can be found here: How to travel from Hanoi to Cat Ba Island.
Most of the routes to Cat Ba Island pass Haiphong which is the main city in the area. There are several options for getting to Cat Ba from Haiphong and they are briefly described here: How to travel from Haiphong to Cat Ba Island.
Flights to Cat Ba
Cat Bi International Airport (HPH) in Haiphong is the nearest to Cat Ba Island airport. This airport receives direct flights from Bangkok making a trip to Cat Ba from Thailand really easy. Low cost carrier Vietjet Air offers international flights to Haiphong from BKK airport. Flight deals for this route can be found here:
If you will be making a stopover in Haiphong, check for the options you have when traveling from Cat Bi Airport to Haiphong City.
The most popular domestic routes to/from Cat Ba Island:
For more transportation options for a trip to/from Cat Ba Island, use this search form.
Weather in Cat Ba
Cat Ba Island is situated in the East Sea so Cat Ba's weather is affected by the tropical monsoon. The average temperature here is between 23-24 degrees Celsius.