Acknowledged as a World Heritage Site, Ha Long Bay is on a “must-see” list of any traveler planning a trip to Vietnam. After deciding to visit Vietnam and doing some research, we’ve found a good option to enjoy this naturally spectacular destination the less crowded way – by taking Halong Bay day tour from Cat Ba Island.
We booked a budget day tour to Halong Bay and Lan Ha Bay from Cat Ba Island and had a really good time while exploring this wonder of nature. This is an exact itinerary that we did during the 1-day tour.
Itinerary of Day Tour to Halong Bay & Lan Ha Bay
8:10 Pick Up at the Hotel
The tour picked up us from our hotel in Cat Ba town with a small van which was picking up other passengers along the way to Ben Beo Pier. It took only 10 minutes to arrive at the pier.
8:20 Arrival at Ben Beo Pier
We arrived at Ben Beo Pier and were a little bit shocked to see a lot of tourists waiting to take a trip from there.
The staff gave us tickets for the routes of bays of Cat Ba Archipelago. The ticket costs 80,000 VND per person, which was included in the tour price.
We've waited at the pier for almost 15 minutes for more tourists to come before boarding the boat.
8:35 Boarding the Boat
A lot of people had booked the day tour to Halong Bay and Lan Ha Bay on that day, so they split us into two separate boats departing from Cat Ba. Our boat was mostly dedicated to people who stay overnight on Cat Ba Island. Another boat was for people who are not staying there and planning to return to Hanoi or traveling to another destination right after the tour.
It looks like we had more time for sailing in the bay than the other group. However, we spent the day with a very big group of 40 people on the boat which felt to be a bit too crowded.
The staff on the boat consisted of 3 people: the captain, the guide and the chef.
8:50 Cai Beo Floating Village
At first the boat was sailing around Lan Ha Bay. The bay itself is spectacular, with towers of limestone rocks rising from the sea.
We were passing by Cai Beo Floating Village which is the most traditional fishing village in the north of Vietnam. It is also one of the biggest floating villages in Cat Ba archipelago. This fishing village has about 300 houses and people there make a living mainly by fishing and seafood farming.
9:05 Monkey Island
We continued sailing to Monkey Island which is also known as Cat Dua Island. At Monkey Island, we were greeted by a gang of monkeys!
Monkeys were good to watch, a little aggressive and playful. We had about 1 hour to enjoy our free time there.
Monkey Island is an ideal place to breathe some fresh air, swim in the sea with the clear blue water, enjoy sunbathing on white sand beach or do a bit of kayaking in the bay.
You can also climb to the top of the hill for the panoramic view of Lan Ha Bay.
Even if there are a lot of tourists, we still managed to find a good spot for relaxing.
Monkey Island is the best place for travelers who want to enjoy some peaceful time on a private beach. For experiencing the amazing stay on the island fully taking a day tour will not do. You should dedicate more time and spend overnight at Monkey Island Resort where you can enjoy peaceful atmosphere and fall asleep surrounded by the sound of waves.
10:20 Cruising to Halong Bay
We left Monkey Island and kept cruising to Halong Bay for sightseeing the most beautiful landscapes at less touristy areas of the bay. We saw hundreds of limestone islands in a variety of shapes and sizes. It was really the scenery out of this world.
About noon we had lunch on the boat. The lunch was freshly cooked by the local crew on board and served in Vietnamese style. The food was plentiful and some of the dishes were really good. They also had vegetarian dishes for a choice.
12:40 Cruising to Floating House
After enjoying the lunch in the middle of Halong Bay, the boat continued the trip to the floating house.
The boat stopped at the floating house which is used as the base for kayaking in the area. Here you get a chance to enjoy kayaking by yourself and explore the rock arch tunnel cave, hidden narrow lagoons and discover the dark-bright cave called Hang Ca (Bat cave). This is the most beautiful lagoon in Lan Ha Bay for kayaking activities.
If you don't like kayaking, you can just hire one of sampan boats rowed by local people and explore wonderful landscapes of the bay while soaking in the peaceful atmosphere.
14:30 Three Peaches Beach
After kayaking, the boat brought us to Three Peaches Beach (Ba Trái Đào) and anchored nearby. There several beautiful deserted mini beaches and lagoons can be found. We have stayed there for 1 more hour to enjoy swimming in open waters and admire nature before cruising back to Cat Ba Island.
If you cannot swim but want to enjoy your time in the water, life jackets are always available on board so you can use them for safety reasons while swimming in open waters.
You will have plenty of time for swimming and snorkeling as the area is home to beautiful corals. If you love snorkeling, you can get a snorkel on the boat but it’s better to have your own equipment.
You can even jump right from the top of the boat into the water for a refreshing swim or just lie down on the boat deck for relaxing, enjoying some beer (you can buy it on board) and taking photographs.
15:45 Cruising Back
After spending some time at the beach, we were cruising back to the pier. Along the way we had a chance to enjoy beautiful scenery of Lan Ha Bay in different light.
We even were lucky enough to spot the endangered white-headed Cat Ba Langurs on the top of one of the islets we were passing by!
16:05 Passing by Floating Village
On the way back to Cat Ba Island, we were passing by the floating village once again. You can see the daily life of the fishermen living right on the bay.
16:40 Return to Cat Ba Town
The boat took us back to Ben Beo Pier where the guide arranged transportation (small van or taxi) for bringing tourists back to Cat Ba Town.
Price of Day Tour
The price of day tour to Halong Bay and Lan Ha Bay from Cat Ba was only 400,000 VND (~17.5 USD) per person and we felt that it was completely worth it even with too many people on the boat.
This was the cheapest tour for 1-day trip to Halong Bay and Lan Ha Bay that we managed to find in Cat Ba. The price of this budget tour included entrance fee, local English speaking guide, and full day of activities such as kayaking, swimming and snorkeling, as well as drinking water and delicious lunch on the boat. Only other beverages and tips were excluded.
Normally tours like that cost more than that. This is another Halong Bay and Lan Ha Bay tour that we were considering to take: Halong Bay Full-Day Cruise from Cat Ba.
Halong Bay itself is amazing and the scenery is as beautiful as expected. Spending all day on the boat and cruising around Halong Bay and Lan Ha Bay is an unforgettable experience. There are many activities to do like swimming, kayaking, snorkeling, cave visiting. We enjoyed our time while admiring the scenery and soaking in the mysterious atmosphere created by the surrounding islets. Our guide was informative, helpful and friendly. The lunch was pretty good with a wide range of food.
The only downside of this tour was the amount of tourists on the boat.
Overall, this was a good trip and definitely worth the price of the tour we have paid.
For more activities on Cat Ba Island, check our guide What to do on Cat Ba Island.
Halong Bay is an amazing place that is best experienced when joining an overnight cruise and exploring this wonder of nature over multiple days. If you are not on a tight budget, for the most exceptional experience join one of 10 Best Halong Bay Cruises.