Why visit Cat Ba? Our top 5 reasons to convince you Why visit Cat Ba? Our top 5 reasons to convince you Why visit Cat Ba? Our top 5 reasons to convince you
Paysages spectaculaires de l'ile de Cat Ba, Vietnam

Why visit Cat Ba? Our top 5 reasons to convince you


Cat Ba Island is one of the few islands in Northern Vietnam and the second-largest island in the country after Phu Quoc.

In this article, we list our top 5 reasons why you should take a few days to visit this island and discover Lan Ha Bay.

Feel free to contact us for organizing your exploration of Cat Ba and Lan Ha bay


Where is located Cat Ba island ? 

Cat Ba Island is the only inhabited island in Halong Bay and is administratively managed by the Haiphong province. It is located 145 km east of Hanoi and about 170 km northeast of Tam Coc in Ninh Binh province. The island is easily accessible by bus from both cities.


Map of Cat Ba and Halong bay


Ile de Cat Ba dans la baie d'Halong, Vietnam


The History of Cat Ba Island and Its Recent Development

It often begins with a legend in Vietnam, and Cat Ba Island is no exception: once, this island was called ‘Cac Ba’ (Ba meaning ‘old woman’), the ‘Island of Women.’ According to legend, three women were killed during the Tran dynasty, and their bodies were found on three different beaches of Cat Ba Island. The island’s residents built a temple for each of these women.

Further back, traces of life on the island dating back more than 6,000 years were discovered by French archaeologists in 1938. These relics are believed to belong to the Cai Beo group, a people who lived in Halong Bay 4,000 to 6,500 years ago.

More recently, during the wars, the island was a strategic point and was repeatedly bombed, forcing the inhabitants to seek refuge in the island’s caves (see below). Finally, in the late 1970s, the Sino-Vietnamese War resulted in the eviction of nearly 30,000 Chinese fishermen living in the archipelago.

Today, Cat Ba Island welcomes many travelers, both Vietnamese and international, and the hotel offerings on-site have significantly expanded in recent years. The island experiences its peak of visitors during the summer (May-August), when people seek refuge from the heat to gather on the beaches.


Plage au couché de soleil sur l'ile de Cat Ba, Vietnam

Beach at sunset, Cat Ba. Photo: Stock Pixabay


Top 5 des raisons de visiter Cat Ba

Here is our Top 5 list of reasons why you absolutely must visit Cat Ba Island during your trip to Northern Vietnam.

Resting after a hike in Northern Vietnam

The Northern Vietnam region is fantastic for hiking: mountains, terraced rice fields, welcoming ethnic communities – all the ingredients are there for an unforgettable experience! After the effort of hiking and exploring Hanoi, you will likely need some rest before continuing your journey. Cat Ba Island is the ideal place to do just that. You can book bungalows and embark on a relaxing cruise in the serene Lan Ha Bay.


Paysages spectaculaires de l'ile de Cat Ba, Vietnam

Spectacular landscape from Cat Ba. Photo: Stock Pixabay


For cruising in Lan Ha bay 

It is from Cat Ba Island that we recommend starting your cruise in Halong Bay. Indeed, from the Ben Beo port, you can board small traditional wooden junks, which are only a few in number today. Since the main Halong Bay is filled with ever larger boats, a cruise in Lan Ha Bay is the ideal alternative for your bay exploration. All these traditional junks depart exclusively from Ben Beo. If you prefer a more modern but larger boat, and therefore with more cabins, you can embark with a cruise operator from the Pha Got port before arriving on Cat Ba Island. This will still be a better option than a circuit in the main Halong Bay !


Coucher de soleil vu depuis le pont supérieur de la jonque Quatre Saisons, Vietnam

Enjoying sunset on the Four Seasons boat. Photo: Mathieu Arnaudet



To learn about Vietnamese resistance history

As mentioned earlier, Cat Ba Island was the target of numerous bombings during the Vietnam Wars until 1975. To seek shelter, the local population took refuge in the island’s many caves… One of them was even converted into a hospital! The ‘Hospital Cave’ is now open to visitors, and the authorities have arranged it in a way that allows travelers to imagine what the reality was like at that time. Built with the help of the Chinese between 1963 and 1965, it is still possible to visit 17 rooms. We recommend either traveling with a French-speaking guide from Hanoi or hiring an English-speaking guide on-site to fully understand what life was like under bombardments during that period.”


Reconstitution d'une salle dans la grotte dite de l'Hôpital, ile de Cat Ba

Room in Hospital cave, Cat Ba island. Photo: Mathieu Arnaudet


For a breathtaking view of Halong Bay

Once in the town of Cat Ba, we strongly recommend going to the Cannon Fort. This fort was built in 1942 by the Japanese army and was later used by the French and then by the Viet Minh once Cat Ba Island was recaptured. Besides the historically interesting aspect, the Cannon Fort offers a superb and unobstructed view of Halong Bay. You can stroll around the fortifications to have several different vantage points. To get there, we recommend taking a taxi or a motorbike taxi… the slope is a bit steep.


Vue sur la Baie de Lan Ha depuis le Fort Cannon, Ile de Cat Ba

View from Fort Cannon, Cat Ba. Photo: stock Pixabay. 


To stroll through the island’s tropical forest

Cat Ba, with its bay, beaches, history, and also its national park! Indeed, the national park covers 280 km2, nearly 80% of the island’s total area.

The ecosystems hosting the island’s fauna and flora are diverse: a tropical forest (Cat Ba National Park is the only one in Vietnam with a tropical forest), mangroves, caves, etc. The island is home to a large number of species: 338 terrestrial animals, 205 bird species, 55 reptile species. Many of these species are listed in the IUCN Red List, indicating they are rare and need protection.

You can delve into this tropical forest by taking a hike from the park entrance to the village of Viet Hai. Allow about 3 hours for the hike. You can return to the town of Cat Ba by taking a boat from the port leading to the village of Viet Hai. Alternatively, most cruise operators sailing in Lan Ha Bay include a visit to Viet Hai by bike. During a 1-hour ride, you’ll discover a small part of this tropical forest


Superbe point de vue sur l'Ile de Cat Ba, Vietnam

View point on Cat Ba island, Vietnam. Crédit photo: Stock PixaBay


You now know all the good reasons to visit Cat Ba Island !



Or contact us to visit Cat Ba and Lan Ha bay


Mathieu Arnaudet
Responsable Marketing

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