In the northeast corner of Vietnam, the Gulf of Tonkin in the South China Sea holds one of Vietnam’s magical treasures. Roughly 100 miles from Hanoi, the nation’s capital, the landscape of Halong Bay portrays a mystical dream world that Lonely Planet calls “a vision of breathtaking beauty.” Emerald waters lap against limestone pillars in a divine place for tourists along the Vietnamese coast.
About Halong Bay
The jade-colored sea water of Halong Bay spreads over 100,000 acres, with 1,600 islands and islets throughout. The bay, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 on the basis of its unspoiled beauty and biological interest, holds many landmasses that remain uninhabited and untouched by human hands. Most visitors choose to experience the splendor of the region by sleeping on an organized boat tour in the midst of this natural wonder. The boats meander slowly across the bay during the daytime, with jaw-dropped tourists snapping pictures of the limestone pillars as they pass. Dock at night encircled by the islands, and watch the sun dip low into the bay while feasting on local foods prepared by your boat staff.
The most intimate view of Halong Bay comes from sea level in a kayak. Since the bay is a protected area, local companies will rent you a kayak and gear only if you join their supervised tours, with lengths ranging from single-day trips to week-long ventures. The boats dock at specific sites in the bay, where your tour guide leads you through the area in your private kayak. You’ll float past enormous islet pillars sprinkled in lush greenery, contrasting against the crystal-clear, emerald-colored water. Explore inlets and caves up close, leaving you to wonder why anyone would settle for just a simple boat ride to experience the splendor of the bay.
Tour groups often combine kayaking trip with options to explore land. If you prefer the sea, you are welcome to stay aboard the boat or swim in its surrounding warm waters. Otherwise, take advantage of opportunities to delve into the caves tucked into the islands of Halong Bay. Follow your guide deep within caverns, brilliantly illuminated with multicolored spotlights enhancing the natural texture of the jutting stones. Another likely stop is Cat Ba National Park on Cat Ba Island, presenting the traveler with hiking trails and scenic lookouts over Halong Bay.
Things to Know
Kayaking in the bay is generally considered safe, but certain precautions should be taken. Throughout the year, the bay remains crowded with tourist boats, and accidents can occur. Tour groups will often allow free time for kayakers to explore a small area on their own. Remain especially vigilant when separated from your group, as capsizing and other accidents can occur. Ensure that your life jacket is securely fastened before setting off on any excursions. Pay close attention to your guide’s instructions regarding tides and weather. While on board, take note of where emergency life jackets are located. Most importantly, bring a waterproof camera and a sense of adventure.