Best Things to do Halong Bay Vietnam

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Halong Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located off Halong city (on the northern tip of Vietnam), which takes around half an hour to reach from the main bay area. Comprised of around 1,600 islands and islets of limestone formation, it is a distinctly scenic seascape with spectacular little pillars cascading into the distance. Halong literally translates as ‘where the dragon descends into the sea’ and according to local legend, this ethereal seascape was gouged out by a great dragon with its thrashing tail.

Due to its uneven landscape, most of the islands remain largely untouched by humans. The only human presence is the form of boats ferrying tourists and the community of fishermen living there, which makes it a great place for a peaceful getaway.

Halong Bay is usually known for its booze cruises and the parties atop the boats, but if you want to steer away from the touristy crowd and get to know a little more than the beaten trail, head out hiking the pretty trails or rock climbing! You can book a junk boat to have a day tour around Halong Bay, or you could be a little more adventurous and spend a week out in the open sea and experience everything this site has to offer! Here are our top five picks for the best adventures to experience when you’re visiting Halong Bay:

1. The Limestone Pillars

The highlight of Halong Bay has to be the resplendent limestone pillars jutting out from the surface of the sea. By the end of your stay here, you will have seen your fiar share of these mystic formations. The “Kissing Cocks,” are the most famous of these. These are a sight to behold and stay in your memory as a combination of mysticism, excitement and adventure, make them an unforgettable experience.

Halong Bay Vietnam Travel Guide
Photo Credit: © iStock/12ee12

2. Hiking

Though Halong Bay isn’t really a popular hiking destination, it’s actually one of the best. To go hiking here, you have to travel by boat to one of the communal living areas of Halong Bay, where you will be greeted with a footpath from the docks to the main hiking trail. The treks here are particularly interesting because of the immense variety of sights along the way – from stepped farms to jungles, crossing myriad waterfalls and views of the sea. You will even see farmers working on their fields on each side of the trail.

The hike goes on for approximately 3 hours. It is not a difficult hike, which makes it perfect for amateur hikers who visit the bay.

Hiking Trails Halong Bay Vietnam
Photo Credit: © iStock/zgr_pro

3. Kayaking

Halong Bay is one of the best spots for kayaking. The waters here are calm and peaceful and the 1,600-odd islands provide an extremely scenic backdrop to the swishing sounds of paddles hitting the water. An interesting kayaking experience here is going through the Luon Caves. You traverse through a cave tunnel and emerge into the beautiful Luon Caves. This enclave has its own isolated habitat of jellyfish living in the water and the ever-present troupes of monkeys. It’s widely considered as one of the most beautiful places in Halong Bay itself. Given the presence of the rocky outcrop islands, it’s no surprise that rock climbing (deep-water soloing) has also developed as a related activity. Not widely known, although nearby, Cat Ba is also known for kayaking and rock climbing, often together. It is however similar to kayaking around the many isles of Thailand.

Kayaking Halong Bay Vietnam
Photo Credit: © iStock/lena_serditova

4. Caves

There are also plenty of limestone caves to explore in this region. The Surprise Cave, earlier known as the “Grotto de la Surprise,” is one of the more majestic ones. A really narrow path leads up to a gigantic and spacious cavern. The caves are surprisingly cool, with the limestone formations in recognizable shapes definitely worth marveling at. The chandelier-like stalactites and pillars of stalactites really lend a sense of majesty to this work of art. Sometimes it is also called The Cave of Unfathomable Depth.

Best Caves to Explore in Halong Bay
Photo Credit: © iStock/MosayMay

5. Boats

The Halong Bay itself is pretty crowded with boats. The boats exist in different sizes and shapes, and you will get to see all of them. The junk boats are meant for tours around the bay and end up being your primary mode of transportation. Tourists are spotted standing on the upper deck. They also serve as hotels for those who choose to spend the night aboard.

Boat Tours Halong Bay Vietnam
Photo Credit: © iStock/Rolf_52

A paradise for nature and sea lovers, Halong Bay has something for everyone. If you’re fond of the outdoors and love adventures, put this on your bucket list immediately!

Main Image Photo Credit: © iStock/lena_serditova

About the Author: I’m Ankit. I love active travel and head out to spend time outdoors whenever I can. is where I write about my travel and it is to inspire people to get off their couch and go on adventures of a lifetime! You can also follow me on Instagram and Twitter at @alienadv.