Vietnam | Cat Ba Boat Trip


I never normally do this, but with a couple of days to spare after I returned from Malaysia I decided to travel somewhere last-minute in Vietnam before returning to Thai Nguyen. With only two days to spare before work, I chose Cat Ba island. Which meant I had a day to travel there from Hanoi and a day to explore it.

Cat Ba is like the understated sister of Ha Long, with less tourists but all of it’s beauty. The island itself is quite developed and busier than I expected, but travel is much cheaper from there compared to Ha Long, and Lan Ha Bay is right by it.

To get there from Hanoi I took a bus, boat and another bus but it was pretty easy. Package deals can be bought from all tour companies. Beware though, I was on a tight schedule and it took a while longer than planned!

After dropping my bags off at my hostel, I immediately went to book a tour for the next day. I’d briefly researched beforehand so had a list of places that I wanted to look at. But honestly I was short on time so I went to the first tour agency I came across… but it ended up being the highest rated place on TripAdvisor! I went with Green Trail Travel, and I would totally recommend them. I didn’t know what I wanted to do because I’d done hardly any prior research on the place, but their tour ticked all the boxes and was 500k (approx. £16) which I thought was pretty reasonable. There are lots of different kinds of boat trips and you have to be specific about the kind you want, there are chilled ones or booze cruises. This was a chilled one which was just what I wanted.

Our first stop was the floating fishing village, where people live and trade. It was interesting to see how developed the village was with little shops and cafes, but how simple their way of life is. They even has a boat that comes to pick the children up for school.

Next we went kayaking around Ha Long Bay, which to say how famous it was wasn’t actually that busy. Kayaking through the caves was beautiful and we went for maybe two hours which was the perfect amount of time as we were all starving. But the lunch they provided was the best tour lunch ever! Over lunch we stopped at Lan Ha bay to swim which was great as there was no other boats around.

Our last stop of the trip was Monkey Island where we hiked to the peak (I don’t know if that’s what it’s called, it was just a very big rock). Now I didn’t know too much about this before we went, and I probably wouldn’t have gone up have I had known! I hate monkeys. The hike was more like rock scrambling, and was just sharp rocks which were pretty dangerous. It wasn’t for the faint-hearted that’s for sure! The views were nice and all, but I was like now how do I get down from this jagged rock?

And then we sailed back! They invited us back for a free beer that evening so that was nice of them. Probably the best tour I’ve ever had, definitely the best in Vietnam (but that’s not saying much – remember this one?). I would love to return and spend more time there exploring the national park. And exploring the bay from Cat Ba is much cheaper than from Ha Long.

What’s the best tour you’ve ever been on? Have you ever been to Cat Ba or Ha Long Bay?

If you want to see more photos of my travels you can check out my Flickr


  1. I have heard of Green Trail Travel from a friend recently, with great review too! If I ever visited I would also pick more of a chilled boat too. Very unique to experience life here, such as seeing the children going to school also on boats!

  2. I had never heard of Cat Ba, but now I feel I need to go and visit it! It looks amazing and I am also surprised by your quiet time in Ha Long. Thanks for making me aware of such an amazing place

  3. Ahhh Cat Ba! I have a love-hate relationship with this place. I know I visited at the wrong time of year, but it really didn’t take my fancy. Your trip sounds a lot more enjoyable than mine. Maybe I should head back and do the boat tour instead! It’s definitely a great alternative to Ha Long Bay.

  4. When I was in Hanoi, ( lived there for 3 months) I had always wanted to go to an island or a beach nearby. Saw Catba Island although I think as far as I can remember, it was a bit part of our Halong Bay tour, I still did want to go for a day trip, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to! Catba is nice, right? And yes, travel agencies are everywhere so you won’t run out of them and lucky enough, you’d get the best deal. £16 is such a good price for an adventure like this!

  5. Looks amazing! The chilled boat tour would be my preferred option too because it gives you a taste of the local lifestyle. The hike sure does sound adventurous and I’m glad you made it back safely.

  6. Vietnam is on my bucket list and also never heard of Cat Ba so should try to add this to my itinerary. The boat trip sounds like an amazing idea. I love places that are not too touristy so this is perfect!

  7. This is such a lovely impromptu trip. Good to know you can explore it on such a short notice and in one day. I haven’t been to Cat Ba or Ha Long Bay but I’m dying to go! Love the sound of kayaking around Ha Long Bay. Is May usually off-season in Cat Ba? Love the sound of not too many tourists around.

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