There are 367 islands in the stunning archipelago in the southeast of Lan Ha Bay, but one stands out for both its size and popularity: Cat Ba Island.
The town of Cat Ba in northern Vietnam is surrounded by limestone rocks with multiple ferry ports to whisk you away to wherever you wish. The majority of the island’s 13,000 inhabitants live in the town, where most hotels tower over the main road and overlook the harbor in the distance.
These are where a majority of domestic and international visitors choose to stay due to their close proximity to the ferry terminal and seafood restaurants. But the best accommodation options arguably are found further afield.
Flamingo Cat Ba Resort
Though only opened two years ago Flamingo Cat Ba Resort has already become the most famous hotel in the area with pictures of the huge site being displayed wherever you go, from huge electronic billboards to smaller posters at the pier.
The resort perfectly matches the surrounding landscapes, and is easily comparable to the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore. There is a beautiful blend of nature and sea as the green resort overlooks two of the most stunning beaches on the island.
The beach at Flamingo Resort. Photo by Darren Barnard
Besides, if you are willing to pay high-end prices you will be rewarded with a room overlooking these blissful beaches with a uniquely designed jungle walkway connecting your room with other parts of the hotel such as the infinity pool, bar, gym, and restaurants.
If your aim is to not lift a finger and achieve peak relaxation in Cat Ba, I suggest you look no further than this one.
Hotel Perle d'Orient Cat Ba - MGallery
Just a few minutes up the road from Flamingo you will find another hotel that also boasts views of the bay from an enticing infinity pool and lies along the ever-popular beach 3. Hotel Perle d’Orient has more elegant rooms than Flamingo, and so if extravagance and instaworthy photos are what you desire, this is a good option.
The hotel oozes charm but is arguably a less family-friendly option compared to others, with its focus being on sophistication and class.
If you want to avoid the extravagant price but still crave luxury and relaxation by the pool, I would suggest paying a small day fee of around VND200,000 ($8.70) to access the pool and bar areas.
Le Pont Hotel & Bungalow Hostel
Next up is a more affordable option with a variety of rooms to suit couples, families and backpackers, but still offers a relaxing view of the traditional, blue fishing boats in gorgeous Lan Ha Bay.
The sun sets over the fishing boats alongside the road leading to Le Pont Hotel. Photo by Darren Barnard
The terrace also has a billiards table to keep you entertained while its restaurants whip you up a reasonably priced meal that you can enjoy while taking in the views of the sea and delightful flowers on the rocky hill the hotel is situated on.
This may be the best option for you if you are traveling solo and want to meet people over breakfast to explore the island with.
Now for something different: a paradise in the middle of the jungle with stilt houses you would usually associate with mountainous places like Sa Pa and Mai Chau. This homestay in Cat Hai village offers an alternative option for visitors to Cat Ba island.
Tranquility awaits you in the midst of the jungle in Cat Hai. Though the place is not as easily accessible as the earlier ones, it will reward if you seek stillness and an escape from the masses who overrun the island.
To reach the village, you can take the adventurous route by embarking on an 8km trek through the national park. Those with less time and/or the energy needed to climb cliffs and gorges can take a boat from Ben pier on the southeast of Cat Ba Town.
The village comprises of around 80 houses made of bamboo, wood and leaves, and locals live off fishing, farming and livestock breeding.
A truly unique experience on Cat Ba.
Monkey Island Resort
Monkey Island’s private beach with kayaks available to guests. Photo by Darren Barnard
The final place in the list is also reached by boat from Cat Ba, but do not be deterred by this and instead see it as another opportunity to see the beauty of Lan Ha Bay as you make your way from Ben pier.
On arrival, you will be greeted by monkeys enjoying life and outnumbering guests on the resort as they frolic in the spacious area. But the monkeys are not the only entertainment here; you can also kayak, play volleyball or take a hike to view the bay from the same perspective as the enormous eagles that soar overhead.
Until recently, the island was one of the popular day-trips available to tourists, but now you can only access it if you are a guest. Which is great news if you seek serenity while sipping on a cocktail during your stay.