Halong Bay is one of the world’s most beautiful and unique tourist destinations that astounds and inspires anyone who sails through this ancient part of Vietnam. Located within the Bay of Tonkin, just a few hours’ drive away from the capital city of Hanoi, Halong Bay consists of around 1,600 islands and islets that began to form some 340 million years ago.
The surrounding mountains have been weathered and etched away into limestone pillars, a phenomenon that is only found in very few locations in the world. It’s no surprise that Halong features on UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites and has been named one of seven natural wonders of the world.
How do you experience Halong Bay?
The best way to experience Halong Bay is by boat. Many tour companies offer one or two-day tours by junk boat. A junk boat is essentially a renovated fishing vessel and some tour companies have equipped their fleet with a kind of pirate ship level of decor and service. The boat can be old and needing a bit of repair so you may be worried that it will sink at any moment.
A much better way to experience Halong Bay is to choose a luxury cruise. All the Halong Hub cruise ships in the fleet are modern, regularly maintained, and aesthetically beautiful. Imagine sunbathing on the deck of an elegant 30-meter sailboat with limestone pillars gliding past. That’s the best way to experience Halong Bay!
Is a Halong Bay cruise worth it?
A cruise in Halong Bay is as famous as Halong Bay itself. One is not complete without the other and both are spectacular when combined together. Whether you choose a two-day or a three-day overnight cruise, every moment is packed with pleasure and relaxation. Just some of the experiences offered are:
- Feel like the captain of a ship in luxurious rooms with stunning ocean views from your bedroom
- Feast in a restaurant surrounded by panoramic views of the vast Halong Bay landscape
- Enjoy 5-star service at every moment, from restaurants to the caves
- Go kayaking and swimming in the deep blue waters of the bay
- Explore ancient caves with multi-lingual guides
- Island hop in a UNESCO world heritage destination
18 top experiences in a trip to Halong Bay, Vietnam
To help you get the most out of your trip, when you journey through this magical place, we compiled a guide to the top 18 experiences on a Halong Bay cruise.
Eat, drink, and be merry!
1. Exceptional dining whilst floating in the mountains
Every ship serves authentic Vietnamese and international cuisine made with fresh ingredients on a menu created by the professional chefs onboard your boat. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served on the boat’s main deck where interior designers have created the perfect ambiance for your feast. The backdrop for your dining experience is Halong Bay‘s enchanting limestone mountains that shield the boat from any rough-sea turbulence and are jaw-dropping, to say the least.
2. Candlelit dinner parties on the top deck
An overnight cruise may have dinner celebrations set on the top deck of the ship, weather permitting. They feature candle-lit tables, open views of the bay, and often there are stars across the sky. All meals are served with panoramic views. Music and dancing often follow, and even a little karaoke if you feel like participating in classic Vietnamese tradition. During the day, the top deck provides a rather scenic spot for sunbathing and absolutely stunning Instagram photos.
3. BBQ on the beach
Dependent on the weather, many Halong Bay cruises serve a BBQ feast for their guests on the white sands of the numerous private tropical beaches located right inside Halong Bay. Whilst lunch is being prepared, guests may go kayaking or enjoy the other amenities on board the ship. A luxury picnic is the reward for a morning of swimming or relaxing in your cabin.
Relax in a luxury cabin suite
4. Relax in your private room with Ha Long at your fingertips
Halong Bay cruise operators have a wide range of boats in service from budget to luxury cruises and beyond. No matter the price point, by design, every room is likely to have full ocean views. Imagine resting like a ship captain in your luxurious cabin while towers of limestone cruise past your windows. Spacious rooms with a private balcony, room service, full bathroom, and extra attention to decor will make your stay as magical as a movie. After a day of exploring, these rooms will provide every level of comfort.
5. Enjoy the unique decor
The decor in every ship is unique and designed upon a theme ranging from traditional Indochinese to modern and chic. Boats may have been kept in the traditional junk boat style which is highly unique to this region of Vietnam and Southeast Asia. On the luxury end of the scale, professional architects have clad the interior with exotic wood or marble. Many of the ships harness the wind, for eco-friendly propulsion, with huge billowing sails. The beauty on these ships rivals any world-famous hotel experience.
6. Bathe in a steamy jacuzzi
A cruise in Halong Bay goes by the mantra of play hard – relax hard. That’s why some suite-cabins feature a large jacuzzi, on their private balcony. In addition to having a front-row seat to one of the greatest natural wonders of the world, a 30-minute soak in a jacuzzi also has a myriad of health benefits including stress relief, muscle and joint restoration, and improved REM sleep.
Relax or stay active onboard your ship
Among other amenities, there are a range of fun and engaging activities are onboard every ship. Guests have ample time between excursions to continue to play, drink, and mingle, or to simply rest in sun lounges with a cocktail in hand.
7. Join an authentic Vietnamese cooking masterclass
A Halong Hub cruise gives guests the opportunity to create famous dishes from Vietnamese cuisine. With instruction from our Master Chef staff, you can learn the tricks and techniques involved in these ancient recipes. If you have ever tried a Vietnamese spring roll and yearned for the secret to that perfect roll this is a good class for you.
8. Settle in with a luxurious spa treatment
Some cruise ships have gone to the next level of comfort with spa and massage services offering deep tissue massage, aromatherapy, herbal oil treatment, and many other traditional and non-traditional treatments. What better way to start the day, or end the day, or spend all day!
9. Movies and musical entertainment
As part of the evening entertainment, try a cruise with a movie theatre. Great for families with kids, large cinema screens and surround sound paired with a cartoon or even a thriller is a great way to unwind after a busy day sailing the ocean. For music, cruises may have a live band which perform pop classics and even entertain karaoke requests.
10. Try an invigorating sunrise exercise class
Onboard the ship, cruises offer personal trainer-led classes ranging from yoga to martial arts. So if you’ve always wanted to try your hand and foot at the ancient art of Tai Chi, then it is easy to find the cruise package that suits your passions.
11. Sunset explosions over the Gulf of Tonkin
Halong Bay is situated in the Gulf of Tonkin which faces east. As the sunsets in the west, the sun comes down over a thousand islands and drenches the ocean with warmth. Sunsets are around 6 pm throughout the year and guests have unadulterated views from the comfort of their own room. The top deck also makes a great spot to catch the last rays of the day!
12. Squid fishing from the top deck
From the comfort of your own ship, guests can catch delicious squid with the equipment and bait provided by your captain. The best time of year for this is between November and February when temperatures are a little lower and squid stocks are higher. When you have your quota of fresh squid, ask the crew if they can prepare and serve it for dinner. This is often a complimentary service and you get the chance to enjoy your spoils!
13. Sail through the most beautiful bays on the planet
Halong Hub is proud to be the first company to organize cruises through the most breathtaking bays found on earth: Ha Long, Bai Tu Long, and Lan Ha. Let’s have a closer look at each of these incredible destinations.
Visiting Bai Tu Long Bay
Tours to this secluded and natural area have only recently been given the green light to operate. As a newbie to the tourist trail, Bai Tu Long bay is still largely untouched and unspoiled though there are some populated areas that practice traditional fishing and enjoy a slow pace of life. A trip to Bai Tu Long bay provides visitors with the chance to jump offboard and visit the secret beaches and coral reefs that are still mostly undiscovered by modern tourism.
Visiting Lan Ha bay
Lan Ha Bay is situated in the southern end of the gulf with the same world-famous topography as Halong Bay. It contains around 140 beaches with most of them accessible to visitors for kayaking, swimming, and snorkeling. It is also the bay with the best access to Cat Ba island for hiking to local settlements such as Viet Hai Village. For incredible dive sites, look at visiting Nam Cat Island and Turtle Island which are renowned destinations.
Visiting Halong Bay
Halong bay is the most famous of the three and it is also the largest. These waters are used by international and local businesses alike for agriculture, tourism, and research. Though this sounds busy and crowded, it’s not. Halong Hub captains know the most pristine and exclusive areas out there. Halong Bay is only a few minutes from the port city of Hai Phong where cruise companies are based and tourists can transfer back to Hanoi or continue on to other parts of Vietnam.
Jump offboard for breathtaking excursions
Cruises in Halong Bay have itineraries that visit the most exclusive locations in the bay. This could be to a secret beach or a working fishing village. Getting hands-on experience of a world wonder is best done off the boat!
14. Hike to hidden caves on Cat Ba Island
Jungle-covered and mountainous, Cat Ba Island is the largest landmass in the gulf. With a population of only 13,000, most of the island remains untouched by tourism, and the diverse flora and fauna have been part of conservation effects by the government in Vietnam. Cat Ba boasts a number of ancient cave networks that guests can hike to as part of a guided tour. Part of the trip sees visitors exploring jungle paths with rest stops in picture-perfect locations.
15. Explore Halong Bay in a kayak
One of the best parts of any Halong Bay cruise is the opportunity to skim across the calm waters of Halong Bay in your very own kayak, life jackets and guide included! Renting a kayak is a very effective way to explore and discover, in detail, the completely natural limestone architecture that produces paradise beaches, cave networks, and lagoons with prehistoric beauty.
16. Swim in the blue waters of a world heritage site
A Halong Bay cruise will take you through one of the most stunning of landscapes on this earth, with chances to swim in a number of excellent spots that often feature rich coral and shoals of brightly coloured fish. People often dive right in from the decks of their luxury cruise ship, and for those who can’t swim, life jackets are at hand. Though there is a lot of marine life, rest assured, there have been no recorded shark attacks in Halong Bay.
17. Relax on any number of tropical beaches
With more than 1,600 islands, there are an untold number of white sandy beaches that Halong Bay tours could go to. A luxury cruise may take you to private beaches, such as on Monkey Island. Other islands have comfortable deckchairs, water sports, and refreshments. You may even go to several islands all in one day depending on you and your captain.
18. Jump aboard a floating village
When you visit Halong Bay, you also have the chance to visit the fishing villages that have settled in this beautiful landscape. Here fishermen have built wooden fishing nurseries that float in the ocean and double up as their humble abode. Traversing the waters and popping out for supplies is done by traditional bamboo boat which is unique to Vietnam and this side of Asia. A trip to a fishing village is a great way to meet the local Vietnamese people and share in a bit of culture.
That’s just 18 of the best things you can do when you visit Halong bay. Only a stone’s throw away from Hanoi, it is truly a trip worth taking. If you are in Vietnam or abroad, it is easier to book a tour online. If you are looking for ideas and want to start planning your itinerary, check out these 10 luxury cruises for that dream vacation in Vietnam.