With international travel likely staying closed for awhile, those of us in Vietnam are lucky to be able to travel domestically. And what a place we have to discover! A captivating history, stunning landscapes, delectable food, and good-natured people. Take your pick of destinations as well - beaches, mountains, cities, forests, caves - Vietnam has everything you need for a vacation filled with adventure.
Active vacations are good for you in more ways than you think. Reduced stress, better sleep, and strengthened family bonds are just a few extra reasons to consider an active vacation (here are some more).
Simply put, active vacations do your body good! They open your eyes and mind and body to a new experience, while fully experiencing a culture/environment/etc. Plus you are out in nature, burning off all the calories you are eating and drinking, and hopefully connecting with the destination in a deeper way.
If you are looking to turn your Vietnam vacation into an active adventure, here are 11 ideas for an active vacation in Vietnam.
CYCLE THE HA GIANG LOOP
It could possibly be one of the most beautiful places in all of Vietnam, Ha Giang borders China to the north and is a very common motorbike loop for intrepid travelers. Those looking to amp up their holiday with some exercise might consider cycling this route. It’s an excellent spot to cycle through the spectacular scenery- lush jungles, immense limestone mountains, forested hills, massive peaks and canyons - all picture perfect.
There are many tour companies that will guide you on this cycle loop, or you can tackle it on your own. Use some of these resources to plan your cycling trip in Vietnam.
Vietnam Coracle - Ha Giang Loop
KAYAK IN HALONG BAY
The landscape of Halong Bay makes it an excellent location for some paddling. The best way to do some kayaking in Halong Bay is by getting yourself on a Halong Bay Cruise. These one or two night trips typically provide kayaking gear and opportunities to get out in the water. There are also heavy restrictions on where you can kayak, so it is best to go with a company that knows the permitted areas.
Check out this very detailed guide on the different places you can go kayaking in Halong Bay, as well as places to stop, companies to use, and things you may need.
There are lots of opportunities for hiking around Vietnam, from small climbs to big treks. If you want to check hiking the highest mountain in Vietnam off your to-do list, then add Mt.Fansipan to your itinerary.
At 3,134 meters, the climb up should take about 6-8 hours. There are a few different routes you can take, and it is now do-able in one day as you’re able to take the Cable Car down (or up!). This article from the Vietnam Coracle gives very detailed descriptions on what to do and what to expect when hiking this mountain.
GO SAND BOARDING IN MUI NE
Known for its giant sand dunes, and dry climate - Mui Ne is an adventure seekers prime vacation spot. The sand dunes are beautiful to look at, but also provide exciting adventures. There are lots of people around the dunes renting out “sand boards” or plastic sheets/mats that you can use to slide down. If you opt to go on a sunrise or sunset tour of Mui Ne, one of the stops will likely be the Red Sand Dunes where you can do some sand boarding. It is also possible to get to the dunes on your own and give it a go! Here is an article on Culture Trip with some details on tours and how to get to the dunes on your own.
TRY CANYONING IN DALAT
With it’s cooler climate higher up in the mountains, Dalat is the perfect weekend getaway from for some active adventures. Hiking, swimming, biking or white water rafting are just a few of the active adventures you can get into. The most popular activity is canyoning - a mix of hiking, rappelling down rocks, sliding down rapids, and swimming in water holes. There are lots of companies offering tours, so do some research and pick a reputable one.
The canyoning tours will consist of hiking to various waterfalls, rappelling down them, swimming in the water, and riding the rapids. For those of you that regularly hit WODs at CrossFit Tay Ho, this ultimate adventure activity in Dalat will put your fitness to the test! Check out a detailed description of what to expect with this article: Canyoning in Dalat - What it is Really Like
SCUBA DIVE IN NHA TRANG
It is not one of the top scuba destinations in the world, but Vietnam is rising the ranks when it comes to underwater travel. Since most locals and expats are staying put in the borders of the country for the time being, if scuba diving is something you fancy - you can do it here in Vietnam, and Nha Trang is the hub.
Nha Trang is home to over 20 dive operators and will cater to all certification, ability and experience levels. The waters of Nha Trang are calm, friendly and warm. And though you won't see the most awe-inspiring marine life, you will be able to do some cool cavern swim throughs as well as have some run-ins with moray eels and lionfish! Read a bit more on scuba diving in Nha Trang:
DEEP WATER SOLO IN CAT BA
It is one thing to kayak past the giant limestone karsts of Ha Long Bay, it’s another experience to physically pull yourself up the rock formations. Cat Ba is one of the top places in South East Asia to tackle some deep water soloing.
In case you aren’t familiar, deep water soloing is a kind of rock climbing that takes place over water. You don’t use any gear and, and have the safety of the water below to fall/jump back into when you can’t go any further.. Cat Ba Climbing is the go-to source for all things rock climbing in the area. They will get you set up with a guide (highly recommended), and show you the safe and developed routes to climb. Check out Cat Ba Climbing for group trips and guides
SNORKEL IN THE CON DAO ISLANDS
It might not seem like it while you’re in the middle of it (because it's so fun!), but snorkeling is absolutely an active adventure. You can snorkel all along the coast of Vietnam, with the southern islands of the country offering some quality underwater viewing.
The waters around the Con Dao Islands are warm all year, making it an ideal place for snorkeling. The best part is that the reefs are quite healthy and unaffected from the bombings and chemicals during the war. You can join a tour, or head to one of the popular beaches and do some snorkeling straight from the beach. Check out some more detailed information on snorkeling the Con Dao Islands here
KITE SURF IN MUI NE
With rock-free waters and some of the best wind conditions in SouthEast Asia, Mui Ne is a top destination for kitesurfing in all of Asia. In fact, for the last two years it has been the host of the Asian Kite Tour Competition where people from all over Asia come to compete in kitesurfing.
There are tons of schools offering lessons and rentals along the beach. With the main beach in Mui Ne being the most ideal for beginner kite surfers. Check out the Ultimate Mui Ne Kitesurfing Guide to help you plan out this active vacation.
GO CAVING IN PHONG NHA-KE NATIONAL PARK
A UNESCO World Heritage site, the cave systems of Phong Nha-Ke National Park are filled with underground rivers, karsts, forests, and some of the worlds oldest caves. It is an up and coming top adventure destination in Vietnam, with the main draw being camping and exploring the caves.
Of the 500+ caves in the park, only 30 are accessible to travelers (for conservation and safety reasons). The caves range in size and depth and different companies offer different options for tours. It is also possible to explore some of the smaller caves without a guide. Oxtail Adventures are the go-to source for trips and guides, check out their Guide on Phong Nha Travel.
PADDLEBOARD IN PHU QUOC
The water is calm, flat and crystal clear, and with light winds and warm temperatures most of the year, Phu Quoc is a sweet spot to do some SUPing (Stand Up Paddleboarding). Besides being a fantastic workout in itself, paddle boarding through the early morning or evening sunrises/sunsets is a fun and relaxing activity to do solo or with others. Check in with your hotel for possible SUP rentals/instructors.