Situated south of Nha Trang, Hang Nai is nestled in the mountains on one side and faces the open sea on the other. I’ll concede that Han Rai isn’t an island but it deserves a spot on the list as it consistently stuns visitors with its beauty. Magnificent caves, tall mountains, coral reefs and unspoiled beauty await at this unique spot in southern Vietnam.
Phu Quoc island is already a seasoned favourite for locals and expats looking for a tropical escape from Vietnam’s bustling cities. The island is undergoing massive amounts of construction owing to all of the tourists routinely flocking to its sandy shores and azure waters. The southern part of Phu Quoc can be crammed with tourists, but there are several beautiful beaches in the north that are yet to be ambushed by beach bums. Get here quick before big resorts snap up all of Phu Quoc’s pristine coastline.
This tiny, stunning island lies slightly southeast of Phu Quoc and is the largest of 19 islands in the Nam Du archipelago. This island remains an off-the-beaten-path destination with relatively few tourists. There are no ATMs on the island, WiFi is rare, cellphone service is iffy at best, and electricity is only serviced a few hours a day – so pack a camera and spend some quality time away from the noise and pace of modern city life.
This island in Vietnam’s famous Ha Long Bay has long been a tourist favourite and for a good reason – it is drop dead gorgeous. The views of surrounding rocks jutting out of the calm waters provide stunning scenery you’ll be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.
Con Dao is the name for an archipelago in southern Vietnam, with Con Son island as its largest. Besides the crystal-clear waters and white sand, Con Son’s other claim to fame is the infamous Con Son prison that housed multiple French political prisoners during the Indochina War. It is also where national heroine Vo Thi Sau was executed by firing squad in 1952. The combination of glorious scenery and deep history make Con Son island a fascinating place to visit.
Another untouched beauty, Binh Hung requires some dedication to get to but when you do get there you are met with some of the most gorgeous beaches Vietnam has to offer. There is no hotel of any kind and the seafood is fresh. Visitors looking to stay a few nights can make arrangements with some friendly locals.
Small Ly Son lies an hour’s ferry ride from the south-central coast of Vietnam. Tidy rows of garlic are grown in volcanic soil with a layer of sand on top to protect the crops from the sizzling sun. Naturally, garlic is the island’s staple seasoning. While Ly Son isn’t particularly great for swimming, there are beautiful pagodas, cheap restaurants serving up fresh seafood, and panoramic views of Mount Thoi Loi. However, more tourism also means more trash, and the small island is having a hard time handling it. Do your best to leave as little trash behind as possible.
Cu Lao Cham
The Cham islands are a group of eight islands that have been recognized by UNESCO as a World Biosphere Reserve. It is accessible by a quick canoe trip from Hoi An’s Cua Dai beach. Lush forests, rich biodiversity, mountainous topography and sandy beaches make for a great day adventure from Hoi An. The snorkeling and diving around here is top notch.
This archipelago is the farthest from shore and only accessible through a three- to four-hour boat trip depending on the weather. These northern islands are a popular destination for domestic travelers to relax amidst lovely mid-range resorts and more stunning Vietnamese white sand beaches. Get here before the rest of the world does!
Binh Ba lies 15 km south of Nha Trang and will cost you less than $1 to get there from Cam Ranh port. This island isn’t yet as popular as others so you will enjoy space, fresh air, cheap and delicious Vietnamese food, and alluring beaches. You can also suit up in a life jacket and have dinner served on an inflatable table in the water, if you’re into that kind of thing.
Ba Lua Archipelago
Nicknamed the “Ha Long Bay of the South”, Ba Lua archipelago consists of three large islands (Heo islet, Ngang islet, Nhum Ba islet) and several smaller ones. When the tide is low, you can actually walk the sandbar to another island! Besides the usual stunning features of Vietnamese islands, visitors can have BBQs on the beach and camp on the soft, white sand. Be warned – the island is beautiful and locals want to keep it that way, so littering will not be tolerated. The trip from Saigon requires an eight-hour bus ride followed by a quick ferry.
Vietnamese beaches are the pride of tourism in the country, and all travelers should be mindful when it comes to trash. Leave only footprints behind and you’ll be able to take in some of the best scenery Mother Nature has to offer!