Lan Ha Bay
Lying south and east of Cat Ba Town, the 300 or so karst islands and limestone outcrops of Lan Ha are just as beautiful as those of Halong Bay and have the additional attraction of numerous white-sand beaches.
Due to it being a fair way from Halong City, not so many tourist boats venture here, meaning Lan Ha Bay has a more isolated appeal. Sailing and kayak trips here are best organised in Cat Ba Town.
Cat Co Cove
A 10-minute walk southeast from Cat Ba Town, the three Cat Co Cove beaches boast the nearest sand to town, although rubbish in the water can be problematic some days. Cat Co 3 is the closest, with a blink-and-you-miss-it sliver of sand. From there a walking trail, cut into the cliff and offering gorgeous sea views, winds its way to Cat Co 1 dominated by a rather ugly resort, then onwards to the pretty white-sand swath of Cat Co 2.
You can also walk straight up the hill to Cat Co 1 and 2, or take the tourist 'train' (basically an oversized golf cart; 10,000d) that trundles over the hill during the summer months.
Watersport gear such as kayaks are available to rent at Cat Co 1 and 2. Note that on summer weekends the beaches get packed and litter can be unpleasant.
Cat Ba Island Market
The market at the northern end of Cat Ba Town's harbour is a scruffy local affair with twitching crabs, jumbo shrimp and pyramids of fresh fruit.
Cat Ba National Park
Cat Ba's beautiful national park is home to 32 types of mammal, including most of the world's 65 remaining golden-headed langur, the world's most endangered primate. There are some good hiking trails here, including a hard-core 18km route up to a mountain summit.
To reach the park headquarters at Trung Trang, hop on the green QH public bus from the docks at Cat Ba Town (25,000d, 7am, 11am and 3pm), hire a xe om (around 80,000d one way) or hire a motorbike for the day.
At this 'floating' fish-farm-meets-restaurant at Ben Beo Pier, select your seafood from the pen and it will be grilled, fried or steamed in no time. Prices go by weight and type of seafood; you can eat your fill of a selection of fish for around 200,000d per person.
Bia Hoi Stalls
For a cheap and cheerful night out, not to mention pretty great views of Cat Ba Town's harbour, head to this strip of open-air bia hoi (draught beer) stalls.
With a menu traipsing from steaks to seafood, and over to Italy for pasta and pizza (with a small selection of Asian dishes as well), Green Mango is a decent dinner choice, with friendly staff. It's also a chilled-out spot for a glass of wine or cocktail.
Friendly spot that opens early for almost-passable Western-style pastries. Pop in for a coffee, crème caramel or croissant before the bus-ferry-bus combo back to Hanoi.
Ho Chi Minh Monument
This monument stands up on imaginatively named Mountain No 1; the hillock opposite the pier in Cat Ba Town.