Cat Ba Island is in the South of Halong Bay heritage. It includes 367 islands staying in unique beautiful Lan Ha Bay. Cat Ba is only 30 km from Hai Phong City centre and 25 km from Halong City.
Not at all is it a random thing when Cat Ba is also called Pearl Island. With a 70m altitude, and the post to overlook Lan Ha lagoon, Cat Ba lures tourists by its heavenly captivation. With an area of 140km2 and population of 9000 people, it is proud to be the biggest island among the 1,969 islands in Halong Bay. If you are considering a fresh-air and beautiful place to travel, just pack your stuff, stand up and fly to this magic land of blue Sky and Sea!
1. How to get to Cat Ba Island
There are some ways to get Cat Ba Island from Hanoi. You can choose one of the best ways to get there depend on your program & budget as followed guides:
1.1. From Hanoi via Halong
* Mini Bus: from Gia Lam Bus Station (Hanoi) to Bai Chay (Ha Long). Tickets are bought at the ticket counter for 120,000VND. The ride takes 4 to 5 hours with the bus stopping to pick up passengers along the way. If your bus departs Hanoi later then 10:00am it is unlikely that you will make it to Ha Long in time to catch the last ferry to Cat Ba at 3:00pm.
Note: City bus number 34 goes to Gia Lam for 5,000 dong from the following bus stops: Van Mieu, Hai Ba Trung, Opera House, Bac Co, Chuong Duong. Be sure to wait for the bus on the side of the road where the traffic is flowing east or north. Otherwise you may end up on a longer than intended ride around the city. Do not attempt to board bus #34 from Dien Bien Phu. The bus will run to the end of the line in the opposite direction before turning around and eventually making it to Gia Lam making what should be a short trip a two hour ordeal.
* From Bai Chay to Halong City/Tourist Wharf a motorbike taxi should cost 10,000 to 20,000VND.
* From Bai Chay to Tuan Chau Wharf a motorbike taxi should cost 20,000 to 30,000VND.
* From Halong City to Tuan Chau Wharf a motorbike taxi should cost 20,000 to 30,000VND.
* A taxi to any of these locations could be more than double.
* Tuan Chau Ferry to Cat Ba: takes 1 hour and costs 80,000 or 100,000VND with a motorbike.
* Tuan Chau to Cat Ba 7.30; 9.00; 11.30; 13.30; 15.00
* Cat Ba to Tuan Chau 9.00; 11.30; 13.00; 15.00; 16.00
The service depends on demand. First and last ferry of a day will always go. Cat Ba minibus from the ferry terminal, which is on the north of the island, leaves to the main town to the south after every ferry and takes around 30 minutes costing 20,000VND.
Tour boats leave from the Tourist Wharf in Halong and take 4 hours. Route #1 as listed above the ticket counter costs 80,000VND. These arrive at the main town to the south.
1.2. From Hanoi via Hai Phong
1.2.1. By train from Hanoi
Train from Long Bien/Hanoi Train Station (Hanoi) to Hai Phong Train Station cost is 75,000VND - 95,000VND. Trains leave Hanoi at 6.00am, 9.13am, 15.20pm and 18.10pm. A service from the main Hanoi station departs daily at 6:00am only.
1.2.2. By travel bus from Hanoi (including speed boat ticket)
* Inter Bus Lines: They organize the trip to Cat Ba by morden bus. It cost you from 300.000VND to 450.000VND
* Dcar Limousine bus (7-seat): From Hanoi at 7.00AM - 13.00 & Arrive in Cat Ba Island at 12.00AM - 18.00
From Cat Ba at 7.00AM - 13.30 & Arrive in Hanoi at 11.30 - 18.00
* Sleeping bus with WC (40-seat): From Hanoi at 6.45AM & Arrive in Cat Ba Island at 11.30
From Cat Ba at 14.00 on Saturday - 13.00 on Sunday & Arrivel in Hanoi at 18.00
* Hoang Long Bus: depart (from Hanoi) at 7.20, 11.20 taking 4.5 hours (compare: 5 hours for a slow tourist boat just to get from Halong City to Cat Ba's northern port!) and costs 220.000VND - 270,000 VND depending on season. You can buy tickets from their office at 28 Tran Nhat Duat near Long Bien train station, and start your journey from here.
* Goodmorning Cat Ba Bus: Free pick up at your hotel in Hanoi Old Quarter, and taking around 3.5 hours. It costs 400.000VND per person per way.
→ Departure time Hanoi - Cat Ba Island: 07.15, 10.30 and 14.00
→ Departure time Cat Ba Island - Hanoi: 8.30, 12.00 and 15.30
* Bus services provided by Fullmoonparty Cat Ba: Daily guarantee tanking 4 hours by Bus + speed boat + Bus.
→ Hanoi to Cat Ba Departure Time /Arrival Time: 07.30 - 11.30 , 10.30 - 14.30 and 14.00 - 18.00.
→ Cat Ba to Hanoi Departure Time/Arrival Time: 09.00 - 12.30, 12.30 - 16.00 and 16.00 - 19.30
Costs 250,000 - 280,000/person. Combo bus + ticket 2way + 1 dorm bed at Fullmoonparty Hotel with 24USD/ person. Include: Pick up/ Drop off at address /Free Wifi + Water bottle + Cold towel + Bus guide.
1.3. Ferry/Boat (if you're in Hai Phong) to Cat Ba Island
1.3.1. From Got ferry: a big ferry, takes 2.0 hours to Cat Ba Island and costs from 10.000VND to 30.000VND
1.3.2. From Binh Harbor: Taking around 30 - 50 minutes to Cat Ba Island.
* Mekong Hoang Yen Speed Boat: 200.000VND/pax/way; from Binh harbor at 9.00AM; from Cat Ba Island at 14.00
* Cat Ba Island Speed Boat: 220.000VND/pax/way; depart from Binh harbor at 09.00AM, 13.00, 15.00; depart from Cat Ba at10.00AM, 14.10, 16.00
* Viptour Speed Boat: 180.000VND/pax/way; depart from Binh harbor at 10.00AM, 16.00; depart from Cat Ba Island at 07.00AM, 13.00
2. Getting around
You can easily rent a motorbike from any hotel for $5 (standard) per day or less if you look around or visit in the low season.
Buy your petrol at an official petrol station (Petrolimex) so you pay the official price. A small one is located in Cat Ba Town and a bigger one on the left side when you leave the town. The other option is to get petrol in bottles along the streets but it's much more expensive. Don't pay more than 50,000VND for a 1.5L bottle of petrol, which can be bought in some of the small towns as well as near the port area near the end of the town.
Anyone you hire a bike from should give you a photocopied map of the island which will help you with planning.
Local buses across the island leave from the western edge of Cat Ba Town, on the water near the market intersection.
There are half a dozen places to rent bikes including tandems. A ride to the other side of the island for a view into Halong Bay and then back along the coastal road is around 45km. It's worth getting a bike with gears as there are a few hills.
3. Cheap restaurants on Cat Ba
The main beach boulevard is scattered with restaurants and most tourists spend their time in these places. As usually, we were comparing the restaurants and checking the prices carefully as we wanted to avoid the worst tourist traps (it doesn’t make sense to pay 4 times more for basic food, even though Vietnam is a cheap country). Some places offer food for around 100.000VND or even more but we never paid more than 50.000VND for one portion. Luckily there are also affordable and more authentic places even in the main street.
The cheapest food is normally pho, the Vietnamese noodle soup. We wouldn’t pay more than 35.000VND for it. The local pho stands are easy to spot. Fried rice and noodles are also a popular dish offered in every restaurant. In the first evening we stopped in a touristic restaurant and paid 50.000VND for plain and tasteless food but next day we found tasty fried noodles for 35.000VND.
Here are some cheap restaurants on Cat Ba:
* Buddha Belly Restaurant, No.94, 1-4 Street, Cat Ba Town. It's a vegetarian restaurant, charming hosts and very tasty. It also offers excellent day excursions to both the highlights of Cat Ba and off the beaten path locations such as Thien Long Cave, which is only accessible by a short boat trip.
* Phuong Nhung Restaurant, No.184, 1-4 Street, Cat Ba Town. Family run restaurant, super nice people and very cheap. there is only one person cooking on the wok you can see from the street, so you might need to wait a little.
* Phương Phương Restaurant, No.232, 1-4 street, Cat Ba Town (near Nam Dương Hotel). The restaurant has views of the sea, serves Vietnamese food and Europen food.Airy space, at an affordable price. Be wary of very long wait.
* Mr. Zoom hotel and restaurant (Cat Ba island), No.25 Nui Ngoc Street, Cat Ba Town. Mostly good meals, but if he offers you an enormous (2kg) round-looking crab creature thing, save your $35.
The main boulevard is obviously where all the people gather in the evening. Most restaurants and cafes have beer for 15.000 - 20.000VND so you can sit basically anywhere outside and enjoy the night. We were in a kind of grandpa mood and went to sleep before midnight so we didn’t really party. Maybe the hangover after two months in Korea finally hit us…
There are a number of Sea View Bar establishments, much of a muchness
* One of the most popular spots seemed to be Oasis Bar though. We also ended up having a few beers here because they have draft beer for 10.000VND until 22.00. The terrace is very nice and inside you can play pool and foosball. On the weekend the place changed to a disco and it seemed like the whole town gathered to party in Oasis Bar.
* Noble House offers 2 for 1 cocktails and free pool.
* The Flightless Bird is the original bar on the island, run by a New Zealander and going strong for 15 years. The drinks menu includes reasonably priced imported bottles of wine from various parts of the world as well as a straight to the point cheap drinks section. Darts upstairs.
* Rose Bar, (50m up the street behind Noble House). Best Mojito in Cat Ba island. Western music, awesome drink menu, most cocktails 40,000. Brand new with nice atmosphere, and a really helpful, friendly young owner. Pool table for free. Best cocktail prices in town, if you're sick of drinking beer all the time. Open until 2.00AM, rare in Cat Ba. Free beer for women. 30,000 for a nitrous oxide balloon.
* Mr. Zoom hotel and restaurant (Cat Ba island). Good meals for a cheap price.
5. Where to stay in Cat Ba Island
There are many guest-houses and hotels to choose from on the island to suit any budget especially on the harbor road (1/4 Street). You can get rooms with ocean view for a price about $20-$25 in low season and three times more expensive in peak season. Prices are per room, not number of people. Most rooms consist of two queen beds, making it valuable choice for groups. If you opt for budget travel, you should find hostels around Cat Ba Market for around $10.
* My Ngoc, Cat Ba Island (central, waterfront, near the big sign). New, elevator, huge rooms, one comfortable bed and one vietnamese style harder bed, very helpful, friendly staff $10/night during off season.
* Sunflower One Hotel, Nui Ngoc St (central, just around the corner from the waterfront). Three star hotel, many rooms have sea views. It is often used with Halong Bay boat tours when an overnight stay is requested on Cat Ba Island. It is a quality hotel with good food. It has wifi in rooms but can be somewhat unreliable. Its sister hotel of Sunflower 2, which is often used with cheaper Halong Bay tours, is about 1km inland on the same road, and is not as nice.
* Song Chanh, No.178, 1-4 Street, Cat Ba Town. A great value hotel along the main strip in Cat Ba Town. Very friendly staff who can also organise onward travel or tours around the island. Ask for Mr. Thuy, and go on the Cat Ba National Park trek with his uncle. double and twin rooms, low season $10/rm, high season $15/rm.
* Hotel Phu Thanh, No.176, 1-4 Street, Cat Ba Town. New hotel only opened in 2009 with really nice, large, clean rooms. Has free wifi included and satellite flat screen TV. Good showers with hot water that actually have pressure. They also serve some great food in the restaurant during the busier summer months. Friendly staff and family owned and run. Rooms start at $10.
* Ngoc Hoa Hotel and Restaurant, rooms facing the Bay, close to the ferry. Free wifi. Elevator. Fridge and aircon included. Family restaurant downstairs. Tours and scooters available at good prices if you ask, but the staff is not pushy. Their restaurant serves good simple Vietnamese food, soups, noodles, rice. Strong coffee and fruit smoothies. Big beer for under a dollar. 10-15$.
* Le Pont Hotel, 62-64 Nui Ngoc St, dormitory $3.5 per person, rooms $4.5 per person, minimum two persons.
* Mr. Zoom hotel and restaurant (Cat Ba island), No.25, Nui Ngoc Street. Rooms are nice, clean and cheap.
* Monkey Island Resort (Monkey Island - Cat Ba islands), Monkey Island beach, this resort is ideally located at Monkey Island beach in Lan Ha Bay. It is about 10 minutes going by boat from Beo harbour in Cat Ba town. There are 29 room included 8 standard bungalows, 6 gardenview bungalows, 6 deluxe seaview bungalows and 8 comfortable suite seaview bungalows. There are spacious restaurant, game center for playing biliard, pingpong, table football, there are internet and wifi internet too. Kayaking, hiking mountain and playing games here are free.
* Ngoc Khanh Hotel, No. 48 Nui Ngoc Street, Cat Ba Town (A bit further up the street, on the right side, near a small grocery store and a karaoke bar), probably the cheapest hotel in Cat Ba! Very clean, nice double and triple rooms for as little as 100.000VND. Big comfy beds with soft matress, nice bathroom with hot water, excellent wifi signal in some of the rooms near reception, not so good in the rear. Satelite tv, balcony, free pool table downstairs, cheap beers, honest and helpful staff although very limited English meaning you don't get hassled for tours and transport, laundry service $5.
* Sea Pearl Hotel, No. 219, 1/4 Street, Cat Ba town (opposide to Cat Ba Welcome gate on the left). Sea Pearl Hotel located between the main roads of Cat Ba resort, beside dreamy Cat Ba Beach. The hotel has 14 floors include restaurant, spa and bar, The hotel has got many attentions and supports from tourists and partners on around the world. It has 85 luxury rooms with elegant design bring up relax and comfortable feelings as second home for tourists. All front of hotel is forward Cat Ba beach, behind the hotel is room system with distant view cover all resort.
* Cat Ba Central Hostel Backpackers, No. 240, 1.4 Street, Cat Ba town (Bear right off the ferry terminal, along the harbor promenade (harbor to your right). The hostel is about 100m down in the leafy courtyard. Pickup from ferry/bus terminal can be arranged.). Cat Ba Central Hostel Backpackers is family run, offering 42 beds in clean and safe environment, with A/C. Breakfast menu as standard. Situated on the walking route to the main swimming beaches on the direct harbor facing promenade. US$7 Incl. Breakfast.
* Cat Ba Hostel, No. 160, Nui Ngoc St (Head up Nui Ngoc Street (the second one as you walk along the main drag towards the beaches) to near the top, number 160. Nice and quiet. Owner is a local Vietnamese guy called Hieu who speaks great english and is happy to help you out. One of the cheapest in town. Breakfasts are good too Dorm US$3, Private Room as low as $8 sometimes.