As one of the largest islands in the Halong Archipelago, Cat Ba Island offers a variety of awesome alternative experiences for you to discover. Whether you like caving, swimming in beautiful sand beaches that offer bioluminescence at night, boating around the magnificent archipelago, or experiencing new food from a local hidden gem, many options are readily available for you. The best time to visit the island is in low season, meaning October and November. During high season, it may be more difficult to experience some of the following alternatives! Nevertheless, here are 5 fun alternative things to do in Cat Ba.
5 Alternative things to do in Cat Ba
If you feel like veering off from the tourist track, you can easily do so by experiencing these 5 alternative things to do in Cat Ba. Simply rent a motorbike for the day for $4 and go explore some of these!
1) Dong Trung Trang Cave
If you want to experience something a bit freaky and definitely adrenaline pumping, I invite you to check out this unmanned caved. Maybe it was only unmanned because I travelled during low season (October), but it was honestly a great experience and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to see a cave in its truest form (without lighting everywhere). For this, you need to have at least 2 people with fully charged phones or with headlights (don’t go in with only 1 light as if it goes out you will be stuck in pitch dark). Here are some pictures taken during our trek across the cave. Hopefully these will serve as a guide for you.
When you see this gate, simply walk towards it and a path going around it will appear on the left side. No need to jump, climb, or do anything illegal to get inside!
Going down into the deeper parts of the cave! Doing this without a headlight was quite scary!!
When you first walk into the cave, if you choose to turn right, you will quickly arrive at an open area that has natural lighting from the sun. This seemed like the perfect place to go for a picnic or even spend a night!
In the event that you go and it is open and the lights are on, then I would still recommend it as it is a much smaller cave offering you a different feel than those massive caves like that of Phong Nha Ke Bang.
2) Dong Hoa Cuong Cave
As of October 2016, this cave is still under “development” meaning it will soon become a main tourist attraction. I asked one of the workers and from what I understand it won’t be ready for another year. This gives you 1 year to go check it out while under development, which is awesome as you feel like in a work camp in a cave! As opposed to the Dong Trung Trang Cave, this one is much larger and offers you a feel for something different.
Although there is a large fence in front of the entrance, the workers will let you go in through the small hole in the bottom right.
If caving is your thing then there is also a more touristic option that is also certain to leave you surprised, which is The Hospital Cave. This cave was used as a bunker and medical center during the war, so you can still see patient rooms and feel like in the movie Saw!
3) Take the Scenic Route by Motorbike
The third of 5 alternative things to do in Cat Ba is to motorbike around the coast line. They are currently rebuilding these roads, so you can expect a lot of gravel and unfinished roads. Although it’s not the easiest route by motorbike, it is by far the prettiest with all the small islands bulging out from the depths of the sea. Expect the incessant thumping of the suspensions on your bike, due to the gravel roads. All in all, I think the discomfort is still worth it, giving you the ability to see the grandeur of this bay from a landlocked perspective.
4) Try this specific hole in the wall – Cat Ba Qua Vat Restaurant
This restaurant is a hidden gem, buried around about 25 restaurants that offer lower quality and more expensive food. Cat Ba Town’s food is certainly not comparable to that of Hanoi or most other places in Vietnam, but this one restaurant does compete. I tried local foods here that I haven’t seen anywhere else in Vietnam, namely the Banh My Chao (Dish of the Day) which seems to be a slightly different variation of the same dish every day. I went to this restaurant 4 times in 1 week, because I liked this dish so much!!
BANH MY CHAO IS SO GOOD!
Everything we tried on the menu was authentic and left you wanting more. The price to quality ratio is out of this world considering you are an island where everything is more expensive.
5) Bioluminescent Plankton in Cat Co Beach 2 – Personal Favourite
After enjoying a great Banh My Chao, you should go check out the bioluminescence out on Cat Co Beach 2. If you enjoy swimming with fluorescent plankton then this is a must. Same goes for those who have never experienced it. The experience was so magical that I wrote a whole article about it! I invite you to read more about the fluorescent plankton in cat ba.
Other than the 5 alternative things to do in Cat Ba that are listed here, there are many other awesome things to do on this island, which are a bit more touristy but still really great. I invite you to read This American Girl’s article about the secrets of Cat Ba Island, which outlines most of the other awesome attractions around the island.
A Must While Staying on Cat Ba Island
To finish off, please don’t leave the island without doing at least a 1 day tour of the Halong Archipelago! Lan Hai Bay, Halong Bay, and Bei Du Bay are all part of one massive archipelago that is comprised of over 2000 islands. They come in all different sizes, from kilometres large to simply 1 rock bulging out of the water. Furthermore you should try to go as soon as possible, as its unfortunately becoming more and more poluted with plastic, which is taking away from the beautiful view and hurting the unique ecosystem. I genuinely hope some type of conservation initiative is put in place to conserve the natural beauty of one of the world’s true wonders.
Hanging out on a boat tour of the Ha Long Archipelago.
Islands here come in all shapes and sizes!
For $13, you can get a full day (8AM-5PM) of exploration, which includes your lunch. If you want to drink, buy your water and beer in town ahead of time as it’s twice the price out on the boat. Your few hours on this boat are certain to become some of the best memories of your trip in Vietnam, as this Archipelago is truly something else. If you have ever been, I invite you to comment on your experience and add any relevant activities that I may have missed!
Until next time,
The Alternative Ways aims to become the #1 guide to alternative travel experiences. What’s Alternative Travel? Traveling becomes alternative as soon as you leave your comfort zone and experience awesomeness. Our mission is to give you the necessary tools and inspiration to step out of this comfort zone and travel, so you may find your true way. If you enjoyed this article we invite you to like our facebook page and subscribe to our monthly newsletter.