Beach Guide: Vietnam
Over the past two decades, the beaches of Vietnam have grown in popularity to become some of the best-loved destinations in south-east Asia. With crystalline tropical water and gorgeous stretches of uninterrupted sand, Vietnam’s coastline has earned a well-deserved place in the hearts of beach-lovers everywhere. Vietnam has something for everyone, with luxury sea-side villas, ramshackle beach-huts, and everything in between.
The quintessential Vietnamese beach-experience is to be found at Nha Trang. A long sandy bay stretches for miles against a backdrop of dramatic mountains, with tiny islands dotted along the shore. It’s the perfect place to lie back in the sun and soak up the view. Nha Trang is a bustling, sleepless town, with a fun nightlife that can get a little seedy in some areas. Further down the shore, the big tourist resorts have taken over – this means the beach is very clean and there’s a little more space, but it can feel commercial and dull. Island-hopping and snorkeling are popular activities, but most people come to Nha Trang just to sunbathe and unwind.
Exploring Vietnam’s China Beach
No visit to Vietnam is complete without checking out China Beach. The northern section of this pristine length of sand is known locally as My Khe, while the southern half is called Cua Dai. The name “China Beach” is a leftover from the war days, when it was a popular R&R; spot for American soldiers. There are countless resorts, hostels, guesthouses and bars scattered across this endless beach-front. You’ll also be close to the hectic sea-side city of Da Nang, which has a vibrant – if somewhat sleazy – nightlife. Diving is generally good around China Beach, and it’s also a great place to try out your surfing skills in the warm South China Sea.
If the crowded tourist spots are too much for you, escape to Phu Quoc Island in the Gulf of Thailand. The island has managed to avoid excessive development, but there are still some stylish five-star resorts dotted along its beaches. The majority of the island is a protected habitat, so there are plenty of gorgeous, untouched beaches to discover. Try your hand at diving, snorkeling or sea-kayaking, and make sure you taste the island’s excellent Vietnamese seafood. And for the ultimate beach getaway, rent a cabin on the remote Con Dao archipelago – a haven for divers, where you’re likely to see beautiful wild sea-turtles and mysterious dugongs.
Beach Guide: Nha Trang
Nha Trang Beach is the perfect destination for anyone who wants an uncomplicated beach holiday: amazing weather, warm water, quality hotels and delicious food. With a big airport and improved bus links, getting to Nha Trang is easier than ever. Whether you want to lay back on your sun-lounger sipping cocktails, or go kite-surfing along the bay, Nha Trang will have something to keep you occupied.
The big tourist complexes are clustered together, south of the main town in Biet Thu. While there are plenty of nice resorts and restaurants in this area – many of which serve western-style food – the endless hotel buildings don’t have much character. However, the bigger resorts do tend to run their own watersports courses. Further north, Cho Dam has fewer tourists and more locals. This part of town is fun, laid-back, and a good place to stay if you’re on a budget. The beach is still beautiful, but the accommodation can be very basic. Since Nha Trang is a big student town, there’s a vibrant night-life here that’s much less seedy than Vietnam’s other big party destinations.
Things to Do on Nha Trang Beach
Burgeoning tourism has lead to a huge increase in the beach activities available at Nha Trang. There’s fairly good diving and snorkeling, especially around the tiny off-shore islands. Even if you’re not a diver, the islands are well worth checking out – the countless secluded beaches make perfect day-trip destinations. Just ask in your hotel or hostel about boat tours. Windsurfing and surfing are both fairly popular – inexpensive boards and sails can be hired at the big watersports centers along the beach. Adrenaline junkies can get their kicks from kite-surfing and para-sailing.
If all that sounds too much like hard work, you should take a visit to the hot springs. There are a handful of spas hidden away from the bustle of town, most of which command a beautiful view of Nha Trang beach. There’s nothing more relaxing than a mud-bath and massage as you watch the South China Sea washing against the sand. If you’re a dedicated sunbather, just remember that Nha Trang can get seriously hot. Locals tend to visit the beach very early in the morning (5am-8am), to avoid the heat, but western tourists can be found basking in the sun throughout the day. Just don’t forget your sunscreen.