Cat Ba Island
Though geographically belong to Hai Phong province, the island is only 25 kilometers away from downtown Halong. As the biggest and fully inhabited island in the archipelago, Cat Ba Island is divided into two fully separated parts: the Cat Ba Town alive with tourism activities and the Cat Ba National Park distinctive with rugged jungle and diverse bio-system. One is crowded with tourists while the other is sparsely populated by small villages of islanders.
If your plan is for a leisure beach vacations with swimming, relaxing on the beach, and couple of nights having fun in town then Cat Ba Town is a good choice of stay. The place has all it takes to make your trip complete: resorts and hotels looking out to beautiful bay, sandy beaches and lively night life in town for hanging out with people. But, like any other touristic place, you will have to deal with noises and crowd, pushy local restaurants and aggressive vendors/ motorbike drivers…
For nature lovers and those who wish to avoid touristy places, staying on the other side of the island (Cat Ba National Park) might be a better option. Small houses and villages hidden among the embrace of nature, staying in this part of the island promises to be a peaceful and somewhat adventurous vacation (if you are not a fan of insects, bees, spiders and such…). There are some areas within the National Park available for trekking through. You could explore the jungle, seeing the rich fauna system; and if you are lucky enough, you might run into a Cat Ba langur – a rare and endangered species with only 65 left in the whole island.
Currently, there are many ways to go to Cat Ba Island, depending on which part of the island you want to go to. For the town, one could easily use speed boat or local ferry to get to from Hai Phong. In case you want to go straight to the National Park, there is ferry connecting Tuan Chau port (Halong City) and Gia Luan port (Cat Ba Island) which departs daily. Around one hour on a ferry offers a great time to take in the landscape and enjoying the refreshing ocean air on the way.