Ha Long Bay and Cat Ba Island
Ha Long Bay
“Towering limestone pillars and tiny islets topped by forest rise from the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. Designated a World Heritage Site in 1994, Halong Bay’s scatter of islands, dotted with wind-and wave-eroded grottoes, is a vision of ethereal beauty and, unsurprisingly, northern Vietnam’s number one-tourism hub.” – Lonely Planet
One of Vietnam’s most visited sites, it’s easy to see how Ha Long Bay earned its fame. Make sure to practice responsible tourism as its popularity has brought with it more visitors, more trash and more damage to the area. Make sure you’re choosing responsible tour operators and if possible taking longer excursions (2 days vs 1) so you can get farther out.
Cat Ba Island
“Rugged, craggy and jungle-clad Cat Ba, the largest island in Halong Bay, has experienced a tourism surge in recent years. ” – Lonely Planet
Enjoy the perks of Ha Long Bay but without the expensive cruises or the party boats (which are supposed to be really fun but was outside our budget and current energy levels).