Cruising and Kayaking in Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay was one of those places that I knew I wanted to visit in Vietnam, but I wasn’t sure that I would like it. It is undoubtedly some of the most stunning scenery in the world, however a lot of people describe the area as “tourism gone bad”. For this reason we decided to avoid taking a typical Halong Bay tour from Hanoi or Halong City and instead headed to Cat Ba Island, where we booked a cruise through Han La Bay and then into the more remote parts of Halong Bay. This turned out to be an excellent decision.

Cruising through the limestone karst islands and floating fishing villages of Han La Bay was amazing, and it is very quiet when it comes to tourism. We didn’t see a lot of other boats, and there was none of the rubbish that I heard plagued Halong Bay.

A limestone spire in Halong Bay, Vietnam

A tiny limestone karst island in Halong Bay

Boats cruising through Halong Bay, Vietnam

Boats cruising in Halong Bay

We started our journey into Halong Bay in the late morning, cruising through calm warm waters with limestone karsts towering above it. We dropped anchor in a calm bay where it was time to hop off the boat and into a kayak.

A boat at anchor in Halong Bay, Vietnam

A boat at anchor in the sheltered bay

People kayaking in Halong Bay, Vietnam

People kayaking

We paddled through the calm water towards a huge cave in one of the cliffs of an island, and when we got closer I saw that it was actually a tunnel to the other side of the karst. It was darker inside and I felt drops of cool fresh water fall down on me from the stalactites above. When we emerged back into the sunlight on the other side, I found that we were in a secluded lagoon. This tunnel is the only way in.

Exploring the lagoon, we paddled towards what seemed to be a dead end, but I could see the kayaks before me suddenly disappear. When I got closer I saw that there was another cave, this one much smaller and tighter than the last, and I couldn’t see where it ended.

Kayaking in a lagoon in Halong Bay, Vietnam

Kayaking in a secluded lagoon

The tide was rising which made the water in the tunnel rush like an underground stream, and it was difficult to avoid hitting the rocks on the side of the cave. We had to use our paddles to push off the rocks a few times but eventually found our way through the exit, where we found ourselves in yet another secluded lagoon, this one much smaller. I could almost feel the tall cliffs above closeing in on me, but it was truly beautiful.

The only way out was to go back the way we came, but paddling against the current made it a whole lot harder. By the time we reached our boat, my arms were glad to get a rest.

After having lunch with the stunning scenery around us, we continued on cruising through the beautiful bay, a maze of waterways between the tall islands.

A small fishing boat in Halong Bay, Vietnam

A small fishing boat

We pulled up at one of these islands for a short hike, where we found ourselves in yet another cave which made us emerge higher up on the island. I short walk further and we had a stunning view out across the bay, along with another hidden lagoon. If it wasn’t for the other tourists around, it would have seemed like an untouched paradise.

Walking through a cave in Halong Bay

Walking through the cave

View of Halong Bay in Vietnam

The view from the island

View of a hidden lagoon in Halong Bay, Vietnam

The hidden lagoon

Our cruise continued on through the bay on the way back to Han La Bay and Cat Ba Island, and on the way we stopped in another sheltered spot for a swim. It was just a matter of jumping off the boat into the lovely warm water. It was like a bath and I could have floated there for hours.

This really is just a stunning part of the world, and I am so glad that I decided to come here. Don’t miss it if you travel to Vietnam.

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17 comments… add one
  • eemusings Jun 14, 2013

    We’re heading to Halong on Sunday, and that’s exactly what I’m afraid of, too. We’ve booked a tour with a reputable company, though, and I’m prepared for it being crowded on the water and for it to be polluted. (Thought about DIY-ing the trip, but apparently it’s difficult and not much cheaper.) Even if it’s not picture perfect, I’m sure it will be memorable.
    eemusings recently posted..Couchsurfing: our first experience abroadMy Profile

    • Dean Wickham Jun 16, 2013

      It is hard to know which company to go with and what you will get for your money. If they are a reputable company then I’m sure it will be fine. Either way, Halong Bay is simply stunning and well worth the trip. I hope you cruise goes well!

  • Debbie Jun 15, 2013

    Halong Bay looks absolutely stunning. Would love to experience it. Wonderful photos!

  • Wasn’t kayaking fun?! Glad you guys had clear blue skies.
    Audrey | That Backpacker recently posted..Budgeting As A Couple: Sharing Expenses When You TravelMy Profile

    • Dean Wickham Jun 16, 2013

      Hey Audrey. It was a lot of fun! We were really lucky with the weather for most of our time in Vietnam.

  • Sherry Jun 16, 2013

    Wow! I’ve always wanted to go to Viet Nam for the food. But this makes me want to explore beyond my taste buds. Such beautiful landscapes.

    • Dean Wickham Jun 16, 2013

      Hi Sherry. Vietnam really has so much to offer from beautiful landscapes, amazing food and an interesting culture. You should definitely go

  • Jennifer Jun 16, 2013

    Great photos, Halong Bay is beautiful!
    Jennifer recently posted..The best of Australia and New Zealand cruisesMy Profile

    • Dean Wickham Jun 17, 2013

      Thanks Jennifer. It is a very beautiful place. It’s hard to take a bad photo there.

  • Dan Jun 19, 2013

    Looks incredible. I love the way the rocks look as though they are floating on the water in the landscape shots
    Dan recently posted..Our USA National Parks Wish ListMy Profile

  • Wow, that looks spectacular! I have always wanted to travel Vietnam and hopefully one of these days. Would love to experience those fun moments too. Lovely photos!

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