Cat Ba National Park is a favorite place of many local and foreign tourists coming to Vietnam. This park not only leads you to majestically untouched beauty but also offers accommodation and food services in Cat Ba Town. You will not regret trekking across the landscape when visiting Cat Ba National Park, which brings you to the perfect sceneries of mother nature. You can also enjoy the feeling of conquering one of the peaks of Cat Ba islands, Ngu Lam Peak; or you can go rock climbing and deep water soloing above the emerald waters.
An Overview of Cat Ba National Park
Cat Ba National Park is an archipelago located in the north of the Vietnamese seacoast and administered by the city of Hai Phong. It consists of 367 islands in Lan Ha Bay, which adjoins Ha Long Bay, and the largest island is also named Cat Ba with the area of 100 square kilometers. In total, Cat Ba National Park has 17,040 hectares of land and 9,200 hectares of sea.
We wake up early as one of the guys in the dorm room is making a lot of noise packing his gear. I’m guessing he is checking out early but we see him later in the day. Just a noisy early riser. I’m a light sleeper which isn’t such a good mix when staying in hostels. The earplugs I brought will definitely be used on this trip! We get up around 8am and have a leisurely (and free) breakfast outside overlooking the pool. Chilled morning before we head off to Cat Ba National Park.
After breakfast we sort our gear and pack. This seems to take a while. We need to get better and quicker at packing our gear! We check and triple check to make sure we don’t leave anything behind. A result from idiotically leaving the camera on the plane in Hanoi. Mini meltdown later and another trip to the airport, we got the camera back!
Cat Ba National Park
Today we ask for a scooter with some power that would actually go up a hill with both of us on it! (See why here). A quick stop to get 2 litres of petrol and off we go.
The Park is located in the centre of the island, about 8km from the hostel. The road has a lot of hills but today this is not a problem for the scooter and I don’t need to walk! A much more enjoyable journey. When arriving at the park some food stalls try to wave us in for free parking. We are not sure what the catch is so we go to the official car park and pay the 5k dong fee. We buy a kilo of lychees for 10k dong and a small pack of biscuits to keep us going on the trek. It’s always a good idea to keep my ‘hangry’ monster at bay.
Entry is 40k dong each, presumably this goes to the upkeep of the park. As we walk in to the park though, the place looks like it has just been deserted overnight and is very rundown. It reminds me of a zombie movie setting.
According to Wikipedia the park has 32 species of mammals, 78 birds species, 20 species of reptiles and amphibians, 98 species of zooplankton, 196 species of marine fish and 177 species of coral. We don’t seem to be doing well with the animal spotting. We only see big pretty butterflies, one snake and a deer. The Cat Ba langur is a resident of the park and a critically endangered primate, one of the rarest in the world. Unfortunately we can’t see any langurs either.
Stairway to a lush green heaven
There is a tough 18 km hike up to the mountain top but we don’t have time for this so we opt for the steep climb to the two viewpoints. Off we go up the steps, then more steps and some more steps. I’ve come to realise that Vietnam has steps everywhere!
The trek itself isn’t particularly challenging apart from the steps, it’s the only exercise we’re getting since we arrived! At the end it’s more like climbing over huge boulders. Climbing over one of the boulders I manage to puncture my knee. A fleeting moment of dread. What if it gets infected? I rub it with some hand sanitiser and it seems to do the trick. Crisis averted. Flip flops are not advised for this trek!
The humidity is crazy, I look and feel like I’ve just had a shower. It’s advised to leave an hour to climb up and an hour to get back down. We stop lots on the way up for photos so it takes us almost 2 hours up and only about 30 minutes on the way down.
There are two viewpoints. The first viewpoint is amazing providing 360° views over the Cat Ba peaks. The second one takes a further 5 minute hike up more boulders but the view is totally breathtaking. Even more impressive than the first viewpoint. Battling the steps and humidity is well worth it. You feel like you’re on top of a lush green world with no one in sight (except a few other tourists!). It’s absolutely stunning. Pictures can’t capture it’s true beauty.
We want to take some drone footage but run out of time as we need to be back at the hostel to catch the overnight bus to Sapa. Next time.
How and When to Visit Cat Ba National Park
How to get to Cat Ba Island?
Hai Phong city to Cat Ba island: You can take a high-speed ship located in Ben Binh Harbor. The price is roughly 200,000 to 250,000 Vietnamese Dong per person and it takes about 45 minutes to travel.
Hanoi to Cat Ba island: You can use the Hoang Long Transportation Company services. The company will take you from Hanoi to Hai Phong city, then the company’s ship will take you to Cai Vieng Harbor of Cat Ba Islands; lastly a bus will take you to Cat Ba Town center. The total duration is approximately four hours and the total fee is around 250,000 – 300,000 VND.
Ha Long city to Cat Ba island: You will take Tuan Chau ferry to travel from Ha Long city to Cat Ba Island. There is an average of five to seven ferries a day and each one takes about 45 minutes
When to Visit Cat Ba Island?
You can visit Cat Ba Island anytime, but the ideal time is around June and July to hide from the heat of summer.
Pro tips: Local tourists usually come to Cat Ba on weekends and holidays, so you should take your trip on weekdays to avoid crowds, the possibility of running out of accommodations, and increasing price.
Accommodation in Cat Ba Island
Recently, numerous hostels, hotels, and resorts from low to high quality have been built due to the sharp increase in tourism. Here are some recommendations:
Catba Island Resort and Spa
Address: Cat Co 1, Cat Ba Island, District Cat Hai, Hai Phong city
This resort possesses a four-star hotel system built according to Vietnamese and French architecture. It’s a perfect place to enjoy your time in Cat Ba and relax with the spa.
Monkey Island Resort
Address: Monkey Island, Lan Ha Bay, Cat Ba Islands, District Cat Hai, Hai Phong city
This three-star resort is favored by tourists because of its beautiful outside view, tasty food, and friendly employees.
Catba Sandy Beach Resort
Address: Nam Cat Island, Lan Ha Bay, Cat ba Islands, District Cat Hai, Hai Phong city
This resort has many interesting entertainment activities like fishing, traveling on a cruise ship, and water sports.
Hung Long Harbour Hotel
Address: 268, 1 thang 4 Street, Cat Ba Town, District Cat Hai, Hai Phong city
This hotel is near Cat Ba Town center, so it’s easy for you to get around, trying food, and shopping.
Food in Cat Ba Town
With the advantage of having many ecosystems, Cat Ba’s seafood is very diverse and ample. There are some species that only Cat Ba can provide. Below are a few famous indispensable dishes to try when visiting Cat Ba.
Geoduck clam is a rare seafood so its price is quite high and is sold depending on its size. These can be grilled, steamed, prepared with a salad, and eaten with porridge.
Horseshoe crab has a hard outer shell like most other crabs, but it’s flat and is as large as a hand. There are many delicious ways to eat horseshoe crab: soup, salad, noodles, porridge, and fried with lemongrass. Horse crab meat is tough and sweet, and its shell is used to make beautiful souvenirs.
In Cat Ba, cuttlefish is also cooked in many ways: boiling, steaming, soaking in boiling vinegar, and fried. The most famous cuttlefish dish in Cat Ba is grilled cuttlefish.
Bun Tom (noodle soup with shrimp)
Bun tom is one of the special dishes of Cat Ba that attracts many tourists. The main ingredient of bun tom is fresh shrimp from the Hai Phong’s sea. Bun tom is a perfect combination of the sweetness of grilled fish, shrimp, and the broth.
In addition, Cat Ba also has many kinds of dishes using seafood. Here are some restaurants to try and discover these unique foods:
Bamboo Café Restaurant
Address: 199, 1 thang 4 Street, Cat Ba Town
Contact: (+84) 0225 3887 552
Vien Duong Restaurant
Address: 12 Nui Ngoc Street, Cat Ba Town
Contact: (+84) 0225 3888 839
Address: 196, 1 thang 4 Street, Cat Ba Town
Pro tip: You can also visit Cat Ba Market (on 1 thang 4 Street) to find food stalls that serve cheap seafood!