Possessing unrivaled limestone forests and caves, waterfalls, and little streams flowing to the sea, Cat Ba National Park attracts travelers to discover its natural beauty.
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. This park has many different ecosystems: mangrove forests, limestone forests, and coral reef.
There is a diverse fauna and flora system in Cat Ba archipelago with 2,320 fauna and flora species, in which there are 60 especially rare species on the endangered Vietnamese Red List. The Cat Ba langur resident in the park is listed as a critically endangered primate and only resides in Vietnam. Cat Ba National Park is also renowned because of the archeological research that revealed that maybe humans have lived in these islands for more than 6,000 years.
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. If you are in Hanoi and want to visit Ha Long Bay before visiting Cat Ba National Park, our blog also has a guide for traveling from Hanoi to Ha Long, click here to visit the article.
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!
Recommended Trekking Route: Ao Ech – Viet Hai
This route is around eight kilometers long across the lush forest of Cat Ba National Park.
The first section, lasting 100 meters, is the most difficult section because you have to navigate high rising stones. Along the trail stands a lot of big trees. Don’t let the fatigue distract you from enjoying the beauty of the forest. After trekking uphill, you will see a large mass of water stretching out before your eyes under the trees: you are at Ao Ech (literally means frog pond).
Ao Ech is the only flooded forest highland in northern Vietnam. Ao Ech has an area of 3.2 hectares and is 80 meters above the sea level. The water in the pond is so clear that you can see to the bottom! As its name suggests, you can also hear the buzzing sound of frogs.
The next section of trail will be around the limestone mountains cliffs. This is the limestone forest, and you will see many vines interwoven along the ground. After eight kilometers across Cat Ba National Park, you will reach Viet Hai fishing village. Mountains surround this village on all sides and to reach it you can only travel across the sea or go across Cat Ba National Part forest via the trekking route.
When your journey ends, you can take the boats to return to your accommodation to relax and be ready for the next journey.
You will start at Cat Ba National Park main gate and have to provide your personal information (name, ID, passport, and phone number).
Address: Xuyen dao Cat Ba Street, Ward Tran Chau, District Cat Hai
Discover Kim Giao Forest and Ngu Lam Peak
It will take you about 15 to 20 minutes to walk from Cat Ba National Park to Kim Giao forest. The first 500 meters from the garden to the foot of the mountain is quite flat and easy to navigate. Observe the botanical garden with more than 1,500 species in Cat Ba National Park.
From the bottom of the mountain, you start to climb 500 meters along sections of rugged limestone stairs. Exploring Kim Giao may take three to four hours to walk only three kilometers. You will rest in the shade of green foliage, listen to the sound of the wind and the summer choir of cicadas, enjoy listening to the guides detailing the origin of the name Kim Giao: the love story of a boy, Kim and a girl, Giao.
After that, you will continue trekking to conquer Ngu Lam Peak with the height of 210 meters above sea level. The higher you climb, the more difficult the road is, with narrow and slippery paths just enough for one person to walk through. After nearly two hours of climbing, you can reach Ngu Lam Peak. Now, you can take an expansive picture of Cat Ba National Park from above and immerse in majestic nature.
Kim Giao Forest with the untouched beauty and various kinds of flora and fauna will bring you to a peaceful atmosphere with interesting experiences for those who loves adventures.
The route also starts at Ca Ba National Part main gate. The address is above.
Challenge Yourself with Deep Water Soloing
This is an extreme sport executed on the side of dangerous cliffs over the sea, you can fall back into the water if your hand or foot slips. Cat Ba Islands are considered the heaven of deep water soloing because it’s not too hard to climb the cliffs with bare hands and the sea is deep enough to be safe. This is a sport of strength and nimbleness, just a second of inattentiveness will cause you to fall right away. You have to be clever to coordinate your hands and legs, and most importantly your mind!
For beginners, the common height is 10 meters above the sea level, but it’s 30 meters for professionals. While climbing requires calculations, cleverness, and strength, falling to the sea brings a feeling of freedom and comfort: a new experience of free fall from the height of dozens of meters.
For many people, deep water soloing is a sport that helps them find their limits and try to break their own mental and physical barriers. It’s not only an extreme sport, it’s a challenge to your psyche.
You can experience deep water soloing with Mr. Zoom Company:
Mr. Zoom Backpacker Hostel
Address: 25 Nui Ngoc Street, Cat Ba Town
Contact: (+84) 0225 36 96 230
Cat Ba National Park is really for those travelers who admire the full beauty of the wild mountains and forests. You can immerse yourself in the amazing scenery of nature which is hard to find in any place on the planet.
Follow our blog to get further information and tourism tips about Cat Ba National Park and Vietnam. Some recommendations for you:
Everything About Ha Long Bay – Vietnam’s Wonder of Nature
Hidden Charm of Vietnam: The Floating Fishing Villages in Ha Long Bay
The Best Ha Long Bay Tours For Different Travel Styles & Budgets
If you enjoyed reading this article and would like some more fun info about what to see, do and eat (and a bunch of interesting cafes!) in Vietnam, follow us at the Christina’s blog!