I just spent the last 2 months traveling from Ho Chi Minh City to the very Northern reaches of the Vietnamese border with China. Along the way, I repelled down waterfalls, jumped off of cliffs, kayaked through caves, biked over mountains, and hiked through a sea of terraced rice paddies. When it comes to adventure travel, Vietnam has plenty of options. This article covers 8 of the best outdoor activities to take advantage of throughout the country (the list is ordered by South to North).
Canyoning in Da Lat
Da Lat is a mountain city with a European vibe north of Ho Chi Minh City. The cooler weather and surrounding terrain make it an ideal location for outdoor adventures. The canyoning tour can be booked through most of the tourist offices and should cost $30-40.
Just 20 minutes outside of the city, a guide will take you through a full day of abseiling, trekking, swimming, cliff jumping, and natural water slides. Try to book the earliest tour of the day. You may need to shop around at different offices to see which company has the first tour that day (they had some sort of rotation when I was there).
Snorkeling/Diving in Nha Trang
Nha Trang is a huge beach destination for Russian and Chinese tourists. There isn’t too much to explore culturally and most things are heavily geared towards family vacations. However, Nha Trang is one of the only places in Vietnam to go for good scuba diving and snorkeling.
I booked a $16 snorkeling tour through my hostel, which had around 15 people total. It included three separate stops for snorkeling, lunch, and free time to swim or hang out on the boat. Colorful reefs and schools of fish cover the ocean floor in the shallow waters off of the islands. Jumping off of the second floor of the tour boat is also always fun.
Motorbiking Song Tra Mountain in Da Nang
I might be a little biased towards this day-trip to the peninsula in Da Nang because it was my first time ever riding a motorbike – but it’s pretty awesome. I rented a scooter for the day for just a few dollars in Da Nang and set out for the giant lady Buddha statue on the Son Tra peninsula.
After stopping at the temple, roads get narrow and dense vegetation rises on both sides up the mountain. Ban Co Viewpoint is the pinnacle of the trip. Park your bike in the small lot and walk up to the peak. The view of Da Nang’s sprawling buildings with the giant statue in the foreground and the distant mountains is unforgettable.
Exploring Caves in Phong Nha-Ke Bang
Phong Nha-Ke Bang national park has recently become a top attraction in central Vietnam. With the largest cave in the world recently discovered in the past decade or so and the longest cave in Asia (Paradise Cave), tourism is booming. The day-tour to Paradise Cave and the Dark Cave cost me around $50-60.
Striking stalagmite and stalactite formations run throughout the walking areas in Paradise Cave. One zipline over a crystal blue river takes you into the depths of the dark cave to play in the mud. Slippery climbs and mud slides in the dark lead to a large mud pool that provides the same sensation as floating in the Dead Sea of Israel.
Trang An Grottoes and Hang Mua Stairs in Ninh Binh
On the way north to Hanoi, Ninh Binh is the perfect opportunity for a quick day trip of outdoor activities. The Trang An Grottoes are a string of seven caves beneath limestone mountains along a river. A small boat tour (four people in a canoe, essentially) weaves through the grottoes and to three hidden temples along the route.
A short distance away, the Hang Mua Stairs provide a more active journey up 500 stairs to an amazing lookout over the karst formations, rivers, and farmlands. The steep, white stairs are a little tricky to climb, but the 360-view from the top makes up for the lost sweat. These two activities combined should run around $12-15.
Kayaking in Ha Long Bay
To be honest, my cruise through Ha Long Bay did not provide a lot of adventure opportunities. I mostly sat around and drank on a boat while looking at the beautiful scenery. Tough life. However, when I did get the chance to take a kayak out for a couple hours to explore on my own, it was a surreal paddling up next to the giant limestone islands jutting out of the bay. This activity should be included in the price of your trip to the bay.
Ha Giang Motorbike Loop
If you are ready for a multi-day, 400 mile motorbike ride, the Ha Giang Loop is the best adventure to do in Vietnam. The loop can be completed in different directions and with different stops depending on your preferences. Main pit-stops throughout the northern province include Ha Giang, Dong Van, Lung Cu, Meo Vac, Bao Lac, and Ba Be Lake. The only costs are renting a motorbike ($8/day) and gasoline ($2/day).
The ride snakes around mountain passes overlooking massive valleys of terraced rice and corn fields and hidden Hmong villages. Ba Be National Park also has outdoor activities like trekking, kayaking, and swimming, which is a great way to take a break from riding.
Trekking in Sapa
Also located in the north of Vietnam, Sapa is well-known for its beautiful paddies, mountain treks, and Hmong villages. The best way to trek to the villages and spend the night in the mountains is to find a homestay with one of the Hmong families. I did a two-day, one-night homestay for $30 that included two long treks in the mountains and three meals.
If you want to complete longer treks and visit some of the waterfalls in the mountains, ask around the Hmong families in Sapa about which guide is the best to stay with. Each homestay can offer a different experience in a different village with different itinerary.
To check out even more travel adventure activities from around the world , explore some of the awesome adventure articles by The Roaming Renegades.
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A 26 Year old’s Guide to Outdoor Activities and Adventures in Vietnam was written by Pete Vrouvas of TheOnlyPete.com. Pete is a California-based backpacker, food lover, beer drinker, and adventurer focused on sharing experiences and tips on travel, technology, and food.