Sadly there aren’t any world class beaches close to Saigon. To reach them you need to catch a flight. While this is not too bad since domestic flights are cheap, sometimes you want to get on a beach fast.
Fortunately the seaside town of Vung Tau is a short two hour bus ride from Saigon. It has sandy beaches and plenty of fresh seafood. And it’s cheap. As a matter of fact, lately I’ve been going to Vung Tau once per month so I’ve had plenty of time to explore this great city. Let me share with you some things to do in Vung Tau.
How to Get There
Getting to Vung Tau from Saigon is easy. My preferred way is using the Hoa Mai limousine buses. The buses are comfortable, leave every 15 minutes, cost 140k VND and drop you off at your hotel. Unless it’s a big holiday I never reserve a seat. I just walk over to their office close to Benh Thanh market and wait.
Another option is the ferry. I’ve never taken it but some friends prefer them over the buses. Currently there are two companies that run ferries from Saigon to Vung Tau: Pacific Express and Greenlines. Prices ranges from 200k to 250k VND.
Where to Stay
It doesn’t really matter where you’re staying. The city is not large and taxis are cheap. I do prefer to stay at Front beach because I think the best restaurants are located there. In addition there’s an excellent live music bar called Fang Pub nearby.
If you want to stay closer to Back beach I recommend the area around Tượng Đài Liệt Sỹ traffic circle. It’s just a short walk to the beach and there’s a large shopping mall called Lottemart nearby.
Once I stayed at Lan Rung resort on the southern tip of the city. The resort was great but the area didn’t offer that much in terms of restaurants and entertainment beside what was inside the resort.
Vung Tau is located on a peninsula stretching in a north-south direction. Front beach is located on the western side and Back beach on the eastern side, connected by a road called Hoàng Hoa Thám. Due to offshore oil and gas drilling, the water in Vung Tau is a bit murky. But it’s perfectly safe to swim here.
If you take a taxi between the two beaches, tell the driver you want to take Hoàng Hoa Thám road. Otherwise he may take you for a ride around the southern tip. While this is scenic it will cost you extra money and time.
Front beach is on the western side of the peninsula. Its the smaller of the two and not many tourists find their way here. Mostly local Vietnamese. It’s less windy than Back beach and at the nearby park you’ll find some outdoor gym equipment.
This is the larger of the two beaches and my preferred place to hang out. The beach is stretching far and has many beach chairs for rent.
Let me tell you a secret. Imperial Hotel has an awesome private beach club. They have excellent beach chairs and and two private pools. The price is 350k on weekends and 250k on weekdays. Well worth the price if you ask me. Once you are inside the prices at the restaurant and the bar is reasonable.
So are there other things to do in Vung Tau? Well to be honest not that much. It’s a place where people go to hang out at the beach. But there are a few other things to do in Vung Tau and let’s start with the markets.
The main market is called Vung Tau market and is located close to Lottemart in the northern part of the city. Here you’ll find the usual tourist souvenirs but the majority of the market caters to the local Vietnamese. It’s fun to stroll around the narrow stalls and discover locally produced products.
There are a few modern shopping malls in Vung Tau. In my opinion the best ones are Imperial Plaza and Lottemart.
One interesting temple is the Whale Temple. It’s located on Hoàng Hoa Thám and is famous for the many fishermen that come to worship whales as good luck. The temple has a huge whale skeleton and could be interesting if you never seen such a thing before.
Another temple worth a visit is Thích Ca Phật Đài in the northern part of the city. It features a few large Buddha statues and is very peaceful. A perfect place to meditate. Not many tourists find their way here.
There are a couple of places where you can catch great views. My favorite place is the Jesus statue in the southern part of the city. Be warned that it’s quite the climb up the hill to the statue. And the narrow staircase up to the top of the statue is not for the faint-hearted. But it’s worth it. The view from the top of the statue is amazing.
The second view point is the lighthouse and here you don’t need to climb. You can take a taxi or drive your motorbike up to the top. Make sure to watch the sunset from up here. Very beautiful.
In addition there’s a small museum called upside down house where you can take cool photos. But it’s only worth a visit if you have some extra time.
While there are better beaches in Vietnam, Vung Tau is worth a visit if you’re looking for a weekend trip out of Saigon. Not many people have found out about this beach town yet so there won’t be big crowds like at Nha Trang. There are also other things to do in Vung Tau that will keep you busy.
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