Halong Bay Tour, overnight cruises and tour activities

By Mr Hoang Dinh - March 9, 2023
Halong Bay Tour, overnight cruises and tour activities

Located in the Gulf of Tonkin, northeastern Vietnam. Not too far from Hanoi or international Noi Bai terminal, about 3 hour driving to Halong Bay. UNESCO recognized the World heritage, no surprising that Halong Bay is the hot destination for the tours in Vietnam, the main things to do list on the vacation to explore this amazing bay which is included nearly 2000 islands, limestone karst islands and islet surrounded by vast tranquil green water.

In the past, exploring Halong Bay is just a simple day boat trip, take the tourists to visit some places such as Thien Cung cave, Dog islet, fighting cock islet and incense burner islet. Nowadays, Halong Bay Tour is in another level with varied combined tour activities. Many options for tourists could choose and enjoy their holiday in this World Heritage site.

halong bay cruises

The flighting cock islet - the symbol of Halong Bay

In this article, IZITour will explain detail about the tours and activities in Halong Bay then tourists could find the best one to fits their budget and expectations.

Table of content

1. What Halong Bay means?
2. Halong Bay tour, Bai Tu Long tour or Lan Ha Bay Tour?
2.1 Halong Bay:
   2.1.1 What to visit in Halong Bay tour?
       Thien Cung cave
       Dau Go Cave
       Sung Sot Cave
       Do kayaking in Halong Bay
   2.1.2 How to get from Hanoi to Halong Bay?
2.2 Bai Tu Long Bay:
   2.2.1 What to visit in Bai Tu Long Bay tour?
       Thien Canh Son cave
       Cong Do island
       Ban Chan beach
   2.2.2 How to get to Bai Tu Long Bay?
2.3 Lan Ha Bay:
   2.3.1 What to visit in Lan Ha Bay Tour?
       Enjoy swimming and kayaking
       Discover Caves in Cat Ba island
       Trekking in Viet Hai village
       Visiting Cai Beo fishing village
   2.3.2 How to go to Lan Ha Bay?
3. The best time for Halong Bay Tour?
4. What kind of Halong Bay Tour?
4.1 Halong Bay Tour 1 day by boat
4.2 Halong Bay Tour by seaplane
4.3 Halong Bay Tour 2 days 1 night
4.4 Halong Bay Tour 3 days 2 nights

1. What Halong Bay means?

Halong Bay is the Vietnamese and in English means the Descending Dragon Bay. This is the place where dragons from sky came and stayed.

The legend of Halong Bay:
Once upon a time, there was an invasion from northern enemy. They were so strong and Vietnamese could not fight against them. Seeing this, the Jade Emperor sent the Mother Dragon and her children to the world to help the Vietnamese.
When the enemy boats came to the shore, it was also the time when the dragons descended. Immediately, the herd of dragons sprayed fire and burned the enemy boat and sprayed pearls to form an extremely solid stone wall, causing the enemy boats to crash into pieces.

halong bay tours

The beauty of Descending Dragon - Halong Bay

After defeating foreign invaders to help the Vietnamese, the Dragons had the opportunity to admire the scenery here. So the Mother Dragon decided to stay with the Baby Dragons at the place where the match had just taken place.
And today, the place where the Mother Dragon landed is Ha Long Bay and the place where the Baby Dragons landed is Bai Tu Long Bay.

2. Halong Bay tour, Bai Tu Long tour or Lan Ha Bay Tour?

Besides Halong Bay, the alternative Bai Tu Long and Lan Ha Bay is highly recommended. They are all in a bay and commonly called Ha Long Bay. However, following the cruising route, there will be 3 bays: Halong Bay, Bai Tu Long Bay and Lan Ha Bay.
All three bays are located next to each other, of which Ha Long Bay is the center. Bai Tu Long Bay in the East and Lan Ha Bay in the South include the beautiful  Cat Ba island.

halong bay tours map

Location of Halong Bay, Bai Tu Long Bay and Lan Ha Bay

2.1 Halong Bay:

This is the most popular route, many tourists choose this route for their Halong bay tour. Halong Bay is just 160km and takes about 3.5 hours from Hanoi. Tourists have to arrive in Tuan Chau island there is a pier for cruise itineraries: day trip, 2 days 1 night or 3 days 2 nights.
With 1500 square km total, and 2000 big, small islands. In there, the Halong Bay core is 434 square km with around 800 islands. Only few of them are allowed for tourism activities. Others are preserved for scientific purpose and other research activities.

2.1.1 What to visit in Halong Bay tour?

Halong Bay has not only the beautiful scenery but also the most amazing caves. Tourists could explore the Thien Cung cave, Dau Go cave, Surprising Cave. Or simply relax at Titov beach or wild Soi Sim beach not farway.

Thien Cung cave: Thien Cung Cave is located in the North of Dau Go Island, near Dau Go Cave, 4km south of the cruise pier. This is one of the most beautiful caves in Quang Ninh with an area of nearly 10,000m2, the structure consists of many levels, many compartments, there are countless stalactites and stalagmites with strange and unique shapes.

halong bay thien cung cave

Thien Cung or Heavenly Palace cave - A masterpiece of nature in Halong Bay

Dau Go Cave: Dau Go Cave is located next to Thien Cung Cave. Dau Go Cave has majestic and beautiful stalactites. There are many stone pillars and stalagmites soaring as if reaching to the blue sky. In the cave is a rich flora with moss, ferns, woody plants, ... This is a difference of Dau Go cave compared to many other caves on Ha Long Bay.

Sung Sot Cave:  Sung Sot Cave is a karst cave in the limestone massif of Bo Hon island, this is the largest and one of the most beautiful caves in Ha Long Bay.
Tourists must be "surprised" by its beauty when visiting this cave. The cave was discovered by the French in 1901 and named Grotte des surprises (cave of surprise).

At the mouth of the cave is a calm sea surrounded by Bo Hon mountain. The mouth of the cave is about 25 meters above sea level. The luxuriant foliage covering the cave entrance makes the entrance to the cave even more beautiful.

halong bay sung sot cave

Sung Sot cave is in the route of Halong Bay Tour

Do kayaking in Halong Bay
Kayaking in halong is an interesting activity, you will be closer to nature, explore the beauty of the bay from a different perspective than on a cruise.

Some great places for kayaking in the Halong bay tour program are: Luon cave, Bright and Dark cave, Trinh Nu cave… Depending on the schedule of each cruise, you will have specific and safe kayaking locations.

halong bay tour kayaking

Halong Bay - A great place for kayaking

2.1.2 How to get from Hanoi to Halong Bay?

From Hanoi, tourists will drive along the new highway No5 to Hai Phong city, crossing Bach Dang bridge to Quang Ninh provice the turn right to National road No 18.  Some more few km, they will see the Tuan Chau’s gate in the right hand.

Or from Hanoi, drive along the national road No 1 to Bac Ninh city. From there, turn right to National road 18 and go straigh ahead to Quang Ninh province till seeing the Tuan Chau island’s gate in the right hand. Turn right to go along the road to Tuan Chau Island and arrive in Tuan Chau pier. There, tourists will be welcome the board for their Halong Bay Tour. Halong Bay is the most popular. Consequency, more tourist come to visit and this is more touristy than other bays.

>> Read more: How to get from Hanoi to Halong Bay?

2.2 Bai Tu Long Bay:

Bai Tu Long bay is in Quang Ninh province, consisting of hundreds of large and small islands, located in the Gulf of Tonkin, in the Northeast region of Vietnam. Bai Tu Long Bay includes a sea area of Ha Long city, Cam Pha city and Van Don island district.

The southwest of the bay borders Ha Long Bay, the West borders the mainland of Cam Pha city, the East borders the sea and the Northeast borders Co To island district.

Just like Ha Long Bay, there are hundreds of limestone karst islands in Bai Tu Long Bay jutting from the tranquil blue water. However, the islands in Bai Tu Long Bay seem to be higher. The density of the islands is greater. This bay is less touristy. It adds to the wonderful feeling of being somewhere unexplored.

2.2.1 What to visit in Bai Tu Long Bay tour?

Like Halong Bay, tourists could explore the beauty of Bai Tu Long Bay by cruise routes, visit the caves, do kayaking in the bay

halong bay tour bai tu long bay

A gorgeous Bai Tu Long Bay

Thien Canh Son cave:
The cave is smaller than Sung Sot cave in Halong Bay. However, the shapes of stalactites and stalagmites with its wildness will satisfy any visitors

Cong Do island:
Located in the southeast of Ha Long Bay, 25km from Bai Chay tourist port, Cong Do Island is in Bai Tu Long Bay. The island has an area of 23,363km2 with a peak of 172m high. This is one of the beautiful islands, with many meandering sea valleys, creating interesting natural lakes, home to many marine species such as shrimp, crabs, fish, squid, seaweed, algae ... The southwest sea of the island has a large coral reef with thousands of colors.

Ban Chan beach:
It means the “ Foot beach”. This is an ideal place to enjoy the nature with sandy beach, blue water surrounding by the limestone cliffs and green forest. In addition, tourist could do kayaking in this area. That will bring the special feeling that could be described by words.

halong bay tour foot beach in bai tu long

Ban Chan or Foot Beach in Bai Tu Long Bay

2.2.2 How to get to Bai Tu Long Bay?

To visit Bai Tu Long Bay, visitor will start from Hon Gai pier located in Hon Gai city.
From Hanoi, visitor will go the same way to Halong Bay. However, instead of turning to Tuan Chau pier, visitor will go straight ahead along the national road 18. Crossing the Bai Chay bridge to Hon Gai pier to embark the cruise for Bai Tu Long Bay trip.

2.3 Lan Ha Bay:

Lan Ha Bay is in the southern Halong Bay. It is located off the coast of the beautiful coastal city of Hai Phong and about 30 km from the city center. The bay is located in the east of Cat Ba Island and is an adjacent bridge between Cat Ba Island and the world wonder Ha Long Bay.

From the jetty of Cat Ba Island, it takes about 30 minutes to take the boat to Lan Ha Bay. Lan Ha Bay is compared to a lovely silk strip that is woven by clear blue sea water to the bottom and cool green vegetation. The area of the bay is over 7,000 hectares, however, of which more than 5,400 hectares are under the management of biosphere reserve recognized by the UNESCO - Cat Ba National Park.

halong bay lan ha beach

Irresistible beauty of Lan Ha Bay with many wild small beaches

2.3.1 What to visit in Lan Ha Bay Tour?

Lan Ha Bay is the place which has variety of amazing tour activities cause of wild beauty, not crowded and great density of island, tourist could get closer the island from the cruise. That makes an impressive Lan Ha Bay Tour.

Enjoy swimming and kayaking:
The most attractive activities in Lan Ha Bay is swimming and kayaking as the natural beauty of scenery, beaches. There are many small beaches without tourist in Lan Ha Bay such as Van Boi beach, three peaches beach. Monkey island with larger beach but more crowded.

halong bay tour kayaking

Enjoy kayaking in Lan Ha Bay

Discover Caves in Cat Ba island:
Cat Ba island is the biggest island in the Gulf of Tonkin, Lan Ha Bay and Cat Ba island is a couple that could not be separated. Cat Ba is not only the tourism center, but also the World Biosphere Reserve.

In the Cat Ba national park, tourists could explore the caves such as: Trung Trang cave, Army cave, Thien Long cave, Hoa Cuong Cave… The difference of these caves from other caves in Halong Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay is smaller, tourists do not need boat to visit. Just bike or walk to explore them.

Some of these caves are in the activity list of some cruise for Lan Ha Bay tour which start from Got pier.

halong bay tour army cave in cat ba island

Army cave in Cat Ba island - used to be a hospital during the war

Trekking in Viet Hai village:
This is a village in the middle of Cat Ba island, tourist will have to take boat trip to Viet Hai pier for trekking or biking to discovery this charming village.

Visiting Cai Beo fishing village.
The biggest one in the Gulf of Tonkin. With many houses and fish cages in the bay which is start from Cai Beo pier in Cat Ba island. A beautiful life scenery among the gorgeous nature of the bay.

halong bay tour cai beo fishing village

Cai Beo fishing village in Lan Ha Bay - Cat Ba island

2.3.2 How to go to Lan Ha Bay?

From Hanoi, go along the new highway No 5 to Hai Phong city. Then take ferry to Cat Ba island. From Cat Ba island, tourists will take Lan Ha Boat trip.
Some cruises will dock in Got pier in Hai Phong city, the cruise will start from Got pier to Halong Bay then Lan Ha Bay.

Lan Ha Bay is less touristy, more pristine. The landscape is somewhat more beautiful than Halong Bay with small island and nice beaches in the bay.
However, the minus point is that, there is no amazing caves as in Halong Bay. Lan Ha Bay is suitable for those who love the pristine beauty, quite,

>> Read more: How to get from Hanoi to Cat Ba island?

From above information, tourists could choose for them the suitable route for their cruise trip.
Lan Ha Bay tour, Halong Bay Tour or Bai Tu Long Bay tour? All is also attractive and beautiful. If possible, tourists should explore all of them that would offer you unique and different experiences.

3. The best time for Halong Bay Tour?

Halong Bay is in the northern Vietnam so, there will be 4 seasons of the year: Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Each season has its own beauty. That could make your Halong Bay Tour impressive.

The spring from Feb to April: The beginning of the season is still a bit cold and foggy, but the end of February is warmer and sunny, the temperature is around 20 degrees Celsius. This time is chosen by many tourists to visit Halong Bay.

The Summer from May to August: This is the hottest season of the year, with intense sunshine, an average temperature of 35 degrees Celsius and high humidity, this season is very suitable for sea activities such as swimming and kayaking. This is also the time when many travel and cruise companies offer promotional packages to attract tourists.

halong bay tour in summer

The vivid Halong Bay in summer

The Autumn from September to October: Autumn is a very beautiful time, the weather is pleasant, the sky is clear, neither hot nor cold, the average temperature is about 25 - 30 degrees Celsius. This time is chosen by many tourists to travel to Halong. However, sometimes there will be storms, it will affect the trip, may have to delay or cancel the Halong Bay tour.

The Winter from November to January: This is the coldest season of the year; the temperature sometimes drops to 10 -15 degrees Celsius. This is also the high season because of holidays such as Christmas and New Year. This season is often foggy and this makes a beautiful hazy of Halong Bay.

halong bay in winter

The beauty of Halong Bay in winter

If tourists travel during Christmas Eve or New Year Eve, it would be fun and interesting with some surcharge for gala dinner. To be sure the cruise is available, tourist should check and book in advance.
So which season will you choose for your Halong Bay tour? Every time of the year has good time. Take the best suitable time for your trip.

4. What kind of Halong Bay Tour?

Depends on the scenery, nature and position, there are some kind of Halong Bay tours that tourists could select for their holiday.

4.1 Halong Bay Tour 1 day by boat

This is a day tour to visit Halong Bay. Departing from Tuan Chau pier and going deeply into the bay, explore the natural beauty of limestone mountains and interesting caves on the bay.

The schedule for 1-day trip is from 4- 6 - 8 hours, visitors can choose a suitable schedule. Or with groups of family and friends, they can charter a private boat for more privacy and comfort.

This is very short itinerary, tourists could not enjoy enough the beauty of Halong Bay so it is just for those who have tight time, could not expand 1 or 2 days more for the trip.

4.2 Halong Bay Tour by seaplane

halong bay tour by seaplane

Halong Bay Tour by seaplane

An interesting activity for exploring Halong Bay from above. Tourists will have 25 minutes in the sky to view the panorama of Halong Bay. This will bring a very different feeling and impression. However, the flight time is too short and tourists could not have a real feeling closer to the nature.  And the price for 25-minute flight is also not really cheap.

Tourist could combine Halong Bay Tour by seaplane and both for better experience.

>> Read more for detail seaplane trip with price

4.3 Halong Bay Tour 2 days 1 night

Experiencing Halong 2 days 1 night tour on an overnight cruise will bring a different feeling. Isolated from the world, immersed in beautiful scenery and peaceful nature.

The cruise will take visitors into the heart of Halong Bay with limestone karst mountains of many strange shapes, clear blue sea surface, smooth white sand beaches and mysterious colorful caves.

Tourists will be served full meals on board, participate in activities such as kayaking, cooking lessons, swimming...

The 2day 1night itinerary is a perfect enough schedule to explore Halong Bay. Perfect both in terms of schedule and cost for the trip. This is the schedule that most tourists choose for their Vietnam tour.

>> Read more: Some recommended 2 days Halong Bay Tour

halong bay overnight cruises

Shimmering overnight cruises in Halong Bay

4.4 Halong Bay Tour 3 days 2 nights

Like Halong Bay Tour 2 days. Tourists will enjoy the overnight cruise with the same activities as at the first day and last day. All the activities, inclusions are the same. However, there will be a middle day (the second day), that will be the difference.

On the second day, tourist will transfer to a day boat trip after breakfast in the “Mother boat”. The day boat will cruise deeply inside the bay, closer to the nature. To the places those will be the best for swimming and Kayaking. Or Some cruises will have biking, hiking activities in Viet Hai Village which is in the middle of Cat Ba island.

In the end of the day, the tourists will back to the “Mother boat” for dinner and overnight.
For 3 days cruise, tourist will have more perfect time for their Vietnam Tour in which Halong Bay tour will be the best highlight.

If time permits, do not miss 3 day trip to Halong on cruise. That will be the best recommendation to fully enjoy the most beautiful places and interesting activities in Halong Bay.

>> Read more: Some recommended 3 days Halong Bay Tour

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