In an ideal world, breaking a Hoi An stay in two, with a few days at the beach and a few in town, seems like the perfect solution. But what most travellers don’t realise is that Hoi An’s Cua Dai and An Bang beach are just five minutes’ from the old town. Every resort outside of these boundaries puts on frequent free transfers into town; but head in the opposite direction, from town to beach, and you’re on your own — so what you save on accommodation you’ll start racking up in transport if you want to frolic seaside. So where should you stay in Hoi An — beach or town? Here are some tips.
First up, consider the season. Low season (from April to September) is best for beach stays, as waters are calm the humidity in town is high. During high season (from October to March) you are more likely to be met by a tropical shower or two during your stay.
During the flood/typhoon season (October and November) you’d be forgiven for thinking town would be the better option, but in the event of frequent flooding in town the beach resorts are less likely to be under water. Typhoons are rare but if one does hit you’d be better somewhere else.
Next consider noise and sleep. Light sleepers should be warned that the old town has the lion’s share of community speaker systems, which kick into action every morning at 05:00, again at 11:00 and quite often at 17:00, for an hour or so each time. These are broken up with ‘singing’ trash trucks at around 08:00 and the hum of rush-hour motorbike traffic if you are roadside. This can all be avoided by selecting a hotel using Google Earth cameras, checking lamp posts nearby for speakers and then booking a room at the back. The beach escapes all this noise, replacing it during the rainy season with thunderous crashing waves, which can take some getting used to for cityfolk.
If you have kids in tow, resorts tend to offer far more freedom and more suitable accommodation. Most offer kids’ clubs, activities and sitters. In the dry season when the gently sloping beaches are at their calmest, keeping kids entertained at the beach is probably an easier option than having them destroy poolside peace and quiet at the few resorts in town.
Town hotels also tend to be housed in typical Vietnamese ‘tube’ houses, which means lots of stairs, and although family rooms are becoming available it’s difficult to book rooms with an inter-connecting door, meaning the standard set up for kids is to put them up in your room on an extra bed.
The old town wins it hands down for dining options, as you are never more than a two-minute walk from restaurants, street stalls and mobile vendors, and every taste is catered to from local bites through to the international flavours of home. At the beach, you are more limited. Both Cua Dai and An Bang beach have a multitude of Vietnamese restaurants, with a few Western-run establishments thrown in, but dark busy roads make the walk back to your resort far more challenging than during daylight hours. Those staying in resorts further up the coast will be restricted to resort dining or taking the bus into town.
Finally, of course, consider your budget. If your budget allows for less than $45 a night, you won’t be staying at the beach unless you are happy to rough it down at Hoa’s place near the Marble Mountains, where you can grab a basic room for $15. You’ll need to organise a bike as the location is a very isolated 14 kilometres from town, but the beach is incredible. The Cham Islands also offer a few cheap guesthouses, home-stays or a tent on the beach can be arranged by either Cham Island or Blue Coral Dive centres. But for real backpacker bargains town is really the only option. An Bang Seaside Village is the cheapest beach option near town, and although you might find a few resort bargains you’ll still be looking at per night rates spiralling upwards from $70.
Still not sure? The best quality budget hotels are all located midway between beach and town, and all offer free bikes to get around. The best areas to look are Hai Ba Trung Street between An Bang and town, or noisier Cua Dai Street. Room prices can be as little as $12 a night and you are never more than a couple of kilometres from beach or town.
By Caroline Mills
Last updated on 12th December, 2014.