Though Hoi An doesn't really market itself as a beach getaway, there are some pleasant stretches of sand located just a hop away.
Once the darling of Hoi An, known for its stunning palm-fringed white sand, views of the nearby Cham islands and lux beach resorts, Cua Dai Beach is now affected by severe coastal erosion and is rapidly disappearing. Though the erosion has been detected since 2004, the condition has accelerated in recent years.
Many resorts have constructed their own protective walls and breakwaters – their rock walls aren’t the most natural sight but they are certainly more attractive than the very unsightly random mix that locals have used to salvage their patch of sand: sand bags, tarps, metal sheet piles, ropes and bamboo.
Cua Dai Beach is located at the end of predictably named Cua Dai Road, running for eight kilometres from the Cham island ferry port north to An Bang beach. At the public section – the first part you see where Cua Dai road meets the beach – there are parts where it is impossible to take a “walk on the beach” without being waist deep in the ocean.
Is it worth it to visit Cua Dai? There are still plenty of seafood places where you can eat and drink yourself silly in between swimming and lounging in the sun – not surprising, these places are desperate for your business. Avoid the places off the beach, which offer lower prices but lacklustre food, and try the places on the coast -- Mama Ly's and Sen to the end of the line of restaurants come highly recommended. You also still get great ocean views and it’ll be quiet – though you can still expect hard core beach traders queuing up to sell you tiger balm and tell you how they struggle to make a living. If you don’t want anything, politely make it clear you are not buying and they will leave. The palm-lined beach road that leads all the way to the tip of the finger of land along the Thu Bon river remains a pleasant bicycle ride.
The conditions change with every shift of the sand so it is best to check before you go – it’s increasingly apparent that if your main purpose of staying at a resort is for the beach, this is not the place. High-end hotels on Cua Da still deliver on the ocean views, swimming pool, restaurants and services – everything but sand between your toes and in your bikini bottoms. Victoria Hoi An Beach Resort & Spa and The Sunrise Hotel have a small, mediocre patch of sand complete with loungers. If you appreciate amenities and finery, you can get great value as rates have dropped over the years and there are discounts to be had.
Whether you choose to eke out on Cua Dai or decide to spend all your time on An Bang, do remember that topless bathing and nudity are hugely insulting to the locals; if you are caught flaunting too much flesh you can face a fine. Bikinis and shorts are perfectly acceptable beachwear. Travellers often get confused by etiquette upon seeing locals swimming fully clothed; this is because of a desire to stay pale skinned rather than a modesty issue. Just keep the swimwear to the beach though, and cover up when you leave.
By Cindy Fan
Last updated on 20th January, 2016.