A 45 kilometre drive north of Nha Trang, Doc Let is everything Nha Trang beach is not. Quiet, low-key, uncrowded, Doc Let also boasts beachfront, ocean-view accommodation. If you dream of tumbling out of your bed at sunrise straight into the sea, this is the place. And what a place.
The turquoise waters of Van Phong Bay sparkle and dreamily slide over soft white sand. Towering palms, small fishing boats and hardly a soul on the beach completes this postcard-perfect scene. Surprisingly, affordable accommodation is to be had and there are a few budget places — not beachfront, but in town.
Getting to Doc Let is as cheap and easy as hopping on the air-con blue-white-yellow public bus #3 in Nha Trang (Nha Trang – Ninh Hoa – Doc Let) which runs once an hour from 06:30-17:30 and costs 24,000 VND per ride. It takes 1.5 hours one-way. Otherwise, head north on National Route 1 for 33 kilometres to Ninh Hoa (birthplace of popular Vietnamese grilled pork rice paper wraps nem nuong) before driving east 10 kilometres to the coast. Having your own transport gives you the flexibility to explore.
In terms of things to do, other than cruelly making your friends green with envy by flooding them with of pics of blue water, hotels usually have kayaks, beach volleyball, sun beds and some even have free vodka for the table – check out affordable Paradise Resort, where in addition to adding cheeky shots to your soda, you can gather some people and hire their boat for a fantastic day out exploring and snorkelling the nearby, virtually deserted reef-fringed archipelago. However, Doc Let is not without its flaws. Resorts clean their sand daily but venture away from the hotel beachfront and you’ll discover that Doc Let suffers the same rubbish problem as so many other beaches in Southeast Asia.
Roll out of bed at sunrise to watch small-scale fishing boats bring in the fruits of their night-time labours, in particular, edible jellyfish bound for restaurants in China. Hop on your motorbike and explore the whole 20 kilometre stretch of coast, from the northern point at Dong Hai village all the way down to Ninh Tinh village, home of backpacker hangout Jungle Beach, an earthy place that some people will find very hard to leave.
Jungle Beach is an isolated, still wild part of the coast surrounded by a fortress of rocky hills clad in dense vegetation. The clutch of rustic shacks on the beach has drawn backpackers to this haunt since 2001 and it remains a popular place to hang-out and chill-out. This is about getting close to nature and escaping the regular world. Living like a hippie doesn’t come cheap though. Maybe once upon a time Jungle Beach was a budget price, but now expect to pay quite a lot for very basic accommodation. If you want more comfortable and solid digs, Wild Beach Resort & Spa is just next door.
If you don’t want to eat the food at your hotel restaurant, then dining will be a minor challenge as there’s not much choice. Having your own motorbike will give you the flexibility to pop into town and find some local eats, or try food at other hotels. Room rates at Paradise Resort and Jungle Beach include all meals.
Across the bay to the northeast, hidden away in an archipelago in Van Phong Bay, lies Whale Island (Hon Ong) which is home to a single resort. Except for the hotel’s 32 bungalows, restaurant and dive centre clustered along a petite cove on the western side of the 100 hectare island, the remaining terra firma is rugged, rocky and wild, fringed with reef and a marine reserve with a no-fishing zone.
The island is almost completely encircled by a piece of the mainland that extends like a giant curled claw, as well as another large island Hon Lon, forming a natural amphitheatre and making it an idyll protected from the elements. The resort itself is a bit of a mixed bag, but the beauty of the locale it beyond debate. Whether you choose Doc Let, Jungle Beach or Whale Island, it’s about relaxation and getting away from it all.
The nearest town with facilities like ATMs, police, clinic and so on is Ninh Hoa, about 11 km away back on National Route 1.
By Cindy Fan. Last updated on 14th October, 2016.