Photo: Stunning views to be had around the island.

Cham Island

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Eight nautical miles off the coast of Hoi An, a cluster of eight islands known as Cham Island, or Cu Lao Cham, offers travellers a little getaway. The main island Hon Lao, the largest and the only one inhabited, is less than two hours’ away by public boat – or a harrowing zip across by speed boat. It boasts beaches, diving, snorkelling, seafood and one very scenic drive. If you’re impressed with Hoi An’s An Bang Beach, wait until you see Cham’s white sand and sparkling turquoise waters.





Most tourists who visit do so on an organised day tour. It is possible to stay overnight on the island and even camp out in a tent on the beach. But the island does just about everything to discourage backpackers from striking out on their own, while encouraging mass group tours. Talk about environmental impact: on the weekends, this means over a thousand people arrive to the beach like they’re waging an invasion.

A watery escape easily reached from Hoi An. Photo taken in or around Cham Island, Hoi An, Vietnam by Cindy Fan.

A watery escape easily reached from Hoi An. Photo: Cindy Fan

There are several challenge for independent travellers. Foreigners are not allowed to ride motorbikes on the island; the reason we were given is that the roads are too dangerous (indeed, they are extremely steep) but more likely it’s because the island is also a military outpost and the government is forever worried about prying eyes as a spat with China over water territory continues to simmer. Without motorbike or bicycle rentals, it’s very difficult to get around from beach to beach. Then there’s the ridiculous admission fee for the beach and the matter of foreigners getting ripped off on the chaotic public boat. So is a trip to Cham Island worth it?

If you’re a beach bum, then yes, though don’t expect a deserted idyll. And you’ll want to stay overnight so once the swarm of daytrippers and speed boats all depart in the mid-afternoon, you can enjoy the surf and sand in relative peace. Here’s how to navigate the pitfalls and get the most out of a trip to ... please log in to read the rest of this story.


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Location map for Cham Island

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