Southern Vietnam’s coastal city of Vung Tau makes for an interesting, easy and cheap daytrip from Saigon — go by hydrofoil, see the sights, have a splash at the beach and enjoy the food. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do it.
To make Vung Tau and back in a day, travel by hydrofoil. Catch one of these boats, which run every hour between 6:00 and 16:00, on Ton Duc Thang across the street from the Majestic Hotel. The boat ride takes a little over an hour, so if you catch the first boat you should get to Vung Tau around 07:15. The hydrofoils tend to fill up quickly, so we’d suggest booking a round-trip ticket in advance, either at the ticket office in front of the dock or, for an extra charge, at a travel agent on Pham Ngu Lao.
Once arriving, most people will hop in a taxi and head to Back Beach to hit the sand. While not the most beautiful beach in Vietnam, Back Beach is better than nothing if you’re in need of a beach fix. Here you can swim, rent a 5,000 VND beach chair or grab a bite to eat on the beach. This is a popular spot for Saigon locals and can get crowded, especially on the weekend. The crowds can be avoided by either taking your daytrip mid-week or heading to the Imperial Hotel’s Beach Club, where 200,000 VND per person will give you a towel and access to a selection of comfortable beach chairs on a stretch of beach with fewer people. You also get access to a fancy pool as well as a shower to clean up.
If you’re done with the beach, you may have time to check out a few of Vung Tau’s sights. Of the more popular attractions, the 32-metre Christ of Vung Tau is likely the most recognisable. Situated at the top of a hill, you’ll have to hike your way up a series of stairs; packing water and a comfortable pair of shoes is a must. Be warned, the statue is treated like a church, with a dress code, so no tank tops allowed (shirts are for sale here if you forget). Once inside the Jesus, a staircase inside takes you all the way to his shoulders and you can look down upon the city below.
On top of a neighbouring hill is Hai Dong, Vung Tau’s still-functioning, French-built lighthouse. A somewhat small building that has seen better days, 20,000 VND will give you inside access to the house. Although it isn’t exactly awe inspiring as a building, the views from the hill of Vung Tau below are quite remarkable. Plus, you don’t have to hike up the hill; a long winding road takes you to the top. The road is paved, but it is quite the ride time wise. If you catch a taxi, make sure you have the driver wait for you to take you back, because you wouldn’t want to wait for another to come up and it’s a long walk down.
You could also stop by Vung Tau’s Ho May Eco-Tourism Park, also known as Cloud Lake Resort, on the hill known locally as Big Mountain. A park with a little something for everyone, you can spend your time here relaxing around the resort’s large central lake, checking out their collection of animals, including ostrich, porcupine and wild boar, or enjoying the alpine rollercoaster and zip lining. This hill is accessible by cable car and, like the hilltops of the Jesus and lighthouse, the views here are also quite impressive. Unlike the other two hills, the view and access to the park will set you back 300,000 VND.
Ho May Eco-Tourism and Cultural Park
By Max Murta.
Last updated on 8th February, 2017.
The Travelfish newsletter is sent out every Monday and is jammed full of free advice for travel in Southeast Asia. You can see past issues here.