Photo: Binh Tien beach, near Cam Ranh Bay.

Binh Hung Island

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Just off the coast south of Cam Ranh Bay is the tiny rocky island of Binh Hung. It flies under the radar, with scant travel information in English available online and few foreign visitors. As we anchored in a secluded cove on the eastern side of the island and dived off the boat into pristine waters, we were beside ourselves with joy: we had found a secret paradise.

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View of Binh Hung from the Vinh Hy-Binh Tien pass. The island has been called the pearl of Cam Ranh Bay.

View of Binh Hung from the Vinh Hy-Binh Tien pass.

Binh Hung is a 10-minute ride from the mainland. A tiny fishing village inhabits the western side but the rest of the island remains uninhabited and rugged, dominated by craggy boulders, dry scrub and century-old Hon Chut lighthouse.

Binh Hung_floating world_550

Picture yourself floating here.

The wharf to Binh Hung is located in the middle of the Vinh Hy-Binh Tien pass, a 17 kilometre stretch of scenic coastal road in Ninh Tuan province that should be on every motorbike traveller’s Vietnam must-see list. Cam Ranh city is a good base to explore the island as a daytrip: It is 24 kilometres to Binh Tien beach, which is the start of the route, or 30 kilometres total to the wharf.

Follow our instructions on how to get from Cam Ranh to Binh Tien, then continue south along the coast for seven kilometres. The road will dip to sea level – turn left when you see the signs and a beach with boats. The beach itself is absolutely stunning so allow for some time after the boat trip to hang out here.

Allow time for both the island and this beach.

The photo does not lie.

The entrance/parking fee is 20,000 VND. When you enter you will be swarmed by women with business cards trying to push you to their floating seafood restaurant just offshore. The experience can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you don’t understand Vietnamese. Keep cool. This would be a great place for seafood, for the freshness and the view; lobster is the local specialty, raised in farms by the village. But if you’re not interested, just politely shake your head. We counted four restaurants and if you choose one, it includes a free boat transfer to the pontoon. As always, see what’s available fresh in the buckets, confirm the price beforehand, watch them weigh your selection and note it down.

Floating restaurant: if seafood floats your boat, this is the right place.

If seafood floats your boat, this is the right place.

We found Mr Ra and his boat Sang Ra and through a combination of charades, drawing and writing, we negotiated a two-hour boat trip. For example: we drew a picture to show that we wanted to go around the whole island, we wrote down “11:00-13:00” to indicate length of time, we wrote bai bien (beach) and mimed that we wanted to swim. It worked out beautifully.

A closer look at the Sang Ra boat.

A closer look at the Sang Ra boat.

A two and a half hour boat trip around the whole island, with a stop, cost us 450,000 VND. Mr Ra was laidback, smiley and jolly, and his boat was great: spacious, colourful, clean and it even had life jackets and a privacy curtain at the back where you could change. We floated past the village harbour full of lobster farms and small fishing boats, then bounced through the waves of open water moving to the uninhabited eastern side of the island. It was 30 minutes of scenic sailing before anchoring in a petite sheltered reef and cove.

Another day at the office for Mr. Ra.

Another day at the office for Mr Ra.

What followed was an hour of pure bliss, alternating between jumping off the deck, floating in warm waters detached from the bothers of life and peeking at the reef with some basic eye goggles Mr Ra produced. The only thing we were missing was cold drinks – we recommend coming prepared with a few.

A great leap forward for our driver Mr. Tuan, who we invited to join the trip. Mr. Tuan didn't know how to swim but by the end he was jumping into the water.

A big leap for our driver Mr Tuan, whom we invited along. He didn’t know how to swim but by the end was jumping into the water.

We tried but failed to get Mr Ra to take us to the island to visit the village and climb up to the lighthouse. As of September 2015, foreigners are not allowed to simply stop and walk around. The boat captain has to first register you with the coast guard posted on the island (there should be no fee, but your passport is required).

Homestays are possible. 9 Len offers a homestay in the village, including boat transfers, a home-cooked seafood dinner and accommodation, for 1,200,000 VND per person. We can’t vouch for it but we imagine a leisurely day and night on this poor yet bountiful little island would be a unique experience.

View of the modest fishing village on Binh Hung.

View of the modest fishing village on Binh Hung.

Sang Ra boat tour: (0125) 5196 090 0127 819 0419; A 2.5 hour boat trip around the whole island, with a stop to swim, cost us 450,000 VND.

Diem Thu boat tour: (0125) 5196 090; 0916 497 650; Over the phone we were quoted 1,200,000 VND for a 2.5 hour boat tour, with swimming and stop at the village. Add a home-cooked seafood meal, not including lobster, 500,000 VND.

9 Len homestay: (0125) 928 1385 ; (0123) 625 4624; Boat transfers, seafood dinner and home stay, 1,200,000 VND.

If you need a driver from Cam Ranh for the trip, head to Hotel Tan Phu Hung and talk to Ngoc (aka “Ruby”) who speaks a little English, or call driver Mr Tuan directly, who speaks no English but is an excellent driver. His new Hi-Lux truck is solid, has air-con and is comfortable. Price will depend on length of time, number of passengers and distance. To give you an idea, we hired Mr Tuan for a full day, travelled to Vinh Hy and back with a long stop at the island, total of 100 kilometres, for 1,000,000 VND.

Hotel Tan Phu Hung / Mr Tuan: 72 Nguyen Chi Thanh, P. Cam Nghia, Cam Ranh (west of Long Ho bridge); T: (058) 653 5677; (0974) 418 019.

What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Cam Ranh Bay.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Cam Ranh Bay.
 Read up on how to get to Cam Ranh Bay, or book your transport online with Baolau.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Cam Ranh Bay? Please read this.
 Browse the web securely while travelling with TunnelBear. Try with a 7–day free trial.

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