Photo: Vung Ro Bay is a deep-water harbour that's loomed large in Vietnam’s maritime history.

Dai Lanh Cape & Vung Ro Bay

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Dai Lanh Cape (Mui Dai Lanh) is the easternmost point of mainland Vietnam, worth the 30-kilometre journey south not only for milestone bragging rights but also for the terrific view and equally terrific beach.

Dai Lanh and Vung Ro Bay can be done as a day trip from Tuy Hoa, or en route if you’re travelling on motorbike/bicycle between Tuy Hoa and Nha Trang/Doc Let. Rather than take Highway 1A, the scenic back road makes for a pleasant coastal journey where you’ll encounter little traffic and jaw-dropping sections of wide-open wild beach.

View over Bai Goc Beach. Photo taken in or around Dai Lanh Cape & Vung Ro Bay, Tuy Hoa, Vietnam by Cindy Fan.

View over Bai Goc Beach. Photo: Cindy Fan

The route from Tuy Hoa heading south: Take Hung Vuong Street south and cross the Hung Vuong bridge over the Da Rang river towards the airport. At the roundabout, veer left and the road runs past the airport and down parallel to the coast—there are no views along this 14 kilometre stretch but it’s nicely paved and virtually vehicle-free.

Crossing the bridge over the Da Nong river is an impressive length of undeveloped coast known as Bai Goc beach. At the far end, the road rises for an excellent photo op and a vantage to the small beach, Bai Bang, on the other side. Don’t be surprised if it is completely empty.

Swimming is suitable year-round at beautiful Bai Mon Beach. Photo taken in or around Dai Lanh Cape & Vung Ro Bay, Tuy Hoa, Vietnam by Cindy Fan.

Swimming is suitable year-round at beautiful Bai Mon Beach. Photo: Cindy Fan

If beach bums are impressed by these two beaches, wait until you reach Dai Lanh cape, less than three kilometres on. The headland is the terminus of the Dai Lanh mountain range, a branch of the Truong Son mountains, and it marks the furthest point east of mainland Vietnam. Adjacent is clean, picture-perfect Bai Mon beach. Isolated and sheltered by a battlement of mountains on three sides, the beach’s white sand and shallow, protected waters mean swimming is suitable year round.

The entrance to Dai Lanh and Bai Mon is 10,000 dong, motorbike parking is 2,000 dong. This is likely the only place you’ll see other foreign travellers on this route. Dai Lanh and Bai Mon is on the coach tour bus circuit, though groups will only stay for a couple hours. The site can be done in a loop, the leisurely walk taking about an hour including going up the lighthouse and scrambling along the rocks for photos. From the front gate, head right and follow the trail up to the lighthouse. The French, who called the headland Cap Varella, built the lighthouse in 1890. Due to turmoil and war, it ceased operation in 1945, and after a brief period of restoration and operation from 1961, it was bombed out in 1965. The new lighthouse was built in 1995, standing 26 metres high, or 110 metres high from sea level. Its beacon can be seen for 24 nautical miles. Dai Lanh is one of only a handful of lighthouses in Vietnam that date back over a century.

Dai Lanh, one of only a handful of lighthouses in Vietnam that date back over a century. Photo taken in or around Dai Lanh Cape & Vung Ro Bay, Tuy Hoa, Vietnam by Cindy Fan.

Dai Lanh, one of only a handful of lighthouses in Vietnam that date back over a century. Photo: Cindy Fan

We were allowed up the lighthouse after removing our shoes. The stairs and bird’s nest are quite precarious, and you wouldn’t want to be in there with more than a handful of other people. For another dramatic, stunning view of the coast, carefully venture down the boulders to the official easternmost point marker. There’s no handrails or fencing—sure-footedness is a must as one slip on the loose soil and it’s a sheer drop.

Back on the path, continue the anti-clockwise route by taking the trail down to Bai Mon beach where swimming and lounging may be in order.

Vung Ro Bay. Photo taken in or around Dai Lanh Cape & Vung Ro Bay, Tuy Hoa, Vietnam by Cindy Fan.

Vung Ro Bay. Photo: Cindy Fan

From here it is 5.5 kilometres further south along the coast to Vung Ro Bay, a natural deep-water harbour that figured largely in Vietnam’s maritime history due to a battle known as the “Vung Ro Bay Incident”. On 16 February 1965, a US Army helicopter discovered a 100-ton North Vietnamese trawler unloading munitions in South Vietnam’s Vung Ro Bay. Republic of Vietnam Air Force (South Vietnamese Air Force) struck and sank the ship, while skirmishes erupted on shore before the battle was won. The cargo was discovered to be Soviet and Chinese-made war munitions, the first hard evidence of a North Vietnam operation to supply Communist forces in South Vietnam—think of it as the Ho Chi Minh Trail of the sea. This led to Operation Market Time, a US coastal surveillance program to stop Communist maritime infiltration of South Vietnam (source: Almanac of American Military History, Vol I by Spencer Tucker).

Today it is a sleepy local harbour full of boats, floating houses and fish farms, as well as a fuel port. A small shrine honours the soldiers and Vietnamese tourists gather here for photos. It wouldn’t be Vietnam without some grand plans to turn a beautiful piece of coast into a resort, marina and luxury residence. For now, it’s a placid place to take a break and gaze at fishing boats.

The traffic can get wild. Photo taken in or around Dai Lanh Cape & Vung Ro Bay, Tuy Hoa, Vietnam by Cindy Fan.

The traffic can get wild. Photo: Cindy Fan

Those returning to Tuy Hoa can head back the same way or continue on to complete a loop via Highway 1A. At the junction at the bay, turn right and the road winds its way upland to meet the highway where a bottleneck of trucks awaits, traffic making its way down Deo Ca Pass. Along these serpentine switchbacks is the entrance to Da Bia mountain, though you’ll need a good amount of time if you want to hike up. The rest of the highway to Tuy Hoa is boring and busy.

Those continuing to Khanh Hoa province simply need to head south on Highway 1A, enjoying spectacular views of Vung Ro Bay from the pass. Dai Lanh Beach, as well as the finger of land stretching down to Whale Island and Doc Let offer tons more coast to explore as you make your way down to Nha Trang and Cam Ranh.

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