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Vietnam’s Coastal Charms: Beaches, Islands, and Beyond

Samantha Green

Vietnam boasts over 3,000 kilometres of coastline dotted with stunning beaches, tropical islands, historic port towns, and top seaside resorts. From North to South, the country’s diverse coastal landscapes offer plenty to discover for beach lovers, island hoppers, culture seekers, and adventure travellers.  

The North and North Central Regions

Northern Vietnam’s coastline borders the Gulf of Tonkin, characterised by countless hidden coves, sleepy fishing villages, and dynamic port cities like Haiphong and Halong City. 

One of the top beach destinations in northern Vietnam is Sam Son in Thanh Hoa province. Its 10-kilometre stretch of fine yellow sand, swaying coconut trees, and laidback seaside atmosphere attract domestic tourists. Local seafood shacks serving fresh crab, shrimp, and fish line the beach. Historic Sam Son town behind the beach offers glimpses into Vietnam’s maritime past with its old Chinese shop houses and markets. 

Halong Bay in nearby Quang Ninh province needs no introduction. The UNESCO World Heritage site encompasses over 1,600 limestone islets and islands dotted with beaches, grottos, and floating villages. Sailing through the emerald waters while soaking in the majestic views never gets tiring. Kayaking into remote lagoons reveals even more of nature’s masterpiece craftsmanship. Overnight boat tours ranging from budget to luxury embark from Bai Chay Beach to fully experience Halong Bay’s magic.   

Coastal attractions continue further south to Thanh Hoa province’s Ben En National Park. Tra Co Beach awes with 10 kilometres of creamy sand backed by verdant Casuarina pine trees. Hon Ngu and Hon Mat offshore islands connected by a tombolo sandbar leave a striking impression at low tide. Kite surfers and snorkelers frequent Tra Co Beach for its winds and coral reef. Those preferring cultural experiences over beach lazing can visit nearby fishing villages like Thanh Hoa to glimpse the local way of life.

Central Vietnam 

As one ventures into central Vietnam, white sand beaches fringe legendary imperial city Huế and former trading port Hoi An. Combined with pockets of pristine coast tucked between bustling tourism hotspots, culture, history, and nature collide in wondrous ways.   

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Cua Dai Beach borders Hoi An Ancient Town, a wonderfully preserved UNESCO World Heritage site and one of Vietnam’s most atmospheric cities. While most visitors soak up Hoi An’s old world romance by wandering its lantern-lit lanes and centuries-old architecture, Cua Dai Beach offers a lovely coastal escape. It may bustle with resorts and restaurants but still retains a laid back vibe with friendly vendors, golden sand, and gentle surf.

Heading south from Hoi An leads to Quang Nam province, gateway to the enchanting Cham Islands. Designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Site, this archipelago of 8 islands and islets promises clear aquamarine waters and exceptional snorkelling and diving opportunities to view over 200 species of fish and colourful coral gardens. Local boat trips from the port town of Hoi An arrange sailing tours to visit these pristine isles surrounded by reefs and marine life. 

Further along the Central Coast, Danang and Nha Trang garner reputations as Vietnam’s premier beach resort towns. While high-rise hotels dominate parts of the cityscape, the natural beauty and breadth of seaside attractions cater to all travellers.  

My Khe in Danang stretching over 10 kilometres ranks as one of Asia’s most stunning beaches. Fine white sand, swaying casuarina trees, and a sweeping crescent bay front the shimmering East Vietnam Sea. During the day, crystal blue waters and a festive atmosphere draw families, surfers, and sun worshippers. As the sun sets, locals practise Tai Chi as visitors enjoy beachfront bars and seafood BBQs. Close by, the Marble Mountains promise breathtaking views across Non Nuoc beach from their forested peaks and natural limestone caves.   

Nha Trang, nicknamed the “Riviera of the South China Sea,” comes alive with vacationers basking on Tran Phu Beach right off the vibrant coastal boulevard. Offshore, tropical islands like Monkey, Pigeon, and Tre tempt with powdery sand beaches, fantastic snorkelling reefs, and secluded coves. No visit feels complete without sampling freshly caught seafood at local eateries or soaking in neighbourhood mud baths and mineral hot springs.

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Southern Vietnam

The southern coastline stretches over 1,800 kilometres from south of Danang through the Mekong Delta. Sandy stretches at Mui Ne Beach, glimpses of rural Vietnam at Binh Hung Island’s mangrove estuaries, partying backpacker vibes on Phu Quoc Island’s Long Beach, and riverfront colonial charm in Can Tho city summarise the diverse experiences on offer.  

Mui Ne Beach has developed into one of Vietnam’s premier beach resorts. Swathes of untouched golden sand full of beach bars, open air restaurants, and affordable lodgings attract surfers, kitesurfers, foodies, and beach lovers. When not lounging seaside, adventure seekers drive out to the sands of the White and Red Sahara Dunes for thrills riding down the towering slopes on plastic sleds.

Phu Quoc Island sits nestled in the turquoise-green waters of the Gulf of Thailand, closer to Cambodia than Vietnam. This polka-dotted tropical paradise contains nearly 100 kilometres of coastline lined with powdery white sand and quaint fishing villages turned hip tourist hangouts. Long Beach on the west coast caters to crowds seeking lively beachfront accommodations, bars, and budget eateries. Those desiring castaway vibes escape to the more remote beaches like Sao Beach tucked away down south. Local specialty fish sauce factories, historic prisons, pearl farms, and jungle topped mountains offer visitors a glimpse into island life when pausing from basking along Phu Quoc’s sublime shores.  

Mangroves and Mekong Delta waterways rather than beaches define coastal attractions near Can Tho city and Soc Trang province. Visiting local islanders who dwell among labyrinths of emerald estuaries and bamboo bridges offers a peek into a riverside culture steeped in floating markets, fruit orchards, and rice paddy farming. Simple homestays on Ben Tre’s lush coconut palm-covered Dragon, Phoenix and Unicorn Islands emphasise connecting with residents over creature comforts. Watch women weave sleeping mats from river reeds as the sun sets before settling down to freshly caught fish and garden fruits at a communal dinner table. Scenic boat tours glide along jungle canals out to untouched sandy beaches on Con Dao and Phu Quoc, perfect for picnics.  

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From windswept surfing shores in the North to tropical island paradises across the South China Sea, Vietnam’s diverse 2000 kilometres of coastline captivates visitors with gorgeous scenery, vibrant cultures, delectable seafood, and gateway access to offshore enchantments. Idle away hours under rustling coconut palms on powdery sand beaches before exploring relics of bygone eras in ancient port cities like Hoi An. Savour the fresh catch of the day at a no-frills seaside shack while making new friends. Adventure offshore to forested mountainous isles ringed by coral reefs brimming with exotic aquatic creatures. Whether you seek solo serenity, family fun, culture and history, or lively luxury, the allure of Vietnam’s varied coastal landscapes offers something to delight all appetites and travel styles.

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