Cat Ba Overview

Cat Ba Overview

Cat Ba Archipelago Biosphere Reserve of the world

Introduction to Cat Ba island

Introduction to Cat Ba islandCat Ba Island is situated a mere 50 km east of Hai Phong city in the north of Vietnam. Cat Ba Island is part of a chain of 366 islands that lie within the larger area of Halong Bay. At over 200km2, Cat Ba is the largest island in Halong Bay. The island is easily accessible and matches neighbouring Halong Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay for stunning natural beauty. It also offers visitors the added options of relaxation, adventure and cultural exchange. In April 2005, Cat Ba was officially recognized as Cat Ba Archipelago Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.

Cat Ba is known for its rugged limestone mountains, hot and cold springs, moist tropical forests, mangrove forest , coral reefs as well as its deserted beaches, and casual island lifestyle. Cat Ba is now much sought after by both domestic and international visitors as a ready alternative to the city madness and bus tour boredom.
Cat Ba Ventures is the only locally operated tour agency. It provides a unique insight into the island and its people.
We know because we live here.


Cat Ba National Park

Cat Ba National Park

Cat Ba National Park in located 15km north – west of Cat Ba Town. It was established in 1986. It spans an area of 15,200ha, of which 9,800ha are forest, and contains lots of particularly interesting caves. The original tropical forest spans an area of 570ha, with extremely varied wildlife and vegetation.

Cat Ba National Parkis situated in Cat Ba Island and on several smaller islands nearby. The park currently comprises98km2 of total land are, 54km2 of inshore waters. The National Park was Vietnam’s first national park to included both terrestrial and marine ecosystems. It is recognized nationally and internationally for its importance in biodiversity conservation, as it contains many different types of ecosystem and habitat. The Park has a great variety of plant and animal species.

The golden–headed langur or Cat Ba langur is a rare and a precious animal and exists only in Cat Ba island. A special type of tree called “Cay Kim Giao” is unique to Cat Ba. In ancient times, kings and nobles would eat only with chopsticks made from this timber, as the light coloured wood was reputed to turn to black when it touched anything poisonous. There are 745 species of plants recorded on Cat Ba, including 118 timber species and 160 plants with medicinal value. The national park is home to 32 types of mammals and more than 70 species of birds have been sighted. There is a beautiful lake inside the national park called Frog Lake, with a water forest and amazing landscape.


Lan Ha Bay.

Lan Ha Bay Cat ba IslandLan Ha Bay is located in the Southeast of Cat Ba Island, looking out of Van sea mouth, connecting with Ha Long Bay. Its area is 7000ha, of which 5400ha are managed by Cat Ba National Park.Its sceneries are not as beautiful as Ha Long Bay’s, but original characteristics. The limestone mountain density is here crowded, neglected and devised sea face into little bays, gulfs of which many little bays, gulfs, and caves are still not discovered yet. Hundreds of mountains of diversified shapes as Guoc islet (Clog Islet), Roi mountain (like a bat with widely opened wings). Difference from Ha Long Bay, Lan Ha Bay consist of 139 small and clean sand banks of which lots of them lying in the middle of 2 mountains are sloping, long and quiet without rough waves, they are actually beautiful bathing beaches. In the very clear and green water remains colorful coral fields like Van Boi, Van Ha coral fields,… they are good conditions for developing undersea tourism (like diving tourism). Using a small boat, you can cruise in mountain creeks on the sea visit the bay, lagoon, caves, or resting on bathing beaches in the sea as Vem golf, Tung Gau cave, Cat Dua beach…

Lan Ha Bay is a lovely place for kayaking, snorkeling, swimming and rock climbing.

Viet Hai village in Cat Ba National Park

Viet Hai village has become an ecotourism place thanks to the village's peaceful beauty and villagers' friendliness. It is a small valley nestled in Cat Ba National Park in an isolated location, which keeps it a typical traditional village in the Northern countryside of Vietnam. It's one of the most visited places on any Cat Ba tour or by cruises in Lan Ha Bay.

Cycling tours from a pier in Lan Ha Bay through the jungle to the center of the village is an incredible experience for any nature lover. You will go under the forest canopy with a fantastic view of this scenic island.

Another perfect activity is to go trekking in Cat Ba National Park. From Viet Hai village, it takes you an hour to reach the Viet Hai peak. The 1-hour hike is quite tough, but the reward is big. Being the second highest peak in Cat Ba National Park, Viet Hai peak offers a gorgeous panoramic view of both Lan Ha Bay and Ha Long Bay. For trekking lovers, you can enjoy a 4-hour trekking route from Cat Ba National headquarter that is 20 minutes drive from Cat Ba town. The trek is strenuous as you go up and down several rocky hills through the primary forest.

Nam Cat island

Nam Cat island is a small island in Lan Ha Bay, about 5km southeast of Cat Ba wharf of Cat Ba town. It owns a beach about 500m long, wide and surrounded by many small islands creating a beautiful natural landscape of the islands. The island is under the management of Cat Ba National park. From the Beo pier on the main island, it takes you 15 minutes to get to the island by boat, and then you can enjoy your time here.

Cat Ba's Hospital Cave

Hospital Cave is located on Cat Ba island, next to the private road across the island, about 13 km from Cat Ba town. It was a secret bomb shelter hospital during the American War and a safe house for Viet Cong (VC) leaders on Cat Ba island. Built from 1963 to 1965 (with assistance from China), this incredibly well-constructed three-story engineering feat was actively used until 1975.

This cave is about 10km north of Cat Ba Town, on the road to Cat Ba National Park entrance.

The cave traverses 17 rooms, including an old operating room (complete with patient mannequins) and a large natural cave used as a cinema (and even had its own small swimming pool).

Trung Trang cave

Located in Trung Trang valley, Trung Trang Cave is 15 km northwest of Cat Ba town. It is a narrow cave with a length of over 300 m. Over millions of years of geological tectonics, this cave owns thousands of natural stalactites with unique shapes, evoking visitors' imagination.

Throughout the cave, visitors will come to a cave cavity with stalactites glistening under the dim lights.

Trung Trang Cave has an ecosystem in the mysterious darkness inhabited by many creatures such as birds, bats, reptiles, and insects. The National Park uses a simple lighting system in the cave to preserve the characteristics of the ecological environment in the cave. The fuzzy virtual space has helped visitors to have an exciting experience.

At the end of the journey to explore more than 300 m of Trung Trang cave is a towering cave with many cubes as beautiful sculptures of nature. From here, visitors will enter a lush green space with many ancient trees and vines. Trung Trang Cave is often a highlight of the trekking journey in Cat Ba National Park. In general, it is also featured in the program of many cruises on Lan Ha Bay.

Canon Fort

For one of the best views in Vietnam, head to Cannon Fort, where there are astounding panoramas of Cat Ba Island's jungle-clad hills, the harbour and the karst-punctuated sea. The entrance gate is a steep 10-minute walk from Cat Ba Town, and it's then another stiff 20-minute walk to the fort, or take a xe om from town (15,000d).

Well-labelled paths guide visitors past underground tunnels and two well-preserved gun emplacements, out to two viewpoints overlooking the island. There's even a cafe (with more great views from its terrace) and a tiny museum.

The tunnels and gun emplacements were first installed by the Japanese in WWII, but were also utilised by the French and Vietnamese during subsequent conflicts.

Ngu Lam peak

Another excellent viewpoint is the Ngu Lam peak, an ideal destination for adventurous travelers who want to see Cat Ba from above. At the altitude of 225m, it is one of the highest peaks in Cat Ba, giving you an overview of the island and island life. The whole picture of Ha Long Bay, Lan Ha Bay, is captured in your sight with the sea, islands, forests, and floating villages on the sea, gentle and peaceful. The steep trekking route from the mountain foot takes you about 1 hour to conquer, and you won't feel regret.

Beaches in Cat Ba island

The sophisticated beaches Cat Co 1, 2, 3

Three famous beaches attract the most tourists when traveling to Cat Ba island. The common point of all three is not big and surrounded by green mountains, gentle waves, clear water, and little wind. They are connected by a small wooden bridge along the mountainside, which makes the scenery romantic. Cat Co 1 is the most bustling and fun atmosphere thanks to clear water, wide sandy beach. Those who like a quieter area will find Cat Co 2 beach more suitable. The beach of Cat Co 3 is less traveled than Cat Co 1 & 2 because it is quite deep and wavy, which is ideal for good swimmers. However, the tide will come up quickly around 6.30 PM, so you are not advised to swim here after the time.

Tung Thu beach

About 2km away from the center of Cat Ba town, visitors will reach Tung Thu beach, which has been opened since mid-2010. In Cat Ba island, Tung Thu beach is set up based on international standards with an outdoor stage on the beach, designed according to a unique concept. Tourists will find it more modern and fun once they come here.

Cat Dua beach on Monkey island

Cat Dua beach in Monkey island, which is about 1km long with clear water, could be found in the middle of the beautiful Lan Ha bay. To get here, tourists need to take a boat trip from Cat Ba town's pier for about half an hour. There is also a small beach called "Cat Dua 2" which is smaller but more private and worth to visit thanks to its well-equipped facilities.

Van Boi beach

Located on a small island facing the island of Like Rua in Lan Ha Bay, Van Boi beach attracts summer tourists with all the beauty of a young girl in Spring. Unlike the bustle in Cat Co beach, Van Boi beach still retains its wild and natural charm. Small Van Boi Beach, enclosing a protruding part of a cliff, provides visitors with a quiet white sandy beach and shallow clear seawater. The water is so clear that you can see the bottom of the sand or bragging coral reefs and enjoy a few rays of sunlight shining down a large area in waves.

Cat Ba then and now.

* Pre–history

Sunset on Cat Co beachArchaeological evidence indicates that people have lived on Cat Ba for at least 6000 years. Vestiges of an early settlement called Cai Beo are located about 2km from Cat Ba Town. These were unearthed in 1972, 1973, 1981 and 1983 by two French scientists. Hundreds of tools were found, such as pestles, grinding plates, wedging pieces, net leads and hatchets. Many were made from pebbles, or were rudimentary ceramic works made of clay and sand. Human remains were also found, along with evidence of their habitation. The Cai Beo settlement belonged to the ancient Ha Long culture that existed 6473-4200 years ago. These were perhaps the first people to occupy the north-eastern territorial waters of Vietnam that knew how to exploit the sea and to cultivate.* Folk tale of the Women’s Island

Cat Ba Island means ‘Women’s Island’. Legend tells that three women of the Tran Dynasty died and each drifted to a sandy beach on the island. Afterwards, the inhabitants built temples on each of the beaches and the island became called Cat Ba Island (Women’s Island) and the temples called Women’s Temples. Opposite Cat Ba Town is small Cat Ong Island (Men’s Island) which was once a secret place for soldiers to hide weapons.* French Colonial Period.

The French had a presence on Cat Ba from 1947 till 1955, as it was a strategic coastal island. Cat Ba was important to the French, but the local people fought strongly to keep the island theirs. During this time, the local people often fled to the valleys, the forest, or even the caves, fearing the French. There is now a monument to local people killed by the French on Cat Hai Island.* US War.

During the American War in Vietnam, Cat Ba (next door to Hai Phong, one of Vietnam’s largest port cities) figures prominently in the history books. During US bombing raids in the north, Cat Ba was targeted and bomb craters can still be seen in various place across the island. One of the key reminders of the war and its struggles for local communities is the ‘Hospital Cave’, which was turned into a key shelter in 1965 for those wounded in the war.* Today

* Population: ( 6-2016)*Cat Hai district’s 30.668 inhabitants.

* People live in Cat Ba island (18,042)

* Cat Ba Town (11.984), six villages (6.048) on boats and floating villages (890), and on Cat Hai Island (11.649).Two general groups of people of people live on Cat Ba Island. The ethnic Vietnamese, on Kinh people, moved to Cat Ba after 1979. The second group are the Viet-Chinese, who are descended from fishing communities that have existed on Cat Ba for many generations. Fisherman and farmers live in Tran Chau (the oldest and largest village on the island); in Gia Luan farmers, fisherman and some hunters; in Phu Long fisherman and salt farmers; in Xuan Dam farmers. In the smallest village, Viet Hai, 200 people live in simple, houses made of bamboo, wood, leaves and earthen walls. It is a fishing and farming village, where the people are sincere, simple minded and very hospitable.


The Cat Ba way

* Culture:

Cat Ba is different in many ways from Hanoi and other places because of its Viet – Chinese heritage, its fishing communities and its fisherman culture.

Annual events and big days.

On 1 April annually, the Cat Ba people organize a traditional festival to celebrate the day when uncle Ho Chi Minh came to visit the Cat Ba fishing village in 1959. This is also the day that Vietnam’s sea produce industry traditionally starts and the Cat Ba tourist season begins. At the festival visitors will enjoy an imperial boat race on the sea, water skiing and coracle boat races on the sea.

* Cat Ba’s Economy.– Fisheries

  • Agriculture (lychees, Gia Luan oranges and mandarins, honey)
  • Aquaculture (Phu Long prawns, fish, crabs, Cat Hai salt, fish sauce)
  • Tourism.


Cat Ba – why would you go there?

Sight-seeing boat trip in Lan Ha Bay

Lan Ha Bay in Cat Ba also includes islands protruding from the sea and many cave systems that share similarities to Ha Long Bay. However, many tourists believe that visiting Lan Ha Bay is more interesting because the scenery here retains more wild features than in Ha Long Bay. You can arrange a half-day cruise for approximately 4 hours deep into Lan Ha bay to immerse yourself in the beauty of nature. During the cruise, you can also combine visiting the fishing village or trying a kayaking trip on the beautiful bay of Hai Phong.

Kayaking in Lan Ha Bay

It is easy to hire a boat for a half-day cruise to see Lan Ha bay's beauty with hundreds of Karst islands and islets. Be prepared with swimwear and ready to paddle in a quiet, tranquil area to learn more about the rocks' formation.

Swimming in one of Lan Ha Bay's deserted beaches

Get yourself a cruise for a more in-depth exploration of Lan Ha bay, and you'll reach deserted beautiful small beaches on islands' feet such as Van Boi, Nam Cat, Ba Trai Dao (Three Peaches), etc. Those beaches have similarities of white sandy beaches, clear water, and less used by travelers.

Bike cycling to Viet Hai village.

From Cat Ba town, it takes you about 1 hour by boat then hop on a bike to cycle for about 5km to visit the peaceful village of Viet Hai. The cycling route covers a long shady path along the coastal line and tunnel through the mountain.

Trekking in Cat Ba National Park.

The National Park offers you a few trekking routes that one may select to fit their needs through the jungle. Below are the popular:

Cat Ba National Park to Viet Hai village: It's a 4-hour tough trek followed by a 45-minute gentle walk from the village to the boat pier. You'll need to catch a boat trip to return to Cat Ba island.

Cat Ba National Park to Frog lake: A 2-hour trek in the jungle near the park's entrance.

Rock climbing - Deep Water Soloing.

It is a type of adventure tourism that attracts adventurous tourists when coming to Cat Ba. The island offers dozens of climbing points on islands in Lan Ha Bay, such as Hang Ca, Nam Cat island, Ba Trai, etc., or on the mainland of Cat Ba town. The rocky cliffs, the feeling of conquering the cliffs is always a sport that brings strong feelings to visitors. Among the climbing spots, visitors should choose one of the three places that are invested quite professionally with instructors, specialized climbing gears, ensuring safety for visitors.

  • The first is the valley climbing point in Lien Minh village, which is about 5 km from the center of Cat Ba town.
  • The second is the climbing spot on Tien Ong Island, located in Lan Ha bay, about 1 hour and 30 minutes by boat from Cat Ba tourist resort. The place offers eight climbing routes, which are easily accessible even at high tide. The topography and sea depth here are suitable for free-sea climbing. For those who love adventure, this is the ideal climbing point with low cliffs, simple climbing routes with an island with a small cave, and the rest is a cliff with large stalactites.
  • The last one is a newly-operated spot located in the center of Cat Ba town - Ang Tre mountain climbing point. This place is surrounded by green trees and steep green cliffs suitable for the climbing experience. It has three climbing paths, and the lowest is 7m, the highest is 23m with the terrain from easy to difficult.

Fresh seafood tasting at one of the floating restaurants

Cat Ba island is a marine tourist area, so the delicious dishes and famous specialties in Lan Ha Bay are main dishes made from seafood such as lobster, sea crab, seaweed, mussels at different types. Try yourself at one of the floating restaurants in Cat Ba island is also a pleasant experience. The fish farms underneath the restaurant are lively with fresh sea creatures ready for many delicious dishes for visitors to enjoy, such as Fried crab with salt, sea sam grilled, baked lobster with egg sauce, and wine-poached lobster, grilled shrimp, steamed shrimp, etc.

  • Community home-stays.
  • Fishing
  • Cave exploration
  • Cultural discovery
  • Motorbike tours (guided and independent)
  • Ha Long Bay tour
  • Scuba diving, snorkeling


Cat Ba – How can we help you?

  • Hotels reservation
  • Fantastic tours: Trekking Tour; Kayaking Tours; Fishing tours and Snorkeling tours
    • Boat tours( Sailing Boats & Junks and deluxe junks) to discover Lan Ha Bay – Ha Long Bay – Bai Tu Long Bay
    • Rock climbing – DWS ( need anexperience captains ) and camping tri
  • Motor bikes and kayaks for rent ( local guided and independent )
  • Transportation:
  • Train and open bus ticket from HA NOI to : SA PA, HUE, HOI AN, DA NANG, NHA TRANG, SAI GON
  • Domestic and international flight ticket.