Top 10 Things To Do in Van Don, Quang Ninh

July 8, 2023

Van Don is a rising and potential destination in Quang Ninh province. Only 1-hour drive from Halong Bay, Van Don offers many magnificent landscapes, friendly locals and less touristy than Halong Bay.

See the top things to do in Van Don, Quang Ninh

1. Check out Ban Sen (Sen village)  – The hidden gem of Bai Tu Long Bay

Ban Sen Island in Bai Tu Long Bay Area

Just half an hour drive on a speed boat to reach Ban Sen from Cai Rong port. Ban Sen is a perfect place for those who like to travel off the tourist trail, experience authentic local culture and enjoy fresh seafood with the rustic beauty of an island area with 139 square kilometres in total. If you expect a comfortable stay, it shouldn’t come here because there is only one homestay in the area but good for adventure travellers with lots of things to do as followings

- Check out the untouched limestone caves with the amazing natural beauty of the rock formation

- Cycling around the island with almost no traffic so it is pretty safe here and breath fresh air 

- Gain a deeper understanding of local lives by interacting with friendly locals 

- See some of the oyster farms

- Help locals collecting green tea

2. Explore the nature beauty of Dong Trong Island

                             Pathway to Dong Trong Cave

It is hard to compare Dong Trong island with Dong Trong cave with the famous limestone caves in Halong bay such as Surprising Cave or Heavenly Palace Cave but it has its own charm and historical values. Scientists have found the vestiges of the ancient Viet people who lived here over 4000 years ago 

The island is covered with many beautiful sandy beaches of Bai Tu Long bay. There is a cave called Dong Trong, a limestone cave of Dong Trong island is like a dreamland with an array of rock formations of various shapes including happy Buddha, Jesus, and four holy animals in Vietnamese culture. 

Note: You may not find any foreign visitors here because it isn’t a famous tourist attraction

3. Visit local floating oyster farms

Oyster farm in Bai Tu Long bay

A floating oyster farm is quiet, peaceful, and beautiful with locals living here and taking care of their farm. You will see an array of sea fishes and learn about how to raise oysters. You can find yourself is the only tourist compared to the busy floating villages in Halong Bay area.  What makes it special here to kayak around the area of the floating farm and see a hidden lagoon with calm water

4. Going for a swim in picturesque deserted beach

Swimming in a private beach in Bai Tu Long Bay

You will swim and sit on the beach in the middle of nowhere. The feeling is incredible. Imagine on a sunny day full of sunshine is ideal weather for jumping off the boat, which you can’t do in Halong Bay. On the other hand, the water is clean, and emerald is an ideal condition for swimming. 

5. Staying overnight in the off the beaten track Quan Lan Island

Amazing view in Quan Lan island

A true paradise for those who would like to escape the bustle and hustle of Hanoi. The travel services are developing here so there are lots to explore, including white sandy beaches, historical sites of temples and pagodas, enjoy fresh seafood. 3 days 2 nights trip of Quan Lan island is the most suitable duration for foreign visitors.

What I like the most about Quan Lan is a rural area with lots of organic food choices grown in the area. On the other hand, the locals are very friendly to make you feel at home.

One of my suggestions is not to travel here during the weekend, especially summertime or national holiday (May Day, Independence Day). There are way too many people on the island. In my opinion, Late August to the middle of October is the best time to get here because it is less touristy and quiet.

6. Discover the untouched Ba Mun Island 

Sunset on ba Mun Island – Things to do in Van Don

Ba Mum island is considered as worth a visit destination, a green pearl of the bay cause it is covered lush green forest and it is home to many endangered species. It is also a great place for adventure travelers and eco-friendly lovers. 

Discovery the island on your own by walking or cycling along the island’s path. The island is a part of Bai Tu Long national park so there is forest control and protection. There is a wildlife rescue center belonging to Bai Tu Long National Park. If you need help, please get in touch with the center.

Thanks to tropical forests, the island is an ideal place for nature lovers to enjoy, and experience sun, sea, and sand.

7. Having dinner with a local family in Quan Lan Island

The alleyway to get to the local family where we have homecooked dinner in Quan Lan

I did this 3 years ago. I just wandered around a small alleyway and found a lady who owns a small vegetable farm. I asked her to have dinner with the family. Luckily, she said yes. It was the cool experience I had done in my life. The food quality was great, with fresh seafood, enjoying some sip of rice liquor and cheering with locals. What you can do is to ask your homestay owner where you are staying in Quan Lan Island for dinner with them. Ask them for a budget dinner of around $8 USD to $10 USD per person. 

8. Enjoy a night squid fishing with a local fisherman

Night squid fishing in Quan Lan Island

It is a unique experience but a bit pricy, a private boat for night squid fishing value at $65 USD. If you are sharing the boat with a group of 4 people it is affordable. On the other hand, what’s better than enjoying boiled squid with some beers? I have to stay. It’s a lifetime experience. For several hours floating on the sea and catching, cooking and eating them on the boat. It is worth doing if you are seeking something unique. You can also understand more about the lives of local fishermen. 

9. Kayak around Minh Chau Beach

Minh Chau beach off the season

You have heard of kayaking in Halong Bay quite often. A beach called Minh Chau on Quan Lan Island is also a perfect spot for sea kayaking. There are kayak rental services available on the beach. There is no underwater cave nor limestone island surround, but the wave in the area is quite strong so it is more challenging for kayaking here than Halong.

10. Check out early morning Quan Lan fish market

Early morning fish market in Quan Lan Island

Wake up at 5.00 am and walk to the nearby fish market where you can see tons of locals selling and buying fresh seafood taken from fishing boats. You can also get some seafood, bring it to your accommodation and prepare lunch with yummy seafood dishes.