Da Nang is a coastal city in Central Vietnam. It was our home for 2 months during our extended holidays in Vietnam. On weekends, we would allow ourselves to take a break going on an adventure. We widely explored Da Nang area as there is quite a lot to do around there. Whether you are the lazy kind who enjoys spending a day relaxing at the beach. Or you prefer thrills, head to Hoa Phu Thanh. For those who be wild, go hiking to Bach Ma national park. In brief, no reason to be bored in Da Nang.
Da Nang, from the beach to the mountain, it’s just a few steps away. Or just a few minutes by motorbike should I say. The city is a little gem filled with different entertainments. Head North to the Monkey Mountain, or South to enjoy the beach coastline.
N.B. – All the below activities are better enjoyed in a nice weather. If it’s raining outside, your options become a bit more limited. You could go cafe hopping, go watch a movie at the nearest CGV or your favorite TV show at home.
Relax – Spend the day at one of Da Nang’s beaches
Da Nang is a major coastal city in Central Vietnam. Third biggest city in the country, it offers many beaches to visitors and locals. It feels good to chill out after a day at work. There are more or less 6 main beaches in Da Nang. However, there are 3 of them that I often go to.
⛱ My Khe beach – Formerly, it was occupied by the American soldiers who used it as a holiday center. Nowadays, locals reclaimed it so that they can spend the end of the day with their family or friends. I love going to this beach to walk while watching the sunset. Or, I would go swimming by the end of the afternoon. The big highlight is the view of Son Tra peninsula from My Khe beach. You can even practice sport activities there such as jet skying.
⛱ The secret beach Bãi Cát Vàng – It took us a few hours before we found it. But it was definitely worth the little detour. Follow the signs to “Du lich Bai Cat Vang”. Park your motorbike up the dirt road. Walk down this dirt road until you reach a hidden beach. A little bit of paradise away from tourists. A few bungalows are planted there, and you can even use the homemade zippline.
⛱ The isolated beach Bãi biển Bắc – Leave your motorbike at the Intercontinental hotel on Son Tra Peninsula. Then, go down the road to a beautiful white sand beach. You can pay 50.000 VND to put your towel. You’re all set to enjoy a peaceful moment at the beach. Bring your own find/drinks if you don’t feel like paying the hotel prices for it.
Good to know – Vietnamese people prefer to swim after 3-4pm once the sun goes down. As they fear the sun, they prefer to wait until the heat is lesser. They often swim fully clothed with their jeans or and T-shirt. It is a cultural aspect of their decency. Therefore, please avoid tiny bikinis that barely cover your private body parts.
Motorbike ride – Explore the Son Tra Peninsula
Renting a motorbike in Vietnam is easy-peasy. Simply follow the beach coastline to reach Son Tra Peninsula. You can spend a few minutes there up to a full day. There are many points of interests such as Lady Buddha statue, Confucius playing chess, a big old Banyan tree, a museum, beaches and hotels. It is the ideal spot to get some fresh air after work. Perfect to admire the sunset.
I love going there because the further up you go, the foggier it gets. It is so easy to ride around the peninsula. Don’t be scared to lose yourself on the roads, there is mainly only one there. Watch out for monkeys who might be hanging out in the trees.
Wild adventure – Go hiking at Bach Ma National Park
Going through the Hai Van Pass, you’ll reach Bach Ma national park. It offers a unique wild experience only 1h30 away from Da Nang. The park is so huge that it is recommended to spend 3-4 days camping there. Once you get the park’s info booth, buy your tickets, park your motorbike and hop on the shuttle bus. Allow 30 minutes to reach the top of the park. The entry fee + the mini-van only cost 200.000 VND pax (about $9 USD / $12 AUD).
Hiking in Vietnam can get really hot or cold. Going through clouds and the wind might take the temperature down or the sun strikes your shoulders. So don’t leave your sweater, cardigan, hoodie home. You might also want to consider bringing a lot of water, sunblock and a lunch. All of this can be found at the little shop there. However, the options are lesser and prices a bit higher.
We went there with a few other international expats. Swedish, Flemish-Belgian, American, Dutch & Vietnamese turned the hike into a great adventure. Altogether, we feasted our eyes upon the5 lakes going down a rocky trail. We had to use ropes to help ourselves to go down. Then, a few of us went swimming in the cold lakes.
Good to know – Beware of mosquitos, wasps and lychees. The park turns into a jungle sometimes when you go through high-level plants. Lychees hide under leaves to climb on your shoes, then reach the inside of your socks. Take a few breaks to check that you’re safe during your hike.
Adventure & adrenaline – Go white water rafting
Not far away from the Ba Na Hills, Hoa Phu Thanh site is a 1h30 ride from Da Nang. You will ride through some stunning landscapes (lakes, fields, hills). I loved this experience, the adrenaline you get is intense. This is not so difficult or scary for beginners. It was my first time and I would definitely go back.
Put on a lifejacket and helmet, and leave your shoes in a locker. Before hopping on the bus to the top of the descent, you will be given instructions. We did not understand a word since the entire speech was in Vietnamese. However, with some common sense, we knew what to do. Hold onto the straps on the side, put your feet against the middle separation, and keep your head down. Enjoy the ride! I can assure you that it will bring fun, laughter and adrenaline.
The site is opened from 8am. However, tours are only held at 10am and 2pm. Total cost should be around 200.000VND ($9 USD / $12 AUD) including the entry fee, lifejackets, helmets and boats.
Motorbike ride – Have fun on the Hai Van Pass
We probably rode 3-4 times on the Hai Van Pass. A road full of zigzags linking Da Nang to Hue. You simply need to ride North-West off Da Nang, then turn right once you are not following the coast anymore.
It is a fairly easy ride. However, ride safely as many trucks might cross your way. You could sometimes be surprised by a truck full of pigs or another one filled with gas/petrol. It is really popular and a highlight if you’re heading to Hue. Once you have passed it, you will go through Lang Co town. A nice spot where I’ve been told that some resorts hide beautiful beaches.
Adventure & water activities – Go scuba diving off the coast of the Cham Islands
On a sunny day, nothing is better than to explore the seabed. Whether you’re a pro or a rookie at diving, you’ll enjoy the Cham Islands. Departing from Hoi An, everybody gets on board an old boat. Then, we all go diving on our own off the coast of the islands. We stopped three times to go diving, say hi to the local fishes and turtles.
To book a tour, you can just ask your hotel, tourism agency, or even at a restaurant. Although make sure to book your tour at least 2 days in advance during the high season.
After this work out, we had a feast of seafood. Plates of rice, noodles and different meats were spread on the table waiting for us to devour them all. I can assure you that after these adventures, you’ll be starving. We had some spare time to chill out on the beach before we had to head back to Hoi An.
Cultural discovery – Walk around the streets of old Hoi An
Hoi An is a beautiful and colorful ancient Vietnamese city. Visit temples, pagodas and ancient houses for only 120.000 VND ($6 USD / $8 AUD). It also a paradise for shoppers. You can find diverse souvenir gifts there. From a tailored dress to Hoi An typical lanterns and propaganda posters, your wallet might scream. The little shops also sell leather-made items, North Face jackets & bags.
It is located only 40 minutes by motorbike from Da Nang. We even went there to spend the evening with our Czech friends. It’s really pleasant to walk around the old town at night because most of the streets become pedestrians. Along the river, you can buy a lantern with a candle inside. Make a wish and let it sail over the flow. The night local market is also the perfect spot to buy one of the traditional colorful wallets from Hoi An.
Wild adventure – Climb the Marble Mountains
This is one of the big highlights in Da Nang. The Marble Mountains are only a 20 minutes ride. Tickets are 15.000 VND (less than $1 USD/AUD ). It is such a great workout by going up the steps to the temples, pagodas and caves. Climb to the highest peak to enjoy a stunning 360° view of Da Nang.
The Marble Mountains are a group of 5 hills. Each of them is named after an element. The most visited is Thuy Son (mountain water). You can also go visit the others on your own. When I went there solo, a Vietnamese man wanted to show me one of the caves. After that, I followed him on an improvised 1-hour tour. I had the chance to discover many sights that I wouldn’t have dared to go to. Once I saw tens of temples, pagodas, buddha statues and caves, the guide claimed a 200.000VND compensation for the visit. As he walked with me for an hour under the heat, I had no choice but to give him my only bill left as he requested.
Be ready to sweat if it’s a sunny day.If that’s the case, I highly recommend that you eat something before or during the visit. It doesn’t take long to be dehydrated and then, get food poisoning.
Historical visit – Discover the old temples of My Son Sanctuary
Part of the UNESCO list, this historical site hosts many ancient temples from the Cham minority. These temples and sanctuaries were built over 9 centuries from the IVth to the XIIth century. You will see the remainings of this civilisation. Some buildings were destroyed during bomb attacks by the American soldiers. Or they would have suffered from climatic conditions such as floods.
This site is located about 1h30 by motorbike in the South of Da Nang. The road to get there is not the most pleasant one due to traffic and trucks. My Son opens its doors at 6.30am and closes by 4.30pm. Therefore, it is recommended to get there as early as possible to avoid the crowd of tourists by 10am. Tickets cost 150.000 VND (less than $10 USD/AUD).
Unfortunately, when we went there, we had to put up with the hundreds of Chinese tourists. The dance and music show included in the ticket price was really interesting. You can also ask for a tour guide by paying an extra 100.000 VND (about $4.5 USD / $6 AUD). Avoid getting one between 12-2pm. Ours was still so tired from his nap that he left after 30 minutes.
I highly recommend visiting My Son as it is listed on the UNESCO. However, if you have previously visited the Cambodian temples of Angkor Wat, you might be disappointed. After having seen huge and beautiful temples in Cambodia, these ones seem to be really little.
Cultural discovery – Photograph the mural paintings at Tam Thanh village
It might be a less active activity, but it will please the amateur photographers. Free thing to do around Da Nang. You just need to pay for gas/petrol. The walls of this village have been invaded by graffitti artists. You will find many colorful paintings that represent Vietnam. This project was co-financed between Vietnam and Korea. It was named “Art for a better community”.
You will need a bit more than 1h30 by motorbike to get there. It is a small village along the ocean in the South of Hoi An. The ride becomes even nicer by following the road along the coast.
Voilà! This was my selection of things to do/see during a weekend spent around Da Nang. Have you been to one of these spots? If I missed your favorite one or if you didn’t like one of the above activities, feel free to let me know in the comments below 😉