Cat Ba Bay’s Monkey Island: A Romantic Getaway in Vietnam

by Mike Still
Cat Ba Bay’s Monkey Island: A Romantic Getaway in Vietnam

Cat Ba Island is made of beautiful limestone islands with karst formations covered in green jungle.  Cat Ba is the main island of an archipelago in Lan Ha Bay which is right next door to Ha Long Bay.  I spent 2 nights castaway in Ha Long Bay 3 years before coming to Cat Ba and frankly speaking, I loved Cat Ba more!  Cat Ba is much better for a couple’s romantic getaway since less touristy and has less pollution!

Cat Ba Island or Ha Long Bay?
I’ve been to both and I vote Cat Ba Island!

Ronda and I were invited to Cat Ba by VTV4 to host an episode of Vietnam Discovery for VTV 4!  A few romantic nights on a tropical island were the perfect way to enjoy our last few days together in Vietnam.  I am so thankful to VTV for this opportunity and can’t wait to see the episode air online and Vietnamese National Television!

The episode should be available online by early November.  Make sure you like my Facebook page to get a notification when I share that video.  Until then I hope you enjoy these photos and post about Monkey Island in Lan Ha Bay!

Ronda and I were excited to explore Cat Ba and find out what it was like to have a TV crew follow your every move.  The truth is that filming a television show is exhausting, we woke up everyday at about 6 am to get ready for filming and didn’t get back to our rooms until after dinner.  Even with this grueling schedule it was an amazing experience which I’d certainly do again but it gives me new respect for all of the actors and actresses around the world.

Getting to Cat Ba Island

Bus from Hanoi – 5 hour bus ride for about 200,000 VND ($10).  Look for Hoan Tuyen Travel and Hoang Long buses From Hanoi > Hai Phong > Cat Ba
Motorbike from Hanoi – Drive to the ferry in Hai Phong.  There are ferries going regularly from 6:00 AM – 9:00 PM and tickets were as low as 20,000 VND ($1) per person.
Private Tour – Private Tours are readily available.  You don’t need to book it online ahead of time.  Go to a tour agency when you arrive in Vietnam and shop around for the best prices!

Our journey to Cat Ba began with a drive five kilometers across the Tan Vu-Lach Huyen Bridge, the largest sea bridge in Vietnam!  We were excited to jump back on a motorbike after selling our trusty steed in Hanoi the week before.  We’d driven over 2500 km in this country so what was a few more right?  Wrong!  This scooter wasn’t as stable as our Honda Win and there was a lightning storm chasing us!  The wind made driving along the longest sea bridge in Vietnam a scarier than any of our rainy drives but thankfully the rain held off until we arrived at the ferry to Cat Ba Island.

Exploring Cat Ba Island

A visit to Cat Ba Island and Cat Ba National Park can easily last a week or more this tropical paradise.  With a National Park and Cat Ba Town on the main island of Lan Ha Bay there is simply too much to see and here.  You’ll find something for any budget with activities for backpackers, flashpackers, or luxury travelers.  Couples on a romantic vacation can enjoy private boats and beaches while adventure travelers rock climb, kayak and cliff dive.  Cat Ba has it all!

Traveling in Vietnam comes with its fair share of risks no matter what season you go in. I HIGHLY recommend getting travel insurance before coming to Cat Ba. Thankfully I didn’t need it while I was there but World Nomads gave me peace and mind in case anything did happen.

Chances are you don’t have a whole week to explore everything on Cat Ba Island so I hope this series of posts can help you pick the best ways for you to enjoy Cat Ba.   We crammed a ton of activities into our short 3 day visit to Cat Ba and you can read about them below.  This post will cover our first day but make sure you put your email in the top of this page so you don’t miss any other posts about ou adventure in Cat Ba Island!

20 Things to do on Cat Ba Island

  • Visit Monkey Island to see macaque monkeys
  • Spend a night (or 2) on a cruise through the islands
  • Deep water solo dive (Climbing + Cliff Jumping)
  • Get a wild fish pedicure in Viet Hai Village
  • Kayak through a beautiful lagoon
  • Enjoy a stand up paddle board trip
  • Sunbathe in the sand
  • Eat fresh seafood on a floating restaurant
  • Body surf on any of the amazing beaches
  • Bike ride to Viet Hai Village
  • Look for endangered Cat Ba Langur monkeys
  • Visit Canon Fort for a great view and history lesson
  • Yoga on the beach
  • Climb to the top of Monkey Island
  • Enjoy fresh fruit (especially coconuts)
  • Kayak through Dark Cave
  • Take a selfie in one of the world’s most beautiful landscapes
  • Fish with local fisherman in a floating village
  • Explore the island by motorbike
  • Party in Cat Ba Town







 Romantic Resort in Cat Ba Bay

Our first stop was Monkey Island Resort where we enjoyed 2 nights on a private beach.  The island used to be called Pineapple Island but some docile macaque monkeys were brought in for tourists and the name change soon followed.   Monkey Island Resort is one of Cat Ba’s most romantic hideaways and perfect for any couple traveling to through Vietnam.  The bungalows look out on the beach and you can hear the waves lightly crashing from inside your room.  As an added bonus they make a scrumptious barbecue buffet and have friendly staff to help with your every need.

Enjoying Monkey Island

Monkey Island would have been wonderful to spend week on for a romantic honeymoon but instead our trip was two whirlwind days of adventure.  Within minutes of jumping off the boat the film crew was following us to the top of the ridge.  Jagged rocks followed a trail to the left behind the resort forming a stairwell through the jungle.  A rocky peak jutted out of canopy as we climbed higher, each more precarious than the last.

Things to do on Monkey  Island

-Climb to the top!
-Swim in the public beach
-Take a selfie with a monkey
-Enjoy coconuts on the beach

Many of the rocks were razor sharp but at least we still had shoes on from our motorbike ride.  More than once we had to free climb straight up to the next ledge finding hand and footholds in the porous karst mountain.  Suddenly an amazing view burst out of the treetops with the blues and greens of the ocean shining between beach covered islands.  Boats brought visitors here on day trips and overnight cruises throughout Cat Bay Bay  for a quick swim and a chance to take a selfie with a monkey.

Midday sun reigned supreme as sweat poured down my face.  Ronda and I stood in awe of this magnificent landscape.  We turned to look at each other and instantly knew it was time for a swim! Descending down to Monkey Island’s public beach was even harder than our trek to the top but we slowly found ourselves exiting the jungle onto a sandy beach. We walked over to find a family of rhesus macaque monkeys posing for photos!  This family was introduced by the locals who run the island and were the most docile monkeys I’ve ever met!

I walked under the low lying branches with monkeys right next to me.   They were close enough to touch but decided it wasn’t a good idea.  Instead I photographed these little guys from every angle and even stuck the VTV GoPro in their faces for a close up monkey interview!  Not once did they try to charge us but they certainly startled me a few times when they were wrestling with each other.  We saw one visitor feed a monkey and she was the person who they showed any aggression towards.

DO NOT FEED THE MONKEYS!  If you visit Monkey Island please don’t feed or pet the monkeys.  Thanks.

Our riding clothes were in dire need of a wash, we were sweaty from the climb so why not just jump right in the ocean?  We quickly discovered the shallow beach had gentle waves and the water was the perfect temperature.  Floating on my back I noticed the TV crew had launched their drone and captured every second on tape.  When we were finally ready to head back to Monkey Island Resort our producer had two coconuts waiting for us.

Cat Ba is perfect for a Couple’s Romantic Getaway in Vietnam

The boat ride back to our resort was about a thousand times nicer than that climb.  When we got back there was only time for a quick shower before the crew was urging us to do some sunset yoga as the resort prepared a delicious beach BBQ.

As if that wasn’t enough in this jam packed day we jumped back on the boat after dinner and headed off to a floating village.  There was a local fisherman waiting for us on a floating house with thin beams creating a front deck crisscrossed with with massive nets.  Walking between the nets was like walking a 20 foot plank off a pirate ship.  The whole structure creaked and groaned with every step.

I followed the fisherman around successfully getting in his way as he nimbly jumped around the vessel.  In a minute he was over here getting a rope and the next he was on the other side setting up a fishing lamp.  I turned around to follow and stepped on a weak board cracking it in half sending me falling into the ocean! The board scraped my leg up but I managed to keep myself from going all the way in and pulled myself back up.

As soon as I stood up I realized I’d somehow escaped with just a scratch so the only thing left to do was go join the fisherman.  We lowered his net all the way down before turning on the fishing lamp.  The power grid in this village only began a few years ago when the government laid underwater wires.  Now fisherman can simply flip a switch and a light bulb first attracts tiny little fish which then attract bigger ones and so on.  I saw a cuttlefish swim past and in seconds a few dozen turned into a hundreds and thousands of little fish!

Ropes were pulled as a pulley system slowly started raising the net.  As it raised higher a few fish got away but most of them were trapped!  There must have been over a hundred kilograms of fish in the net.  I know because I used a handheld net to scoop them all onto one of his house nets I nearly fell into earlier.  Thankfully when I finished we just had to film a few interview questions and it was a quick ride back to Monkey Island where we both promptly passed out in anticipation for Day 2 of filming Vietnam Discovery!

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More photos from this adventure and others can be found on the @LiveTravelTeach Instagram Account and don’t forget to follow by adding your email at the top of this page to make sure you don’t miss any of these amazing adventures!

Disclaimer:  This is the internet and It is safe to assume that links and content contained on this webpage provide compensation to the website’s owner.  VTV4 paid for all activities and accommodations during this tour but the opinions are my own and the information here is accurate as of October 2017.  All photos in this post were taken as a collaboration between Mike Still and Ronda Christensen.

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Mike Still
Mike is a travel enthusiast, photographer and teacher. He loves adventure travel, meeting the locals and exploring new culture. As an outdoor enthusiast you can often find him hiking mountains or exploring forests trying to capture the beauty of mother nature. In 2013 he founded as he left his home in America and has been teaching or traveling around the world ever since!

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Lara Dunning October 15, 2017 - 6:10 pm

Thanks for sharing this special place. It does look like a great place for couples travel. I will keep it in mind. Glad to hear your mishap with the board wasn’t serious.

Mike Still October 17, 2017 - 2:10 pm

Thank you Lara, we were all happy to find out I barely got a scratch when I fell.

The Great Wide Somewhere October 16, 2017 - 11:20 am

It’s interesting that you like Cat Ba more than Halong even though the latter is so much more popular- however I’m not necessarily surprised! I have had bad experiences in the past with getting attacked by macaque monkeys so props to you for your bravery!! Also what an amazing opportunity you all had to work with the company in this way! Lovely photos and informative article

Mike Still October 17, 2017 - 2:17 pm

Thank you, Its always lovely to hear compliments on my photos and writing. These monkeys were unlike any others I’ve seen, even in Ubud’s monkey sanctuary they were more aggressive than here.

Elisa October 18, 2017 - 12:52 pm

Gorgeous pictures! I went to Cat Ba off season so my pictures (and the view from the top of Canon Fort) are not that nice. I only checked two of your 20 activities proposed so I will have to go back to Cat Ba with pleasure! I would add that I ate the best Pho Bho on Cat BA!

Christine Maguire (@thetraveloguer) October 18, 2017 - 2:10 pm

Aw, I wish I had known about Cat Ba when I was in Vietnam, it looks so beautiful! I love you photos 🙂 When I went to Halong Bay it was so overcast, my pictures really didn’t capture how nice it was.

Sandy N Vyjay October 19, 2017 - 4:52 am

Halong Bay has been over exposed while Cat Ba looks relatively untouched. The Monkey resort looks really tranquil and ideal for a romantic getaway. I like the fact that the waves can be heard inside the rooms too. The private beach indeed looks gorgeous and inviting. Could happily spend a couple of days of indulgence here.

Carmen Edelson October 19, 2017 - 1:44 pm

Eating fresh seafood on a floating restaurant?! Yes, please! And awww those little cheeky monkeys!

Kevin Wagar October 22, 2017 - 4:32 pm

This place looks like a total island paradise! I especially loved the first photo that showed the one side being a rocky and harsh place, while the other side was a beach paradise with a tropical forest. Stunning!

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Loi nguyen November 30, 2018 - 9:41 pm

We went on the sunlight cruise to ha long bay . We booked throw friends travel hanoi , everything was perfectly arranged . In Hanoi we meet Loi our tour guide , he was the best . He explained everything very good and service with a smile . We arrived in cat ba island really smooth with the bus , we had a nice group of people , and got on the boat to ha lang bay . The boat was very good , and the service was even better . I would recomment sunlight travel to every one , and ha long bay is a must do . Really really beautiful . We had really fun swimming and kajakking . And the food and service was very good . Karaoke at night is must . Special thanks Loi , mr happy , mr daddy cool ( the best dancer ) and the whole crew for a unforgettable trip that i never will forget . Thank u guys . I hope one day we can return


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