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Cat Ba National Park


Cat Ba Island emerges from the sea like a monster from a movie. Its rugged and weather-beaten surface is now blanketed by green vegetation. Settled on the outskirts of Halong Bay, the island is surrounded by dense forest jungles, stable karst peaks, and calm, transparent waters. It’s the biggest island in the archipelago.

The otherworldliness of the island can be attributed to its mesmerizing beauty; National Park accounts for half of the island. The encompassing waters are a refuge for aquatic wildlife and coral reefs. The ecosystem’s diversity has led to high biodiversity levels -several animal species also call the island home.

The Cat Ba name originates from a Tran Dynasty legend, and in English, it loosely means Women’s Island. According to the legend, a trio of deceased women were thrown into the sea, only to wash up on various beaches close to Cat Ba Island. A fisherman found the bodies, who then built a temple for all three women. People have been living on Cat Ba well before that, though; archaeological excavations have traced human residence on this island as far back as 6,000 years.

When the American and French wars took place, Cat Ba was a target for massive bombing because it acted as a vantage point for soldiers. Several relics of those wars are still on the island, including Cannon Fort and Hospital Cave. The island’s makeup was significantly impacted by the Third Indochina War. Because of the turmoil between Vietnam and China, as many as 30,000 inhabitants of Chinese descent were kicked out of the Halong area. 13,000 people reside on the island today, with about 4,000 more in the encompassing villages.

In addition to its permanent residents, more than 1.6 million vacationers visit the shores of Cat Ba annually. For the last 15 years, the island’s popularity has led to a surge in guesthouses and hotels popping up to accommodate the influx of visitors. The island’s peak season is the summer, specifically from June to August. During this time, temperatures are soaring. Clearer skies and colder weather sets in from September to November, which some travelers feel is just the right weather.

The island has several experiences to offer. You can get a tan on a beach, or you can participate in several outdoor sports, among other activities.

Cat Ba Island from Above
Cat Ba Island from Above

See & Do

Cat Ba’s National Park stretches across 263 sq. km. of bumpy forested land. The place is thick with vegetation, making it an amazing habitat for the species living on the terrain. There are approximately 20 reptile and lizard species, 78 bird species, and 32 mammal species inhabiting the island. One such mammal species is the white-headed langur, which are some of the world’s most endangered primate species.

Walking around the park is fun, and it’s no wonder. The crisp air, dense forest, and astonishing views will rejuvenate your mind and body. Independent trekking is feasible, but for safety’s sake, you are encouraged to go with a guide. He or he can tell you fascinating information about the flora and fauna you come across. You can perform all types of activities in National Park – you can take an afternoon stroll or you can climb the highest peak of Cat bat’s summit.

Lan Ha Bay
Lan Ha Bay

The water encompassing the island is explorable either on your own or with a group. You can rent a kayak and row through the bay, exploring the island’s jagged karst cliffs. In the summer, the encompassing sea is ideal for diving, snorkeling, and swimming. The terrain underwater is just as lovely, as the corals are host to several different marine wildlife species.

The steep cliffs and peaks provide a variety of challenges for those partial to adrenaline-rush sports. The hard climbs are worthwhile for the astounding views of Halong Bay, acting as a payoff of the summit adventure. For safety’s sake, you should be accompanied by a reputable companion when engaging in such activities.

You can rent a bicycle or motorcycle to explore the aesthetics of the island. It is simple to rent a two-wheeled vehicle on the island. Doing so will allow you to leave town and discover the dense green forests, jagged hills, and secret beaches.

There are three primary beaches on Cat Ba (Cat Co 1, Cat Co 2, and Cat Co 3). Each one of them is situated on the island’s southeast coast. The daunting karst cliffs conceal the tiny golden sand crescents. The island has a number of hidden beaches that can only be accessed by watercraft.

Trekking in Cat Ba National Park
Trekking in Cat Ba National Park

The island has several historical sites that provide backstories of Cat Ba, specifically about the role it played in the American and French Wars. Hospital Cave has been through a lot of activity throughout the years. When the American war was taking place, the cave served as a shelter that was bomb-proof. As such, it was a sanctuary for soldiers of the Viet Cong receiving medical treatment. It even had a swimming pool at one time, as well as a theatre. For over 40 years, no one has inhabited the cave, excluding tourists who visited it to explore the hideaway. Today, you can walk around the empty corridors, the walls of which are rich with moss and greenery. You can see where wounded soldiers took refuge. Venturing into the cave is worth it just to take in the workmanship and detail that was put into the development of the Cave Complex.

Another site that provides a glimpse into the history of Cat Bat is Cannon Fort. Created by the Japanese during World War 2, it was put to use during the Vietnam and Indochina wars, as well. 177 meters over sea level is where the fort’s defense system was. The strategic placement made it simple to identify approaching enemies and keep them at bay by firing canons. Today, tourists visit the fort to take in the sights. During sunset, glimpses into the dense jungle, shadowed watercrafts, and glowing karst peaks (thanks to the sun’s diminishing light) need to be experienced to appreciate.

Culture & Arts

You’ll find fishing villages that float along the outcroppings encompassing Cat Ba Island. This is a prime example of how, throughout time, people have found ways to live in synch with the ocean’s current. Fishing is a central source of revenue here, in addition to tourism. The vibrant boats and homes bounce along the water. 2 km from Cat Ba Island is Cai Beo, an old-fashioned fishing village. This is a wonderful area to explore the way life is lived in this region. The small fleet of watercrafts and homes is believed to be one of the biggest and oldest of its kind.

At the market, you can see sizeable catches brought in by the local fisherman. At this place, all kinds of seafood are showcased, some of which are dehydrated, others that are fresh morning catches. You’ll see fish so fresh that they’re still alive! Batches of fruit will tease the nostrils with their sweet aroma. You can load up on food and materials at the market while interacting with the natives, experiencing their culture first-hand.  


Fishing village in Lan Ha Bay, Cat Ba island
Fishing village in Lan Ha Bay, Cat Ba island

Festivals & Events

In addition to celebrating the conventional festivals in Vietnam, Cat Ba has a special event that happens annually. On the first of April each year, the island’s inhabitants unite to commemorate Den Ba. The festival marks the occasion of Ho Chi Minh’s trip to the island and reminds us of the value and importance of fishing. The event starts with a speech about Ho Chi Min’s trip, which was an incredible honor for the residents of Cat Ba. From here, there is a fascinating dragon boat race involving teams in vibrantly colored wooden watercrafts. They race along the island’s shoreline in an effort to determine whose boat is fastest. Cultural celebrations and activities are abundant throughout the festival.

Food & Drink

Cat Ba is a paradise for those who love seafood. Each day, fresh catches are available. You can purchase fish from the market, or you can have it cooked for you at a restaurant. The fish is always fresh in Cat Ba.

A local delicacy is the elephant trunk clam (aka the geoduck), which is rich in nutritional density and has a distinctive flavor. The spicy and strange-looking mollusk is served with all kinds of dishes.

When it comes to shellfish, Cat Ba has no shortage of variety. All types of dishes are prepared each day, including the spicy horseshoe crab, which is usually served with sour sauce. King crab is a frequently consumed meal here, and tends to be served with hot chilies and lemongrass. In addition to crab, you’ll find no shortage of lobster on the island. Lobsters are steamed before they are served with a fresh salad.

Several unique creatures are sometimes consumed in Cat Ba, such as the sea snake, which is said to be rich in medicinal and nutritional content.

There are plenty of fish meals created with fresh catches from the nearby waters. Gio and snapper fish are fried, grilled, and steamed, and the aroma filling the air will make your mouth water. 

View on Monkey Island
View on Monkey Island

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