Halong Bay is considered one of the most beautiful natural wonders in Southeast Asia, and is a must-visit for anyone backpacking Vietnam. Constantly topping lists of scenic destinations around the world, Halong Bay (also known as Ha Long Bay) is the perfect destination to kick back, relax, and admire the views. With a number of islands dotted around the area, there are also some interesting cultural attractions waiting to be explored.
That being said, the vast number of islands on offer can make planning your trip a little tricky. Each island offers something slightly different – and even the mainland has some gorgeous locations ready to explore. You should definitely do some research before you book your accommodation.
Alternatively, you can let us take care that and do the research for you! Combining our personal experience with hints and tips from local guides and travel bloggers we’ve come up with the five best places to stay in Halong Bay. Whether you’re looking to relax on the sand, get your heart racing in adventure activities or kick back with a few beers, we’ve got you covered.
So, let’s jump right in!
- Where to Stay in Halong Bay
- Halong Bay Neighborhood Guide
- Top 5 Places to Stay in Halong Bay
- 1. Halong – Best Place to Stay in Halong Bay for your First Time
- 2. Cai Rong – Where to Stay in Halong Bay on a Budget
- 3. Quan Lan – Best Area in Halong Bay for Families
- 4. Cat Ba – Epic Destination in Halong Bay for Adventurous Travellers
- 5. Haiphong – A Lively City near Halong Bay
- Final Thoughts on Where To Stay in Halong Bay
Creative Hideaway in Halong Bay – The Flamboyant
This gorgeous apartment will have you never wanting to leave! The stylish interiors create a bright and relaxing space with plenty of room. The walls are decorated with art from local creatives, and the sturdy furnishings add a luxurious vibe. Central Haiphong is within walking distance, keeping you well connected with the rest of Vietnam. Perfect if you have a longer itinerary.
Adventurous Hostel in Halong Bay – Woodstock Jungle Camp
There aren’t many hostels in Halong Bay – but thankfully, the few available offer outstanding service. Woodstock Jungle Camp is right in the heart of Cat Ba, our top location for adventure travellers. This makes it an epic choice for a true backpacker experience. It even has its own swimming pool. Prefer to stay on the coast? They also have a fantastic beach camp!
Stylish Hotel in Halong Bay – Muong Thanh Luxury
If you want to try out a five-star hotel, Vietnam is a great place to splurge. Hotels here are often far cheaper than elsewhere in the world, without compromising on world-class facilities. Muong Thanh Luxury, right in the heart of Halong City, also gives you quick access to the main ferry services in the region. It’s truly a win-win!
Halong City is the main gateway to Halong Bay – so chances are you will pass through this area at some point. For first time visitors, it is a great transport hub for travelling around the area.
Cai Rong is by far the most popular destination on Van Don – and where most of the accommodation is based. What we love about Cai Rong is the many ferries on offer to other destinations.
Quan Lan is one of the outermost islands in Halong Bay. This makes it a peaceful destination throughout the year – perfect for families. The large, unspoiled beaches offer panoramic views of the ocean on one side, and towering Halong Bay mountains on the other side.
Of all the islands in Halong Bay, Cat Ba is the most popular. So what’s so adventurous about the destination? Well, this is where you will find luscious rainforests, quirky boat trips, and epic hikes.
Though not officially in Halong Bay, Haiphong is well connected to the islands by boat. It’s the third biggest city in Vietnam, so this is one for those that prefer urban destinations.
Top 5 Places to Stay in Halong Bay
Halong Bay is packed with hundreds of different islands. Whilst it’s possible to hit all of the highlights in a single boat trip, we recommend taking a few days to unwind and admire the scenery. Getting around the mainland towns is super easy – and the most popular destinations are only a short boat ride away.
Halong City is easily the best-connected destination. It has great links with Hanoi – one of the coolest places to stay in Vietnam – and across Halong Bay. For first time visitors, this is a great spot for catching an island hopping tour. It also suits those visiting for a couple of days with limited free time.
Haiphong is another well-connected destination – but as the third-largest city in Vietnam, it is much busier than Halong City. For this reason, we reckon it is a much better option for those who prefer urban life. You won’t be short of great things to do, places to eat, and nightclubs to dance in.
Cai Rong is in the far north of Halong Bay, and is a great place for those seeking island hopping tours. The port here is a little bit smaller, so you’ll get to enjoy a more local atmosphere. As the destination furthest from Halong Bay in the region, it is also among the cheapest. Vietnam is pretty inexpensive across the board, but if you really want to save on accommodation you should check out the hotels on offer here.
As for the islands themselves – there are so many to choose from, but we have favourites! Cat Ba is among the most popular – especially for adventure travellers. Alongside the island hopping tours, you can also opt to go on jungle hikes and kayaking adventures across the island. In the evenings, it also has subdued nightlife with cheap beers and laid-back vibes.
Speaking about laid-back, it doesn’t get any more peaceful than Quan Lan. This island is right on the outskirts of Halong Bay, so you’ll get to unwind in its calm atmosphere. For families, Quan Lan is a great way to enjoy the beaches without worrying about the massive crowds in the more popular areas.
Still undecided? No worries – we’ve got even more info about our favourite places to stay in Halong Bay below! We’ve also included our top accommodation and activity picks for each.
1. Halong – Best Place to Stay in Halong Bay for your First Time
Halong City is the main gateway to Halong Bay – so chances are you will pass through this area at some point. For first time visitors, it is a great transport hub for travelling around the area. If you are happy taking an island hopping tour around the main attractions, Halong City is the perfect base.
Beyond its convenience, Halong City has many attractions in its own right. The cuisine on offer is among the best in Vietnam and you’ll be spoiled with gorgeous scenery near the coast. It’s a great all-rounder for a flying visit to the area.
Stylish Loft in Halong: Little Colmar
This charming holiday home has modern interiors and stylish furnishings to create a bright and calm space. With modern appliances throughout, this is a great option for those who can’t go without their home comforts. It’s just outside the city centre, so you’ll have quick access to the city centre attractions without compromising on peaceful evenings. This apartment is great for couples, but they also have similar apartments for up to eight guests.
Locally Owned Hostel in Halong: Halo Bay Homestay
Right in the heart of Halong, this hostel is owned by locals! This gives you a more authentic insight into life in the city – as well as unique advice for hidden gems across the area. They offer complimentary tours for guests – a great way to get to know other travellers and discover something new about the city. We also love their private rooms, which are very well priced.
Luxury Hotel in Halong: Muong Thanh Luxury
Nestled in the city centre, Muong Thanh Luxury is only a short walk from the ferries and boat tours. Its location towering over the city, as well as soundproofed rooms, means you also won’t have to deal with the noisy atmosphere of the centre. A Vietnamese style breakfast is offered every morning from the top-notch restaurant. We also love the spa centre.
Things to See and Do in Halong:
- Only visiting for a couple of days? Take in all the best attractions and sights in the area with this day-long cruise of the Lan Ha Bay area
- Quang Ninh Provincial Museum offers a fascinating insight into the cultural history of the region – as well as some basic exhibits about local nature
- Bai Tho Mountain is located right in the heart of the city – it’s a fairly doable hike for average climbers, with jaw-dropping views from the top
- Just across the road from the artificial beach, you will discover some excellent food trucks – fried squid cake is the local delicacy
2. Cai Rong – Where to Stay in Halong Bay on a Budget
Van Don Island is the northernmost destination in Halong Bay – and it’s a great choice for those on a budget. Vietnam is pretty cheap in general, but the accommodation on Van Don will barely make a dent in your budget. The towns here have a more local vibe too, so you’ll get to sample some of the best food without breaking the bank.
Cai Rong is by far the most popular destination on Van Don – and where most of the accommodation is based. What we love about Cai Rong is the many ferries on offer to other destinations. These don’t get anywhere near as crowded as those in Halong City, giving you more time to enjoy your destination.
Budget Apartment in Cai Rong: Sawyer Hotel
It’s a little on the basic side – but if you want the added privacy of your own apartment without breaking the bank this is an excellent choice! It can sleep up to four guests, making it a good choice for small groups heading to Halong Bay. The apartment is located within a hotel, so you’ll also get some added benefits – including a communal barbecue facility.
Cheap Boutique in Cai Rong: Hoang Trung Hotel
This is a little bit of an upgrade, but still super affordable. The stylish interiors mean you won’t go without your home comforts – and the huge windows let in plenty of natural light. The bullet train is nearby, giving you superfast access to the rest of the island. Like the apartment above, this apartment is housed within a hotel, and the customer service comes with outstanding reviews.
Beach on a Budget in Cai Rong: Hai Luu En Hotel
It doesn’t get any more budget than this one-star hotel in the centre of Cai Rong! Despite the cheap price and low star rating, it comes with fantastic guest reviews thanks to the attentive service and spacious rooms. It’s also located right on the beach – perfect if you are here to kick back and relax. The on-site bar is also popular with backpackers in the area.
Things to See and Do in Cai Rong:
- Hop on board a ferry – most destinations can be visited as part of a day trip, we recommend visiting Hanoi if you get the chance!
- Just outside Cai Rong you will find a small mountain – this is easy to climb, and has some pagodas for capturing great Instagram shots
- Cua Ong, a few minutes outside Cai Rong on the mainland, is known for its vast market with local delicacies
- Speaking of local delicacies, head down to the port in the evenings to sample some indulgent street food for unbeatable prices
3. Quan Lan – Best Area in Halong Bay for Families
Quan Lan is one of the outermost islands in Halong Bay, making it a peaceful destination throughout the year and perfect for families. The large, unspoiled beaches offer panoramic views of the ocean on one side, and towering Halong Bay mountains on the other side.
Quan Lan is still a popular weekend destination for those who live in Hanoi. This does mean it can get a little crowded during these times – but it only lasts for a couple of days. It’s also nice to be reminded of outside civilisation!
Unique Homestay in Quan Lan: Bean Homestay
Only a short walk from Minh Chau Beach, this homestay is a great choice for families looking for a relaxing break in Vietnam. You’ll be housed within your own self-contained unit – most of which can sleep up to four guests. The entire property is surrounded by native gardens, creating a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere throughout the day. The sunrise views are also unbeatable.
Hidden Paradise in Quan Lan: Mai Homestay
This huge homestay can sleep up to sixteen guests – making it an affordable option for larger families and groups heading to the area. Quan Lan Beach is right outside the front door – with your own private section away from the main tourist crowds. The interiors are rustic and charming, with small local details adding a sense of authenticity.
Budget Friendly Hotel in Quan Lan: Quan Lan Nam Phong Hotel
This might just be a one-star hotel – but it packs a mighty punch! All of their rooms sleep up to four guests, and it’s easily the most budget-friendly accommodation on the island. It comes with excellent guest reviews – many of which praise the beachfront location and friendly staff. The on-site restaurant also offers some truly delectable Vietnamese cuisine.
Things to See and Do in Quan Lan:
- San Hao Beach has a hidden entrance, making it one of the most secluded beaches in Halong Bay
- Quan Lan Beach is the most popular on the island due to its hammocks, huts, and quiet atmosphere
- Head into Quan Lan Village in the evenings for gorgeous Vietnamese cuisine
- Minh Chau is another great dining area, with some of the best seafood in the region
One of the best investments you can make is a worldwide travel adapter that will work anywhere! The one featured here is tough, reliable and a solid buy – Don’t leave home without one.
Buy your travel adapter on Amazon now.
4. Cat Ba – Epic Destination in Halong Bay for Adventurous Travellers
Of all the islands in Halong Bay, Cat Ba is the most popular. So what’s so adventurous about the destination? Well, this is where you will find luscious rainforests, quirky boat trips, and epic hikes. Kayaking is becoming increasingly popular around Cat Ba, giving you a unique way to discover the island.
Getting around is super easy, but we recommend travelling by bike. This is one of the best ways to take in the scenery, and there are a few hire shops for those who don’t have their own. Ferries to the mainland are fast and frequent.
Historic Retreat in Cat Ba: The Ancient House
Prefer something a little more private? This secluded getaway is located in the jungle, giving you your own private space away from the crowds. It’s a historic building, which still follows the traditional architecture and interior design of the area. For this reason, we reckon it’s a great choice for those wanting an authentic slice of Halong Bay life. There’s also a nice cycle path that runs past the house.
Intrepid Hostel in Cat Ba: Woodstock Jungle Camp
It doesn’t get more adventurous than this! You’ll be staying among the native Cat Ba forest right in the heart of the island, with the only sounds at night being those of the indigenous wildlife. That being said, you will get to mingle with other backpackers in the communal areas. They even have music equipment and speakers for a real backpacking experience.
Epic Resort in Cat Ba: Xinh Floating House
This unique floating house is just off the coast of Cat Ba. You’ll get to wake up every morning to stunning views of the mountainous island and calm waters. Despite the floating location, you’ll still get to enjoy modern comforts and high-speed WiFi. There’s also a private stretch of beach on Cat Ba just for guests.
Things to See and Do in Cat Ba:
- If you’re looking for a more adventurous way to go island hopping, this boat tour around Lan Ha includes a kayak excursion
- Visit the National Park on the east of the island – it is filled with gorgeous scenery, adventurous walks and even a viewing tower
- Cat Ba is known for its caves, so make sure to grab a guide from the tourism office. If history is your thing, make sure to check out Hospital Cave
- Cat Ba Market is the place to be for cheap dining – especially if you want to try out the local seafood
5. Haiphong – A Lively City near Halong Bay
Though not officially in Halong Bay, Haiphong is well connected to the islands by boat. It’s the third biggest city in Vietnam, so this is one for those that prefer urban destinations. Day trips to Cat Ba and Halong City are totally possible, so you’ll have plenty of chances to discover the most visited destinations.
The city itself has some interesting historic and cultural attractions. It isn’t as touristy as the other cities – so it offers something a little more authentic. The evening scene here is considerably more subdued than the nightlife in Hanoi, but definitely worth experiencing.
Stylish Apartment in Haiphong: The Flamboyant
Vinhomes Imperia, where this apartment is located, is often considered the most exclusive neighbourhood in Haiphong. This is crystal clear when you walk into the apartment to discover stylish interiors and creative design. A major street food district is within a two-minute walk, and the bar across the road is popular with both expats and locals. There’s also some office space.
Charming Homestay in Haiphong: VanCao Green
Heading to Haiphong on a budget? This three-star homestay is a great way to save some cash whilst staying in the city. A complimentary breakfast is offered every morning – with both American and Asian options available. We also love the laid-back terrace where you can mingle with other guests. Plus, the city centre is just a few minutes walk away.
Extravagant Hotel in Haiphong: Pearl River Hotel
This lavish five-star hotel is great for those looking to splurge – although even those who are used to a mid-range budget will be happy with the price. It comes with an outdoor swimming pool where you can kick back, relax and soak up the rays. Their extensive fitness suite has impeccable reviews from previous guests, and their casino is a fun rainy day activity.
Things to See and Do in Haiphong:
- This is another great boat trip around Halong Bay that leaves from nearby Haiphong – perfect for those who prefer to stay in the city but still want to check out the scenery
- Julie’s Bar is a popular nightlife venue with local expats – the drinks are cheap, and the patrons are friendly
- Both the Naval Museum and Military Zone III Museum provide unique insights into Vietnam’s wartime history
- Haiphong has far too many markets to list – they’re all based around the city centre, and we recommend sampling the crab noodle soup
Final Thoughts on Where To Stay in Halong Bay
Halong Bay is a mesmerising destination in northern Vietnam. The gorgeous scenery and unique culture make this a must visit attraction in the country, plus it’s pretty cheap and safe location. Whether you’re touring around Vietnam, or looking to stay put and relax, there’s something for everyone in the region.
Keep an eye on Vietnam’s weather when planning your trip, as conditions vary depending on the season.
As for our personal favourite? Haiphong is well connected, full of life and offers something a bit different. You’ll get to enjoy both city living and magical countryside within a few minutes of each other, showing you the true diversity of Vietnam.
That being said, wherever is best for you really depends on what you want to get out of your trip. We hope this guide has helped you narrow down your options!
Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments!
And don’t forget to take out Travel Insurance for your trip! Vietnam is overall safe, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. I have been using World Nomads for some time now and made a few claims over the years. They’re easy to use, professional and relatively affordable. They may also let you buy or extend a policy once you’ve started your trip and are already abroad which is super handy.
Getting an estimate from World Nomads is simple—just click the button or image below, fill out the necessary info, and you’re on your way!
Do you own an awesome hostel, hotel or apartment? Want to be featured in our list? Email [email protected] to find out how.
Yay for transparency! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation through the site, The Broke Backpacker will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Your support helps me keep the site going.