The main attraction around Cat Ba is Ha Long Bay. But first, you should take a stop at Lan Ha Bay which is a smaller and much less touristic version. Lan Ha Bay boasts some amazing caves and lagoons which you can kayak through.
We had initial hiccups getting a hold of the local currency - the Vietnamese Dong. (A tip for travellers: Pay in local currency. Do not quote/ask in US Dollars). From Hanoi we headed to Lan Ha Bay which is about 4 hours from Hanoi by bus. This is the cheapest mode of transportation to Halong Bay or Lan Ha Bay. (We chose Lan Ha Bay over Halong Bay because it is much peaceful and there's less pollution).
4. Kayak your way through the floating village, rest at one of the tiny islands in the middle of nowhere, reach the Lan Ha Bay and click loads of pictures! We rented a kayak on our own as that gives one much more freedom to explore (and adds a pinch of adventure). Renting a 2 person kayak for the whole day would cost you USD 6 and for half a day would cost you USD 5. 5. Watching the numerous limestone karsts around there would come a point when you would be tempted to climb one! Rock climbing can be done through any of the operators available. 6. An island life is incomplete without its beaches and after all the tiring activities nothing beats a quick dip in the ocean or just baking yourself out on the sand. 7. Indulge in some seafood and tiger beer at one of the many restaurants around the harbour, the food is fairly priced with every other restraint running discounts (and happy hours) post 5:00 pm. There is so much more that can be done at the Cat Ba Island and one can easily spend 2 nights and 3 days here, if you are planning to visit the place for just 1 night I would suggest you to rethink since you would miss out on a lot in the rush. My visit to the Cat Ba Island was something close to what I can call a trouvaille (a lucky find) it is not really an extra ordinary island and Vietnam has places equally breath-taking, but there was something about the experience; could be because this impromptu plan with two travellers I had just met a day earlier taught me to trust well or the fact that I learned something new (Kayaking) or may be the moment when I thought the kayak will crash into one of the karst but I managed my way out or yet it may be that flash at the bay when realisation struck that I was actually at a place which I had only seen in movies and magazines.
Day 2: As the day breaks, you are invited to join a Tai Chi demonstration taking place on the top deck of the vessel. Enjoy a buffet breakfast on the main vessel before being transferred to our day-boat, Paradise Explorer, which will take you to the Cat Ba Island. Dropping anchor at Viet Hai jetty, cycle or get a motorbike ride through the jungle to reach the village. Wander around the fields and houses, hike in the forest and immerse yourself in Cat Ba National Park lush vegetation. Back on Paradise Explorer, lunch will be served as the boat starts sailing again. On the way, stop at Dark Cave & Light Cave area. Kayak, swim, or just enjoy the quiet and splendid setting. Back on the main vessel, relax and enjoy the facilities at leisure. Open bar, spa, massage & beauty services available for bookings according to your will. Dinner served on-board followed by movie night, board games or just enjoying a cocktail surrounded by limestone rocks majestically springing out from silent waters in the night. Important notes: Includes unlimited house wine, beer, soft drinks, mineral water, tea, coffee, fruits… A la cart menu: unlimited order! (Lunch, Dinner) during stay on Board!!
Second Day As the day breaks, you are invited to join a Tai Chi demonstration taking place on the top deck of the vessel. Enjoy a buffet breakfast on the main vessel before being transferred to our day-boat, Paradise Explorer, which will take you to Bai Tu Long Bay, one among the many wonderful natural wonders with beautiful islands and long, white-sandy beaches. Winter Program (Oct 1st - Apr 30th) The winter will see you land on Cat Ba Island, the largest island in Halong bay, to explore by bicycle or motorbike and visit a local village. After transferring to Cat Ba, enjoy a gentle cycle or motorbike ride along a stunning coastal road before turning inland to snake through rice fields surrounded by dense jungle. 5km inland, stop at Viet Hai Village to take in the tranquil atmosphere and beautiful surroundings. Our guide will explain about life on the island and you will have the chance to visit the local school and chat to the friendly and welcoming villagers. Return to the Explorer for a well-deserved lunch. Summer Program (May 1st - Sep 30th) The summer means a visit to Vung Vieng, one of the largest floating villages in Halong bay, a ramshackle collection of buildings that include a school, museum and almost a hundred dwellings where the fishermen and their families reside all year round. This unusual way of living only on water and in relative isolation has encouraged a completely unique culture not seen anywhere else in Vietnam. Transfer from the Explorer to a small rowboat to quietly paddle through the village and interact with the locals who reside here. Stop at the largest floating area, which contains the small school and museum where you can learn about everyday life in the village, how this unlikely situation came about and why the locals are fiercely protective over this unique way of living. Then, row to Tung Sau pearl farm and discover the intricate methods of oyster and pearl cultivation.