With its long, thin shape stretching approximately 1,000 miles from north to south, Vietnam has a heck of a lot of coastline to offer. It also has all the natural beauty, fascinating culture, and fabulous weather of neighbouring Thailand – but without the hordes of drunken foreigners that so often go with it. As ever, the best beaches are usually those you stumble upon by yourself, after much trial and error – by taking a lucky wrong turn, or by asking around the locals. But for those who don’t have the luxury of time to discover their own desert-island paradise, let us share a few of our favourites…
1. Con Dao
Con Dao is a dog-shaped island located an hour south of Ho Chi Minh City by plane, with an area of just 50 sq km. In addition to its beaches, Con Dao has plenty of untouched forest to explore, a lovely colonial town centre, and a fascinating (albeit rather sombre) history – which has left it with some haunting former prison buildings that are well worth a visit.
We recommend ignoring the “official” beach, Dam Trau, where the bulk of visitors are to be found, in favour of exploring the rest of the island. It’s so small it shouldn’t be too long before you happen upon your own slice of paradise – often, amazingly, without another soul in sight!
Con Dao is home to the swanky Six Senses Resort, where Brad and Angelina stayed in 2011. And if it’s good enough for Brangelina, it’s good enough for us!
About halfway down the coast of Vietnam is Danang, which mainly only features on tourist itineraries as the gateway to Hoi An. Hoi An, Vietnam’s beautiful, 15th century World Heritage port, is undoubtedly one of our favourite destinations in the country, but the beaches in the surrounding region are well worth attention in their own right. Nearby China Beach is famous as the R&R spot for American GIs during the Vietnam War, but our favourite is Non Nuoc – which is surprisingly uncrowded considering its appeal.
Lovers of beach luxury heading to the area should check out the Fusion Maia Resort, which was recently named the best in Vietnam at the Spafinder Wellness Travel Awards – or splash out at the Intercontinental Sun Spa Resort, which has its own private beach and chefs trained by Michael Roux!
3. Phu Quoc
Another island paradise that should feature on your Vietnamese bucket list is Phu Quoc, just off the coast of southern Cambodia. Though it is becoming more and more popular amongst tourists, Phu Quoc has managed to avoid falling prey to too much reckless development, retaining much of its tropical charm. Not only are there plenty of fantastic beaches (Long Beach is our favourite), but active types will be well provided for with fantastic kayaking and diving opportunities galore.
Our favourite luxury hotel on Phu Quoc is La Veranda, with beautiful tropical gardens set right on the beach.
4. Nha Trang
Back on the mainland, Nha Trang lies about halfway between Danang and Ho Chi Minh City, and has a variety of options to tempt the beach-bound traveller. We suggest avoiding the touristy northern beaches and the whacking great Hyundai shipyard in the middle (what a shame!) setting your sights instead on the lovely Doc Let: 18 lovely kilometres of white sand and blue sea.
Visitors to Nha Trang have a wealth of luxury hotels to choose from, including another Six Senses (for total seclusion) and the Evason Ana Mandara (for something closer to the action).
5. Mui Ne
Heading further south still, Mui Ne is far from being off the beaten track – but for the most part, we feel the local development has been sensitive to the area’s natural charms. The higher number of visitors in the area has the additional benefit that the beaches are some of the cleanest and best-maintained in the country, which is enough to make Mui Ne a stalwart on our list of favourite beaches in Vietnam.
For luxury accommodation in the area, our favourite is Cham Villas – a small property with just six villas set in tropical gardens on the beach.
These are just a few of our favourite beaches and hotels in Vietnam, but with so many miles of coastline there are many just waiting to be discovered!
Alastair Donnelly is Director at InsideAsia Tours.