More often than not travellers pass straight through Da Nang with eyes on the nearby prizes of Hoi An and Hue. But this modern city, located on a stunning 20 mile stretch of powdery, white sand, is definitely NOT to be missed during your exploration of central Vietnam. While a day is not enough time to really get to know Da Nang, it is definitely worth spending one exploring many of the highlights of the city and the surrounding region. For our second trip to the city, we decided to grab ourselves a motorbike and set off to see some of our favourite places around the city. We enjoyed so many beautiful views and attractions despite only having one day, so we’re sharing the secret for you to experience the amazing Da Nang in a day too!
**Psst, scroll to the bottom to get a complete route, ready for you to explore with google maps! Oh and there is also a cost breakdown for spending a day exploring Da Nang.
Hire a motorbike to explore Da Nang
Having your own motorbike is not essential, but it will give you much more freedom to really explore the region. If you aren’t confident at driving yourself then definitely look into booking one of the easy rider motorbike tours, which will take you around Da Nang. We did one with these guys on our first trip there and it was definitely worth it. They were really lovely, responsible drivers and we were able to customise our tour, plus they took us to some other spots we would never have found ourselves. Whatever tour you do, try to get on a motorbike – we guarantee it will be a million miles better than a bus tour!
In Da Nang you can hire a fully-automatic bike, like we did, for 150,000đ per day. If you are more experienced and know how to use one then you can get a semi-automatic for cheaper – around 100,000đ. We actually hired our bike for a number of days which brought the daily price down to around 130,000đ. The exact model of bike will determine how much you pay but generally the better and more reliable brands are more expensive. We hired our motorbike from a lady at the bottom of Nguyễn Văn Thoại street (a block back from the beach), but there are soooo many places to rent from in the city. You will need your passport to hire a motorbike so don’t forget to bring one out with you. They will keep it for the duration of the hire.
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Cross the dragon bridge and love-lock bridge
This is a great place to both start and end your day trip around Da Nang. The Dragon Bridge has become the iconic image of the city. Not only is the design innovative, it’s actually the largest bridge in the whole of Vietnam. I prefer to see the dragon bridge during the day as I love the way the yellow colour contrasts with the baby blue skies (which will hopefully be out for your trip too).
While you are checking out the dragon bridge, be sure to park up and have a nosey at the love-lock bridge beside it. It’s a romantic little spot at the side of the river where couples have locked in their love for each other. There are some vendors who you can buy locks from if you feel like a romantic gesture! To get there you will need to head for the dragon carp statue and venture down the path beside it which loops around the back of a restaurant.
When you return to the city after your exploration, be sure to see the Dragon bridge lit up at night. If you are lucky to be visiting Da Nang on a weekend try to time your nighttime sightseeing of the bridge for 9 pm. It is said that at this time, the Dragon bridge breathes fire and water, as well as putting on a light show.
See the fishermen and basket boats in Da Nang Bay
During our 1 day in Da Nang, we opted to search for some of our favourite views in the city. Our route takes you out the city centre of Da Nang and along the beachfront, beyond where the sunbathers venture and into the fishermen’s stretch of the beach. Here, the sea is speckled with round basket-boats which are the traditional boat of choice for Vietnamese fishermen. If you’re lucky you might even see some in use, or spot fishermen drying and fixing their nets on the sand. Traditionally they were made from bamboo, which is super lightweight and floats. Nowadays many of them seem to be made from plastic, though still in the traditional design which is nice.
From this stretch of beach you also get a great unobstructed view back to the cityscape of Da Nang.
Feel small next to Lady Buddha
Sitting atop Son Tra Mountain on the peninsula of Da Nang, is the dominant Lady Buddha. She is thought to be the protector of Da Nang bay, keeping the fishermen safe in stormy weather. And she is well worth a look! Standing at 62m tall, she’s actually taller than the Statue of Liberty and Christ the Redeemer! And she’s made from a single piece of marble. We haven’t been inside but you can go in. She has 17 stories, each said to be dedicated to a different buddha. As we haven’t climbed up the Lady Buddha we aren’t sure how much it costs, but it’s free to enter the site. You’ll need to pay to park your bike which I think is a donation, so somewhere between 5 – 10,000đ would be fair). There are a number of other pagodas in the complex which you can stroll around too.
TIP: If you want to go inside any of the pagoda’s or the Lady Buddha, don’t dress inappropriately like me (knees and shoulders not covered). You will be able to wander around the complex and see the outside of the Pagodas only.
Eat Mi Quang for lunch
Once you’ve had your fill of the pagodas its time to hit the road again, this time we are on the hunt for lunch. Be sure to time this carefully. Eating local food in Vietnam is somewhat limited to peak times due to bulk production of food everyday. So, for lunch you’ll want to be stopping for food anytime between 11:00 and 13:00 (the nearer to 12 the better). Look out along the road for signs of Mi Quang. Mi, pronounced /me/, means noodles in Vietnamese and Mi Quang is the local noodle dish from the Quang Nam province that Da Nang is in, hence the Quang component.
Drive the Hai Van Pass
Have you ever seen that Vietnam special Top Gear Episode? You know, thaaaat one? The one that made everyone crazy about driving North to South or vice-versa. Yeah, we are some of those suckers who hate to admit that Jeremy Clarkson has had some influence on their bucketlist. Damn him. Anyway, bitching about Top Gear aside, some of the most dramatic roads and landscapes that they saw on their trip were right here, outside of Da Nang.
The Hai Van Pass is a famous stretch of road linking Da Nang and the ancient city of Hue to the North. It winds up going through the mountains which surround Da Nang, into the clouds and down towards the coast on the other side. Driving up this pass, you get to see some of the insane beauty of Vietnam; lush green mountains and hidden coves with deserted beaches. That’s not to mention the thrill of driving a mountain pass, with twisting hairpin bends and steep drops off the cliff edged roads.
Like many names for things in Vietnam, the name “Hai Van Pass” is a very descriptive one: hai meaning ocean and van meaning clouds. The Hai Van Pass is literally a road which goes from the ocean into the clouds and then back down to the ocean. Our first trip to Da Nang was during a particularly rainy period in the monsoon, so we really got to experience being inside a cloud at the top of the Hai Van Pass.
Explore the top of the Hai Van Pass
For centuries the top the Hai Van Pass has played a role as an important military site. During the Nguyen Dynasty, the last of the Vietnamese dynasties, the top of the pass played an important role in protecting the old capital of Hue. To control the route, an early Nguyen emperor built the brick gate which still stands atop the Hai Van Pass. People had to pass through the grand Hai Van gate and have their documents checked to be allowed through. Later the site was modified with a military station to defend the area against the invading French, and then later used during America war. Nowadays, in addition to the brick gate, there are also a few abandon military houses and some concrete lookout bunkers. There are also a number of little cafes to sit and relax, with hopefully some clear weather to enjoy the beautiful view back down the Hai Van Pass.
Take in the View
About half way down the Hai Van Pass (or up it, depending on when you want to stop and check it out) there is an epic viewing point looking back over the bay of Da Nang. You’ll know it when you see it due to the large rock which seems unusually out of place at the side of the road. Around the base are some vendors selling coconuts, coffee and cold drinks, making this the perfect place for a rest-stop!
Enjoy the last light at the Beach
The perfect way to unwind after a busy day touring around the mountains is to take a relaxing stroll along the powdery white sands at dusk. This is when the beach starts to come alive with locals. Without the heat of the sun bearing down you’ll see locals playing in the water, fishing, swimming and lazing in the sand.
A Route for Exploring Da Nang in a Day
So, now you’ve seen everything you can see and experience in only one day in Da Nang, you’re going to want a route to follow! This is the one we took on our exploration of Da Nang and is the most logical way to see everything in one day trip.
We left our hotel around 10am, but despite the late start we found our day relaxed and not rushed. We arrived back in Da Nang around 4pm. Additions you could make to this include stopping at the central market in town before leaving, and maybe taking a detour on the way home past marble mountains. In order to squeeze-in these additions you would have to be up bright and early, planning to leave around 8am.
Total cost for exploring Da Nang in a day trip
One of the best parts about exploring Da Nang this way is that it is more than budget friendly! You can see the breakdown of what this trip cost for both of us below. At the current exchange rate this whole day trip, including the motorbike hire, petrol and food cost us less than £12/$15 for two people. Now, that is definitely in your budget!
|Motorbike hire for 1 day||150,000VND|
|Petrol for Motorbike||60,000VND|
|Mi Quang for lunch||60,000VND for two|
|Parking at Lady Buddha||10,000VND|
|Rest-stop at View Point||60,000VND for two drinks|