Looking for the best things to do in Phong Nha Ke Bang national park, Vietnam? This guide has you covered; from cave tours, hiking and the best sunset spot!
If you’re looking to experience the stunning nature that Vietnam has to offer, then you better make sure Phong Nha is on your itinerary. Phong Nha is famed as the home of the world’s largest cave, Son Doong, among many other vast caves that come complete with underground rivers, their own microclimates and million-year-old fossils. As the adventure capital of Vietnam, there is no shortage of things to do in Phong Nha, especially for nature lovers and thrill-seekers!
Where is Phong Nha?
Located in northern-central Vietnam, between Hue and Ninh Binh, Phong Nha is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in Vietnam. Phong Nha is a tiny, one-road town surrounded by picturesque limestone karst and icy blue rivers. Perched on the outskirts of the Phong Nha Ke Bang national park, it makes way for an abundance of outdoor adventures.
Planning a Trip to Phong Nha
Despite being one of the most beautiful destinations in Vietnam, many travellers skip Phong Nha. It’s a shame as it is one of the most beautiful and welcoming places in Vietnam. So add it to your itinerary! Plus it’s the perfect place to break up the journey between northern and central Vietnam.
How to get to Phong Nha
Phong Nha is just a short 45-minute drive from the Dong Hoi airport which is perfect if you are planning a trip direct from Ho Chi Minh City, or Hanoi. However, for those travelling across the country, the bus is the best way to get to Phong Nha. You can find bus routes from Hue to the south, and Ninh Binh or Hanoi to the north.
I’ve found the easiest way to book transport in advance is through Baolau*, a search engine that compares all travel options to find the best one for you.
Where to stay in Phong Nha
There are so many cute places to stay in Phong Nha that it can be hard to choose where to stay.
If you aren’t planning on renting a motorbike then I suggest staying within the main part of town, where you’ll find cafes and restaurants to eat with ease. Linh’s Homestay* is a great budget option in the heart of town, with wonderful hosts.
If you’re okay with driving a motorbike or cycling then I recommend staying on the outskirts of town where you’ll be treated to dramatic views of the mountains. On my last trip, I stayed at Restful River Bungalows* which is located right on the river with stunning views and river access, so you can cool off after a day of exploring.
✍ For more details on how to get to Phong Nha, what to eat there and the best time of year to visit, check out my Phong Nha guide.
Best Things to do in Phong Nha Ke Bang
Noted as the adventure capital of Vietnam, there is no shortage of adventures to be had in Phong Nha Ke Bang. Here are the best things to include on your Phong Nha itinerary.
Jump to the bottom for a map of the best things to do in Phong Nha Ke Bang.
1️⃣ Explore Paradise Cave
Paradise cave is one of the largest publically accessible caves to visit in Phong Nha and trust me, it lives up to its name. The scale of Paradise Cave is indescribable; it stretches 31km inside the limestone karst and hits heights of 70m.
If you can drive, I suggest visiting paradise cave without a tour by renting a motorbike, as the roads offer dramatic scenery. The best time to go is early in the morning before the bus tours arrive. If you don’t know how to ride a motorbike, then you can book tours via hotels all over town.
💰 250k (plus 100k for motorbike hire)
⏰ 7:30am – 4:30pm
Paradise Cave📍Km16 đường HCM Nhánh Tây., Sơn Trạch
2️⃣ Take a Boat to Phong Nha Cave
Phong Nha Cave is the easiest cave to explore in Phong Nha as the entrance is only a short boat ride away from the town centre. Take a boat down the river and inside Phong Nha cave, where you’ll be dropped off to wander back out of the cave past century-old stalagmites and stalactites.
Phong Nha cave was discovered in the 1800s and is known as the longest river cave in the world. Along with other caves in the area, it was used to store supplies and as a hospital during the Vietnam-American war.
💰 The entrance ticket is 150k and the boat price is 550k per boat (12 people). The price of the boat depends on how many people are on your boat at one time.
Phong Nha Cave📍Km16 đường HCM Nhánh Tây., Sơn Trạch
3️⃣ Hike in the Botanic Gardens
The Phong Nha botanic garden is somewhat different from what we would typically call a botanic garden in the west, and is more like a national park area with marked walks to explore.
There are 3 different routes to explore the botanic gardens – we opted for route 2 which takes around 1.5hr and stops by a river where you can swim before heading to the waterfall. Route 1 is shorter, going straight to the waterfall, while route 3 is longer.
Phong Nha Botanic Garden 📍 on ĐT20, Sơn Trạch, Bố Trạch, Quảng Bình
4️⃣ Do a Cave Trek with Jungleboss or Oxalis
One of the biggest draws for visitors to Phong Nha, and admittedly the best thing to do in Phong Nha, are the trekking and caving tours.
I’ve done two trekking trips in Phong Nha, both with Jungle Boss and would highly recommend including a guided trek on your trip to Phong Nha. Typically these hikes take you into the jungle of the national park, inside caves that aren’t accessible to the public and often include swimming and cliff jumping. The ultimate adventure day!
Take a Treks with Jungle Boss
✍️ Hiking the Abandoned Valley with Jungle Boss
✍️ Hiking Elephant Cave and Ma Da Valley with Jungle Boss (coming soon)
Take a trek with Oxalis
Oxalis is another very highly recommended company running treks in Phong Nha; Oxalis is the only company with permits to explore Son Doong, the largest cave in the world. While this expedition is booked up years in advance and for a hefty price tag, there are many other 1-day and multi-day cave tours you can take with Oxalis.
5️⃣ Zipline into Dark Cave
If you’re one for adrenaline based activities then don’t skip Dark Cave, as it is one of the best things to do in Phong Nha national park! Zip-line across a river to access the Dark Cave, take a mud-bath inside before kayaking back down the river and finally try your hand at the aerial assault course.
To do the mud bath and cave exploration you need to join one of the tour groups by signing up at the entrance. Sometimes this means waiting for enough people to join for the tour to start. However, you can do the zipline and swim in the river without joining one of the tours.
Dark Cave 📍 Sơn Trạch, Bố Trạch, Quảng Bình
Dark Cave actually extends 6km, all the way through the rock to another entrance that the public cannot access. To see the other entrance, technically the front of the Dark Cave, you can take the Abandoned Valley tour with Jungle Boss.
6️⃣ Visit Duck Stop
Hands down one of the weirdest, and funniest experiences I’ve ever had travelling. Duck Stop is somewhat shrouded in mystery so I’ll keep it that way for adventure’s sake, but I highly recommend grabbing a friend to check it out. Don’t worry, there is no eating of duck, but you will need a motorbike or bicycle to visit the duck stop as it’s outside of town.
Duck Stop📍Phong Nha Ke Bang, Hưng Trạch, Bố Trạch, Quảng Bình
7️⃣ Drive the Phong Nha National Park Loop
The scenery in Phong Nha is best, so it pays to grab a motorbike and hit the roads. There’s a loop that takes you from town into the national park, past Dark Cave, Mooc Spring, and Paradise Cave before looping back past the botanic gardens, returning to Phong Nha town from the other side.
If you’re feeling adventurous you can try to take the shortcut. The infamous Phong Nha shortcut was recommended to us by a local and it’s such a fun and unique thing to do in Phong Nha. The route cuts out a segment of the highway, replacing it with a ride on a fishing boat. And yes, you have to load your motorbike onto the fishing boat with you! On the other side of the river, you drive through villages, alongside rice paddies, and traverse huge bridges with stunning views of the valley. I highly recommend doing it for a unique Vietnam experience.
📍 See Son River Ferry on the Phong Nha National Park map at the bottom of this page.
8️⃣ Relax at Mooc Spring
Mooc Spring is a great place to relax and cool down while out exploring. The fresh water is a stunning turquoise blue and there are several different activities to do like kayaking, swimming, as well as floating and hanging assault courses.
9️⃣ Visit the 8 Ladies Cave
This cave is often overlooked by travellers, as it’s not grand in the same way as other caves in Phong Nha. But I think that it’s worth visiting to pay respects to the history of the cave.
In 1972, the US dropped a series of bombs in the Phong Nha area, trapping a group of 8 young Vietnamese women inside the cave as they were sheltering. Efforts to rescue them were unsuccessful and they all died while trapped inside the cave. It’s a heartwrenching story, that reminds us to not forget the horrors that Vietnam went through in the not-so-distant past.
When the war ended a temple was built at the site to honour them, and their remains were recovered. While you can’t go inside the cave, you can light incense and visit the pagoda that was built here.
🔟 Watch the sunset from Mama D’s Rooftop
With food, cocktails and craft beer on offer, Mama D’s Rooftop in the heart of the town is the best place to watch the sunset behind the dramatic mountains. They also have a selection of games you can play with friends. The perfect place to unwind after a day of exploring.
Phong Nha National Park Map
Phong Nha is still a very rural town and, as such, many points of interest don’t have formal addresses as they are just a turn off the main road. To make it easier to find things, I’ve pinned the best things to do in Phong Nha national park on the map.
Click the star next to the map title to save it to your Google Drive for later.