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. Located in northern-central Vietnam, Phong Nha is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in Vietnam, yet often overlooked by travellers. Phong Nha is famed as the home of the worlds largest cave, Son Doong, among many other vast caves that come complete with underground rivers, their own microclimates and million-year-old fossils. Phong Nha is essentially a one-road town, perched on the edge of the national park, but despite its small size, you’ll find there’s a lot to see and do. Here are the 10 best things to do in Phong Nha.
Best Things to do in Phong Nha
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 buses tours arrive. If you don’t know how to ride a motorbike, then you can book tours via hotels all over town. Check out my Phong Nha travel guide for my top picks on where to stay.
💰 250k (plus 100k for motorbike hire)
⏰ 7:30am – 4:30pm
Paradise Cave📍Km16 đường HCM Nhánh Tây., Sơn Trạch
2️⃣ Visit Phong Nha Cave
Phong Nha Cave is the easiest 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 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. You can take three 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
One of the biggest draws for visitors to Phong Nha is trekking and caving. 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 or cliff jumping. The ultimate adventure day.
Read more about the two treks I’ve done with Jungle Boss:
✍️ Hiking the Abandoned Valley with Jungle Boss
✍️ Hiking Elephant Cave and Ma Da Valley with Jungle Boss (coming soon)
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 Dark Cave
If you’re one for adrenaline based activities then don’t skip dark cave. Zip-line across a river to access the dark cave, go for a mud-bath inside before kayaking back down the river and finally try your hand at the aerial assault course. This is a great one to do with friends. To do the mud bath and cave exploration you need to join one of the tour groups there, which sometimes means waiting for enough people 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
The 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 checking it out. Don’t worry, there is no eating of duck. You will need a motorbike or bicycle to visit the duck stop.
Duck Stop📍Phong Nha Ke Bang, Hưng Trạch, Bố Trạch, Quảng Bình
7️⃣ Drive the national park loop
The scenery in Phong Nha is amazing 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, Paradise Cave before looping back past the botanic gardens, arriving in Phong Nha town from the other side.
If you’re feeling adventurous you can try to take the shortcut. This route was recommended to us by a local and it was such a fun little adventure, cutting out a segment of the highway and replacing it with a ride on a fishing boat (with your motorbike) followed by driving alongside rice paddies, through rivers and traversing some huge bridges with stunning views. Highly recommend it!
8️⃣ Mooc spring
I haven’t been to Mooc spring yet, however, I’ve heard that it’s a great place to relax and I know it’s very popular with Vietnamese tourists. The spring 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 8 Ladies Cave / Hang Tam Co
This cave seems to be often overlooked by travellers. It’s not grand in the sense that the other caves are, and you can’t even get inside. But I think that it’s worth visiting to pay respects to the history of the cave.
On November 14 1972 the US dropped a series of bombs in the Phong Nha area. At the time, a group of 8 young (~20 yo) Vietnamese women were volunteering to repair damages that had been caused to the road from past bombings. When the bombing started they took shelter in the cave. A rock fell, blocking the entrance to the cave and trapping the volunteers inside. Rescue efforts were made to get the girls out but unfortunately, they were unsuccessful. It broke my heart to read that it was 9 days before the cries for help from the trapped ladies stopped. Utterly devastating.
When the war ended a temple was built at the site to honour them, and their remains were recovered. You can’t go inside the cave but you can light incense and visit the pagoda that was built for them. Sites like these remind us of the horrors of the America-Vietnam war and remind us of how recent this hurt has been felt.
🔟 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 a great place to watch the sunset behind the dramatic mountains. They also have a selection of games you can play with friends. A great place to unwind after a day of exploring.
Where are the best things to do in Phong Nha
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 my top things to do in Phong Nha on a map for you to use.
Planning a trip to Phong Nha
Despite being one of the most beautiful destinations in Vietnam, many visitors to Vietnam skip Phong Nha. I hope this guide has inspired you to include Phong Nha in your Vietnam itinerary.
✍ For details on how to get to Phong Nha, what to eat there and where to sleep, as well as a budget, check out my Phong Nha guide.