Gather a moto-squad and get ready for a day of mangrove forests, cheeky monkeys and roadside hammock sessions. A day trip to Can Gio island, just south of Saigon, is the perfect escape into nature. Not only does Can Gio have some cool stuff to see, but it’s also cheap and exciting to get to. This guide shares how to get to Can Gio island, as well as what to see and do on your day trip.
Where is Can Gio island?
Located only 50km south-west of Saigon, Can Gio acts as the green lungs for the city. Technically Can Gio is a suburban district of Saigon but with the lush green forest, it feels a million miles away from the city. Can Gio Island is a quick ferry ride across the river from Nha Be district (south of district 7), though they are building a bridge to make the island more accessible. It is classified as a UNESCO bio-reserve; think lots of rivers, mangrove forests and monkeys. There are so many monkeys that Can Gio is also sometimes called “monkey island”.
How to get to Can Gio island?
There are two ways to can get to Can Gio; by public bus or by motorbike. I’ve only ever driven myself to Can Gio so can’t comment personally on the bus, but from researching it looks like you would have to ask the driver to make extra stops for you and there would be a lot of time spent waiting to be picked up by the next bus. Motorbike seems to be the most efficient transport option so I would recommend hiring a driver for the day if you cannot drive yourself.
Getting the public bus to Can Gio
From the bus station on Pham Ngu Lau (TĐH xe buýt Sài Gòn) you can catch the number 75 bus bound for Can Thanh town, or you can catch the number 90 bus from Binh Khánh ferry port. Click through to find out more about the bus times and stops on each route.
Getting to Can Gio by motorbike
If you’re an expat living in Saigon then you probably already have a motorbike, but if you are travelling through or don’t have your own bike then you’ll need to rent one (see this post for places you rent). Once you get out of the city centre, the roads are quiet and easy to drive which could make it a good first road trip for newbie motorbike drivers.
To get onto Can Gio island, you will need to take the ferry. While there used to be two ferry crossings over to Can Gio, only the Binh Khanh ferry port in Nha Be district is currently operating (Mar 2020). It costs 4.5k to take your motorbike across on the ferry and they run every 15 mins.
💰 4.5k per ferry crossing
⏰ Every 15 mins from 5am – 8pm; every 30/45 mins from 8pm – 5am.
📍 Phà Bình Khánh
What to see and do on Can Gio
Once you arrive on Can Gio island, you’ll find yourself in a little town called Binh Khanh. I would recommend buying some water and/or gas if you need any here are there are not many gas stations between this town and Can Thanh town at the end of the island.
All the stops I mention here are pinned on the map at the bottom of this post.
Wander through the mangrove forest
The first stop of the day is the Can Gio bio-reserve where you’ll find a mangrove forest. There are boardwalks you can wander around on as well as a series of activities you can book in for like kayaking, and taking a boat out to the wild bird reserves. On our trip, we just walked through the mangrove forests on the boardwalks.
It was around 12pm by the time we finished up at the mangrove forest. Unfortunately, their restaurant wasn’t open (though it was the first Monday after Tet) so we headed across the road to another little restaurant. Our group were mostly vegetarians and we were able to get some rice, eggs and veggies super cheap, but they also had meat and fish on offer.
Visit Can Gio monkey forest
Next up was a stop at Can Gio monkey forest, so named for all the monkeys that call this part of the forest home. I’m not a huge fan of monkeys as they can be quite aggressive but this wasn’t that case for here thankfully. That said, I highly recommend hiding any belongings (especially sunglasses and bottles) inside your bag to avoid the monkeys trying to steal from you; my friend had her glasses stolen off her head.
Within the monkey forest is a forest museum. Not much of the information is in English however gathering from the displays, there must have been a presence during the war here. There are full-sized model shelters, fires and camps set up (some complete with model people) as well as a Ho Chi Minh statue at the end of the walk.
There are also boat ride options here but as you split the cost per boat, it wasn’t worth it for me and my friends (I think it was ~600k per boat).
Relax by the beach in Can Thanh town
From monkey forests its a further 25 min drive to the end of Can Gio island, where you’ll find a town called Can Thanh. Here you’ll find a beachfront with views over to Vung Tau. The beach is rocky in some parts and sandy when you walk further down, though honestly it’s not well kept and is covered in trash so I don’t recommend bringing swimwear or getting in the water here.
In the town, there is a fish market and some cafes where you can get drinks and lounge in hammocks. We relaxed in a cafe called “Quán nhà mình” next to Can Gio park with hammocks, coconuts and drinks.
📍 Can Gio Park
After a break down by the waterfront, we got back onto our bikes and made the drive straight back to the ferry port in Binh Khanh. The drive from Can Gio park to the ferry port took around 1.5hrs and then a further hour back into the centre of Saigon.
A route for exploring Can Gio
I recommend visiting the sites of Can Gio as I have laid it out above, starting at the mangrove forest first, followed by the monkey forests and then ending at the coastal town of Can Thanh before driving the entire route back. Otherwise, you risk not fitting it all in.
⏰ We left Saigon at around 9am and returned around 6pm. This is a full day trip.
💰 9k return ferry ride + 70k entrance to the monkey forest + 30k for lunch + 70k on gas for the day.
✍ For more motorbiking day trips from Saigon, check out my complete guide to motorbiking Vietnam.