Cat Tien

A Guide to Cat Tien National Park

In April 2018, an expat friend and I packed up the motorbike and scooted off to Cat Tien National Park for a weekend. We knew the park was going to offer an escape into nature but we were surprised by how much there was to do and very thankful for how quiet the park was. We spent a very laid back two nights exploring the national park and soaking up all the nature we could before heading back to Ho Chi Minh City. Hopefully, this travel guide to Cat Tien National Park will help you to plan your own trip to Cat Tien.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, all marked with * Booking through these links generates a small commission for me at no extra cost to you.

Cat Tien at a glance

Cat Tien is a small town that lies in Lam Dong Province, about 4hrs north of Saigon on route to Dalat. It sits across the Dong Nai river from the Cat Tien National Park, a UNESCO and nationally protected area of primary forest. Cat Tien National Park spans a massive area of 70,000+ ha and is home to an estimated 1,610 species, including ancient trees, exotic birds, insects and two wildlife rescue centres that rehabilitate sun and moon bears. The national park is open every day from 7:30am to 6:30pm, year-round.

How long to stay – the location of Cat Tien makes it impossible to visit as a day trip. A minimum of 1 night is required, though I recommend 2 nights to give you 1 full day for exploring.

Best time of year – The transitional months of Nov/Dec and May/Jun offer the best weather, with slightly cooler temperatures and less chance of rain. Try to avoid monsoon season (Jun-Nov) as there will be lots of mud.

Note: Bring cash as there are no ATMs in Cat Tien town. Some hotels take cards but bring cash to be sure.

Things to see in Cat Tien

Cat Tien is a very lowkey spot so perfect if you are looking to go off the grid for a few days. There are several treks you can do in the national park, such as the trek or cycle to crocodile lake.

Wild Gibbon trek

This early morning trek was fully booked so I wasn’t able to do it myself, but I overheard other visitors excitedly discussing how many Gibbons they spotted. The trek leaves the park HQ at 4:30am to see wild gibbons at their most active and you need to stay at accommodation* within the park to do this tour due to the park opening hours.

💰 1 mil

Trek to the Giant Tung Tree

Cat Tien National Park is an area of primary (untouched) forest, home to 1,600+ species of flora. The trees in the park are huge and some date back 100s of years. Maps to the biggest Tung tree can be found at the Park HQs.

💰 free

travel guide cat tien national park vietnam

Animal rescue centres

Cat Tien National Park has a research centre and sanctuary for Gibbons, and a rescue centre for Sun and Moon Bears. I visited the Sun and moon Bear rescue centre. They have ~37 bears, rescued from illegal black market trading or from being farmed for their blood (to use in traditional medicine). The animals seemed distressed. As the bears were raised in captivity, many don’t know how to live unsupported by humans and are not suitable for release into the wild. The rescue centre was far from great, however, they are in the process of building a new centre with more outdoor space and better conditions. Funding for this project is raised through tours of the current rescue centre so it’s a catch-22 situation if you want to support the bears.

💰 150k

How to get to Cat Tien

Cat Tien is situated in the middle of  Ho Chi Minh City and Dalat, making it a great place to stop if you’re travelling between these two tourist hotspots. It’s easiest to drive yourself to Cat Tien, but the bus is also an option, though it can be a little complicated due to its location.

From Ho Chi Minh City

From Ho Chi Minh City there are two ways to get to Cat Tien by bus. There are direct local buses that will take you from Mien Dong Bus Station (counter 5). The journey takes a bit longer because it is a local bus and will pick up/drop off passengers on route (~4.5hrs).

⏰ 4.5hrs
💰 ~85k

Alternatively, you can take a bus travelling from Saigon to Dalat and ask to be dropped off at ‘Ben Xe Buyt Phuong Lam at km142’. The bus driver will drop you off at the 142km marker on the QL20 highway. This marker is 16km away from the Cat Tien National Park so you will need to arrange a pick up via your accommodation*. This travel option costs more than the local bus but should be faster. You can book a bus to Dalat via Baolou*.

⏰ ~3.5hrs

From Dalat

There don’t appear to be any direct buses from Dalat to Cat Tien National Park, so it is necessary to follow a similar process as mentioned above, and have a Saigon-bound bus drop you at the 142km highway marker on QL20. If you’re travelling from Dalat then book a bus for Ho Chi Minh City via Baolou*. You will need to pre-book transport from the highway to Cat Tien via your accommodation*.

We opted to drive to Cat Tien so we could take the scenic route and have the freedom to stop along the way. The roads are mostly good, especially if you don’t veer from the main highways.

A route for driving to Cat Tien

This is the driving route we tried to take. At some point, we skipped off the highway and onto back roads for more greenery. We got a bit lost and ended up adding hours to our travel time (which ended up being half the fun) as we tried to make it back onto the highway. When putting the route into google maps you should select the motorbike option, or click “avoid highways and tolls” as motorbikes cannot drive all routes.

⏰ ~4hrs

✍️ For more information on motorbiking in Vietnam, check out my Complete Guide to Motorbiking Vietnam.

Getting around Cat Tien National Park

Cat Tien town is located on the east side of the Dong Nai river, with the national park to the west. The town is very small and taxis are not available, so walking is the only way to get to the ticket office. From the ticket office, you can buy an entrance ticket which gives you a return trip on the boat across the river and into the park.

⏰  Boats run every 5 mins or so between 7:30am and 18:30pm
💰 ~60k for foreigners

travel guide cat tien national park Vietnam

Where to eat in Cat Tien

Cat Tien town is very small and there are not many options for eating. Most accommodations offer breakfast and some home-stays offer family-style evenings meals. This is good as the spots I saw open for lunch in town weren’t open at night. We ate dinner at the Cat Tien Jungle Lodge* which offers one of the few formal dining settings in town.

For lunch, there are some places throughout the town where you can get Banh Mi or rice for lunch. Near the Cat Tien National Park HQ is the Yellow Bamboo Restaurant where you can get lunch and dinner. The food was good and saved us from having to leave the park for lunch. Prices are a little high but nothing outrageous.

Where to stay in Cat Tien

There is no short supply of budget-friendly accommodation options* in Cat Tien. I stayed at Cat Tien Jungle Lodge* following a friends recommendation. While it was more expensive, it suited the occasion and we certainly appreciated the guarantee of a warm shower and AC after a day of exploring. Here are some more budget-friendly options, but be prepared for only fans (no AC) and, as it is a national park, potentially bugs.

Green bamboo lodge*
Cat Tien river lodge*
Forest floors lodge* (located inside the national park)

Daily budget

🛏 from $6.00 – $65

There is accommodation* in Cat Tien to suit all budgets. Budget rooms are ~125k, going up to 1.5mil+ for more luxury options.

🚗 ~$6.50

Motorbiking to Cat Tien is the simplest and cheapest travel option. If you opt for the bus be sure to contact your accommodation to arrange a pickup.

🍜 ~$6.50

An average lunch is ~150k per meal per person, which is by no means expensive but more so than other destinations in Vietnam.

📸 ~ $19

The ticket to enter the Cat Tien Nation Park is 60k, plus extra for every activity you do.

💰 150k for the bear sanctuary
💰 ~230k for the night safari (price is dependent on how many people book the tour).

Total daily budget ~ $40


Meet Frances; Scottish lass turned Vietnam expat, and creator of this space. She can be found sippin’ ice tea’s and writing about her adventures from her sunny base of Saigon, Vietnam’s southern metropolis. All with a healthy side of researching her next road trip. With 5 years of living, travelling and scooting around Asia under her belt – let Frances be your guide to travelling the region.


  • Guy

    May 4, 2023

    Hey Frances! Really enjoyed reading this post… Will be moving to HCMC in August & have 1000 questions, sure yr busy but might u be able to answer? Thanks, Guy


post a comment