When in Vietnam, you have to follow the locals and get onto a motorbike. There is no better route to motorbike than that Hai Van Pass! This guide shares everything you need to know to do it for yourself!
The iconic motorbike trail that weaves from one end of Vietnam all the way to the other is full of stunning mountain passes and pristine coastal views, but there is one road that has claimed its place as the most iconic road in Vietnam: The Hai Van Pass.
Driving along the Hai Van Pass has become something of a right-of-passage for travellers to Vietnam, featuring highly on Vietnam bucketlists. I’ve driven this iconic route several times now and each time the Hai Van Pass has lived up to the hype.
What is the Hai Van Pass?
The Hai Van Pass is a winding road that slithers its way through a steep mountain pass, connecting the two diverse cities of Da Nang and Hue in central Vietnam. This beautiful Vietnamese road hugs the mountains on one side and brushes the ocean on the other, each twist and turn revealing a postcard-perfect view.
The road gained a new wave of popularity among backpackers after being featured in the Top Gear Vietnam series, though it’s been renowned for its beauty within Vietnam for a long time. The Hai Van Pass is a firm favourite among travellers and an iconic ride to include in your Vietnam itinerary!
Things to see on the Hai Van Pass
Along the route, there are lots of beautiful viewpoints as well as an ancient watchtower and war bunkers at the top of the pass, secluded beaches you can hike to on the Da Nang side and lagoons and waterfalls on the Hue side. All these sites transform motorbiking the Hai Van Pass into more than just a beautiful drive, but a full-day adventure.
Hike to the Secret Beach
One of the highlights of my last trip along the Hai Van Pass was hiking down to a secret beach on the Da Nang side of the pass. It’s a great stop for breaking up the trip and relaxing on a deserted beach. There is no infrastructure here so be sure to bring your towels and water with you.
Visit the Rock Cafe for an epic viewpoint
I also recommend stopping at the rock cafe on the Da Nang side for one of the best views back over the bay to Da Nang city. Alternatively, there are also cafes at the top of the Pass and you can choose a cafe with a view of either the Da Nang side or the Hue side of the pass.
Rock Cafe 📍 Cafe Hòn Đá Cụ Rùa, Hoà Hiệp Bắc, Liên Chiểu
Explore the Hai Van Gate
At the top of the Hai Van Pass is an ancient watchtower. The gate marks the transition between Da Nang province and Thua Thien Hue province and was historically used to control the passage between the two areas. There are also military bunkers that date back to the French colonial period and that were re-used during the Vietnam-America war.
Take a dip at Elephant Spring
A great place to stop on the Hue side of the Hai Van Pass is Elephant Spring, a waterfall with natural swimming pools to cool down in. There are a few places to buy drinks and snacks here, as well as changing rooms for swimming.
Elephant Spring 📍 Lộc Tiến, Phú Lộc, Thua Thien Hue
Drive alongside the freshwater lagoons
Once you pass the Hue side of the Hai Van Pass there are a series of beautiful freshwater lagoons that I recommend driving alongside. Here you’ll see stilt houses, houseboats and shellfish farms (identified by wooden posts that stick out the surface of the water).
How to motorbike the Hai Van Pass
The Hai Van Pass is best experienced from the back of a motorbike, immersing you fully in the adventure and scenery! If you don’t drive, don’t panic – you can still do the Hai Van Pass! There are two ways to experience the Hai Van Pass:
1️⃣ Self-drive the Hai Van Pass with a one-way-motorbike rental.
2️⃣ Take an Easy Rider tour where you sit on the back of an experienced guide’s motorbike.
Regardless of which way you opt to see the Hai Van Pass, I highly recommend treating it as your mode of transport between Da Nang and Hue.
⏰ The drive time is only about 3 hours, but if you include the stops suggested above, it transforms into a full-day adventure!
Can I just drive part of the Hai Van Pass?
If you don’t have time to do the entire drive from Da Nang to Hue, then I recommend doing a day trip from Da Nang. You can go all the way to the top of the pass and back, stopping at the sites on the Da Nang side of the route (maybe include Elephant Spring but don’t go further than that for a day trip).
The roads of the Hai Van Pass
The Hai Van Pass is a well-maintained road and relatively easy to drive, but I don’t recommend driving yourself if you’re brand new to driving as the route winds along the side of the mountain and includes lots of hairpin bends that could challenge new drivers. Instead, I would suggest inexperienced drivers join an easy-rider tour.
One-way motorbike rental
Many companies offer motorbike rentals for one-way trips along the Hai Van Pass. This means you can pick up the motorbike in Da Nang, and drop it off in Hue when you finish driving the route! These are reputable companies offering one-way motorbike rental for the Hai Van Pass:
💰 450-600k ($20-25)
Most companies will drop off/pick up the motorbike at your hotel and offer bag transport so you don’t need to take your luggage with you on the road. If you can drive a semi-automatic then I recommend this, but it is possible to drive the Hai Van Pass on an automatic scooter.
Easy Rider tour of the Hai Van Pass
If you aren’t confident driving yourself, then this is not the route to challenge yourself – it’ll be safer and more fun to take an Easy Rider tour. On an Easy Rider tour, an experienced local guide takes you as a passenger on their motorbike.
I’ve done a couple of Easy Rider tours on the Hai Van Pass over the years, but the best was with Hue to go Tours. The drivers were amazing and we had so much fun exploring the route with them. Their tours are on the cheaper end of the scale making them perfect for budget-savvy travellers.
💰 1mil ($45)
Route for Motorbiking the Hai Van Pass
Two roads connect Hue and Da Nang; the Hai Van Pass which winds through the mountains, and a tunnel that cuts through the mountain. The tunnel is where cars are buses are normally directed. Make sure that you are taking the correct route between Da Nang and Hue – you want to take the one that wraps around the mountain, as shown.
This map shows not only the route but also the sites to see along the way. You can save the map to your GoogleDrive for later by clicking the star next to the map title.
Planning a trip to motorbike the Hai Van Pass
The Hai Van Pass can be driven in both directions, from Da Nang to Hue or visa-versa. I prefer the drive from Da Nang to Hue as you’ll be on the ocean side of the road for the majority, but do whatever works for your itinerary best!
You will need to book accommodation for one night in each city to motorbike the Hai Van Pass.
Where to stay in Da Nang
For backpackers, I recommend somewhere like POSIKI Dorm and Cafe*, or The Secret Garden*. Both have private and dorm options, as well as motorbike parking if you are driving the length of Vietnam on your own motorbike.
If you have more of a budget, check out Minh Boutique Hotel* which has beautiful rooms within walking distance of My Khe beach.
Where to stay in Hue
For backpackers, Shark Homestay* is a great option as it’s located in the heart of the city with dorms and privates.
Motorbiking the Hai Van Pass is an iconic experience in Vietnam, and the perfect way to travel from Da Nang to Hue.
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Planning a Trip to Da Nang
For more information on planning a trip to Da Nang and other destinations in Vietnam, be sure to check out my Ultimate Vietnam Travel Guide which includes everything you need to know for travelling around the country.