Hike through countryside and jungle from Viet Hai Village to Frog Pond to Cát Bà National Park Headquarters, with a great boat trip to start. It’s a varied and beautiful trail past giant limestone mountains, through rice fields and lush rainforest with many small creatures such as red forest crabs, beautiful butterflies, birds and more.
The walk through Cát Bà National Park starts from a boat jetty near Viet Hai Village on Cát Bà Island. To get here you need to take a boat from Cát Bà town. Boats leave from the eastern side of town at Cai Beo Ferry Terminal and Dock.
The day before you plan to do this walk, visit the ferry terminal. Either organise a private boat (~500,000 VND for up to ten people) or find out the public ferry times (~50,000 VND per person).
If you need to get to Cát Bà from Hanoi, the easiest way is with a direct coach*, leaving three times per day. The journey takes about 3.5 hours.
Public Ferry from Cát Bà to Viet Hai Boat Pier
If you take either the public ferry or the private boat it’s a super beautiful boat ride, lasting 45 minutes to 1 hour, through the classic tree-covered limestone rock blobs of this region. On the public ferry you’ll drop locals off at their little floating villages and get a bit of a closer look into their daily lives. Note that the public ferry is a fairly small wooden boat that’s a bit hard to recognise as your ferry. Ask the locals if you’re not sure.
If you do this walk the other way around, the public ferry back to Cát Bà from Viet Hai boat pier leaves at 12:45pm.
Returning from Cát Bà National Park to Cát Bà Town
To get back to town from the end of the hike, you have to take a taxi. This might be roughly 200,000 VND, depending on your negotiation skills. Taxis sometimes wait at the gates of the national park, you might be able to flag one down driving along the road, or you can ask the park reception to call you one. Alternatively, taxis also wait at Trung Trang Caves, 1 km down the road.
Cát Bà National Park Trail Map
Tips for Cát Bà National Park
- The National Park fee is VND 80,000. Pay this when you leave the park at the end.
- There are several restaurants in Viet Hai village. The last ones are in the collection of houses at the end of the fields, just before you enter the jungle. This is the last opportunity for refreshments before the end of the hike.
- There are some steep, slightly rocky sections through the jungle on this hike. Therefore you have to have at least a medium level of fitness and wear decent hiking shoes.
- Bring insect repellent, sunscreen, sunhat and enough water. Also bring a torch (or use your phone) to walk through the cave.
- Make sure to have an online map showing hiking trails such as Maps.Me, as it could be easy to become lost in the jungle.
- You’ll see some red arrows on the rocks in the jungle section, marking the trail.
- You don’t need a guide to hike in Cát Bà National Park, but you can hire one from the Park Headquarters if you want.
- Check out our Vietnam Page for more hikes, cycles and city walking tours in Vietnam.
Cát Bà National Park Hiking Route
When you arrive at Viet Hai boat jetty, walk left along the only road. It’s very quiet, with the only traffic perhaps a couple of motorbikes or little taxis leaving the ferry. After a few minutes, the road will be entirely empty. The road follows a large inlet, surrounded by vegetation-covered limestone peaks.
When the road heads inland through the hills, you’ll see more limestone peaks surrounding scenic flooded farming ponds. You’ll come to a road junction, but it doesn’t matter which one you choose. Both routes are equally long and meet up again in a few hundred metres.
Viet Hai Village
After the roads meet again, it’s not too much further until you come out into a flat valley covered in fields and the road bends left towards Viet Hai village. Here you’ll see cute houses, orderly rows of crops being grown, and irrigation ditches. This flat farming area is completely surrounded by dramatic limestone hills, making it feel like a secret valley you’ve discovered all by yourself.
Turn right at the road junction at the start of the village. Follow this small lane through the cute village to the end of the houses. Turn right here to cross the valley to the other small collection of buildings and walk to the far end of the road. This is the last chance to get refreshments before the walk through the jungle begins. Make sure you have enough water.
Hiking through Cát Bà National Park
Keep going to the end of the road and turn left. There’s a small red booth here where you might be able to buy tickets to Cát Bà National Park (VND 80,000 per person). Alternatively, if it’s closed you can get them at the park headquarters on the other side.
The path is fairly decent, and quite flat to start off with, surrounded by thick jungle. Follow it as it bends left around the corner, and you’ll reach a small junction. Take the left-hand path for the exciting route to walk through a cave passageway, or take the right to miss the cave. Both paths meet up again soon.
About 150 metres past the junction, the walk through the cave starts to the left. It’s not too long but is a little dark in places and feels very adventurous, though not scary. You’ll loop around and meet the footpath on the other side. Follow this along the base of a steeper slope to your left.
Soon the path bends sharply left and up the hill. This is the main section of climb on the hike as you leave the Viet Hai valley and walk over through the hills to the other side. The jungle is thick here, and the path is quite rocky in places. It’s also steep and sometimes the correct route is a bit obscured. Make sure to check your phone often, and look out for the red arrows on the rocks to keep on the right track.
There’s a little bit of a view at the highest point, but it’s mostly obscured by the thick vegetation. Watch your footing on the way down, but know that the most difficult part of the hike is over.
Almost as soon as the path becomes much flatter, you’ll be at the Frog Pond. This is a large, watery area that looks a bit like mangroves. However, it occasionally dries up during long dry spells. After the Frog Pond the walk is easier. The trails are clear and signed, though there’s still one section of up and downhill.
After a while, the path turns into a concrete track. Shortly after this, Taj Lake is on your right. It’s often dry, but it’s still a fun rocky open area surrounded by limestone hills, so take a look. After the lake it’s a simple, downhill 1.5 km to the Cát Bà National Park Headquarters and the end of this hike.
If you still have the energy, there’s a 3 km loop (with 150 m climb) up to a viewpoint near the Park Headquarters. Otherwise, find a taxi to take you back to your accommodation for a well-earned swim and a relaxing rest of the day.
Novels to read while in Vietnam
Guidebooks to explore more of Vietnam
Useful things for a holiday in Vietnam
- Travel Insurance: we use SafetyWing*, it’s simple to buy online and they have a downloadable letter proving you have travel insurance which includes Covid-related issues
- Travel Debit Card: we have Wise Cards* which allow you to cheaply convert most currencies into Vietnamese Dong. You can then pay by card within the country for no extra fees, or withdraw cash from an ATM.
- We booked train travel in Vietnam through 12GoAsia*. They charge a few extra dollars in commission, but to book directly on the official website you must have a Vietnamese credit card.
Check out our Vietnam Page for more hikes, cycles and city walking tours in Vietnam.