If you are a first-time traveller to Vietnam and you are itching for some of that fun under the sun, then Vung Tau should be one of the best choices out there. Many would prefer the turquoise beaches of Central Vietnam, but because Vung Tau is quite close to Ho Chi Minh City, you will have many more choices of what to do and where to go.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that the beaches in Vung Tau are lacklustre. Blessed with golden beaches and jade-coloured water, Vung Tau will certainly not let you down if the beaches are your main goals. Let’s dive into this exciting city with these 9 things to do in Vung Tau you definitely don’t want to miss!
1. Explore the local beaches
No trip to Vung Tau will be completed with the beaches! Unlike the beaches in Nha Trang, which aren’t generally crowded, the ones in Vung Tau can be a bit crowded if you happen to book your tour on high season. For that reason, if you are looking for a tranquil getaway, it is recommended that you avoid booking your tour on holiday seasons such as Tet, Vietnamese Independence Day, Reunification Day, etc.
There are 4 main beaches in Vung Tau, Front Beach, Back Beach, Pineapple Beach, and Coc Lake Beach. Front Beach is the most famous and crowded beach in Vung Tau. Teeming with tourists, restaurant stands, and seafood vendors, this beach is probably one of the most lively corners of the city, offering you a chance to immerse in the local way of life. The restaurants in the area are truly amazing, and they offer some of the best seafood dishes in the South. However, there are some huge downsides: The beach isn’t exactly that clean, and there are way too many people, so this beach might not be the best choice for you if you are looking for a relaxing experience.
Back Beach is another great option. Located in the southeast part of Vung Tau, Back Beach is considerably quieter, with even more beautiful corners for you to capture on photos. Even better, the water quality here seems to be much higher than at Front Beach, perfect for your relaxing getaway.
There are two other famous beaches in the city, namely Pineapple Beach and Coc Lake Beach. Pineapple Beach is especially calm, and it offers some of the best sunset views in the entire city, so it is definitely the beach to be for hopelessly romantic souls. Coc Lake Beach is tucked away in a forest, far from the hustle and bustle of the city, offering an amazing getaway from the noise of a city.
2. Take a panoramic photo of the city on the shoulder of Vung Tau’s iconic Jesus Christ Statue
The Jesus Christ Statue, the pride of the city itself, is included in almost every single tour to the city. Perching atop of Small Mountain, which is usually featured on tourism materials relating to the city, the statue features Jesus Christ opening his arms in a similar fashion to Cristo Redentor in Rio de Janeiro. Thanks to its location, the statue offers some of the most breathtaking views of the city, and one could even see Vung Tau’s beaches with their teeming tourists from here. The best part? You can climb up on the statue’s shoulders to enjoy this amazing view or take some photos, if you are willing to brave a pretty tiring climb, that is!
3. Enjoy an amazing view of the sea from the oldest (allegedly) lighthouse in Vietnam
Lighthouses are always amazing sights to behold, and it so happens that the, allegedly, oldest lighthouse in Vietnam is located right in this city. Located just on the other side of the Small Mountain, this lighthouse, constructed by the French in 1862, served as a lookout post for incoming trade ships. Now, it is a famous tourist attraction in the city thanks to its photogenic location, and it has even been featured in many famous local movies, so if you wish to take a picture of you and your travel companions as a souvenir, this is the perfect place to do so.
4. Savour the best pancakes in town at Goc Vu Sua
Local pancakes, or “banh khot” representing the unique traditional Vietnamese food, are definite must-try when you are in Vung Tau. Made of flour and local fresh seafood, these pancakes are crunchy and rich in flavours, so much that just one bite and your taste buds will go wild! The best place to try local pancakes in town is at Goc Vu Sua. However, the shop can get really crowded at times, especially during the high season, so you might have to stand the noise a little bit when eating here.
5. Indulge in a seafood feast at Ganh Hao restaurant
When you are in a port city, it is a crime not to enjoy the seafood, or the fruits of the sea, as to how French would say it, and there is perhaps a no better place to enjoy fresh seafood in Vung Tau than at Ganh Hao Restaurant. Its tables are set right next to the infinite blue, where the ocean’s breeze lulls you to sleep, its seafood dishes are made from fresh seafood, Ganh Hao seems like a romantic restaurant straight out of a Korean drama. Granted, the place might be huge and there might be quite a crowd from time to time, but the food and the setting will do more than makeup for it.
6. Take a stroll around the White Palace
Take a break from the beach for a while, and take a stroll around the White Palace. Perched atop the Big Mountain, this ancient French Colonial villa which was built in 1898 was the vacation villa for the French Indochina Governors-General who resided over Indochina. True to its name, this majestic villa, constructed in French Colonial architecture with a bit of influence from Greek neoclassicist elements, was painted in a characteristic white colour that can rarely be found.
The three-story building was also used as a vacation house by Emperor Bao Dai as well, and tourists can stroll around its rooms to appreciate its architecture as well as listening to the stories of the people who used to live here. For fans of photogenic places, the Palace also offers breathtaking views of the sea, giving you the perfect chance to capture its deep jade hue.
7. Spend a day at the Ho May Ecotourism Park
While it’s certainly not Disneyland nor Vinpearland, the Ho May Ecotourism Park is certainly worth your time to pay a short visit. Located on top of yet another hill in Vung Tau, the park is accessible through a cable car which costs around VND400,000 a round-trip ride. The fee also includes unlimited access to every facility the park has to offer, so take your time and release your inner child with all sorts of games, from bumper cars to rollercoaster, or even archery if you are feeling a bit daring!
8. Buy the freshest seafood at Xom Luoi Market
The restaurants here generally don’t sell overpriced seafood (there used to be a lot, but the local authority has really put in a lot of effort to stabilize the market), but if you want even cheaper seafood, Xom Luoi Market is the place to be. Located just a few minutes away from Front Beach, the market is the most famous seafood market in Vung Tau, and it is here that you will find all kinds of fishes, shrimps, octopuses, and even shellfish. You should be careful though, since some stores might sell low-quality seafood. To avoid this, it is best that you go there with a local guide, or someone with extensive knowledge of seafood.
9. Visit one of the top museums on antique arms
As the finishing touch for your trip to Vung Tau, why not take a detour to The Robert Taylor Museum of Worldwide Arms? Dedicated to antique firearms, uniforms, and all sorts of things military, this little-known museum boasts a giant collection of arms from numerous ages and conflicts, including the ones in Vietnam. The place is run by Mr. Robert Taylor, and he’ll gladly give you a tour around his private museum, provided that he is at the museum at the time of your visit.
Vung Tau has almost completely transformed from an often-overcrowded tourist trap into a decent seaside city with plenty of things to do. Granted, there might be overcrowded days at the beach, and the water could be a little bit cleaner, but your overall experience in this sunny city should be quite relaxing and pleasant.
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