The springboard to Vietnam’s caving adventure playground, Dong Hoi also has a beautiful white sand beach on its doorstep
For many years the capital of Quang Binh province, Dong Hoi, flew completely under the tourist radar. However, that has all changed in the last few years with the discovery of one of the world's largest caves, Son Doong, in the nearby Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. The city of Dong Hoi itself is a small, sleepy place and the main draw is the fine, white sand beach that lies just 2km away.
The small, peaceful riverside town of Phong Nha lies just a 45-minute drive from the airport and it is here that most visitors choose to base themselves. There is plenty to do, with eco tours in the national park, jeep tours to the de-militarised zone nearby and cycling on the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
Things to do
Those without the time or funds to visit the mighty Son Doong cave who still want to get a taste of the massive caverns in the area should head for Paradise Cave. Also colossal in scale, Paradise Cave has been tastefully lit, affording those who enter breathtaking views of gigantic stalacmite and stalagmite formations. Those who wish to venture further can book the 7km cave trek opens in new window.
For those with deep enough pockets, an expedition into Son Doong cave is a once-in-a-lifetime trip unlike any other on earth. Spend six days venturing into one of the world’s largest caves, camp inside and marvel at the jungle that has grown in its dolines. Many treks are led by either Howard or Deb Limbert opens in new window who were both part of the original British team to map the Son Doong.
Based out of Phong Nha, conservationist Mr Hai takes his guests on a unique tour of the National Park opens in new window. He leads visitors truly off the beaten path in the jungle to give an insight into the area’s flora and fauna. Lunch is provided and a trip to a wildlife centre is included in the price.
Just 2km outside the heart of Dong Hoi, Nhat Le beach is a beautiful stretch of white sand fronted by clean and often calm waters. Popular with locals on weekends, it often remains quiet during the week. It's possible to stay right next to the sand at the Sun Spa Resort opens in new window, which also offers good dining deals.
Take the bike
The small roads around Dong Hoi and Phong Nha are fantastic for some off-the-beaten-path cycling. It’s possible to hire a bike and head off alone, but it’s better to join a tour with the Phong Nha Adventure Cyclists. See small villages, ride the Ho Chi Minh Trail and get clued up on local culture, all on two wheels.
Travel time 15mins
Taxi Approx VND 80,000 (meter taxis available outside arrivals)Back to top
When to go
The weather is cooler from December to February and some of the nearby caves are inaccessible due to higher river levels. From March to June, the weather is fine and the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is alive with butterflies. From July to October the temperatures are hotter.
During the Tet festival (Lunar New Year), the city almost closes down for over a week as people take holiday to spend time visiting family members and pagodas. Accommodation and restaurants will also be thin on the ground in Phong Nha at this time of year. Tet falls within the first three months of the year acceding to the lunar calendar.Back to top
Dong Hoi is a relatively small city so much of it can be seen on foot. However, taxis and xe oms (motorbike taxis) are widely available. Meter taxis are easier to use as the fee is always clearly displayed, while for xe oms, you will need to negotiate your fare. To get to Phong Nha, take a cab.Back to top