The 8 Best Day Trips from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

The domestic buffalo – just one way of getting back to nature outside Ho Chi Minh City
The domestic buffalo – just one way of getting back to nature outside Ho Chi Minh City | © Sappasit Wongkhonkan / Getty Images
Photo of Matthew Pike
Writer19 June 2020

Ho Chi Minh City is a maze of chaotic madness – a concrete metropolis of vast scope and vitality. But it can be too much at times, so let’s have a look at the best day trips for you to escape Saigon.

Ba Den Mountain

Hiking Trail, Shrine
Map View

This dead volcano, also known as Black Virgin Mountain, has the best views in all of southern Vietnam. The mountain carries significant religious meaning to the people in the area, and there’s even a myth about a girl who killed herself here. The drive takes about two hours from Ho Chi Minh City. You can hike the mountain or take the easy route and opt for the cable car instead.

Can Gio Mangrove Forest

Forest
Map View

The Cần Giờ (pronounce cun yuh) Mangrove Forest is a Unesco biosphere reserve 40km (25mi) south of Ho Chi Minh City that features a unique wetlands ecosystem and a number of rare plant and animal species, including saltwater crocodiles and many kinds of migratory birds. It’s possible to get to this area on your own, but we recommends you go with a trusted tour company to get the most out of your excursion.

Cu Chi Tunnels

Memorial, Museum
Map View
These tunnels played a vital role during Vietnam’s long fight for independence – first against the French, then against the American-backed government in Saigon. At Củ Chi, you really get a sense of just how difficult life was for the guerrilla fighters who spent years hiding in the tunnels. Keep in mind, though, that if you have even minor claustrophobia, then you’ll probably want to avoid this day trip. There are some very tight spaces.

Vung Tau

Natural Feature
Map View
Crab_Vung-Tau_Vietnam_Matthew-Pike
© Matthew Pike / Culture Trip

Vũng Tầu is likely the most popular day trip destination for locals in Ho Chi Minh City. It’s only two hours by bus or shuttle, so it makes for an easy escape from the heat and pollution of Saigon. The beach itself isn’t as spectacular as others in Vietnam, but you’ll love the laid-back vibe of this sleepy little town. Don’t leave without trying some fresh seafood along the beach or at one of the many restaurants in town.

Cai Be Floating Market

Market
Map View
Though not as large as Cái Răng Floating Market, Cái Bè is much less touristy and also an hour closer to Ho Chi Minh City. The action starts early, with the first vendors arriving at 3am – but don’t worry, they’re still around at more reasonable hours. At this market you’ll see wholesalers selling fruits, flowers and seafood. It’s more of an experience to observe rather than a place for you to actually shop.

Cat Tien National Park

Natural Feature, Park
Map View

If you’re really looking to get into nature, then Cat Tien National Park is for you. The park has various types of old growth forests and some fascinating wildlife – gibbons, sambar deer, wild boars, black-shanked doucs and even crocodiles. However, the drive does take nearly four hours, so you might want to consider making it a two-day journey. It’s doable in one, but eight hours on the road really detracts from the experience.

Ben Tre

Market, Natural Feature
Map View

Most tour companies highlight tours to Mỹ Tho, but those are pre-packaged excursions where giant tour buses bring hundreds of tourists to the same spots day after day. It’s cookie-cutter travel. Bến Tre, on the other hand, is less developed and more authentic. The town is famous for its coconut candy, and you can visit the factories where they make this treat – also the farms where they collect the coconuts. Furthermore, it’s easy to arrange a sampan ride through lush river canopies just as you see on every travel brochure about the Mekong.

Cao Dai Temple

Buddhist Temple, Building, Cathedral, Church, Mosque
Map View
This temple is the home of the Cao Đài religion, a fusion of beliefs from Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Christianity and Islam. Started in 1926, Caodaism has 4.4m adherents of this belief system that denounces materialism and practises the Karmic law of rebirth. The main draw at this temple are the daily masses, which feature bright colours and fascinating rituals.
These recommendations were updated on June 19, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.