Beach time, kitesurfing, hiking, and plates full of fresh seafood mean you can expect Vung Tau to check all the boxes for a wonderful coastal getaway.
Vung Tau is the closest beach destination from Ho Chi Minh City, easily accessible via a two-hour, air-conditioned bus ride. This makes it a perfect escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. Check out our advice on how to best enjoy this southern coastal town.
Soak up the sun at Vung Tau’s beaches
Vung Tau has four known beaches—Front Beach, Back Beach, Pineapple Beach, and Paradise Beach. Front Beach (Bãi Trước) is the most popular, which for many others is enough reason to stay away. In addition to the crowds, the water is rather polluted and doesn’t offer the best beach setup. However, you can still enjoy some fresh seafood at the many stalls and restaurants that have set up shop—they serve some of the most delicious seafood in the south of Vietnam.
For a better beach experience, head to any of the other three. Back Beach (Bãi Sau) is much less dirty, and perfect for surfing. As the beach gets some wonderful wind swells, kitesurfing shops have appeared over the years, offering rentals and classes for all levels.
Pineapple Beach has calmer waters and fantastic sunset views, while Paradise Beach belongs to a resort park with a rather exclusive crowd. Here you have to pay an entrance fee which grants access to luxuries such as showers, and a fancy strip with high-end dining options.
Giving its best Rio de Janeiro impression, Vung Tau boasts a giant 105-foot-tall statue of Jesus Christ. Standing atop Núi Nhỏ mountain (generally representing Vung Tau in most travel guides), this statue overlooks the city from a clear vantage point—it is especially beautiful at sunrise. It’s not an easy hike to the top—there are exactly 847 steps to conquer, but in the end you will be rewarded with sweeping views of the coast. Head a little higher inside the statue itself and you can take a look at the city from behind Jesus Christ’s shoulder. To get inside however, you need to be dressed appropriately, so make sure to pack a wrap which you can tie around your waist to keep cool during the hike up.
On the other side of Núi Nhỏ mountain is Vung Tau’s lighthouse. Said to be the oldest lighthouse in Vietnam, it was built by the French in 1862 as a lookout point for incoming trade ships. To get there, hike up the opposite side of where you’d climb to Jesus. Luckily, if you plan on visiting after the statue, you can descend and travel back up by car or motorbike if you’re not up for the walk again. The lighthouse is extremely photogenic and worth heading to for the perfect Instagram shot. It is open 24/7, so if you’re looking for a night adventure, this is it! Local tip: On the slope near the lighthouse is a yogurt spot called Cô Tiên. Make sure you grab a cup, as it’s only VND $7,000 (USD $0.30), and extremely refreshing.
Go wild at Hồ Mây Culture and Ecotourism Park
Thanks to the influx of tourists to Vung Tau, an eco-tourism park has sprung up in recent years. Hồ Mây Culture & Ecotourism Park is a great place for a day of fun. Perched atop a hill (a consistent theme in Vung Tau), you can reach this place by cable car. The entrance fee is approximately VND $400,000 (USD $20.00), which includes the cable car trip and unlimited rides in the park, of which there are plenty! Bumper cars, rollercoasters, go karts, water games, even paintball and archery, this is ideal for a group of friends looking to let their inner child out.
One of the biggest reasons people visit Vung Tau is to indulge in the town’s delicious seafood. Bánh khọt, a little round seaside pancake and one of Vung Tau’s specialties, is known to cause mass pilgrimages over here from Ho Chi Minh City. It can be found in various markets throughout the city, but for those looking for a little more ambience head over to Bánh Khọt Gốc Vú Sữa, known to serve the best version of these little treats.
Vung Tau has many markets to explore, offering a wide range of local delicacies and handicrafts. Chợ Hải Sản is the biggest one, closest to the city center. Here you can find endless varieties of seafood freshly caught that day and cooked up on the spot.Trần Phú fish market is a particularly fantastic experience—a little out of the city, making it more local. The other option is Xóm Lưới market. If it’s hard for you to tolerate the overwhelming smell of seafood, it’s best to wear a mask as you wander through the maze of stalls.