Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park, Vietnam is one of the best karst cave structure in Asia, if not the world. Situated in the north central Vietnam region of Quang Binh Province, it is easily accessible via the Ho Chi Man Highway.
With numerous caves, including one of the largest caves in the world and stunning sceneries, Phong Nha popped on my radar as a frequent day trip destination for those who visit Hue. Excited by the promise of quaint villages and charming geological structures, I had decided to add this town to my 16 day itinerary and shuffled out three days for this visit.
- 1 Things to do in Phong Nha
- 1.1 Cave of Phong Nha
- 1.2 Tours Company in Phong Nha
- 1.3 Other attractions in Phong Nha
- 1.4 Phong Nha Restaurants
- 1.5 Phong Nha Hotel and Hostels
Things to do in Phong Nha
Cave of Phong Nha
There are countless caves in Phong Nha, with the five most famous ones: Phong Nha Cave, Paradise Cave, Dark Cave, Swallow Cave and Son Doong Dave. They are talked about in details in my top 5 cave tours of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park article. The basic rundown:
- Don’t book a tour outside of Phong Nha for Phong Nha Cave, Dark Cave, and Paradise Cave (unless it’s an adventure one for Paradise)
- Research on cave tours if you plan on doing a multi-day trek, and plan for a longer stay in Phong Nha as there are only 2 buses out daily.
- Pre-book 2+ nights trek prior to arrival. Recommended companies are Jungle Boss and Oxalis
- Bear in mind that cave tours are subject to changes weather condition
Here’s a video of my trip to 3 out of the 5 caves:
Tours Company in Phong Nha
For those who are not looking to do the extreme hikes, Phong Nha Discovery is pretty much the go-to company in town. We got a 4 USD discount via our homestay host Linh and decided to tackle the Paradise + Dark Cave tour with them. And we thoroughly enjoyed the day.
Why do tours? If you don’t have a means to get around, it’ll be hard to negotiate the 15 and 25 km highway stretch that will take you to the Paradise and Dark Cave. Also, you don’t have to organize anything if you go with them.
- Do Phong Nha and Tien So on your own
- Make sure you look your belongings in the tour car or leave it at home for the day if you are visiting the Dark Cave
- If you want to, book Paradise Cave day tour a day early because it’s required
- Tours typically start around 8:30 am
- Booking through your hotel in Hue is a bad idea
Prices: day tours are typically around the 60 USD mark, including 2 caves and a visit to either the Botanical Garden or 8 Lady Caves. It gets progressively more expensive if trekking and camping is involved.
Other attractions in Phong Nha
There are, believe it or not, other things to do in Phong Nha outside of visiting the caves. However, there are no questions that the caves are the real attractions. But if you do find yourself with hours or even days to spare, then here’s some extra things to do:
Eco trail (Mooc Spring)
Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons/ Huyen Tran Nguyen Ho
More of an organized bit of nature trail that leads to the spring, I personally feel that the Eco trail is too pricey for a walk in the wild with orchid garden, bamboo bridge and somewhere to swim in. however, it might be suitable for families, providing you have your own means to get there.
Opening hours: 7:00 – 17:00
Price: 80,000 (children under 1.3 m free), tour guide 200,000 (viet) and 300,000 (English); kayak rental 100,000 per hour
For package tour from tourism center: adult 180,000; children 100,000
Phong Nha Botanic Garden
Another organized nature attraction, the Phong Nha Botanic Garden is said to be less of a garden but more of a jungle. Often included in day tours, it’s 12 km from the town. It’s slightly more worth visiting, with the Gio Waterfall, Vang Anh Lake as well as an animal rescue center.
Address: Việt Nam, ĐT20, Sơn Trạch, Bố Trạch District, Quang Binh Province, Vietnam
8 ladies cave
Not very interesting in my opinion, the 8 ladies cave is a temple associated with the cave nearby. from what the tour guide said, it is a tradition for 8 young men and women to stay there as guardians, and during the Vietnam War, 8 people were trapped inside the cave as a huge rock fall block the entrance. Their death is viewed as war sacrifice and made this place holy.
Entrance fee is free, though you are asked to cover your shoulders and knees.
Bong Lai Valley
My personal choice would be this local chill and swim spot. Although it is a fair way out of town, you can rent a bicycle and cycle along the emptier Old French Highway or the more scenic Ho Chi Minh Highway east to this spot. If you are staying in the farmstay area, this valley is all the closer to you.
There is the famous ‘Pub with Cold Beer’, where they roast fresh chicken for you as well as the Lake House and Wild Boar Eco Farm. If you cycle along the Old French Highway, there’s also the Bomb Crater Bar, which is a nice place to chill (though the food was less ideal).
P.S. since the area is not well mapped on google, getting your homestay/hostel/hotel to give you a map of where they are would be idea!
Phong Nha Restaurants
Phong Nha is a small place. The town literally sprawls along a small stretch of the highway. Though pricking is slim, you are sure not to be disappointed for choice in this tourist hotspot. Here are my recommendations:
Phong Nha Bamboo Restaurant
Ranked at #1 on TripAdvisor, I have to say the food here isn’t bad and the price is reasonable. With a comprehensive menu of both Vietnamese and Western style food; it’s a good place to eat if you want to be in a restaurant with nice décor and good vibes, as long as you don’t mind waiting more than half an hour for food.
We had the wonderball, stir-fry and I enjoyed their Bamboo Special Smoothie.
P.S. they also offer tours – but I haven’t been on any personally.
Address: ĐT20, Phong NHA, Sơn Trạch, Bố Trạch, Quảng Bình, Vietnam
Opening times: 7:00 – 22:30
Tuan Ngoc Restaurant
A few doors down from Green Bamboo and spotting a similar décor, Tuan Ngoc is a good alternative for those who don’t want to wait forever for their food. The rice paper + pork/ribs dishes we ordered were huge and pretty decent, though their opinion of ‘fresh juice’ is very different from norm and way too small.
Address: ĐT20, Phong NHA, Sơn Trạch, Bố Trạch, Quảng Bình, Vietnam
Opening times: 6:30 – 22:00
Lemon Tree Café and Restaurant
A good place to chill and people watch, I haven’t eaten here so I am not sure of the quality. While the service we had was slow, it has a great bar stool table facing the road and a quaint setting. The menu here is more westernized.
Address: Phong Nha, Sơn Trạch, Bố Trạch District, Quang Binh Province, Vietnam
Opening times: Mon – Sat 7:00 – 2:00; Sun 7:00 – 0:00
If you are looking for a crowd to hang and some western comfort food, then Easy Tiger is your spot. Adjoins to the hostel, it’s one of the liveliest place in town and you will be sure to make friends here.
Address: Nhà bán vé và hàng lưu niệm., ĐT20, Phong NHA, Sơn Trạch, Bố Trạch, Phong Nha, Sơn Trạch, Vietnam
Phong Nha Hotel and Hostels
The warm reviews online didn’t do justice to how lovely Linh and her staff are. We were greeted and welcomed with care, and she was happy to give us a million recommendations, even booking us on a last minute tour that we didn’t pay for until check out.
The room was clean and great for a village this size, and I can’t think of anyone to trust more than Linh.
If you are a backpacker, then this is pretty much the go-to hostel. Although there is also Gecko hostel a few doors down to consider, Easy Tiger does seem livelier.
If you want something different, then farm stays are a good one to choose. It offers one of the best options in the region but not in the town center. So if you don’t have a motorbike, then getting around could be an issue.