A Halong Bay cruise experience is one of the most incredible things you can do in Vietnam. The tour will involve a car trip from Hanoi to Halong Bay, followed by a few nights at sea having the experience of a lifetime. We will talk about the best Halong Bay Cruise to take as well as everything you need to know to make sure you are prepared for your adventure! Let’s go.
Halong Bay looks fake. We felt like we had to be dreaming during our entire experience. Earth can’t be this beautiful, can it? Luckily, it can, and it is.
Halong Bay is stupid gorgeous. Like Wendy Peffercorn in Sandlot gorgeous. Sitting up on that lifeguard stand looking like a snack to young Squints.
Fact: Halong Bay has over 1,600 islands. No typo. One thousand and six hundred islands. Epic!
Not only is Halong Bay a showstopper to look at, there is a lot to do! And the fact that Halong Bay is a bay, that means there is pretty much only one way to experience it: on a boat! A boat that will ferry you to all of the incredible destinations in the bay, and offer you a place to sleep as well.
Bay – noun – a broad inlet of the sea where the land curves inward.
There are multiple cruise companies that take you on overnight cruises in Halong Bay, each offering different lengths, different size boats, and different excursions. Many cruises even take you to different places at different times. No worry, we will take you to the best Halong Bay cruise for your family and budget! But first, let’s talk about everything that makes a Halong Bay cruise so special.
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Cruise Boat Activities
While cruising from the port all through Halong Bay and back, you will definitely have some time on board the boat. Now, are you just going to sit in your room while on the boat? Of course not! Well, unless you want to of course…
If you want to get some authentic Vietnamese experiences while adventuring in Halong Bay, then look no further, because the Halong Bay cruises offer just that. While on our trip, we took a class on how to make spring rolls, did morning Tai Chi, went squid fishing, and sampled some incredible local dishes!
Many other cruise companies offer different activities for you to do on board the ship, and we will cover more of that when comparing the different companies.
Kayaking at a Pearl Farm
If you have the chance to kayak or stand-up paddle-board in a tropical wonderland, you have to take it. We went kayaking at the Tung Sau Pearl Farm and village, and loved every second of it.
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Most of the Halong Bay Cruises stop at Tung Sau Pearl Farm, and rightfully so. This is an incredible place that is central to Vietnam’s pearl industry, and has some of the most beautiful jewelry around.
Note: some of the pearls you find in Vietnam will claim to be real, but actually are not. Pearls purchased straight from the source at Tung Sau Pearl Farm will be certifiably real.
For us, kayaking at the pearl farm was included in the price of our cruise, so of course we had to try it out! The sea was so calm and the water was so beautiful, this was one of the best moments of our Halong Bay cruise.
Explore Titop Island
Titop Island is a beautiful beach and hike in the middle of Halong Bay. You won’t be able to find it on your own, so thank goodness you will be on a cruise with an awesome guide!
Once your boat docks and you are able to disembark, you’ll have two options: head to the beach or do the hike. We recommend doing both, but starting with the hike. The hike itself is pretty short, just a half mile or so, and the view from above is pretty dang amazing. Low effort high reward!
Once you finish the hike you can kick your feet up on the beach sipping a coconut. Take a look around and be grateful that you are hanging out in one of the coolest and most beautiful places in the world.
Cave Adventure at Sung Sot Cave
Exploring Sung Sot Cave (AKA Surprise Cave) was an unexpected treat for us. We didn’t know it was a part of our trip, but we are glad that it was because holy cripes was it cool!
Sung Sot is an enormous cave. It takes more than a half hour to walk through the whole thing, and that’s walking with a hop in your step (because Julie probably had to pee or something).
Stalactites and stalagmites were on and POPPING in this bad boy. HIGHLY recommend checking Sung Sot Cave out for yourself. If your boat is stopping here, take your time and walk slowly so you can experience the cave fully. At the end, you’ll come out of the dark with an awesome view of Halong Bay and head back to your boat knowing you just had a wonderful adventure.
Halong Bay From Above
We had so much fun flying our DJI Drone around Halong Bay. Flying high over the islands, getting unbelievable shots of the sunrise and sunset. We definitely recommend bringing a drone on your trip to Halong Bay, and all of Southeast Asia for that matter.
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You’ll be able to get incredible views and perspectives that you wouldn’t be able to get otherwise. If you bring along a GoPro as well, you’ll have views from up in the sky and underwater!
Which Company Has the Best Halong Bay Cruise?
There are hundreds of boat tours of Halong Bay that you can find and book for pretty cheap online. And when it comes down to it, with food and drinks included on board, as well as tours and a guide, you will be spending less on a cruise than you would on land.
So what cruise company did we use? We chose Halong Bay Majestic Cruise, and this was our experience.
Halong Bay Majestic Cruise
For our cruise, the boat fit about 20 people fully loaded, and really kicked butt. First off, our room was awesome. We had a queen bed and a balcony for morning coffee and relaxation. Probably the best room we had in all of Southeast Asia, and it definitely came with the best view.
Second, our guide was top notch. He told us all about the history of Halong Bay, peppered in some hilarious jokes, and even taught us how to make authentic spring rolls!
Finally, the boat takes you to all the epic places in the bay. Having a floating home meant that we could make our way from place to place while we were eating, sleeping, doing Tai Chi in the mornings, whatever floats your boat!
We chose Halong Bay Majestic Cruise mainly because this was an inexpensive option that still had a ton of excursions. However, that doesn’t mean necessarily that you need to choose Majestic! Here are some other great options:
Halong Bay Cruise Hunters
Halong Bay Cruise Hunters is a company that specializes not only in cruises, but also in excursions all around the bay. They compile information on cruises from a ton of awesome cruise companies that offer everything from a 2 day cruise to a 14 day full Vietnam experience!
If you are interested in an extremely incredible and authentic experience, check out Halong Bay Cruise Hunters for advice. If we ever are able to get back to Halong Bay for another, we will most likely be booking through Halong Bay Cruise Hunters.
Cruise in Style – Luxury Options
Now, if you are all about riding in style and are looking for a luxury experience, then we have 3 options for you: Orchid, President, and Peony. These are 3 cruise companies that have the best and most luxurious ships in Halong Bay.
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One thing that is incredible about Halong Bay Cruises is that you will be able to get a luxury experience for a price that is WAY below what you would pay in some other countries. The per-night costs of these cruises is many times under $100, which is INCREDIBLE considering the fact that food, drinks, and excursions are included.
If you are looking for a luxury experience, this is the place to do it. You will have an awesome time and will not have to break the bank to do it!
Getting From Hanoi to Halong Bay
Halong Bay is a relatively small city, and doesn’t have a huge airport for you to fly into. The closes large city with a huge international airport is Hanoi. Therefore, you will most likely be flying into Hanoi and have to find transportation to get from Hanoi to Halong Bay.
The distance from Hanoi to Halong Bay is about three and a half hours by car, which is no small distance. There are a few options to get there, and here are our three best recommendations:
Bus from Hanoi to Halong Bay
The bus will be the cheapest option to get you from A to B, at a cost of less than $10. Click this link for fares and schedules to plan your bus trip if you are looking to cut costs as much as possible.
Rent a Car
A second option to get form Hanoi to Halong Bay is to rent a car in Hanoi. We recommend this option only if you have another reason you need the car. Perhaps you are also going from Hanoi to Sapa and will be driving that route as well. In that case, just rent a car and drive to both destinations.
Book Transit with Your Cruise
If you aren’t already renting a car, the this is our recommendation for the best option for getting from Hanoi to Halong Bay. This won’t be cheaper than the bus, however it will be the most convenient option and will ensure that you are getting to the right place at the right time for your Halong Bay cruise.
Take a Seaplane
The most experiential and without-a-doubt most unique way to get from Hanoi to Halong Bay is by seaplane. That’s right, you can take a PLANE there! Instead of the three-and-a-half hour trip on the road, the seaplane takes under an hour and offers incredible views.
Of course, this will be the most expensive option, however maybe it would be worth it considering this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fly in a seaplane over Vietnam! Whichever method you choose to get from Hanoi to Halong Bay, just make sure you get there on time and are ready for an amazing adventure!
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