Nha Trang (pronounce “nya chang”) is a seaside town located on the south central coast of Vietnam, in Khanh Hoa Province. It used to be a small fishing village of Vietnam until the French recognized it as a perfect place for sunbathing, so they invested in the transformation to turn this place into a resort town.
Today, Nha Trang attracts a large number of domestic as well as international tourists from all over the world thanks to its pristine beach, scuba diving center, newly and beautifully developed resorts (i.e. Vinpearl, Hon Tam, etc), and diverse tourism activities.
Here are my tips visiting Nha Trang – everything from when to visit, how to get there and what to do.
When to Travel:
Peak season for tourism in Nha Trang is the summer. Therefore, if you plan to visit Nha Trang from May to August, be prepared to book your hotel and your transportation tickets well in advance. However, thanks to its tropical climate, the temperature stays warm all year long for you to enjoy the beach. But my advice is to try to avoid the rainy seasons during October and November because the beach can be disappointing when the weather is grey and the waves choppy.
If you don’t have much time to spare, traveling by air would be your best option. A short flight from Ho Chi Minh City (duration of 1 hour) or from Hanoi (1.5 hours) or from Da Nang (1.25 hours) will take you to Cam Ranh Airport which is located 30 km away from the city center.
If you are on a budget, bus is your option. Most open tour buses arrive from Ho Chi Minh City in the South (taking 10-12 hours) or Hoi An in the North (taking 16 hours). They drop their passengers in the main tourist area around Bien Thuy, while the public bus station is about 10-minute walk west of the center.
The train is a great option for people who have time to spare and want to admire the beauty along the road. Nha Trang is a stop on the main railway-line connecting Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. If you want a soft-sleeper (the highest class available on Vietnamese trains, simply meaning single bed with mattress), book your train ticket directly at the train station as far in advance as you can. You will have to pay more from an agent. Also, hotels will typically be able to buy the ticket for you (for a fee).
Nha Trang has a reliable and easy to navigate public bus service, where the ticket fare does is very low for a ride on a modern, air-conditioned bus, complete with Vietnamese music! You will find buses No. 3 and No. 2 the most useful, since they pass through the southern quarters. If you are not sure of which bus to take, you can always check at hotel reception. But remember to check before you head out, because language is still a big barrier here.
Alternatively, there are taxis, motorbikes and cyclos always available for your convenience.
Historical and Cultural Tourism:
Long Son Pagoda: Here, you will see a 79 ft. tall white Buddha. The pagoda was established in 1963 to honor the monks who gave their lives protesting against the President Diem’s corrupted regime. To get here you have to climb 152 steps, so make sure you are fit! This place gives you an excellent bird’s eye view of Nha Trang.
Po Nagar Cham Towers: These four brick towers were built by the Cham civilization between the 7th and 12th century to honor Yang Ino Po Ngar, mother of the kingdom, and the incense aroma emanating from within makes it clear that this remains a religious site for the local Buddhists of Nha Trang today. The small complex sits on a hill (yes, more steps!!) which enjoys views across Nha Trang’s fishing village. It is surrounded by small, beautiful gardens with plentiful seating so that you can take in the atmosphere, while pausing to reflect and refresh your soul.
Bao Dai Villa: The Bao Dai Villas are located on top of a small hill. You have a beautiful view of the Nha Trang bay from there. The wind is cool and it is a nice place to relax at when it is too hot in the city.
What to Do?
Yang Bay Waterfalls (40km west of Nha Trang): At the Yang Bay Waterfalls, the locals have built up a concrete beach. You can swim there, and walk around in the area. You should probably bring your own food and drink when you go there.
Thap Ba Hot Springs and Mud Baths (on the north side of Nha Trang): This is a must-have experience at an amazingly cheap price for the mineral pool and the mud bath. Located on the outskirts of the city, this place provides the most relaxing services you can imagine.
Boat Cruises: Most tours are complete with snorkeling, fishing and many other activities. Tours may provide lunch with drinks on board. Booking agents abound, so compare itineraries to find the best fits for you. My advice: take the 4-island trip. Besides the great common activities like snorkeling, you will be able to enjoy a ramshackle live band, great food and a floating bar! (I know you’re saying “Drinking and swimming, that doesn’t make sense!” but believe me it’s real fun!)
Diving & Snorkeling: Close-off shore from Nha Trang sit a series of islands that offer decent diving and snorkeling, easily accessible by day trip. The city has about two dozen dive shops, making for fierce competition and great value.
Night Life: Many cafes in Nha Trang have live music at night time. They vary in type and quality, so ask around. One favorite is Fuji cafe on Yersin Street. They have live music Thursday to Saturday from 8.30pm-10pm. A small entrance fee is added to the bill. Or, you can check out foreign performers at Red Apple Club, Guava Bar or at the El Coyote Mexican Restaurant (every Friday).
What to Eat?
Nha Trang has no shortage of eating options to suit all budgets, from Vietnamese-style informal pavement cafes on plastic chairs to high-end restaurants. Nha Trang is famous throughout Vietnam for its seafood but also offers a broad range of Western cuisine. Also Nha Trang is known among Vietnamese as the city that offers nicest and most affordable food. One dish you shouldn’t miss when coming to Nha Trang is Banh Canh cha ca Nha Trang (Nha Trang Fishcake Noodle). Fishcakes are made from several types of fresh fish. It can be steamed or fried. The soup was cooked for a long time in order to get all the sweetness of fish.
Now that you’ve learned almost everything I know about Nha Trang, I’m sure you can see why this is one of my most favorite places. I hope this provided you with enough information if you are planning a trip to Nha Trang. If you have any questions or comments, please submit them in the form below.