Updated travel guide for Nha Trang
Nha Trang is a small city belongs to Khanh Hoa province on the South Central Coast of Vietnam. It is known as a beautiful coastal city in Vietnam and in the world. The city is just 265,47 km2, and 392,000 inhabitants. Since locating in the middle part of Vietnam which is easy to come from Hue, Hoi An, Da Nang and move to the South, Nha Trang is compared as a precious Pearl of Vietnam tourism.
In the history, Nha Trang was known as Kauthara under the Champa hundreds years ago. Until now there are still a lot of heritages and Champa culture remaining here, especially Po Nagar towers . Nha trang had used to be small fishing villages before the French recognized that the place is an ideal for relaxing on beautiful beaches, they decided to invest to turn the town into resort city.
The position of Nha Trang is evaluated as one of the most beautiful Bay in the World, because of heavenly beaches , hot spring, the colorful beauty of the sea as diversity of fish, coral reef,… and nice weather during the entire year which is favorable for some activities like swimming, sunbathing, scuba diving and snorkeling.
Nha Trang is known as center of entertainment with series of Vinpearl land, Tri Nguyen Aquarium, Hon Tam resort,… . Besides, Cam Ranh Bay is considered as one of three harbors that have the best natural conditions over the world. Having the area of over 60 square kilometers and the 18-20m average depth, this bay is out of the wind as a result of being surrounded by many mountain ranges. Van Phong Bay has a wonderful nature, temperate climate, idyllic beach with mostly fine sand, surrounded by hills, mountains and tropical forests, colorful coral reefs, several vestige of salt-watered forest, specific and valuable sea creatures, which is endowed with an ideal environment. These are great potentials for the development of ecological tourism in Van Phong.
How to get there
Cam Ranh Airport (CXR), built on the grounds of an old American airbase in 2004, is located 30km from the city and serves only domestic destinations. Taxi fare from the airport to downtown locations is a fixed rate of 380,000 VND, though many hotels have their own buses. Do not offer to go by the meter here as it is about 100,000 VND more expensive than the fixed rate. Try to take a Mai Linh taxi as the Airport taxi drivers will quite often try to take advantage of you in some way.
A cheaper option is to take the airport bus at 60,000 VND to the old Nha Trang Airport. They sell the tickets for this mini bus at a desk near the exit of the airport. The old airport terminal is in the city not far from most hotels and taxi’s can be found there. Most city hotels should be reached by taxi for 40,000 dong or less. Mini hotel alley at 64 Tran Phu costs just 15,000 dong.
For the adventurous traveller, take a short taxi ride to a Phuong Trang bus stop in Cam Ranh, then catch the Phuong Trang bus, 40,000 VND to Nha Trang (about an hour). The bus stops and the buses are orange coloured.
After a major upgrade, the airport has since 2010 been renamed “Cam Ranh International Airport” and is looking to attract direct package tour flights from overseas.
Most open tour buses arrive from Ho Chi Minh City in the south (10-12 hours) and Hoi An to the north (16 hours). They drop their passengers in the main tourist area around Biet Thu, while the public bus station is at 58, 23 Thang 10, about a 10 minute walk west of the center. North to Qui Nhon 6 hours on Mai Linh Express(115,000 dong) departures at 7.30,8.30,13.00 and 15.30 or 28 hours by TM Brothers bus (400,000 dong). Phuong Trang has several buses per day to Da Lat (hourly between 7am and 3pm, 3 to 4 hours, 120,000 dong as of July 2012).
Private car rental with a driver are usually modern air-con cars and can be rented for ~1,000,000 VND per day.
Car rental prices (as mostly anything in Vietnam) usually increase during holiday seasons especially around Tet (Vietnamese’s New Year). Make sure to avoid high prices by booking it beforehand with the car rental services.
What to see
National Oceanographic Museum of Vietnam, 01 Cau Da (on the left of the commercial port entrance), 058-590-037. Admission VND15,000. Open 7AM-4PM. This is like an aquarium with popular and rare species of the sea. A perfect place to bring kids as they will get to see sharks, turtles, coral reefs, lionfish, sea horses, and many other creatures.
Alexandre Yersin Museum, 10 Tran Phu St., 058-822-355. Admission US$2. M-Sa 8-11AM and 2-4:30PM. This is a scientific museum of a Swiss-born, Dr. Alexandre Yersin (1863-1943), who arrived in Vietnam in 1891 to study infected animals. He then later on produced a serum from horses and buffaloes. In this museum, you will be able to view all of his work as well as his equipment. Yersin never went back to Switzerland as he spent the rest of his life in Nha Trang. Don’t try to take pictures. Do respect the rules since they’re quite serious here.
Long Son Pagoda, Thai Nguyen St. Free admission. Open 8AM-5PM. At this pagoda, you will see a 79 ft. tall white Buddha. The pagoda was established in 1963 to honour the monks and nuns who died demonstrating against the Diem government. Beware of cheaters claiming they are students studying in the temple demanding that you offer a donation to the school before going up the pagoda. These “students” have no affiliation to the school and entry to the pagoda absolutely is free.
Po Nagar Cham Towers, 2 Thang 4 St. Admission US$0.8. Open daily 7:30AM-5PM. 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 longevity of these last vestiges of a once-dominant South East Asian civilisation should impress temple enthusiasts even if the insensitive restoration and surrounding mass of tourists don’t. The small complex sits on a hill which enjoys views across Nha Trang’s fishing village. It is a 20-25 minute walk (or short motorbike ride) from the main beach strip, however be prepared to wander through the ‘real’ Nha Trang, quite a shocking change from the showy built up beach side resort.
Vinpearl Land. From the harbour you can take the cable car over to the island where Vinpearl resort and Vinpearl land is located. They have a small tivoli and some restaurants, attractions here include Underwater World (aquarium), Water Park complete with many exciting water slides and wave pool, Amusement Park with roller coaster, pirate ship, bumper cars, 4D cinema and many modern arcade machines and musical fountain and laser show at night time, usually 7PM. All included in the one price. 450,000 dong
Doc Let beach, (around 50 km north of Nha Trang). Doc Let beach is more tranquil, cleaner and beautiful than the beach in Nha Trang. It is well worth taking a tour there. Local fishermen families sell and prepare seafood which they will cook for you on the beach for a very reasonable price.
Bai Dai beach, (On the road from Nha Trang to Cam Ranh airport). The road to the Cam Ranh airport is a very scenic road and worth going just to enjoy the scenery. As you have passed over the mountains there is a very long and nice beach named Bai Dai(around 21.6 km from Nha Trang city center and pronounced Bai Yai) which is clean and beautiful. You can buy food from small restaurants at the beach.
Bai Duong Beach, (1.5 km north on Tran Phu street over the main bridge). Bai Duong beach is smaller than in the main tourist area. The beach has a gentler grade, and warmer waters, and is also calmer, cleaner, and ideal for swimming.
Yang Bay Waterfalls, (40 km west of Nha Trang). At the Yang Bay waterfalls, the Vietnamese have built up a concrete beach. It used to be a lot nicer before they built it but it is still a very nice place to visit. You can swim there, and walk around in the area. Bringing your own food and drink is recommended.
Ba Ho waterfalls, Near Ba Ho village (Approximately 20Kms North of Nha Trang). A series of three waterfalls and a quite fast flowing at (some points) river tucked away in the forest. Its a good one hour trip from Nha trang by moterbike through some rough, off road tracks ( especially in the wet season ) If you decide to go without a guide its preferable that you travel with someone as a flat tyre out here can be a common occurrence as I found out, although these can be fixed in the village or most local houses for a small fee. the turn off from the main highway north of Nha Trang can be easy to miss (a Stone pillar )but most locals along the road should be able to point it out. from the turn off its a straight track to follow to the river, there are limited amenities there although you can buy food, like rice and chicken and cold beers or soft drinks are also for sale from locals who will guide ( Follow ) you up through the forest this is preferable to having to carry your own food and drink and the prices are reasonable a small premium for their trouble, the “guides ” are pleasant enough showing you short cuts and footholds higher up the track. Taxis and motorbike guides are available in Nha Trang to take you there but its not too difficult to find yourself and in better weather, a pleasant drive, if your confident on a motorbike. be warned though that going off road on hired bikes can incur damage which you will be liable for.
Fairy Spring waterfalls (Suối Tiên), Suối Tiên, Diên Khánh District (Approx 20km SW from Nha ATrang). Fairy Spring is a small, cool stream and swimming hole much visited by the local youth on weekends. The swimming hole is at the end of a short jungle walk. It is a pleasant place to visit in summer. In winter the water is too cold to swim. The streams source is the area of Hồn Bà, the highest peak in the province. Bottled and canned drinks are available, but no food is sold here yet. The area is slowly being developed and will eventually become a resort with a hotel, bungalows, and restaurant. There is a small admission charge (10,000 dong per person, 3,000 dong per motorbike ). To get there, go 10km west of Nha Trang to Diên Khánh, go through the old citadel (Thành Cổ Diên Khánh) to Diên Phước village (5km), turn left 4km to Suoi Tien village, then right 1km to the stream.
Thap Ba Hot Springs and Mud baths (Suối Nước Nóng Tháp Bà), (4km NW of Nha Trang). On the north side of Nha Trang. 50,000 dong for hot and cool swimming pools and thermal waterfall only. Pay extra for the mud! They serve food and drinks here also. Update Feb 2011, 50,000 dong for the hot swimming pool and waterfall, 100,000 dong for shared mud bath (if you are 5-8 people you will probably get put in the same tub), shower, hot/cold water jets, hot jacuzzi, and the hot waterfalls and swimming pool. A massage by trained masseuses and entrance to the hot swimming pool costs 150,000 dong (Jan 2011) There was also a package for 500,000 which included a massage among other extras. A VIP spa package will cost you $US100 or more. If getting here by motorbike, if you carry on a further 500km past the mud baths you arrive at a railway bridge across the river that connects to a tunnel. Its a very scenic spot that’s popular for wedding photo shoots.
What to do
Sailing – Get a group together and hire a captain for about US$40 for the best sailing experience. Call the Nha Trang Sailing Club, +84 58 826528 for more information.
Surfing – Head out to The Shack for surf lessons. Run by Tippy, this bar/restaurant/surf club is a great palce to spend a day relaxing. The Shack is located in Bai Dai beach about 21.6 km south of Nha Trang. Visit their website for info www.shackvietnam.com
Biking and Rafting Tour, 1/12 Tran Quang Khai St, ☎ 058,3521541. Combination fast 30km downhill biking passing through minority village and meeting Raglai people. Then a 12km rafting trip down the Cai River. from US$45.
Relaxing – Thap Ba natural hotsprings: a must-have experience at an amazingly cheap price,(4$/pax) for the mineral pool and from 12.5/pax for the mudbath (incl.the mineral pool). More you are less it cost. Located on the outskirt of the city, this place provides the most relaxing services you can imagine (hot mud bath, mineral water bath and hot water pool and massages also available).
Waterland Thach Lam Stream, Suối Cát – Cam Lâm – Khánh Hòa (near Alexandre Yersin temple (about 22 km south of Nha Trang), ☎ +84 58 387-3878. It is the first eco – sport amusement park in the province. You can swim, play rafting and paint ball shooting, slide on grass(in a small car) there. Food and beverages are available
Diving & snorkelling
Close off-shore from Nha Trang sit a series of islands that offer decent diving and snorkelling, easily accessible by day trip. The city has about two dozen dive shops, making for fierce competition and great value. For certification training, Nha Trang offers perhaps the best value in the world, with PADI open water courses available with full equipment rental for as little as US$250. A two-dive boat trip with equipment rental and modest lunch can be had for as little as US$45, also a phenomenal value.
Coastal and undersea construction has stirred up a lot of sediment in the area, so under-water visibility is sometimes not great. The area is heavily fished, so fish life is also limited. You wouldn’t cross the world just to dive at Nha Trang. But if you always dreamed of getting a scuba certification, Nha Trang is a great place to do it, and any diver passing through would enjoy a couple of dips. The shops generally offer good-quality equipment and experienced, certified dive-masters. Diving goes on year-around, but in the October-December windy season, the boat ride can be a bit rough and diving is limited to a few sites in the lee of the islands.
Organization of the Nha Trang dive industry is sometimes complex. If you sign up for a trip with shop A, you might find yourself joined with a group and dive-master from shop B, which shares a boat with another group and dive-master from shop C, the boat itself being independently owned. Consolidation is especially active in the off-season, when few if any shops can fill a boat on their own. It’s a good illustration of Vietnamese culture, which does not stand on ceremony, and loves a bargain, and is very skilled at making maximum use of resources. The local dive-masters are mostly great, friendly guys with lots of stories to tell.
Coco Dive Center, 2E Biet Thu, ☎ +84-583-522-900. is a Vietnamese owned company, managed by “Seawolf” Jean Pierre, who imported recreational diving to Vietnam some 15 years ago. Very fair prices compared to most other diving facilities in town, services from snorkelling and introductory dives to Assistant instructor course. $38 for one dive (with snorkelling) and $55 for two dives. Their big boat offers a good comfort, even on windy days. Although, because of the size of the boat,they are unable to go to all the different dive sites. English, French, German and Vietnamese fluently spoken.
Jeremy Stein’s Rainbow Divers, 058-826-528 is longest running dive operation in Nha Trang, European-owned with partially expat staff. A two-dive boat trip costs US$75 (including water, coffee, tea, a variety of baguettes, cakes and fruits), about double the best deals available in town (but much less than what Rainbow charges in other locations.) The operation is well-organized and very professional, catering to divers who aren’t comfortable with the more low-key local shops.
Where to stay
There are plenty of budget hotels in Nha Trang costing less than $20 per night and nearly all are en-suite and have the usual air-con, cable TV, fridge, bedside table, wardrobe and night light. Most also have Wi-Fi, if not in rooms, at least in the reception area. “Mini-hotel alley” at 64 Tran Phu is a good place to head for as it has a dozen or so budget hotels located in a relatively quiet alley near the beach and the main tourist area. Don’t be surprised if you are followed by a motorbike rider, sometimes they can be helpful showing you where your hotel is but often they are just annoying but either way if you arrive at a hotel with one they will demand commission from the hotel, even if you have a booking!
Ha Tram Hotel, 64B/5 Tran Phu, ☎ 058.3521819. Newest hotel in mini hotel alley (opened 2011), close to beach and main tourist area in quiet and safe location. All rooms have air-con, en-suite with hot water, cable TV, Wi-Fi and fridge. Hotel has 15 rooms on 6 floors and has an elevator. US$10-15.
Pho Bien Hotel, 64/1 Tran Phu, 058.3.524.858. Mini hotel close to beach and restaurants. All rooms have air-con, en-suite, cable TV, fridge and Wi-Fi. This place is clean, has a terrific location & really is great value for money. Room 503 (dble) has an enormous balcony with fabulous sea views & costs US$17 Hotel has an elevator and 3 internet computers to use in the lobby. Price range from US$10-20.
Happy House Hotel, 64/13 Tran Phu, ☎ 058.3522.175. Budget mini hotel close to beach and main tourist area in quiet and safe location. All rooms have air-con, en-suite with hot water, cable TV and fridge. Hotel has 15 rooms on 5 floors and has an elevator.
Memento Resort, 15 Le Chan St.,Nha Trang. This resort is in the country side around 15 kilomters west of Nha Trang. In the middle of the rice fields you will find this little family owned resort. If you like a traquil place and want to enjoy the country side, then this is the place for you. They also have a swimming pool at the resort.
Vien Dong Hotel, 1 Tran Hung Dao St., 058-821-606. Price ranges from US$35-45. Well-known and affordable, with all the basic amenities needed plus some live entertainment at night.
Que Huong Hotel, 60 Tran Phu Blvd., 058-825-047. Another hotel within the walking distance to the beach. There is a nice restaurant accompanied with a pool hall and some disco. Great amenities offered as well as the services. Price ranges from US$55-105.
Nha Trang Lodge Hotel, 40 Tran Phu St., 058-810-500. For those who love the view of the ocean, this is the hotel to stay at. Most rooms overlook the beach giving you an extraordinary sea views. Rooms are equipped with phones, satellite TV, a minibar, etc. Service is great. Price ranges from US$60-170 per night.
Nha Trang Hilton Bed & Breakfast, (+84) 58-3820-476. It’s is the only type of its kind, a bed & breakfast in Vietnam. Most lodging are in forms of resort and hotels, but this unique living arrangement; the Hilton Bed & Breakfast (not related to the Hilton Hotel) allows guest to interactive with the local Vietnamese and share in with their daily life & activities.
Six Senses Hideaway, 058-3728-222.The only way to get to this resort is by speed boat to Ninh Van Bay. Price ranges from $405 to 1,255 per night. This is more of a private resort, suitable for whoever wants to get away from everything to spend time relaxing with love ones. This resort lurks itself between the rocks and mountains and oversees the white sand beach. Dining is fabulous in the open air where the breezes slightly stroke through your hair. While taking your time to have a lovely dinner, the sun will slowly set, giving you a miraculous view of Nha Trang at night.
Evason Ana Mandara & Six Senses Spa, Tran Phu Blvd., 058-3522222. if you don’t mind the price, this is the spot to go all out and get the once in a lifetime royal treatment. It has been known to be the finest resorts in the region. Finest in all aspects from the setting of the place to the hospitality to the food and to the people. Available fine-dining restaurants where the food can alter to your own tastes. Of course, there are many other amenities that are endless to meet your needs. Price ranges from US$210-450 per night. The resort also offer great tours. Make sure you take advantage of that to learn more about the area and the culture.
Yasaka Saigon-NhaTrang Hotel, 18 Tran Phu St., 058-820-090. This hotel is a Japanese and Vietnamese joint style. Service here is very friendly, and it has all the amenities you would need. What is good about this hotel is that it is just walking distance to the beach. Price ranges from US$100-355 per night.
Sunrise Beach Resort Nha Trang, 12 Tran Phu St, 058-920-999. This resort is all polished marble and white columns with 10 floors. It has a great view of ocean-side as well as the sky from its glass rooftop. Price ranges from US$140-500 per night.
Diamond Bay Resort & Spa Nha Trang Diamond Bay, Song Lo 058-711711. This extremely spaciously laid out resort hosted the 2008 Miss Universe pageant. Hotel rooms, suites and villas. Enormous pool (non chlorinated) spa, fitness, several restaurants & bars, tennis, expatriate exec. chef and expatriate GM. Two private beaches. Prices range from $125-600 per night. Book with wotif.com.au for USD57 per night with breakfast for 2 garden view room.
Novotel, 50 Tran Phu (in the central tourist location), ☎ +84 (0) 58 6 25 69 28. Four star hotel. Awesome staff, food, room, internet. Smaller pool, but the ocean is less than 100 meters away. $105.
Sheraton, 26-28 Tran Phu. Five star hotel with swimming pool, gym and open air bar on 28th floor with great views across Nha Trang beachfront.
Vinpearl resort. Vinpearl resort is on an island in the Nha Trang bay. You can get to and from the island by cable car. It is a 5 star hotel with the biggest pool in Vietnam. If you stay here, you can have unlimited access to the water park etc. It’s quite expensive though.
Where to eat
Lanterns Vietnamese Restaurant, 72 Nguyen Thien Thuat Street, ☎ 058 2471 674. Open daily 7AM – 11PM. A great local restaurant, in the heart of the tourist district, where you get to try some real authentic Vietnamese dishes. Great relaxed atmosphere and friendly staff. They prepare some of the best local dishes in Nha Trang and have an offer of Western food for those who miss home. They also work closely with 2 local orphanages, where the children and their carers are invited to regularly dine at the restaurant. $1 – $7.
Guava Sports Bar, Lounge & Restaurant, 34f Nguyen Thien Thuat. 7am – midnight. Open from 7am for big portion western breakfasts (served all day for those who enjoy later breakfasts too)! Great for big portions and western favorites. Daily specials include English Sunday Roast Dinner, Steak Night, Meat Pies, Chicken Wings, Burgers and Pizza’s. The rooftop terrace offers a cook your own Vietnamese style BBQ, open from 5pm everyday, perfect for couples, friends and groups.
Hoa Hung bakery, 39 Phan Boi Chau St., 058-382-3141/ 72 Ly Thanh Ton St., 058-221-1992 Sponge cake < US$1, pate-chaud, chocolate cupcake, sesame toffee. Open daily 7AM-10PM. Founded from 1936 and recommended by the travel guide Le Routard, Hoa Hung is one of the best bakery in the country.
Lighthouse Restaurant, 03 Phan Van Dong, 0969-50-1000, run by westerners, vietnamese and western cuisine, main courses US$3-17, live seafood US$4-110, open 11am-last guest (kitchen till 10pm), clean and unique place for quiet lunch and dinner in relaxing atmosphere.Located about 7 km to the north of Nha Trang Lighthouse Restaurant is an ideal place for sunbathing (sunbeds, towels, umbrellas), watersports (stand-up paddle board)and relaxation at a daytime and romantic dining (with live seafood, caviar, sweet champagne and live violin music on request) for couples in the evening.
Salut, 16 Tran Quang Khai Street, ☎ 058.3.526.168. 6AM-11PM. 2 storey corner located restaurant (previously called Hello), serving Western and Vietnamese food. Good food and cheap cocktails. edit
Louisiane Brewhouse, Lot 29, Tran Phu (South along Tran Phu from the Sailing Club), ☎ 84 (58) 3 521 948. 8AM-11PM. Louisiane Brewhouse has it all: tasty locally brewed beers, fresh cakes and tarts (the chocolate and mango tart is a real treat), an in-house sushi restaurant with other Japanese fare, quality pizzas, steaks, Vietnamese food, and you can pick your own fresh seafood. Add to this a nice swimming pool, decent live music, and the fact that it is right on the beach with their own loungers. Only the pool table was a bit of a let-down, with one ball missing and children messing about.
Texas BarBQ and Steaks, 26 Tran Quang Khai Street, ☎ 058-224-0979. 9AM-10PM. A taste of Texas in Vietnam. They import their steak, chicken, and pork from the U.S. The ribs are smoked for 5 hours a day! Charcoal fired burgers and authentic Memphis and Texas BarBQ makes this a favorite for kids and adults alike. The owners, Charlie and Wayne always have great stories to tell. Nice waitress staff who speak English well. 60,000-550,000.
Treffpunkt German Bar and Restaurant, 6A Tran Quang Khai Street. 9AM – 11PM. Great homemade German sausages, brown bread and Apple Pie. Sausages start from 35k Dong and brown bread is 10k Dong. The owner, an East German is very friendly and has great stories to tell about his Vietnam stay. 35,000-100,000.
Bamboo, 15 Biet Thu St., 058-910-774. Open 8AM-9:30PM. This is a popular T-shirt shop in the area. Lots of tourists visit this shop to get T-shirts.
Groove Shack, 101 Nguyen Thien Thuat St., 058-524-738. Open daily 2PM-10PM. This is the place to update your MP3 player. The prices are acceptable. Service excellent. Has now moved into Booze Cruise bar & Grill.
Tashunco, 17A Biet Thu St., 058-827-035. Open 7AM-10PM. This is a mini Western market where tourists can buy products like chips, cheese, soda, etc.
Maximark Supermarket, 60 Thai Nguyen, ☎ 058 3 818 727. Nha Trang now has a brand new large western style supermarket that’s located near to the train station. Opened early 2010, it covers 4,000m2 in area, in a four-story building. The supermarket itself is on the 1st floor. There is a food court on the 4th floor that includes a Jollibee fast food joint. There is also an arcade games area on the 4th floor, 2,000 dong per token. Above the food court on the 5th floor and new multi-screen cinema has opened, Lotte Cinema. You can get a free discount card but you have to wait 10 days before it becomes active.
A Mart, 27 Biet Thi Street (located on the corner just beyond an A-mart supermarket and Crazy Kim if walking away from the sea.). There are a couple of well stocked modern mini-supermarkets in the main tourist area called A Mart. These are very much aimed at the tourist market and few locals will be seen shopping here. Cheaper prices for drinks, food and toiletry items will be obtainable from the more traditional family run small stores, especially so if you tell them what the supermarket price is and challenge them to offer you a lower price.
Nha Trang Center, ☎ 20 Tran Phu. New shopping and entertainment complex on the main beach road. On the 3rd floor is a 10 pin bowling alley as well as a games arcade and a food court. On the ground floor are KFC and Lotteria fast food joints. There is also a 4D cinema – 40,000 dong for a 5 min roller coaster simulator ride. Room for up to 4 people. On the 2nd floor there is Citimart supermarket.