Adventures / Adventure Tapas

Kayak and Hike the Caves, Jungle and Coast of Vietnam

Paddle and hike Vietnam's natural wonders from cave to coast, navigating lush jungles, subterranean worlds and sub-tropical bays

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Trip Ref #10483

Adventures / Adventure Tapas

Kayak and Hike the Caves, Jungle and Coast of Vietnam

Paddle and hike Vietnam's natural wonders from cave to coast, navigating lush jungles, subterranean worlds and sub-tropical bays

DURATION

9 nights

LOCATION

Vietnam

ANNUAL LEAVE

6 days off work

SEASON

Dec-Sep

GROUP SIZE

Up to 14 people

MEETING POINT

Hanoi Airport

ACCOMMODATION

Hotel · Wild camping · Train Carriage · Boat · Lodge

DIFFICULTY

Moderate

Though no prior experience is required for the range of activities, a relatively good level of fitness is required

Kayak and SUP in Lan Ha Bay, a jaw-dropping geographical phenomenon 500 million years in the making

Hike the otherworldly jungle of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park and camp by the turquoise waters of Ma Da Lake

Delve into the enormous Elephant Cave and the ancient Tra Ang Cave, hiking along watercourses and swimming into the enigmatic caverns

Sleep aboard an elegant sailboat, drift off to jungle sounds in an eco-lodge and snooze in boutique hotels

This trip is brand new

We’re still waiting to collect any reviews from other travellers on this trip. However, all our hosts go through an extensive vetting process to ensure that your adventure is awesome.

Included

Guides

Local, English-speaking tour leader plus specialist caving guides

Accommodation

Boutique hotel and ecolodge stays mixed with unforgettable nights in sailing boats, jungle tents and sleeper trains

Meals

All breakfasts, 7 lunches, 8 dinners

Transfers

Airport transfers and everything in between

Equipment

All equipment for kayaking, Ma Da Valley caves and camping, SUPing and cycling

Porterage

During your Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park cave adventure, there will be a team of porters to carry the camping gear and prepare meals.

Permits

All permits, tickets and entry fees are included

Not Included

Flights to and from the meeting point

Travel insurance

Personal expenses

Tips for your guides

Some meals as described

The Area

map

Logistics

Starts

Noi Bai International Airport, Hanoi

Any time on Day 1

Ends

Noi Bai International Airport, Hanoi

Any time on Day 10

Transfers

Your host's local driver will meet you on arrival at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi and transfer you to your hotel (located near the Old Quarter and French Quarter). On Day 10, your host's local driver will transfer you back to the airport in time for your onward flight.

Airport transfers are included in the main price if you arrive on Day 1 and depart on Day 10. For those arriving early or wanting to stay on longer, extra nights at the hotel and airport transfers can be arranged with your host at an additional cost. Please see Optional Extras for more information.

Travel options

There are direct international flights to Hanoi from London, as well as indirect international flights from the UK and various major hubs in Europe which transit via Frankfurt, Doha, Dubai, Singapore, Bangkok or Saigon.

From the US, there are indirect flights from various major hubs which transit via Seoul, Taipei, Tokyo, Narita, Doha, Istanbul or Dubai, dependent on whether you fly west or east.

Day 1

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 2 – Day 3

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 4

Wild camping · Twin tent

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 5

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 6

Train Carriage · Mixed dorm

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 7

Boat · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 8

Lodge · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 9

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 10

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

What is the food like?

Vietnamese breakfasts consist of a variety of bò kho soups, bún bò huế and phở noodles and some local sweet desserts, as well as bánh mì, the quintessential Vietnamese breakfast sandwich. Alongside this traditional fare, there will also be omelettes, bread, butter and cheese available, served with tea, coffee and fruit juice. For lunch and dinner, fill up on a mix of spring and gỏi cuốn rolls, bun cha noodles, bánh cuốn pancakes, and hủ tiếu soups with seasonal sautéed vegetables all served with rice.

Vegetarians, vegans and other dietary requirements and allergies can be catered for - please just request on your passenger info form.

What is the accommodation like?

Hanoi

Your nights in Hanoi will be spent at the 4-star Hotel La Belle Vie. Elegantly combining Vietnamese charm with modern touches, it's located in the Ba Dinh District. Close to the Old Quarter and Truc Bach Lake, the city's most important cultural and historical monuments are within easy reach. You’ll stay in a twin share room with an en-suite bathroom.

Vinh

Your first night out of the capital is spent in Vinh, located in a historically strategic location in Nghệ An province. You'll be staying in the 4-star Toan Thang Stone Hotel in a deluxe twin room with en-suite bathroom. Found in the heart of the city, it has great views.

Chay Lap

In rural Chay Lap, you'll be staying at the Phong Nha Lake House. This 3-star eco-resort is set beside a picturesque lake, and Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park park is just a stone's throw away. An an ideal place to ease into the countryside and prepare for your cave adventure, you'll be staying in deluxe twin share rooms with en-suite bathrooms.

Ma Da Lake Camping

A highlight of this trip is your wild camping experience in the spectacular Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. The tents will be pitched on the banks of the tranquil, turquoise Ma Da Lake. Tents will be two-person sharing with roll mats, air mattresses and sleeping bags provided. There will be an environmentally friendly composting toilet provided at the campsite.

Overnight Train

No trip to Vietnam is complete without a journey aboard a sleeper train! You'll be travelling overnight from Dong Hoi to Hanoi in a standard four person shared berth. Relax or explore - there is a dining carriage if you wish to eat on the move.

Lan Ha Bay

In Lan Ha Bay, you'll stay aboard a stunning boutique sailing boat, truly a sleep to remember. As well as sumptuous decor and top-notch service, the boat also offers some of the best views nature can muster. You'll stay in a deluxe twin room with an en-suite bathroom.

Cat Ba Island

Cat Ba Ecolodge is the ideal place to appreciate peace and tranquillity. Nestled amongst the lush natural beauty atop a hill in Xuan Dam village, it's one of the most secluded places to stay on Cat Ba Island. You'll stay in twin share rooms with en-suite bathrooms, either in the main lodge or within the grounds, which have panoramic mountain views or spectacular jungle views.

Upgrades

For solo travellers looking for their own space, an optional private room can be booked for an extra charge, see Optional Extras for the price. Please request this at the time of booking (this is subject to availability).

Please note, for the nights on the overnight train and the boutique sail boat, it is not possible to have a private room.

When camping, it is possible to request and book a tent on a single basis at no extra cost, depending on availability at the time of booking.

Day 1

Welcome to Hanoi

Get your first glimpse of Vietnam's vibrant capital as your host collects you at the airport and whisks you off to your hotel, in a pleasant neighbourhood near Truc Bach Lake. Buzzing with activity, Hanoi is a city of countless scooters, traditional shops, and faded colonial architecture. Depending on when you arrive, you can head out to sample some of the legendary street food, or hit the famous 'beer corner' in the Old Quarter.

Day 2

Hanoi to Vinh

Hiking

3hrs · 4km · 100m up · 100m down

Driving

6hrs · 296km

Hang out with the locals this morning. After awakening the taste buds - perhaps sampling some pho noodles and egg coffee - circumnavigate Hoan Kiem Lake and raise the serotonin levels with laughing yoga by the King Le Thai To monument gardens. Head out of Hanoi for a road trip south to the historic city of Vinh. Hike Quyet Mountain (home to the ancient capital of Phuong Hoang Trung Do under the Quang Trung Emperor), explore the temple architecture and check out the views over the River Lam.

Day 3

Kayak to Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

Kayaking

2hrs · 3-4km

Driving

4hrs · 207km

The road trip continues as you leave the cities behind and head into the verdant countryside. Stop for a dip in the sea at the secluded Ky Xuan Beach before continuing onwards to the Chay Lap region. Here, you'll jump in a kayak and hit the scenic Son River. Paddle towards the captivating mountains of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, passing Me and Chay villages and drifting by striking rock formations. There will be opportunities to get out of the kayaks and explore the surrounding farmland along the way.

Day 4

Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park and the Ma Da Valley

Hiking

4hrs · 9km · 175m up · 200m down

Hike through the lush jungle into the heart of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park to the spectacular Elephant Cave. At 60m high and 300m deep, you'll delve into its depths to discover the unique rock formations of this ancient cave. Head back into the light and hike through the jungle, across rivers, and down through the Ma Da Valley to the blue waters of Ma Da Lake. Cool off with refreshing a dip, kick back with a barbecue dinner, then bed down in your tent pitched on the sandy bank.

Day 5

Exploring the Ma Da Caves

Hiking

3hrs · 8km · 15m up · 5m down

Swimming

1hr · 600m

Awaken to the exotic sounds of the jungle. After a tropical breakfast, hit the verdant, foliage-lined trail. Hike through watercourses until you reach a large bend in the river, which signals a scramble up limestone rocks to the enigmatic Tra Ang Cave. Take the plunge and swim along the dark cave’s 600m length, or explore the area on foot. Relax in the remote wilderness with a spot of lunch, then hike the Tra Ang River Trail back to civilisation. Dry off, tuck into dinner and relax at the hotel.

Day 6

Cycling Riverside Roads

Cycling

3hrs · 25km · 150m up · 240m down

Head out on two wheels, cycling through the picturesque Vietnamese countryside. Ride through sleepy villages, visit Khoung Ha Market and pedal along peaceful riverside roads, soaking up the rural vibes. After your ride, head to Dong Hoi Railway Station to board the overnight train back to Hanoi. Munch on local fare in the dining carriage, or sit back and enjoy the scenery whizzing by your window, before you bed down, lulled by the gentle sway of the carriage.

Day 7

Lan Ha Bay

Kayaking

1.5hrs · 3km

After a brief stop in Hanoi to freshen up and have breakfast, the adventure continues - you'll head east out of the city towards Lan Ha Bay and the Cat Ba Archipelago. At Tuan Chau, get your sea legs aboard an incredible boutique sailing boat, tonight's floating base from which you will explore. Kayak through this majestic landscape, discovering hidden beaches and marvelling at towering karst islands, before returning to the boat and kicking back on deck.

Day 8

Kayak, SUP and Hike Cat Ba Island

Kayaking

1.5hrs · 3-4km

Stand Up Paddleboarding

3hrs · 5-6kms

Hiking

3hrs · 10km · 165m up · 165m down

Rise early for a day packed with adventure. Beginning in the kayak, you'll paddle amongst the shadows of towering karst formations, silhouetted by rich shafts of sunlight. Transferring to a stand-up paddle board, you'll go on a self-propelled paddle around the bay. Later, you'll sail to the pier where an electric car will take you to Viet Hai Village on Cat Ba Island. Refuel on a selection of delicious local dishes before lacing up your boots and hiking through the jungled, UNESCO-listed Cat Ba Biosphere Reserve to the magnificent viewpoint of Viet Ha. Come evening, take it easy after a full day with a barbecue at the ecolodge.

Day 9

Cat Ba Island to Hanoi

Hiking

3hrs · 10km · 250m up · 250m down

Set in a lush landscape, your ecolodge has nature on its doorstep - strike out on a hike through pine forest and tropical flora, discovering the island's diverse ecosystems. Head to Trung Tran cave, an extensive system of 150 caves of varying sizes and unique formations. Leaving the coast behind, you'll head back to the buzz of Hanoi for the evening.

Day 10

Hanoi

After breakfast, say final goodbyes to your team, and you'll be returned to the airport in time for your flight home.

15% Off Outdoor Gear

In need of a few more items? All bookings receive a 15% discount on us to use at Cotswold Outdoor, Snow + Rock and Runner's Need.

What's included?

  • Bicycle and cycle helmet
  • Kayaks, paddles and life jackets
  • Inflatable SUP, paddle, leash & life jacket

Ma Da Valley caves and lake:

  • Camping gear including tent, insulation sheeet, sleeping bag and air mattresses
  • Cave and swim safety gear: caving helmet, caving headlight and bouyancy aid
  • First aid kit and medical rescue equipment

What do I need to bring?

BAGS

  • Soft overnight duffel bag or rucksack
  • Daypack (20-30 litres)
  • Waterproof liner for kitbag/rucksack, or drybags

CLOTHES

  • Waterproof jacket
  • Waterproof trousers
  • Breathable wicking layers
  • Thin fleece jacket or similar
  • Buff or neckscarf
  • Lightweight trousers/shorts/skirts (quick drying)
  • Long sleeved trek shirt (quick drying)
  • T-shirts
  • Underwear and socks
  • Hiking socks (long)
  • Swimwear
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunhat
  • Something to sleep in
  • Hiking boots (worn-in)
  • Beach/river shoes for river crossings
  • Sandals

SLEEPING

  • Cotton or silk sleeping bag liner
  • Travel pillow or pillowcase

OTHER

  • Universal travel plug adapter
  • Power bank or solar charger
  • Passports (and visas)
  • Travel insurance documents
  • Ear plugs
  • Insect repellent
  • Suncream (reef friendly)
  • Personal first-aid kit (inc. blister treatment)
  • Personal items (biodegradable toiletries, sanitary wear etc)
  • Toilet kit (toilet paper, biodegradable bags to carry paper out to dispose of)
  • Quick-dry towel
  • Alcohol hand-gel
  • Headtorch or torch
  • Reusable water bottle x1 litre
  • Water purification tablets
  • Biodegradable wet-wipes
  • Energy bars and snacks - read our article on Best Hiking Snacks

Pre trip accommodation in Hanoi (Single/Twin/Double)

Payable Before Departure

Pre trip accommodation in Hanoi (Single/Twin/Double)

Per Night

Optional Private Room & Tent Upgrade

Payable Before Departure

Optional Private Room & Tent Upgrade

Per Person

Private airport transfers - each way (up to 2 people)

Payable Before Departure

Private airport transfers - each way (up to 2 people)

We've crunched the numbers to work out the total carbon footprint of this trip, and plant enough trees to suck 2x as much back out the atmosphere.

What's the number?
It works out on average at 508kg of CO2 emissions per person, including all local transport, accommodation, food, activities, guides, staff and office operations.

The only thing it doesn’t include right now is flights and travel to the destination. We do make an overall estimate across all our customers separately, but as we don’t book flights, have customers from all corners of the world, and no way of reliably knowing their travel plans, we simply can’t include an individual number in the figure on display here. We’ve got a goal for 2022 to fix that, so that when you book, there is a way to measure and mitigate the carbon emitted by your flight too.

But what does the number mean?
Yep, hard to picture eh? To give you an idea:

  • Driving 1000miles/1609km would be approx. 281kg of CO2 in an average car (or 140.5kg per person if there was 2 of you in it).
  • A return economy class flight London - New York would be approx. 1,619kg (1.66 tonnes) per person.
  • 10 trees in a temperate forest are estimated to remove approx. 250kg of CO2 from the air in a period of 5-10 years.

What are we doing about it?
Our trips are relatively low-carbon by design, and we're working with all our hosts to develop long term carbon reduction plans. For every person booked with us since 2016 we’re planting enough trees to suck at least 2x more carbon out the atmosphere than is emitted by their trips. All native trees, as part of amazing projects that are re-foresting degraded land, tackling the biodiversity crisis and supporting local communities at the same time. We go further than that too, also funding re-wilding projects worldwide to help protect important keystone species from extinction. See the reforestation and re-wilding schemes we support. See our carbon action plan.

Want to know more?
Amazingly, no international travel company has ever publicly published their carbon measurements before, as far as we know. We believe that must change, quickly. So we’re openly sharing the method we used in the hope that other companies will be able to more easily follow suit and build on what we've done so far. You'll find it all here.

A reasonable level of general fitness is required. You'll be undertaking a variety of outdoor activities across the itinerary, of between 1.5 and 5 hours in duration, using different muscle groups. The Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park cave hikes and overnight camping will be one of the highlights of the trip and two of the most active days. There will be two full days of hiking down the jungle valley to the caves and back up the next day, with time to rest and take in the experience. There will be rivers to cross, so be prepared for wet feet. The Tra Ang cave swim is optional: the total distance to swim is 600m (300m into the cave and 300m back out) whilst wearing a buoyancy aid and caving helmet with a light, in addition to your swimwear.

Sure can! Over 50% of our travellers travel solo, it’s a great way to meet like-minded people.

Tips for the local guide are not included in the trip cost. These are entirely at your discretion but there is an expectation to tip for good service. We suggest the below as a guideline per person, per day:

$5 USD / 115,000 VND

Of course, you are free to tip more or less, and the amount should be reflective of your perception of service and quality - a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.

Tap water in Vietnam is not safe to drink; clean drinking water will be provided. Please pack your own reusable bottle, it will be well used. Whilst on the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park cave hike there may be the opportunity to refill your water bottle using streams, and we advise packing water purification tablets for this purpose.

Water bottles with inbuilt filters are becoming increasingly popular for travellers to use in countries without clean tap water. Please see our guide for advice on the best water filters for adventurers if you wish to bring your own filtration bottle on this trip.

Northern Vietnam is known for its subtropical, humid summers - this means that although it is hot, there is the chance of short, heavy showers, due to the rainy season occurring between May and September. The winter months are cooler in the north with occasional light showers, the driest months being December and January. The weather in Vietnam is pleasant at any time of the year, but due to the location, seasons and geography of the country it’s unlikely there would be perfect weather throughout the entirety of a trip.

The trip is scheduled to depart in the winter, spring and summer months between December and early September. The following is a guide to approximate temperatures to expect on your trip:

In winter, the temperatures range between 12°C / 54°F and 23°C / 73°F in the daytime and down to around 10°C / 50°F at night.

In spring, the temperatures are generally in the region of 23°C / 73°F in the daytime and down to around 15°C / 59°F at night.

In summer, temperatures can reach up to 40°C / 104°F in the daytime and down to around 25°C / 77°F at night.

A great time to visit northern Vietnam is between August and early September with pleasant temperatures between 20°C / 68°F and 25°C / 77°F.

Your baggage can be securely stored at the Phong Nha Lake House Eco Resort whilst you are camping in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, and the Anatole Hotel in Hanoi before you head to Lan Ha bay. If you wish to store excess luggage in Hanoi at the start of the trip, please submit a request to your host prior to travel.

We recommend checking out the country-specific information here and also talking to a travel nurse.

No. You'll need to have a larger bag suitable for all your belongings which will be transported for you, and then a small daysack to carry personal items during each day.

The evening of the overnight train journey prior to departure, you will carry your luggage and daysack on the ten minute walk from the bus stop to the train station in Dong Hoi. On arrival into Hanoi, you will carry your luggage on the fifteen minute walk from the train station platform to the bus park.

The kayaks across the itinerary will be single or double kayaks, either sit-on-top or touring kayaks. Sit-on-top kayaks are very stable and easy to paddle for everyone, including new paddlers through to experienced paddlers. Sit-on-top kayaks can be used on the sea, estuaries, rivers, lakes and canals. Touring kayaks are designed to be stable on the water, comfortable to sit in, easy to get into and cater for all paddling abilities from a complete novice to an experienced paddler.

The SUPs will be inflatable, the brand of board will be either Touring or Alround.

The kayaks are of a standard size, 3.5m in length and 65cm wide approx. Single kayaks can take a maximum load up to 120kg and double kayaks up to 150kg.

The SUPs will be inflatable, 11'6" - 12'6" long, 32" wide and 6" thick. The recommended payloads are: 95kg / max. payload: 143kg, the paddle will be the standard type (aluminium + plastic).

Our recommended travel insurance provider is Campbell Irvine.

Travel insurance is compulsory on all of our adventures. Your insurance should include adequate protection for overseas medical treatment, evacuation/repatriation, your baggage and equipment and the specific activities involved on your adventure.

Your insurance policy should also include specific Covid-19 cover, including cancellation and curtailment cover if you, your travel companion or a close relative are diagnosed with Covid-19.

We fully endorse Campbell Irvine as their insurance offers all of the above, so get in touch with them or call on 020 7938 1734 to get your insurance sorted. We suggest that you book travel insurance as soon as you book your adventure, just to cover you for any last minute life changes. We know you’re an active lot and injuries do happen!

We automatically convert prices from the local currency that a host receives to your chosen currency. We update our exchange rates on a daily basis so this does mean that prices displayed on the site are subject to currency fluctuations, which is why you may see them change over time.

If you wish to change the currency you pay in, head to the bottom of the page.

All of our group adventures are specially designed for adults to enjoy (18+) as we want these adventures to bring together outdoorsy people who are truly like-minded. Children can be accommodated on some private departures.

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