Halong Bay has twice been granted a World Heritage status for its universal aesthetic and its enthralling geological value. Over the years, due to its unique qualities, Halong Bay attracts so much attention from tourists and has become the most popular tourist destination in Vietnam.
The site covers more than its emerald-coloured river, limestones, and misty mountaintops. Today, surrounding this dazzling place is a whole lot fun filled-adventure. No surprise that Halong Bay is part of many people’s bucket lists.
The first thing you will notice when you begin your cruise of Halong Bay is the tranquil culture. You’ll see travellers kayaking around the karst, locals webbing ropes and nets, and sea gipsies hollering. Adventures here have all the feel of nature, from climbing the steep, towering limestones, and scuba diving, which gives you the chance to explore what’s underneath a mesmerizing attraction.
BEST HALONG BAY CRUISES: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Let’s face it; a huge fraction of today’s travellers are millennials. I mean this as a heads up because there’s a good chance that you will not have any mobile reception once you set off out to sea. Take this as an opportunity, however, and sit back and refrain from using your phone too much, besides, your eyes will be too busy admiring the picturesque landscapes.
The Bay consists of giant limestone formations emerging from the sea, several less travelled caves, and islands with overflowing trees that cause mist in the morning.
There are also islands near Halong Bay where locals mainly reside. So, expect to see hotels and restaurants serving local cuisine and stores showcasing Vietnamese craftsmanships.
ALSO READ: Best caves in Vietnam
Where is Halong Bay
The Noi Bai International Airport is the closest city to Halong Bay. The trip from Hanoi takes 3 to 4 hours of bumpy roads and a windy atmosphere. The famous bay is in Quang Ninh province, the northeastern part of Vietnam.
There is another lesser known bay north of Halong Bay called Bai Tu Bay. Its scenery is equally stunning, but far fewer tourists make it there. If you prefer to avoid the crowds, consider a cruise to Bai Tu Bay instead of Halong Bay. You’ll also find a temple overlooking the bay – find it in our list of the best temples in Vietnam!
How to Get to Halong Bay
You can get to Halong Bay either by motorbike, coach, shuttle bus, private car, or of course, boat. The best option for tourists travelling with groups, partners, or family is a shuttle bus, which can take 2.5 hours, and it is cosier.
If you planning to stay for just a night, Halong Bay cruise overnight can soothe your thirst for more exploration as the magical bay is even more mesmerizing by night.
Day Trip Vs. Overnight
An overnight stay has the advantage that you’ll have the chance to experience Halong Bay in a more natural and calm state with fewer tourists. From simple relaxing activities such as sipping a good wine as the sun sets and waking up early to witness the sunrise while you cruise. Staying overnight also ensures that you’ll venture farther to places less crowded and less travelled.
Meanwhile, for travellers who have minimal time and a limited budget, you can still enjoy Halong Bay to the fullest on a day trip. The cruise will start around lunchtime, where you’d enjoy a meal served in a buffet style. Some excursions involve kayaking and cave visiting.
The cruise usually lasts 6-8 hours of just enjoying the almost paradise-like landscapes. You’ll also be accompanied by a knowledgeable tour guide and a musician that adds more vibrancy.
Best Time to Go
October to December are ultimately the best months to visit Halong Bay. The weather is pleasant, and unexpected rainfalls are low. The low season from May to September are the best month if you wish to save money. You can save up to 40%, and the chances of rain showers are still low but not uncommon.
BEST HALONG BAY CRUISES: LUXURY
Having the chance for luxury can sometimes happen only once in a while. Spending it on Halong Bay cruise overnight stays is an experience so gratifying no material things can give. Not just it’s worth your money but a splendid place to be when wanting for a rewarding cultural experience. So pack a fancy outfit and get ready to live it up!
For many of us budget-conscious travellers, choosing a luxury option is something that we only allow ourselves once in a while, if at all. Choosing a Halong Bay overnight cruise as one of those ‘once-a-while’ occasions, however, will not leave you with buyers remorse. Whilst anyway Halong Bay cruise will provide a great rewarding cultural experience, doing so with a luxury cruise only adds to the experience.
- Cost range for a day trip daily: $30-$98
- Cost range for 1-2 nights: $150-$289
- Cost range for 2-3 nights: $290-$350
- Cost range for more than three nights: $350+
Luxury Halong Bay Cruise #1 – Aphrodite 4* Cruise
This luxury cruise tour includes up to three (3) days and two (2) nights of cruising around the emerald water. Inclusive of luxury rooms inside a 5-star vessel, south and north delicacies, thrilling activities, and the opportunity to explore the wonders of Luon Cave on a Kayak.
- Duration: 3 days, 2 nights
- Costs: $532
- Includes/activities: Cruising, exploring caves and deserted islands, fishing, squid fishing, and lots of free time to explore and wander around in your own time, transfer from Hanoi and back
- Best included features: 2 nights accommodation in a 4-star luxury cruise ship and meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) are all listed, Tai Chi lesson, entrance and sightseeing fees
Luxury Halong Bay Cruise #2 – Swan Boutique 4* Cruise
There is nothing more exciting than dining in one the best Halong Bay cruises in Vietnam; it even takes you to ethereal places you thought unreal. Exploring the numerous islets and hopping to fishing villages really is a unique experience. This cruise ship also offers a myriad of ways for you to experience and learn more about Vietnamese tradition.
- Duration: 3 days, 2 nights
- Costs: $388
- Activities: This includes several activities such as cruising at the centre of Bai Tu Long Bay, sunset party, kayak through karts, and relax in a peaceful beach. You can also pamper yourself in fishing, karaoke, and watch how they cultivate pearls. The tours also include a Vietnamese traditional cooking class as the sunsets.
- Best included features: Its best features include traditional Vietnamese-style restaurant, kayaking through hidden lagoons and geological park with a tour guide, and authentic wellness and spa inside the cruise ship.
Luxury Halong Bay Cruise #3 – Mon Cherie 5* Cruise
One thing about this cruise is that it has an open oceanic view in a private balcony. Also, you will not just cruise around Halong Bay but visit the most beautiful bays like Lan Ha Bay & Cat Ba. The itinerary consists of well-planned activities that allure every kind of guest. Every guest can also experience a limousine transfer and pick up from your hotel and the 5-star cruise gym room.
- Duration: 3 days, 2 nights
- Cost: $413
- Activities: Bamboo boat trip, Tai-chi session, Biking in Viet Hai Village, Sightseeing, kayaking, and cooking classes pick up and transfer by a limousine and stay in a vast ocean-view suite
- Best included features: beautiful room with an amazing view of Halong Bay, Tai Chi lesson, water activities, night squid fishing
BEST HALONG BAY CRUISES: MID-RANGE
The best Halong Bay cruises on a mid-range budget can almost feel like you’re on a luxury trip. They also offer activities that are unique compared to other tours. Mid-range tours can cut expenses in half while still providing the best quality in serving and exceeding the expectations of tourists.
Mid-range Halong Bay Cruise #1 – Deluxe Cruises
Coming from the architecture of traditional oriental style, which has 21 modernly friendly cabins, provides the best cruising experience and the best Halong Bay cruise overnight for tourists. The cabins are separated by floors, which leverage sightseeing and relaxing at night watching the night sky. There are also premium and suite cabins available on the second floor.
- Duration: 2 days, 1 night
- Cost: $191
- Includes: A 2-day tour including a drop-off and pick up at a hotel in Hanoi Old Quarter. The tours also cover entrance fees along with food and a tour guide. Lastly, premium and suite cabins come with a free sunset party, cocktails, and fresh fruits.
- Best included features: Stylish cabins, cooking classes, kayaking, fishing, authentic Vietnamese menu, and onboard activities (games, movies, and squid fishing) are some of the best features of this tour.
Mid-range Halong Bay Cruise #2 – Royal Palace Cruise
If you’re looking for a rustic experience cruising the emerald-like the water of Halong bay then this tour is for you. The architecture of the boat is maintained to be traditionally looking with a wooden appearance. A perfect ship to enjoy the old style in the tranquilities and sunbathing in one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the world.
- Duration: 2 days, 1 night
- Cost: $128
- Activities Included: Some activities include kayaking around the karst, sunset party, making noodle roll, puzzle games, and swim in romance with sand beaches
- Best included features: Main features include its rustic appearance, 3-star boutique cruise, and it’s the only style available in the bay.
Mid-range Halong Bay Cruise #3 – Lavander Cruise
This Halong Bay tour features the best Ha Long Bay cruise price for its value for money. This tour offers a semi luxurious style cruise with outdoor activities like kayaking to discover more of the bay, cooking classes, and visiting Titov Island and Luon Cave.
- Duration: 2 days, 1 night
- Costs: $108
- Activities Included: Biking, squid fishing, lunch on board, cooking sessions, and trekking.
- Best included features: air-conditioned room, activities, fishing, all meals during your trip, sightseeing fees
BEST HALONG BAY CRUISES: BUDGET
If you’re tight on budget or on a short stay visit and not wanting to miss the famous Ha Long Bay. Don’t worry. Some tours specialize with tourists that have minimal time and backpackers with a budget on the mind. These packages come with 24 hours cruising around several islets of Ha Long Bay and neighbouring villages.
For Budget-friendly Halong Bay Cruise #1
This tour focuses on exploring the core of the cultural spot of Ha Long. It is only limited to small groups, which allows you to enjoy some privacy. The cruise ship is a well-maintained traditional junk boat with audio guides inside for non-English speakers.
- Duration: 1 day
- Costs: $70
- Activities: Kayaking, visit Sung Sot cave, traditional games, sightseeing, and explore around a bamboo boat.
- Best features: feast on freshly caught seafood for lunch, afternoon refreshments, and get marvelled by the fantastic formations of stalactite and stalagmite.
For Budget-friendly Halong Bay Cruise #2
This tour is jam-packed with a short but exciting Ha Long Bay adventure. This kind of short trip operates to let tourists and locals pamper themselves for a while without taking too much time.
You can either relax on the white sand or swim on the emerald water of Ha Long Bay. This 12-hour tour is the best Ha Long cruise for backpackers and gives you the experience of mingling with locals on their floating stilt houses.
- Duration: 1 day
- Costs: $40
- Activities included: swimming in white sand beaches, learn new cooking and how to paddle, stop at Sung Sot cave, hike to the top of Soi Sim or Titov island, cruise by the famous Fighting Cocks Islet, Thien Cung, and Dau Go caves
- Best included features: Lunch on board, English-speaking guide, round-trip transfer
For Budget-friendly Halong Bay Cruise #3
If you want to stop and hike the Dau Go Island, this tour is for you. The boat goes to a less-travelled section of Ha Long Bay. You’ll get to view periodic shapes of the Pen Islet, Sailing Islet, and Frog Islet. And swim across Cam Lagoon before enjoying lunch on the boat. You can also kayak to the infamous sites like Dark Cave, Bat Cave, and the Bright Cave.
- Costs: $48
- Activities: This includes kayaking or bamboo boat, lunch on the boat, visit Heavenly cave
- Best included features: round-trip transfer from Hanoi and back, seafood menu for lunch, English-speaking guide
OUR PERSONAL VERDICT
If you’re looking for a once in a lifetime tour experience of the best Halong Bay cruise, I’d suggest taking a look at the Luxury Cruise #1. The tour is suitable for a romantic four-night trip with a loved one. It offers various high-end amenities, and with such high attention to detail, adds that bit extra to give you a most unforgettable experience.
Meanwhile, if your budget is not quite on the luxury scale, Mid-range #1 is very affordable and great value for money. The cruise ships come with a well-furnished yet old looking style design. Sometimes old style makes the atmosphere on cruising more fulfilling.
For backpackers and those looking to save a bit of money,, our top pick for a Halong Bay cruise budget-friendly #3. It offers exciting adventures to places less commonly travelled. You also get to witness different rock formations throughout the trip and get the chance for an awesome view of the bay from Monkey Island viewpoint.
For most people, the best travel experience include visiting some of the most amazing natural wonders of the world. Not only does it relax the mind and provide a sense of awe, but it can also make us more appreciative of the world we live in. Did you find this article helpful? Hit ups the comments if so, and as always we’d love to hear some of your insights.