[2019] WHAT TO DO IN HOI AN:
Day Trips, Where To Eat, Places To See, Where To Stay

Life imitates art in the ancient riverside town of Hoi An. Picturesque and dreamy, the town lies along the country’s central coast, charming globetrotters with its gastronomic offerings, well-preserved and multi-influenced architectures, and a laid-back culture that offers no less than a one-of-kind experience to anyone who strolls down its sunshine-colored streets.

Hoi An is a historical city, a UNESCO-listed heritage site that is one of Vietnam’s most beautiful destinations. Beaching, sightseeing, and many culturally and historically immersive activities make up a vibrant mix of experiences, giving you plenty of answers to the question - what to do in Hoi An? Read along as we break down all there is to know when exploring this unbelievably chill town. 

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HOW TO GET TO HOI AN

Even with limited direct trips from the country’s major points, Hoi An is still pretty accessible, owing much to its central location that makes entry from both Northern and Southern Vietnam relatively easy. There are no direct flights and no train station in town so if you go by either of the two, a connecting trip is on your agenda.

You can either get to Hoi An by bus or motorbike. However, you can also get here via train or plane, but the closest train station and airport are both located in Da Nang - which is not that far.

Read this article about ways on how to get to Hoi An both from north or south of Vietnam.

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WHAT TO DO IN HOI AN

Hoi An offers the kind of experience that is more relaxing than exciting. It’s a peaceful recluse for the traveler seeking to savor Vietnam’s unique country charm at a leisurely pace. The town’s brand of tourism dwells upon a meaningful appreciation of the present that pays tribute to a celebrated past and takes pride in the cultural context of their cuisine, religion, art, and architecture.

TIP: Fastest way to extend your Vietnam visa 

Cycle around the Old Town

The Old Town area is compact enough to be explored on foot, but do it like the locals and ride a bike to go around. Exploring old town is like stepping back in time, where you’ll see preserved structures of Vietnamese, French, Japanese, and Chinese influences in what used to be a major SE Asian trading post in the 15th - 19th century.

Along the lazy Thu Bon River are colonial buildings that line the riverside, sporting yellow painted walls and shops and restaurants that dot the streets. Famous landmarks in old town include the Quan Cong Temple and Japanese Covered Bridge. 

  • Entrance fee: $6
  • Location: Phường Minh An, Hội An, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam

Check out the Lantern Market at night

As the sun sets in Hoi An, the lanterns light up in Nguyen Hoang Street. The 300-meter long street comes alive with colorful lantern in all sorts of shades and hues. The street is gradually filled with locals and tourists as vendors set up shops under the multi-colored light of the lanterns - a postcard-perfect scene that Hoi An is widely known for.

At the shops, you can get anything from snacks, to clothes, to handmade trinkets for your souvenirs. It’s a spectacular sight and one that is not to be missed when you’re in Hoi An.

  • Location: Nguyễn HoàngMinh An, Tp. Hội An, Quảng Nam, Vietnam
What to do in Hoi An

Photo credit: tasy via Pixabay.com

Take up a Vietnamese cooking class

Learn about Hoi An’s culinary culture by enrolling in a cookery class during your stay. There are many cooking classes to choose from, most notably at the Red Bridge Cooking School, the Tra Que Waterwheel Organic Farm Cooking Class, and the Green Bamboo Cooking School.

Most of the classes offered include a tour of Hoi An’s market, local vegetable and herb gardens, and some of the city’s most remarkable restaurants that will give you great insights into the traditional cooking techniques, recipes, and ingredients of Hoi An’s celebrated culinary offerings.

  • Cost: $30 - $50

Get bespoke clothes

Hoi An is easily one of, if not the best place to get tailored clothes made. Most shops can even finish your basic dresses and smaller clothing items in just a matter of hours. Here you can have your suit made, a gown, or a budget-friendly outfit. You can find tailor shops all around town and the cost for your new wardrobe will depend on the quality of fabric, style of clothing, and the time it will take to make it.

Hoi An’s tailors are known for their skills throughout Vietnam, and not only will you have a new addition to your closet (or suitcase), you’ll be contributing to the locals’ livelihood and craft.

  • Cost: $20 - $50

HOW TO GET AROUND HOI AN

Hoi An is pretty easy to explore. The city centre is pedestrian-friendly and the traffic minimal especially from 8-11AM and 1:30-4:30PM when motorbikes are banned from the area, but keep a lookout for stray daredevils. You can go around town by renting a taxi, motorbike, bike, or simply go on foot.

The bikes you can rent for a dollar/day, but that’s something you won’t even have to pay for as most hotels in the area offer it rent-free. While motorbiking in Vietnam is also very popular way to get around fast. As for directions, the locals are approachable and will direct you to your destination. You can also ask your hotel for a local map. The town is compact and finding your way around should be easy peasy.

DAY TRIPS FROM HOI AN

Got time and extra bucks to spare? Perfect! Because Hoi An is conveniently located in central Vietnam, many destinations are within a short trip away from the ancient town. Grab the opportunity and take these side trips, easily doable within a day or less and you’ll be back in Hoi An in no time.

My Son Ruins

A collection of 4th-12th-century temples await to captivate you at the My Son Ruins. The 140-hectare sanctuary, which holds the remnants of the Kingdom of Champa, was largely abandoned in the past millennium until eventually rediscovered in 1889, and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. Remarkably, My Son is well-preserved, with temples and structures that mirror the influence of Hindu religion in the early Vietnamese culture.

  • Entrance fee: $7
  • Location: Duy Phu Commune, Duy Xuyen District, Duy Xuyen, Vietnam
    How to get there: My Son is 40 km from Hoi An, about an hour of travel time depending on your transportation. You can either hire a private car for around $25-$35 for a half-day trip or rent a motorbike for around $5-$13 if you’re up for the drive. Do note that prices may vary based on the rental company and type of vehicle.

Cham Island

Cham Island or Cu Lao Cham is a cluster of 8 islands located off the coast of Hoi An. The islands are built upon deposits of rocks and soil collected over time from the sea or river flows. Hundred-year-old buildings and ancient artifacts can be found on the island which proves the existence of the Cham civilization. In 2009, UNESCO recognized the Cham Island Biosphere Reserve for its diverse ecosystem, with a thriving collection of flora, fauna, and rich marine life.

  • Entrance fee: $3
  • Location: Chàm IslandsTân Hiệp, Hội An, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam
  • How to get there: Go to Cua Dai Beach, from there, it’s an 18-km trip by boat to the island. You have three options: (1) hire a private canoe (fastest at 15-20 minutes, but most expensive at $340-$510), (2) buy a canoe ticket at $13, and (3) travel by wooden boat or tau cho. This last option will take over 90 minutes to reach the island. 

Marble Mountain

Located between Hoi An and Da Nang sits the five mystical hills that make up the city’s famous Marble Mountain. This cluster of hills are well known for its curious caves, tunnels, and peaks that hikers and backpackers simply cannot resist. The mountain is a popular attraction in Da Nang and is a popular pilgrimage site in the country where you can encounter 17th century Buddhist temples, sanctuaries, pagodas, and grottoes. Atop the summits are remarkable viewpoints that give you sweeping views of the city and coast below.

  • Entrance fee: $2
  • Location: 2 Huyen Tran Cong Chua, Hoa Ai, Ngu Hanh Son, Da Nang
  • How to get there: This one’s as easy as hopping on a bus heading for Da Nang. Fare for yellow buses is $1 and $6 for private bus companies. The nearest bus stop is close to the foot of Thuy Son, Marble Mountain’s main attraction. 

BEST BEACHES IN HOI AN

A quick Google search of Hoi An’s top beaches and these two beach destinations will surely pop on top: Cua Dai Beach and An Bang Beach. Hit either or both and complement your old town experience with a day of rest and relaxation with the sun, sea, and sand of Hoi An.

Cua Dai Beach

This 3km stretch of gorgeous seaside escape is a favorite afternoon hangout spot for many of Hoi An’s locals and visitors. Restaurants and hotels dot the coast, providing options for food, drinks, and wellness. You’ll also find woven bamboo basket traditional fishing boats bobbing in the crystal waters or resting on the beach’s white sand. At night, Cua Dai Beach comes alive as more people pour in to dine in one of the many great seafood restaurants in the area.

  • Entrance fee: Free -If you want to use a lounger for free, buy food or drinks from nearby hotels and restaurants.
  • Location: Cam An Ward | Hoi An - Quang Nam, Hoi An, Vietnam
  • How to get there: From Hoi An, Cua Dai is located east, about 10 minutes away - more or less, depending if you’re going there in a taxi, on motorbike, or bike. You’ll find road signs enough to lead the way. If you rented a motorbike or bike for the trip, prepare to pay for a parking fee. 
  • Food to try: Fresh seafood at Cay Gio Restaurant and Mama Ly

An Bang Beach

Au Bang Beach’s placid water makes it an ideal destination for swimming and paddle boarding, and from time to time, also a great place to learn surfing. The unspoiled beach stretches 4km and while underrated, remains to be Hoi An’s most stunning go-to-place for a good blend of fun and chill. The sweeping view of white sand and clear blue waters is pleasantly disrupted by the outline of Cham Islands in the distance, elevating the charm of the seascape. 

  • Entrance fee: Free. Buy food or drink at nearby establishments for free use of a sun lounger. 
  • Location: Hai Bà Trưng, Tp. Hội An, Quảng Nam, Vietnam
  • How to get there: An Bang beach is located 7km north of Hoi An, just past the Tra Que Village. As with most places in the ancient town, you have the option to either go there in a taxi or rent a motorbike or bicycle. 
  • Food to try: Mama Feelgood at Soul Kitchen Bar and Restaurant

REMEMBER

Parking at these beaches has caused several scamming issues as parking attendants (some of them even bogus) take advantage of tourists by charging over 20,000VND parking fee. If you ever encounter such during your visit, do not shell out more than 10,000VND. If the attendant insists on the higher fee, head towards a restaurant nearby to get free parking and seat (or lounger) if you buy a meal or drink. And if you’re not in the mood for food or drinks but want to use a sun lounger; rental fee is around 15,000 - 40,000VND

WHAT TO EAT IN HOI AN

Grab a bite of authentic Vietnamese delicacies at Hoi An’s most celebrated restaurants. Forget upscale and fancy fusion plates and have a culturally and gastronomically filling meals that follow the palette and flavors of Hoi An’s traditional cuisine. So, here’s something to add to your what to do in Hoi An list, and for a genuine food adventure in this ancient town, be sure to please your senses here:

Miss Ly Cafe

Open for over 20 years now, Miss Ly Cafe has been serving authentic Vietnamese food to locals and tourists looking to fill up on cao lau, banh bao vac, and thit nuong - which happens to be the restaurants famous signature offerings. The menu is reasonably priced and includes vegetarian options and smoothies, too.

The meals are prepared using fresh ingredients sourced from Cam Nam Village, Tra Que Vegetable Village, and Cham Island. Miss Ly is a charming family owned and run restaurant that is surrounded by ancient shop-houses, while inside is a setup of simple wooden furnishings, vintage paintings, and traditional background music that makes for a truly authentic Hoi An dining experience. 

  • Location: 22 Nguyen Hue Street, Hoi An (located in ancient town, just around the corner from the Fuijan Assembly Hall)
  • Operating hours: 08:30AM – 10PM daily

Quan Dau Bac

This local eatery is a crowd favorite! Famous for its pocket-friendly authentic dishes, Quan Dau Bac sports an open-air setup, facing the busy street of Phan Chu Trinh. The eatery serves authentic Vietnamese fried spring rolls, potato croquettes, fried sausages, crispy mushroom with eggs, and chicken soup.

Their signature dish, the bun dau mam tom or the Vietnamese tasting plate is a must-try! You can choose between meat and vegetable variation. The meatless plate consists of rice noodles, cucumber, fresh herbs, and deep-fried tofu, while the meat plate comes with steamed pork, fish balls, beef, and mushrooms. Both options are served with a fermented shrimp dipping sauce.

  • Location: 147 Phan Chu Trinh, Hoi An (close to old town)
  • Operating hours: 2PM - 10PM daily

Banh mì Phuong

For the best banh mi in Hoi An, and the whole of Vietnam, Banh mi Phuong is where you’ll taste it. Known the world over, and enjoyed by even the late Anthony Bourdain, the banh mi here, as Bourdain described it, is symphony in a sandwich. So what makes it stand out from the rest?

Well, imagine this - a bread that’s crispy on the outside yet soft and airy on the inside, filled with grilled pork, pork patty, pork liver pate, pork floss, head cheese, pickled papaya sliced tomato, cilantro, long sliced cucumber, mints, and handmade mayonnaise. Need we say more? Oh, yeah - symphony! 

  • Location: 2B Phan Châu Trinh, Minh An, tp. Hội An, Quảng Nam, Vietnam
  • Operating hours: 6:30AM - 9:30PM daily

BEST PLACES TO STAY IN HOI AN

Hoi An has become a major destination in Vietnam and many accommodations, from luxury to budget-friendly, are conveniently around to welcome you. They’re all over town and you can have your pick starting from the location (ancient town or beach), modern comforts, and cultural value. Wherever you choose to stay, Hoi An’s brand of hospitality is well and present in these top stays in town.

Luxury Hotel and Resort

Anantara Hoi An Resort

Located in the heart of ancient town, on the banks of the Thu Bon River, Anantara Hoi An Resort is in itself an architectural marvel, taking inspiration for its facade from the influences of Japanese, French, and Chinese design that is reflective of the old town.

The hotel has a total of 94 rooms that are fitted with full amenities, wifi access, safe, and a porch overlooking the charm of old town Hoi An. There are 4 restaurants on site, cafes, bar, spa, fitness and wellness facilities, and an outdoor pool.  

PROS:

  • free breakfast
  • free wifi, packing, and beach shuttle
  • outdoor pool and wellness facilities

CONS:

  • Not best for families with infants
where to stay in ho chi minh city

Mid-range Hotel

Sunset Hotel Hoi An

Located near the city’s old quarter, Sunset Hotel Hoi An is decorated in true Vietnamese style. The rooms are air-conditioned and come with a private bathroom ((with free toiletries). The rooms are also fitted with the basic amenities including in-room wifi, tv, and mini bar.

On the second floor is a restaurant serving Vietnamese, Asian, and Western dishes, with a balcony overlooking the river, making it a great spot to dine and relax - with a view! Sunset Hotel also has a pool, bar, garden, and a gift shop on site. 

PROS:

  • free breakfast and free wifi
  • allergy-free rooms

CONS:

  • no free bikes available

Backpacker Hostel

Hoi An Vietnam Backpackers Hostel

Get ready to knock down a few beers and party all night at the Hoi An Vietnam Backpackers Hostel. The lively hostel sports spacious chill-out areas where it’s always buzzing with fun activities at night.

There’s pub quizzes, bingo, happy hours, beer pong, and themed dress up nights that make it must-stay if you’ve come to party and socialize. The location is decent, it's 2km from the ancient town and 3km from An Bang Beach. Plus, the dorm rooms and bathrooms are clean and the beds are comfy. 

  • Cost per bed: $14

PROS:

  • free breakfast and free wifi
  • outdoor pool
  • lots of great activitis to join

CONS:

  • can be loud in the evening to some guests
  • some walking distance from the Old Town

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