Phong Nha, Vietnam: Complete Guide

This Phong Nha travel blog and guide has all you need to know to plan your trip to one of the most peaceful and real experiences in Vietnam right now.  We’ll cover your budget, things to do, where to sleep, where to eat, things to avoid, and itineraries based on how much time you’ve got in Phong Nha, Vietnam.

This is our 2nd time here and overall we’ve spent a month here this go around, in a place where the average stay should be 3 days! After about day 3 we pretty much had the whole area memorized for the most part or at least the general direction.  Together, we’ve listed our top things to do and visit for all different types of travelers coming through Phong Nha and trying to visit Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park.

You are absolutely fine to visit Phong Nha anywhere between January and August as this is the dry season and you’re guaranteed to have perfect weather 1 of every 3 days you’re here, if not all. March – May is the perfect time to visit this beautiful region of Vietnam but you should take caution that it can get pretty hot and humid around June, July and August.

Best time to visit Phong Nha
Best time to visit Phong Nha

Typhoon season is mid-September through November so this would be the only time of year we do not recommend traveling to Phong Nha as it doesn’t make for a good time. We personally have enjoyed the weather and all the scenery in the months of January and February, so it’d be more exciting to know that we haven’t even seen the peak months!

Phong Nha is notorious for being one of the best-caving destinations in the world.  Since allowing British cavers to come here in the ’90s, exploration of around 400 caves in Phong Nha Ke Bang have happened!  Fortunately, visiting the area no matter if you’re only here for 1,2,3, or more days…they’ve got caves for you to visit given all budgets and timeframes.

Dark Cave

Situated in Phong Nha Ke-Bang National Park, Dark Cave is the last stop of the National Park Loop. Dark Cave is the most adventure-filled option for budget travelers. First, you will take a zip-line to the entrance of the cave, then switch to canoes and paddle into the cave. You will be given life vests and helmets with headlamps which are so necessary as the cave’s name speaks for itself – it’s dark in there. When you get off the boat, you will proceed further on foot and through the narrow tunnels deeper in the cave to find a cavern with mud pool where you can play and throw mud at each other. After that, you can swim in the cave and finally exit to a small water adventure park with zip lines and climbing challenges (which as for February 2020 are not in good condition and we are not sure if they are safe to use).

Dark Cave

Paradise Cave

PARADISE CAVE PHONG NHA

You’ve two options to see the Paradise Cave: go inside for 1 km deep either by yourself or during a National Park Tour, that’s what most visitors to Phong Nha do. Unlike many other caves, this one is easily accessible and cheap.

Alternatively, trek 7 km into the cave with a guided tour to see incredible stalactites and stalagmites as well as a doline (an opening in the ceiling of the cave that enables daylight to come through) at the end of the trek. This option is more pricey but still not so much compared to other caves and it’s totally worth it!

Feb 2020 pricing is roughly 2,650,000VND/person and ages 10+

Either way, Paradise Cave is your go-to option if you only have time to discover one cave.

 

Phong Nha Cave

This is the first cave to have been discovered by British speleologists back in the day and the first one that has been open to the public. Phong Nha Cave is a river cave and you don’t need to take a guided tour to see it, just arrive at the tourism center, pay for your tickets and the locals will take you up the river and into the cave in the “dragon boat”.

There is another cave located above Phong Nha Cave – Tien Son cave. You will need to hike up 500 stairs to be rewarded with spectacular views of the area and some interesting cave formations.

Entrance Fees (Feb 2020) Phong Nha Cave: 150,000VND and Tien Son 80,000VND

Son Doong / Hang En

The largest cave in the world discovered so far is located right here, in Phong Nha! Son Doong has been accidentally discovered in 1991 by a local but remained unknown until 2009 when explored by the British Speleological Association led by Howard and Deb Limbert. Not only is Son Doong cave unique for having the highest stalagmites in the world but also its own ecosystem: light penetrates into the cave through the dolines and gives life to flora and fauna. This cave is the most famous and the most expensive to visit among the numerous Phong Nha Caves!

Pricing Feb 2020: $3000USD/person

Phong Nha is more than just the caves, you’ve got an untapped culture just waiting to be explored!

Attractions in Phong Nha, Vietnam

The Duck Stop

DUCK STOP PHONG NHA, VIETNAM

Have you ever imagined yourself interaction with a couple of hundred ducks at once?…dreamed of getting your feet massaged by little quackers that want nothing more than to nibble at the bits and pieces of food out from in between your toes?! Luckily for you, The Duck Stop allows you to be a “Duck Leader” and lead your little feathered friends to a photo-op and have them bow before you to receive their food.

Pro Tip: Walk slowly for better pictures and videos.

Bong Lai Nature Farm Giant Swing
BONG LAI NATURE FARM GIANT SWING

Bong Lai Nature Farm’s Giant Swing
One of the most underrated places we visited while out in the countryside in Bong Lai Valley. We couldn’t have had a better and more genuine time while at the nature farm conversing with the owner, looking over the valley from while watching life happen around you. For 50k you can ride on the oversized swing while the owner runs up and down the ramp pushing you further and further.

Secret Tip: Give him your phone and he’ll run and take photos of you from all angles

Watching the sunset at Phong Nha Farmstay
Sunset at phong nha farmstay with Radicallyeverafter
SUNSET AT PHONG NHA FARMSTAY WITH RADICALLYEVERAFTER

This had to be the most peaceful and tranquil way for us to end our days while spending 30 in town. To be able to watch the sunset over the rice fields and watch the farmers. When the sun is setting as well, they offer a happy hour drink deal which is a 2 for 1 on Rum and coke or Gin and tonics! Also be sure to ask for a menu with bar snacks as they offer quesadillas and fried spring rolls for under 60k.

Getting around Phong Nha in Vietnam
Motorbike in Phong Nha
By far the best way to get around is by motorbike! Despite you thinking ahead of time that it’s all hills, we can assure you that when in town you will find plenty of straightaways. You’ll wanna stop here and there to take photos of the beautiful mountains in the distance, workers in the rice fields, or maybe a water buffalo making his way down the middle of the street. You’ll never be able to stop and take in these views unless you’re transporting yourself to and from your next location. Riding on the outskirts of Phong Nha along the King Kong Loop, it almost felt as though we were riding th Thakhek Loop that was a part our Laos Itinerary in 2018!

Public Transportation in Phong Nha
This is something that doesn’t exist in town, but if you’re looking to do something other than a motorbike, you’ll just have to go with a taxi. A taxi from the center of town anywhere will only cost you a couple of dollars at most!

Getting to Phong Nha / Leaving Phong Nha
If you’re uncertain of how to get to town or are in the midst of planning on where to go after you’ve visited this hidden gem of Vietnam…Check out our friends who made an elaborate getting to and from Phong Nha page!

Where to stay in Phong Nha, Vietnam
Just 10 years ago there was only one place to find shelter when visiting the area, but now that tourism has started to boom around here it’ became home to 100 hostels, hotels, and homestays! We have been fortunate enough to try many different places in town on all different types of budgets to give you a better idea of what to expect and where spend/save that money.

As more and more people come here each and every year, the downtown area becomes dirtier and crowded. We found ourselves moving further into the countryside each and every day until we found that sweet spot!

Instead of the cheapest place, take into account the difference between hostel vs hotel and make your decision afterwards.

Hahaland Budget Hostel – Ideal place for you to stay on your journey to discover this region of Vietnam if you’re on a tight budget. Located in the center of town, right by the river and just 1km from the bus station. Hahaland is the best place to socialize and meet like-minded backpackers as well as being close to the party scene and late-night debauchery!

Phong Nha Farmstay
Phong Nha Farmstay – Midrange – By far the best accommodation we have found over the past few trips out this way. No place is like this in the area or in all Vietnam for that matter!

You’ll immerse yourselves into a “Real Vietnam” setting away from the crowds in the downtown area and become part of Ben & Bich’s family for however many nights you choose to stay.

Pro tip: For a special discount as well you can email them and mention us for a better rate.

Victory Road Villas
Victory Road Villas – Luxury – We had the privilege time around to be in Phong Nha for our anniversary, and couldn’t have had it pan out any better than it did.

If you’re looking to live a lavish lifestyle surrounded by the jungle with an inground pool, outside jacuzzi tub, some of the best food in town, and with a beer/wine list unlike any other in the area, then this is for you!

Pro tip: You can just as well email them and mention us to see what they have to offer!

Take a look at all properties in this map below and feel free to click on the chat icons in the bottom right-hand corner if you’ve any questions surrounding these establishments!

Restaurants in Phong Nha
Moi Moi restaurant bong Lai Valley
Moi Moi Restaurant
Situated in Bong Lai Valley is where you’ll find this diamond in the rough family establishment. Moi Moi, specializing in a slow-cooked pork in a bamboo chute with onions and carrots…It truly is a mouthwatering one of a kind dish that you can’t really find served as freshly as you do here. The menu is offered in English so you’ll have no problems finding what it is that you want.

Order: Slow-cooked Pork in Bamboo Chute

villas restaurant phong nha
The Villas Restaurant
After spending our anniversary at Victory Road Villas and eating just about everything we possibly could off the room service menu, it was inevitable for us not to come back and continuously enjoy this restaurant! Where else in town can you find duck confit, grilled salmon, or a beef tenderloin cooked to perfection? Not to mention you’ve got an exquisite view on the river and the boats passing by.

Entree to try: Grilled Salmon w/ caper mashed potatoes, asparagus and lime

The Pub with Cold Beer
No trip to Phong Nha Ke Bang would be complete whatsoever without paying a visit to the infamous Pub with Cold Beer. Situated on the outskirts of town in Bong Lai Valley between the Duck Stop and the Bong Lai Nature Farm’s Giant Swing is where you’ll find it! They’re the OGs of Phong Nha as they’ve been providing refreshments, relaxation, views, and one-of-a-kind experiences from the beginning. You can get as mild or wild as you’d like as they offer farm to table chicken on-site…meaning if you want to, you can catch and kill your own meal, or you can leave it to them to do it!

What to try: Grilled whole chicken and Huda Beer

Other places to try while visiting Phong Nha would be:
Omar’s Namaste – Indian Cuisine (If you’re in the mood for something other than Vietnamese)

Veggie Box – Vegetarian/Vegan (Takes an extremely long time up to an hour)

Coffee in Phong Nha
The Coffee Station
The coffee station phong nha
This just may be the only place in this area of Vietnam we’ve found a large variety of prep methods and bean mixtures. The Coffee Station offers cold brew, drip, traditional phin, aero press, siphon, and many other unique methods! Aside from the brilliance of the coffee menu they also serve up some amazing brunch-style food items to accompany all palates!

What to try: Cold brew with lime juice and simple syrup.

East Hill Coffee
East hill coffee in Phong nha, vietnam
A place most tourists don’t tend to stumble on we noticed this visit to Phong Nha as it’s not on the direct path most people travel when visiting this area. Perfectly situated on top of a hill overlooking the freely flowing granny smith colored rice fields is where you’ll find East Hill Coffee. With mostly local guests here drinking Huda beer and gnawing on some of the best-grilled chicken around…but don’t be fooled! The coffee here is fresh, views are amazing, and it’s the perfect stopover on the way from downtown to Bong Lai Valley!

What to try: Ice coffee and hot ginger tea

Capture Cafe
Capture cafe phong nha
This wasn’t our first time to Phong Nha, so it was a wonderful treat that we got to go back to one of the original and in our opinions, best coffee and food stops in town. If you find yourself at Capture Cafe be sure to try one of the best personal pizzas you can find in not only Phong Nha but in all of Vietnam. They also offer an extensive wine menu, western-style coffees, and daily happy hours to compete with any surrounding establishment!

What to try: Veggie Pizza and Cappuccino for dessert

Nightlife
While you don’t have a lot of options for nightlife in Phong Nha you shouldn’t be fooled into believing that it simply doesn’t exist. IT DOES! At one point in time the only place in town where everyone went to and partied was “Easy Tiger”, but now that competition is absolutely everywhere and scattered about you have to know where to go.

Momma D’s Rooftop
The one and only rooftop bar in the center and heartbeat of Phong Nha up an elevator inside of “” is where you’ll find this peaceful and relaxing retreat. Here they serve a large list of bottled craft beers, mixed cocktails, and a menu with typical Vietnamese food. The best draw aside from the view though is its extensive board game and card games that’s available to all guests. This is your ideal place to watch the sunset only if you’re in the downtown area of course.

Andys Nightclub
When we said don’t be fooled earlier…we meant DON’T BE FOOLED! At Andys nightclub open 11pm -5am you can keep the party going literally all night long. With an electronic/top 40 Dj playing, drinks flowing, travelers dancing, and drunk tourists pole dancing…you simply can’t miss this place! Just be sure to make your bus leaving town in the morning as this place will certainly be the reason you miss it!

Budgeting
This place should never be missed when visiting Vietnam due to budgeting. They’ve really laid it out so perfectly now that all kinds of budgets are welcome here. If you want the dirty backpacker vibe in a dorm room with 7 other people for $3-$4 a night you can do that here!

If you want to be comfortable and cozy but not drop $100, this can be your place…But if you wanna rent a 3 bedroom penthouse with room service, it’s also available in Phong Nha as well now! We’ve really done all forms of this over the past month of us living in all different setting here, if you’ve any questions about it click the little icon in the bottom right-hand corner and send us a message. We love nothing more than helping you all get out there to say “I did it!”.

About Author

client-photo-1
Phong Nha Cave

Comments

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.