Dong Hoi holds a very special place in our hearts because it is where our little pup, Jimi, is from. But there are plenty of reasons to visit that don’t include adopting dogs.
So, if you are planning a trip to the majestic caves of Phong Nha National Park – and you should be – then don’t miss Dong Hoi while you’re there.
Here are just a few reasons to add Dong Hoi to your Vietnam itinerary
Dong Hoi is a coastal town 500km South from Hanoi and 170km North from Hue. As Vietnamese coastal towns go, it isn’t the most spectacular but what it lacks in infrastructure it more than makes up for in space and solitude.
As far as we could tell, there are only 2 guesthouses and a handful of (mostly empty) restaurants on the beachfront in Dong Hoi and therefore you are likely to have the beach to yourself most days.
The sand may be more yellow than white and the rough sea here is more adrenaline-inducing than relaxing, but it is it’s own kind of paradise.
Both times that we’ve been to Dong Hoi we’ve stayed at Beachside Backpackers. Run by a lovely Vietnames/Irish couple, who we just happened to meet at a Christmas Fair in Hanoi, and the sweetest staff, this place is a little gem.
The rooms are simple, but clean and comfortable, and the room rate includes breakfast. Other meals are reasonable too – we love the spicy pork and the veggie sandwich – and they do a fantastic Saturday BBQ.
Both times we’ve stayed, we’ve had 80% of our meals in the guesthouse, drunk plenty of coffee and beer and the bill at the end is still surprisingly low.
They also offer bike rental for 120,000vnd per day, which brings us onto our next point.
Road trip opportunities
Phong Nha National Park is only 50km from Dong Hoi and Beachside and the drive there is along easy, relatively quiet, roads.
We rode out to Paradise Cave one afternoon, arrived late, and had the 2km long cave almost to ourselves. Another day we rode to Dark Cave which is one of the most fun, and strangest, adventures I’ve had in Vietnam- I’ll let the details be a surprise.
The main reason to base yourself in Dong Hoi rather than in Phong Nha itself (which is gorgeous by the way) is because it is so easy to get to. Phong Nha sits on the border of Laos, only directly accessed by a long bus ride from Hanoi. We much prefer taking trains over buses and Vietnam’s trains are convenient and really comfortable.
On a long trip through Vietnam, Dong Hoi is the perfect stopping point on the way from Hanoi/ Ninh Binh to Hue and Hoi An by train.
Dong Hoi town is not much to write home about, however the bay area is very picturesque, with a war-ruined church among manicured gardens that makes for a lovely afternoon stroll. In the same area, you’ll find Tree Hugger Cafe which is absolutely adorable and sells some beautiful crafts.
So, let’s help you book a trip there shall we?
Getting there (from Hanoi): there are overnight trains at 19:30, 20:10 and 22:00 daily and the journey is approximately 10 hours. Make sure to book ahead for room in the sleeper carriages!
Do: Visit Phong Nha National Park. Paradise Cave and Dark Cave are two of the main attractions and we loved both, although there are plenty more adventurous options for those with lots of time.
There are also sand dunes and hot spring outside of Dong Hoi and we recommend at least one chilled beach day
When to go: We visited in December and March. We had pretty terrible weather in December which was fine for the caves but not so great for riding and beach time. In March we had incredible weather, which was a lovely break from Hanoi at the same time.
How long: To make the most out of Dong Hoi and Phong Nha, try and stay for at least 3 full days. A great trip would be to take the train to Dong Hoi for a night and then stay in Phong Nha for another few nights, making it back to Dong Hoi for onward train travel.
We also did our March trip in a weekend from Hanoi, only staying one night, and it didn’t feel too rushed at all.