I remember my first time stepping on the sand of Con Dao island on a beautiful morning, I was welcomed with tender sun rays on my shoulders and the salty taste of the sea breeze blowing through my hair. The island was quiet as always – so quiet that all I could hear were my own footsteps blending into the soft murmur of the waves and all I wanted to do was to sit under a tree and watch the vast ocean in front of me. This is your best guide to the Con Dao islands.
Con Dao, the Traumatic Past and the Promising Present…
On the geographical map of Vietnam, Con Dao is an archipelago of Ba Ria – Vung Tau Province and is located about 230 kilometers southeast of Ho Chi Minh City. Con Dao has an area of up to 76 square kilometers and it consists of 16 islands.
During the time the country was still amidst war, Con Dao was emblematic of how people described their anxiety and fear. Even after the war ended, in the minds of the Vietnamese, Con Dao is still a hell of death where no one imagines that any lives could possibly exist. But then time passed. Existing in the middle of the endless blue ocean above all the grief, Con Dao is changing faster and more significantly than ever before. Apparently, mother nature gave a very sweet compensation to this scary land and turned it into a charming paradise enchanting numerous wanderers around the world. Only by coming here, you can understand why Con Dao has long been praised as “One of the ten most charming and mysterious islands on the planet.”
Small Island but Many Magnificent Beaches
If you are usually enchanted by long sandy beaches with clear blue water, visiting Con Dao is definitely a good option for you. Just wander around the island and you will find many accessible beaches and each with a unique and wild beauty that is unlike any other.
Bai Dam Trau
Possessing an untouched nature with light waves, blue water, white sand, and colorful coral reefs, Dam Trau is one of the most gorgeous beaches that visitors should not miss out on when traveling to the island. Not only can tourists enjoy comfortable moments of swimming and sunbathing but you can also get to know a little bit of its history and culture.
Bai Suoi Nong
Bai Suoi Nong is located near Dam Trau. To get there, tourists are required to go through a road tunneled by forest. Thanks to this geographic separation, the beach is nearly unspoiled with white sand and lush mangroves, creating a heaven that anyone coming to this island needs to spend some time exploring.
Bai Lo Voi & Bai An Hai
Lo Voi Beach and An Hai Beach are located along Ton Duc Thang Street, offering a great place to play with waves and do some camping. These two beaches are suitable for guests traveling with family and kids since it is easier to reach than others. Lo Voi Beach is famous for its long white sand covered strip of beach shaded by numerous poplars, meanwhile, An Hai beach is surrounded by many majestic mountains. An Hai is also the largest scale beach in the central area of the island.
An Hai beach is surrounded by many majestic mountains.
Bai Dat Doc
Known as one of the most attractive beaches of Con Dao, Bai Dat Doc also brings tourists to an unspoiled natural scenery covered with bushy woodland and rocky mountains. Besides, there are some nice hotels and resorts near this beach, so it is quite convenient in case you want to stay over for a couple of days.
Other than Picturesque Beaches…
In addition to captivating beaches, Con Dao is well-known for these following must-visit destinations:
Con Dao Museum
The Museum is the repository of many precious items and artifacts collected from the painful time of war. The gallery is divided into four spaces referring to these topics: Con Dao – Country & People; Con Dao – A hell on earth; Con Dao – Battlefield and School and Con Dao today. Also, a special corner is saved to display the images and objects of female heroes of the war, like Vo Thi Sau – the girl who died heroically. By visiting the museum and having a look through some 2,000 pieces and antiques displayed here, foreigners can partly see the fearless fighting spirit of the patriotic soldiers during the 113 years of war that Vietnam participated in.
Con Dao Prison
Formally put into use in 1982, this Prison is classified as one of the oldest and largest relics in Vietnam built by the French. During its years in operation, this place held the most haunting memories of prisoners being tortured. Now, Con Dao Prison and its tragic history have become a demonstration of how good people will overcome the evil and violent actions of others. This overpowering feeling radiates throughout this entire establishment connecting one receptive soul to another, no matter where they may be. For this reason alone, this place is well worth visiting.
Formally put into use in 1982, The CON DAO Prison is classified as one of the oldest and largest relics in Vietnam built by the French.
Con Dao National Park
Established in 1993, Con Dao National Park is the only place in the country where both forest and marine life are conserved. Famous for its wild beauty, the floral system in Con Dao National Park is extremely rich with over 882 species of plants and 150 species of animals. A trip to Con Dao National Park will allow you to experience all kinds of relaxing recreational activities, from sightseeing to fishing, boating, biking, etc.
Best time to go to Con Dao
When it comes to traveling, good weather also plays a vital role in order for your trip to be successful! Here is something you should know about the best time to visit Con Dao:
March to September
From March to September is the ideal time to go to Con Dao. At this time, there are not many big waves on the ocean so the beach is calm and perfect for swimming. Even though sometimes there will be rain when it comes to the rainy season (occurs in May to November), the rain in Con Dao doesn’t last long and there is still sunlight for you to sunbathe in. If you are lucky enough, you will even see the turtles laying eggs as this is the turtle breeding season. Besides swimming, you can also join a diving/ snorkeling tour to make the most of the great weather.
October to February
Some beaches in the east of the island will have big waves at this time. Nevertheless, the beach to the west and southwest of the island will be calmer. You can also visit Phu Quoc from October to February. However, you should choose to fly there instead of going by boat if you easily get seasick.
How to get to Con Dao
There are only two ways to approach Con Dao: by boat or by plane.
Travel to Con Dao by boat
It will take you 12 hours to travel by boat from Cat Lo Harbor in Vung Tau to Con Dao. The boat will leave at 5 PM and arrive at 5 AM in the next morning. You don’t have to worry about sitting on the boat for half a day as it is also equipped with beds. They also provide food and beverages on board. However, the canteen will be closed at 12 AM. If you travel to Vung Tau by bike and wish to carry your “baby” with you to Con Dao, you can buy a ticket for your motorbike and bring it on board.
Ticket office: 1007/36, 30/4 Street, Ward 11, Vung Tau city
Hotline: 064 3 838684 (Vung Tau) – 064 3 830619 (Con Dao)
Booking site (in Vietnamese)
Departure – Arrival hour: 5 PM – 5 AM
Price: (can rise during holidays and peak season)
- Seat: 400,000 VND (18.1 USD)
- Bed: 535,000 VND (24.4 USD)
In the past, boat is the only way to travel to Con Dao. However, Vietnam Airline and Air Mekong now offer a flight to Con Dao from HCMC.
Travel to Con Dao by airplane
It usually takes about 50 minutes to fly from Tan Son Nhat Airport to Con Dao Airport. This route is operated by VASCO collaborating with Vietnam Airlines and there are around four to five flights daily. The prices for a round trip is quite expensive (about 3.5 million VND which is 170 USD). However, you can still take a boat from Vung Tau to Con Dao that departs daily at 5 PM. It arrives the next morning at 6 PM. The round-trip costs about 400,000 VND (20 USD).
Accommodation in Con Dao
There are a lot of choices for accommodation and hotels on Con Dao ranging from 10 – 200 USD. However, in the busy traveling season of Vietnam (national holidays and summer), it is better to make a reservation two days in advance. Here are some of my recommendations:
The Budget Travelers
Uyen’s House Homestay
Address: Pham Van Dong, Con Dao (two kilometers to the beach)
Phone number: 0164 941 6331
Room type: Double bedroom and dorm
-Dormitory: 205,000 VND (9 USD)
-Double-bedroom: 522,000 VND (23 USD)
The Mid-range Travelers
Con Dao Camping
Address: 2 Nguyen Duc Thuan, Con Dao (near An Hai Beach)
Phone number: 0254 3831 555
Room type: Bungalow
Price range: 500,000 – 800,000 VND (22.7 – 36.4 USD)
Address: 10 Ho Thanh Tong, Con Dao
Phone number: 0164 468 3866
Room type: Double-bedroom
Price range: 400,000 – 600,000 VND (18.2 – 27.2 USD)
The High-end Travelers:
Six Senses Resorts
Address: Dat Doc Beach, Con Dao
Phone number: 0254 3831 222
Price range: 450 USD and above
Pulou Condo Boutique
Address: Bai Vong – Co Ong Site, Con Dao
Phone number: 0254 3831 500
Price range: 220 – 463 USD
What to eat in Con Dao
Now Con Dao has many eateries serving tourists and selling fresh seafood dishes. You can also save some money by going to Con Dao Night Market to have snails, fish, shrimps, or noodles for around 90,000 VND/ dish (3.94 USD). Some suggestions for the seafood lovers:
Thu Ba Seafood Restaurant
Address: Vo Thi Sau, Con Dao
Phone number: 098 480 15 05
Business hours: 9 AM – 11 PM
Price range: 60,000 – 300,000 VND (2.3 – 13.5 USD)
Ot Seafood Restaurant
Address: Nguyen Duc Thuan Street, Con Dao
Phone number: 088 817 56 78
Business hours: 8 AM – 10 PM
Price range: 50,000 – 300,000 VND (2.3 – 13.5 USD)
The noisy life of the mainland does not surpass that of the waves and ocean, so Con Dao is ideal for a getaway. Just taking one step into this paradise island will make you not want to leave it ever again.
Enjoyed this article and want more fun tips on what to do, see, and eat in Vietnam? Visit us at the Christina’s Blog!