So you think Vietnam is all about heaving cities, the haze of motorcycle exhausts, and steaming bowls of pho? Vietnam is so much more diverse. This is a nation of colourful traditions, rich culture and jaw-dropping scenery. Think majestic limestone cliffs, lush tropical forests and long sandy beaches.
Vietnam is home to dozens of secret (and some not so secret) island paradises.
Here are five of our favourite Vietnam islands for families.
Cat Ba is a national park island in Ha Long Bay. It’s home to one of the world’s most endangered primates, the ridiculously cute Cat Ba langur. This rugged island is a hub for nature-based adventures. Families can go kayaking, sailing, caving and climbing.
Just about every tour company in the area offers day trips to Cat Ba. So it can get a little crowded at times. If you want to escape the crowds, book a kayack or rent a speedboat to Monkey Island and Lan Ha Bay. The beaches here are cleaner and quieter.
Phu Quoc is a one-hour flight east of Ho Chi Minh City. Or a 10.5 hour drive.
Once here, families will find a tropical island paradise with family-friendly resorts, turquoise water, a wealth of marine life and white-sand beaches.
More than half of Phu Qoc is National Park. It has a dense tropical jungle, hiking trails and incredible wildlife. For history buffs, it’s also worth checking out The Phu Quoc Prison museum, a reminder of the island’s former life as an island prison.
Families can explore island villages and Buddhist pagodas on daytrips from the resorts. Accommodation here caters for every budget level and preference.
Like Phu Quoc, the 16 islands in Con Dao once served as a prison. Many of the old prison buildings are still standing. Today it’s better known for its soft-sand beaches, a wealth of marine life and some of Vietnam’s most impeccable coral reefs.
Families can snorkel and dive on Con Dao. Kids will love exploring pretty beaches that double as breeding grounds for turtles. Hike the hiking trails for a bit of adventure. If you’re lucky, you may even spot some of the local residents, including the black giant squirrel and the bow-fingered gecko.
Hon Tre has stunning beaches, clear blue seas and lush jungle-mountains. But the kids will want to go there for Vinpearl Land. The island resort has an enormous water park, arcade games and an aquarium.
This special Vietnam island lies 3km from Nha Trang. You can get there by ferry or scenic cable car.
The eight Cham Islands cluster 15km off the coast of Hoi An. They form part of the Cu Lao Cham Marine Park, a world Biosphere Reserve.
Snorkelers and divers will find a magical underwater world at Cham with a huge variety of soft and hard coral, and endless colorful marine life. You can visit on a day trip, but an overnight stay in a resort or a beach campsite is the best way to make the most of its breathtaking white sand and sparkling turquoise waters.
Homestays are the most popular type of accommodation on the Charm Islands. But you can also rent a tent and camp here.
Michelle is a publishing consultant who has worked as a journalist, foreign correspondent and travel writer for the past two decades.