Vietnam is a country with a plethora of natural beauty which manifests in many different ways. And with 2025 miles of coastline, the country’s beaches are perhaps the pinnacle of that beauty. The characteristics of these beaches vary widely—some feature pristine natural beauty, while others have been developed and cater to millions of resort-seeking tourists each year. But no matter how developed, these beaches share two universal qualities — rich history and great seafood.
Saigon, Vietnam’s largest city, lies 1 hour from the East Sea. A quick hydrofoil boat ride will bring you to the coast in no time. But if you’re looking for a really special beach, you can take a 5 hour bus ride up to Mui Ne, a quickly developing beach town that has been popular with Russian tourists for decades. And with good reason—not only does Mui Ne feature great beaches but also two types of sand dunes where you can rent sleds and slide down the sandy peaks, reminiscent of childhood snow days. The seaside is flanked by outdoor seafood restaurants with dozens of fish tanks displaying the day’s catch. From crabs to eel to mussels, these places have it all and at a very reasonable price.
A Few more hours up the coast lies the booming city of Nha Trang. Like the rest of Vietnam’s cities, Nha Trang has benefited greatly from a large influx of foreign investment that has transformed this once sleepy beachside town into a rapidly growing commercial and tourist center. Rich in history, Nha Trang not only sports one of Vietnam’s premier resorts—Vinpearl—but also some amazing ruins from the former Cham empire.
Continuing farther north, you’ll find Da Nang and Hoi An, cities particularly rich in natural beauty and history. Da Nang, once a major U.S. airbase, has shed its post-war cocoon and has evolved into one of the country’s most developed resort towns. The World Heritage UNESCO town of Hoi An is situated forty-five minutes from Da Nang. The road between the two towns is lined with monolithic 5 star resorts and villas that are quickly being snatched up by foreigners and wealthy Vietnamese.
Upon arriving in Hoi An, the picture changes quickly. Starting in the 15th century, the town became the country’s first truly international port. The Portuguese arrived in 1535 seeking to establish a major trade center. Later centuries witnessed the arrival of the Chinese and Japanese (who believed that the “heart of all Asia” lay in the ground beneath the town) merchants which put Hoi An in the fortuitous position as the main trade conduit between Europe, China, India and Japan. Along with the economic benefits of being a trading hub, wealthy merchants built beautiful houses, canals, and other infrastructure projects such as the famous Japanese Bridge.
Eventually, the town’s economic status declined after a rebellion gave exclusive trade rights to Da Nang. While losing economic power, its beautiful architecture was preserved and when walking around the town today, it feels like you’re in a fairy tale or, at the very least, that you’ve managed to get your hands on a time machine.
Vietnam’s traditionally costal development has created some truly beautiful seaside towns and cities. Whether you’re after great food, pristine beaches or amazing culture, Vietnam is the place to visit.