Things to know about kayaking on Halong Bay


With all the tranquillity on offer when cruising around Halong Bay in the shadows of the vast, limestone mountains, the thought of shunning all of the activities and remaining on your junk boat just might cross your mind. Some tourists do indeed come exclusively for the cruise and prefer to unwind onboard rather than engage in any activities. This is fine, of course, the time is your own, but activities like cave exploration, expeditions to farms and villages, swimming and, especially kayaking in Halong Bay are strategically organised throughout your itinerary to maximise your enjoyment of the stunning UNESCO World Heritage site.

Things to know about kayaking on Halong Bay
Photo by Caitriana Nicholson
How do I kayak in Halong Bay?

Most tour companies have cruise ships fitted with racks of kayaks and oars. It is very rare to find a tour without a kayaking excursion, even on the shorter Halong Bay day trips where you get about 4 hours on the bay. The crew will explain the simple techniques for kayaking and show you exactly the area in which you should be doing it. Kayaking in Halong Bay comes with a few mild cautions, so make sure you listen to your tour guide:

• Holding the oar the right way might seem like a no-brainer, but many people grasp it with hands too close together or too far apart. Your hands should be just over shoulder-width apart and the concave part of the oar should be facing backwards.

• Don’t be afraid to use some force – the best kayaking trips are the ones you come back from with aching arms!

• The initial confusion of steering left by using the right side of the oar and vice versa can be a little frustrating at first, but you will get the hang of it after a few minutes.

• Avoid cave entrances as the water here usually has a strong current that is capable of drawing you in if you get too close.

• Keep a good distance between other kayaks to avoid unnecessary collisions.

• Wear the life vest provided at all times.

Things to know about kayaking on Halong Bay 1
Photo by Bruce Potter
The openness of the region means that there is virtually no end to the great number of spots for kayaking in Halong Bay. You’ll have to abide by the strict tourism routes that the Halong Bay authorities enforce in order to protect the bay, but there are still a great number of places where Halong bay tours stop to kayak.

Vung Vieng Fishing Village – While some tourists opt for a relaxing bamboo boat ride around the tiny, colourful floating village of Vung Vieng, kayaking while requiring more effort, offers you much more freedom. The surrounding mountains and a nearby rainbow arch that opens up into a beautiful wide expanse are some of the things to see around here.

Luon Cave - Another outstanding area to go kayaking in Halong Bay. Luon Cave features a short tunnel that opens up into a stunning enclosed grotto with emerald waters, reflecting the colour of the tree-topped mountain walls.

Cap La Island – A great alternative to kayaking in the sometimes rather tourist-heavy Vung Vieng is Cap La Island. This area is in one of Halong Bay’s sister bays, Bai Tu Long Bay, which contains the small fishing village of Cap La along with the same amazing island scenery as Halong Bay.

Bright and Dark Cave – If it’s a more adventurous kayaking trip that you want then perhaps opt for a tour that ventures to the Bright and Dark Cave in Halong’s other sister bay, Lan Ha Bay. A kayaking expedition here involves rowing through a long, pitch-black cave that requires a head torch, before rowing through a shorter, brighter cave into an enclosed grotto that resembles the one at Luon Cave. Again, this is the less touristy alternative to kayaking in Halong Bay.

Which tour should I choose for kayaking in Halong Bay?

The vast majority of tours offer kayaking as an excursion so really you can opt for any. The areas of where these tours operate their kayaking differ though, so if you want to go to a specific cave or fishing village mentioned above then search for that place before booking.