Many Halong Bay hotels are not located on land at all. The extremely beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site is a large body of water filled with thousands of dramatic karst mountains that have formed islands, almost all of which are uninhabited. One of the most popular things to do here is take scenic cruises several days in length on deluxe ships that are replicas of traditional junks. These are floating hotels in Halong Bay that offer all the amenities and luxuries of an intimate boutique hotel. Look for the Paradise, Victory Star, and Jasmine—some of the best of these small, luxurious ships.
Many people look for lodging near Halong Bay in the port city of Hai Phong, and there are a number of good hotels there. If you choose to stay in the city, you should look for the three- and four-star properties that are around the Old Quarter of the city and near the banks of the Red River. Most people come to this city only to catch the ferry to Cat Ba Island or board their cruise ship, so you do not have such a wide choice of Halong Bay hotels here. The city does have some lovely temples and pagodas, and is well worth an overnight if you have the time. The Old Quarter is quite fascinating, a smaller version of the Old Quarter of Hanoi, with some great shopping opportunities. The Harbour View Hotel boasts lovely views of the harbor, but is located a fairly long walk fron the main attractions and city center. However, it is set in a lovely old French colonial building and is one of the best hotels in the city.
There are also a number of Cat Ba Island hotels on the largest island in the bay. Cat Ba Island is one of only two inhabited islands in the bay, and is made up almost entirely of the beautiful mountains, lakes, and jungle wilderness of Cat Ba National Park. Many of the hotels here are quiet, laid-back beach resorts that specialize in scuba diving vacations. Look for the new Sunrise Resort and new Princess Hotel. The Sunrise is set on a long private beach at the foot of the mountains making up the boundary of Cat Ba National Park, and the Princess overlooks the water near the cewnter of the main tourist town.
Other than Cat Ba Island, if you want resorts and hotels in Halong Bay located on the beaches, you should look to the mainland and small coastal islands to the north of Cat Ba Island. This area is newer and still being developed, but the development is fairly rapid, and new lodging near Halong Bay is going up here all the time. One place you might consider is the exclusive Tuan Chau Resort (pictured), set right on its own private island and boasting a very long beach created with imported sand. Since most passengers on cruises in the bay need to spend at least one night before and/or after their cruise, many of the ships use Halong Bay hotels here for that purpose. One of the current best of these is the Halong Plaza, with spacious rooms and suites looking out onto the ethereal mountain islands of the bay.
Don’t worry if your vacations in this region are subject to a budget. There is good two- and three-star lodging near Halong Bay on the mainland that offers clean, comfortable accommodations in this country where all goods and services are relatively inexpensive. Most of these will be found in Hai Phong city. If you want the experience of cruises on floating hotels in Halong Bay that are not as swanky as the more deluxe ships, there are perfectly safe and authentic junks that cater to those on a budget. Some of these offer cabins with bunks accommodating four to six passengers, so most of the passengers are younger tourists who might be cycling or backpacking through the country.