The Sand Dune Highway: Mui Ne to Ca Na Coast Road

Sand Dune Highway: Mui Ne to Ca Na Coast Road

Last updated April 2022 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle

Due northeast of the popular beach retreat of Mũi Né, the landscape turns arid and wide along the coast. Drifts of red and white sand form huge dunes rising just inland from the sea. A new, empty highway crosses the dunes, plunging through the sand and across the desert-like landscape to the small fishing village of Phan Rí Cửa. Further still, there are long stretches of empty beach and deserted coast roads near Liên Hương, and boulder-strewn mountains which meet the glistening seas at Cà Ná. This route – The Sand Dune Highway between Mũi Né and Cà Ná – is relatively short, easy to follow, all on good roads with light traffic, and a great way to escape the crowds of Mũi Né for a day or two, or as part of a longer coastal road trip.

The Sand Dune Highway: Mui Ne to Ca Na Coast Road

[Back Top]


GUIDE: SAND DUNE HIGHWAY


The Sand-swept Coastal Route between Mũi Né & Cà Ná

In this guide, I’ve written a description of the scenic coastal route between Mũi Né and Cà Ná, including a route map and suggestions of places to see, stay and eat along the way. You can ride this route one-way (as part of a longer, multi-day road trip) or return (as a day-night trip from Mũi Né). Any time of year is good, although there’ll be some rain between May and October. If you don’t already have a motorbike, renting one in Mũi Né should be easy. Note that one section of this route is infamous for a police check-point that usually results in foreign riders paying a considerable fine. However, this is easily avoided by taking a detour (see this paragraph for details). Finally, this route can be linked with several other fantastic coastal rides: see Related Posts.

CONTENTS:

Map

The Route

Places to Stay

Food & Drink

Related Routes


The White Sand Dunes near Mũi Né, Vietnam
The White Sand Dunes

*Road Safety & Disclaimer: Riding a motorbike in Vietnam – or anywhere in the world – has its dangers. I would hope & expect anyone who chooses to pursue a self-drive road trip based on the information on this website does so with care, respect & due diligence. I encourage careful riding & adherence to road rules, but I am not responsible for the legality or manner in which you ride, nor any negative consequences which may result from your decision to ride a motorbike in Vietnam: you do so at your own risk. Read more >


Swinging in a hammock on Cà Ná beach, Vietnam
Relaxing on a beach near Cà Ná

[Back to Contents]


MAP:

Sand Dune Highway: Mũi Né to Cà Ná

View LARGER MAP


Please Support my Site
I never receive payment for anything I write: all my content is free to read & independently financed. There’s no sponsored content whatsoever. If you like this guide, please consider making a donation or becoming a patron.
Thank you,
Tom

[Back to Contents]


The Route:

DETAILS:

  • Route: Mũi Né to Cà Ná via the sandy, scenic coastal route
  • Distance: 110km (one-way)
  • Duration: 3 hours-1 day
  • Scenery: beaches, sand dunes, fishing villages, big, arid, empty landscapes
  • Attractions: sand dunes, empty beaches, swimming, expansive views, great riding
  • Road Conditions: good, smooth, paved roads, light traffic

Start the route from either Phan Thiết (the provincial capital) or Mũi Né (the long strip of beachside resorts nearby). Immediately, however, you’ll need to make a decision: take the pretty coast road through Mũi Né village, around the promontory and along the shoreline but risk being stopped (and fined) by the traffic police, or take a detour inland, avoiding the police and then rejoining the coastal route near Hòa Thắng. The detour is easy, scenic, quiet and hardly adds any mileage to the route (see the red line on my map); the coast road is very pretty, passing the famous coracle-filled bay near Mũi Né fishing village and the Red Sand Dunes, but as a foreign rider you are almost guaranteed to be stopped by police at an infamous check-point roughly marked on my map. Regardless of whether you have a local driving license and are following all regulations, it’s highly likely that you’ll still be stopped, questioned and fined, or even have your bike impounded. It doesn’t really matter whether you think this is fair or not: the only thing that matters is that this is the reality of the situation at the moment. For this reason, I would advise taking the detour. However, some riders I know are willing to pay the fine just for the pleasure of riding this section of coast road. You decide.

The coast road out of Mũi Né, Vietnam
The coast road out of Mũi Né is pretty, but beware of the traffic police

The inland detour to avoid traffic police, Mũi Né, Vietnam
Alternatively, take the inland detour to avoid traffic police

Coracles & fishing boats in Mũi Né Bay, Vietnam
Coracles & fishing boats in Mũi Né Bay

After taking either the detour or encountering the traffic cops, the two routes connect on a windswept, arid plateau covered in cassava farms, cashew trees, and studded with wind turbines near Hòa Thắng. The Sand Dune Highway starts proper after a sharp right turn due east. The road widens into four lanes and the asphalt sweeps into the distance. Just a few years ago, this road was nothing more than a red-dirt track (as seen in this video). The impressive White Sand Dunes rise behind a cobalt-blue lake. You can walk and slide on the dunes as much as you like, which is great fun, although the sand can get extremely hot during the middle of the day. It’s also possible to drive on the dunes on quad-bikes. However, I’d advise against this, because the tyre tracks are starting to ruin the aesthetic of the once smooth contours and the noise is terrible: I’m surprised it was allowed in the first place.

The White Sand Dunes near Mũi Né, Vietnam
The famous White Sand Dunes near Mũi Né

The Sand Dune Highway, Vietnam
The Sand Dune Highway

The White Sand Dunes near Mũi Né, Vietnam
Striking: large drifts of white sand against the blue sky

Stay on the highway as it leaves the dunes behind, ploughing northeast and dropping off the tourist radar altogether. From here to the fishing village of Phan Rí Cửa it’s 20km of smooth tarmac through uncultivated, dry, desert-like terrain. In the soaring temperatures during the middle of the day, there’s something thrilling about this burnt, thirsty landscape, with the ocean and curving coastline on one side, and large drifts of white sand on the other. Indeed, stretches of this road have become selfie hotspots for young Vietnamese road-trippers.

The Sand Dune Highway, Vietnam
Continuing northeast on the Sand Dune Highway

The Sand Dune Highway, Vietnam
Deserted: The Sand Dune Highway

The Sand Dune Highway, Vietnam
Open road: over 20km through the ‘desert’ to Phan Rí Cửa

The new highway ends when it hits a bridge over the Lũy River and enters Phan Rí Cửa. There’s a rough edge to this fishing village, but it’s an exceptionally lively place for its size. There’s usually a good cluster of street food vendors and cafes in town and a busy, fascinating fish market. However, there’s not much reason to linger, so continue due east through town and out the other side along the coast towards Chí Công, a rocky bluff that is entirely covered with ramshackle fishermen’s dwellings: it looks like a barnacled rock.

Meeting the catch near Phan Rí Cửa, Vietnam
Meeting the catch near Phan Rí Cửa

Coracles in the bay, Vietnam
Coracles in the bay

Fresh seafood, Vietnam
Fresh seafood, Phan Rí Cửa

The road weaves around Chí Công to the other side of the bluff where a curving bay stretches out before you. For 10km the coast road runs alongside an excellent beach, with not a hotel or tour group in sight. Stop for a swim in the glistening sea and relax beneath the shade of casuarina trees. However, as is so often the case with undeveloped beauty spots in Vietnam, this coastline is a popular weekend picnic spot for locals and domestic tourists, who enjoy epic picnics and barbecues on the shore here. But, sadly, many picnickers neglect to take their rubbish away with them. The trash is appalling.

Long, empty beach near Liên Hương, Vietnam
Long, empty beach near Liên Hương

Long, empty beach near Liên Hương, Vietnam
The beach is beautiful, but sadly there’s a lot of picnic litter around

Giant coracles, Vietnam
Giant woven coracles ashore

At the end of the long, lovely bay, the road veers north towards the town of Liên Hương, passing the entrance to Cổ Thạch (a pagoda-filled headland) along the way. A hot and dusty town, Liên Hương has a good local market and several local cafes, food outlets and guest houses. From here head north to join Highway 1 for a short, fast burst through an arid landscape towards Cà Ná. Thanks to recent upgrades, this section of Highway 1 is now in excellent condition. The scenery is parched and rocky, including giant salt fields and, at Vĩnh Tân, a series of enormous coal power plants. But the last few kilometres to Cà Ná is beautiful as the highway runs alongside the deep blue sea on one side and impressive, cactus-studded mountains on the other.

Highway 1 near Cà Ná, Vietnam
Highway 1 run parallel to the ocean near Cà Ná

Rocky coasts & blue seas near Cà Ná, Vietnam
Rocky coasts & blue seas near Cà Ná

At Cà Ná the road and railway run side by side, parallel to the ocean. There are several places to enjoy a swim in this area, as well as some seafood restaurants and a handful of accommodation options. (However, noise pollution from the road can be annoying.) Either stay a night in Cà Ná before heading back to Mũi Né the next day, or continue north on the Dragons’ Graveyard coast road to Phan Rang and further still on the Núi Chúa coast road to Cam Ranh.

Beach near Cà Ná, Vietnam
Beach near Cà Ná

Conical hats on the beachfront, Vietnam

[Back to Contents]


Places to Stay:

Although you could easily ride from Mũi Né to Cà Ná and back in one day, it is much more relaxing and pleasant to break the journey over two days and one night. In Mũi Né (and Phan Thiết) there are hundreds of accommodation options, of which you can browse and book on this page. Elsewhere on the route, however, there are only a few clusters of local guest houses (nhà nghỉ), mini-hotels (khách sạn) and small resorts.

Cà Ná: It makes most sense to stay in Cà Ná, because this is the end of the route before the return journey and because this is where the best accommodation is. Hòn Cò-Ca Na Resort is a decent mid-range place to stay with sea views and beach access. Just west of the resort, along the seafront by the highway, there are a handful of other small hotels that are pretty cheap and fine for one night.

Liên Hương, Cổ Thạch & Phan Rí Cửa: Elsewhere on the route there are several cheap, local guest houses scattered here and there. Liên Hương has a couple of nhà nghỉ guest houses that you’ll see as you ride through town. South of Liên Hương, on a rocky promontory, is the Cổ Thạch tourist area, where several cheap guest houses can be found. Further west along the coast, in the rustic, bustling fishing village of Phan Rí Cửa there are a couple of OK local nhà nghỉ for a night. Any of these places are fine for one night if you run out of time or if you’re particularly fond of staying in places that almost no other foreign travellers do.

Small, cheap hotel on Cà Ná beach, Vietnam
Stay one night on Cà Ná beach where there are a couple of decent accommodation options

Swinging in a hammock on Cà Ná beach, Vietnam
Swinging in a hammock on Cà Ná beach

[Back to Contents]


Food & Drink:

Both Phan Rí Cửa and Liên Hương have fairly active street food scenes and local fresh produce and fish markets. As you ride through either of these towns during mealtimes you’ll find plenty to eat and drink. Seafood, of course, is readily available on this route. The seafood shacks (quán hải sản) at the eastern end of the coast road near Liên Hương are especially good (try to time it so that you can stop here for lunch). There are also seafood restaurants along the highway and coast at Cà Ná, but they are a bit too expensive and often full of coach passengers. Another good stop in the evenings for shellfish barbecues and other tasty treats are the dozens of shacks that set up near Phan Rí Cửa on the west side of the bridge.

This being Vietnam, there’s are cafes throughout the route. I’ve always had a soft spot for the old, local coffee house on a corner at the centre of Liên Hương (their cà phê sữa đá is fantastic).

Seafood market, Vietnam
There are seafood markets & restaurants at several points on the route

Street food noodles, Phan Rí Cửa, Vietnam
A bowl of street food noodles in Phan Rí Cửa

*Disclosure: I never receive payment for anything I write: my content is always free and independent. I’ve written this guide because I want to: I like this route and I want my readers to know about them. For more details, see my Disclosure & Disclaimer statements and my About Page

RELATED POSTS


Leave a Comment

Questions, updates and trip reports are all welcome. However, please keep comments polite and on-topic. See commenting etiquette for details.

26 Comments
  1. Tom H says:
    April 9, 2022 at 8:58 AM

    Hey Tom. Just came across this post in Facebook. Regarding the police “checkpoint”, I have travelled past that a few times and have never been stopped. (Knock on wood). However, I am traveling by myself. Not sure how I am so lucky 🍀. It is obvious I am a foreigner, even though I live in Mui Ne. I have a brand new NVX and I’m a 6’1”, 230 pound freckled redhead. Maybe it’s the local plate? Looking forward to traveling farther north. Thanks for the info. 😎

    1. Tom says:
      April 10, 2022 at 5:21 AM

      Hi Tom,

      That’s good to know, thanks. It might also be a kind of hiatus during the pandemic, I suppose.

      I hope you enjoy travelling north,

      Tom

  2. Chris says:
    April 3, 2022 at 6:32 AM

    Update on the police situation in the Mui Ne area:-
    1. The bandits that used to lighten wallets on the road between Mui Ne and Suoi Nuoc seem to have been redeployed. I’ve heard no reports of losses for quite some time.
    2. The chaps in yellow now tend to frequent two or three locations in the area. This is generally a small team of two yellow uniforms with one motorbike and a small truck. (They might offer to give your motorbike a lift to Phan Thiet.)
    First, beware of the westward section of Duong Vo Nguyen Giap (https://goo.gl/maps/zM9Smcwy77t7NG348) from mid morning until lunch.
    Second, drive carefully and slowly with helmet, licence and insurance along Huynh Thuc Khang near the big housing projects. (https://goo.gl/maps/vcN7sgT7JSfu64yk6).
    Thirdly, the roads into Thien Nghiep can be a bit risky, but that’s mainly for locals and not tourists.

    1. Tom says:
      April 4, 2022 at 2:06 AM

      Hi Chris,

      Thanks for your comment.

      That’s interesting: I haven’t seen traffic police at the locations you mention yet. When I rode through the area on four occasions to update this guide in March 2022, the only place the traffic police were located was on the main coast road (DT716) either side on Hòn Rơm promontory, where they have been for years. But perhaps they are mixing it up now.

      Either way, as you say, it’s always best to ride carefully, with a helmet and license. And if/when stopped by police to be polite and smile. Unfortunately, in my experience in this particular area, even having a local license and all necessary paperwork isn’t enough to avoid a ‘fine’.

      Best,

      Tom

  3. Noemi says:
    July 17, 2018 at 1:38 AM

    Having just done the detour recommended by Tom (except i took it all the way to QL1H rather than cutting back down towards Mui Ne), I wanted to add that it’s a lovely road, crossing green pastures and wide open spaces, with hardly anyone on the road, and no wind! (Can’t say as much for the coastal roads!!). Also, on road 716B (along the coast between Mui Ne and the white sand dunes, practically across from Bau Trang lake there is a coffee shop “cafe dream bay”, it’s funky with plenty of outdoor (but protected) seating, wide choice of drinks and nice people.

    1. Tom says:
      July 17, 2018 at 6:00 AM

      Hi Noemi,

      Glad to hear the detour route worked out for you. And thanks for the cafe recommendation – sounds great!

      Tom

  4. Noemi Rav says:
    July 14, 2018 at 5:02 AM

    Hi Tom, thanks as always for great guides. I’m riding on my way from Nha Trang to Phan Tiet train station tomorrow, stopping for a few nights along the way, and wanted to know if there was any update regarding the police (hours in particular). I don’t mind doing a small detour on my last day riding to the train station. I was already stopped once on my way from Saigon to Juliet’s Villa on back roads, and ended up paying $20 after 25min negotiations (I was following rule and I have all the papers including international driving permit, this was an obvious racket sadly), so would like to avoid a second stop!

    Riding on QL27C from Da Lat to Nha Trang I came across a great stop, will see if I can find yor post on that road so I can update there (as well as road condition and windy pass).

    Thanks again!

    Noemi

    1. Tom says:
      July 14, 2018 at 6:26 AM

      Hi Noemi,

      Sorry to hear about the police. The situation in Mui Ne is the same as always. But if you take the route I’ve marked in red on the map on this page you should be able to avoid them – I’ve never been stopped taking the red route. But of course you never know for sure. The other alternative is just taking Highway QL1A, but there are sometimes police on that too.

      They international license doesn’t really work – you need a local license, then you should be fine, even if you get stopped.

      The stop on QL27C sounds great.

      Good luck,

      Tom

      1. Noemi says:
        July 15, 2018 at 1:12 AM

        Thanks Tom:)

        1. Noemi says:
          July 17, 2018 at 1:42 AM

          Ps: not sure where to post this but the stop on QL27C was Suối Đá Hòn Giao. It’s about 1h10 before arriving into Nha Trang. It’s a restaurant along the river, the first section close to the road is mostly used by large groups but walk further towards the back and there is a lovely area along the river, with giant animal reproductions scattered across a park. The views are great, the water is perfect for cooking, and I enjoyed my food.

          1. Tom says:
            July 17, 2018 at 5:55 AM

            Hi Noemi,

            Thanks. I’ve seen that place before but never stopped there. I’ll try it out next time I ride QL27C.

            Tom

  5. Anya says:
    October 28, 2017 at 9:15 PM

    Hi Tom
    I have opportunity to work at Lien Huong for one year. But… I have 7 months old big-big beautiful puppy. I know that there is a business to still the dogs and exchange for the money in restaurants. may be I`m wrong but how safe to be to bring my dog ( by time I need to go for my work he will be 9-10 months and 100-120 lb )
    thank you

    anya

    1. Tom says:
      October 29, 2017 at 12:20 AM

      Hi Anya,

      Stealing dogs does happen occasionally in Vietnam. It’s usually in more northern areas, where dog restaurants are more common than in the south.

      On the other hand, dog ownership in Vietnam (as pets) has massively increased in recent years, so many people love them.

      I think you’ll be fine with your dog in Lien Huong, but you’ll have to decide for yourself whether you feel comfortable taking the dog or not.

      I hope this helps

      Tom

  6. Matias says:
    February 17, 2017 at 12:12 PM

    Hi Tom,
    I ve been using your guide to plan my trip and is really usefull… so here is my way to contribute.
    Regarding POLICE in Mue ne, I crossed there a few days ago (as of Feb 17) and here is the trick.
    They do move between those two resorts you mentioned BUT they are only there from 7 AM to 5 PM, actually I saw them leaving at 4:55 PM and the next day I crossed at 6:30 AM heading north and there was nothing… so if you want to save 200k dong, I suggest to wake up early.
    Thanks for the guide man, I´m half way through.
    Matias

    1. Tom says:
      February 17, 2017 at 3:10 PM

      Hi Matias,

      That’s great info, thanks a lot for sharing it. So the police are there pretty much all day, but a nice, early start means you can avoid them – perfect!

      Tom

    2. Agus says:
      April 21, 2019 at 1:42 AM

      It’s true the police probably show up around 7 am. This morning around 5 am, me and my wife went through the usual police blockade with rented motorcycle, but no one there and I’m using Tom alternative route for the way back, the view was wonderful. Thank you for the post Tom and advice from everyone here. I’m from Indonesia by the way. Cheers

      1. Tom says:
        April 21, 2019 at 6:42 AM

        Hi Agus,

        Thanks for you feedback and experience of the police on this route. Yes, I think you’re right that leaving very early or very late at night works, but personally I think it safest to take the back route.

        Tom

  7. Nicolas says:
    December 29, 2016 at 5:58 AM

    A word of caution though: there is zero decent “quán ăn” in Cà Ná, only a bunch of tourist seafood rwstaurants for groups.

    1. Tom says:
      December 29, 2016 at 6:07 AM

      I agree! I’ve rarely found good food in Cà Ná – the seafood restaurants are generally overpriced. I had decent food at Hon Co Resort once, and there was a lẩu (hotpot) place on the non-beach side on the road a couple years ago.

      I hope it improves soon.

      Tom

  8. Nicolas says:
    December 29, 2016 at 5:57 AM

    Great ride on a very strange road. And the hotel Ca Na is decent as promised. A bit too many tourists on jeep tours, but thats about the only hassle. The views are breathtaking. Thanks as always for your great advice!

    1. Tom says:
      December 29, 2016 at 6:05 AM

      Hi Nicolas,

      Good to hear you liked the hotel. And, yes, I agree about the bus-loads of tourists stopping by for lunch.

      Tom

  9. ross bowen says:
    February 3, 2016 at 11:59 PM

    Great site this. Very well done. I like your comments regarding rubbish along the coast and he lack of education with the locals. I come to HCMC regularly from OZ for my business and after work always come to Ham Tien for a bit of laidback attitude. I mention Ham Tien as it is wrongly known as Mui Ne and has been causing problems for the Tourism Industry as people often book a Resort in Mui Ne and get dropped in Ham Tien which they think is Mui Ne .
    The 2 places are very different as you know with most of the activity in Ham Tien Mui Ne being more of a destination resort town.
    It is very surprising to travel these roads alone often being the only person using this bit of infrastructure. You are right in suggesting that the area will attract development, but I feel nothing is going to happen until the Mui Ne Airport is constructed , and that is if ever.
    Thanks for a good well produced effort.
    Ross Bowen

    1. Tom says:
      February 4, 2016 at 12:33 AM

      Hi Ross,

      Thanks. Yes, they are often confused, but if resorts on the Mui Ne-Ham Tien strip keep spreading it may not be long until the two become one! However, the beach is slowly disappearing for many resorts and further up the coast, so perhaps this will have an effect on future development too.

      I hope you enjoy your next trip to Vietnam.

      Tom

  10. Lindsey Easterling says:
    June 26, 2015 at 11:48 PM

    What I meant to say was: our trip will be 2 weeks long. We are traveling in October 2015. I’m sorry about the miscommunication.

    1. Tom says:
      June 28, 2015 at 8:16 AM

      Hi Lindsey,

      Well, 2 weeks is not very long for a Saigon to Hanoi motorbike trip. But October is a decent time of year to do it.

      I think the Lien Huong beach on this page is nice, but if you’ve only got 2 weeks you should make your coastal ride either or both of these: the Nui Chua Coast Road and the Mui Dinh Promontory road. These are fabulous stretches of coastal scenery on excellent roads, and if you don’t ride it on a weekend, you’ll have it to yourself. You could easily stay at the Vinh Hy guest house on the Nui Chua Road. Check the links to the relevant guides in the previous sentence.

      Also, if you’re planning your road trip, take a look a this route map that I have just published for some more ideas.

      You can email me for more help,

      Tom

  11. Lindsey Easterlign says:
    June 26, 2015 at 11:47 PM

    My husband and I are planning a motorbike trip from Saigon to Hanoi in 2 weeks. Our plan is to rent the bikes and have them delivered to our hotel. We will then drop them off at the end of our trek.
    I was just reading about this beautiful beach and it was making me want to visit. We would love to see things like this, but we also want to experience Hoi An and Hue. Would a stop at this beach be reasonable during our drive? We would really like to stay off of highway 1 like you advised. We are up for any tips that you may have. If you had 2 weeks to make the trip, what would be your MUST SEE things. We are adventurous and really like unique cultural things.

    Thanks!