Con Dao Islands, Travel Guide

Con Dao Islands: Travel Guide

Last updated August 2023 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle

Tom, Vietnam Coracle

Tom Divers is the founder and creator of Vietnam Coracle. He’s lived, travelled and worked in Vietnam since 2005. Born in London, he travelled from an early age, visiting over 40 countries (he first visited Vietnam in 1999). Now, whenever he has the opportunity to make a trip, he rarely looks beyond Vietnam’s borders and his trusty motorbike, Stavros. Read more about Tom on the About Page, Vietnam Times and ASE Podcast.


The Côn Đảo Islands is a remarkable place. On the one hand, it’s a tropical paradise with swaying palms, breezy beaches and jungled-clad mountains descending to cyan seas. On the other hand, it’s a monument to Vietnamese resistance and a memorial to the tens of thousands who were incarcerated and died in the prisons here during its century as a penal colony. For travellers, it’s impossible to ignore the island’s brutal past, but for pilgrims too, it’s equally impossible to ignore the scenic surrounds of the former prison island. The prisons closed 50 years ago, and today the islands are increasingly marketed as a place of relaxation and recreation, rather than of sober reflection. However, as long as the prisons are preserved as a memorial to those who suffered, the dark past of the Côn Đảo Islands will continue to live side-by-side with the beaches, palm trees and mountains.

Con Dao Islands, Travel Guide

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GUIDE: CON DAO ISLANDS


A Complete Guide to a Dazzling Archipelago

This travel guide to the Côn Đảo Islands is based on dozens of trips I’ve taken. All information is categorized to make it easy for readers to find what they’re looking for. Click an item from the contents below and use the navigation buttons within each category to find your way around. Note that Côn Sơn is the name of the largest island in the archipelago and it’s where all the infrastructure is based. In this guide, I refer to Côn Sơn and Côn Đảo interchangeably. (In addition, I’ve written several other detailed guides to specific aspects on the Côn Đảo Islands: see Related Guides.)

CONTENTS:

Map

Video

Weather

Environment

History

Beaches

See & Do

Sleep

Eat & Drink

Transport

Related Guides


MAP:

The Côn Đảo Islands

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FILM:

A Short Film of the Côn Đảo Islands [3:43]

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WEATHER:

Although the Côn Đảo Islands are technically part of Southern Vietnam (Nam Bộ), the weather patterns on this archipelago 100km offshore are quite different from the mainland. In my opinion, a trip to the islands at any time of year is worthwhile, but it pays to be aware of seasonal changes in order to manage your expectations. In general, Vietnam has a very complex climate that most travellers aren’t aware of: read more in my Weather Guide.

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The Best Time: My favourite time to be on the islands is from March to August when the weather is generally sunny and warm, and the sea is calm and clear. In these conditions, Côn Đảo really does feel like a paradise. The air is fresh, the colours are sharp, the foliage is thick, and the sea is wonderful to look at and to swim in. However, there’s always the chance of some heavy rain in the high summer months of June-August, when the southwest monsoon sweeps over the islands.

The Worst Time: While the southern dry season (roughly November-April) is the ideal time to visit most of the beaches and islands in the south of Vietnam, this is probably the least favourable time to visit the Côn Đảo Islands. Although conditions are indeed dry during these months, the winds are high, the sea can be rough, and the colours are muted by the sea haar. In particular, either side of the solar and lunar new year (December to February) is considered the ‘windy season’. The islands have a very different feel in these kind of weather conditions: Hebridean rather than tropical; wild and windy, rather that warm and vibrant. The sea is choppy so swimming isn’t easy; lying on the beach isn’t fun with the sand blowing in your face; diving conditions aren’t great because of limited visibility, and, if you’re planning to arrive by sea, boats are often forced to cancel. September and October are the shoulder months: I’ve had fabulous weather in September, but I’ve also had atrocious weather in October.

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Con Dao Islands, Travel Guide, Vietnam
Summer sunset on the Côn Đảo Islands

Con Dao Islands, Travel Guide, Vietnam
Calm waters & blue seas in the summer months

Con Dao Islands, Travel Guide, Vietnam
Visit between March-August for best weather conditions

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ENVIRONMNENT:

The Côn Đảo Islands’ unique location, environment and history are its biggest appeal. But the Côn Đảo is a delicate natural environment and its past is both highly political and emotional. The islands are caught between being a place of sombre reflection and memorial, and one of leisure and enjoyment. These factors combined are both a threat to the environment and a lifeline:


Con Dao Islands, Travel Guide, Vietnam
The natural environment is one of Côn Đảo Islands biggest appeals

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Topography & People:

Côn Sơn is the largest of 16 islands that make up the Côn Đảo Archipelago, which lies 80km southeast of the mainland Mekong Delta region and 230km south of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). The island’s remoteness and former use as a penal colony have kept it in relatively pristine condition: even today, around 80% of Côn Sơn is still forested and there’s been almost no development on the other 15 islands. The thick jungle canopy provides a habitat for all sorts of exotic-sounding animals, some of which are endemic to the archipelago: the Con Dao bow-fingered gecko and Con Dao black giant squirrel are just two examples, both of which you have a decent chance of encountering. The islands are rugged and mountainous, with the highest peak (Núi Thánh Gía) reaching 557m (1,827ft). The ocean, which is cleaner and clearer than anywhere else I’ve visited in Vietnam, is home to dugongs (sea cows) and sea turtles who lay their eggs on the beaches from June to September. The winter months on Côn Sơn Island are generally dry, but rough seas and strong winds from the northeast can make the island feel fantastically remote; the summer months bring occasional monsoon rains, but the seas remain calm and clear, and the bays beautiful and tranquil.

Macaques, Con Dao Islands, Travel Guide, Vietnam
Macaques are quite a common sight on Côn Sơn Island

There’s a pleasing symmetry to the topography and infrastructure of Côn Sơn Island. The west coast is mountainous, lush and undeveloped, save for a new coastal road which runs along half its length down to the southern tip of the island, to the rough but beautifully situated Bến Đầm port, the entry point for most travellers arriving by boat from the mainland. At the north, the island’s small airport is sandwiched between two long, sandy beaches on either side. Linking the airport in the north with the port in the south is the stunning east coast road, passing through the charming town of Côn Sơn clustered around a bay at the centre. It’s easy to get your bearings on the island.

Con Dao Islands, Travel Guide, Vietnam
Côn Sơn Island is quite small & rugged with a pleasing symmetry

The Côn Đảo Archipelago has a population of about 10,000, many of whom are fishermen or part of the military. According to some locals, men outnumber women 6 to 1 on the island. However, demographics are changing quickly, as people migrate from the mainland – especially the neighbouring Mekong Delta provinces, but also further afield – to start life and business in this thriving little community that’s expected to be destined for big things. Early mornings and evenings in Côn Sơn town can now be pretty lively. However, you’re unlikely to encounter anyone between 10am and 4pm on the empty and heartbreakingly beautiful seafront promenade (Tôn Đức Thắng street). On one side, the glassy ocean stretches to the horizon, on the other, French colonial villas crumble on street corners beneath the shadows of tropical trees, their roots twisted around the brickwork. In the summer months, when the sea is often perfectly calm, the translucent water is so motionless it looks as though you could walk across it to the little islands that pop up around the bay, like giant whales coming up for air. Everything is still and quiet.

Con Dao Islands, Vietnam
The seafront road in Côn Sơn town: quiet during the day, but buzzing in the evenings

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Environmental Threats & Development:

Despite increased development and a huge rise in popularity over the last few years, particularly among domestic visitors, the Côn Đảo Islands remain the most pristine natural environment of any major tourist destination in Vietnam. This is one of the islands’ major appeals, but it remains to be seen whether Côn Đảo can accommodate more infrastructure and people while maintaining its natural environment. Previous instances in Vietnam suggest there’s reason to be pessimistic. However, things might be different on the Côn Đảo Islands, because of its unique and cruel history. The prisons that once dominated the main island of Côn Sơn were places of torture, incarceration and death for tens of thousands of political prisoners during the French colonial period and ‘American War’. Many of those prisoners are today celebrated as national heroes. Indeed, the vast majority of visitors to Côn Sơn Island come as pilgrims to pay their respects to the people who played a role in creating the independent Vietnam they live in today. For this reason, visitors and developers alike treat the islands with a level of respect that you rarely find at other locations in the nation, with the possible exceptions of equally ‘sacred’ sites, such as Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum in Hanoi, Pác Bó Cave in Cao Bằng and General Giáp’s tomb in Quảng Bình.

Con Dao Islands, Vietnam
Côn Đảo is one of the most pristine natural environments in Vietnam

This respect – which is both implied and imposed – manifests itself in many positive ways, especially with regards to the natural environment: litter is generally disposed of in dustbins rather than discarded on streets, beaches and in the forests; building restrictions are in place around the prisons, historic sites and national park (although there’s evidence to suggest this is not strictly adhered to); anti-social behaviour, such as loud beer and karaoke sessions on the beach, is actively discouraged. But, as a new generation of Vietnamese begin to see the islands as a place of leisure first and pilgrimage second, and the gulf in time between them and the revolutionary period gets ever wider, it’s possible that the Côn Đảo may start to be treated more as a lucrative tourist destination than a sacred place of remembrance and memorial, which is, of course, how almost all foreign visitors already view the archipelago. I’ve been visiting since 2008 and, inevitably, there are some worrying signs: more trash in the ocean and on the beaches, more traffic and trucks on the roads, more destruction of the forests for resort and road construction, more litter in the landfill. Can the Côn Đảo become a successful example of sustainable development? Only time will tell.

Con Dao Islands, Vietnam
Can Côn Đảo become a successful example of sustainable development?

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HISTORY:

Fascinating and tragic, the history of Côn Sơn Island is one of exploration, colonialism, oppression and liberation, as well as myth and legend. Although for the majority of foreign visitors today, the most striking aspect of this archipelago is its natural beauty, its macabre past is a constant presence, preserved as a memorial to those who suffered here. However much visitors enjoy the beaches, mountains and ocean vistas, they will not be able to forget that this island was once a place of malnourishment, punishment, disease and death:


*Please Note: Historical information in this article is based only on my limited reading & understanding of various sources & conversations with people: I am not an historian & I cannot vouch for the accuracy of historical details in this article.


Con Son Island, Con Dao, Vietnam
Dark past: despite its natural beauty, Côn Sơn Island has a grim history

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Early History:

The infamous prisons belong to the relatively recent past, but history and myth on the Côn Đảo Islands go back centuries, and are often just as harrowing. It’s likely that both the Malays and the Khmers held the islands for a time. Contact with the West started with Arab traders in the 9th century. After that, came the familiar succession of European colonial powers: Spanish and Portuguese mariners in the 16th century, the British East India Company in the 18th century (who set up a trading fort in 1702, but abandoned it a few years later when they were massacred by their own mercenary workforce), and the French from the 19th century onwards. It is even said that Marco Polo, on his way back from China, took refuge on the islands during a storm in 1294. A visit to the Côn Đảo Museum is a good way to get an overview of the history and timeline of the islands.

Con Dao Museum, Con Son Island, Vietnam
The Côn Đảo Museum is a good place to get your historical bearings

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Prisons & French Colonialism:

Between 1862 and 1975, tens of thousands of political prisoners were held on Côn Sơn Island. The prisons, set up by the colonial French and later run by the South Vietnamese and Americans, became known as ‘university’ for a generation of independence activists from all over Vietnam. Many, who were unaffiliated to political groups when detained, were hardened by the treatment they received in the prisons, and left as members of one party or another, particularly the Indochinese Communist Party, predecessor of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam. Some prisoners were famous independence advocates before entering the prisons, others grew to fame after being released from Côn Sơn, having learnt much in the ‘Schools of Bolshevism’ on the island, becoming key political figures and leaders of the nation. Many, however, never left the island: they died from malnourishment, mistreatment, disease, hard labour, or were executed. They became martyrs for their cause, commemorated on the island and throughout Vietnam today. An estimated 22,000 prisoners lost their lives on Côn Sơn Island. Most of the dead were dumped in the shadow of a mountain behind Côn Sơn town. In 1975, their remains were collected and buried in Hàng Dương Cemetery, which occupies the site today.

The prisons closed in 1975. Since then, Vietnamese come on sombre pilgrimages to remember national heroes or relatives who were imprisoned or died on the island. Previous inmates include the likes of Phạm Văn Đồng, who later became Prime Minister of Vietnam, and Lê Duẩn, who became General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam. But, the most famous of all the victims of Côn Sơn’s prisons is Võ Thị Sáu. Involved in anti-colonial activities from the age of 14, she was eventually captured by the French and imprisoned on Côn Sơn. In 1952, at the age of just 19, she became the first woman to be executed on the island. Today, her grave is the site of a moving nightly vigil when Vietnamese come to pay their respects with offerings, including combs and mirrors to symbolize her youth.

Even though most international travellers visit Côn Đảo for pleasure rather than pilgrimage, reminders of the island’s grim past are woven into every pleasurable experience. Just one of many examples is the old French-era customs house at the centre of the seafront promenade. This small, handsome, perfectly proportioned building is flanked by two, century-old tropical almond trees. Beneath the canopy, people sit in the shade sipping coffees and cocktails gazing out on the blue ocean, while teenagers play football on the white sand beach and families enjoy splashing in the gentle surf. From the customs house, a stone jetty projects into the sea, a favourite spot for sunset selfies. This is where supply ships used to dock and unload provisions and prisoners from the mainland. Upon arrival, the prisoners were processed at the customs house. The pier is known as Wharf 914, named after the number of inmates who died constructing it. Côn Sơn Island is full of these jarring juxtapositions of past and present, pleasure and pain.

Hang Duong Cemetery, Con Son Island, Con Dao, Vietnam
Hàng Dương cemetery

French prison, Con Son Island, Con Dao, Vietnam
Prison walls & watchtower

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Myth & Legend:

The Côn Đảo is an archipelago haunted by ghosts. A commonly held belief in Vietnam, when someone dies far from home or without proper burial, their ghost is considered ‘lost’, forever trying to return home; they become wandering souls, often filled with bitterness and anger. These ghosts can be appeased by prayer and offerings at shrines on death anniversaries, festivals, and at the location of their passing. Considering its history, Côn Sơn is filled with the ghosts of former prisoners who died on the island. But some ghosts pre-date the prisons. One story – part history, part legend – describes the ordeal of Phi Yến in the late 18th century. (Note that there are many versions of this story, and I make no claims that the one below is ‘correct’.)

Phi Yến was one of the wives of Nguyễn Ánh, the last remaining prince of the Nguyễn Lords, who ruled southern Vietnam from the 17th century. In 1783, Prince Nguyễn Ánh escaped capture from his military and political rivals, the Tây Sơn brothers, by retreating to the Côn Đảo Islands. He and Phi Yến took refuge in a grotto on the island of Hòn Bà. Nguyễn Ánh sought the help of Pigneau de Behaine, an influential French missionary in the Mekong Delta region. The Prince agreed to cede the Côn Đảo Islands and the port of Đà Nẵng to the French, in exchange for their military support in defeating the Tây Sơn brothers and returning him to power.

Phi Yến’s son, Prince Cải, was to be sent with Behaine to the court of Louis XVI in France, as insurance for the deal. But Phi Yến refused to let her young son undertake such a dangerous and uncertain journey. Nguyễn Ánh was furious. He ordered Cải be thrown into the sea and drowned. In Cải’s place the son of one of Nguyễn Ánh’s other wives was sent to France instead. Phi Yến was left on the islands to die. (Today, there’s a small shrine to Prince Cải on the road to Đầm Trầu beach on Côn Sơn Island.)

In 1787, Louis XVI agreed to the treaty with Nguyễn Ánh, but was overthrown in the French Revolution of 1789 before the treaty could be realized. However, some military support and supplies still got through to Vietnam, allowing Prince Nguyễn Ánh to wage war on the Tây Sơn brothers. In 1802, he was victorious and declared himself ruler of all Vietnam. He took the royal title, Emperor Gia Long, and moved the imperial capital to Huế, beginning what would be Vietnam’s last imperial dynasty. But the stain of French assistance would haunt Gia Long and his successors, until the dynasty became nothing more than an impotent arm of French Indochina. Today, Nguyễn Ánh is a much-maligned figure in Vietnamese history, a fact attested to by his lonely, seldom-visited tomb on the banks of the Perfume River, outside Huế.

Phi Yến remained on the Côn Đảo Islands, until one day she was courted by another man. Traditionally, a good wife never betrays her husband, no matter what he’s done. Not wishing to be disloyal to Nguyễn Ánh, Phi Yến refused the approaches of her suitor and threw herself into the sea. Today, unlike her husband, Phi Yến is revered as a faithful, loyal wife and a loving mother: her two greatest attributes tragically coming into conflict with each other. She is worshiped on Côn Sơn Island at Miếu Bà Phi Yến (also known as An Sơn temple). The small, squat temple is set under a flame tree at the foot of a mountain by a lotus lake.

Prince Nguyen Anh, Emperor Gia Long, Vietnam
Prince Nguyễn Ánh, later Emperor Gia Long, fled to Côn Đảo

Shrine to Prince Cải, Con Son Island, Con Dao, Vietnam
Shrine to Prince Cải, son of Phi Yến

Shrine to Phi Yến, Con Son Island, Con Dao, Vietnam
Shrine to Phi Yến, who is still worshipped here on Côn Sơn Island today

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BEACHES:

Côn Sơn is a wild and rugged island: mountains and rocky headlands plunge straight into the sea creating a spectacular coastline. There aren’t many long, sandy beaches, like the ones you find on Phú Quốc Island, but there are several bays where the mountains give way to some stunning strips of sand and turquoise water. The following beaches are scattered around the main island of Côn Sơn and are listed in order of my own personal preference. All these beaches can be visited by bicycle, motorbike or taxi or, in some cases, only on foot. There are other beaches on the outlying islands, but you’ll need to charter a boat to get there (see this guide for details):


Con Dao Islands, Travel Guide, Vietnam

An Hải Beach [MAP]: Just south of Côn Sơn town, An Hải is a wide, sandy beach fringed by coconut palms and casuarina trees and overlooked by green mountains. An Hải is within 5-10 minutes’ walk of most places in town and is dotted with beachfront accommodation. The water is clear and cool and great for swimming. However, sandflies have long been a problem here, so be careful. An Hải is a striking, long and beautiful beach, but it could be under threat: the new boat pier at its northern end might be the catalyst for pollution of the bay, and there are signs of large-scale resort construction which begin by clearing the beachfront of its trees.

An Hai Beach, Con Dao Islands, Vietnam
An Hải Beach is long, beautiful & easy to access

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Suối Nóng Beach [MAP]: Accessed via a pathway through the jungle, Suối Nóng beach is the next bay south of the more famous Đầm Trầu beach. A wedge of soft sand meets the blue sea with thick jungle growing up the steep mountainside behind. A pretty freshwater stream runs out of the forest and flows into the ocean here. It’s a beautiful, quiet spot and good for sunsets, too.

Suoi Nong Beach, Con Dao Islands, Vietnam
Suối Nóng Beach is secluded & shady

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Đầm Trầu Beach [MAP]: A wide arc of golden sand shaded by casuarina trees and flanked by rocky headlands, Đầm Trầu is probably the most famous and popular beach on the island. Now accessible via a wide new road, the beach was beginning to lose its appeal thanks to overcrowding and unsightly beachside shacks. However, these have now been cleared away and a new government-sponsored initiative is currently in the process of restoring Đầm Trầu to its former, natural glory. So far, the results look good, and I expect there will be some more changes in the near future. At the time of my last visit, a small entrance fee was being charged to all visitors and litter was under tight control. Đầm Trầu is right next to the airport (the runway ends just as the tarmac meets the sand), so when flights come in to land, everyone on the beach stops to gaze as the aircraft as it drifts down over the sea. Sunsets are great from here and there are some refreshments and watersports equipment available.

Dam Trau Beach, Con Dao Islands, Vietnam
Đầm Trầu Beach is a photogenic arch of sand

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Nhát Beach [MAP]: Stretching for several kilometres along the southern coastline, Nhát Beach is one of the most dramatic and striking in Vietnam. The view of the bay from Mũi Cá Mập (Shark Cape) is like something out of Jurassic Park: the road cutting along the coast below the barren, windswept southern slopes of Núi Thánh Giá – the highest mountain on the Island – with big boulders strewn on the side of the asphalt, decreasing in size as they roll down to meet the rice-white sand and gin-clear water, and, in the distance, the rugged island of Hòn Bà looming like a perched bird of prey. The swimming is excellent, especially before noon, when the water is often calm and the tide is usually out, thus exposing more of the beach. However, there’s hardly any shade on Nhát Beach, and it’s increasingly difficult to ignore the ever-expanding landfill on the opposite side of the road: yet another reminder of how fragile this island is.

Nhat Beach, Con Dao Islands, Vietnam
Nhát Beach has a certain ‘Jurassic Park’ quality to it

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Đầm Tre Lagoon & Secret Beach [MAP]: Only accessible via a beautiful hiking trail through thick jungle (or by speed boat), Đầm Tre is a lagoon right at the northern tip of Côn Sơn Island. The trek takes a couple of hours and is easy to follow: see my hiking guide for details. Swimming here is a real treat, especially after the hot and sweaty walk. The water is beautiful and there’s great snorkeling above impressive coral, too. SUP boards are available for rent and boats can take you across the lagoon to Secret Beach, a crescent of sand backed by jungle with a photogenic swing in the shallows. Be very careful swimming here when the tide is going out: the pull is exceptionally strong.

Dam Tre Lagoon, Con Dao Islands, Vietnam
Đầm Tre Lagoon & Secret Beach are only accessible on foot or by boat

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Lò Vôi Beach [MAP]: At the northern end of Côn Sơn town’s fabulous seafront promenade, Lò Vôi Beach is a ribbon of white sand spreading out under a line of casuarina trees. It’s an attractive spot: the water is shallow and blue, there’s a constant sea breeze drifting through the trees, and wooden skeletons of wrecked fishing vessels lie entombed in the sand. The beach is protected and calm, sheltered by a hilly headland to the north. At low-tide, the sand is exposed for over a hundred metres, during which time it’s possible to walk around the headland to a ‘secret’ sandy cove. However, a dark history stalks this beach: during the prison-era, the bodies of perished inmates were dumped beneath the trees between the beach and the road. A memorial park now occupies the site.

Lo Voi Beach, Con Dao Islands, Vietnam
Lò Vôi Beach is just a few minutes’ walk from Côn Sơn town

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Bãi Vông Beach [MAP]: Known by several names, Bãi Vông is a wide and very long sweep of sand backed by casuarina trees in the northeast of the island. During the northeast monsoon (October-March), Vông Beach is quite exposed and can become very rough with great rollers crashing on the sand. However, during the summer months (April to September), the water can be as calm as an infinity pool, shallow and very pleasant for swimming. At around 2.5km, Bãi Vông is probably the longest continuous beach on the island. At low tide, the water goes far out, making it look more like a river estuary than a beach. Bãi Vông can be accessed via several dirt paths leading east through the trees from the main road. But the easiest access point is at the southern end, before reaching Poulo Condor Resort. Get here around 4pm for a pleasant swim and wonderful views in the fading light.

Bai Vong Beach, Con Dao Islands, Vietnam
Bãi Vông Beach is long & lovely in the summer months, but rough in the off-season

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Ông Cau Beach [MAP]: On the remote and undeveloped southwest coast, Ông Cau beach has only been accessible to travellers for a few years, since the opening on the new west coast road. A jungle path leads off the road beneath thick tropical foliage to a wedge of sand nestled in a tight bay. When the sea is calm, the water quality here is outstanding. The depth is shallow and there’s some decent coral about 50m out. The beach is sandy and pretty, but blighted by some picnic trash. Ông Cau is a beautiful, tranquil and secluded spot. There is sometimes a national park ranger at the trailhead from whom visitors must buy an entrance ticket. (Keep a watch out for snakes on the path down to the beach.)

Ong Cau Beach, Con Dao Islands, Vietnam
Ông Cau Beach is on the undeveloped west coast

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Côn Sơn Beach [MAP]: During low-tide, a sand beach emerges along the shore of Côn Sơn town’s beautiful seafront road. In the early mornings and late afternoons, Vietnamese tourists, pilgrims and locals come here to paddle, swim and play in the shallow waters, particularly around Pier 914, directly opposite the elegant Côn Sơn Cafe. An hour or so before dusk is a great time to be here: watching the sun set behind the hills, having a drink at the cafe, a snack from one of the food vendors, and experiencing the effortless, informal street life that Vietnam does so well. Côn Sơn beach is less about the bathing; more about the social vibe

Con Son Beach, Con Dao Islands, Vietnam
Côn Sơn Beach along the seafront road in town is only exposed at low-tide

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Đá Trắng Bays [MAP]: Just south of Côn Sơn town and An Hải beach, the coast road cuts along the rocky shoreline between the sea and the jungle-clad headland. In calm conditions and when the tide is in, there are a few lovely little inlets on which to find a boulder and jump into the ocean. These aren’t sandy beaches, but they’re attractive, rocky coves shaded by a canopy of tropical trees. The views back over Côn Sơn bay and town are very nice, too. Bring a snack and a drink and linger for an hour around dusk.

Da Trang Beach, Con Dao Islands, Vietnam
Đá Trắng is a series of attractive rocky bays just south of Côn Sơn town

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Bãi Bàng Beach [MAP]: On the remote and undeveloped western coast, Bãi Bàng is a pebble beach that can only be reached on foot via a hiking trail through the jungle. The well-marked trail ends at the beach after descending steeply down a stone stairway to the water’s edge. Although not one of the best beaches on the island, Bãi Bàng is peaceful and isolated. In the rainy season, at the southern end of Bãi Bàng, a small waterfall runs off the mountains and straight down to the beach. See my hiking guide for details about how to get there.

Dat Doc Beach, Con Son Island, Con Dao, Vietnam
Bãi Bàng Beach is on the remote west coast, only accessible on foot

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Đất Thắm Beach [MAP]: Not far beyond Bãi Bàng beach, Đất Thắm is another remote, isolated and undeveloped bay on the west coast only accessible by foot. The crescent bay is pretty and snorkeling is good when the seas are calm. As with Bãi Bàng, the hike through the jungle to get here is half the fun.

Dat Tham Beach, Con Son Island, Con Dao, Vietnam
Đất Thắm Beach is accessed via a long hike through the jungle

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SEE & DO:

Apart from the beaches, there’s plenty of other things to see and do on the Côn Đảo Islands. You’ll get the most out of the main island of Côn Sơn by wandering and exploring independently: either on foot or on two wheels. The town of Côn Sơn and the island’s coast roads and hiking trails will reveal enough of their charm and beauty to keep you going for several days: beaches, colonial architecture, historical sites, forests, markets and mountains. For the outlying islands, you’ll need to hire a boat or go on a diving trip:


Con Son Island, Con Dao Islands, Vietnam
There’s lots to see, do & explore on the Côn Đảo Islands

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Walking, Hiking & Motorbiking:

Motorbiking: Two wheels is a fantastic way to see and explore Côn Sơn Island. Motorbikes and scooters can be rented anywhere in town for 150,000vnd per day (ask at your accommodation). Cycling is great too, but so far only a handful of bicycle rentals exist. Côn Sơn Island is the perfect place to learn to ride if you don’t already know how. The well-maintained but empty roads give you all the space and time you need to get familiar with riding. You can easily ride all the island’s roads in one day, but take your time because riding here is such a pleasure. The ‘main’ road, following the east coast from Cỏ Ông Airport in the north to Bến Đầm Port in the south, is a spectacular 25km ride. And the recently opened west coast road, linking Bến Đầm Port with the National Park HQ, is also fabulous, especially around dusk. Linking these two roads together means riders can now essentially complete a circuit of the entire island. Take note that there are only two gas stations on the island (both of which I’ve marked on my map), and be careful of strong winds as you round the island’s blustery capes.

Walking & Hiking: Not only is Côn Sơn town one of the most pedestrian-friendly urban areas in Vietnam, the island is also a wonderful hiking destination. Strolling up and down the town’s seafront road (Tôn Đức Thắng) in the early mornings or late afternoons is undoubtedly one of the highlights of visiting Côn Sơn Island: the seafront exudes charm, character and romance. Ambling along Côn Sơn town’s languid, shady back-streets – lined with an increasing number of enticing cafes and eateries – is a rewarding way to spend a couples of hours during the day. For hikers, there are now at least half a dozen well-marked trails on the island leading through the National Park, all of which can be undertaken independently, without a guide. The scenery and views are excellent and there’s a high chance of seeing wildlife, such as macaques and black squirrels. What’s more, hiking allows visitors to reach parts of the island that can’t be accessed by any other means. Jungles, beaches, waterfalls, cliffs and peaks can all be reached via hiking trails. For full details, see my guide to Hiking Côn Đảo Islands.

Con Dao Islands
Hiking trails lead through great scenery to beautiful viewing platforms

Con Son Island, Con Dao Islands, Vietnam
Motorbiking the empty coastal roads on Côn Sơn Island is fantastic

Con Dao Islands
Côn Sơn town, especially the seafront road, is perfect for strolling

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Prisons, Museums & Historical Sites:

For the majority of Vietnamese visitors, it’s Côn Sơn’s history that brings them here. Every year, tens of thousands of Vietnamese of all ages and backgrounds come on a pilgrimage of sorts, to pay their respects to the former inmates of the prisons, many of whom are considered great national heroes. Over 20,000 prisoners died on the island, either through malnutrition, disease, mistreatment or execution. Of course, this makes the prisons and associated sites a very sombre experience. But, for a foreign visitor, it also provides some historical perspective, and makes you appreciate how this island, which today appears to be the epitome of a tropical paradise, was once a dark and hellish place for thousands of prisoners for over a century. There are several prisons on the island, all within walking distance of Côn Sơn town. But it make sense to start at the Côn Đảo Museum, because this is where you can buy a ticket (50,000vnd) which covers entrance to all of the prisons and related sites, including the museum itself (note the ticket is only valid for one day).

The Côn Đảo Museum (7.30-11.00am & 1.30-5pm daily) was relocated several years ago to a sprawling new building with many more exhibits to fill the enormous new space. The exhibits are arranged chronologically, starting with Côn Đảo’s early history, nature and geology, through to its acquisition by the French and use as a penal colony, to its liberation in 1975 and modern day developments for tourism and industry (including, bizarrely, a photograph of my parents and I arriving at the airport over a decade ago in the last room). Information is in English and Vietnamese. There are photographs of some of the more famous of Côn Sơn’s former inmates, including the likes of Phạm Văn Đồng and Tôn Đức Thắng, who became long-serving prime minister and president of Vietnam respectively. There are also portraits of those who lost their lives on the islands, the most famous of whom was the 19 year-old, Võ Thị Sáu, executed here in 1952. Her grave, and hundreds of others, can be visited at the sobering Hàng Dương Cemetery, just a short walk due north of the museum (respectful dress is compulsory). It’s a good idea to purchase some incense, flowers or fruit at the cemetery entrance (or in town) to lay at the graves.

The prisons have been preserved as memorial sites. There are several of them in Côn Sơn and just east of town. Some of the prisons are grey concrete blocks, but others look less threatening: parts of Phú Hải and Phú Sơn resemble a French colonial seminary rather than a penitentiary. But, one look inside the cells – at the horrific, green, corpse-like mannequins – brings home the reality of what conditions were like here. The most visited prison sites are Phú Hải, Phú Sơn, Phú Tường and Phú Bình. The latter two were the site of the infamous ‘tiger cages’: small cells with grilles in the ceilings where guards poked prisoners with sticks and threw lime on them, which burned their skin.

Apart from the prisons themselves, there a half a dozen other sites scattered around the town that are related to the island’s history as a penal colony. These include the sturdy-looking Lò Vôi lime ovens used to make building materials, Hàng Keo cemetery park where the remains of prisoners were unearthed dumped by the beach under casuarina trees, Ma Thiên Lãnh bridge in the hills that was built by forced labour, the handsome French governor’s house and customs house on the seafront, and Pier 914 also built by prisoners. Something that, understandably, isn’t mentioned or commemorated is the site of the French colonial cemetery, which is located where Phạm Văn Đồng Park currently stands today.

Phu Hai Prison, Con Son Island, Con Dao, Vietnam
Dating from French colonial times, the prisons are preserved as memorials & a reminder of the island’s brutal past

Hang Duong cemetery, Con Dao Islands
Hàng Dương cemetery is where the remains of many prisoners are laid to rest

Photograph of my parents and I in the Con Dao Museum
This photo is an exhibit in the Côn Đảo Museum of my parents & I arriving on the island over a decade ago

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Temples & Pagodas:

In recent years, ‘spiritual tourism’ has become extremely popular on Côn Sơn Island. Ever since the liberation of the prisons, in 1975, the island has attracted pilgrims to sites where famous national heroes were once incarcerated, but today it’s more commercial and goes beyond the wartime prisoners to include other historic figures and even mythological characters and events. Indeed, the vast majority of Vietnamese visitors to the island come specifically to complete a sort of ‘spiritual loop’ of the island. This loop, of course, includes all the prisons and related cemeteries and sites, but also temples, shrines and pagodas, some of them linked to the part historical, part mythical folk story of Phi Yến (a version of which I have told here). Spiritual sites that were previously all but ignored by visitors, are now among the most popular sites on the island.

These include the small, but handsome and well-proportioned temple to Phi Yến (known as An Sơn temple), a pretty and peaceful place on the edge of Côn Sơn town. Buy some incense and take a few moments to contemplate Phi Yến’s sad tale. On the other side of the island, there’s a shrine to Prince Cải, Phi Yến’s son, on the road to Đầm Trầu Beach. Guarded by two sculpted horses, this is also said to be the tomb of the prince, whose grave is behind the shrine. Other shrines that are commonly visited on the ‘spiritual loop’ are Miếu Năm Cô and Miếu Thổ Thần.

The newly refurbished pagoda complex of Vân Sơn (Cloud Mountain) sits in a commanding position on the hillside above An Hải Lake. It’s a steep (and hot) climb up the stairs to the prayer rooms, from where there are good views out to sea and across the town. In addition, an impressive new temple dedicated to the men and women who were imprisoned and lost their lives on Côn Sơn Island sits at the entrance to Hàng Dương Cemetery.

Phi Yen temple, Con Dao Islands
Temple to Phi Yến (An Sơn temple) is an attractive shrine in a leafy courtyard

Con Dao Islands
Côn Sơn town still has lots of colonial-era houses & shopfronts

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Diving & Boat Trips:

Diving: Côn Đảo offers the best diving in Vietnam. Other popular Vietnamese dive destinations, such as Nha Trang, pale in comparison. The best season is from March to August, when the water is generally clear and calm; November to February can be very choppy, and diving trips are usually canceled. Con Dao Dive Center is the go-to place for arranging a diving trip. At the time of writing, they had relocated to Nguyễn An Ninh street, at the edge of Côn Sơn town. Drop into their shop or check out their website for more information: www.divecondao.com

Boat Trips: The outlying islands can be reached by speed boats on half- or full-day tours. These boat trips are great fun and can be arranged through the National Park office on the seafront road. Most boat trips last several hours and include exploration of two or more islands. The most popular are Bảy Cạnh (the second largest island in the archipelago) and Hòn Cau, which has a good beach. Prices are fairly high so you’ll want to go as a group in order to share the costs. For more information see my guide to Boat Trips to Outlying Islands.

Sea Turtles: Côn Đảo is well-known for its sea turtle nesting grounds, particularly on Bảy Cạnh Island. It’s possible to book a tour through the National Park office to witness the laying of the eggs on the beaches at night. The season lasts from June to September.

Boat trip, Con Dao Islands
Boat trips to outlying islands are increasingly popular & a lot of fun

Boat trip, Con Dao Islands
Snorkeling & diving in the Côn Đảo Islands are the best in Vietnam

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Markets & Shopping:

Located right at the centre of town, Côn Đảo Market has expanded in recent years and is now a bustling place full of fresh local produce as well as goods from the Mekong Delta. It’s great fun to explore, particularly in the early mornings and late afternoons when it’s at its busiest. There’s plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and fish for sale, as well as dry goods and textiles. The Côn Đảo Gift Shop is an interesting store featuring some island specialities, such as bags of tropical almonds (hạt bàng) that are grown on the enormous old trees lining the town’s streets. They’re delicious as snacks or finger food to accompany drinks – try the ginger-coated variety for added zing. Also available at the gift shop is local liquor made from ginseng (rượu sâm), and fresh wild honey from the jungles (mật ong rừng). It’s definitely worth a look. Lastly, the incongruous Takai Mart is the island’s first modern supermarket. It has everything you’d expect to find in a supermarket as well as some touristy souvenirs.

Con Dao Market, Con Son Island
The new Côn Đảo Market is big & bustling, located right at the centre of Côn Sơn town

Con Dao Market, Con Son Island
Fresh produce from the Mekong Delta on display at Côn Đảo Market

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SLEEP:

The number of places to stay on the Côn Đảo Islands has grown significantly over the last few years. There are now dozens of mini-hotels in Côn Sơn town, all offering decent rooms. There’s a clutch of mid-range hotels along the town’s seafront and beach, and three luxury resorts. However, rooms rates on the Côn Đảo Islands are slightly inflated: in general, expect to pay at least 20% more than you would on the mainland. The following hotels are a selection of what’s available. You can use the search box below and the ‘BOOK HERE’ links to search and make reservations for hotels on the Côn Đảo Islands:


Find a Hotel:


The Secret Con Dao Resort, Vietnam
Accommodation options on the island have grown in recent years for all budgets

Luxury Resorts:

Surprisingly, there are still only a few high-end resorts on Côn Sơn Island, although that number is bound to increase in the future. Of the three that currently exist, one is located on the seafront in Côn Sơn town and the other two are situated on secluded beaches. They are very different in style, standard and price tag:

Poulo Condor Boutique Resort & Spa [MAP] $150-$250 | BOOK HERE: Located at the southern end of the long arcing sands of Vông Beach, Poulo Condor is a short ride from the airport and is currently the only accommodation on this side of the island: for the time being, the resort has the entire beach to itself. The style and décor is French colonial, with architectural features echoing the colonial-era shophouses of Côn Sơn town. Inside, the rooms are very spacious and beautifully appointed, with wooden wardrobes and chests, rattan furniture and painted vases, tiled floors and stone verandas, rugs and lamps, shutters and blinds, expansive outside bathrooms and private plunge pools. Other facilities include an attractive infinity pool, spa, gym, restaurant, bar and large, lovely gardens. The resort was carefully designed to have minimal impact on the natural surroundings, which belong to the national park. The result is a very peaceful, verdant and immersive property which echoes to the sounds of frogs, cicadas and the wind through the trees.

The Secret Côn Đảo [MAP] $90-$130 | BOOK HERE: Located on the beautiful and elegant seafront road in Côn Sơn town, The Secret is the most recent high-end resort to open on the island. It’s also the first luxury accommodation to be located in town rather than on a private, secluded beach. Décor and design is minimalist, sleek, clean and contemporary. Facilities include a large infinity pool, 24-hour gym and multiple dining and drinking options of high quality. Some French colonial-era structures are incorporated, but the general aesthetic is modern. Rooms aren’t large, but they are crisp, clean and comfortable. The property can feel a bit sterile and impersonal at times and standard rates don’t even include breakfast, which is very disappointing. However, The Secret is far more affordable than either of the other two high-end resorts on the island. See my Independent Review of The Secret for more details.

Six Senses Côn Đảo [MAP] $750-$1,250 | BOOK HERE: The Six Senses brand has a reputation for atmospheric resorts in superb natural settings throughout Southeast Asia; their Côn Đảo property is no exception. Six Senses Côn Đảo received a lot of media attention in 2011, when ‘Brangelina’ (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) stayed here. Consisting of contemporary-looking private villas built using traditional materials – lots of bamboo – along a lovely, long stretch of sand, the resort is one of the most exclusive (and expensive) in the nation. The villas are spacious, low-impact and well-designed: all of them have ocean views and private plunge pools. Service is exceptional. This all comes at a price: average rates are between $750-$1,000 per night. When you’re paying this kind of price, it’s difficult to determine value for money. Standards are very high indeed at Six Senses Côn Đảo. But is it really worth paying $750+ to stay here when you could be paying $600 less to stay at another luxury resort, such as the Poulo Condor? My guess is that the Six Senses ultimately caters to guests for whom this kind of question isn’t much of a concern.

Six Sense Con Dao Resort, Vietnam
Six Senses is the most luxurious (and expensive) property on the island

Poulo Condor Resort, Con Dao, Vietnam
Poulo Condor is a French-colonial-themed resort set among lush gardens

The Secret Con Dao Resort, Vietnam
The Secret is the newest high-end accommodation on the island, situated on the seafront road

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Mid-Range Hotels:

It’s important for travellers to bear in mind that mid-range hotels and resorts on Côn Sơn Island are usually $20-$30 above what you’d expect to pay for similar standards on the mainland. Adjust your expectations accordingly so as not to be disappointed by value for money. In some cases, the location alone is worth the extra expense:

Orson Hotel & Resort [MAP] $70-$100 | BOOK HERE: All alone at the south of the island, not far from Bến Đầm port, Orson Hotel is a large property with huge rooms, balconies, a stunning position and amazing views of the mountains and the ocean. Value for money can be very good considering the size of the rooms and the views. But pay the extra for a sea view, because the mountain-view rooms don’t have balconies. The swimming pool and private beach are great. However, service and other amenities aren’t particularly good. The hotel is convenient for the port but not for much else: you’ll need to take taxis or rent a scooter to get around.

Côn Đảo Resort [MAP] $70-$110 | BOOK HERE: This three-storey hotel on a lovely stretch of An Hải beach just west of Côn Sơn town has an ideal location, but is sadly let down by ludicrously high prices and noisy groups of package tour guests. The views from the sea-view rooms are fabulous. Décor is minimal and bland but comfortable and unoffensive. There’s a swimming pool and a tree-lined beach with wonderful vistas of the coast, islands, and mountains. Côn Sơn town is just a 5-minute stroll away. This would all be ideal, but prices hover around $100 per night and the standards just aren’t good enough to justify the price anymore. The buffet breakfast is quite poor and the hotel regularly hosts big tour groups who are catered to with loud parties in the evening.

Tân Sơn Nhất Resort [MAP] $40-$65 | BOOK HERE: Right on An Hải beach with attractive but bare wooden bungalows beneath large tropical almond trees, Tân Sơn Nhất has long been a go-to resort for foreign mid-range travellers. Bungalows are just about value for money (considering this is Côn Đảo) and the resort’s shortcomings – no pool, average service and breakfast – is forgotten due to its fantastic beach access and ease of walking into town. There’s a new (and ugly) wing at the front which offers cheaper rooms.

The Mystery Côn Đảo [MAP] $50-$75 | BOOK HERE: On a quiet backstreet in Côn Sơn town, The mystery is a stylish, enigmatic boutique hotel with photogenic décor and a trendy vibe. Popular with young, well-dressed, phone-wielding Vietnamese youth, The Mystery features colourful tiles, rattan furniture, bare concrete and stone walls and exteriors, lots of potted plants and a rooftop bar. There’s no direct beach access, but it’s perfect for town strolls and visiting all the sites.

Nam Hải Hotel [MAP] $25-$50 | BOOK HERE: Near the centre of town, Nam Hải is a very clean and attractive little mid-range hotel. Rooms are simple but comfy with nice balconies looking over town. There are no facilities as such, but the town’s seafront road and An Hải beach are just 5-10 minutes on foot from the hotel, and there are lots of cafes and restaurants within walking distance.

Marina Bay Hotel [MAP] $50-$100 | BOOK HERE: This rather incongruous (and unattractive) new multi-storey hotel near the edge of town is comfortable but bland and rather boring. Aimed at domestic tour groups, the rooms are neat and some have good town views. There’s a small rooftop pool and a restaurant and bar on the ground floor. Rates are too high to justify choosing this over other hotels, but staff are young and friendly. Easy walking distance from the town’s seafront and beach.

Con Son Blue Sea Hotel [MAP] $40-$60 | BOOK HERE: A rooftop swimming pool, a few sea-view rooms and just a block from the sands of An Hải beach all make Con Son Blue Sea a pretty solid mid-range option. Rooms are plain but fine – try to get one of the few with balconies. There are big seafood restaurants either side of the hotel.

Orson Hotel, Con Dao, Vietnam
Orson has a fantastic position & enormous rooms but service & amenities aren’t great

Tan Son Nhat Resort, Con Dao, Vietnam
The beachfront bungalows at Tan Son Nhat are a solid option

Marina Bay Hotel, Con Dao, Vietnam
Rooftop pool at Marina Bay, a new, bland hotel

The Mystery Hotel, Con Dao, Vietnam
The distinctive exterior of The Mystery, a good mid-range property

Con Dao Resort, Vietnam
Room at Côn Đảo Resort: a fantastic location but prices are too high

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Budget Hotels:

As with mid-range accommodation, expect to pay more than you would on the mainland for budget hotels on Côn Sơn Island. There’s now a plethora of mini-hotels and guest houses in Côn Sơn town and this is starting to drive prices down a bit. If you’re on a really tight budget, it’s worth looking for multi-bed rooms as some mini-hotels have triples and quads:

Conson Hotel [MAP] $25-$35 | BOOK HERE: Although the décor is more like a business-hotel than a budget one, Conson Hotel has a good position and high standards considering its reasonable rates. What it lacks in charm and character it makes up for in cleanliness and location. Many rooms have balconies and the hotel is just a block from the sands of An Hải beach or a 5-minute stroll into town. Great value.

Thanh Xuân Motel (& others) [MAP] 250,000-500,000vnd: At the southern end of the wonderful seafront road, several budget mini-hotels and guest houses stand opposite the new ferry terminal. The simplest, smallest and cheapest of these is Thanh Xuân Motel. Rooms are small, clean, cosy and bright, but most of all they’re cheap, especially considering the location right on the seafront. Try to get a room on the second floor which has a lovely little shared balcony. Other small hotels here include Ba Đòan 1 (great if you can get a balcony room), Golf Star and Thanh Ngọc.

Thiên Tân Hotel [MAP] $25-$35 | BOOK HERE: Plain rooms, but you can’t beat the location: in a garden opening onto An Hải beach. At $25 per night this is excellent value for beachfront accommodation.

Trung Hậu [MAP] $25-$35 | BOOK HERE: An excellent mini-hotel on the corner of Côn Sơn town’s quiet backstreets, Trung Hậu is several storeys of clean, bright, good value rooms, some with balconies. The location is walking distance from all the town’s sites and the seafront road.

Hotel De Condor [MAP] $15-$30 | BOOK HERE: Lots of style and character in a quiet location out of town, Hotel De Condor attracts young budget travellers with good taste. Décor is fresh, light and colourful, and the overall vibe is summery and cool. The area is becoming a budget traveller enclave with several cafes and eateries. However, it’s a good 10-15-minute walk to get to town.

Hoàng Ngọc Hotel (& others) [MAP] 250,000-500,000vnd: Near the centre of town, Hoàng Ngọc is one of several local guest houses and mini-hotels along the parallel streets of Nguyễn An Ninh and Trần Phú. Small, clean, simple, budget-friendly and with an informal, local vibe, Hoàng Ngọc has no-frills rooms. The area is very close to lots of restaurants and shops, and a short walk from the seafront. Noise can sometimes be a problem in the evenings.

Nicobar Hotel [MAP] $25-$35 | BOOK HERE: On a nice, quiet backstreet in Côn Sơn town, Nicobar is a pleasant budget mini-hotel with an airy, green ambience. Popular with young Vietnamese travellers.

Maya 2 Hotel [MAP] $30-$40 | BOOK HERE: A smart, new mini-chain, Maya has a couple of locations in town. The best value is usually Maya 2 near the park. Comfortable, clean but generic, Maya attracts domestic tour groups and international travellers. Rates often creep up to mid-range prices, even though standards don’t. The location is good and central.

LoCo Lodge & Pub [MAP] $10-$25: Out of town at the end of a road, LoCo Lodge is one of a kind on the island, featuring hostel-style dorms and safari-style canvas tents in a lush garden by a freshwater stream at the foot of a mountain. Dorms are very cheap but quite cramped; tents are excellent but often fully booked. The atmosphere is very social. LoCo is a great idea, but the execution is imperfect. Perhaps, with a bit more time and investment it will be just right.

De La Rosa [MAP] $25-$40 | BOOK HERE: A-frame bungalows in a lush garden on a quiet road out of town, De La Rosa is an unexpected property. It’s a nice surprise and makes a change from all the mini-hotels in town. The only issue is that you’ll need your own wheels to be independent. Rent a scooter or bicycle.

Garden House [MAP] $30-$35 | BOOK HERE: Large rooms and a quiet location behind town, Garden House is good if you want space and light for relatively low prices.

Lighthouse Boutique [MAP] $25-$30 | BOOK HERE: A long-standing budget accommodation with friendly, knowledgeable staff, Lighthouse Boutique is good quality and value, but often fully booked. Located in town.

Uyen’s House [MAP] $15-$30 | BOOK HERE: Trendy and popular with selfie-taking young Vietnamese travellers, Uyen’s House is an attractively designed villa in the centre of town. There aren’t many rooms and they’re often full. There’s also a lack of space and privacy here.

Thanh Xuan Motel, Con Dao, Vietnam
Thanh Xuân Motel is cheap, clean & on the seafront road

LoCo Lodge & Pub, Con Dao, Vietnam
LoCo Lodge & Pub has dorms & Tents

Hoang Ngoc Hotel, Con Dao, Vietnam
Hoàng Ngọc is one of many good-value, simple mini-hotels

Uyen's House, Con Dao, Vietnam
Uyen’s House has nice décor but not many rooms

Trung Hau Hotel, Con Dao, Vietnam
Trung Hậu is an excellent budget mini-hotel

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EAT & DRINK:

Côn Đảo’s food scene has greatly improved over the last few years. As the population has grown (thanks to settlers moving here from the mainland) so too has the variety of food available. Côn Sơn town now has a relatively buzzing dining scene, including street food vendors, seafood restaurants and rice eateries all catering to the different palates of tourists who visit from all over Vietnam. There’s even a couple of places serving good Western food, not to mention the restaurants attached to the high-end resorts. What’s more, Côn Sơn has a growing cafe culture and a few cocktail bars:


Rice lunch, Con Dao Islands, Vietnam
Côn Đảo’s food scene has improved massively over the last few years

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Street Food & Snacks:

Côn Đảo Cooked Food Market [MAP]: On the corner of Võ Thị Sáu and Phạm Văn Đồng streets a covered area houses the Côn Đảo cooked food market. Packed into the space are dozens of local stalls serving delicious and cheap classic Vietnamese dishes, such as noodle soups, rice meals, desserts and much more. It’s ideal for breakfast, but also serves well for a late afternoon snack. Most dishes are between 20,000-50,000vnd. The atmosphere is delightfully local, informal and Vietnamese. This is where you come for a real street food experience on the island: it’s as close as you can get to the street food hives and fresh markets on the mainland. Don’t be scared, don’t be picky: come here with an open mind and an open palate and dive in. As well as a plethora of Vietnamese dishes, there’s also coffee, tea, juices and smoothies available.

Bánh Bèo Chén [MAP]: Just east of town, down a small back alley, this unassuming little place serves excellent bánh bèo – a Huế speciality of beautiful little rice and tapioca curds with pork and various accoutrements. They’re gorgeous to look at and a textural feast. Excellent for a mid-afternoon snack and a nice stroll from town.

Quán Cơm Su Su [MAP]: This classic, informal, inexpensive quán cơm (rice eatery) is perfect for a filling lunch on the cheap. Choose from over a dozen dishes to have over a plate of rice. Good, home-cooked food at low prices. This is also a decent option for cheap take-out food for a picnic.

Bánh Xèo Kiều Tâm [MAP]: On the edge of Phạm Văn Đồng park, Kiều Tâm serves up tasty bánh xèo (crispy savoury crepes with pork and shrimp filling). The bánh xèo are Mekong-style which means they’re huge. Tear off pieces and wrap it in aromatic fresh herbs then dip in sweet fish sauce. It’s a wonderful, ever-popular dish that never fails. Kiều Tâm is informal with long wooden benches and a friendly, family atmosphere. They also serve hearty cháo vịt (duck rice porridge).

Minh Tâm Noodle House [MAP]: On a backstreet in Côn Sơn town, Minh Tâm is a typical noodle soup house that you find all over the nation. Selling decent phở bò (beef noodle soup) and bò kho (aromatic beef stew), Minh Tâm is good for an early breakfast before hitting some of the hiking trails on the island. There’s a local atmosphere and it’s popular with Vietnamese travellers staying in the nearby mini-hotels.

Bánh Mì Tuấn Mập [MAP]: Right in the centre of town, Tuấn Mập is a classic Vietnamese bánh mì (filled baguette) store. Get your fresh, crispy baguettes filled with pate, cold cuts, fried egg, salad and pickles. Great for breakfast or as a take out snack for lunch on the road while exploring the island.

Bánh Khọt Duyên Trang [MAP]: A little west of town, near the lily-filled lakes, Duyên Trang serves bánh khọt – delicious crispy little medallions of rice flour topped with shrimp and pork then wrapped in leaves and dipped in sauce. Bánh khọt is actually a regional speciality of the province that Côn Đảo is part of: Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu. Locals love it. Try it as an early evening snack.

Kem Dừa (Coconut Ice Cream): Dừa Đất [MAP] | CocoDeli [MAP]: Along with several other coastal destinations in Vietnam, kem dừa (coconut ice cream) is a trend among domestic travellers. Real coconut ice cream is a time- and labour-intensive process resulting in fresh, silky, refreshing and delicious ice cream. The proliferation of kem dừa establishments on Côn Sơn Island in the last few years is incredible. Two of the most famous and popular are Dừa Đất (regarded by most people in the know as the best on the island) and CocoDeli (the ice cream might not be quite as good but the setting is nice). The coconut ice cream is presented in a coconut shell with toasted coconut on top and a glass of fresh coconut water on the side, as well as many, many other optional accoutrements. It’s great fun and perfect for a mid-afternoon treat on a hot, sunny day.

Lan Anh Store [MAP]: Opposite Phạm Văn Đồng park, Lan Anh is a family store that sells all the normal produce – candy, chocolate, soda, etc. – as well as some tempting bottles of spirits, wine and mixers. This is a good place to come if you want to create your own portable bar while on the island: for me, that’s a bottle of gin, a few cans of sodas and some fresh limes.

Côn Đảo Fresh Produce Market [MAP] | Takai Supermarket [MAP]: The island’s main fresh produce market is at the centre of town. Along the edges you’ll find fresh fish, meat, fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs and condiments. Inside, there are some textiles, clothing and a few useful things, such as beach balls. It’s worth looking around if you want to buy food for a picnic and all the fresh produce looks great in the mornings. Takai is the island’s first supermarket. It’s air-conditioned, sterile, organized and packed with everything you’d expect. Another good place to look for picnic supplies.

Street food at Con Dao Market, Vietnam
Street food at the cooked food market in Côn Sơn is great, especially for breakfast

Bánh bèo ché, Con Dao Islands, Vietnam
Beautifully presented bánh bèo chén

Quán cơm Su Su, Con Dao, Vietnam
Su Su is a classic rice eatery serving dozens of cheap dishes over rice

Kem dừa - coconut ice cream, Con Dao, Vietnam
Coconut ice cream – kem dừa – is a craze on the island

Minh Tâm noodle house, Con Dao, Vietnam
Minh Tâm is a decent, local noodle soup house

[Back to Eat & Drink]


Restaurants & Seafood:

Cơm Niêu [MAP]: On Tô Hiệu Street are a couple of very good cơm niêu (clay pot rice) restaurants. These are friendly, informal places that attract Vietnamese families looking for a good, hearty, home-cooked lunch or dinner. The menus are long and eclectic, but a standard combination would be fish (perhaps cá kho tộ – caramelized fish in a clay pot), stir-fried vegetables (perhaps bông bí xào tỏipumpkin blossom with garlic), soup (canh chua – sour soup – is a southern classic) and, of course, piping hot clay pots of rice (cơm niêu). There are several other cơm niêu restaurants scattered around town.

Beach House [MAP]: Hidden away down an alley behind town, Beach House is a very impressive little operation. Fantastically casual yet cosy, the restaurant is surrounded by potted plants and there are only a few tables. The owners, Dao and Lão, cook everything in the kitchen right next to the dining area. Somehow the two of them manage to maintain a menu of excellent quality Asian, Western and fusion dishes as well as very good cocktails and wine. Foreign travellers in particular will likely enjoy dining here.

Quán Hải Sản (Seafood Restaurants) [MAP]: Just south of the park in Côn Sơn town a dozen or so fresh seafood restaurants (quán hải sản) line both Phạm Văn Đồng and Trần Phú streets. Particularly popular during the evenings, these informal restaurants serve all number of shellfish (ốc) and fish (). Ordering can be tricky if you don’t know any Vietnamese, but much of the ‘menu’ is on display in glass water tanks, so pointing will suffice. There’s not much to choose between each restaurant, so just walk by a couple of times and decide which one looks best. Prices are very reasonable. These seafood restaurants are much more lively and affordable than the ones lining Nguyễn Đức Thuận Street behind An Hải beach.

Bar 200 [MAP]: In a sandy garden right on An Hải beach, Bar 200 serves the best value Western food on the island. The menu features burgers, pizzas, milkshakes and some Vietnamese dishes, too. Portions are large and the burgers are very good indeed. It’s a small, open-air space popular with Western travellers and young Vietnamese.

Nhà Hàng Phố Biển [MAP]: Housed in a beautiful French-colonial villa on the seafront road, Phố Biển is a popular seafood restaurant. Although prices are higher than the local restaurants in town, part of what you’re paying for is the location, which is very fine.

Infiniti Cafe & Resto [MAP]: In the town centre, Infiniti is a sort of Côn Đảo institution. For years it was the go-to place for expats, foreign travellers and young Vietnamese backpackers. Back then Infiniti had a sort of ruin bar vibe. That has disappeared completely with its new location and incarnation as a sort of minimalist restaurant/co-working space. The décor is urban, formal and totally incongruous on Côn Sơn Island. It’s hot, stuffy and there’s no natural light. However, the food and drink is still quite good and it attracts young travellers. At the very least, Infiniti is bold and new – it wouldn’t look out of place on the trendiest of streets in Saigon.

Local Shellfish & Seafood Eateries [MAP]: Near the junction of Trần Phú and Phạm Hùng streets are several local quán ốc (snail and shellfish restaurant). These aren’t touristy places; they’re local. Shellfish and beer is a national pastime in Vietnam and it’s great fun to join in if you’re an adventurous traveller. Check out my Shellfish Guide and dive in.

The Secret Restaurant [MAP]: Housed in a handsomely restored French-colonial villa on the seafront road, The Secret Restaurant is very classy and a fantastic location for dining. Unfortunately, it’s only open about three days a week. Check with reception and book a table for an evening when it’s open and enjoy a fine dining experience on the seafront. Alternatively, have a coffee, juice or smoothie on the terrace during the day.

Tân Sơn Nhất Restaurant [MAP]: The resort’s restaurant is atmospherically situated beneath large tropical almond trees on An Hải beach. The Vietnamese dishes are very good. Although the fresh seafood can be quite expensive, there’s plenty of other tasty dishes on the menu.

Dinner at Beach House restaurant, Con Dao, Vietnam
Home-made food at Beach House restaurant – a fantastic place to dine

Cơm niêu, Con Dao, Vietnam
Dinner at a cơm niêu (clay pot rice) restaurant in Côn Sơn

The Secret restaurant, Con Dao, Vietnam
The classy restaurant at The Secret is housed in a restored French-era villa

Seafood dinner, Con Dao, Vietnam
Côn Sơn town now has lots of good dining options

Live seafood, Con Dao, Vietnam
Live seafood on display at a restaurant in Côn Sơn town

[Back to Eat & Drink]


Cafes & Bars:

Cafe Côn Sơn [MAP]: Right at the centre of the beautiful seafront road, Cafe Côn Sơn is housed in the handsome French-era customs house looking out over the ocean. Seating is outside beneath the boughs of century-old tropical almond trees. Coffee and juices are good, but it would be great if they added a few cocktails to the menu. The atmosphere in the late afternoons and early mornings here is wonderful.

ULA Bar [MAP]: At the far western end of the seafront road, ULA is a new bar with an interesting cocktail list, including a whole set of drinks based on the zodiac. Drinks are good and the position is nice, but the music is far too loud.

Côn Đảo House [MAP]: A classy little bar on the backstreets of town, Côn Đảo House serves very good cocktails. It’s a good place for a nightcap after dinner.

Sunset Lounge Rooftop Bar [MAP]: On the top floor of The Secret, the Sunset Lounge has excellent views and an extensive drinks list. Prices are fairly high, so make sure you get here for the sunset happy hour: 5-7pm. There are swing chairs, table football and often live music after dark.

Infiniti [MAP]: Modern and minimalist, drinks at Infiniti are good. The problem is that it’s entirely indoors and feels like you’re in a city centre rather than on a tropical island.

Bar 200 [MAP]: Right by the beach, Bar 200 serves very good cocktails and lots of beers, juices and milkshakes. Popular with foreign travellers.

Beach House [MAP]: Just like everything else at the Beach House, cocktails are handcrafted and good quality. There’s also wine and coffee.

Ba Lê Cafe [MAP]: A classic ‘nostalgia’ cafe of the kind that’s popular throughout Vietnam, Ba Lê features old furniture and objects harking back to ‘revolutionary’ times. A favourite spot for photos and a good place for some Vietnamese-style drip-filter iced coffee.

Sea Sense [MAP]: A pop-up bar on the beach, Sea Sense serves an incredible variety of cocktails and beer from its small, portable shack. Great for a sunset tipple.

The Drinks Bus [MAP]: On the deserted west coast road, the Drinks Bus is set up on a ledge overlooking the ocean with great sunset views. Serving fresh coconuts and juices, the Drinks Bus is popular at dusk for photos.

The Den [MAP]: On a quiet street in town, The Den serves good coffee and other drinks and snacks. It’s worth dropping by and browsing their menu.

Tiệm Cafe Tháng Năm [MAP]: A small cafe with decent coffee, Tiệm Cafe Tháng Năm is good for a pick-me-up espresso in the middle of a hot day exploring the town on foot.

Sun Bay Cafe & Bar [MAP]: Connected to the Marina Bay Hotel, Sun Bay Cafe has tables and chairs set on the pavement outside. Coffee and cocktails are nice in the late afternoon.

Tiệm Nước Saigon [MAP]: Popular with locals, Tiệm Nước Saigon is an unassuming, casual, corner-side cafe serving good coffee. A social vibe on a quiet backstreet.

Kwai’s Bistro [MAP]: An attractive corner bar with tiled floors and outside terrace, Kwai’s looks great. Unfortunately, when I visited the mixologist was out so I couldn’t sample the cocktails. But it looks like it’s worth a try.

Sunset Lounge Bar, The Secret, Con Dao, Vietnam
Mixing it at the Sunset Lounge Bar

Côn Sơn Cafe, Con Dao, Vietnam
Taking in the views with a coffee at Cafe Côn Sơn

Cocktail happy hour, Con Dao, Vietnam
There are now several options for cocktails in Côn Sơn town

Cocktail list, Con Dao House, Con Dao Islands, Vietnam
The Cocktail list at Côn Đảo House

Sunset Lounge Bar, The Secret, Con Dao, Vietnam
Don’t miss the happy hour from 5pm-7pm at the Sunset Lounge Bar

[Back to Contents]


TRANSPORT:

There are two ways to get to the Côn Đảo Islands: by plane or by boat. Not long ago, the islands could only be reached by military helicopter; these days, there are dozens of flights each day from multiple Vietnamese cities and an ever-increasing number of boat connections. On Côn Sơn Island itself, getting around is easy, thanks to good roads, short distances, light traffic, scooter rental, electric buggies and taxis. The outlying islands can be explored by hiring speedboats:


Transport on Con Dao Islands, Vietnam

By Air:

Both Vietnam Airlines and Bamboo Airways fly daily to/from Côn Sơn Island. The busiest route is the 45-minute flight to/from Ho Chi Minh City: between the two airlines there are over a dozen flights in both directions every day. Bamboo Airways also fly daily to/from Hanoi (at least 4 flights each day) as well as irregular flights to/from the central cities of Đà Nẵng and Vinh. In addition, Vietnam Airlines fly to/from Cần Thơ in the Mekong Delta several times a week. With all these flight options, travellers can enter and exit the Côn Đảo Islands from different destinations on the mainland: for example, you could fly in from Cần Thơ and fly out to Hanoi. This makes it easier to include the Côn Đảo Islands as part of a wider Vietnam itinerary, without having to backtrack.

Vietnam Airlines flights are often operated by their subsidiary, VASCO, using small propeller aircraft; Bamboo Airways used small jet aircraft. Although there’s no shortage of flights to the Côn Đảo Islands, ticket prices remain relatively high for a domestic flight: you’ll be lucky to get a return ticket for less than $150. Flights sell out fast, especially on weekends and public holiday, so book early to avoid disappointment. Bookings can be made online via the Vietnam Airlines and Bamboo Airways websites or via the Baolau.com search box below, or in-person at the VASCO and Bamboo Airways offices in Côn Sơn town on the island. Côn Sơn airport is located in the north of the island. There are plans to expand the airport runway this year (2023), so it can accommodate larger aircraft and more passengers. If this happens, the airport will be closed for several months and no flights will operate during that period. However, things move slowly on the Côn Đảo Islands, and already this plan looks like it will be delayed.


*Book fights directly from this page & help support my website. Use the Baolau.com search box below to book your tickets to/from Côn Đảo. If you make a booking, I receive a small commission. All earnings go straight back into this website. Thank you. Tom


Airplane at Con Dao Islands, Vietnam
Multiple daily flights connect the Côn Đảo Islands with mainland cities

[Back to Transport Contents]


By Sea:

There are now regular fast ferry connections to the Côn Đảo Islands from three different ports on the mainland: Vũng Tàu, Cần Thơ and Trần Đề (in Sóc Trăng province in the Mekong Delta). There’s also talk of a direct boat service to the islands from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), but so far nothing has materialized. Gone are the days when the only boat connection to Côn Đảo was an arduous 10-hour rough voyage in a slow, cramped, steel tub. These days, all ferry services are on modern, fast, comfortable ferries, taking between 2-4 hours depending on the route. However, getting to the Côn Đảo Islands by boat can be still be difficult if you’re travelling during the windy season (roughly November-March). At this time of year, the seas can be very rough, and sailings are often cancelled. Therefore, if you’re on a tight schedule and travelling during the windy season, it’s best not to rely on the ferry; book a flight instead.

I’ve written detailed guides to each of the three ferry connections currently serving the Côn Đảo Islands. Please click the links below to go directly to the ferry guide:

Boats arrive and depart from either the beautifully situated Bến Đầm port or the new pier in Côn Sơn town. Tickets can be booked online via the ferry operators’ websites (see the links to my ferry guides above), through Baolau.com, or in-person at the Superdong, Côn Đảo Express and Mai Linh Express offices in town and at the piers. In general, taking the boat to Côn Đảo is much cheaper and more of an experience than flying, but it’s also more time-consuming and less reliable. If, like me, you enjoy a good journey and you’re not pressed for time, taking the ferry is well-worth it.


*Book ferries directly from this page & help support my website. Use the Baolau.com search box below to book your ferry tickets to/from Côn Đảo. If you make a booking, I receive a small commission. All earnings go straight back into this website. Thank you. Tom


Fast boat to Con Dao Islands, Vietnam
There are fast boats to Côn Đảo Islands from several mainland ports

Seating on the boat to Con Dao Islands, Vietnam
Fast boats are comfortable & modern

On the boat to Con Dao Islands, Vietnam
In calm conditions, the voyage is enjoyable

[Back to Transport Contents]


Getting Around the Island:

Côn Sơn Island is quite small and the road infrastructure is good, making cycling, motorbiking, walking and taxis (including electric buggies) all efficient means of getting around:

Walking: Côn Sơn town and the seafront road (Tôn Đức Thắng) are wonderful for strolling around, especially in the early mornings and late afternoons. Everywhere in town can be reached on foot, within 5-10 minutes of almost all accommodations on the island. Traffic is very light, sidewalks are wide and clear, and the town is easy to navigate. There are very few places that are as ‘walkable’ as this in Vietnam. The town’s beach (An Hải) is also within walking distance. In addition to ambling around Côn Sơn town on foot, there are some excellent hiking trails on the island, some of which can be started from the town itself; others which require transport to the trailhead. For full details, see my guide to Hiking the Côn Đảo Islands.

Hiking on Con Dao Islands, Vietnam
Hiking & walking on Côn Đảo is excellent

Motorbike & Bicycle: Cycling on Côn Sơn island is very pleasant, because the roads are empty and the scenery is fantastic. However, bicycles are only available from a handful of accommodations (sometimes free for guests) and rental shops. I fully expect more options for bicycle rental to open over the coming months and years. For the time being, it’s much easier to rent a motorbike or scooter, which are available from many places in Côn Sơn town, Bến Đầm port and hotels (usually 100,000-200,000vnd per day). A scooter gives you the freedom to really explore the island: find deserted beaches, go down dirt tracks, stop and admire the views from the coast roads. There aren’t many roads on the island and you could easily ride every meter of asphalt in just one day on a motorbike. Côn Sơn is the perfect place to learn to drive, if you don’t already know how. The well-maintained but empty roads give you all the space and time you need to get familiar with driving, although you must still be extremely careful. Note that there are only two gas stations on the island: both of which are in Côn Sơn town here and here. Remember to fill up as soon as you get your scooter, and keep an eye on the fuel gauge as you ride around the island.

Motorbiking on Con Dao Islands, Vietnam
Motorbiking around Côn Sơn Island

Taxis & Electric Buggies: There are at least a couple of taxi companies on the island with modest fleets of cars that are always available to take you into town, or to the beaches around the island, or to/from the airport and ferry port, or drop off/collect you at the beginning/end of trailheads. Taxis are inexpensive and can be easily arranged through your hotel. However, over the last few years, in an effort to keep the roads quiet and the environment relatively clean, most taxis have been replaced by hybrid electric buggies. These open-sided vehicles have seating for up to 10 people. The cost is shared between passengers, so if you’re in a group it’s a fairly inexpensive way to get around, but if you’re a solo traveller, it’s not so cheap. Electric buggies and taxis meet all flights at the airport and ferries at Bến Đầm port. If you’re staying at a mid-range or high-end accommodation, it’s very likely that they’ll arrange transport to/from the airport for you.

Electric taxi car, Con Son Island, Con Dao, Vietnam
Hybrid electric taxis can be hired to take you around the around

[Back to Transport Contents]


Getting to Other Islands:

Exploring the outlying islands by speedboat can be organized through the National Park office on the seafront road or the National Park HQ in the hills, or the Con Dao Dive Center and some accommodations, too. Try to get a group together as this will spread the cost, which is usually between $50-$100 depending on where you’re going and for how long. The most common islands to visit are Bảy Cạnh and Hòn Cau. Note that during rough seas boat trips can be cancelled. This is most likely from November to February. In the high-season (March-September), dozens of speedboats leave every morning from the seafront road in Côn Sơn town. Even if you’re a solo traveller, you should be able to join one of the groups during high-season. See my Boat Trips to Outlying Islands guide for details.

Boat to outlying islands, Con Dao Archipelago, Vietnam
Speedboats take visitors to several of the outlying islands

*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 the Con Dao Islands and I want my readers to know about them. For more details, see my Disclosure & Disclaimer statements and my About Page

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Leave a Comment

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

  1. Ross says:
    November 16, 2023 at 4:51 AM

    Hi Tom,
    My partner and I are up near Cao bang doing some of your loop guides (Thanks for all your work!) but are in need of some good r&r after 4 weeks of motor biking from the south to the north. We leave for home in 8 days so we’re trying to fit in a remote island visit that isn’t overcrowded and has a good amount of nature and relaxation opportunity. We ended up here after a quick bit of research! But see that November is not a great time to visit, do you have any recommendations for good island choices that aren’t overcrowded?

    1. Tom says:
      November 16, 2023 at 8:42 AM

      Hi Ross,

      Thanks for your message.

      Con Dao is still OK, but it may be a bit windy – you could check the weather forecast on Windy.com.

      However, Phu Quoc and Hon Son are excellent options at this time of year. Here’s my Hon Son Guide. I’ve written loads about Phu Quoc: Travel Guides, Accommodation Reviews, Food & Drink.

      Best,

      Tom

  2. Ruth says:
    October 24, 2023 at 7:22 PM

    Dear Tom, first of all, thank you so much for writing this! It’s a blessing to find such authentic information.

    My husband and I will travel to Vietnam with my 7-year-old son from the 19th of February till the 20th of march. One of the things we’d love to do is snorkel. However, I’m a bit scared sinds my boy can’t swim yet. So, I’m looking for the perfect snorkelling spot for us: calm shallow water and some pretty marine life. My husband and I are backpackers by nature. We love a laidback vibe and prefer to stay in authentic, no-frills, more budget places.

    Can you think of a place that might fit our needs?

    All the best,
    Ruth

    1. Tom says:
      October 25, 2023 at 8:58 AM

      Hi Ruth,

      Thanks for your message.

      At that time of year it’s probably best to look for snorkeling somewhere else – not Con Dao, because the sea conditions can be a little rough then.

      Phu Quoc and Nha Trang should be fine for snorkeling in Feb/March.

      Best,

      Tom

      1. Ruth says:
        October 31, 2023 at 12:17 PM

        That’s very helpful, thank you so much Tom!

  3. Neal says:
    June 26, 2023 at 6:48 AM

    Hey Tom,

    Im trying to decide whether to do Con Son island, Hong Son, and Phu Quoc. Im personally into hiking, affordability, and unique scenary. If you only had time for one or maybe two islands, which would you decide?

    Thanks!

    1. Tom says:
      June 27, 2023 at 12:17 AM

      Hi Neal,

      Well, time of year is also a consideration, but for your ‘needs’ I would say Con Dao is best for hiking and unique scenery, but Hon Son and Phu Quoc are more affordable.

      Con Dao is best between March-September, Hon Son and Phu Quoc are best between November-April.

      Best,

      Tom

  4. Soren says:
    April 24, 2023 at 6:14 AM

    Eden house and coffee should definitely be included in budget list. Possibly the best place I have ever stayed for the price and service provided.

    1. Tom says:
      April 24, 2023 at 7:06 AM

      Hi Soren,

      Yes, thanks. In fact, I was on the Con Dao Islands last week researching a complete update to this guide.

      For now, the map is almost 100% updated, but the information is not yet, so please bear that in mind.

      Best,

      Tom

  5. Rick Murphy says:
    April 7, 2023 at 10:52 AM

    How crowded does Con Dao typically get during the end of April/early May holiday season?

    1. Tom says:
      April 9, 2023 at 6:28 AM

      Hi Rick,

      It’s difficult to say, but I would expect the Con Dao to be pretty busy for that holiday weekend. I happen to have travelled to the islands today and there are currently quite a lot of domestic visitors here.

      Best,

      Tom

      1. Rick says:
        April 9, 2023 at 6:41 AM

        Thanks, Tom. Sure want to visit Côn Đảo but imagine it will be very busy this upcoming holiday.

  6. Erin says:
    January 23, 2023 at 1:07 AM

    Hi Tom!

    Great blog, thank you! Will be very helpful for our upcoming trip to Con Dao in March this year!

    A question on accommodation – we were looking to book the Orson Hotel & Resort – do you know of this one or have any thoughts on it? I know its quite a distance from the main areas, however we don’t mind this and were planning on having motorbikes to get around during the day and for meals out and about.. We just thought the grounds and surrounding area/beach looked great – keen for your thoughts though! Seemed to be good value for money also?

    Thanks!
    Erin

    1. Tom says:
      January 27, 2023 at 10:00 AM

      Hi Erin,

      Apologies for my slow reply – I was camping and didn’t have regular internet access.

      Yes, that’s a good question. I actually stayed at Orson for several nights just a month ago. The rooms are large and the the big windows and balconies have excellent views of the ocean and/or the mountains. It also has a good swimming pool and a private bay/beach. These are its strong points. The drawbacks are that the buffet breakfast isn’t very good considering the price (although it’s certainly all you need to fill you up, and the Vietnamese food for dinner is good), and there’s a tendency to play loud (bad) music in the public areas, such as the lobby, terrace, restaurant etc. Overall, it was fine for me – but you need to bear in mind that hotel prices on Con Dao are about 30% higher than on the mainland: you get much less at Orson than you would for a similarly priced hotel on the mainland. Make sure you book a room with a sea view because they have balconies – mountain view rooms (about $10-15 cheaper) don’t.

      If you have motorbikes (Orson rent those too) then the location isn’t a problem at all. Although one of the charms of the Con Dao Islands is strolling around the town, especially along the seafront.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  7. Francesco says:
    January 5, 2023 at 3:41 PM

    I just came back from Con Dao.

    Apart from one windy day, the weather has always been amazing.
    I have been staying at Con Dao Garden House, whose owners have been treating me as a son, inviting me to dinners and so. So lovely… I never ended up in touristic restaurant as they always brought me to the local ones. They also have motorbikes, which makes the entire process of moving around much easier.
    Snorkeling was great too, with many corals but few fishes. Just go at this location down the road and jump from the rocks: 8.680998, 106.561616. Make sure to go there at MEDIUM tide (with low tide it’s almost impossible swimming as all corals pop out, with high tide you need always to always go 3m to observe the corals).

    1. Tom says:
      January 8, 2023 at 12:28 PM

      Hi Francesco,

      Great to hear you enjoyed the islands and that you got good weather – it’s now pretty windy and stormy there, so you got lucky 🙂

      Best,

      Tom

    2. Min says:
      January 9, 2023 at 10:28 AM

      Hi Francesco,
      Thanks for sharing your experience in Con Dao.
      I am going to visit the island during TET holiday as well.
      BTW can you let me know which agency did you contact for snorkeling?
      I’ve checked with Con Dao Dive Center, but they will reopen from march…and some others are no respond…

      TIA and best regards.

  8. Ani says:
    July 25, 2022 at 9:48 AM

    Thank you for all your very informative posts. We are planning a 10 day family vacation to Southern Vietnam – it is all our first time to the country. We wanted more of a beach holiday and were thinking of doing Con Dao and Phu Quoc … over Christmas and New Years. But it seems from your post that its too windy and sea is rough and choppy at this time in Con Dao? I guess we should skip? Is Phu Quoc the same? Thank you

    1. Tom says:
      July 26, 2022 at 5:59 AM

      Hi Ani,

      If you are looking to lie out on the beach and swim in calm seas, then yes Con Dao during Christmas/New Year probably isn’t suitable. But Phu Quoc at that time of year is perfect.

      I’ve written lots about Phu Quoc, including beaches and sights, accommodation, and food & drink.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

      1. Ani says:
        July 28, 2022 at 4:09 PM

        Thanks for your reply Tom. I read about sandflies being quite a problem there. I know these pesky little things can make it impossible to even enjoy the beaches! 😓Just wanted to check if all the good beaches in PQ had the problem? Is it all through the year ? we are planning on going end December? It would have just be such a waste travelling so far to not be able to enjoy the beaches! Thank you

        1. Tom says:
          July 31, 2022 at 5:27 AM

          Hi Ani,

          In general, the beaches on Phu Quoc do not suffer from sandflies. December is usually a good month to visit Phu Quoc for weather conditions and sea conditions.

          Best,

          Tom

  9. Julia says:
    April 5, 2022 at 1:11 PM

    Hi Tom,

    Amazing post, very helpful and makes me even more excited to go to Con Dao. We are looking to stay for a little while and work remotely to be able to extend our stay on the island. Im a bit worried however on the wifi/4G possibilities, whats your experience with the internet connection. Would you recommend work remotely on Con Dao to people who would need to be 100% connected in order to work?

    Thank you!

    Regards,
    Julia

    1. Tom says:
      April 6, 2022 at 6:07 AM

      Hi Julia,

      It’s difficult to say. I’ve not had any problems with internet connection while on the islands before, but I suppose it could be an issue.

      I think perhaps the best thing to do would be to try it for a week and if the connection isn’t stable enough you could move to Phu Quoc Island instead.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  10. Shannon says:
    March 27, 2022 at 3:28 AM

    Your guide was incredibly helpful for our first visit last year – thank you! We wanted to go again in May, and learned that Villa Maison has permanently closed. I’m so sad to hear this – it was one of my favorite hotels in Vietnam. Thought you would like to know. I hope the family is ok.

    1. Tom says:
      March 29, 2022 at 3:27 AM

      Hi Shannon,

      Oh no, that is a shame. Thank you very much for the update. I hope to visit Con Dao again soon and rewrite this guide.

      Best,

      Tom

  11. Rick says:
    December 7, 2021 at 9:19 AM

    I live in Danang and am thinking of visiting Con Dao in mid-December. Would either fly in from HCMC or take hi-speed boat from Vũng Tàu. Are these options open during this ongoing Covid 19 situation?

    1. Tom says:
      December 9, 2021 at 3:50 AM

      Hi Rick,

      You can certainly fly between Danang and HCM right now, but I don’t know about the boat from Vung Tau to Con Dao. Try checking the Con Dao Express website or calling them. There are also flights between HCM and Con Dao (and there were also direct flights from Danang to Con Dao before Covid on Bamboo Airways – so it’s worth checking that too).

      A friend of mine tried to travel to Con Dao three weeks ago (Nov 2021), but the island was only open for package tourists staying at Six Senses. I’m assuming that’s changed now, but you’d need to check with your accommodation first.

      Best,

      Tom

  12. Sofirus says:
    March 23, 2021 at 1:30 AM

    Tom, thank you for great article! How do you think is any troubles to stay on the beaches with tent on 2-3 days? And what the cheapest way to get to Soc Trang from BMT city? In addition, is the island “open” for foreign tourists while country close on COVID time (we are already here)?

    1. Tom says:
      March 23, 2021 at 1:40 AM

      Hi Sofirus,

      Yes, Con Dao Islands is still open to foreign tourists.

      The cheapest way to get from BMT to Soc Trang would be by bus – you will probably have to change buses in Ho Chi Minh City. You can go to the bus station in BMT to find out more or try searching the route on Baolau.com

      I have camped on the islands a few times but that was years ago, and I don’t think you would be able to do it now unless there’s an official campsite there. Con Son Island is small and you will almost certainly draw attention to yourself if you camp. Instead, try one of the many cheap nhà nghỉ guest houses.

      Note that there are also now direct fast boats to Con Dao from Vung Tau and Can Tho.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

      1. Sofirus says:
        March 23, 2021 at 3:00 AM

        Thanks for the quick response! Regarding camping, do you mean that it is prohibited, and there could be problems with the police and fines, or that we just get a lot of attention from the locals?

        1. Tom says:
          March 24, 2021 at 1:59 AM

          Both, really. Most of Con Dao is technically a national park so wild camping isn’t generally accepted. However, some people still do it – foreign and Vietnamese. If you did decide to camp and anyone saw you, it would be best to ask for their permission to do so. If you want to camp and are worried about it, you can go to the national park HQ on the island and ask about it first.

          Tom

  13. Jess says:
    January 22, 2021 at 2:54 PM

    Hi Tom, thanks for the awesome article
    I’m trying to work out how to get to Con Dao during Tet this year.

    It looks like there’s a new fast ferry running from Vung Tau to Con Dao (https://phuquocexpressboat.com/en/tour/vungtau/) but unfortunately it doesn’t take motorbikes.
    I can’t find any information about the old VT-CD ferry, but I guess it will have stopped running?

    If so, the only way to take a bike to Con Dao would be via Soc Trang, does that sound right?

    Thanks!

    1. Tom says:
      January 23, 2021 at 12:19 AM

      Hi Jess,

      Thank you.

      Yes, unfortunately that’s right: the new Vung Tau-Con Dao fast boat doesn’t take motorbikes. But that’s a good question about the old ferry: I don’t know if that’s still running now.

      Yes, you can put your motorbike on the Soc Trang-Con Dao ferry, and there’s also a fast ferry from Can Tho to Con Dao now, however, I’m not sure if motorbikes are allowed on that (it’s also operated by Phu Quoc Express).

      Bear in mind that, around Tet, strong winds can often prevent the fast boats from sailing.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  14. Frank says:
    November 12, 2020 at 7:42 AM

    What great article! Thanks for sharing. Heading to Con Dao in 2 weeks!

    1. Tom says:
      November 12, 2020 at 7:57 AM

      Thanks, Frank.

      That’s great. I hope you enjoy it – might be a bit windy at this time of year.

      Tom

  15. Jonathan says:
    February 15, 2020 at 9:45 PM

    Hello Tom,

    Really wonderful information and description of the island. We very appreciate the long form and the not-for-sale, aspect as well, so many travel sites seem to be simply long winded advertisements.

    I am interested in seeing the island by motorbike on my upcoming trip to the island. However, I am worried that the issuing location of my driver’s license (U.S.A.) will preclude me from riding legally according to the 1949 or 1968 convention – I lose track of from which has which. I have read that my partner’s driver’s license (issued in Poland) falls on the right side of one of these conventions. However, she’s a little hesitant and unconfortable about taking the reins, as she’s never driven one before.
    Our homestay offers an affordable motorbike amenity. Without committing you to condone any illegal or illicit behavior, do you have any insight on the perils and pitfalls of riding a motorbike with a driver’s license which isn’t recognized as valid in Vietnam?

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but how would a cost/benefit analysis shake out, in your experience, between being safe motorbike drivers and any possible difficult encounters with the authorities? Would the risk be worth it?

    Apologies for putting you in any murky ethical territory here. Suppose that sort of thing is hand in glove when it comes to travel though.

    Thanks a lot for your thoughts!

    Regards,
    Jonathan

    1. Tom says:
      February 16, 2020 at 1:50 AM

      Hi Jonathan,

      Thanks for your message.

      If you are only intending to ride a motorbike on Con Dao Island then licenses (whichever one you have) shouldn’t be an issue. It’s a very small island and there’s only really one road (a very beautiful road). If you intend to ride a motorbike on the mainland over further distances then you might want to look into licenses more.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  16. Toby Hall says:
    December 21, 2019 at 2:26 PM

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for a very comprehensive guide to Con Dao Islands!

    I’m a Swedish retired expat, currently living i Thailand, Koh Chang. I’m looking for another place to stay for a few years ahead and Con Dao attracted my mind. I have booked a visit to the island in late January just to have a first look around. I’m looking for a quiet place and a really simple way of living. Year around weather would not be a problem. May I kindly ask some questions….

    1. Are there any opportunities to rent a descent house for longstay (1-2 years) on the island ?
    2. Are there anywhere you can extend/renew you visa on the island or do you need to go to HCMC every time ?
    3. Can you give me some pros and cons for living as expat on Con Dao ??
    4. Are there already some expats I can get together with and have some further talks ??

    Thanks in advance
    Toby

    1. Tom says:
      December 22, 2019 at 4:12 PM

      Hi Toby,

      I think there are opportunities to rent places long-term on the Con Dao Islands, but I don’t have any specific information about it.

      I don’t think you can extend your visa without leaving the island.

      There is a small expat group on the island, mostly people who work for the smarter resorts, such as Six Senses and Poulo Condor. There are a few others, too.

      Con Dao is one of the quietest and most attractive places in Vietnam. And for this reason it would be a great place to live for a bit. It is quite small and isolated, but it is also experiencing a tourism boom and there are bound to be some major changes soon. Transport connections are getting better all the time: there are now at least half a dozen flights each day to Saigon, and fast boat connections to Vung Tau, Soc Trang, Can Tho, and apparently Saigon in the near future.

      If you spend a week on the island when you visit in January, you should get a good feel for what it’s like and you should be able to meet people easily. But try not to visit during the Tet Lunar New Year holidays, because it will be too busy.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

      1. Toby Hall says:
        December 23, 2019 at 2:15 PM

        Thank you, Tom, for your prompt reply with valuable information !

        I will be arriving on January 19 and leaving on January 27, will this be the Tet Lunar Holiday ??

        BR Toby

        1. Tom says:
          December 25, 2019 at 2:18 AM

          Yes, that is right in the middle of Tet. The holidays this year start on 23 January. The tourists will probably arrive from the 25th.

          Tom

  17. Anja Strønen says:
    October 25, 2019 at 10:10 AM

    Hi Tom
    We are a family with two children aged 11 and 14 who are used to traveling and we are used to planning the trips ourselves. Come across your blog as we looked for something other than the usual guide books. We use your guide to the southern dry season to plan our three-week stay . And make sure we order through your pages, because the job you do is fantastic!
    We fly in and out of Saigon. We want to spend the first two weeks experiencing new adventures, learn history/culture and travel. But last week we are looking for the perfect spot for sun, swimming, snorkeling and adventures. We have fallen completely in love with your description of The Con Dao Islands.
    It seems like the place has everything we want, but we’re unsure of the weather. What do you think about spending a week there from January 2-8?
    Do you have suggestions for an alternate place that can be similar ?
    (We are not tempted to travel to Phu Qouc)

    1. Tom says:
      October 27, 2019 at 5:55 AM

      Hi Anja,

      I have visited Con Dao in January several times and it’s been fine. However, it’s not the best time of year. You’d need to expect some windy conditions, ruffled seas, especially in the afternoons. As a destination, Con Dao is still fine in January, but as a place to lay on the beach for a week, it might not be.

      Other alternatives are the southern islands in the Gulf of Thailand, such as Hon Son, Nam Du, the Pirate Islands. Also, Phu Quoc is still fine as long as you choose your beach and accommodation carefully. I’ve just returned and am in the process of updating my beaches guide here, and I will be publishing a new guide of the east and north coasts of Phu Quoc, which are by far the nicest and least visited parts of the island – so look out for that or if you want you can subscribe here to get a notification of new publications.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  18. Ana says:
    June 14, 2019 at 7:42 AM

    Hi Tom,
    Your article about Con Dao is very helpful. You’ve mentioned your favorite time of the year to visit the island.
    I’m planning a family trip this coming August for 3 days. Most probably Aug 10-12. You think weather wise it should be fine?

    Thank you!
    Ana

    1. Tom says:
      June 14, 2019 at 8:05 AM

      Hi Ana,

      Yes, I would think that in general the weather should be OK at that time of year. I’ve visited in August twice before and it was good: calm seas, clear skies in the mornings, then often clouding over with heavy tropical downpours by the afternoon.

      Tom

  19. Tim says:
    April 22, 2019 at 8:17 AM

    Wow Tom this guide goes back to 2012 I see now, though its an up to date version ofcourse. So you explored this island long time ago.
    I have read your articles to prepare myself and warm up for my latest
    trip to Con Dao, as I often have done with the aid of your site, and it was funny and amazing how much I already knew in advance, thanks to it. Your write ups are such a pleasure to read and make one enthusiastic in advance.
    To get there we took the night bus to Soc Trang (my friend booked it but hadnt listened to me that Phuong has buses , at 11 pm, going straight to the port) arrived very early morning, they brought us to the office of the shuttle where we had to make another fair drive down to the Tran De port. Nothing there yet unfortunately as its just brand new and still under construction. Had to wait some hours for the 10,30 boat and all there was were some snack sold from a counter and com tam and a bad coffee on the dirt road, haha.
    The way back we went to VT to make it a more diverse adventure. I was nice to take another route back and to also catch some beautiful views from the outer deck of firstly Con Dao and at arrival of VT by sunset. Unfortunately the two times I tried to get on the deck of the Superdong (Soc Trang boat) they send me back in, so barely caught any good view of that voyage.

    The Island is as you wrote simply stunning, I cant say it often enough! The sea and coastal roads are pretty much unbeatable and worldclass. All of the beaches and bays were different and great with dazzling views, so peaceful, one should take and enjoy time to take it all in. Nhat beach is indeed one of the most scenic ones. Although, as you said, its sad about the trash scattered around there. And people wont bother about finding a trash can to dispose of it, taking it with them or even cleaning up, like I started doing on all my recent trips since over a year. I have made post on my social media too, to encourage cleaning up, 1 bag (easy to find a littered bag) or more to fill it up and dispose it properly. If everyone would do that we would go a good direction and you give the right example for locals too (I got many good reactions on doing it)

    Back to Con Son, nice one about the banh xeo! Me and my Vietnamese friend found them the best (better than the famous Banh Xeo 46A!) Further down the way and after a right on Ng Hue, by the way, there’s also an excellent Bun rieu with crab and cha ca, called Bún riêu, cua bà Hai Khiêm serving in the morning till sold out. My favorite cafe was Con Son cafe at the promenade, coffee with such views is such a pleasure! And I even bumped into the famous VN actor Huu Chau there (you might know him) who was on holiday there for four days as well, nice guy.

    Anyway keep up the good work! Saw your new article about Phu Quy island already (also still have to go to Nam Du). Hope to bump into u some day and treat u on a nice meal here in Saigon , and a few beers to wash it away with and cheer with! That would be my contribution to your site then! Haha.
    Have a great one. Tim

    1. Tom says:
      April 24, 2019 at 11:26 AM

      Hi Tim,

      Great to hear you enjoyed the Con Dao. The islands are probably on the cusp of a massive domestic tourist boom, because there are lots of new fast boat ferry links opening, including a direct service from Saigon, and Can Tho, and Vung Tau (which started a couple of months ago).

      Thanks for the tip about the bún riêu – I’ll try it next to I go to the islands.

      Amazing that you bumped into Huu Chau. And, yes, I love Con Son Cafe, too.

      I hope you enjoy Nam Du Islands. There are lots of other islands to explore too – take a look at my Islands Archive here, which I’ll be adding to again next month.

      Tom

  20. Ned says:
    February 16, 2019 at 12:28 PM

    Hi Tom
    Just a quick update for your readers
    A brand new ferry started operating from Vung Tau to Con Dao as of 14 February 2019
    It holds just over 600 passengers and is a double story catareman taking just over 3 hours for the trip.
    It operates every day
    Departs Vung Tau 730am arrives Con Dao 11am
    Departs Con Dao 1pm arrives Vung Tau 4:15pm
    There is a promotion 20% discount in February 2019
    Passengers over 60 have a further discount.
    Ticket prices in February with discount are 528,000 VND each way and 440,000 for the over 60’s each way
    There are VIP tickets for 1.2 million VND (what that is I don’t know)
    A lot of the hotels you mentioned were booked out…at short notice…and I hope the influx volume this ferry capacity does not spoil your beloved Con Dao.
    We have a small group booked next week, so can let you know how the boat ride is, could be still a little windy based on the time of year as you say, and it has been a little windy in Vung Tau the last few days.

    Just a side note:
    Really like your detailed motorbike ride guides.
    A mate and I road scooters from Vung Tau to Hanoi a few weeks ago taking many back roads and your guides were fantastic. Particularly liked the Phong Nha caves area, and the ride to Ha Tinh along the HCM trail
    We put the bikes on the train Hanoi to Saigon for 1 million vnd (and fly back) there was no charge at the other end by handlers, but it took quite a few days for the bikes to arrive just prior Tet.

    1. Tom says:
      February 16, 2019 at 12:38 PM

      Hi Ned,

      Thank you for the updates.

      Yes, I had read about the new fast ferry – it’s very exciting and I look forward to trying it. There’s also a fast ferry due to start operating between Saigon and Con Dao (5 hours, beginning in March). As you say, I hope this won’t inundate the islands.

      Please do let me know how your voyage goes.

      I hope you enjoy the islands,

      Tom

      1. Andre says:
        February 28, 2019 at 1:11 PM

        Hi Tom,
        Thanks for providing such great information !
        Do you know who is the operator of the new Vung Tau ferry and the future one from Saigon and if it is possible to buy tickets online ?

        1. Tom says:
          February 28, 2019 at 2:23 PM

          Hi Andre,

          Yes, I actually saw the new Vung Tau-Con Dao ferry this morning from my balcony 🙂

          It’s operated by Phu Quoc Express and you should be able to book tickets online – google them and check their website.

          The Saigon-Con Dao ferry is due to start in March, but one of their boats on a different route has had technical problems, so I suppose there could be a delay in the launch of the new route.

          I hope to review both of these new ferry routes within the coming months.

          Tom

          1. Andre says:
            March 2, 2019 at 9:27 PM

            Great thanks , will be there in April !

  21. Vina Grossmann (Hotich) says:
    February 10, 2019 at 1:40 AM

    Hi Tom,
    really a great article with lots of useful info. txxx 1000. We had thought to visit the island in September. But from your description it sounds like it would likely be very windy and the waters choppy. Could you recommend September at all as a time of year to go there??Cheers Vina

    1. Tom says:
      February 10, 2019 at 4:16 PM

      Hi Vina,

      September might be OK. It’s probably just before the really windy season. So the weather might be fine. However, there is the possibility of a typhoon coming in from the east – but you can’t plan for that.

      I’ve been twice in late August and the weather was great.

      Tom

  22. Hermance says:
    January 24, 2019 at 8:59 AM

    Hello Tom
    Thanks for all the informations that you share we us ! We are now on Con Dao Island for 1 week. And we would like to know if you know if it’s possible to use a swimming pool of an hotel (with paying of course) by example Poulo Condor ? Because now it’s not really easy to swim in the sea…
    Thanks for your help
    Hermance

    1. Tom says:
      January 24, 2019 at 9:05 AM

      Hi Hermance,

      When I asked that question at Poulo Condor they said it was possible as long as the resort was not busy. However, the price was quite high. I didn’t ask at Con Dao Resort or Saigon Con Dao Resort, but I would guess it’s possible to pay to use their pools and that it’s a lot cheaper than Poulo Condor. I’m quite sure you can’t pay to use the pool at Six Senses.

      It’s worth remembering that the sea is often calmest in the mornings – on both sides of the island.

      I hope you get a chance to swim 🙂

      Tom

      1. Hermance says:
        January 25, 2019 at 8:55 AM

        Hello Tom
        Thanks for the reply we will ask to thel hôtels. Today the weather is better and we can swim at Damien Trau it’s cool ! We sleep in a New hotel : Hotel De Condor it’s really nice, the family is so cute and for 32€/day for 2 persons with the Breakfast I think that it’s really a good option !

        1. Hermance says:
          January 25, 2019 at 11:18 AM

          Sorry Dam Trau beach of course ! Also if some of yours readers are vegetarians there is a really good option in town : Chay Con Dao Healthy : good, prices are really ok (around 40 000 VND for the vege pho and others meals) and the woman is really Lively.

          1. Tom says:
            January 25, 2019 at 11:57 AM

            Hi Hermance,

            Glad you managed to swim.

            Thanks for the suggestions – another traveller also just recommended Hotel De Condor to me. And the vegetarian restaurant sounds great – I’ll definitely try it next time I’m on the island.

            Tom

  23. A says:
    January 12, 2019 at 5:09 PM

    Thanks so much for this helpful guide! The afternoon ferry does not seem to be available to book on the website. Do you have to book this by turning up on the day?

    1. Tom says:
      January 13, 2019 at 2:33 PM

      Hi,

      Yes, I think the regular afternoon ferry is only fairly recent – it used to only run when there was high demand. So I would guess that if it’s not available to book online, you need to try in person or over the phone.

      Good luck,

      Tom

      1. A says:
        January 28, 2019 at 12:50 PM

        We are planning to be in Con Dao early March. We’ll try booking the afternoon ferry over the phone and will report back here to let you know how it goes! Thanks again for this fantastic guide.

    2. Ned says:
      February 16, 2019 at 12:35 PM

      There is a brand new big red catarman double storey takes over 600 passengers started from Vung Tau from February 2019. Takes just 3 hours 15 minutes
      VT to CD 730am to 1045am
      CD to VT 1pm to 4:15pm
      Every day
      February 2019 20% discounted price is 528,000 dong each way and a 88,000 discount for over 60 years old each way.
      Booking office is at the terminal near Ganh Hao 2 restaurant.
      We have a small group going next week!

      1. Tom says:
        February 16, 2019 at 12:39 PM

        Thanks, Ned.

  24. kiki vuong says:
    December 18, 2018 at 11:59 AM

    Tom,

    I just arrived in Con Dao, I was surprised to see several Mai Linh taxi waiting at the harbour.

    I tried the Mai Linh app on my phone and it worked, the app can be used to book a taxi.

    I also tried Grab and Con Dao is not covered bu thir service.

    1. Tom says:
      December 18, 2018 at 12:06 PM

      Oh really. I can’t remember Mai Linh being there before; just local taxi firms. A sign of the island’s growing popularity, I guess.

      Tom

  25. Vwe says:
    September 20, 2018 at 11:22 AM

    Hello.

    As someone who has covered so much in the way of travel and logistics I am surprised that when I searched “insurance” only this post was listed in the results and it didn’t have anything to do with actual personal insurance.

    As a foreigner in based in Vietnam what company or companies do you use for insurance be it general health insurance and/or temporary/permanent travel insurance in or or outside of Vietnam?

    Thank you.

    1. Tom says:
      September 20, 2018 at 12:24 PM

      Hi,

      Yes, it’s strange that this post came up for travel insurance; I don’t know why that would be.

      There are lots of worldwide travel insurance companies out there: many of my friends use World Nomads – you can try checking them out.

      Tom

  26. Christina says:
    August 28, 2018 at 2:56 PM

    Hello Tom,

    Many thanks for writing such a detailed guide for Con Son, for which information are hard to find.
    I would like to ask you if there is a possibility to see somewhere in Con Son bioluminesce plankton, like in Koh Rong.
    Thank you in advance.

    1. Tom says:
      August 28, 2018 at 3:55 PM

      Hi Christina,

      Not that I know of, but it’s worth contacting the the dive centres on Con Son to ask them if they have any information about it.

      Tom

  27. Darren says:
    August 22, 2018 at 4:35 AM

    Thanks Tom for offering this detailed and helpful guide to Con Dao. We followed your recommendations over our 3.5 day trip. I highly recommend the prisons, followed by coffee at Con Son Cafe, overlooking the pier. And visiting the cemetery at night if you can swing it. One additional data point: we stayed at Thien Thanh Star hotel and had a booking mishap (please confirm with them even if you booked online through an aggregator) so got stuck in a fairly dirty, mosquito filled room. The receptionists could not speak English. We also heard that VinGroup recently snapped up Dam Trau beach and the surrounding area, so go visit while you can! I can see why you love the island – I think it’s not just a great place to unwind but also a must-visit historical site for those of us who live in Vietnam.

    1. Tom says:
      August 22, 2018 at 5:12 AM

      Hi Darren,

      Good to hear you enjoyed Con Dao. Sorry about the mishap at the hotel. Thanks for the updates – that’s really depressing to hear about VinGroup. Oh, well, I guess it was inevitable.

      Tom

  28. Jules says:
    March 24, 2018 at 7:24 PM

    Hi Tom
    Thank you very much for this guide, it definitely seems to be the best I have found yet. I will be travelling solo to Con Dao from Can Tho this coming Wednesday. I was wondering if there is any chance of getting dorm accommodation there (I will be there until the Easter weekend so maybe will get busy with locals?). Also I understand that Dive Dive Dive is now closed. I got in touch with Larry who did not feel comfortable recommending an alternative point of contact and/or dive centre. Do you have any tips?I have only dived very few times so looking to do a “try dive” and some snorkelling (the latter probably even by myself).
    Many thanks and all the best

    1. Tom says:
      March 26, 2018 at 1:18 AM

      Hi Jules,

      You can try Uyen’s House for dorm beds – they’re about 200,000vnd each – book in advance because it’s popular. Or Hai Nga and Sala are also very cheap places to stay. In general, there are now lots of good mini-hotels in Con Son town, but the prices are still higher than the mainland: about $20 a night. Q Song Chi, Red Hotel, and Hong Ngoc are all good for that price. I’m currently updating this guide, and will be focusing on the Accommodation section over the next few days.

      For diving, (yes, it is a shame about Larry leaving) you can try Con Dao Dive Centre at Bar 200. I think it’s Gordon who runs it: I didn’t go on a trip with him, but I met other travellers who did and they were happy with the experience.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

      1. Jules says:
        March 26, 2018 at 12:02 PM

        Hi Tom
        Many thanks, this is helpful. I have just checked and nearly all of the budget accommodation (up to $30 p/n) seems to be fully booked (same with the flights back to HCMC)! I think I am just going to have to take what I get unless it would be OK to have a browse at guesthousea once I get there?
        I will book the ferry from Soc Trang from your link shortly and will be in touch with the diving centre at Bar200 once I get there (if I do!). Thank you so much for your help, especially since I was obviously wrong thinking I could just be spontaneuos and last minute about this.
        All the best
        Jules

        1. Tom says:
          March 26, 2018 at 5:52 PM

          Hi Jules,

          Yes, you may have trouble getting flights over the weekend – they are often fully booked from Friday through Monday.

          It’s worth checking the Windy website was the projected winds for your stay on Con Dao – because if winds are high diving won’t be possible and ferries won’t sail.

          If you take a look at this link you’ll see that Q Song Chi, Thuy Thanh, Con Dao Camping and Sala are all available on Wednesday night (they are all decent places to stay for between $20-40 a night)

          I was recently on the islands for 2 weeks and although occupancy was quite high I was able to find places to stay every night.

          I hope it works out for you,

          Tom

          1. Jules says:
            March 27, 2018 at 9:06 AM

            Hi Tom
            Great stuff, I managed to book a couple of nights at Q Songchi from your link. Also booked the ferry from Tran De and checked that Windy website, very useful.
            Thanks again for all your help.
            Best wishes
            Jules

  29. Alwynne says:
    March 9, 2018 at 12:06 AM

    Hello,

    First off – great website! I’m so happy to have finally found more information on this part of Vietnam as so few people write such detailed pieces. I am looking into the trip from Tran De port to Con Dao islands on the SuperDong boat. I would be travelling at the start of May. I was trying to get more information as to whether I can book the boat in advance? I don’t want to arrive and find out the boat is sold out or we can’t get tickets as we will be on a tight timeline. Any advice is greatly appreciated!

    Cheers,

    Alwynne

    1. Tom says:
      March 9, 2018 at 2:33 PM

      Hi Alwynne,

      I’ve just published a full guide to taking the ferry from Tran De to Con Dao here.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  30. Hana says:
    February 21, 2018 at 1:40 PM

    Hi Tom!
    Thank you for this article, it’s very informative.
    I will be traveling to Vietnam with my husband to-be for our honeymoon at the end of June.
    Despite knowing that it is not the ideal time to visit the islands in the south, we both feel like visiting a picturesque island at the beginning of our trip to relax and de-stress after the wedding.
    Is it a good idea to visit Con Dao at the end of June? We were told to not go to Phu Quoc then and were advised to visit Con Dao instead. However, we are still worried that the heavy rain would ruin it for us.
    Does it rain all day long? Or is it just a spurt of heavy rain in the late afternoon as it is in other areas? Any Advice?

    Thank you very much in advance.
    Hana

    1. Tom says:
      February 22, 2018 at 1:27 AM

      Hi Hana,

      Congratulations on the wedding 🙂

      No, it doesn’t rain all the time – unless you get unlucky and your visit happens to coincide with one of the dozen or so annual typhoons. In general, the mornings start nice, sunny and clear, and the clouds bubble up over the course of the afternoon, eventually bursting in a heavy tropical downpour which lasts an hour or two but then clears up. However, you can’t guarantee what the weather conditions will be, especially on Con Dao, which is stuck in the middle of the ocean and therefore exposed to all sorts of winds and weather patterns. I would imagine Phu Quoc is just about OK in early June – I’ve been in May before and it was absolutely fine.

      Other relaxing beach areas to consider at that time of year are Quy Nhon, Hoi An, and Nha Trang – you’ll find plenty of places there to while away a few days on the beach, especially if you’re willing to pay a bit more for your honeymoon accommodation.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  31. Traveling-vn says:
    February 19, 2018 at 3:14 PM

    Hey Tom, I’m looking for accommodation for a month starting late April. Any recommendations in where to start?

    1. Traveling-vn says:
      February 19, 2018 at 3:16 PM

      Forgot to mention that I’m looking for accommodation in con son….

    2. Tom says:
      February 20, 2018 at 6:07 AM

      Hi,

      If you’re going to stay for a month I’d suggest taking a look at any Airbnb options that there are in Con Son. Have a quick look on their website to find out what’s available – I’m sure you’ll find something there.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  32. Eric Clarke says:
    January 6, 2018 at 8:12 AM

    Hi Tom,
    Am headed to con dao in the next couple of days aND wondering about the reliability of the atms on the island
    Thanks
    Eric

    1. Tom says:
      January 6, 2018 at 12:25 PM

      Hi Eric,

      The ATMs should be fine on the island, but it’s best to bring cash as well, just in case.

      Tom

  33. Arianna Binda says:
    December 11, 2017 at 3:27 PM

    Hi Tom,
    this is Arianna from Italy. First of all I want to thank you for your amazing WebSite, it’s far more usefull than any other guide, and I can clearly see you really love Vietnam.
    This will be my fisrt time there and I’m gonna stay in the South for a couple of weeks during Christmas time. I’m a bit worried about sand flies in Con Dao but you didn’t say anything about it in your articles. Then, I also saw that Dive! Dive! Dive! will be closed this yeas, and they had their own repellent…. any advice about it? have you evere had problems?
    Thanks in advance for everything, I’ll book as many rooms as I can from your links during my trip just to give you a little help to go on with your extraordinary VietnamCoracle. Bye!

    1. Tom says:
      December 12, 2017 at 3:35 AM

      Hi Arianna,

      Yes, unfortunately sandflies can be a problem on the Con Dao islands (I thought I’d mentioned it in the guide, but perhaps I forgot). Strong insect repellent seems to work OK, and suncream too. I think on some beaches they’ve also started to spray the areas. The flies seem to be more ‘active’ during the mornings and late afternoons. I’m not sure if there is any real solution to sandflies, but they are isolated to the sandy beaches, particularly the main beach near Con Son town.

      Thank you for trying to book your accommodation through my site – it’s a great help to me and the website.

      Tom

  34. Emma Kidson says:
    July 25, 2017 at 2:26 PM

    I was just on Con Dao back in May and this article was a fabulous resource in making my plans. Thanks Tom 🙂
    I’d love to add to your info my experience with a new hotel and restaurant on the Island, Villa Maison. We didn’t stay there (sadly), but went for a meal based on the recommendation of some of the divers. It was so lovely we went back 3 times during our week in Con Dao! Beautifully cooked and presented meals, on the higher end of the scale as far as offerings on the Island go, but in my opinion, very reasonable prices for the quality presented. The owner was a real gem too. It is a fantastic addition to the Island, offering fine dining right in the middle of town.

    1. Tom says:
      July 25, 2017 at 2:34 PM

      Hi Emma,

      Great to hear that you enjoyed the islands.

      Thank you for the recommendation – it does sound excellent. I’m planning a trip back to the Con Dao within the next couple of weeks (time permitting), so I will certainly check it out when I’m there.

      Thanks,

      Tom

  35. Blandine says:
    May 28, 2017 at 11:13 AM

    Hi Tom,

    Thank you very much for this very helpful guide and useful tips! I juste have a few questions: I am working in HCMC and would like to go to Con Dao. But every time we want to go, it is impossible to get plane tickets from the airlines website, they tell us it is all booked (both Vietnam Airlines and VASCO). For example, we want to go there mid-June, and it is impossible to get tickets (and it is not the first time). Did you face the same issue? Do you know how much in advance we should book? Can we get the tickets directly from the airlines or do we have to book through a tour operator (and if yes, which one?) Sorry, it is a lot of questions… But I am looking forward to hearing back from you 🙂 Thank you very much in advance for your assistance!

    1. Tom says:
      May 29, 2017 at 2:16 AM

      Hi Blandine,

      Yes, I’m afraid that is a common experience when trying to book flights to Con Dao. Fortunately, the flights are rarely fully booked in reality, and Larry from Dive, Dive, Dive on Con Dao has provided advice for travellers who are finding it difficult to get flights. Here is what he suggests you do:

      Plane tickets are subject to scam between Vietnam Airlines staff and local travel agents, the internet will often tell you flights are booked solid for months in advance. This is rarely the case and the planes are only full near national holidays. If you are in Vietnam, contact a local travel agent. If that does not work, I now refer you directly to a local travel agent, Ms.Van. She will need a copy of the picture page of your passport to insure your names are spelled correctly. She will need a list of flights, by date, number and time that are acceptable to you. Both arrival and departure. Her ability to answer specific questions about airline policy is limited, as she is not an official agent, but has access directly to booking central office at VN airlines. If you have questions beyond basics you will need to refer back to the Vn airlines website for things she cannot help with.

      Contact her at: aivancondao@gmail.com

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  36. Tam Ngo says:
    February 15, 2017 at 1:00 AM

    Wow, this is an amazing detailed guide to Con Dao. I was there last February (staying with a friend is a local teacher) and this place instantly became my favorite destination in Vietnam. I don’t know how long you stayed on the island to write this guide but I’m really impressed. Great job!

    1. Tom says:
      February 15, 2017 at 2:08 AM

      Hi Tam,

      Thanks, it’s good to hear that you enjoyed your stay on the islands.

      I go back to Con Dao every year to update this guide – I love it there too 🙂

      Tom

  37. Luk says:
    January 29, 2017 at 4:33 AM

    Dear Tom, we found your website when traveling by motorbike and felt very thankful about your wonderful iterinaries (although inline GMaps sometimes crashed our mobile browsers).
    Now again, as we’re staying in Con Son, we get inspired by your articles. Thank sou so much!!
    For your information: seems old Con Dao Museum is closed for restoration these day.
    Best, Luk

    1. Tom says:
      January 29, 2017 at 10:06 AM

      Hi luk,

      Thanks. It’s great to hear that you found my guides useful and that you are enjoying Con Dao now too. Thanks for the update about the museum – I hope to visit again soon too.

      Tom

  38. Greg says:
    August 10, 2016 at 9:51 PM

    Thanks so much for this post, probably the most useful resource for the islands I have found. We had a great few days on Con Son last month and possibly would have never heard of the islands if it wasn’t for you, certainly no other traveller we mentioned them to had any idea about them, and while we were there, there was only a handful of non Vietnamese tourists aside from us. After visiting Phu Quoc for the second time a few years back and being disappointed with how it had developed since my first visit, the Con Dao islands were a breath of fresh air.

    1. Tom says:
      August 11, 2016 at 2:20 AM

      Hi Greg,

      It’s great to hear that you enjoyed Con Dao. As you say, it’s very different to Phu Quoc. For me, Con Dao is one of those places that hurts when you leave! 🙂

      I hope you get the chance to back again.

      Tom

  39. Liz Hennessy says:
    May 20, 2016 at 1:06 PM

    tHanks
    Liz and family

  40. Liz Hennessy says:
    May 20, 2016 at 1:05 PM

    Hi , really enjoyed reading your article, information very helpful and clear. I am thinking of visiting the Island in December/ Christmas this year and am travelling with three children under 7!!.
    Do you think you can still swim even though the seas can be more choppy at this time of year and when you say it can be windy, are you unable to sunbath in December???

    1. Tom says:
      May 21, 2016 at 7:33 AM

      Hi Liz,

      Yes, the weather can be windy and the sea choppy or, at times, rough. But you’ll still have sunshine and warmth too. Sunbathing and swimming is still possible. I’ve visited the islands in December/January many times and always enjoyed it. But, of course, there is always the chance that you’ll get unlucky and arrive during a bad spell that could last a few days. Unfortunately, that’s just a chance you’ll have to take if visiting Con Dao at that time of year. If you want guaranteed good weather and calm waters then Phu Quoc is your best bet during the Christmas holidays. But it’s a different place compared to Con Dao.

      I don’t have children, but I would imagine they’d love either of the islands.

      It might be worth contacting Larry from Dive,Dive,Dive (see above) for some more details about weather etc.

      May I ask that, if you ever use Agoda to book your hotels (in Vietnam or anywhere in the world) you can support my website by starting your hotel search from this link – if you end up making a booking then I receive a small commission, but it goes a long way to keep this blog going 🙂

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  41. Rumi says:
    April 19, 2016 at 11:56 AM

    Hello Tom,

    I am from Bulgaria and I intend to visit Vietnam in May this year with a girl friend of mine. I would like to thank you for all the information you share, it is definitely very helpful . We will arrive from Cambodia and we have not yet made out choice between Con Dao or Phu Quock. You are describing Con Dao as a beautiful ,wild island and there are not so many left any more in the world, so it attracted our attention very much. We are not able though to find out how we can book a flight from Ho Chi Minh to the island. And do you recommend to book a room in advance ?
    Kind regards
    Rumi

    1. Tom says:
      April 19, 2016 at 1:15 PM

      Hi Rumi,

      Yes, Con Dao is still a wild and beautiful island. If you are having difficulty choosing between Con Dao and Phu Quoc have a look a my guide comparing the two islands here.

      You can book flights to Con Dao or Phu Quoc directly through the Vietnam Airlines website: there is a link to Vietnam Airlines in my Con Dao Islands guide here or in my guide comparing Con Dao and Phu Quoc here.

      Yes, it’s a good idea to book your accommodation in advance on either Con Dao or Phu Quoc: you can find my recommendations of hotels on Con Dao here, and some places to stay on Phu Quoc are mentioned in my guide to Phu Quoc’s beaches here.

      I’ve also written a guide about how to visit the Con Dao Islands on a budget here.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  42. Rex Eaton says:
    March 19, 2016 at 7:29 PM

    Lovely shots – and inclusion of some history. Well done!

    1. Tom says:
      March 20, 2016 at 12:43 AM

      Thank’s Rex, glad you enjoyed it.

      Tom

  43. Claire says:
    January 31, 2016 at 3:18 AM

    Thanks so much for this blog, it’s so helpful 🙂 I have a queston though, I’m trying to find the days and time of departure of the boat to Con Dao, but the website that you give is not updated and the email addresss doesn’t work… Do you have any idea where I can find these?

    Thank you 🙂

    Claire

    1. Tom says:
      January 31, 2016 at 6:03 AM

      Hi Claire,

      Yes, the website and schedule is famously unreliable. Try contacting Larry from Dive, Dive, Dive! and asking for more information about the boat (although he’s not a fan of taking the boat, I’m sure he’ll help you out getting the right info :-)).

      Tom

  44. Jefferson says:
    January 6, 2016 at 1:22 AM

    Thanks so much, Tom! Hey do you think I could find any souvenir post cards for sale on the island? I can’t find any thus far.

    1. Tom says:
      January 6, 2016 at 1:59 AM

      Hi Jefferson,

      Good question! I don’t think I’ve ever seen any postcards on Con Dao Islands. But if anyone knows it’ll be Larry at the Dive, Dive, Dive shop on Nguyen Hue Street.

      Tom

  45. Jefferson says:
    January 3, 2016 at 9:40 AM

    Wow, incredibly helpful. Thanks for all of the tips. Is it easy to find a mini mart to get water and beers in Con Son? Also it is easy to find chairs and parasols in Con Dao similarly to the ease in Phu Quoc?

    1. Tom says:
      January 3, 2016 at 12:21 PM

      Hi Jefferson,

      Yes, there are local shops around the market area.

      There are chairs and parasols at a few of the resorts like Con Dao Resort, Con Dao Cabanas and Seatravel.

      Tom

  46. Grace says:
    October 20, 2015 at 3:05 PM

    Wow, mate. All the work you’ve done (traveling, writing, photos) are amazing. We are in Con Dao now and when we read your blog, we felt like we are living through what you’ve written. All the detailed information and personal accounts are very useful. Thank you for sharing your experiences. Keep up the good work. You are doing a massive favour to independent travelers. More power to you mate!

    1. Tom says:
      October 21, 2015 at 3:40 AM

      Thanks, Grace.

      Glad to hear you’ve enjoyed reading. I hope you like Con Dao as much as I do 🙂 Have a great time.

      Tom

  47. Christy says:
    October 9, 2015 at 10:18 AM

    I’m so glad I stumbled upon your website and I just have to drop you a word.
    I really love your article, it’s really good writing and there’s just so much information!
    I’m currently exploring Vietnam (off and on too, due to work etc), though mostly in HCMC.
    I think you’re going to be a very resourceful guide for my trips.
    Awesome job, I just must say that again!
    and HELLO! 🙂

    1. Tom says:
      October 11, 2015 at 8:24 AM

      Hi Christy,
      Thanks! I hope that your exploration (and work) in Vietnam is fun, fruitful and fulfilling 🙂
      Tom

  48. M. Blom says:
    August 6, 2015 at 11:22 AM

    Hi Tom, thanks for this great post! I’ll be visiting Con Dao in January/February next year and I’m sure this guide will come in handy. Con Dao has been on my bucket list for quite some time now.

    1. Tom says:
      August 7, 2015 at 1:27 AM

      Great! I hope you enjoy it. Be sure to have a look at my other Con Dao posts here too 🙂
      Tom

  49. Hana Steib says:
    May 28, 2015 at 3:57 PM

    Con Dao Island is a wonderful vacation spot, I have read alot about it and plan to visit next year, hopefully of-course.
    I love swimming and the waters look so tempting, great pictures by the way.

  50. Eric says:
    February 11, 2015 at 4:43 AM

    Hi, I just wanted to thank you for your amazing work, I live in Saigon and I think Vietnam Coracle is by far the best website about traveling in Vietnam. Great work!

    1. Tom says:
      February 11, 2015 at 5:30 AM

      Thanks, Eric! 🙂

  51. Larry Bernier says:
    September 9, 2013 at 3:25 PM

    First I would like to thank you for noting our business in this, the first well written and up to date and informative article I have seen on Con Dao.
    I am writing to ask you if I may link to it from my website. Is that okay ?
    Also to update the information a bit.
    Phi Yen Hotel has closed. Vung Tau has taken the property back into their possession.
    If you would like I will be happy to go through all of the article and make any updates as required to keep it current.
    Thanks and best regards
    Larry
    Dive! Dive! Dive!
    Con Dao Vietnam.
    Please do note the exceptional reviews we have and continue to generate on trip advisor.
    You can be sure we are a reliable and trusted source of information about Con Dao.

  52. Minh Chau says:
    June 15, 2013 at 8:48 AM

    Con Dao Seatravel Resort threatened clients for cancelling their booking – We did have to call the police for help!
    We booked 3 nights at this resort through phone and received a confirmation email in which no deposits required, no booking cancellation policy informed at the price of 1,785,000 VND per nite ($85). We arrived at 9am and the first thing they asked for were our ID and passport. It was raining very hard that morning and we saw water everywhere on the restaurant’s floor, near the seafood tanks there was a bucket placed on the floor to store water pouring through the roof. 30 min later they took us to our room and we were very disappointed…The bungalow smelled musty. The toilet was gross. There was no grass on the yard in front of our bungalow but dry leaves and mud (unlike in the photos on their website). The sea view from our room was blocked by some bushes…Then we told them that we would stay for 1 nite only but they asked us to pay 5,355,000 VND for 3 nites. Otherwise we cannot take our ID and passport back! We offered to pay for 2 nites and check out the next morning but they insisted us paying for 3 nites. As it was impossible to communicate with them to reach an agreement, in the evening of the same day when the rained stopped, we went to see the police to report the problem and changed our plane tickets and flew back to Saigon the next day…

  53. Jethro Bor says:
    May 12, 2013 at 7:55 PM

    Beautiful! How’s things out East, Tom?

    1. Tom says:
      May 13, 2013 at 2:02 AM
        Things are good – you should come out here sometime!
  54. Huong says:
    December 13, 2012 at 3:18 AM

    Hi Tom, Thank you for sharing such a beautiful and informative article. It is a very helpful guide for people like me who always love to discover non-touristy destination. The bike trip is always something very special. I will definitely try this! I am looking forward to reading more new article like this from you soon!

  55. Ashley says:
    November 9, 2012 at 11:25 AM

    I really enjoyed your article – I just moved to the island and would love to have more detailed directions on how to find ‘Quán Ăn Bình Dân.’ I went hunting yesterday but couldn’t spot it. Thanks!

    1. Tom says:
      November 12, 2012 at 9:56 AM

      Hi Ashley,
      I’m glad you enjoyed the article. Unfortunately I don’t have a phone number or exact address for the Quán Ăn Bình Dân, but if you click on the link to Google Maps in my article you’ll find a marker where it is. Or just click here: Either go on Hoàng Phi Yến Street (if you’re coming from the direction of the beach) and then it’s on your left just about 50 metres after going over the Lotus Lake. Or (if you’re coming from the direction of the town) go to the junction of Nguyễn Văn Linh, Huỳnh Thúc Kháng, and Hoàng Phi Yến streets – then continue on Hoàng Phi Yến Street for 100-200 metres and it’s on your right. As I mentioned in the article, it’s not exactly a grand entrance, but you should be able to find it. Good luck and let me know what you think of it!
      Tom

  56. G. Pilisi says:
    July 16, 2012 at 9:09 AM

    An astoundingly comprehensive and informative write-up on the island. Keep up the good work!

  57. Vy Huynh says:
    July 15, 2012 at 1:01 PM

    woah!! an amazing ft. meaningful review. Luv it! Thanxxx Tom 🙂