Last updated July 2017 | Words, photos and film by Vietnam Coracle
This post was last updated 5 years ago. Please check the comments section for possible updates, or read more on my Updates & Accuracy page.
A broad sweep of sand between two dramatic headlands, Dai Lanh Beach is a strikingly beautiful spot. Ninety kilometres north of Nha Trang, this wide bay is framed by lush mountains, with the chalky sand beach between them washed by the pale blue waters of the East Sea. A fishing village nestles at one end of the bay, giving way to a casuarina-lined bathing beach at the other. Yet Dai Lanh has never developed into a popular attraction. Many travellers see it – from the window of their bus or train – but few travellers stop here. This is because Highway 1, Vietnam’s main artery, and the Reunification Railway, both pass directly behind Dai Lanh, subjecting it to much noise and air pollution. However, this is about to change, because, in September 2017, two new tunnels are due to open, which will take the bulk of heavy traffic away from the coast, leaving Dai Lanh Beach relatively tranquil. This could change Dai Lanh’s fortunes dramatically, and be the making of a new beach destination on the south-central coast.
GUIDE: DAI LANH BEACH
Dai Lanh Beach makes an excellent overnight stop between Nha Trang and Quy Nhon, especially for anyone following one of my Saigon-to-Hanoi routes. The swimming is good, the fishing village is interesting, there are several good budget guest houses, regular transport connections, some decent food stalls, and the bay is very scenic indeed. Dai Lanh also makes a good base from which to explore other fantastic beaches and sights in the surrounding area (see Related Posts). Weather in Dai Lanh is fairly unpredictable, because of its location on a mountainous stretch of coast. But the summer months, between April and August, are usually ideal. In the following guide, I’ve provided details about the location, places to stay and eat, transport information, a map of the area, and a short video.
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Dai Lanh Beach, Khanh Hoa Province
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A short film of Dai Lanh Beach
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Every time I visit Dai Lanh Beach, I’m surprised at how dazzling a sight it is, and how it has managed to hide in plain sight for so long. Everybody who passes Dai Lanh, whether by rail or by road, is rewarded with great vistas of the bay from either the Co Ma Pass, to the south, or the Ca Pass, to the north. From either of these vantage points, the beach looks stunning. But, most people simply glimpse the beach from their transportation and then continue on through, or make a quick pit-stop for lunch and a swim in the ocean before hitting the road again. However, a day and a night in Dai Lanh is much more rewarding, and now is a better time to visit than any for at least the last 10 years.
In the blue shadow of looming mountains, two kilometres of inviting sandy beach stretches between two spectacular passes on Highway 1. Sheltering tightly at the northern end of the bay is Dai Lanh fishing village; whose fleet of wooden boats cluster in the calm waters, nodding in the surf. At the southern end, the village peters out as it reaches a shady stand of casuarina trees, which tower over a wide and beautiful lagoon, perfect for swimming. It sounds idyllic, and, from a distance, it is. But, development has never taken off on Dai Lanh Beach, because both the highway and the railway run parallel to each other just metres from the seafront. Between the two of them, there’s quite a lot of noise.
In the past, Dai Lanh was a popular beach destination for Vietnamese tourists and French colonials, who called the area Cap Varella. However, the advent of motorbikes, cars, coaches and freight trucks plying up and down the highway, klaxons blaring, has seen its reputation diminish. (The giant concrete shell of an abandoned ‘ghost’ resort in the middle of the beach is testament to failed ambitions for the development of this area.) Even so, it might not be so bad if it wasn’t for the manic driving of some of the buses and trucks, who rip through town with an astonishing disregard for pedestrians and other motorists. As for the railway, I personally find the rattling carriages of the former Trans-Indochinois a romantic accompaniment to this tropical beach; but others find the howling of the horn during the night a major disturbance. However, things are just about to change for the better….
In September 2017, two new tunnels (whose construction began in 2012), with a combined length of thirteen kilometres, are due to open. Burrowing under the mountains, these tunnels will make both the Co Ma and Ca passes, on either side of Dai Lanh Beach, obsolete. And, although the new tunnels and connecting highway will still pass behind the town, the vast majority of heavy traffic will no longer go directly through Dai Lanh. The completion of this massive engineering project is certain to reduce noise pollution in Dai Lanh (not to mention making it a much safer place to cross the road), allowing this excellent beach to flourish as a travel destination in its own right. Similar construction projects in Vietnam have already transformed areas that were previously blighted by heavy traffic into virtually vehicle-free, scenic attractions: the Hai Van Pass between Danang and Hue is a good example of this. I predict big things for Dai Lanh in the near future, and the first few months after the opening of the tunnels will be a great time to visit.
Dai Lanh fishing village, at the north end of the beach, is a collection of red-brick-and-tile, single-storey houses. Seen from a high floor at one of the mini-hotels, it’s a picturesque scene. But the reality, at closer quarters, is rather more fishy, dirty, dusty, and quite poor. However, many of the local fishermen and their families are warm and friendly, and keen to engage a người nước ngoại (a foreigner) in conversation. At the time of research, a new harbourfront was under construction, making a mess of the current one. However, on completion, this will be a good place to wander during the mornings and evenings, watching the boats come and go. On the opposite side of the highway, across the railway line, Dai Lanh market is very lively in the mornings; full of tropical fruits and fish, and conical-hatted buyers and sellers.
At the southern end of the bay, the long sandy beach can be accessed at either Dai Lanh Rest Stop & Restaurant (Trạm Dừng Chân Nhà Hàng Đại Lãnh) or Dai Lanh Beach Tourist Zone (Khu Du Lịch Biển Đại Lãnh). Of the two, the latter occupies the prettiest section of beach. Enter via a concrete bridge over a creek and into a forest of whispering casuarina trees (entrance fee: 10,000vnd; public holidays: 20,000vnd). The complex covers a lot of beachfront, but does so quite discreetly and sensitively. There are showers, deck chairs, loungers, wooden benches, swings, and palm-thatched parasols on the sand, under the shade of the trees. Visitors must pay to use any of these facilities (50,000-200,000vnd). The sea can be perfectly calm in the mornings, but occasionally gets very rough later in the day. The water is refreshing, the swimming is good, and watching the white and blue surf as the waves break in a long line across the two-kilometre beach is mesmerizing. Food, drink, and accommodation is also available here (see below for details). (Note: be careful of fishing debris that might be lurking in the surf or under the sand, discarded from the many boats that shelter in this bay.)
Travellers can either choose to stay in one of the mini-hotels along the road with good views of the bay, or right on the beach at the Dai Lanh Beach Tourist Zone:
Mini-hotels: There are a handful of standard Vietnamese mini-hotels and nhà nghỉ (guest houses) on both sides of Highway 1 as it passes through Dai Lanh, especially towards the middle and northern end of the bay. Although they are all pretty good value, particularly for budget travellers, by far the best is Hotel Binh Lieu (058 3949 138; 200,000-300,000vnd per night). This four-storey grey townhouse is one of the tallest buildings in Dai Lanh. All rooms are clean and quite spacious, with windows (some with small balconies), WiFi, TV, hot water showers, and decent-sized beds. Try to get a room at the back of the hotel on a high floor: some of these have excellent ocean views. Other guest houses along the road include: Hotel Phu Ngoan (058 3842 108), and Nha Nghi Thuy Ngan (058 3842 789), both of which have rooms from 150,000-300,000vnd.
Dai Lanh Beach Tourist Zone: [BOOK HERE] Located near the centre of the bay, walk across a little concrete bridge (entrance 10,000vnd) leading off the main road and into the trees along the beach. Dai Lanh Beach Tourist Zone is a sprawling, nicely landscaped complex of varying budget accommodation options. Choose from sleeping in clean but stark red brick bungalows (400,000-800,000vnd), colourful and cute beach huts (400,000vnd), or camping on the beach (rent a 5-person tent for 400,000vnd or pitch your own tent for 50,000vnd). Considering the beautiful location – right on the beach in the shade of tall casuarina trees – prices are very reasonable. (Note: all prices, including the entrance fee, are likely to rise on public holidays.)
Food & Drink:
Generally, my dining experiences in Dai Lanh have not been memorable. Quality is mediocre, service gruff, and overcharging common. However, this is because most of the restaurants (quán cơm or nhà hàng in Vietnamese) that line the highway are aimed at feeding dozens of customers en masse at mealtimes, as they disgorge from long distance-buses. For these restaurants, it’s not really worth their while to feed a couple of random budget travellers. But, if you have a little extra to spend, I’ve been told that the seafood here, especially the squid hotpot (lẩu mực), is excellent. If that’s not your thing, there are still several good places along the roadside selling classic street food dishes, such as bánh xèo (crispy, savoury pancakes), bánh mì (filled baguettes), and phở (beef noodle soup). In the morning, it’s a good idea to search for a breakfast food stall in the bustling market area. The cafe at the Dai Lanh Beach Tourist Zone, right on the beach in the shade of tall trees, is a nice place for a morning coffee and swim.
Bus: Dai Lanh is 85km north of Nha Trang, and 40km south of Tuy Hoa. The two kilometre beach is squeezed between two mountain passes on Highway 1: the Co Ma Pass to the south, and the Ca Pass to the north (the latter is one of the most scenic sections of Highway 1). Both of these will eventually be bypassed by two new tunnels, which are due to open in September 2017. But, for now, all buses travelling Highway 1 must pass directly through Dai Lanh village, so just ask the driver to stop and let you off. When the tunnels open, most buses will bypass Dai Lanh. However, the newly-built highway connecting the two new tunnels (one goes under the Co Ma Pass, the other under the Ca Pass) will still pass just behind Dai Lanh village, so passengers will still be able to request the driver to spot and let them off. Hundreds of buses pass through Dai Lanh throughout the day and night: any of the north-south bus companies can drop-off or pick-up passengers here. Dai Lanh is a convenient night-stop for anyone travelling between Nha Trang and Quy Nhon.
Train: Although Dai Lanh is on the main Reunification line and has its very own (very small) station, the majority of trains travelling from Hanoi to Saigon do not stop here. Only small, slow, regional trains stop-in at Dai Lanh. This means that, for most travellers, getting to and from Dai Lanh by train isn’t really a viable option. But this could change in the future because, once the new tunnels open, I expect Dai Lanh’s star will rise, and with it perhaps a new ‘beach train’ linking Nha Trang with Quy Nhon, via Van Gia and Dai Lanh, will be inaugurated. It’s an interesting idea, at least.
Motorbike: Dai Lanh Beach makes an excellent stopover if you’re on a motorbike road trip, particularly if you’re following one of my Saigon-to-Hanoi routes. The scenic passes that bookend Dai Lanh bay will soon be empty of heavy traffic, once the new tunnels open in September 2017, and there are lots of other excellent beaches to be explored on two-wheels in the surrounding area, such as Hon Gom Sandbar, Vung Ro Bay and Diep Son Island.
Vung Ro Bay and Dai Lanh are amazing. Really looking forward to Hon Gom sandbar tomorrow. You recommend staying at Hotel Binh Lieu, a tall grey building.
There is still one sign saying ‘Hotel Binh Lieu’ outside, but the hotel itself has been painted in loads of colours and its name has changed to ‘Le Plateau’ as far as I can tell. Still very easy to find, but easier if you know the name and colour change.
Thanks for letting me and other readers know about that – great update. I think I’d heard something like that before, but had no conformation.
I hope you enjoy the Sandbar – there’s also been reports of changes up near the top there, too.
Nous sommes arrivées à Dai Lanh hier avec un bus local depuis la gare nord de Nha Trang. Jolie plage mais pleine de déchets. Le port et les centaines de bateaux sur l’eau sont beaux.
Par contre il est impossible de louer une moto. Nous avons essayé à plusieurs endroits mais nous n’avons eut que des refus. Nous n’avons donc pas pu visiter la presque île.
Jolie étape mais seulement si l’on a sa propre moto.
Thanks, Johanna. Glad you enjoyed it.
Hi, we just arrived in dai lanh and unfortunately there is nothing more left of the beach than a narrow stripe full of waste and dirt. Probably, the destruction is due to a typhoon in november, we read about. Also the little huts you wrote about are gone and there are a lot of destroyed houses along the coast. It seems like they’re already building some new touristic facilities, but i guess the devastation of the beach is irreversible. We are planning to check out vung ro bay tomorrow. I’ll let you know what the situation is there.
Thanks for the update. I’m very sorry to hear that. Yes, I’m sure you’re right that the typhoon in November had an impact on the beach, but I suspect that, ever since the new tunnels opened in September 2017, the beach has been slated for big development, hence the destruction of the local houses.
I hope Vung Ro is still nice.
Just confirming (in case your comment was for some reason delayed in being published or something) you were/are in Đại Lãnh early January 2018?
Reason I ask is… we jumped on some cheap tickets to Tuy Hoà in 2 weeks times and after consuming this excellent blog had planned to base ourselves in Đại Lãnh. Obviously your comment is of concern considering this part of central Vietnam was badly affected by typhoon Damrey.
I thought it odd then that Đại Lãnh Tourist Area is still actively posting on Facebook so seeing as our travel plans are suddenly in jeopardy I contacted them and they confirmed that although they sustained some damage from the typhoon, after performing repairs they are operating as per normal. So… I wonder if you might be on the wrong stretch of beach?
@Tom: fantastic blog, there is so little information about this area and your posts have been a goldmine regarding Hon Gom Sandbar, the Vung Ro bay and the Dai Lanh and Mon beaches.
Thanks for this information.
Although I haven’t been to Dai Lanh since typhoon Damrey, I would imagine that, despite the destruction caused, much of it will have been cleared or repaired by now and the area in general will still be very scenic and worth visiting. However, it does sound as though resort construction has started on Dai Lanh beach – surely because the traffic of Highway 1 has now been diverted through the tunnel – and I’d expect the beach and fishing village to change a lot in the coming months.
If you do go, I’d appreciate any updates.
We just returned from 5 days in Đại Lãnh & Tuy Hoà. Here are our observations:
Đại Lãnh beach hotel is very much in operation. They did sustain some damage – staff showed us the photos of the aftermath – but after a few weeks of cleanup are back up and running since mid December (see https://www.facebook.com/KhudulichDailanh/posts/1503238353105295 . The beach huts were re-positioned a little further back from the sea, but are all there. We agree with your assessment the hotel is overpriced for what it is. They are expanding a little. A few new kiosks built recently, another bridge to cross that creek/stream was in construction. Was a tiny bit of construction down the road. Seemed more like holiday houses though than full blown tourist area.
The sandbar and its beaches are so serene. We hired a bike and spent the day there most of the time it felt like we were the only people there. Interestingly the locals referred to it as the Đầm Môn/Sơn Đừng area. Based on a quick google search it seems you may have coined the name Hon Gom Sandbar 😉
Vũng Rô bay and Môn beach are also stunning. The prawn and fish farms seem to be slowly re-building. Driving through the town we saw a lot of green wire mesh cages being built. There were also many floating restaurants to be seen. Sadly we were advised by several locals not to ride on a bike through Cả pass (from Đại Lãnh to Môn beach at least). Apparently since the tunnel began operating the roads have far fewer vehicles and bandits are quite common, especially at night and in the lead up to Tết aka now.
Overall, based on what we’ve seen in other parts of Vietnam there is not much sign of destruction remaining. A lot of houses that are in poor condition at the moment look like they were in such a condition before the typhoon. I would say it is more a sign of the low incomes and low standard of housing in the general area.
Still no sign of big construction though from what we could see. 2 different taxi drivers mentioned that they are still waiting for the area’s potential to be exploited and for the tourism boom to begin (they are looking forward to it for the economic reasons).
Thank you very much for you updates and information. I’m glad to hear that the area is still beautiful and not yet undergoing major construction, and that the parts that were affected by the typhoon are recovering.
Thanks for your labour of love that’s this website, it has helped me in my planning tremendously. Do you know if the Dai Lanh tunnels have opened? I could not find anything on news sites about it (that I could read). We are coming from Dalat and want to find a base along the coast to explore Vu Rong, Van Phong. For now, it’s a toss between staying in Doc Let (and vegging out there) or Dai Lanh.
Yes, the tunnels have opened, so Dai Lanh is much quieter than before. However, they are now carrying out some resort construction on parts of the beach.
Personally, I’d prefer to base myself in Dai Lanh rather than Doc Let, simply because it’s a bit more local. But both beaches are great places and convenient bases from which to explore the area. Don’t forget Hon Gom Sandbar too 🙂
I hope this helps,
Thanks a lot for this website, it’s pretty useful for the expat community living in Beautiful Vietnam. My last trip to Ha Giang in September is an evidence of this 😉
I’ll be hosting three friends during next January (Tet and the previous week), and I persuaded them to go from Saigon to Hue by train with rented bikes (I think Tigit is the most reliable option for us, for a long trip) and start from Hue to come back to Saigon by bike. 10 days, 1000 km, I think it’s doable for people who’s not used to long distances by bike.
I’ve been in Hue, Da Nang and Hoi An (also Hai Van pass, wow), but I’ve never been in the long coastal belt from Hoi An to Nha Trang. I came to your website to look for some information for these five provinces (Quang Nam, Quang Ngai, Binh Dinh, Phu Yen and Khanh Hoa) and I barely found anything, just for the south area of this coastal belt, the closest area to Nha Trang. Why? Is this area not worthy enough to give it a try? Could you please lend me a hand with this?
I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed Ha Giang.
The coastal route from Hoi An to Nha Trang is great if you stay on the coastal back-roads as much as possible. I haven’t written any details guides to that route yet, but I have marked the route on my Beach Bum map here. Make sure you zoom in close so that you get the small roads. At some points you do have to go on Highway 1, but most of it in on smaller coastal roads. Highlights are the beach road north and south of Quy Nhon (and Quy Nhon is a great city too), and the coast road south of Tuy Hoa, including Vung Ro Bay, the Ca Pass, Dai Lanh beach and Hon Gom Peninsular.
Another option from Hoi An is to go up to the Ho Chi Minh Road at Thanh My and take it south to Kon Tum, then take the mountain road QL24 (also called AH132) down to Quang Ngai and join the coast from there (or you could take QL19 down to Quy Nhon).
I hope this helps,
While you at it, consider swimming at night time at Dai Lanh beach especially on moonlit nights. The sound of the waves roaring on calm water of early summer and the one-road town hanging afar from one mountain pass to another with a trickle of light are enchanting. Submerge in the warm and reflective water and you melt right into the universe.
Yes, sounds nice. Thank you
Hi, Tom! Just visited this area, thanks to your notes, and have to say, that Bai Mon, QL29 road, ving ro bay are totally amazing. Also a nice thing about wildlife – you can met some wild animals, birds and butterflies just in the road, which is extremely rare for this country, where the wildlife seems to be totally gone in the past even in national parks. But just have to mention 1 thing for some travelers, may be it will be useful and destruct some illusions. Beaches of Vung ro bay and north of dai lanh beach are using by locals as a huge trashgrounds – locals throw away all garbage, , cans, old underwear, spoiled food, cloth, rubber, paper and absolutely everything from their houses straight to the beach. And once you see this on the north part of the beach, there absolutely no wish to go swim in this water at more clear south part of dai lanh beach) but of course, views, nature and authencity of this places, as far as a great wild beaches of Bai Mon and more to the north, doing this area absolutely must stop place for 1-2 days. By the way , did you visit a peninsula just south from Dai Lanh? Unfortunately, I didn’t have time, but it seems to be beautiful area as well..
Happy to hear that you enjoyed the area. Yes, trash is a problem with many undeveloped beaches in Vietnam. It is very sad. Sometimes the tides and the winds at certain times of the year can make the beaches dirtier than at other times. However, you can nearly always find a stretch of beach that isn’t dirty. People’s awareness of the consequences of littering is slowly getting better. I do hope that trash on beaches and in rivers and forests won’t be a problem for too long. I still love the area and I would chose it over the cleaned-up but massively developed beaches of Nha Trang and Mui Ne any day.
Thanks for your comment.
Thank you for this insider tip! Two of my best days in Vietnam. Literally a private beach, relaxing, sun. In the afternoon I took a walk to pier, where the fisherman unloaded the catch. One of them invited me home and we cooked cuttle fish. Of course he only spoke Vietnamese. One of my warmest memories.
That’s good to hear! It’s a great beach apart from the highway running behind it.