First published January 2018 | Words and photos 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.
INTRODUCTION | GUIDE | MAP | RELATED POSTS
Saigon to Hoi An is one of the most popular long-distance road trips in Vietnam. There are several fantastic routes (of which I have no particular favourite) between these two destinations. But most people find themselves deciding between a mountainous (western) route, or a coastal (eastern route). Of the latter, there are two commonly held misconceptions: 1. that you must take Highway 1 (QL1A) most of the way; 2. that it’s a busy and not very scenic route. Thanks to new coast roads and small back-roads, neither of these are true. You can now ride from Saigon to Hoi An (and beyond, to Hue and Dong Hoi) along the coast on generally quiet and scenic roads, with a total distance of 1,425km: only 350km of which are on Highway 1. What’s more, even the sections that are on Highway 1, happen to be some of the most scenic stretches of the entire south-north main artery. At the right time of year, this coastal route is a highly satisfying, salty, sunny, sandy, scenic, and feel-good ride.
GUIDE: COAST ROAD: SAIGON TO HOI AN & BEYOND
ROAD TRIP DETAILS:
- Total Distance: 1,425km
- Duration: 4-10 days
- Route: coast roads (avoiding Highway 1) from Saigon to Hoi An & beyond [MAP]
- Road Conditions: new highways, back-roads, some rough patches, light traffic
- Scenery: empty beaches, arid coastal stretches, fishing villages, beach towns
As with all the motorbike guides on this website, the main focus of this coastal route is to stay on good, scenic roads as much as possible, and to avoid horrible, busy highways. Obviously, this means it’s not the most direct or the fastest way from Saigon to Hoi An and beyond. When it comes to deciding which route you want to take between these two destinations, it will depend on a number of factors, such as the duration of your stay, time of year, your preference of scenery, and the purpose of your trip. Personally, I don’t have a favourite route, but if you’re looking for sun, sea and sand, the following coastal route is definitely the one for you. The best time of year is between March and October, when there’s a lot of sun and sporadic tropical downpours. The southern dry season (November-May) is also good, although conditions can get cooler, wetter and grayer anywhere north of Nha Trang from November to March. You could spend as little as 4 days to as many as 10 days riding this route, depending on how often you want to stop and how many hours you’re prepared to spend in the saddle each day.
ABOUT THIS MAP & GUIDE:
Note that this is not a full guide: rather it is a detailed, annotated route map followed by a short image gallery illustrating the kind of roads and scenery along this coastal route. The map below shows the entire 1,425km route from Saigon to Hoi An and Dong Hoi (only 350km of which is on Highway 1). I’ve included map markers for major towns along the way (the red pins), good beaches (the blue parasols), several accommodation options which I have reviewed (the orange beds), and specific sections of road (the green motorcycles). The majority of these map markers contain links to other Vietnam Coracle guides for more details: If you click on a map marker, a dialogue box will open which contains a link to one of my guides, or a section of one of my guides, which will have more information about that particular place, or accommodation, or section of the route.
The Coast Road: Saigon to Hoi An & Dong Hoi | 1,425km
View in a LARGER MAP
The following images are all taken along the coastal route between Saigon and Dong Hoi as outlined in the map above. Read the captions below the images to find out exactly where they were taken.
Used the weekend past to get some riding in again. Saigon > Phan Thiet > Cam Ranh > Quy Nhon
Using your map and red lines where possible – Was a police trap setup at ‘Gelex Ninh Thuan’ (solar farm) before the sand dunes after Mui Dinh Ecopark.
Claimed I was speeding, which I was not. Asked for proof, they couldn’t provide it and asked for 300k bribe which I did not pay as I have full documents and was not speeding. They were pulling in every single bike while I was stopped there.
Thanks for the update. If you were riding there over the recent holiday (anytime between 29 April to 3 May) the police may have been out because of the increase in traffic and speeders during that time. I rode through there twice just a month ago and didn’t see any police.
great post 🙂
i am thinking of starting in danang late october and travelling to hmc do you think its achievable in 8 nights stopping at the following places
kontum 2 nights
pleiku 1 night
buon ma thout 1 night
nha trang 2 nights
dalat 2 nights
thanks and keep up the great posts.
Sorry for the slow reply.
Yes, that itinerary is possible. Your first day from Danang to Kon Tum is a long ride (around 300km) so it will take you the best part of a day. Most of the other days are very doable.
I hope you enjoy the ride,
thanks for the reply i didn’t realize it was so far to Kontum from Danang i will break it up and stay somewhere between the two, if you have done that route any suggestions will be much appreciated thanks for your help.
this will be my first time in Vietnam i’m wondering what will be the most scenic and exciting ride, i can either go from Hanoi to Nha trang or Danang to hmc , what would you advise i have approximately 11 days to ride.
thanks again Robbie.
I think Danang to HCMC is a good option. The only problem with that is you miss out the Western Ho Chi Minh Road (see section 5 of this guide) which is extraordinary.
If I were you I would start in Danang and ride up to Thanh My on QL14B, then join the Truong Son Dong Road all the way to M’drak, then go down to Nha Trang on QL26 and DT8, and then take the coast road all the way down to Phan Rang (make sure you take the coast road, not Highway 1), then take QL27 & 20 up to Dalat, then take one of the Dalat Back Roads down to Saigon.
I hope this helps,
That is brilliant thank you so much for your help, i will book my rooms and motorcycle hire through the links in your site so hopefully you will get some reward, thanks again stay safe
Thanks, Robbie. I appreciate that.
For more details about the route see sections 2 & 3 of my Ho Chi Minh Road Guide, which covers much of your ride between Danang and Buon Ma Thuot. You might also be interested in the Truong Son Dong Road which runs parallel to the Ho Chi Minh Road as an alternative route.
Me and friends right now are in Ninh Binh and are wondering which is the best route south and where to go next such as Vinh. We travelled in the QL14 and was wondering if there are whiter roads from Ninh Binh south.
I would suggest cutting due west from Ninh Binh back into the mountains, then joining QL15 (the Ho Chi Minh Road) going south. This is a much nicer ride than staying on the coast in that region. For more details see sections 6, 7, 8 of this guide.
You could go to Vinh, but again I think it’s nicer to stay in the mountains in that region – there are local hotels and guest houses along the Ho Chi Minh Road, some of them are marked in my guide.
I hope this helps,
This is gold mate……its clear you’ve put your heart n soul into this site…
Im off on a central highlands n Phong Nha motorbike trip next month…
Ive planned everything from the info you have provided…..just hope its not all rain,rain,rain!!
Thx for a superb guide Tom……happy Tet..
Thanks! I hope your road trip goes according to plan and that the weather isn’t a problem 🙂
Me and my boyfriend are in Da Nang and will fly to Nha Trang on 2nd Jan where we will have 5/6 days with a motorbike (automatic) to get to HCMC.
Do you happened have tips on motorbike rental near the airport? We’re flying on Cam Ranh airport and want to hand in the bike in HCMC.
We want to take only the necessary on the bike as we are sharing one together so we would like to send our bags ahead to HCMC. Any help on this would be appreciated as it seems very easy to arrange in some places but we’ve had no luck yet in Da Nang.
We plan on doing max 100 kilometers a day, on average how long does it take to ride that distance along the coast?
Your blog has been an amazing help btw your insights and passion really helped us plan our Vietnam adventure!
I don’t personally know of a bike rental place near the airport – and I think it’s unlikely there is one near there that meets your needs. You will probably have to find one in Nha Trang instead. Most of the things you mention should be possible, but only with one of the more reputable of the motorbike rental companies. Take a look at the companies I recommend on this page. But bear in mind that they usually need advanced notice before arranging the things that you want them to do.
100km a day should be fine – it should only take 2-3 hours to ride that distance, but that doesn’t include stops.
I hope this helps,
Thanks for your swift reply!
Hi Tom, my husband and I have 3 months in Vietnam beginning the end of November. We are bicyclists and wanting nightly accommodations (no camping). We are drawn mostly to the mountains and low traffic routes. What itinerary would you suggest? Which roads to avoid? Your blog is amazing, but how to choose???? Thank you for any help!!
Hi Terri & Bod,
Well, there are lots of routes to choose from in the mountains. If you’re planning on riding the length of the country then I suggest you take a look at this page.
You can use the Ho Chi Minh Road the whole way, which stays in the mountain – just make sure to stay at this hotel between Khe Sanh and Phong Nha.
Or, for the southern section of the Ho Chi Minh Road you could ride the Truong Son Dong Road instead, and then link it with the Back Roads to Dalat
Bear in mind that at that time of year, the weather anywhere north of Danang (or even Nha Trang) is likely to deteriorate.
In the north, there are loads of great mountain routes which you can browse here.
3 months gives you plenty of time, but if you stay in the mountains, some of the riding will be very tough and fairly slow.
In even fairly small towns, there’s usually at least one local guest house like these.
I hope this helps,
How long do you recommend for a motortrip from Hoi An to Ho Chi Minh, mainstops: Dalat, Nha Trang and Mui ne? We were thinking about 3 weeks?
Yes, 3 weeks is plenty of time.
Driving down from Nha Trang to Mui Ne in a few weeks. Was wondering what your opinion was of the two short 25-30KM stints on QL1A? Between Cam Ranh and Binh Lap and just after Phan Rang.
Also do you think we would have any issues getting our bikes on the train from Phan Thiet to Saigon a few days before Tet? I assume the reverse might be a problem but wasn’t sure on motorbike traffic returning to Saigon. We’ve anticipated there might be an issue and can take an extra day if necessary to fully drive back along the coastal road but would prefer taking the train.
Those two sections of Highway 1 are fine: Cam Ranh to the Binh Lap turn off is a good road surface and only takes about 30 minutes. The same goes for the section between Ca Na and Lien Huong (between Phan Rang and Ca Na is the Dragon’s Graveyard Road, which is sublime). If you’re worried about traffic, you can try to time it so that you hit the Highway 1 sections at lunchtime – when most of the trucks and buses stop for food.
Yes, good question: it’s definitely worth planning that extra day in just in case you can’t get your bikes on the Phan Thiet-Saigon train. Also, I always try to book my book on that train at the station in Phan Thiet the day before I travel, just to be safe.
I hope this helps,
Thanks Tom, hoping to do Binh Lap to Phan Thiet in one day ideally hit the station before the beach!
Yes, that’s possible, but it’s a full (and fantastic) day’s ride.
Great write up. I’ve just got a simple query.
Do you this route from HCMC -> Hoi An can be completed in 8 days?
Would it be possible to include a quick detour to Dalat from Phan Thiet and then continue on the route again.
Also, it’s two of us. Would you recommend a XR 150 or a Blade 110 for this route?
Thanks a ton again! 😀
You don’t need more than a Blade for this route, but the XR is a bigger, better bike, but it’s also more expensive.
You can ride the Coast Road from HCM to Hoi An in 8 days, but it’s a long way and you will need to ride every day. If you add Dalat to the itinerary then you are adding an extra day to the route.
What might be a good idea is to start the route from Phan Thiet (not HCM) – do this by taking yourself and your bikes on the train from HCM to Phan Thiet. Then you can either head straight up to Dalat on road QL28 or QL28B and down the next day on Road QL27 or QL27C and rejoin the Coast Road from either Phan Rang or Nha Trang respectively, or simply take the Coast Road straight from Phan Thiet.
To avoid the police on the coast road just out of Mui Ne make sure you read the first few paragraphs and look at the map in this guide.
I hope this helps,
Thanks for the super fast response. Just a couple of follow up questions.
1. From Phan Thiet, I can head into Mui Ne and then continue the route to Dalat and then meet back at Nha Trang as you’d recommended. This should be 8 days in total, with about ~150 km (4 Hours) riding everyday?
2. Would it be possible to camp anywhere on the route that you’ve suggested?
3. Is there anything “special” I’ll be missing in the train journey from HCMC -> Phan Thiet.
Thanks for all the help and a Merry Christmas!
Yes, that’s possible.
The best parts of the Coast Road are between Mui Ne and Nha Trang, and Tuy Hoa to just north of Quy Nhon, so it doesn’t matter much if you take the train to Phan Thiet and miss the first section.
For camping take a look at this guide.
We had an INCREDIBLE ride today from Bao Loc to our airbnb which is in between Cam Rahn and Nha Trang (you have to stay here one time, it’s a treehouse for $35 a night and it is amazing!).
The QL20/QL27 and DT656 were great. The start of DT656 was under contstruction (it was basically a big quarry), so we went along a road adjacent to it. We covered 265ks today. Ryan absolutely loved the descent with switch backs on DT656 and QL20 (I think it was on those).
Question: Currently looking for accommodation between Quy Nhon and Hoi An. There doesn’t seem to be much at all except for a hotel called Sa Huynh Resort, which has some awful reviews.
Your guides have helped us so much!
Great to hear you enjoyed that ride – the ‘quarry section’ of DT656 is just the old road; the new one is the one adjacent to it that you took, but when I mapped that route the new road wasn’t showing on Google Maps so I couldn’t include it 🙂
I’ve heard of the Treehouse near Cam Ranh – my friend stayed there recently and told me about it. Sounds great, I can’t wait to visit.
Between Quy Nhon and Hoi An, you can stay at Trung Luong Camping (but that’s not far north of Quy Nhon), but after that there are some hotels at Tam Quan before the Coast Road joins Highway 1, and then Quang Ngai city, and My Khe beach (just east of Quang Ngai), and a few places in and around Tam Ky and Tam Thanh beach – as well as Sa Huynh, of course, which isn’t too bad for a night stop by the beach.
I hope you enjoy it – I’m jealous: at the beach now, but have to head back to Saigon soon.
We are planning a trip to Vietnam next year. What is the name of your airbnb? (The treehouse)
It’s Tony’s Tree House – Google it and it’ll come up.
Ps: I mean 18 days minus 3-4 days in Saigon equal 14 days on the road
You are ‘responsible’ for 5th trip to Vietnam this summer, first time at that time of year. Your blog pops into my mailbox regularly and the last post was one too many to resist! So, thank you again for sharing your passion.
Two questions for you: I’ll be in Saigon for 18 days starting early July, renting a scooter and heading north, possibly as a loop coast/inland. I have friends in Hoi An but concerned 14 days (minus the 3-4 days in Saigon) might be too short to push up there and not be constantly on the saddle. Ideally I’d like to ride every couple days and find cool discovery spots in between (food is a big focus).
– Which itinerary would you recommend to get a taste of coast and inland? (It’s my first time in that central part)
– is there any significant difference between weather between Saigon and Dalat, and further up between Nha Trang and Hoi An?
The weather at that time of year will be quite similar all along the coast: hot and humid with tropical downpours in the afternoons. In Dalat it will be much cooler, particularly in the evenings, but also quite wet.
14 days is OK, but it’s probably a good idea to put your bike on the train from Saigon to somewhere like Mui Ne or Nha Trang and start there instead (or you can get your rental company to ship in there in advance for you to pick it up). For more about sending your bike on the train from Saigon to Mui Ne this this.
This would give you time to head up the coastal road outlined on this page from Mui Ne to Quy Nhon, then you could head inland to meet the Ho Chi Minh Road from Plieku or Kon Tum all the way to Kham Duc or Thanh My and then head back down to the coast again for Hoi An. For more about this route see sections 2 & 3 of this guide.
I hope this helps,
i only recently learned to drive a motorbike (while traveling in Vietnam, which has quickly become my favorite country, & i can see why you moved here) – your blog is giving me all kinds of good ideas, just wanted to thank you for these posts – & the detailed maps accompanying them. so far my longest trip has only been from Hoi An to Hue (& back to Da Nang a few days later to return the bike – i did travel part of the way up further towards Dong Hoi but didn’t have enough time to do the whole Phong Nha spelunking thing & wanted to save that road for when i do…) & traveling over the Hai Van Pass was magical – can see why everyone waxes poetic over that road, & on my way back to Da Nang i even saw a couple having their wedding photographs taken along one of the “selfie strips” where everyone pulls over to take in the view! i’m hoping to try one of your Saigon-Hanoi routes next time i visit – if i can get a good helmet-cam so i’m not pulling over every 5 minutes to snap photos…
my favorite bikes rented thus far have been Nouvos – pleasantly surprised to see that’s what you drive – anyway enough fanboy babble from me – keep up the great posts, perhaps i shall see you & Stavros on the road someday!
Thanks, it’s really great to hear that you’ve been enjoying my website and that you like Vietnam so much.
I hope that you get lots more chances to go on road trips all over the country and see even more of what Vietnam has to offer.
And, yes, perhaps Stavros and I will bump into you one day 🙂
Hi, I love the information you provide and thank you for doing such an excellent job. I am planning on riding from HCM to Hanoi with a friend. We will be renting the Honda Winner 150cc and leaving on Feb 27th with arrival in Hanoi no later than March 8th. We are considering taking a train to Mui Ne and bypassing the ride out of HCM. We have talked with a guide and he recommends we start out trip in Danang. We would like to ride the beach route but want to know if we are pushing it by trying to complete the ride in 10days?? Also what are your feeling about starting in Danang and missing everything south? Aside from us paying the rental fee of the bikes our guide will be charging us $130. US per day per person. Do this sound reasonable. Thank you for your guidance g
10 days is not really enough to ride from Mui Ne to Hanoi – it’s doable but you will probably need to cover more than 200km each day, which again is doable but not particularly relaxing and especially not if you’re not used to riding in Vietnam.
The north and the south are very different: in very general terms, the south is more about the beaches and the north is more about the mountains. However, at that time of year the weather will probably still be quite grey and cool north of Danang, whereas as south of Danang it’s good. So take that into consideration when making your decision.
Perhaps it’s best to start in Nha Trang and head to Danang – most motorbike rental companies should be able to arrange for you to pick up your motorbike in Nha Trang and return it to Hanoi.
$130 per day is OK. As a yardstick: when I travel with my family and we hire a driver it costs $100 per day, including the driver’s food and accommodation, and gas.
I hope this helps,
Tom, Thank you for your insight. I love reading your blog. It looks like the guide wants to start our trip in Danang and go north. I guess we will forgo the beaches for more mountain scenery. We will also have a more relaxing ride without pushing to many KM a day. If any more questions come up I will definitely contact you. All the best. Ride on !!! Greg
First off, I should say that your blog is outstanding! I really appreciate for your detailed and informative share. Your blog has information that I couldn’t find any other websites. Thank you so much 🙂
I’m visiting Vietnam from 19th of January to 2nd of February, in and out from Da Nang. My initial plan for this trip is scooting around little bit of Vietnam, but no fixed plan regarding where to head. Thanks to you, I could get the dimmest idea of routes I want to take. (Da Nang to Saigon on the coast line, Saigon to Da Nang on the inland route which was suggested from your blog.) As I have 14 days in Vietnam, my plan is to spend 10 days on the road (round trip to Saigon from Da Nang) and spend 2-3 days in Saigon.
Your blog had all the necessary information I need for this motorbike trip (Even infos about swimming pool! I always check out pools whenever I visit new places. One of the reasons why I want to stay in Saigon for at least 2 days.), but I have a couple of questions if you don’t mind answering.
First one is about motorbike. The smallest motorbike I rode was a scooter and the biggest motorbike was Honda cb600F. I’m debating over which motorbike I should rent: Honda Blade 110cc or Honda XR 150cc. I feel like 110cc wouldn’t be powerful enough for me, but at the same time I’m not planning to enjoy the speed for this trip. It’s more about enjoying the scenery on the way. In that case, do you think 110cc is sufficient enough for me? (Not to forget, it’s cheaper.)
Also, it may sound a bit foolish, but I was wondering if it’s safe to go on a motorbike trip on my own. I’m pretty small Korean woman, which I believe puts me in to different position than of yours. I’m not worried about riding motorbike itself as I have done it in Korea, Philippines, Guam, and Amsterdam-Germany/Belgium. I presume going on a motorbike trip in Vietnam would be similar to the one I had in Philippines, but that time I was with friends and I could speak the language. I’m not concerned about big cities like Da Nang or Hanoi, but small towns or remote areas on the way. In your opinion, do you think I should be concerned about overall safety? (In regards of rape, burglary, etc)
Looking forward to your reply and thank you for taking your time!
Yes, certainly a Honda Blade is sufficient to cover any of the routes that are on my website. However, some people do prefer the XR because of the extra power etc. but it’s definitely not necessary, unless you’re planning to go off-road of course.
I don’t think you need to be worried about travelling as a solo Korean woman in Vietnam. Vietnam is still a lot safer and more hospitable country to travel in compared to many Western nations. Just take all the normal precautions you would when travelling anywhere else and you should be fine. One difference might be that, because you are Asian, you may get treated a little differently from ‘white travellers’. For example, you will probably be mistaken as Vietnamese occasionally, and people might just assume that you speak the language. This is more likely to happen in remote areas than in more cosmopolitan places where tourists often go.
I hope this helps,
it is possible to avoid the 25 Km just in front of Tam Ky. There are ferrys that connect Tam Hai island with the mainland. We made this part on july, when we startet from Hoi An via Quang Ngai to ride the road east of the long mountains, wich was fantastic. You can just ride on the ferry and then over the island and go back on the mainland with another very small ferry. Thats very funny.
Thank you Tom for your great work!!
Me and my familie and friends made a lot of your suggested tours, north, south, central…. and we loved them all.
Thanks for your inspiration!
Best regards Sven
That’s great! Thanks. I did try to do that last summer, but I was told there weren’t any boats. I’ll definitely persevere next time.
Thanks for the tip, and it’s great to hear you enjoyed riding around the country last July.
Hi Ton, im going to do the road trip Ha Tien .
So many things to do . Thank you for your great job . For the last one you’ve posted right now i’m really exited to do it in the future
We have on your website so many informations and plans and so many ideas ….
Do you have a road tripto go to Ca Mau ??? Take a flight first and rent scooter . hanks a lot again
Glad you like the guides.
Yes, I’ve written a guide to riding to Ca Mau here, but it hasn’t been updated for a while.
I hope this helps,