About Phong Nha
With its mountains, tropical jungles and underground rivers, Phong Nha is a nature lover's dream. The UNESCO listed national park, Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng, is home to the world's largest cave. Trekking, swimming and caving are some of the most popular ways to explore these limestone marvels. As well as adventure travel, it's a tranquil place to relax and snap photos of northern Vietnam's jaw-dropping scenery.
Most Phong Nha hostels are spread along the main road, which runs along the Sông Con river. They're usually in traditional houses with little balconies and verandas. There's a cluster of homestays near the Ho Chi Minh bridge, where you can get to know local families and try home-cooked food. A Phong Nha hostel in the town will often have a free breakfast, as well as free Wi-Fi. A few have swimming pools, and the majority have air conditioning for a good night's sleep.
Phong Nha has a couple of main areas to explore. The dragon boats which float into the national park depart from Cuo Lac, near the Phong Nha Cave boat station. This area of town has an ATM and restaurants specialising in local food like spit roast pork and noodles. For more peace and quiet, and a more local feel, base yourself near the Ho Chi Minh bridge. There are some low-key bars, cafés and restaurants in this area too.
Many travellers visit Phong Nha to explore the national park's warren of limestone caves and underground rivers. You can take one of the colourful, narrow dragon boats from the harbour for a tour of Phong Nha cave, where there are grottos and an underground river. Adventure lovers can visit Tra Ang Cave, which involves a trek through the jungle before a 1km swim – or you could zipline into Hang Toi cave. Above ground, the park has excellent mountain biking and hiking trails which run through tiny villages and past rice paddies. Or take it easy on a boat trip, catching glimpses of water buffalo along the way.
The nearest airport and train station are in Dong Hoi, about 40km away. From there it takes just under an hour to reach Phong Nha by taxi. You can also take the green and yellow bus from Dong Hoi's bus station, which takes around 90 minutes. Buses are hourly and stop at the Phong Nha boat station with a few stops along the main street. Around half the hostels in Phong Nha put on airport transfers – just get in touch before you arrive.