Sailing in Halong Bay

We’re on a boat! We’re on a boat!

Halong Bay is a gorgeous bay with thousands of little islands  3.5 hours drive East from Hanoi. There are hundreds options when it comes to booking a tour, from different companies, various boat sizes, alternative lengths and locations…and Justin chose very wisely. Many of the cheaper cruises cater to backpackers and arriving at the boat harbor, it looked as though the majority of boats were barely sea worthy. Fortunately, Justin booked a very sea worthy vessel on the larger side, with about 30 rooms in total. We loved our room complete with a big tub and the most comfortable bed we slept on during the trip!


The boat itself was beautiful, complete with top deck whirlpool and stunning sundeck where you can lounge and stare out at the sea. All of our meals were served on the top floor deck so we could watch the islands float by as we ate.


Not that we had a chance to enjoy the boat too much because our “cruise director” had us constantly on the move. We went kayaking, swimming, visited a floating village, hiked to a cave, had lunch on the beach and even took a morning tai chi class (that was me — not Justin. He wisely slept in that day). When was our relaxation time amidst all the fun?


Lucky for me, the weather was a bit overcast and cool the days we sailed, so I didn’t miss the sun deck too much and Justin and I learned we’re a pretty great kayaking duo (not the first time we learned this, but nice to have the reinforcement post wedding).


Squid fishing

In the evening following dinner, we tried our hand at nighttime squid fishing. If only we had video of the hours we spent squid fishing. Just standing there, fishing. The video would be super boring.

The first time Justin stuck the line in the water, he got a bite and we saw ink squirt out as the squid got away. We were super excited and figured we were going to be pros. That got our confidence unnecessarily high and as the moments ticked away, we figured it was any second before we actually hooked one.

But we had no idea how to fish for squid. We were originally told to move the pole up and down (the pole with just a hook, and no bait…). After an hour or so, we called it quits.


The next night our cruise director came down. He bobbed the rod in the water for maybe 2 minutes before catching a squid. See? Easy.

So, we tried again — this time with a touch more training on the technique (let it drop down and then jerk it up…maybe?). We stayed out much longer the second night, figuring it was our last night to catch one and we both really wanted to catch one. This time I was smarter and brought a drink with me as we sat. And sat. And sat. Alas, the drink was gone and all of these hours had yielded zero squid. Next time we’ll forgo the poles and just use a net.

What a squid would look like if we caught one

Despite the jam-packed schedule, we had a wonderful time sailing through Halong Bay, which was absolutely beautiful. It was definitely worth the trip!

If you go…

  • Choose your boat carefully. There are many, many, many options (size, quality etc.). Read the reviews carefully.
  • Don’t skimp on the length of trip. Many cruises are 1 night/2 day cruises, popular due to the cheaper price. We did a 2 night/3 day cruise (which is really 1 full day plus 2 half days) and allows you to really experience the boat and bay. I was so glad we did 3 days which already went by so fast — 2 days would have really flown by. Halong Bay is also a bit of a schlep from Hanoi, so it was nice to be there for a couple of nights.
  • Get away from the crowds. Going out for 3 nights allowed us to get a bit further out to sea and dock in quieter bays. We also sailed through Bai Tu Long Bay which is right next to Halong Bay and much quieter. Our tour company docked overnight in bays that restricted the number of boats, so we didn’t see a sea of other vessels (pun intended). Look into the itinerary and location or you could find yourself anchored in a bay with 50 other boats.

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