Halong Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage site. There are thousands of limestone rock formations. The setting is serene and the water calm. We did a Halong Bay Cruise 3 days 2 nights with the Bhaya Cruise Company.
When & How to Do Halong Bay Cruise 3 days 2 nights
Halong Bay cruises are one of the most popular excursions from Hanoi. You can do a 3 day/2 night or 2 day/1 night cruise or just a one day outing. The longer the cruise, the further and more secluded you will be. And, the more chances you will have to get off the boat.
When to Go on a Halong Bay Cruise 3 days 2 nights
We went to Halong Bay in late December. It was winter and the northern parts of Vietnam are colder. We had clouds and the temperature was 15-18 degrees Celcius or 58-65 Fahrenheit. We needed pants and sweatshirts some days.
During summer, the temperature is warmer (28-35C or 82-95F) but it is rainy season. Springtime (March to May) and Fall (September to November) is considered the best time to go. The downside is that Halong Bay is crowded with a lot of tourists during those periods.
Leaving the Port
Leaving the port was like being part of an armada. There were boats everywhere. Large, tiny and everything in between. We were worried at first that we would be surrounded by boats everywhere, but that was not the case. We mainly saw other boats leaving, returning and at night when the boats anchored for the evening.
For the one-day cruises, the other boats will be within sight most of the time as you will not be going as far. Two-day cruises are a mix—sometimes near other boats and sometimes, not.
Bhaya Cruise Itinerary
After leaving the port, we cruised for a few hours. The scenery was as beautiful as we had heard. We spent most of the time watching, taking pictures and just enjoying sitting on our balcony.
In the late afternoon of our first day, we landed at one of the islands. We took an 11 KM (round trip) bike ride to Viet Hai, a small village. We had a tour of the village and met some villagers. The Bhaya Cruise Company funded a community garden in the village as a way of giving back and supporting eco-tourism. The bike ride was pretty easy, though it did include 1 large hill and a tunnel through the mountain. It was dark on the ride back and that was a little scary. The bikes were not in good condition, but that was not surprising in Vietnam.
Luckily, we got back to the boat for happy hour. This was quickly followed by an excellent 5 course dinner. After dinner, Sue tried her hand at squid fishing (unsuccessfully).
For the early risers (not us) the day began at 6:15 am with tai chi on the sun deck. Our day began a bit later with a wonderful buffet of both western and Asian cooked breakfast food.
After breakfast, we visited La Ha Bay and the Cua Van Fishing Village. The fishing village is a typical tourist experience as fishing is no longer a way of life. The villagers are now mainly employed by the tour boats. They did a performance of traditional singing and courting activities. We normally don’t do these kinds of outings, but it was part of the cruise. We had the choice of kayaking or taking the boat to the island. We chose the boat as we decided that the afternoon kayak would be enough.
In the afternoon, we went to a beach and swam and kayaked. The kayaking was an easy trip around the island and a wonderful way to see the rock formations from a different viewpoint. Many people went swimming. Even though it wasn’t hot, the water was not very cold. This part of the trip would have been more enjoyable if the weather was warmer and sunnier.
To read another kayaking adventure, read Kayaking in Antarctica
Once back on the boat, we had a very informative tour of the bridge and the engine room with the captain and tour director. We learned a lot about the boat and the art of cruising Halong Bay.
For dinner there was a BBQ. The evening ended with a rousing finale performance by the staff of the legend of Au Co.
On the third day, we visited the Tien Ong Cave. The cave has stalagmites and stalactites. It’s a nice cave, but not too impressive if you’ve seen other, larger caves.
The rest of our time on the ship was spent relaxing and watching the scenery. We never tired of sitting on our balcony and watching the Bay go by.
Bhaya Cruise Company
We went with Bhaya Cruise which is a premium brand cruise company. Bhaya offers 3 levels of experience: the classic, Au Co and Legend. Classic cruises are on refurbished wooden boutique junk boats and are usually for 2D/1N. This boat has standard 15-20 deluxe cabins & larger terrace suites. Its premium version has only 3-7 premium balcony cabins. Both boats offer a small boat concept. Prices range from $157 per person (deluxe) to $229 (suites).
For a longer cruise the larger Au Co has 32 cabins (6 are suites). 3D2N cruises start from $305 (standard) to $381 person (suites).
Bhaya legend is the most expensive. It is a chartered private cruise so you have the flexibility to select your itinerary for a totally personalized experience. Boat sizes can vary from 1-3 cabins. Prices start at $1805 per trip (2D1N) to $2124 (3D/2N).
Transfers are additional.
Halong Bay Cruise—1 Day, 2 Days or 3 Days?
The one-day cruise is 4 hours long. You’ll probably leave the boat once to visit one of the smaller caves. With a short timeframe, you will not go too far into the Bay and are likely to be near other boats most of the time. The drive from Hanoi to Halong Bay is 2-3 hours in each direction so you’ll have more time in the van than on the boat. If you are very pressed for time, this is a good option.
2 Day Cruises generally include going to a cave, fishing village and may include a short period of kayaking or swimming.
3 Day cruises add on biking to a village in addition to the two-day cruise itinerary. The cruise goes further into the bay and into more secluded areas.
6 Halong Bay Cruise Recommendations
First, decide what length of trip you want to do. If you want be more secluded and have time to bike, kayak and swim, the Halong Bay Cruise 3 days 2 nights is the best for you. If you have limited time, we would recommend that you try to do at least the 2Days/1 night cruise.
Decide what time of year you are planning to go. Spring/Fall are high season and crowded, but the best weather. If you don’t mind cooler weather, winter can work for you. And, if you are willing to gamble on the rain, early- or late-summer is an option.
Economy, premium or Luxury? Big boat or small? We settled on a premium boat. If having a private balcony is important, make sure your boat has rooms with a balcony. Though, there were ample and comfortable public places on board to watch the scenery. The balcony was important to us. For a one-day cruise, the type of boat matters less.
Decide if you care about being near other boats. If you don’t care, 1 day or 2 days/one night is plenty.
Check the boat’s activities. Are swimming, kayaking and biking important to you? If so, you’re better off with the longer cruises.
If you are a photographer, then you really should go when the weather is sunny. You’ll notice that most of our photos are a bit dull. That’s because we had no sunny days.
For more on Vietnam, checkout The Best Hanoi Itinerary 5 Days What to See Do & Eat
Have You Been to Halong Bay? Have Recommendations to Add? Or Planning to Go and Have Questions? Please Leave a Comment.