Guide to Central Vietnam
From white sand beaches and seafood feasts to exquisite temples and shopping, Central Vietnam has become an increasingly popular travel destination. Centered around the dynamic and modern city of Da Nang, the atmospheric old capital of Hue, and the timeless market town of Hoi An, the region truly offers something for everyone. And with Da Nang's new international airport, visiting is cheap and easier than ever.
Whatever the time of year or your budget, finding a great place to stay is quite possible. The beach stretching endlessly south from Da Nang to Hoi An is lined with luxurious resort getaways. Alternatively, there is an abundance of mid-range hotels in all three cities offering excellent value. If you seek a more social experience, there are clean, fun hostels catering to the younger crowd.
Almost anyone who visits Vietnam raves about the great value and quality of ingredients of its cuisine. When listing the best food in Southeast Asia, it is impossible to overlook the flavors found here.
For a truly complete meal, any Vietnamese chef will insist that a balance is necessary between the five elemental flavors: sweet, sour, bitter, spicy and salty. Each region in Vietnam has its own specialties due to differences in climate and culinary influences. While northern cuisine near the capital of Hanoi has more flavors and ingredients in common with China, the south, near Ho Chi Minh City has bolder flavors from the veritable cornucopia of ingredients at its disposal.
Placed directly between the two giant metropolises of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Central Vietnam boasts perhaps the most refined cuisine in the country. For an in-depth look at the local cuisine, check out our extended article on what to eat and where to find it.
Sun and Sea
It's no secret that Central Vietnam has some of the best beaches in the region. The sand is soft and the water temperature heavenly. Whether it's a beach in the city next to your hotel you're looking for, or seclusion far from the crowds, you're sure to find what you want.
Arriving in Da Nang, you'll quickly notice its primary draw: thirty kilometers of white sand stretching from Monkey Mountain in the north all the way south to Hoi An. The spectacular sunrises are reason enough to get out of bed early.
Perhaps the best stretch of sand to while away an afternoon is between the neighboring An Bàng and Cửa Đại beaches, a ten minute drive to the coast from Hoi An. For sunbathing and swimming alongside good food, drink, music and parasailing, An Bàng has got you covered. A ten minute stroll south on the sand brings you to relaxed Cửa Đại, which offers much of the same with a more relaxed vibe and lower prices. Either way, you're bound to forget all your earthly concerns as you recline with a fresh coconut in hand between dips in the sea.
The best beach in the region, however, could be north of the mountain not far from Hue. A half hour drive to the coast from the center of Hue is a little slice of paradise on An Dương beach called Beach Bar Hue. It's a bit tricky to locate, but once you do you'll be thankful you made the effort. Set aside half a day to enjoy yourselves with resident expats and other travelers at this local favorite.
Once you've had your fill of the beach, there's plenty to do away from the coast. As a general rule, Hue is a cultural destination, Da Nang the cosmopolitan urban center, and Hoi An a shopping and photographer's mecca.
So now you're ready to plan a trip, but you're not sure how to start? Read through our quick preparation guide to make your trip as stress-free as possible.