Camping the ocean road: From Saigon to Nha Trang
Driving along the coast from Saigon to Nha Trang – on excellent new roads passing superb coastal scenery – is one of my favourite motorbike trips in Vietnam. Dotted along this route are several places to camp by the ocean: pitch your tent under palms, eucalyptus, and casuarina trees on the sand, just metres from the surf. New roads have made horrible Highway 1 practically obsolete: only 50km is spent on this main artery. A few days riding the ocean roads, taking in the views, and camping in the open air is a fantastic way to experience Vietnam’s southeast coast. This guide includes a route map and reviews of campsites on the Ocean Road from Saigon to Nha Trang.
Me and my tent under coconut palms on a beach at a campsite on the Ocean Road
THE OCEAN ROAD CAMPING GUIDE:
- Route: Saigon to Nha Trang [MAP]
- Total Distance: 550km
- Terrain & Scenery: coastal, beaches, fishing villages
- Road Conditions: paved, quiet back-roads, new highways
The map below shows the route and all campsites along the Ocean Road from Saigon to Nha Trang. Campsite details and reviews follow after the map. (For more detailed motorbike guides along this route click the motorbike symbols on the map and follow the links in the boxes).
About Camping on this Route:
There are still very few official camp grounds in Vietnam. But the new generation of Vietnamese is embracing the ‘backpacker’ mentality of independent travel on the cheap. The result is a mini-boom in campsites, especially on the southern coast. Most campsites offer other forms of accommodation as well, but their camp grounds are well-maintained, cheap, attractive, and well-equipped, with access to the beach and bathroom facilities. Avoid weekends, when the campsites swell with domestic travellers escaping Saigon. During the week, most of the following places are blissfully quiet. Some places rent camping equipment; others do not: see individual reviews for specific details. Two good shops for camping gear in Saigon are: Fanfan (61 Cô Giang Street, District 1; www.fanfan.vn) and Lều Du Lịch Trúc Linh (505 Lê Văn Thọ Street, Gò Vấp District; www.leudulich.vn). Useful Vietnamese words to jot down for this trip are: cắm trại (camping) and lều (tent).
Beaches & Campsites:
The following camp grounds are listed and reviewed in geographical order heading northeast from Saigon to Nha Trang. Click on a beach name below to read about the campsites in the area:
- LONG HAI BEACH: distance from Saigon: 100km
- HO TRAM BEACH: distance from Saigon: 120km
- HO COC BEACH: distance from Saigon: 130km
- LAGI BEACH: distance from Saigon: 170km
- KE GA/TIEN THANH BEACH: distance from Saigon: 220km
- MUI NE BEACH: distance from Saigon: 270km
- NINH CHU/PHAN RANG BEACH: distance from Saigon: 410km
- CAM RANH BEACH: distance from Saigon: 460km
Long Hai Beach; 098 805 0968 [MAP]
Price: 70,000vnđ to pitch your own tent | 300,000vnđ+ to rent a tent
Two and a half hours from Saigon, the first beach on the Ocean Road is Long Hai. For several kilometres after Long Hai town, the road hugs the shore along a wild stretch of toast-brown sand. Just after Tropicana Resort, you’ll see a sign for Kawasamii on the right. Although the camp grounds and bathroom facilities here are fairly basic, it’s still right on the beach and in close proximity to Phuoc Hai fishing village, a genuine working fishing community. To see it in action, take the new corniche road (turn right opposite Phuoc Hai market, just north of Kawasamii) in the early morning: dozens of wooden fishing boats moor offshore as their catch is ferried to land in coracles, where women await to organize the fish for market. The campsite and village are rustic and real, so for anyone wishing to see that side of Vietnam, Kawasamii is worth a night. Seafood is available at the campsite and other meals can be found in Phuoc Hai.
Bringing in the catch: dawn on the corniche, Phuoc Hai fishing village
After heading inland through mangrove forest, the Ocean Road bridges the Ray River. Occupying a sandbar, with the river on one side and the East Sea on the other, the camp grounds at River Ray Estates are extensive and attractive. Pitch your tent on sandy ground under the shade of large casuarina trees that whisper in the wind. The beach is just a few metres away: a wide swathe of good sand, but blighted somewhat by fishermens’ trash. Yellow-washed brick buildings house decent bathrooms and good outdoor showers. The Danish owner speaks English, and you’ll more than likely be allowed to use the swimming pool. The clubhouse bar serves food and drink. To get here turn right after crossing the bridge and take the road past the large grey Vietsopetro Resort.
Camping on sandy ground under casuarina trees at River Ray Estates
Ho Tram Beach; (+84) 64 3776 777 [MAP]
Price: 50,000vnd to pitch your own tent | No tents for rent
A few kilometres further up Ho Tram Beach, Huu Nghi (signposted to the right) has recently opened on a large patch of exposed beach. Although it’s primarily a seafood restaurant, there’s plenty of sandy space for guests to pitch their tents close to the ocean. Showers and bathrooms are good, and food and drink is tasty and inexpensive. Next door, Gio Bien Resort has camping space near the beach, but it’s overpriced (150,000vnd) and there’s always been something gloomy about this haphazard resort.
Huu Nghi is essentially a seafood restaurant but there’s plenty of room to pitch your tent
HUONG PHONG RESORT:
Ho Coc Beach; www.huongphonghococesort.com; (+84) 64 3878 145 [MAP]
Price: 70,000vnd to pitch your own tent | 130,000vnd per person to rent a tent
Beyond the brash blot of The Grand Ho Tram Casino and Resort, Ho Coc Beach sweeps into the distance, backed by jungled hills. At Ho Coc crossroads, Huong Phong Resort is the first on your right. A large complex, Huong Phong is well-equipped for campers. Small and large tents are available, and there’s lots of space to pitch it. Choose from a sandy patch by the beach or in the shade of casuarina trees or, if it’s raining, on the tiled floor under a thatched gazebo. Bathrooms and showers are good; meals, snacks, and drinks are served throughout the day; and guests can use the swimming pool for 80,000vnd. It can get crowded on weekends, so if you’re looking for peace and quiet, come on a week day instead.
The long sweep of Ho Coc Beach, seen from Huong Phong camping grounds
Somewhere between quirky and kitsch and tasteful and traditional, this gigantic, sprawling resort has two superb camping grounds. In the centre of the resort complex is Bon Mua Public Beach, where outside guests can pay to access the resort’s beachfront. You can camp here under casuarina trees on the sand, which opens onto a wide white beach and blue water. There’s a breezy bar for drinks and snacks. The other camp ground is in the far east of the resort complex. Here, there are tiled concrete platforms (some of which are sheltered by palm-thatched roofs) where you can pitch your tent among a lush garden of coconut palms. Bathroom facilities are good and access to the beach is over an elegant slender bridge over a pond. It’s a lovely spot.
Camping under coconut palms at Saigon-Ho Coc camp grounds
After an inland stretch through an agricultural landscape backed by towering sand dunes, the Ocean Road hits the coast again, just west of the fishing town of Lagi. Coco Beachcamp only opened halfway through 2015, but it’s been packed ever since. Especially popular with Saigon’s increasingly independent and adventurous youth, Coco Beachcamp is at once bristling with youthful energy and extremely mellow. The man responsible for this happy contradiction is owner, Mr Lê, who’s been in the travel business for years. Lê is keen to build on Vietnam’s growing phượt culture (essentially this words means ‘backpacking’, or travelling independently and cheaply). He’s doing a fine job so far: there’s a beach bar, lounge chairs, a large selection of food and drink, great shower facilities, water sports equipment, and tents of all shapes and sizes. Camping is along the beach and in the beachside gardens. This is pioneering work in a place like Lagi, which is a busy fishing port with miles of undeveloped beach, within a few hours’ drive of Saigon. However, it’s so popular right now (packed even on a Monday) that it might be best to wait a couple of months, because at the moment this place is tent city.
Tent city: Coco Beachcamp is a pioneering development on Lagi Beach
A new road now leads out of Lagi, heading northeast for several kilometres before rejoining the original road (I’ve drawn the new road on my map because Google hasn’t registered it yet). Just before the junction you’ll see a grandiose arch on the right: this is the entrance to Dat Lanh Resort. It’s a modest place but with a huge amount of land, a generous portion of which is set aside for camping. You can pitch your tent under coconut palms on the powdery sand near the waves. There’s a big pool which campers can use for 50,000vnd. Bathrooms are good, and there’s a beautifully situated restaurant and bar by the sea. Staff at reception are often unsure about the camping situation: sometimes they make odd excuses for this, but persevere because it’s a great spot for a night.
Beautiful camp grounds among palms at Dat Lanh Resort
VINH LOC ECO-RESORT:
Tien Thanh Beach; (+84) 62 3846 266 [MAP]
Price: 60,000vnd to pitch your own tent | No tents for rent
After passing the salt fields northeast of Lagi and the old French lighthouse at Ke Ga, a glorious stretch of coastal road eventually ploughs into a casuarina forest. Clusters of resorts line this road. Vinh Loc Eco-Resort has a large section of forest and beachfront. The trees are tall and the beach is good. You’re free to make camp anywhere on the grounds, including under the thatched roof of the wooden long houses if it’s raining. It’s very peaceful under the swaying canopy here, and there’s a pleasing rough and rustic edge to this place. Food is available but you must order meals in advance. Across the road there’s a fishing lake (30,000vnd per hour): the resort will cook your catch for 150,000vnd per kilo. Next door, Sao Mai Resort also allows camping in their grounds. You can rent tents for 150,000vnd per person, and the price includes use of their swimming pool.
Remains of a campfire on the beach at Vinh Loc camping grounds
After passing through the bustling fishing town of Phan Thiet, the Ocean Road comes out the other side to the resort-packed sands of Mui Ne. Bearing northeast at the end of Mui Ne Bay, the road glides along empty sands to Hon Rom Peninsular. The beaches here are far less developed: kilometres of sand and surf stretching into the distance. On the right you’ll see a giant billboard for Long Son Campgrounds. Down a dirt road, Long Son is the best equipped camping grounds on the south coast. The beautiful sprawling gardens are dotted with palm-thatched wooden gazebos, housing a restaurant, bar, games rooms – foosball, table tennis, pool – excellent washrooms, and cosy lounge areas. The beach is great, but lacking shade. It’s a fabulous set-up. A whole range of tents are available to rent – from small domes to luxury pavilions – all of which come with varying degrees of comforts. There are lockers in which to secure your belongings and a ‘dollar menu’ of food and drink aimed at campers. Although Long Son is the perfect backpacker/kitesurfer refuge, it’s also a lunch stop for bus tours and occasionally hosts large ‘team building’ trips for Saigon-based companies. This means it can sometimes get busy. However, there’s plenty of space for everyone, and on weekdays it’s still likely to be quiet.
Perfect set-up: Long Son is everything a good campsite should be
NINH CHU BAY BEACH CLUB:
Ninh Chu Beach (Phan Rang); www.ninhchubay.com; (+84) 68 6272 727 [MAP]
Price: 200,000vnd to pitch your own tent (incl. food & drink) | 100,000vnd+ to rent a tent (excl. food & drink)
A new road now cuts across the white sand dunes of Mui Ne, heading northeast to Phan Ri Cua. Then another new coastal stretch runs along the beach to Lien Huong, where it’s necessary to join Highway 1 for 25km to Ca Na (more details about this route HERE). Turn right at Ca Na fishing port for a stunning new coast road, hugging the cliffs around Cape Dinh all the way to Phan Rang (more details about this route HERE). Ninh Chu Beach (a few kilometres east of Phan Rang City) is a wide and beautiful bay backed by rugged, boulder-strewn mountains. At the northern end, Ninh Chu Bay Beach Club offers camping on the beach, with fine views back over the bay. The Beach Club is a large open-sided concrete and thatch building on a good stretch of sand. Small, medium and large tents are available for 2-6 people. The owners, Mark and Thao, have put a lot of thought into their food and drinks menu: where else could you find German sausage, Mexican burritos, vodka flavoured with local fruits, and a special house sangria? There’s a large American pool table, good showers, comfy bar chairs and beach loungers. Food and drink is purchased with vouchers and all prices are in denominations of 25,000vnd. If you want to pitch your own tent here, simply buy 200,000vnd of vouchers to spend at the Beach Club during your stay. This whole area has huge potential; Ninh Chu Bay Beach Club is way ahead of the curve in that respect.
Pitch your tent on the sands of Ninh Chu Bay Beach Club and enjoy some of their great food & drink
CAM RANH BAY:
Binh Lap/Cam Lap Beach; Sop Promontory [MAP]
Prices: 50-100,000vnđ to pitch your own tent | 200-500,000vnd to rent a tent
The new Nui Chua Coast Road, from Phan Rang to Cam Ranh, is one of the most scenic coastal rides in Vietnam (more details about this route HERE). Snaking around the peninsular just north of Phan Rang, the road drops into the picturesque fishing village of Vinh Hy before climbing out again and winding through a series of gorgeous bays. At the northern tip of the coast road there’s a signpost to the right for Binh Chau and Ngoc Suong. A narrow lane leads along this promontory, jutting out into Cam Ranh Bay. On both sides there are stunning beaches of white sand and clear blue water. This is without doubt one of the best beaches in the country, but it remains mostly undeveloped. However, there are several places to camp here, all of which offer some of the most scenic, atmospheric beach camping available in Vietnam.
Sop Promontory in Cam Ranh Bay hides some of Vietnam’s best beaches
After a few kilometres there’s a small junction. Signposted to the right is Bai Tam Binh Chau (090 5166 629; MAP). Accessed along a dirt road through cashew trees, Binh Chau is a simple place with lush gardens and a glorious beachfront. Pitch your own tent on the sand for 60,000vnd or rent a tent for 200-300,000vnd for 2-4 people. Food is available but overpriced, and showers are a bit rustic, but who cares when you’re on a beach like this!
Superb beach camping on powdery white sand at Bai Tam Binh Chau
Further up the concrete lane beyond Binh Chau, you’ll see a sign on the right for Bai Tam Anh Tu (0163 5859 541; MAP). A cashew and mango orchard on raised ground above a boulder-strewn beach bursting with tropical colour, camping here is very atmospheric indeed. Pitch your own tent anywhere on the grounds (including under the thatched gazebos), or swing yourself to sleep in a hammock, or lie out on the ground in a sleeping bag under a mosquito next: 50-100,000vnd for any of the above. Showers are decent, food is available, and the owners are a friendly local family. Bliss.
Room with a view: swing yourself to sleep at Bai Tam Anh Tu
A little further up the road from Anh Tu there’s a sign on the left for Ngoc Suong Yen Bay Resort (www.ngocsuong.com.vn; [+84] 58 2222 892; MAP). Pay the 50,000vnd entrance fee and take the short dirt track leading to the other side of the promontory. To the left of the resort there’s a spectacular double beach dotted with large boulders and ringed with palm trees. You’re allowed to pitch your own tent here for around 100,000vnd per person, or the resort can arrange tents for 2-4 people, ranging from 400-700,000vnd. There are bathroom facilities and you can walk along the beach to the resort’s seafront bar and restaurant for food and drink. The location is jaw-dropping and, providing you avoid weekends and public holidays, you could have it all to yourself. Inquire at the resort reception for camping permission and tent rental.
Jaw-dropping location: camping at Ngoc Suong Resort, Cam Ranh Bay
On the western side of the promontory there are a couple of pretty fishing hamlets where you can find supplies, such as instant noodles and water. You can also follow the signs to Sao Bien Resort (www.saobiencamranh.com; 090 3669 360; MAP), where you can camp on the sand or rent tents, but staff were very unsure about prices when I visited. To get to Nha Trang, follow the coast road west for several kilometres until it hits Highway 1. Turn right and take the highway for 25km, passing through Cam Ranh town. At My Ca turn right off Highway 1 and take the bridge towards Cam Ranh airport. From here follow the airport road north as it winds its scenic route around the cliffs and into Nha Trang.
This article originally appeared on vietnamcoracle.com.