Dong Hoi is located in Quang Binh Province in North-Central Vietnam, and it’s best known as the gateway to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, with the biggest cave in asia. But few tourists or even Vietnam locals know what a charming and unique place to see the sleepy seaside town of Dong Hoi is. In this brief guide, we’ll look at how to get to Dong Hoi, what to do there, where to relax and stay, and what makes it unique.
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A Bit of Dong Hoi City History
Because of its location along the sea-connected Nhat Le River, Dong Hoi has been an important stronghold in almost every large-scale war Vietnam has been in. Because of that, the city has some ancient fortifications (like the Dong Hoi Wall of Reeds) and historical sites that date back nearly 500 years to Vietnam’s Trinh-Nguyen civil war.
Dong Hoi also played a part in the Vietnam War of the 60s and 70s because of its proximity to the DMZ, the line formerly dividing North and South Vietnam. There are a few severely damaged sites, like the bombed-out Tam Toa Church, that stand as a remnant of the havoc that heavily devastated much of Central Vietnam during the period.
In the past few decades, Dong Hoi, Vietnam, has been a testament to resistance and renewal and the unofficial capital city of Quang Binh. Its streets are incredibly clean and well-maintained, and its people embrace cutting-edge technologies like electric cars and golf carts. Combined with its walkable size, Dong Hoi feels like one of the “15-minute cities” that are all the rage in theoretical urban planning. In short, Dong Hoi has overcome its setbacks and transformed into a beautiful small city.
Getting to Dong Hoi City, Quang Binh Province
Despite its small size, Dong Hoi is in a central location and easily accessible. It’s well-connected to multiple modes of cross-country transportation, including:
- Air travel. The Dong Hoi Airport has multiple domestic flights coming from and going to Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and Danang every day.
- Rail travel. Dong Hoi Train Station is one of the stops along Vietnam’s North-South Reunification Railroad. It’s a long ride if you’re coming from Ho Chi Minh City or Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, but seeing the Vietnamese countryside could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The trip is more manageable if you’re from Danang, which is about four hours away.
- Car/Motorbike. Highway 1A, part of Vietnam’s North-South Reunification Highway, runs through the center of Dong Hoi.
- Bus travel. Vietnam has an amazing inter-city bus system, and bus trips to Dong Hoi are available from almost any city or large town to reach their bus station.
- Private car. Taking a private car from Da Nang or Hue is the most expensive option, but there are some amazing landmarks to stop at, like La Vang Holy Land, Hien Luong Bridge, and Vinh Moc Tunnels.
What to Do In Dong Hoi, Vietnam
The serenity you’ll feel when walking the streets of Dong Hoi or when sitting at one of its riverside cafes sipping on a fresh coconut is reason enough to visit. Though there are plenty of activities to explore if you know where to go. A few of the most popular Dong Hoi activities for tourists include:
Sites & Things to Do in Dong Hoi
- Going to the beach. Nhat Le Beach, Da Nhay Beach, and Bao Ninh Beach are just a couple of the white soft white sand beaches in the seaside town of Dong Hoi.
- Experiencing history. Ancient sites in or near Dong Hoi, like Dong Hoi Citadel or Dai Giac Pagoda, and more recently built ones, like Tam Toa Church or the Mother Suot Monument, will appeal to any of those interested in the past and present culture of Vietnam’s North-Central coast regions.
- Taking a boat tour. Explore the waters of the Nhat Le River and the beautiful beaches along the coastline with a boat tour. It’s a unique way to see the area’s natural beauty and gain a different perspective on local life.
- Sampling the street food. Dong Hoi offers a variety of delicious local dishes, including seafood and traditional Vietnamese cuisine. More on specific locations and local specialties in the “where to eat” section below.
- Going on a tour. Few tours show you around Dong Hoi, but Endless Vietnam offers a great half-day Dong Hoi tour that introduces you to local cuisine and culture.Nearby Wonder: Discover Phong Nha Ke Bang National ParkEmbark on a journey to the UNESCO-listed Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park, easily accessible from Dong Hoi. Ideal for a day trip, you can explore the magnificent Paradise Cave and Phong Nha Cave, but the park’s captivating beauty might just entice you to extend your stay. For nature enthusiasts, a 2-3 night stay in Phong Nha offers an immersive jungle experience.Phong Nha is what draws most travelers to Dong Hoi in the first place because it’s just a short taxi or local bus ride from Dong Hoi. We have an entire guide to visiting Phong Nha‘s caves. To explore more of the park, consider Vietnam is Awesome’s tour of Elephant Cave and Ma Da Jungle.
Where to Stay in Dong Hoi, Vietnam
When you visit Dong Hoi, it’s essential to stay near the seaside to make the most of your stopover. Below are six of our picks for the best places to stay in Dong Hoi, along with a bit about what makes each accommodation distinct.
- Regal Collection House. A boutique accommodation with beautiful decor located a short distance from Nhat Le Beach. It’s ideal for those seeking a stylish yet intimate stay in Dong Hoi.
- Gold Coast Hotel Resort & Spa. This 5-star resort offers a luxurious beachside experience, world-class spa facilities, and a swimming pool. It’s perfect for those seeking relaxation and indulgence amid a sleepy coastal town.
- Celina Peninsula Resort Quang Binh is a seaside luxury hotel with elegant decor and serene ocean views. It’s just right for travelers who appreciate comfort and natural beauty.
- Lena Homestay & Villa is your chance to experience Dong Hoi culture in a cozy, family-like environment. It’s a great place for an authentic and warm stay.
- Melia Vinpearl Quang Binh. A top-rated luxury hotel with stunning Nhat Le River and East Sea views, close to the beach and town. Melia has a beautiful rooftop, a restaurant, and an indoor pool.
- Cagina Boutique Hostel & Coffee is a stylish, budget-friendly hostel with a vibrant coffee shop. It’s a good option for social travelers looking for a unique and lively stay.
What to Eat: Street Food and Restaurants in Dong Hoi, Vietnam
Dong Hoi is an above-average food city. Its proximity to central and southern Laos on the west, the open ocean on the east, and the literal dividing line between North and South Vietnam makes it a melting pot of culinary cultures. Because of that, you can get all kinds of cuisines at local street food vendors or finer dining establishments.
The Best Street Food in Dong Hoi, Vietnam
Dong Hoi street food specialties include:
- Banh xeo, savory Vietnamese pancakes. You can try it at Banh Xeo Rub Pen, located at 23 Xuan Dieu in Dong Hoi.
- Goi ca ngheo, catshark salad. Find it at Trang Trang Restaurant, 198 Tran Hung Dao, Dong Hoi.
- Banh beo, tapioca rice cakes topped with dried shrimp. Get it at Banh Beo Ha Van Cach at 17 Ha Van Cach.
- Chao hau, oyster chowder. Try it at Thuy Duong Restaurant at 15 Phan Boi Chau.
- Banh bot loc, clear tapioca dumplings with shrimp, and pork filling. Find it at Banh Bot Loc Mrs. Hai at 13 Dong Hai or the Dong Hoi Market.
The Best Restaurants in Dong Hoi, Vietnam
For a more upscale dining experience, try out these Dong Hoi restaurants:
- La Co Beach Seafood Restaurant. Specializing in fresh, locally sourced seafood, La Co offers a flavorful sampling of local seafood. You’ll get to dine in a relaxed beachfront setting with some of the best sea views in Dong Hoi.
- Khoi Bistro specializes in fusing traditional Vietnamese flavors with modern culinary techniques. The bistro is known for its creative dishes and cozy, contemporary ambiance.
- Geminai Restaurant offers many international dishes in addition to the usual local cuisine. Its charming decor and friendly service make it popular among locals and tourists.
- Hai San Luong Chinh – Hai San Dong Hoi – Quang Binh. The seafood menu here is bigger than anywhere else on this list, and all the food is prepared in authentic Vietnamese style. It’s a great spot for enjoying traditional seafood dishes in a lively atmosphere.
- Hai San Minh Luu – Hai San Quang Binh isn’t as fancy as some entries, but the food is especially fresh and flavorful. It’s an ideal venue to experience the local flavors in a casual yet inviting setting.
- Atara Pub is a vibrant local bar and grill offering fresh seafood and ice-cold beers. Enjoy the authentic Vietnamese “nhau” experience with small wooden tables and chairs overlooking the sea along the boardwalk.
- Cafe Tree Hugger is a quaint cafe serving breakfast and lunch. It is known for its eco-friendly approach, relaxed atmosphere, and a menu featuring both local and Western cuisine.
Photos by Cafe Tree Hugger
Dong Hoi is Waiting
Dong Hoi is a beautiful city in Vietnam that tourists often overlook due to the popularity of the nearby Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. However, this might be good for you, as Dong Hoi and its stunning beaches remain relatively untouched by tourism. If traveling to Phong Nha, consider stopping in Dong Hoi to rest and explore this charming seaside town. This is especially convenient since many train arrivals are late afternoon or early evening so that you could sleep over for a night or two on your way. We hope this guide helps you have an awesome time in Dong Hoi!