Con Dao is so beautiful. No one knows much about it though. There are parts of the Con Dao Islands that are comparable to the Maldives or Seychelles. Con Dao is often overlooked.

There are quite a few diverse and exceptionally attractive islands in Vietnam. Most people know Phu Quoc Island. It's the main tourist island in Vietnam. Others travel to islets to take photos around Halong Bay and often sleep overnight on a luxury cruise.

Everyone associates Vietnam with its tropical climate. The lush, green jungle terrain; the exotic landscapes full of exotic fruits and intriguing wildlife; of course, the far-flung stretch of incredible sandy beaches. You experience all of this in Con Dao and more.

The Con Dao Archipelago

The Con Dao Islands are an archipelago of 16 islands. You can find them just off the coast of southeast Vietnam. Each island is surrounded by beautiful fauna, jungle terrain and has local wildlife in abundance. It is like discovering paradise in Vietnam.

Con Son is the main island within Con Dao. This is where you can discover some incredible natural spots. Historians will be happy to visit this island as well. Architecture and structures, in addition to a variety of stories, are found on this island. Like living in luxury? You can stay in luxury here as well, just like in Phu Quoc.

Con Son Island

Con Son is the largest island and has most of the best attractions. There are places of natural beauty and places where history and information about Con Dao are stored in abundance. This is the best place to stay in the Con Dao Islands. You can book accommodation to suit all budgets.

Con Son is the only island that has residents and where you can discover and learn about history.

Con Son Island
Con Son Island @ Dang Thach Hoang / Getty Images

When you visit Con Dao Island, look to mix up nature with knowledge. Most places are easy to get to from Con Son Town. Public transportation, motorbike hire, private drivers, and the main port are located here. It is the starting point for Con Dao sightseeing.

The other Con Dao islands have to be reached by boat. An excursion to one or more of these islands is a must-do activity while visiting Con Dao.

Bay Canh Island

The biodiversity around the island is mesmerizing. Snorkeling the seas around this island offer opportunity to spot dolphins along with over 100 kinds of sea animals. The coral reefs present a kind of paradise under the sea. Land activities are plentiful too. Ancient jungle and flourishing plantation fauna provide the scenery for a trek to the mountain top. You can see the Con Dao Islands from a different viewpoint while at the lighthouse.

Hon Bay Canh is the second largest island of Con Dao Archipelago after Con Son.
Hon Bay Canh is the second largest island of Con Dao Archipelago after Con Son @ Vnexpress

Moments with turtles

Come and see the turtles on this picturesque little island. The boat stops arrives early morning. Bay Canh Island is home to the largest turtle population in the area. Turtles are homely creatures at heart. Any animal lover will know this will be where you see the turtles returning to lay their eggs. The best time to visit is during the breeding season, where you can see turtles on the beach early morning.

Releasing baby turtles back to the ocean
Releasing baby turtles back to the ocean @ Vnexpress

Tre Lon Island

You might need a pass to visit this Con Dao Island. Try to get a licensed boat trip that provides all the documents necessary for a hassle-free excursion. For those who want to snorkel and explore varieties of lush and delightful coral and shallow water sea life, this is the island for it. It has a unique local ecosystem. This is one of the Con Dao Island that is difficult to access.

Book in advance

Numbers are limited. Book in advance. This is sustainable tourism in operation. It is a petite island, with a circumference of 1km. After an hour's boat ride from the main Con Dao Island, you'll find an island untouched by mass tourism. It is the archetypal tropical island.

Tre Lon Island
Tre Lon Island @ Internet

The best things to do on Con Dao - What to do!

You can learn about the history, biodiversity and discover untouched areas around Con Dao. Most are on Con Son Island. The other 15 islands do offer experiences and views that you wouldn't see in many other places.

The Con Dao Islands - places of history

The history of Con Dao is interesting: the Con Dao islands were taken over by the French in 1866 and they stayed under French control for almost 100 years before being returned to Vietnam. This has left many marks of history on the archipelago.

Phu Hai Prison

This is considered a place of hell by local residents during the time of operations. It is in stark contrast to the usual paradise seen on the islands. Phu Hai Prison has a dark past. The French built this to keep the opposing forces and revolutionaries at bay. Resources were cramped, with up to 200 prisoners being imprisoned within 1500 square meters.

Phu Hai historical prison
Phu Hai historical prison @ VuCongDanh / Getty Images

A lot of Vietnam's red guards were trapped here. The conditions were appalling. They often suffered malnutrition. They had to work on the grounds. You can see foundations for a rice mill, barbershop, and an auditorium. It was a community. This was the prison system. Those who disobeyed were sent to another volatile place, the Tiger Cages.

The Tiger Cages

This was where the most hated prisoners were kept. The tiger cages consist of a 5 square meter room. Sometimes, inmates shared the space. They were tortured and prodded with bamboo spikes. Prisoners were shackled and held under the most gruesome circumstances. At one time, over 2000 prisoners were kept in 120 Tiger Cages.

The Tiger Cages
The Tiger Cages @ Lý Minh Bá / Getty Images

Some notorious individuals were kept at the Tiger Cages. Nguyen An Ninh and Vo Thi Sau are revolutionaries who were executed at the prison. US Prisoners of War were captive at this place during the civil war. This is a place to remember and reflect rather than rejoice. We remember how evil humanity can be at times. We reflect on how not to do this again.

Hang Duong Cemetery

Memorials and mausoleums of well-known revolutionary fighters can be found at Hang Duong Cemetery. The cemetery was created as a place of remembrance shortly after Vietnam gained its independence. The mausoleum of Vo Thi Sau is a much-visited tomb. People come to pay respects to her 24 hours a day.

Hang Duong Cemetery
Hang Duong Cemetery @ HoaiPT / Getty Images Signature

Over 2000 tombs are spread across various sections of the cemetery. You'll note that Hang Duong is an official national monument. Families, war veterans, and visitors visit in numbers. People remember the act of sacrifice here. They also reflect on the bloodshed and hard work it took for Vietnam to get to where it is today.

The Con Dao Museum

The Bao Tang Con Dao Museum helps to fill in the information gaps you might encounter when visiting the prisons and cemetery. The museum has over 2000 displays showing the history of the Con Dao Islands. It is free to visit and is worth a trip out. You can develop further knowledge about the mysterious and dark history of Con Son Island.

The Con Dao Museum @ Internet

You can read artifacts of old revolutionaries and previous residents on the island during the prison era. Visual and audio documents show more details of such a shocking and hellish period of time. Artifacts from Colonial France have been kept and maintained. The Con Dao Museum is located at the old Governor's Residence. You can see some grand architecture and learn about Con Dao's dark past here.

Van Son Temple (Chua Van Son)

The temple is located amongst one the most spectacular views of Con Son Island. It's a bit of a hike to get here. The views are worth it though. Take a bike along the coastal road, or walk here. You won't regret the journey.

Van Son Temple view from above @ Internet

The temple has a simple layout. Shrines are dedicated to various deities. Quan Am is the one statue that stands out from the rest. People come here to worship and pay respect for a variety of reasons.

The area and the view exhume tranquility. Come here early evening for a nice view, peaceful surroundings and some good exercise!

The natural spots of Con Son Island

Intrigue and contrast envelop these islands. The island has a large number of beautiful white sand beaches and landscapes that are rugged and raw, yet colorful and very pleasing to the eye. You have to see these places.

Con Dao National Park

You'll find more wildlife than people here most of the time, except for national holidays. This is a hidden gem in Con Dao. The nature reserve is abundant with various flora and fauna that make up the plantation of the park. Con Dao National Park is one place you should visit while in Con Dao.

The entrance of  Con Dao National Park @ Internet

Con Dao National Park stretches out to the coastline. Here, you'll find turtles, dolphins, and rare dugongs making up Con Dao's biodiversity. There are many species of corals and underwater life to be discovered in the park. Con Dao National Park isn't UNESCO yet, but that could change at any time.

The stunning beaches of Con Dao

Anyone who comes to visit Con Dao Islands has to visit at least one beach. There are a plethora of beaches on Con Dao. There's a beach to suit everyone. These are a few beaches to look out for:

An Hai Beach

Locals call this Con Son beach. It is the closest beach to the main town in Con Dao. This is the place to do any activity associated with the beach. You can go snorkeling, diving, deep-sea fishing, and take boat trips around this beach. It's close to the town. You can taste some delicious and fresh seafood around here.

Con Son beach @ Dang Thach Hoang / Getty Images

Weekend visitors from Ho Chi Minh come here for a break and for the fresh grilled seafood. Other Vietnamese local delicacies are available around this beach. It's a lovely beach when it is quiet.

It's a busy beach, especially during the holiday season in Con Dao. It's good for convenience. There are other beaches that offer the kind of isolated paradise you may want to experience.

Dat Doc Beach

The famous Six Senses Hotel is located next to Dat Doc Beach. This area is for those who want hotel luxury, with a private beach. It's premium. It's a luxurious experience.

Six Senses Hotel overview
Six Senses Hotel overview @ Six Senses Website

Parts of the beach are accessible to the public via a footpath. Dugongs are spotted here. It's a lovely beach!

Dam Trau Beach

This is another hidden gem! Of course, Con Dao Island has a lot of them. This golden coastline merges perfectly with jade-blue crystal clear waters and a towering hillside of thick jungle and fabulously intricate fauna to create the kind of picture you would put on a postcard.

Dam Trau Beach
The beautiful Dam Trau beach @ OldCatPhoto / Getty Images

It's a little out of the way, around 15km. The sand road eventually guides you to a beautiful little cove. There are a few restaurants and shops just outside the bay. In reality, this is the total opposite of the lively ambiance of Ho Chi Minh City and an experience very much needed at times.

Ong Dung Beach and Dat Tham Beach

For those who are old enough, do you remember the movie, Blue Lagoon? The movie where people stumble across a tropical island because of a shipwreck? These beaches make you feel that way. They are untouched, unspoiled, and very attractive to the eye.

Ong Dung Beach
Ong Dung Beach @ VuCongDanh / Getty Images

They are located around Con Dao National Park. You'd need to walk to both beaches. You'll love the feeling of isolation at these beaches. It's one place where you can truly experience the vigor and beauty of the East Sea of Vietnam.

Nhat Beach

This is another beach for visitors to explore. Known as Shark Bay, Nhat Beach is great for those who consider the sun as their god. It is a stretch of coastline with a lot of sunlight. Bring suncream!

Nhat Beach at Con Dao @ Internet

It is best to get a motorbike to this area, as it is a bit far out from the main town. If you want to see natural spots of nature around Con Dao and this is one of those places. Nature surrounds you and it is your companion.

How do I get to the Con Dao Islands?

This is a 4-hour boat ride from Vung Tau or a 45-minute flight from Ho Chi Minh City. Con Dao can be reached from other domestic airports. You have to visit if you get the chance. We'll look at the amazing natural scenery around the islands, the main tourist spots, and a few other things you can do as well.

The Con Dao Archipelago is quite the experience, whether you relax on the beach, explore tropical islands with amazing biodiversity, or indulge in local culture and cuisines. Con Dao is one of the most unique and exciting destinations in all of Vietnam. Come and explore Con Dao now, or take a look at Vietnam's other amazing destinations.