How to Get to Son Tra Peninsula (Scooters Prohibited)
Getting to the peninsula is pretty straightforward. You need to reach the main beach (My Khe), and from there, it's hard not to notice a massive white Lady Buddha statue.
Basically, just follow the main beach road in the north direction (Vo Nguyen Giap that turns into Hoang Sa as you drive north). The best way to explore Son Tra is by driving a manual/semi-auto motorbike. If you're not feeling comfortable to drive in Vietnam, you can always book a motorbike tour with professional tour guides who will show you beautiful and hidden spots.
Anyway, by choosing to book a tour you're losing quite a lot of freedom as the driver has to follow the schedule, and by doing it, you'll probably miss many off-the-beaten-track places. Many backpackers in the city are exploring Son Tra, so connect with them in hostels or Facebook groups and figure out together the best solutions.
Renting a motorbike in Da Nang is very affordable, and it costs around 100,000 VND for a scooter for a whole day.
I suggest getting a manual or semi-automatic bike since some roads are very steep, and you might experience a tough time to get your scooter up there, especially if you're two on the bike!
UPDATE November 2019: Automatic scooters are prohibited to go to Son Tra Peninsula since there were many fatal accidents due to brake failure. Currently, you can't get to Son Tra without a permit that you can get at one of three security gates (free of cost). Visitors can enjoy Son Tra from 7:30 am to 7 pm daily.
If you're looking to get your bike, there are things you should look at when buying a motorbike in Vietnam, so if you don't have any mechanic skills, be careful!
Man Thai Village
Just at the beginning of Son Tra, there is a tiny fishermen village called Man Thai. A few years back, it was an authentic fishermen village, but now, due to rapid development, it is another part of the city. If you follow the beach road Hoang Sa in the direction of Son Tra, you will see a colorful fleet of coracle boats anchored in a tiny bay. The best way to experience the lifestyle of locals is by getting there around 6 am.
At that time, the village is so lively and vibrant as locals sell fresh seafood and prepare the boats for the sea. Every time, it amazes me how active Vietnamese people are. On the way there, you will stumble upon older and younger people running, doing a morning workout, stretching, and dancing a funny dance called Duong Sinh.
Expats in Da Nang: Looking to relocate and start a new life in Da Nang. Read our cost breakdown of living in Da Nang. Few places sell morning snacks like Banh Mi and a strong cup of Vietnamese coffee. Also, on the beach, you can sit in a beach chair while enjoying your morning snack and watching the sunrise.
That's my favorite way to start my morning!
From Man Thai village, people usually head straight to Linh Ung pagoda, completely missing a stunning lake on the way - Green Lake. Once you're on the road to Linh Ung pagoda and when the road slowly starts to ascend, one the left-hand-side, you'll be greeted with the views of the stunning lake. Just park your motorbike there (few people will be there, and you can securely leave the bike for 10,000 VND or just go to the lake with your bike), and you are ready for exploration.
During March - June, the water is crystal clear, and the lake looks green since the bottom has much grass, which is a natural habitat for many fish species! There are few places where you can jump and swim, as well as a small campsite where you can raise a tent to finish off your adventure!
Did you know that almost every wedding photo session isn't complete without a shot at Green Lake? Don't miss it!
Especially not on a hot day where the lake will provide you with the best refreshment you can think of!
Linh Ung Pagoda
Once you're done with swimming and taking stunning photos at Green Lake, it's time to visit famous Linh Ung pagoda! That place is by far the most-visited attraction on the peninsula, so be very strategic about your arrival. Go there just after the sunrise since there are not many tourists around, and you can experience Buddhist prayers and rituals.
The worst time is definitely around 11 am - 6 pm! Avoid full-moon days and other holidays as locals flock there, and it can be tough to even walk around without bumping into people! The place is the complex of a few pagodas and temples where people pray and perform rituals. Also, Lady Buddha that is 67 meters tall stays in the middle of the complex, protecting Da Nang from wind and storms.
Just walking around the complex will provide you with some stunning views over the city.
Plan your itinerary: Check out our 72 hours Da Nang itinerary and have fun. An interesting fact is that local fishermen built lady Buddha statue as they believed her presence protects them and gives them luck when they head to the sea.
The entrance is free of charge, and you can leave a donation in the parking zone.
As it's a Buddhist temple, be sure that you have some level of respect by wearing long pants and sleeves. Vietnamese people aren't rigorous when it comes to clothing compared to Thailand or Myanmar. Just cover your knees and shoulders, and you'll be fine.
Secret Beach #1
Once you continue driving from Linh Ung pagoda further, you will reach a hut with small and improvised parking. There is a woman who asks 10,000 VND during the day and 35,000 VND during the night to take care of your bike. From the parking spot, just follow the narrow path that leads to the secluded beach. Friendly locals who're camping or drinking, spend their afternoons at the beach.
During the day, the only people you'll see are few fishermen who're catching the fish from the rocks around (very impressive to observe the dedication and patience of these people).
UPDATE November 2019: Last time when I went there, my mirrors from the bike were stolen in front of the women. When we explained the situation, she became very aggressive as she was trying to prove we've arrived without the mirrors. We showed her our GoPro footage, but she disagreed and called us 'filthy tourists'. Also, she charges for beach maintenance, which is fine, but once you arrive at the beach, you'll be greeted with vast and smelly piles of trash everywhere.
By this time, you might feel a bit hungry and in need to refill your energy. What would be the better way than enjoying the local seafood on the beach in a small hut overlooking Da Nang? Bai Da is the ideal spot for that!
If you continue to drive further from Bai Nam beach, you will reach a parking spot where you can park (free) while enjoying local delicacies. There is a small beach with rocks and a few human-made bridges connecting the rocks. It's a perfect way to spend your afternoon before heading to the next location!
Once you're back on the main road, just continue heading east, and you'll be greeted by the most stunning views Son Tra peninsula has to offer! There is a stunning pass overlooking the outer part of the peninsula while giving you breathtaking views of the open sea. You can park your bike there, sit a bit and relax on the cliffs! The views are really spectacular.
If you continue a bit further, you will stumble upon a small parking lot where taxi drivers park their cars.
Go there and park your bike (no cost). There is a short and ascending hiking trail that leads you to the rocky beach. You will need to pass through some trees, so be sure to have long sleeves and proper shoes as it gets slippery on some parts. After 20 minutes, you'll reach Ghenh Banh - a small and secluded beach featuring stunning rocks and colorful underwater life.
You can swim and snorkel! Climbing up is relatively easy compared to going down, and once you reach the parking lot, you can sit and order a traditional
Vietnamese coffee or tea and enjoy the passion of taxi drivers while playing a card game.
Once you're done with your hike to Ghenh Banh and back on the road, after a minute, you'll reach the next crossroad. Take the right turn and just follow the rarely marked trail. It's a very narrow road that goes further up the mountain. The condition of the road isn't the best and there is always some traffic, so be careful when driving as there were few accidents reported recently.
After a few minutes, there will be a small fork where you take the right turn (it's marked). Just follow the road, and you'll reach a Banyan tree that is said to be around 1,000 years old. That area is the natural habitat of endangered monkey species called Red Shanked Douc.
That species live around Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, but most of them (around 200) lives in the forest of Son Tra Peninsula. Although, you have to be very lucky to see that beautiful monkey around it. When we were exploring Monkey Mountain, we only heard them, but never saw them. The diameter of the tree is around 20 meters, and some branches connect to the ground as it serves as the root.
It's very amazing just to take a seat and experience this beautiful creation of Mother Earth. You can park the bike on the road free of any cost.
The tree has a historical value as, during the Vietnam war (or how locals call it, an American war), Vietnamese soldiers used the tree as the shelter.
Once you're done wandering around a Banyan tree, just continue driving on the road until you reach a dead end. You park the motorbike there, and from there, you'll see a small path through the jungle. Be ready for about 30-minutes hike that leads to the end of Son Tra peninsula - Mui Nghe.
The literal translation of the name is a 'Horn of the Buffalo'. There is a very cool place where you can set a campsite and enjoy the sunrise and stunning sunset falling over Da Nang city. If you continue your hike, you will eventually get to the sea where you can swim and snorkel. The water made a small lake between the cliffs where you can swim in cold and turquoise waters.
Be careful, though, as we saw many jellyfish in the 'lake'!
Tien Sa Lighthouse
On the northeast part of Son Tra, there is a tiny Tien Sa lighthouse. The lighthouse is only 16 meters tall, and it helps in navigating the boat traffic between Hue city to Da Nang port. Once you reach the lighthouse there will be a security guy who requests 20,000 VND for climbing the lighthouse and get panorama view over the sea and mountains of Son Tra.
It's relatively easy to reach the lighthouse if you follow the main Hoang Sa road. The way is the same as you're going to the Banyan tree, but at the fork (you've turned right to reach Banyan tree), just continue driving.
Bai Cat Vang Beach
Now when you have so many places and information on how to reach those places on the eastern part of the Son Tra peninsula, it's time to explore the western part - a more secluded part featuring secluded beaches. Bai Cat Vang is the first off-the-beaten-path beach on the way. Park your motorbike at the beginning of a narrow path and walk for about 5 minutes until you reach a small beach hidden in a bay.
It's a sandy beach with a few rocks where you can chill or even set up your tent. While we were there, we stumbled upon local fishermen who were coming from the sea. Also, you can enjoy snorkeling or swimming in crystal clear waters in a tiny bay. As tourism is booming in the city, it takes effect on Son Tra too.
Bai Cat Vang has a local resort that looks empty during offseason, but as locals say, it becomes hectic during the season (April - September). We went there in March, and we stumbled upon a few local families with kids.
During the summer, there are many activities you can take part in, like snorkeling, kayaking, scuba diving, building a campsite with a massive fire, and much more When planning your trip to Da Nang, be sure to take the season in a planning process.
Read about the best seasons to visit Da Nang and have the best possible time.
Bai Da Den
When you're done with exploring Bai Cat Vang beach, you should follow a tiny path towards your bike. When you pick the motorcycle, just continue about 100 meters further, and you will reach a small parking spot where you can leave the bike. From there, you will notice a small and narrow path going down to the Bai Da Den beach. The beach is rocky, and many cliffs make it ideal for snorkeling or kayaking.
Also, there is a camping spot just on the cliffs that gives you beautiful views so far away from the bustle of the busy Da Nang city.
Whenever we visited the place, we always stumbled upon friendly locals who were camping. The biggest problem with camping there is that locals aren't aware so much about the littering, so they leave every piece of trash behind them. Please don't do it!
Ban Co Peak
Ban Co Peak is the highest point of Son Tra Peninsula and it provides people with stunning views over the whole city.
Situated in the middle of the Son Tra Peninsula, Ban Co is the tallest peak of the peninsula where you'll be greeted with stunning views over the jungle on one side and a whole city on the other side. As the summit is 693 meters above sea level, the clouds are cutting through it, which gives you an incredible experience and feeling that you're literally in the clouds.
Once you reach the peak, you can park your motorbike on the parking lot that costs 5,000 VND/bike, and from there, you have to climb a bit to reach the top. Also, at the parking spot, you can order cold drinks like tea or coffee, but the best is to bring some fruits or beverages with you (some people enjoy a picnic there).
The views are breathtaking, but you should time your trip since it's a very touristic place and crowds can kill the vibe. Arguably, the best time to visit Ban Co is around the sunrise. At the top, there is a De Thich statue in front of the chessboard. Interestingly, De Thich is playing by himself.
A legend goes that he was playing with another deity while he flew down to the beach as he was distracted by beautiful fairies. He lost the game, and out of anger, kicked the chessboard to the sea. People made the statue in a credit of another deity who was waiting for him and planning the next move.
UPDATE November 2019: Last time when we climbed to Ban Co peak, they've furnished the trail to the top. Right now, you have concrete stairs that make a final climb accessible to anyone.
Have you ever explored Son Tra Peninsula? Can you please share your experience and tell us about the most beautiful place you've visited there?