Da Nang/Hoi An

Vietnam lends itself well to epics. Snaking down from the Chinese border to the Gulf of Thailand, its towering peaks, emerald-green paddies, and endless white-sand beaches offer enough natural beauty to inspire even the most jaded traveler. One of the highlights is the central coast. Da Nang, the country’s fifth-largest city, is the area’s chief hub. While the city is fast developing as a destination in its own right, neighbour Hoi An is long established as one of Vietnam’s premier tourist towns. Together, the two cities act as a launch pad for visitors to explore world-class heritage attractions and leisure options that range from golf courses and casinos to cooking classes and bicycle rides around bucolic countryside—plus, of course, some of Vietnam’s best stretches of sand.

Aerial view of the Golden Bridge is lifted by two giant hands in the tourist resort on Ba Na Hill in Da Nang, Vietnam. Ba Na mountain resort is a favorite destination for tourists

Photo By Hien Phung Thu/Shutterstock


When’s the best time to go to Da Nang/Hoi An?

The best time to visit the central coast is in the spring (Feb–May) when temperatures are a mostly pleasant 25–30 degrees. Summer can be scorching and uncomfortable, with temperatures of up to 35 degrees, while the monsoon season (October–January) brings lots of rain and temperatures of around 30 degrees.

How to get around Da Nang/Hoi An

There are big plans for Da Nang’s international airport, but as yet most international visitors arrive via Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi, from which there are regular domestic flights. Bangkok Airways opened a new direct flight to Da Nang from the Thai capital in May 2015, making that city another transit possibility.

There are several options for getting around. Motorbike taxis are plentiful and cheap in both Da Nang and Hoi An, while hiring a motorbike is a possibility if you need complete flexibility. Overall, taxis are generally the safest and most efficient method of transport, although a touch more expensive. Taxi scams are not uncommon, but can usually be avoided by riding with a trusted taxi company—Mai Linh and Vinasun are two of Vietnam’s most reputable.

Food and drink to try in Da Nang/Hoi An

Locals in Da Nang get their kicks from my quang, a dish of rice noodles topped with pork, shrimp, banana blossoms, herbs, and peanuts finished off with a spoonful of sweet-hot chili jam. The historic port of Hoi An, meanwhile, augments a culinary legacy which encompasses traditional dishes like cao lau (a noodle dish with origins in the soba noodles the Japanese brought with them on trade missions) with a cutting-edge restaurant scene. Some of the best chefs in Vietnam put their own spin on the country’s seemingly limitless supply of inspirational source material.

Culture in Da Nang/Hoi An

In Vietnam, Da Nang is viewed favorably mostly for its quality of living. It does, however, have a small but lively cultural scene and there are regular live music performances by local and visiting bands in such venues as Waterfront and Seventeen Saloon. Hoi An is more highbrow. There are a few decent galleries, and visiting international bands and DJs liven up the atmosphere at venues like Soul Kitchen on An Bang beach.

Late January to mid-February is a good time to visit if you want to breathe in the excitement of Tet, the lunar new year. The lead up to the celebrations sees Da Nang, Hoi An, and surrounding towns and villages come alive with displays of moon cakes, red banners, joss sticks, and red envelopes for giving lucky money (mung tuoi) to children. Hoi An’s full moon/lantern festivals, meanwhile, are another seductive reason to visit the ancient town throughout the year.

Local travel tips for Da Nang/Hoi An

For fantastic seafood, Da Nang is hard to beat. The quality is generally high in most places. If you are looking for a bargain feast, things get cheaper the further north towards the Son Tra Peninsula you go from the city’s main My Khe beach.

Guide Editor

Read Before You Go
A jumping-off point for exploring Hoi An on Vietnam’s central coast, Da Nang is coming into its own with new attractions and resorts, yet it still feels largely untouristed.
Resources to help plan your trip
Even Da Nang locals probably wouldn’t argue their home city is rich in standout attractions. Nevertheless, it is a hugely pleasant place to while away a day, with enough charismatic draws to keep visitors engaged. All the way from a tasty noodle breakfast to a sumptuous Vietnamese feast for dinner, Da Nang has what it takes to supply a perfect day.
Fine dining at the very highest level is somewhat thin on the ground in Da Nang and Hoi An. Nevertheless, there are stirrings at the top end of the market, with Pierre Gagnaire the biggest name to stamp his presence on the central coast dining scene. Other chefs are also doing a fine job in everything from fusion cuisine to exemplary hotel venues.
With a long and often tumultuous history that encompasses the heady days of the Champa Kingdom, Hoi An’s heyday as a regional trading hub, the American War, and Vietnam’s recent emergence as a tourist destination, the central part of the country is not short in intrigue.
With shimmering ocean crashing onto a wide sandy beach for miles, it’s no surprise that leisure activities with a water emphasis take primacy in central Vietnam. Nevertheless, there are many other things to do in the area. These include some fantastic golf, opportunities for biking, and some of the country’s most exciting motorbiking routes.
Like many tourist towns, Hoi An harbors more than its fair share of tacky souvenirs, but a growing contingent of enterprising locals and expatriate entrepreneurs has given the town’s retail options a much-needed shot in the arm. Aside from the ubiquitous tailoring outlets, the majority of Hoi An’s shops are focused upon arts and crafts, souvenirs, and gifts. Up in Da Nang, things are less touristy, with local markets offering an authentic Vietnamese shopping experience.
There’s so much to do in central Vietnam that you should consider basing yourself in the Da Nang area for around a week (or more). However, there’s no need to miss out if time is short. With the distance between the Da Nang and Hoi An minimal, it is easy to cherry-pick the highlights of both cities, as well as to devote an entire day to Cham Island, an offshore haven for diving, snorkeling, and lazing around.
From October to December (and often longer), Da Nang and Hoi An are hit by the winter monsoon, ensuring wet conditions for much of the time. Thankfully there are plenty of rainy-day activities in the area, with everything from attractive cafes to secondhand bookstores to explore.
Hoi An and Da Nang are perfectly positioned for exploring Vietnam’s narrow waist. With the Hai Van Tunnel shortening the journey to Hue by as much as an hour, it is simple to get from Da Nang to all points north. Other excellent excursions can be achieved more easily and involve little more than a short hop into the countryside from your hotel.
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