An Adventurous Phong Nha Itinerary for 2-4+ Days in Central Vietnam

by Jackie
Published: Updated:
During your Phong Nha itinerary, you'll see boats and houses along the Son River in Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park, Vietnam

Phong Nha, located in the Quang Binh Province of Central Vietnam is the best place for adventurous travelers. This fun and bucket list worthy place is known for the breathtaking caves, stunning stalactites and stalagmites, and exciting trekking adventures to hidden caves. All the caves are a part of the Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park (Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng or Vườn quốc gia Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng in Vietnamese). If you’re a UNESCO fan, this place is one of Vietnam’s UNESCO World Heritage sites

How many days do you need in Phong Nha? It depends on what you’d like to do. We say that you need a minimum of 2 days in Phong Nha but you can easily spend 3+ days here for a long weekend.  

With this Phong Nha itinerary, we’re sharing the top things to do in Phong Nha for 2 to 4+ days, where to stay, where to eat, and other helpful tips. It’s such a beautiful and peaceful place to enjoy the natural landscapes and outdoor activities. You’ll fall in love with Phong Nha and will want to return to explore the outdoors again!

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Map of Phong Nha Attractions

Map of the Phong Nha attractions to visit in Phong Nha, Vietnam

Click on the image for a larger view of the top places to visit in Phong Nha, Vietnam. Credit: Map data: Google

Best Time to Visit Phong Nha

Visit Phong Nha from December to September as the weather will be pleasant and you won’t have heavy rainstorms. Although, rain can appear at any time since you’re in Vietnam! We visited at the end of December 2020 and encountered mostly clear skies and some misty afternoons. 

The average temperature is 20-23℃ (69-73℉) from January to March and November-December and 26-30℃ (79-86℉) from April to October.

Do not visit from October to the end of November due to the annual floods and rainy season. The entire town is submerged underwater so you won’t be able to do anything. 

Jackie Szeto, Life Of Doing, sit on the swing with a view of the Son River in Phong Nha, Vietnam

Visiting Phong Nha in December is a great time to visit and still has pretty views.

How to Get to Phong Nha

Since Phong Nha is a small town, it does not have an airport or train station. The nearest city to Phong Nha is Dong Hoi and it has a domestic airport and bus stop. 

The Dong Hoi Airport (airport code: VDH) is 30 miles (48 kilometers) from Phong Nha and will take 50 minutes by taxi or private car. The cost is 400,000-500,000 VND ($17.50-$21.80 USD) one-way. 

If you take the bus to Phong Nha, you’ll need to find the green and yellow bus with B4 listed on it. The ride will take 1-1.5 hours to the center of Phong Nha town. The cost is 50,000 VND ($2.18) one-way.

Related: Transportation options to travel around Vietnam

How to Get Around Phong Nha

If you’re staying around Phong Nha town, you can easily walk around as the restaurants are close together. 

Riding a bicycle is easy to do around town since there isn’t much traffic. Ask your accommodation if they have bicycles available to use. Many offer them available to use for free. Just know that helmets are not provided and the bicycles are not in the best shape. As long as you cycle slowly, you’ll be fine. 

Renting a motorbike is another option and will be helpful if you plan to travel to other areas in the Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park. Ask your hotel accommodation about motorbike rentals.

Jackie Szeto, Life Of Doing, rides a bicycle and passes a cow on the Phong Nha streets.

Riding a bicycle is one of the faster ways to travel around Phong Nha.

Phong Nha Itinerary: Day 1 – Exploring Caves and Garden

On your first day of Phong Nha, we’re exploring the caves and enjoying the landscapes. 

1. Take a photo of the Phong Nha Ke Bang Hollywood sign.

When you enter Phong Nha Town, you’ll see the Phong Nha Ke Bang Hollywood sign in large white letters on the mountains. You can’t miss it as it’s a famous landmark of Phong Nha. 

If you missed it or couldn’t do a quick stop on your way to Phong Nha town, then take a motorbike or bicycle to snap the photo. 

Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park sign on the limestone mountain

The Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park Hollywood sign is a must-see landmark in Phong Nha.

2. Visit Paradise Cave and/or Phong Nha Cave.

Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park has over 300 caves in the area, so it’s recommended to visit one or two on your first day. The two popular caves are Paradise Cave and Phong Nha Cave. 

Paradise Cave

Paradise Cave (Động Thiên Đường in Vietnamese) is one of the top attractions to visit in Phong Nha. It’s an impressive limestone cave that is 72 meters (236 feet) high. The cave itself is 31 kilometers (19.2 miles) long and is considered one of the longest dry caves in Asia. You’re allowed to walk 1 kilometer (.60 miles) into the cave and explore the stalactites. You’re allowed to go farther into the cave but will need to take a tour. 

Admission Cost: The admission cost is 250,000 VND ($10.80) for adults and 125,000 VND ($5.40) for children under 1.3 meters if visiting this cave on your own. 

How to Get to Paradise Cave: This cave is located in the National Park loop, so you’ll need to take a day tour, hire a driver, or ride a motorbike to visit this cave. It’s about 25 kilometers away from the Phong Nha Ke Bang Tourism Center and will take 50 minutes to ride there. 

Phong Nha Cave

If Paradise Cave is too far to travel to, head to Phong Nha Cave instead. Phong Nha Cave (Động Phong Nha) is more accessible as you buy the tickets at the Phong Nha Ke Bang Tourism Center in the center of town. It’s not necessary to take a Phong Nha Cave tour. This cave is only accessible by boat along the Son River, so you’ll take a boat to get there. 

What is cool about Phong Nha Cave is that you enter an underground passage and pass by incredible stalactites and stalagmites. The boat goes to the end of the cave and turns around, yet you’re dropped off at the wooden walkway so you can explore the cave further. The cave is gorgeous and has tons of spots to take photos with the unique stalactites and stalagmites.  

Admission Cost: The admission cost is 150,000 VND ($6.50) for adults, children under 1.3 meters (51 inches) are free. 

How to Get to Phong Nha Cave: As stated earlier, you can only go to Phong Nha Cave by boat. The boat ride is 550,000 VND ($24) and holds up to 12 people.

You can have a private boat or share it with others. While sharing a boat will be cheaper, you’ll need to wait for other visitors to arrive at the ticket office and ask if they want to share. You may be waiting a long time, especially during the low season.

If you can afford to rent the whole boat, go for it since you can spend as long as you want in the cave area. 

Insider Tip: Add Tien Son Cave (Động Tiên Sơn) to your Phong Nha Cave trip. Both of these caves can be combined on a single visit since they’re in the same area and use the same boat ride. The cost of the Tien Son Cave is 80,000 VND ($3.50) for adults. 

Jackie Szeto, Life Of Doing, sit on the rail with the stalactites and stalagmites in Phong Nha Cave in Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park Stalactites and stalagmites inside the Phong Nha Cave in Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park, Vietnam
Jackie Szeto, Life Of Doing, stand inside the Phong Nha Cave with stalactites and stalagmites in the background.

Phong Nha Cave is a gorgeous place to visit on your Phong Nha itinerary.

3. Wander through the Phong Nha Botanic Garden. 

The Phong Nha Botanic Garden is not the typical “botanical garden” that you see around the world. There aren’t any manicured gardens or landscapes. You’re literally in the middle of the jungle and surrounded by trees and green plants. 

The best thing to do at the Botanic Garden is to walk along the path to the Gio Waterfall. The cascades are HUGE and one of the impressive waterfalls to see in Vietnam

Insider Tip: Some scrambling is required to get to the top of the waterfall. You’ll need to walk very slowly along the rocks to get to the top of the falls. The rocks are extremely slippery when wet so hold on to the rope as tightly as possible. Go at your own discretion!! Otherwise, feel free to hang out at the bottom of the falls.  

Other highlights of the Botanic Garden include an animal rehabilitation center where we saw adorable porcupines and monkeys and a garden nursery (although, there wasn’t much on display in the nursery.)

Admission Cost: The cost is 40,000 VND ($1.70) for adults. Children under 1.3 meters are free. Tickets available for purchase from 7:30am to 4:00pm. 

How to Get to the Phong Nha Botanic Garden: This place is 9.7 kilometers (6 miles) (17 minutes by car) away from the Phong Nha Tourist Center and is through the Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park. You’ll need to hire a driver or rent a motorbike to get here. We do not recommend using a bicycle since there are steep hills. 

Justin Huynh, Life Of Doing, holds a rope to go up the waterfall at Phong Nha Botanic Garden in Phong Nha, Vietnam

Be careful when climbing up the waterfall at Phong Nha Botanic Garden.

Phong Nha Itinerary: Day 2 – Explore Bong Lai Valley

1. Explore Bong Lai Valley for the day.

Bong Lai Valley is a rural area that is only 13 kilometers (8 miles) away from the main Phong Nha town. It’s a fantastic day trip to explore the small villages and farmlands and enjoy the peaceful, off the beaten track area. During your trip, you’ll pass by locals working on their fields and water buffalo and cows munching on grass. 

Unfortunately, the narrow, dirt paths make it difficult for cars to cross. Therefore, ride a bicycle or take a motorbike and explore Bong Lai Valley. Make sure you take the paved route or you’ll be driving through mud pits and this would be impossible for cyclists. 

Some places to stop by in Bong Lai include the original Pub with Cold Beer (don’t go to the knock-off one!), Duck Stop, and Bong Lai Swing. It’s up to you how long you want to spend in the area as it can be half a day or a full day. 

Check out our Bong Lai Valley guide for more details. 

How to Get to Bong Lai Valley: Our guide has a map on the best way to get to the area with few traffic.

A red and black bicycle stands in front of the farming fields in Bong Lai Valley, a rural area of Phong Nha, Vietnam

Bong Lai Valley is a hidden gem to visit when you’re in Phong Nha.

2. Watch the sunset from Phong Nha Farmstay. 

On your way back from Bong Lai Valley, stop by Phong Nha Farmstay. Grab a drink and watch the gorgeous sunset from the rice fields. You can also stay longer and enjoy dinner at the on-site restaurant, which serves Vietnamese and Western food. 

How to Get to Phong Nha Farmstay: Phong Nha Farmstay is about 1 kilometer (.60 miles) east of the Ho Chi Minh highway. It’s a quick detour before returning to Phong Nha town. 

Phong Nha Itinerary: Days 3+ – More Adventures

For adventure travelers, the next few days is an opportunity to go on a trekking tour through Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park. The two main tour operators are Oxalis Adventures and Jungle Boss and they offer various caving adventures that you can take. There won’t be any overlap with the tour companies visiting the caves as they have access to certain caves. 

Oxalis is well-known in the trekking industry as they helped develop Phong Nha to what it is today. This company offers tours that are 2-4 days long. Also, they operate the famous 4 days/3 nights Son Doong (Hang Sơn Đoòng) tour, the largest cave in the world

Or, head to the 2 days/1 night Hang En Cave (Hang Én) tour, which is the third-largest cave in the world and more budget-friendly. We did this tour and highly recommend it. It’s one of the best memories that we have in Vietnam, especially if you get the chance to see the sunbeam peek through the cave. There is no other better reason than to see that magical view. 

Check out our Hang En Cave guide for more details. 

Other tours include visiting Tu Lan, Hang Tien, Hang Va, and more.  

Jackie Szeto and Justin Huynh, Life Of Doing, is at the top of the cave with the Hang En sunbeam in the background

The Hang En sunbeam is such a magical experience.

Jungle Boss has noteworthy adventure tours that you can take. They have 1-day to 3-days trekking tours. Visit exciting places such as Hang Pygmy, Tiger Cave, Elephant Cave, Tra Ang Valley, and more. 

With these Phong Nha trekking tours, everyone receives a pick-up from their accommodation to the Headquarters.

Other Things to Do in Phong Nha

If you don’t want to do any trekking, there are other attractions to visit in Phong Nha. These places can be visited by a driver or motorbike. During our time of visit, the attractions were closed, so you’ll need to check if they’re open. 

1. Ozo Treetop Park

Located in the National Park loop, Ozo Treetop Park is a fun place to visit for the family. There are obstacle courses, ziplining, cycling, kayaking, and more. You can even stay overnight here. 

Admission Cost: The cost is between 100,000-450,000 VND ($4.30-$19.50) for adults for a 3-5 hour experience. If you want to go through a cave, the cost is 1,100,000 VND ($48) for adults. 

2. Dark Cave

Spend the day at Dark Cave (Hang Tối), which is located in the National Park loop. Here is an adventurous way to explore and can go kayaking or ziplining over the Chay River. There are mixed reviews regarding the safety of the ziplining, so it’s up to your discretion if you want to do this type of activity. 

Admission Cost: The cost is 450,000 VND ($19.50) for a full-access tour or 270,000 VND ($11.70) for regular access. You can buy tickets at the Phong Nha Ke Bang Tourism Center. 

3. Mooc Spring Eco-Trail 

This place is one of the stopping points on the way to/from Paradise Cave. It’s an opportunity to spend time in the outdoors and go kayaking or swimming in the spring. 

Admission Cost: The tour costs 180,000 VND ($7.80) for adults and 100,000 VND ($4.30) for children from 1.1-1.3 meters. Tickets are available at the Phong Nha Ke Bang Tourism Center. 

Where to Stay in Phong Nha

Phong Nha has plenty of cheap accommodations that won’t break the bank. You can choose from affordable guesthouses and homestays that are around $25 per night!

Check out the places to stay in Phong Nha here. 

We stayed at these two affordable guesthouses:

1. Areca Bungalow

Want to stay in a private bungalow? Areca Bungalow is the perfect place for you! Each bungalow has a high ceiling, enclosed bathroom, air-conditioning/heater unit, bottles of water, and shampoo and soap. It’s a comfortable place to stay for a few days. 

Breakfast is included in the room and is made to order. At the time of our visit, they offered three choices – eggs with baguette, instant noodles, or beef noodle soup. You can sit in the patio area with the river view. 

The guesthouse owner, Hoai, is friendly and can answer any questions that you have. She can also arrange tours and taxis to/from the airport. 

This place is 1.6 kilometers (1 mile) away from the Phong Nha Ke Bang Tourism Center so it’ll take 20 minutes to walk into town or less than 10 minutes by bicycle. They have bicycles available to use for free. 

The cost per room starts at $20 per night for 2 person occupancy.

Reserve a room at Areca Bungalow here. 

2. Funny Monkey Homestay

This homestay is tucked off of a small street in the center of Phong Nha town. Rooms are available on the first and third floors of the building. The rooms are comfortable and have an ensuite bathroom. The guesthouse owner, Moon, has environmentally-friendly amenities such as shampoo and body wash in refillable bottles and filtered water in glass bottles. If you’re on the third floor, there is a hangout section to relax on the hammock and see the views of the river. 

This homestay has bicycle rentals and kayaks available for free but with a two-hour limit. Breakfast isn’t offered yet there is a bakery within walking distance from the homestay. They do have a restaurant that is open for dinner so you can try Vietnamese food here. 

Moon can also arrange taxis to/from the airport. The cost per room starts at $18 per night for 2 person occupancy.

Reserve a room at Funny Monkey here. 

If you’re looking for more luxurious options, here are a few places: 

1. Phong Nha Farmstay

This is a popular option that is a home away from home. This homestay is outside of the main Phong Nha town, so it’s a quieter area. Guests can choose between a standard, suite, family room, or a private villa. Breakfast is included in the room. The cost of the room starts at $60 and goes up to $350 per night for 2 person occupancy

Reserve a room at Phong Nha Farmstay here. 

2. Victory Roads Villas

Located in the Phong Nha town, Victory Roads Villas has gorgeous villas that are suitable for two people or families. Guests have access to an outdoor swimming pool and free breakfast. The cost of the villa starts at $100 per night for 2 person occupancy.

Reserve a room at Victory Roads Villas here. 

3. Phong Nha Lake House Resort

If you’re looking for comfortable accommodations away from Phong Nha town, then check out this resort. Located off of the Ho Chi Minh highway, rooms are on the larger size and have a lovely view of Dong Suon Lake. Family rooms are available. Guests can swim in the swimming pool. The resort can help organize tours and transportation if necessary. The cost of the rooms is between $30-$90 per night for 2 person occupancy.

Reserve a room at Phong Nha Lake House Resort here. 

Where to Eat in Phong Nha

We went to Phong Nha during an odd time since the town just reopened after its annual flood and during the time of the travel restrictions. Many of the restaurants were closed, so it was challenging to find places to eat in Phong Nha. On our first day of arrival, we cycled around for 30 minutes to try and find restaurants. 

Here are the restaurants that we tried and enjoyed: 

1. Momma D’s Rooftop Lounge

Located on the roof of the Thuong Hai Hotel (7th floor), it’s the place to go to relax at the end of the day. This place is only open in the evenings so you can see the sunset from the rooftop. 

Denise, the owner, offers affordable and delicious Western food and craft beers and drinks. Choose from classic foods such as meatloaf, chicken parmesan, shepherd’s pie, bangers and mash, or Mexican food such as tacos and nachos. The food is made to order and is so good! If you’re a vegetarian, request tacos or nachos to be vegetarian, and stir fry vegetables will be used instead of meat. 

We went here for three nights so we tried many items on the menu. You can’t go wrong with any of the options. The meatloaf and shepherd’s pie received high remarks. The tacos are one of the best that we’ve eaten since the corn tortillas tasted like what we’re used to at home in the San Jose, California area. End your meal with the cheesecake for dessert – you’ll thank us later!

Everyone receives a complimentary bellini shot of white wine, frozen peaches, and rum. 

The cost of an entree is between 100,000-120,000 VND ($4.30-$5.20).

One plate has two tacos with salsa and salad and second plate has meatloaf with vegetables and mashed potatoes at Momma D's Rooftop Lounge in Phong Nha, Vietnam One plate has vegetarian lasagna with bread and salad and second plate has shepherd's pie at Momma D's Rooftop and Lounge in Phong Nha, Vietnam

2. The Villas Restaurant 

If you’re looking for a sit-down, casual restaurant, check out The Villas Restaurant. The menu has Western-style food such as confit duck leg, beef tenderloin, chicken tagine, salmon, burgers, spaghetti, and Italian-style pizza. Vegetarian appetizers and entrees are available such as couscous, lentils, or spaghetti. Around the holiday season, the restaurant has a special menu. 

You’ll like whatever you choose. We tried the Victory burger with fries, prawns and salami spaghetti, and the vegetarian spring rolls. The Victory burger has a creative twist as there are beets and a fried egg in the burger layers. The spaghetti was also cooked al dente. The vegetarian spring rolls were yummy with the peanut sauce, yet we wish there were more pieces! The cost of the entree is 130,000-360,000 VND ($5.70-$16).

On Fridays, there is an all you can eat pizza buffet for 150,000 VND ($6.50). The price includes soda or local beer. We didn’t get a chance to try the pizza, yet we saw some coming out of the oven and they look delicious. 

Spaghetti with shrimp and salami at The Villas Restaurant in Phong Nha, Vietnam

The Villas Restaurant is a yummy place to eat in Phong Nha.

3. Thanh Dat Restaurant (Nhà hàng Thành Đạt)

This local Vietnamese restaurant, Thanh Dat Restaurant, is in the same area as the Phong Nha Ke Bang Tourism Center in the center of town. We found out about this restaurant as we looked for a place to park our bicycles before going to Phong Nha Cave and a lady ushered us to the restaurant. We had low expectations for this restaurant, yet, the food was delicious! 

We ordered deep-fried sea bass fish with vegetables and rice. The fish and fish skin was super crispy, yet was still moist. The sweet teriyaki sauce coated on the fish brought the dish together. The meal cost 240,000 VND ($10.40) excluding drinks. 

Plate of vegetables and fried fish with rice at Nha Hang Thanh Dat in Phong Nha, Vietnam

Nhà hàng Thành Đạt is a good food option nearby the Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park Tourism Center.

Phong Nha is a memorable place to visit in Central Vietnam. We hope you get a chance to visit the magical caves and go on an adventure. You won’t be disappointed with this small, yet fun city, even if you have at least two days here.

If you’re headed to other parts of Vietnam, check out our Vietnam travel guides:

Have additional questions about what to do in Phong Nha? Ask a question in the comment box below.

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One of the best things to do on your Phong Nha itinerary is to see the views of the Con River with the blue boats and limestone caves and mountains.

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