Life’sa beach

Vietnam is a country with over 3,000km of coastline and there are many famous beaches from North to South. Nha Trang, with its stunning bay, scuba diving and pristine beaches is recognized as the No 1 destination. Best known is Main beach, or Tran Phu Beach, with its thatched umbrellas and sunbeds spread along the 7km sweep of beach. 30km to the south of Nha Trang is Bai Dai Beach, known as Long Beach, where you can wander for hours on the soft sand that hasn’t seen a footprint in days. A couple of kilometers to the north of main beach is Chong Beach which is far less crowded than main beach, and further north are Doc Let, Nha Phu and Dai Lanh Beaches which are even more deserted.

Ringed by magnificent mountains, and dotted with islands Nha Trang Bay is the jewel in the crown of Vietnam. Main beach, spanning nearly 7km from the Tran Phu Bridge to the north, down to the main port in the south is the social heart of the city. Early morning walkers will discover dancers, martial arts devotees, and thousands of locals taking a morning dip, sometimes before the sun has crept over the horizon. Once the locals have headed off to work the visitors descend onto the soft sand to spread their towels, or take advantage of a sun bed under a thatched umbrella, provided free to guests of some of the international hotels, or for a small fee to visitors. Beach vendors will look after you throughout the day with cool drinks, fruit and other treats, while the coffee shops, and restaurants are only a short walk away. If you are mid-way along the beach stroll into the Sailing club, or Louisiana Brew house, both located a step off the sand, for a coffee, fresh juices, or sample their wonderful menus. January through to October will see almost non-existent waves at the beach and it is easy to spend a lazy half day down there cooling off with a dip in the crystal clear waters. The other couple of months of the year is a little cooler and the surf is much larger, so take care to be in the water where the surf lifesavers are. You will spot them in their red and yellow uniforms patrolling the beach or up in their bamboo look-out towers.

Searching for a less crowded beach, then head south from the city along the panoramic coastal highway. A 30 minute bike ride will get you to sensational Bai Dai beach or ‘Long Beach’ as the locals call it. Tucked into the southern end of the beach you will discover delightful wooden ramshackle restaurants strewn along the sand offering fresh local seafood, cold beers and shade from the sun. ‘The Shack’ has been around for some time now, and is a great place to chill out in a lounge chair, grab a burger, a cold brew, and watch the waves roll in. Further along the beach is Sealife, offering up a variety of watersports, from jet skis, parasailing, banana boat rides, scuba diving, and some wonderful inflatable water challenges. The shallow waters and calmer surf make Long Beach an ideal destination for surfers and those not so confident in the water. This is a magnificent beach and one that you can wander along to the south for hours collecting shells, or maybe a spot of snorkeling on the point at the northern end. It is certainly worth the journey along the scenic highway to get there, so place it on the ‘to do’ list when you are in Nha Trang.

Located around 45km to the north of Nha Trang you will find this untouched stretch of snowy white sand, with safe, shallow water for swimming, known to the locals as “Yok Lek” Widely regarded as one of Vietnam’s outstanding beaches, it is easily reached on a day trip or for a longer stay. Visitors can even play fishermen for the day with organized tours placing you with locals setting and collecting nets, gathering the catch, and best of all, enjoying your labours later in the evening with freshly cooked seafood. This is a place to relax a bit, chill out, catch up on the latest thriller and forget about life for a while

Nha Phu is one of the four bays in Khanh Hoa Province. A haven for nature lovers, the scenery is spectacular with shimmering water, clear skies, white stretches of sand, forested islands, and being a sheltered bay, does not receive the big surf of some other areas. There is a restaurant with a nice garden, a stage with a small elephant and bear show, and you will see miniature ponies wandering around untethered. It is also the setting-off point for a number of attractions such as Monkey Island and Orchid stream. Enjoy swimming, isolated beaches, snorkeling and nature? This bay might just be for you.

An early morning start will get you to Dai Lanh which is a further 50km from Doc Let Beach. At the northern end of this stretch of soft sand you will be fascinated with the arrival into port of the fishing boats and the haggling that goes on at the beach. Women in their Non La (conical hat), and silk pyjamas bartering for the catch of the day, just fascinating to watch. The southern end of the beach where the towering mountains meet the sea, is totally unspoilt, with just one restaurant where you can kick back in a lounge, take a coffee, or choose your fresh seafood from the tanks to be prepared the way you want. They have a few rustic cabins for accommodation, but apart from that there is little in Dai Lanh to choose from accommodation wise. Take the road north from here to experience some spectacular scenery as it snakes along the side of the magnificent mountains that drop to the ocean. Along that rugged coastline you will find undiscovered bays, nameless coves, beaches, a light house, and lagoons that no one sets foot on. If you have time on your hands this is worth exploring.

If you head north over the Tran Phu bridge and wind your way up the hill past the seafood restaurants, coffee shops and Nha Trang University you will find yourself overlooking Chong beach. Well known for the Chong Promontory Rocks, where the hands of giants scattered large boulders like pebbles and are now intricately balanced, it also forms the southern tip of this delightful crescent shaped sandy strip. This is an easy beach for children to swim at, with the shallow water, sandy bottom and a lifeguard on hand, but do look out for some underwater rocks in certain parts of the beach. Grab some flippers, goggles and a snorkel and explore the crystal clear waters out to the headland where Chong rock silently sits. A nice way to explore the promontory and plenty of fish to be spotted. There are sun lounges and umbrellas to take it easy on, restaurants and coffee shops nearby and a whole different vibe to the main beach and only a few kilometers away.. You may well end up spending more time there then you thought..

Throughout the year and the various seasons you will see large numbers of people using the beach, from very early in the morning through to the evening. As is always the case, bathers need to be cautious when around water. In addition, many local people are poor swimmers and accidents are not unknown. During the latter months of the year, October through to December the winds increase and the surf can be wild so it is best to be extra cautious during this time and keep an eye on the children even when they are playing in the sand at the edge of the surf. Realising the obvious need, Australian expat, Duncan Maclean has been instrumental in setting up Surf Lifesaving in Nha Trang, selecting and training a team of about 50 lifeguards, following the tried-and-true formula of the Australian model. The guards will be on duty from 6am through to 6pm and are readily visible in their red and yellow uniforms manning the large bamboo guard towers along main beach. Many local people are poor swimmers or non-swimmers and this initiative will save lives every year and is a great service to both the local and tourist beach-goer.

An Important Tip
From October to December, the waves are high sometimes and the water is deep. Always be careful around the water, take care, look after the kids and swim close to the life guards.