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A thorough travel guide to Con Dao Island Vietnam

Cập nhật: 01-01-1970 12:00:00 | Blogs about Vietnam | Lượt xem: 1056

Located 230 km (143 miles) from Ho Chi Minh City, Con Dao is one of the most stunning yet least exploited travel destinations in Vietnam. The island is blessed with pristine beaches, colorful coral reefs, dense forests, spectacular mountains, and notably a quiet town with French colonial villas on the waterfront, which can capture the heart of every traveler who set food on this land. For these natural advantages, Con Dao and Phu Quoc island are the best options for Vietnam beach leisure vacations for families.

So, is Con Dao worth visiting? The answer is definitely yes. Once dubbed as the “Devil’s Island”, Con Dao used to be one of the most notorious prisons in Vietnam during the war, but now it’s literally a paradise on Earth. Attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, this charming place is guaranteed to give you a fascinating experience you will hardly forget.

If you are looking for a cool place to range over during your stay in Vietnam or wondering which is better Phu Quoc or Con Dao, here is some interesting information that might come in handy.

About Con Dao

Con-dao-island-travel-guide

Con Dao Island Vietnam is an archipelago of 16 large and small islands in Ba Ria - Vung Tau province, about 100 nautical miles from the coast of Vung Tau. However, the closest inland place to Con Dao is the land of Vinh Chau, Soc Trang with a distance of only about 40 nautical miles.

This archipelago has a total area of about 76km2, of which Con Son Island (also known as Con Lon) is the largest one with an area of up to 51.52km2. The population density of Con Dao is quite low (only about 110 people/km2), and this is also one of the reasons why it still retains such a pristine beauty.

As one of the 21 national tourism areas of Vietnam, this place is perfect for nature lovers with a diverse ecosystem, fresh air, and a 200-km-long coastline that includes many appealing beaches. 

Con Dao Island’s history is also one of the things that make this spot one of the highlights of Vietnam tourism today. As an island district of Vietnam, Con Dao used to be the largest and harshest prison in Indochina for more than 100 years. Tens of thousands of political prisoners fighting for the right to independence, freedom, and unification in Vietnam were detained and exiled here. Under the Con Dao prison regime, about 20,000 Vietnamese people of many generations passed away and were buried in Hang Duong Cemetery.

Best time to visit Con Dao

The climate of Con Dao Island Vietnam is divided into two distinct seasons: the rainy season and the dry season, which is quite similar to the climate of the South Central Coast of Vietnam. The dry season lasts from the end of the year to April next year, from May onwards is usually the rainy season.

From March to May, the sea is perfectly calm so taking a ferry to Con Dao will be truly convenient. And since the weather is super hot around May (sometimes up to 34 °C), this period is ideal for swimming and sunbathing. 

From May to September, it’s already the rainy season but the sea is still quite calm and you can still enjoy some fun water activities if you want to. The rain usually does not last long either.

At the end of the year, from August to December, storms in the East Sea begin to gradually move towards the central coast of Vietnam and affect the sea from Vung Tau to Con Dao. If you plan to go to Con Dao by ferry, you need to check carefully beforehand because ferries and boats may be not allowed to depart due to bad weather conditions.

How to get to Con Dao Island Vietnam

One of the biggest obstacles to Con Dao tourism is transportation, because you can only get to this place by air or by sea.

If you choose to fly to Con Dao Island Vietnam, there are daily flights from Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat Airport to Con Son Island’s Co Ong Airport, each flight (all operated by Vietnam Airlines) lasts for about 50 minutes, and the return fares are between $100 - $150. You can take direct flights from Hanoi or Can Tho to Con Dao Island as well.

Getting to Con Dao by sea is also quite easy thanks to two ferry connections between the mainland and Con Son. You can either get to Con Son by ferry from the port of Vung Tau in 3 – 5 hours, or from the port of Tran De, Soc Trang in 2 – 3 hours.

How to travel around

Taxis are really rare in Con Dao so the best choice for you is to rent a motorbike or a bicycle. You can easily rent a motorbike at any hotel for $5 - $7 a day, or a bicycle for $2 a day. Make sure to check the bike carefully before riding on it.

If you wish to explore other islands around, there are boats that cost between $50 - $100, depending on the destinations.

Accommodation in Con Dao

Depending on the purpose of your trip, you can stay at a resort, hotel or motel, far or near the center of Con Son. If you only want to relax and enjoy some quiet time for yourself in a pleasant place, just book a luxury hotel or resort near the beaches (preferably the ones with a private beach if possible) or close to the forests. To easily explore the town and go to the pier early in the morning, you should stay at hotels and homestays in the center of the island. Visitors can also camp overnight in places authorized by the management.

Here are some well-rated addresses on reputable booking sites that you can refer to:

Resort Six Senses Con Dao

Located on Dat Doc beach with an area of about 12 hectares, Resort Six Senses Con Dao is about 8.8km from Con Dao Airport, 17km from Ben Dam Port, 204km from the center of Vung Tau, and 311km from Ho Chi Minh City.

Surrounded by majestic mountain scenery, Six Senses is like a pearl emerging in the middle of the deep blue ocean with a gentle and delicate beauty that adorns the pristine landscape here. This 5-star resort was inspired by traditional fishing villages of Vietnam and built completely from natural construction materials like bamboo and wood. 

As the most expensive resort in Con Dao, Six Senses offers luxurious services that include 50 villas, ocean views, on-site restaurants, private plunge pools, spas, and more. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie also stayed at this place during their vacation in 2011.

Address: Dat Doc Beach, Con Dao, Ba Ria - Vung Tau
Room rate: $600 - $4000

Poulo Condor Boutique Resort & Spa

Located in Suoi Ot, Con Dao, Poulo Condor Boutique Resort & Spa is nestled amidst vast nature with 750m of coastline in front and the majestic Lo Voi mountain behind. This is a 4-star resort with 36 suites and villas, all designed in the classic and elegant style of the 18th century.

There are four basic room types in Poulo Condor: Junior Suite Twin/Double, Colonial Suite, Indochina Pool Villa, and Poulo Condor Pool Villa. The suites range from 83m2 (Junior Suite) to 107m2 (Colonial Suite) and feature a garden view that will make you feel at one with nature. The villas here all have private pools and are more spacious, ranging from 185m2 (Indochina Pool Villa) to 251m2 (Poulo Condor Pool Villa).

Poulo Condor Boutique Resort & Spa also includes some interesting spots you’ll enjoy such as the cozy and romantic Wild Pineapple restaurant, The Pool Terrace bar that lies right next to the outdoor swimming pool, an extremely quiet reading area nestled in the middle of a lush green garden, or Yen Spa - a spa that offers full body massage and other high-class treatment services with completely natural herbs.

Address: Bai Vong - Co Ong Site, Con Dao, Ba Ria - Vung Tau
Room rate: $200 - $600

In addition to these above suggestions, there are also other options with more moderate budgets that you can consider such as Saigon Con Dao Resort (from $50), Con Dao Camping Hotel (from $30), 7 Condore Homestay (from $20), Eden House & Coffee Con Dao (from $24), or Uyen’s House (from $20)…

What to do in Con Dao

Diving

Con-dao-island-diving

Con Dao is one of the best places in Vietnam for diving enthusiasts, especially from March to June when the waves are calm, the water is clear, and the visibility is good. Currently, Con Dao National Park is exploiting coral diving services in the Hon Tai area. After 30 minutes of departing from the center of Con Dao by boat or canoe, visitors will arrive at the beach area in front of Hon Tai. Here, you will be guided to explore and admire stunning corals and lively sea creatures like sea cucumbers, maxima clams, ark clams, or sea snails...

Watching turtles laying eggs

Of all beaches in Vietnam, Con Dao Island beach has the highest number of sea turtles laying eggs with 10 - 40 individuals getting on the beach and laying several thousand eggs each night. The four popular places where turtles often lay eggs are Hon Bay Canh, Hon Tre Lon, Hon Tai, and Hon Cau.

The nesting season of turtles usually starts in April and lasts until November. Each turtle often lays three times in each season, each time is 11 to 15 days apart, and after five years, it will give birth again. During turtle nesting season, the staff of Con Dao National Park often works all night to rescue turtles after they appear on the beach, preserve and move their eggs to a dry area, help hatch them and then release the baby turtles to the sea in the morning.

Walking and trekking through the forest

From the center of Con Dao National Park, you can walk for about an hour on a trail through the forest to Ong Dung Beach. Tougher paths for visitors who love trekking are also accessible.

Discovering islands on Con Dao - the beauty of nature

con-dao-beach-vietnam

Hon Bay Canh and Hon Cau are two familiar eco-tourism destinations off the coast of Con Dao, where you can experience diving and seeing corals, visit mangroves, watch turtles lay eggs, and release baby turtles in the right season. In addition, you can also conquer three points marking Vietnam's territorial waters, located on Hon Bay Canh, Hon Tai Lon, and Hon Bong Lan nearby.

Visitors can rent a canoe to reach the small islands around for about $80 - $200. But if you want a less costly option, you should book a Con Dao Island Vietnam tour.

Dam Tre Bay is located in the north of the island. It is airtight, surrounded by mangroves, and is a breeding ground for swiftlets and many other marine species. On the way to Dam Tre Bay, visitors can also take a quick rest to watch or bathe at Lo Voi Beach, Dat Doc Beach, Chim Chim Cape, or Northeast Bay...

Dam Trau Beach is a calm beach located close to Con Dao airport, about 15 km from the center of the island. If you want to take a selfie with a landing or taking-off plane, this is the right place for you.

Tau Be Cape is located on the road from the airport to the town, surrounded by steep stone slabs forming an arc embracing the sea. This place is perfect to capture adventurous photos and is also considered the best spot to watch the sunrise in Con Dao.

An Hai Beach and Cau Tau Beach are two popular beaches for swimming in the center of the big island with white sand and a calm sea. They are both always crowded so if you want a private experience, think twice before getting there.

Nhat Beach and Ca Map Cape are more pristine ones with a gentle downhill. Visitors often stop here to take pictures of the winding road around the mountainside with crystal-clear water on one side.

If you travel to Con Dao in the windy season, change your direction to destinations in the West and Southwest.

Ong Dung beach is an unblemished place that's suitable for picnics, relaxation, and collective activities. From here, visitors can rent canoes from the ranger station to visit neighboring islands such as Hon Tre Lon and Hon Tre Nho.

Ong Dung primeval forest and Nui Chua are ravishing places for trekking. From Con Dao, head West to find pleasure in an hour of trekking through the primeval forest before reaching the beach at the end of the forest. The entrance ticket to Con Dao National Park costs about $2.5 per person.

Last but not least, you can visit and learn more about the pearl culture process in the pearl farms and buy products from pearls. 

Con Dao Island Vietnam also has a number of other small offshore islands such as Hon Ba, Hon Trung, Hon Vung, Hon Anh, Hon Em... but tourism services have not been exploited yet.

Visiting historical and spiritual sites on Con Dao Island

Con Dao Museum currently displays about 2,000 valuable documents and items about the nature and people of Con Dao from the past to the present, at the same time introducing the history of Con Dao prisons in 113 years. The entrance ticket price costs less than $1.

Island Chief Palace was the residence and working place of 53 generations of Con Dao’s island chiefs for 113 years (1862 - 1975). Now it still preserves many artifacts of the luxurious life of all those French, American, Vietnamese, and Chinese island chiefs.

Con Dao prison system is on the list of 23 special national monuments, attracting a large number of local and foreign tourists visiting each year.

Hang Duong Cemetery is the most famous spiritual tourist destination in Con Dao. As the resting place of more than 2,000 martyrs, this place is always open for everyone to visit, pray and show their respect. You can also take a glance at another cemetery that's no less sacred, Hang Keo Cemetery.

Pier 914 is a historical witness of the hard labor and blood sacrifice of many soldiers. Now visitors come to Pier 914 to burn incense, visit, fish, admire the scenery and take pictures of the sunrise.

Ma Thien Lanh Bridge was built in 1930. The French forced prisoners to build this bridge by hand on a high mountain to exploit wood and stone to serve in the construction of prisons and offices...

Phi Yen's Temple (An Son Shrine) is the shrine of Phi Yen - emperor Nguyen Anh’s concubine, who was imprisoned by Nguyen Anh in a cave on the island while trying to protect her son. The local people who respected her virtues built this shrine and today, they still celebrate her death anniversary annually on October 17 and 18 lunar calendar.

Built in 1964, Nui Mot Pagoda (Van Son Pagoda) is the only pagoda in Con Dao and is also one of the most architecturally beautiful pagodas in Vietnam. Located on a high mountain, it has a spectacular view of a green forest, Con Son bay, the town, and An Hai lotus lake.

Must-try food on Con Dao Island Vietnam

Oyster porridge

The nutritious oyster porridge here is undoubtedly a specialty not to be missed. It is made from rice, Con Dao oysters, and a little pepper, cilantro, and fried red onion sprinkled on top.

Vu Nang snail (Oc Vu Nang)

This is one of the special dishes that attract all kinds of tourists to Con Dao. Vu Nang snails can be boiled, grilled, or mix with salads, but most visitors often choose boiled snails served with pepper-lime dipping sauce to feel all the fresh flavor of the snails, the sweetness and moderate toughness of the meat, and a little spiciness of the sauce.

Giant clam (So Tai Tuong)

The giant clam is called Elephant’s Ear Clam (So Tai Tuong) in Vietnam because of its shape. It can be processed in many ways such as making porridge, stir-frying with spicy butter, stir-frying with chili and garlic sauce, steaming and dipping with mustard…

Seven-eleven crab (Cua Mat Trang)

The seven-eleven crab, or moon crab (Cua Mat Trang) in Vietnamese, is famous for eye-catching red circles on its yellowish-orange shell. In Con Dao, it’s mostly steamed and served with pepper-lime dipping sauce. The sweet taste of crab meat blending with the strong flavor of pepper will stimulate your taste buds in the best way possible.

Shark salad (Goi Ca Map)

Shark salad is considered one of the specialty dishes in Con Dao that visitors must try. It is made of pelagic thresher meat mixed with fresh veggies such as star fruit, pineapple, peanut, apricot leaf, and chili...

Red lobster

This one is a bit high-priced, but with a large amount of protein and very little fat content, red lobster is considered one of the healthiest food in the world. The toughness and firmness along with the sweet taste of the lobster meat make it a very flavorsome and nutritious dish that will conquer your taste.

Peanut worm (Sa Sung)

Sa Sung, also known as the sea worm (Trung Bien) in Vietnam, is a very nutritious dish. This seafood only appears from March to July so if you happen to visit Con Dao at this time, don’t forget to give it a try.

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