The topography of Vietnam means that it possesses an impressive coastline (some 3,200 km of it), with about 125 beaches of varying sizes and in varying stages of development. In fact, many beaches are still very unspoiled – or even completely wild, apart from local fishing activity. Urban Vietnamese are just beginning to adopt the beach holiday culture, but they mostly find time to go only in the blindingly hot summer months or on holiday weekends. If you also avoid the handful of seaside resorts universally popular with this most gregarious of nations, you may have the beach practically to yourself. If it’s the local crowds you’re looking for, then beaches as densely populated as the city centers at these times include:
Nearer Hanoi: Do Son south of Ha long Bay, Sam Son near Thanh Hoa and Cua Lo just outside Vinh, Nearer Saigon: Vung Tau. Between the two: Nha Trangand beaches near Danang. During cooler seasons (when the sun is quite ferocious enough for frail, foreign skins), even these places will be quiet. Beach destinations more adapted to foreign tastes include: Nearer Hanoi: Nothing specific, but any pristine stretch of sand spotted while heading south along the coast, particularly just down the road from the hotspots mentioned above. Nearer Saigon: Great beaches at Phan Thiet and Mui Ne, with thatched bungalows for rent right on the shore and luxury hotels nearby. Between the two: Nha Trang deserves an honorable mention here, two, because despite rampant development, it has the best climate in Vietnam, a beautiful beach fringed with coconut palms, a charming bay dotted with islands and several decent dive shops operating in town. No talk of beaches in Vietnam would be complete without mentioning Danang Beach (Non nuoc), 15 km from Danang. A beautiful spot, swimming here can be dangerous at times, but when the wind is right, this is a surfer’s paradise: an international surfing competition has been held here and the beach inspired Robert Duvall’s notorious “Charlie don’t surf” scene from the film Apocalypse Now. DON’T go naked/ topless on the beaches or in the water: culturally, this is a big no-no and would be asking for trouble. DO protect yourself from the sun, even on apparently cloudy or hazy days: stories of foreigners with severe sunburn are too numerous to recount here. DON’T camp on the beach: you might see local students doing it during their summer holidays, but foreigners are required to stay in hotels where they can be duly registered and accounted for.