NHA TRANG TRAVEL GUIDE
Nha Trang is Vietnam’s most famous seaside resort-town. It's more lively and urban in character than other beach destinations like Mui Ne and Phu Quoc. It's also the scuba diving center of Vietnam.
Traces of human settlement in Nha Trang date back to the Cham Empire, though in times of Vietnamese rule, there wasn’t much more than small fishing villages. The French recognized that this beautiful bay, with its islands and white sand beaches, made for a perfect bathing spot, and began the transformation into a resort town. American soldiers agreed, and Nha Trang became a favorite vacation stop during the war.
The monsoon season is from October to mid December. Sea winds can be heavy, and sometimes the weather can get pretty chilly. Summer, naturally, brings many vacation goers into town and hotel rooms get somewhat more difficult to find. Nha Trang, like Mui Ne farther South, are very popular with Russian tourists. Consequently, most of the tourist infrastructure is reared towards those and you might find yourself not able to read the menu of a restaurant or check into a hotel, because the staff only speaks Russian/Vietnamese.
Today, most of the tourist infrastructure is in the southern part of town around Biet Thu, whereas most of the locals live around the Cho Dam in the northern quarters. Cho Dam Market is a popular destination for visitors as well, though.
Tran Phu is the backbone of the city, accompanied by a pleasant waterfront promenade, palm trees and the nearly 6km of beach. Careful when you cross the road - one of the most dangerous in Vietnam. Some taxis are homicidal.
Nha Trang has a reliable and easy to navigate public bus system, where the ticket fare does not exceed 7,000 Dong (October 2014)for a ride on a modern, air-conditioned bus with Vietnamese music. You will find buses nr. 4 and 6 the most useful, since they pass through the southern quarters. You can try ask local people about the bus route with the map for the sight seeing places. Alternatively, you'll find the usual selection of taxis, cyclos and motorbikes.
There is no destination in Downtown Nha Trang that justifies a fare higher than 20,000 dong/person. Taxis are a good option, but be sure they turn on the meter to get the cheapest price.
An option for seeing the sites is to hire a cyclo-driver for the day. Clarify the price. Many cyclos and motos are shysters who deliberately confuse 15 with 50, 16 with 60 etc. Beware of the ones who are just pimps who insist on taking you to local hookers and try to pickpocket you in the process.
Its also easy to get around by bicycle. Nha Trang is quite flat and bicycles are easily found for hire, typically 20,000 dong for one day for a basic no gears bike. Locals on bicycles are more commonly seen at night when its cooler and there's no sun to burn their skin.
The beach is the main draw here. The sand is quite littered and the water can also be polluted, so if you are going to Nha Trang specifically for the beach, and have been to other Asian destinations such as Thailand and the Philippines you are likely to be very disappointed. You will see many women vendors walking along the beach selling fruit and hot, steamed seafood.
Make sure that you visit in the right season, though. The beach can be disappointing when the weather is grey and the waves choppy. The experience is then one of murky sandy waters, a strip of standard brown sand with a multitude of empty beach chairs and no one to be seen.
Further afield from Nha Trang's expansive sandy bay are some excellent beaches without the backdrop of hotel towers.
· Doc Let beach, (around 50 km north of Nha Trang). Doc Let beach is more tranquil, cleaner and beautiful than the beach in Nha Trang. It is well worth taking a tour there. Local fishermen families sell and prepare seafood which they will cook for you on the beach for a very reasonable price.
· Bai Dai beach, (On the road from Nha Trang to Cam Ranh airport). The road to the Cam Ranh airport is a very scenic road and worth going just to enjoy the scenery. As you have passed over the mountains there is a very long and nice beach named Bai Dai (around 30 km from Nha Trang city center and pronounced Bai Yai) which is clean and beautiful. You can buy food from small restaurants at the beach.
· Bai Duong Beach, (1.5 km north on Tran Phu street over the main bridge). Bai Duong beach is smaller than in the main tourist area. The beach has a gentler grade, and warmer waters, and is also calmer, cleaner, and ideal for swimming.
· [Yang Bay Waterfalls], (40 km west of Nha Trang). At the [Yang Bay waterfalls] the Vietnamese have built up a concrete beach. It used to be a lot nicer before they built it but it is still a very nice place to visit. You can swim there, and walk around in the area. Bringing your own food and drink is recommended.
· Ba Ho waterfalls, Near Ba Ho village (Approximately 20Kms North of Nha Trang - cross the bridge closest to the sea and stick to it for the safest and most scenic route). A series of three waterfalls and a quite fast flowing at (some points) river tucked away in the forest. Its a good one hour trip from Nha trang by moterbike through some rougher rural road tracks ( especially in the wet season ) If you get a flat tire it can be fixed by the locals for a small fee. The turn off from the main highway north of Nha Trang is hard to miss (there is now a blue Ba Ho sign and arrow). Most locals along the road should be able to point it out. from the turn off its a straight track to follow to the river, there are limited amenities there although you can buy food, like rice and chicken and cold beers or soft drinks are also for sale from locals who will guide ( Follow ) you up through the forest this is preferable to having to carry your own food and drink and the prices are reasonable a small premium for their trouble, the "guides " are pleasant enough showing you short cuts and footholds higher up the track. Taxis and motorbike guides are available in Nha Trang to take you there but its not too difficult to find yourself and in better weather, a pleasant drive, if you're confident on a motorbike. be warned though that going off road on hired bikes can incur damage which you will be liable for.
· Fairy Spring waterfalls , Suoi Tien, Dien Khanh District (Approx 20km SW from Nha ATrang). Fairy Spring is a small, cool stream and swimming hole much visited by the local youth on weekends. The swimming hole is at the end of a short jungle walk. It is a pleasant place to visit in summer. In winter the water is too cold to swim. The streams source is the area of Hon Ba, the highest peak in the province. Bottled and canned drinks are available, but no food is sold here yet. The area is slowly being developed and will eventually become a resort with a hotel, bungalows, and restaurant. There is a small admission charge (15,000 dong per person, 3,000 dong per motorbike ). To get there, go 10km west of Nha Trang to Dien Khanh, go through the old citadel (Thanh Co Dien Khanh) to Dien Phuoc village (5km), turn left 4km to Suoi Tien village, then right 1km to the stream.
Feb 2016: After being greeted with a warm "Fock yo" from the local youth you can enjoy a littered river. Locals picnic here and just leave everything behind. There seems to be a lady cleaning it, but she basically only takes valuable things like cans and bottles and throws the rest into the stream.
· Thap Ba Hot Springs and Mud baths , (4km NW of Nha Trang). On the north side of Nha Trang. 80,000 dong for hot and cool swimming pools and thermal waterfall only. Pay extra for the mud! They serve food and drinks here also. 150,000 dong for shared mud bath (if you are 5-8 people you will probably get put in the same tub), shower, hot/cold water jets, hot jacuzzi, and the hot waterfalls and swimming pool. A massage by trained masseuses and entrance to the hot swimming pool costs 250,000 dong (Feb 2016). There was also a package for 500,000 which included a massage among other extras. A VIP spa package will cost you $US100 or more. In Feb 2016 we were handed a flyer to rate the massage and enter a tip amount. The masseuses were watching and expected a 100,000VND tip. After that we refused giving any. The massage itself is ok, but not sure if they're trained. If getting here by motorbike, if you carry on a further 500km past the mud baths you arrive at a railway bridge across the river that connects to a tunnel. Its a very scenic spot that's popular for wedding photo shoots.
Close off-shore from Nha Trang sit a series of islands that offer decent diving and snorkelling, easily accessible by day trip. The city has about two dozen dive shops, making for fierce competition and great value. For certification training, Nha Trang offers perhaps the best value in the world, with PADI open water courses available with full equipment rental for as little as US$250. A two-dive boat trip with equipment rental and modest lunch can be had for as little as US$45, also a phenomenal value.
Coastal and undersea construction has stirred up a lot of sediment in the area, so under-water visibility is sometimes not great. The area is heavily fished, so fish life is also limited. You wouldn't cross the world just to dive at Nha Trang. But if you always dreamed of getting a scuba certification, Nha Trang is a great place to do it, and any diver passing through would enjoy a couple of dips. The shops generally offer good-quality equipment and experienced, certified dive-masters. Diving goes on year-around, but in the October-December windy season, the boat ride can be a bit rough and diving is limited to a few sites in the lee of the islands.
Organization of the Nha Trang dive industry is sometimes complex. If you sign up for a trip with shop A, you might find yourself joined with a group and dive-master from shop B, which shares a boat with another group and dive-master from shop C, the boat itself being independently owned. Consolidation is especially active in the off-season, when few if any shops can fill a boat on their own. It's a good illustration of Vietnamese culture, which does not stand on ceremony, and loves a bargain, and is very skilled at making maximum use of resources. The local dive-masters are mostly great, friendly guys with lots of stories to tell.
As expected from a large resort town, Nha Trang has no shortage of eating options to suit all budgets, from Vietnamese-style informal pavement cafes on plastic chairs to high end restaurants. Nha Trang is famous throughout Vietnam for its seafood but also offers a broad range of Western cuisine.
There are no shortage of pavement cafes for a cheap, satisfying and authentically Vietnamese experience. Offerings range from simple baguettes to banquets, with most of them seeming to have a seafood theme.