Hoi An is a beautiful colonial style town in the central Vietnam that has become a mainstay of any trip to this beautiful country. I spent weeks traveling through Vietnam and very much enjoyed my stay in the Hoi An area. From incredible food, to beautiful beaches/scenery, to picturesque buildings, Hoi An has something for everyone.
Hoi An is also quickly becoming one of the digital nomad hotspots of Vietnam with its abundance of cafes and co-working spaces but it is nowhere near the level of somewhere like Bali for example.
In this post, I’ll talk about the best things to do while in Hoi An to maximize your time in the colonial town!
History of Hoi An
Hoi An is a small city located on the central coast of Vietnam with a history that dates back more than 2,000 years. The city was once known as Faifoo and was a bustling port town on the Silk Road, attracting traders from Japan, China, the Netherlands, Portugal, and other countries.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, Hoi An became a hub for international trade in silk, spices, porcelain, and other luxury goods, and its cultural fusion of Chinese, Japanese, and European influences can still be seen in its architecture. Despite falling into a period of decline in the late 19th century, Hoi An has experienced a resurgence in tourism since the 1990s, and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, making it one of Vietnam’s most popular destinations for visitors interested in history, culture, and architecture.
Where to stay in Hoi An:
There are a plethora of great accommodations in Hoi An. As you’d expect from most of Vietnam, there are many incredibly affordable options that offer great value for money.
Budget (Under $50)
Middle End ($50 – $150)
High End ($150+)
Hoi An Basics
Before I start off the post, here are just a few things to know about Hoi An and Vietnam in general to start it off right.
Currency in Hoi An
Hoi An uses the Vietnamese Dong (VND). The Vietnamese Dong might be the highest number when it comes to currencies of anywhere I know in the world. The FX rate is somewhere between 22,000 and 25,000 VND for $1 USD. That means, it is quite easy to be a millionaire as 1,000,000 VND is $40-$45 USD!
There are plenty of places to exchange cash in Hoi An as well as plenty of ATMs to withdraw money. Do not bring foreign currencies like USD or EUR and expect to be able to use it.
Credit cards are commonly accepted at nicer restaurants, bars, hotels, and some cafes. Otherwise, cash is generally king in Vietnam.
Best time to visit Hoi An
The best time of year to visit Hoi An, Vietnam is between February and May or from August to October. During these months, the weather is generally pleasant, with less humidity and cooler temperatures than in the peak summer months.
February to May is considered the spring season in Hoi An, with temperatures ranging from 20°C to 33°C (68°F to 91°F). This period is characterized by clear skies, dry weather, and comfortable temperatures, making it an ideal time for outdoor activities such as exploring the ancient town, biking, and beach hopping.
August to October is considered the autumn season in Hoi An, with temperatures ranging from 23°C to 34°C (73°F to 93°F). While the weather may be slightly hotter and more humid than in the spring, this is still a great time to visit Hoi An as the crowds are smaller, and there are plenty of cultural festivals and events taking place during this period.
Avoid visiting Hoi An during the peak summer months of June and July when temperatures can reach up to 38°C (100°F), and the humidity can be high, making it uncomfortable for outdoor activities. Additionally, Hoi An is prone to typhoons and heavy rainfall during the monsoon season, which typically lasts from October to January, so it’s best to avoid visiting during this period as well.
Getting around Hoi An
Hoi An is a small and easily accessible little town. The old town is quite small at no more than 1km from end to end. The old town is where you’ll spend the majority of your town strolling through its cobblestone streets and admiring its colorful lanterns. You won’t need to do anything more than simply walking in this part of the town.
If you are staying 1-2km outside of the old town, I can highly recommend using a bicycle to get around. There are plenty of bicycle shops that will rent for $1-2 a day. Many of the hotels in Hoi An also offer free bicycle rentals.
If you’re staying a bit further out of town, simply use Grab and hail a car or scooter to take you around.
How to get to Hoi An
Hoi An is easily accessible from all of Vietnam as it is one of the main tourist destinations. All flights to Hoi An go through the city of Da Nang. From Da Nang airport, it is a 40 minute drive south to the town of Hoi An. There are also plenty of buses and trains that normally stop in Da Nang before transferring to Hoi An.
Nevertheless, I recommend flying into Da Nang as flight prices are very cheap in the country and you’ll save plenty of time versus riding a bus.
How long should I stay in Hoi An?
Hoi An is a small town with plenty of things to do. However, everyone’s travel style and interests are different. I would recommend you stay at least 3 nights in Hoi An to get the best experience from the town. This will also give you a full day to make a day trip to somewhere like the Ba Na Hills or the My Son sanctuary.
If you’re looking to get tailor made clothes in Hoi An, you’ll need at least 2 full days anyhow.
Top 15 Things To Do In Hoi An, Vietnam
1. Walk around the old town of Hoi An
The Old Town of Hoi An is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with well-preserved buildings and streets that date back to the 15th century. The Old Town is best explored on foot or by bike, and visitors can wander through narrow alleys, admire the ornate Chinese and Japanese architecture, and explore the many art galleries, boutiques, and cafes.
Note that Hoi An is an incredible touristic town with equal parts foreign tourists and local tourists. The streets are small as you’d expect from an old town so the crowds really add up. For the best time to see the streets, walk around in the morning before the crowds arrive. Walking around during night to see all of the lit up lanterns is a must. Hoi An is the city of lanterns after all.
At night, you can also take a romantic boat ride along the river in one of the traditional canoes. I preferred the views of the boats and their iconic lanterns from the Japanese bridge.
2. Get Tailor made suits made
Hoi An is famous throughout Vietnam and SE Asia for being the tailor made clothing hotspot. There are many other destinations throughout SE Asia that offer tailored made clothing but Hoi An has incredibly low prices that seem hard to believe at times.
I wasn’t planning to get anything made in Hoi An because I had no idea about the tailoring scene but after venturing around to a handful of shops, I decided to take the plunge. I ended up getting a linen suit made and 2 linen shirts for about $215 USD which is an insane deal. Most shops operate in the same way by offering you different garment types of all colors. Once you’re satisfied with the design, they will take your measurements. A first “draft” of the clothing will be done in a day where you’ll return to get additional alterations done since the first draft is never the final product. Yes, they are that fast!
All in all, I was very satisfied with the product I received. Linen is all the rage these days and probably the only thing I can wear in hot climates like Singapore and Bali where a normal dress shirt is useless.
Note that if you are serious about getting tailored made clothing, I would stay at least 3 days in Hoi An. This way, you’ll have enough time for multiple fittings to get the clothing done perfectly.
3. Bike in the rice fields
Biking in the rice fields is a great activity to do in Hoi An. Just outside Hoi An lies a plethora of rice fields, iconic fishing boats, mangroves, and more. Simply rent a bike pretty much anywhere in the city to take on your adventure around the rural areas of Hoi An. My hotel had a bike rental for free.
If you don’t want to bike far, simply put “Lo Gach Cu Cau Tre” into your Google Maps which is an iconic fortress just south of Hoi An. There are a few cafes and restaurants nearby where you can admire the fortress surrounded by the rice fields.
Don’t expect to see incredible terraced rice fields like you’d find in Sapa or Jatiluwih, Bali but they are still a great way to get out of Hoi An.
4. Ba Na Hills
Ba Na Hills is an incredible day trip to make from Hoi An. I opted for a day trip that combined Ba Na Hills and My Son Sanctuary by getting my own private driver (for about $50 for the entire day).
Ba Na Hills is famous for the Golden hands bridge which is probably one of the most beautiful bridges I’ve ever seen. The area is also home to a modern European style village equipped with castles and palaces. Asians love European architecture like the Chinese creating a replica of Cesky Krumlov in the north of China so it’s only fitting the Vietnamese created one of their own on top of the Ba Na mountains.
To get here, you’ll need to drive 80 minutes from Hoi An (60 minutes from Da Nang) to the base of the Ba Na hills where you’ll take a very long cable car that climbs 1.5km to the peak. From here, you can view the famous golden hand bridge. Expect huge crowds of people on this bridge as it is one of the most popular attractions for local Vietnamese tourists.
I didn’t bother to walk to the French village with its castles and palaces because it’s more of an amusement park than anything else. Plus, after you’ve seen the real stuff like the Burg Eltz Castle or Neuschwanstein, there’s no reason to look at anything else!
Total cost for this visit is 900k VND which is quite pricey in my opinion. Nevertheless, the photos from the bridge are very cool.
5. My Son Sanctuary
Visit the My Son Sanctuary: This UNESCO World Heritage Site is located about 40 kilometers from Hoi An and is a must-visit for anyone interested in ancient architecture and history. The My Son Sanctuary was a center of the Cham civilization, which flourished in central Vietnam from the 4th to the 13th centuries. The site features well-preserved temples, towers, and sculptures that are a testament to the Cham’s impressive engineering and artistic skills.
The temples remind me a lot of Angkor Wat in Cambodia which makes sense given how close these two places are to one another. I think if you’ve visited Angkor Wat, there is no reason to make the day trip to My Son as i tis smaller and far less impressive.
6. Take a scooter ride through the Hai Van Pass
The Hai Van pass is located just north of Da Nang and offers some of the most spectacular views in the region. Simply rent a scooter and drive about 1h north of Hoi An to reach the iconic Hai Van Pass. You’ll scooter up beautiful mountain roads that hug the coastlines offering views similar to those when I was traveling through the Greek islands.
Along the way, there are plenty of viewpoints, beaches, and restaurants to stop at while admiring the views. This whole trip will take a half a day at least.
7. Walk across the Japanese bridge
The Japanese Covered Bridge is one of the most iconic landmarks in Hoi An, and it is a must-visit for anyone traveling to the area. The bridge was originally built in the 16th century by the Japanese community in Hoi An, and it has since become a symbol of the town’s history and culture.
The bridge spans across a small canal that runs through the Ancient Town, and it connects the Japanese and Chinese quarters of the town. The bridge is a beautiful example of Japanese architecture and design, with a steeply arched roof that is decorated with intricate carvings and statues.
One of the most interesting features of the bridge is the pair of monkey and dog statues that guard each end of the bridge. According to legend, the bridge was constructed in the Year of the Monkey and completed in the Year of the Dog, and the statues were added to commemorate these events.
The bridge is one of the central pieces of the Hoi An old town and attracts many tourists. You simply won’t be able to avoid seeing this bridge and it’s likely you’ll cross it multiple times.
8. Have a pho cocktail at Market Bar Hoi An
There are quite a few good bars to have a drink in Hoi An but none are better than Market Bar located right next to the river. Market Bar is a rooftop bar that offers views of the town as well as the river. The drinks here are also incredibly inventive and surprisingly delicious for a very cheap price. My absolute favorite drink here is the pho infused cocktail. Yes you heard me right; a pho infused gin cocktail!
It sounds a bit disgusting at first glance, but I can assure you that it is incredible. It’s the drink I never knew I needed but am so glad to have found. They use a small amount of chicken pho broth to flavor the drink. It’s topped off with the typical herbs within a pho soup like Thai basil and cilantro. If you’re not feeling so adventurous, they also have plenty of regular cocktail combinations that are sure to please.
9. Take a Boat Ride Along the Thu Bon River
The Thu Bon River runs through Hoi An and is a scenic spot for a boat ride. You can take a traditional wooden boat along the river, admiring the views of the town and the surrounding countryside. Some boat rides include stops at local villages or seafood restaurants along the riverbank.
These boats can be foudn a
10. Visit Cham Island on a day trip
Cham Island is a beautiful destination located off the coast of Hoi An, Vietnam. It is a great place to escape the bustling city and enjoy some peace and quiet. A day trip to Cham Island from Hoi An is a popular activity for tourists visiting the region. Here is a guide on how to get there and what to do on a day trip.
Getting to Cham Island from Hoi An
The easiest way to get to Cham Island is by boat. There are several tour operators in Hoi An that offer day trips to the island. You can book a tour in advance or simply walk to one of the many tour agencies in the city and book on the spot. The tour usually includes transportation to and from the island, a guide, lunch, and some activities such as snorkeling or swimming.
The boat ride from Hoi An to Cham Island takes about an hour. The journey can be quite bumpy, so be prepared for some rough waves. However, the scenery along the way is beautiful, with stunning views of the coastline and the surrounding islands.
Once you arrive on Cham Island, there are several activities to enjoy. One of the most popular activities is snorkeling. The waters around the island are clear and teeming with marine life. You can rent snorkeling gear from the tour operator or bring your own.
Another popular activity is hiking. The island has several trails that offer stunning views of the ocean and the surrounding islands. You can also visit the local fishing village and learn about the traditional way of life on the island. There are also several beaches where you can relax and soak up the sun.
11. Visit the Marble MOuntains
The Marble Mountains are a cluster of five limestone and marble hills located just a short distance from the city of Da Nang and Hoi An in central Vietnam. A visit to the Marble Mountains is a popular day trip from Hoi An, and offers a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty.
The Marble Mountains are located approximately 20 km north of Hoi An, and the most convenient way to get there is by taxi or motorbike. You can easily hire a taxi or a motorbike from Hoi An, and the journey should take around 30 minutes. Alternatively, you can also join a guided tour, which will usually include transportation, a guide, and entry to the Marble Mountains.
The Marble Mountains are famous for their stunning natural beauty and historical significance. Each of the five hills has a different name and is dedicated to a different element, including water, earth, fire, metal, and wood. The mountains are also home to a network of caves and tunnels that were used by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War.
The main attraction of the Marble Mountains is the climb to the summit of Thuy Son, the largest and most famous of the hills. The climb to the top is quite steep and requires a reasonable level of fitness, but the views from the summit are absolutely breathtaking. Once at the top, you can explore a network of Buddhist shrines and pagodas, including the beautiful Tam Thai Pagoda.
12. Eat the best bahn mi in Vietnam
Without a doubt, Madam Khanh’s Bahn mi shop is one of the best bahn mi’s I’ve had in all of Vietnam. The bread is crispy but not dry, the sandwich is stuffed with an assortment of meats, fresh vegetables, and tasty sauces that amalgamate perfectly. I only paid 30k VND per sandwich is less than $1.50 USD. I ended up coming back to this place multiple times during my stay in Hoi An.
There is another equally as famous bahn mi shop in town called Bahn Mi Phuong but I found that Madam Khanh made the better sandwiches!
13. Eat white rose dumplings and Cau Lau
White rose dumplings are a unique type of dumpling that is made from translucent rice paper and stuffed with minced shrimp or pork. The dumplings are shaped to resemble a delicate white rose, hence their name. To make the dumplings, the rice paper is first cut into circles, and then the filling is placed in the center. The edges of the rice paper are then gathered up and twisted to create the rose shape. The dumplings are steamed and served with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce.
The best place to try white rose dumplings in Hoi An is at the White Rose Restaurant, which has been serving this local delicacy for over 30 years. The restaurant is located in a quiet alley in the heart of the old town and is famous for its delicious white rose dumplings, which are made fresh every day.
Cao lao is another local specialty that is unique to Hoi An. This dish consists of thick noodles that are made from rice flour and mixed with slices of roast pork, bean sprouts, and herbs. The noodles are cooked in a rich broth made from pork bones and flavored with a blend of spices and herbs, giving it a distinct flavor that cannot be found anywhere else in Vietnam.
The best place to try cao lao in Hoi An is at Ba Be, a small street vendor located near the market. The vendor serves the dish in small bowls, topped with slices of roast pork and a handful of fresh herbs. The broth is flavorful and fragrant, and the noodles have a unique texture that is chewy and satisfying.
14. Take a Vietnamese food cooking class
Taking a cooking class is one of the most popular and rewarding activities to do in Hoi An. Hoi An is famous for its unique cuisine, which blends Vietnamese, Chinese, and French influences, and taking a cooking class is an excellent way to learn about the ingredients, techniques, and cultural influences that make it so special.
There are several cooking classes available in Hoi An, ranging from half-day classes to multi-day courses. Most classes start with a visit to a local market to buy ingredients and learn about the different herbs, spices, and vegetables used in Vietnamese cuisine. The instructor will explain the ingredients and their uses, and you’ll have the opportunity to buy some for yourself to take home.
After the market visit, you’ll head to the cooking school, where the instructor will guide you through the steps of preparing several dishes. You’ll learn how to chop, grind, and mix ingredients, as well as how to use traditional cooking tools such as the mortar and pestle and the wok.
15. Relax on the beaches near Hoi An
If Cham Island is too much of a commitment, there are plenty of beaches near Hoi An to satisfy your beach itch. Note that Hoi An is not on the beach so you’ll need to take a Grab or go on a long bike ride to reach the beach.
An Bang Beach, located just a short drive from the center of Hoi An, is one of the most popular beaches in the area. It boasts a long stretch of white sand, crystal-clear waters, and plenty of beachside bars and restaurants where you can enjoy a refreshing drink or a delicious meal while taking in the view. The beach is relatively quiet and has a laid-back atmosphere, making it the perfect spot to unwind and escape the hustle and bustle of Hoi An’s old town.
Cua Dai Beach is another popular beach that is located just a few kilometers from Hoi An’s center. This wide and long beach is known for its calm and clear waters, making it a great spot for swimming and water activities. There are plenty of sun loungers and umbrellas available for rent, and there are also several beachside cafes and restaurants serving up tasty seafood dishes and cold drinks.
For those looking for a more secluded beach experience, Hidden Beach is a beautiful option that is located just a short drive from Hoi An’s center. As the name suggests, this beach is hidden away from the main tourist areas, and you’ll need to take a short walk down a small path to reach it. However, the effort is well worth it, as the beach offers breathtaking views of the ocean, as well as quiet and peaceful surroundings.
16. Visit the Hoi An Museum
The Hoi An Museum is a must-visit attraction for anyone interested in learning about the history and culture of the city. Located in a beautiful old building on Nguyen Hue Street, the museum offers a fascinating look at Hoi An’s past, from its early days as a trading port to its more recent history during the Vietnam War.
The museum has several galleries that showcase different aspects of Hoi An’s history. One of the most interesting is the gallery dedicated to the city’s trading history. Hoi An was an important trading port during the 16th and 17th centuries, and the gallery features artifacts and exhibits that highlight the city’s role in international trade.
17. Shop at the Hoi An Night market
The Hoi An Night Market is a popular attraction for both locals and tourists alike. Located in the heart of the Old Town, the market is held every evening from around 6 pm until 10 pm and is a great place to shop for souvenirs, clothing, and local crafts.
The market is spread out along Nguyen Hoang Street and is lined with dozens of stalls selling everything from handcrafted pottery to traditional Vietnamese clothing. You can find souvenirs like keychains, magnets, and postcards, as well as more substantial items like hand-carved wooden furniture and silk lanterns.
Aside from shopping, the Hoi An Night Market is also a great place to sample street food and try local delicacies. You can find a wide variety of food options at the market, including grilled seafood, banh mi sandwiches, and Vietnamese-style pancakes.
18. Drink a coconut coffee
Hanoi is famous for its egg coffee and Hoi An is equally as famous for its coconut coffee. This coffee combines aromatic local coffee with coconut milk, coconut juice, and a little bit of sugar to create a wonderful iced coffee mix.
There are plenty of amazing cafes in Hoi An to sample this but for the best, head to Tamy’s Rooftop coffee for a wonderful rendition of the coconut coffee while enjoying unobstructed views of the old town.
19. Buy and make your own Lantern
Hoi An is famous for its colorful lanterns, which are lit up at night and create a magical atmosphere in the Old Town. I truly believe the lanterns are what makes Hoi An unique and so picturesque.
Many shops in Hoi An offer lantern-making lessons, where you can learn to make your own lantern to take home as a souvenir. Alternatively, you can just buy a lantern from the countless shops on the night market. There are different prices based on the size of the lantern but expect to pay about 100k for a medium sized lantern.
20. Ride a traditional basket boat
After walking around Hoi An, it’s likely you’ll notice these traditional bamboo basket boats all over the town. Although it is quite a touristy endeavor, riding one of these boats can be quite fun especially if you have a charismatic person steering the boat.
These basket boats, or “Thung Chai”, are remnants of the colonial times under French occupation. During those times, French officials wanted to take Vietnamese fisherman including their fishing boats. These fisherman then created these different style of boats arguing that they were a basket instead of a boat.
21. Take a day trip to the Imperial city of Hue
While Hoi An is known for its ancient architecture and peaceful atmosphere, Hue is famous for its historical monuments and imperial heritage. Fortunately, these two cities are located close to each other, making it easy to make a day trip from Hoi An to Hue. Here’s what you can expect from a day trip from Hoi An to Hue.
The distance between Hoi An and Hue is approximately 130 kilometers, and it takes about two to three hours to travel between the two cities by car. To make the most of your day trip, it’s recommended to hire a private car or take a guided tour, as this will save you time and hassle. Most tours depart from Hoi An early in the morning, usually around 7:00 or 8:00 a.m., and return in the evening around 6:00 or 7:00 p.m.
Once you arrive in Hue, the first stop on your itinerary should be the Imperial City, which was the seat of the Nguyen Dynasty for over a century. The Imperial City is a large complex that includes a series of palaces, temples, and courtyards, all of which are surrounded by thick walls and a moat. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s an excellent place to learn about Vietnam’s royal history. You can easily spend a few hours here, admiring the architecture, strolling through the gardens, and taking photos.
After visiting the Imperial City, you can head to the Thien Mu Pagoda, which is one of the most iconic landmarks in Hue. This pagoda is located on a hill overlooking the Perfume River, and it’s famous for its seven-tiered tower, which is visible from far away. The Thien Mu Pagoda is considered the symbol of Hue, and it’s an essential stop on any trip to the city.
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