what to do in vietnam with kids


Spice up your family trip to Hoi An with these under-the-radar activities!

Families visiting Vietnam tend to flock to Hoi An, and with good reason. The white sand beaches are attraction enough in themselves, but this pretty town also counts impressive architecture, a stroller-friendly pedestrianised Old Town and a colorful arts and crafts scene among its family-pleasing attractions. Oh, and there’s some excellent shopping to be done here, and some delicious cocktails (and mocktails for the kids) to drink. All good, except of course this means jostling for elbow room with other families as well as the backpacker brigade at the major sites and attractions. For a little more spice and local flavor, families in Hoi An can easily ditch the big crowds and find under-the-radar activities. Read on for some highlights.

 Take a Free Bike Tour With Local Students

Set up by enterprising local students keen to improve their language skills by interacting with English-speaking visitors to Hoi An, these fun free tours are basically a win-win. The friendly students have an off-the-beaten-track ethos, aiming to show visitors the sights that don’t appear in any guidebooks. Families will need to rent their own bikes (most hotels offer this service for next-to-nothing) and pay for extras such as ferries and food (contributions to local community projects are welcomed!). Otherwise, the rides are freebies which allow families to cycle around traditional rural villages, past rice paddies and grazing water buffalo. You can also visit craft villages to see expert carpenters and boat-makers at work, or participate in workshops if you’re interested. Cyclists can take tea with locals and visit family homes to see how traditional dishes are prepared. All in all, these bike rides are a fun way to get off the tourist trail and interact with local communities.

Got time and cash to spare? It’s even possible for visitors to Hoi An to make their own bikes from locally-sourced bamboo. Locals use the abundant crops of sturdy bamboo to make all manner of useful objects, and visitors can take part in bike-building workshops. The whole process takes between 6-14 days, and bikes can be shipped on request. The whole experience costs around $400 USD (not including shipping) but the end result is a nifty, durable bike that makes a pretty impressive memento of your family trip to Hoi An. Plus, you can ride  it around for the duration of your stay in Vietnam!

 Make Traditional (and Edible!) Vietnamese Toys

Toys you can eat! Hoi An is famous for its tradition of tò he: figurines made from rice paper crafted into flowers, animals, super-heroes… basically every kid-pleasing shape imaginable. While it’s common to see these toys for sale by the roadside and at the markets of Hoi An, families in the town can also make their own by taking part in a workshop (ask around, or use an agency such as Backstreet Academy). For less than $20 USD families can spend a few fun hours learning about this centuries-old tradition, and moulding their glutinous rice paper into the shape of their choice.  

 Learn Traditional Cooking

Encourage the kids to get hands-on with their food habits by taking part in one of the many cookery classes in Hoi An. Some classes involve visiting farms and markets to learn about selecting the choicest ingredients for whipping up those delicately-flavored Vietnamese dishes such as white rose dumplings and quang noodles. Kids will enjoy making sweet treats such as green bean cakes, and the chance to eat what they make might encourage fussy eaters to embark on new gastronomic adventures. Some Hoi An cooking classes are fairly touristy affairs, but others such as the aptly-named My Grandma’s Home Cooking, involve traveling to rural villages to learn the culinary magic of locals who have been creating delicious family meals for generations. Families who appreciate the flavors at the welcoming Cafe 43 can also take classes on site, for just a few dollars per head.

 Ethical Eats at Streets Café

Take your budding chefs to Streets Restaurant-Cafe, where disadvantaged young people have a chance to enroll in cookery training courses, applying their skills in the restaurant. As part of the global Streets International social enterprise, it’s a feel-good way to eat, but that’s far from the only reason to visit. The food is excellent by any standards, and the pretty setting and artfully-restored old building will impress the grown-ups as the kids slurp up noodles and delicious mango smoothies.

Photo: Efrat Shimon

Spice Up Your Family Trip to Dalat with these Under-the-Radar Activities!

Sometimes known as the “City of Eternal Spring,” Dalat is one of the most popular destinations for families visiting Vietnam, thanks to its less-than-scorching temperatures, gorgeous mountainous landscape, and wealth of kid-friendly attractions. Families in Dalat can ride roller coasters through the jungle, soar above the trees in cable cars leading to crashing waterfalls, and check into one of the the most child-pleasing guest houses on the planet the Dali-esque Crazy House (a tourist attraction in its own right). The quiet roads are perfect for family cycling trips, and most guest houses in Dalat welcome newcomers with a family meal free of charge, which provides a great way to get to know locals and other guests. Dalat’s popularity can make it feel like a rather tame family resort though, and visitors will find themselves negotiating large crowds at most of Dalat’s family attractions. Scratch the surface, though, and visitors to Dalat with kids can find a whole host of off-the-beaten-path experiences that will add some welcome spice to a visit to this tranquil mountain resort.

 Visit the Elephant Waterfall

Dalat is famous for its waterfalls, and the mountain coaster heading to Datanla Falls is one of the busiest tourist attractions in the town. It’s worth doing (the kids will never speak to you again if you don’t let them ride it at least once), but for crowd-free falls, get yourself to the farther-flung Elephant Waterfall. Some 40 kilometers from Dalat, the impressive falls remain largely a local attraction and happily free of vast crowds of tourists. Several tour operators run trips here, but families can also do it the DIY way by taking either a local bus (these run frequently during daylight hours), or cycling. Note that there are some tough trails to scramble over at the end, so bring sensible shoes. Little ones may need to be carried. The waters crash down from a height of some 30 kilometers, and the area around the absurdly scenic lake is perfect for dips and family picnics. A nearby pagoda with giant blue Happy Buddha is a good spot for family photos.

∴ Impress the kids by telling them the legend of Elephant Waterfall. The less-than-cheery ancient story holds that a kind daughter of one of the tribal chiefs, much loved by the local animals, was due to marry a similarly popular chieftain, much to the delight of the area’s elephants. The great creatures came from all around to attend the ceremony, only to find that the couple had died before the ceremony. The stricken elephants were united in grief and died at the foot of the waterfall, where they were fossilized. The local mountain god cried tears that mixed with the stream, and consoled the dead elephants.


Experience the Lost Art of Silver Ring Making in Action

The art of crafting silver rings has long been practised by local Churu people, but today the tradition is dying out. Visitors to Da Lat can take a craft village tour to see artisans at work their homes in little-visited nearby villages. It’s possible to make the trip by bike, but guides can provide interesting information about the custom. The process of making the rings takes around three hours, and it’s possible to buy the rings to take home, which makes a perfect keepsake (and an incentive for any accessory-loving child to make the trip out here). Surrounding villages are known for crafts such as pottery-making and weaving, and there are some stunning, crowd-free monasteries and temples to be visited if time allows.


Visit a Strawberry Farm

The landscape and climate of Da Lat makes it particularly fertile ground for growing everything from coffee to flowers, and families cycling along the quiet roads will see all manner of farms in the outlying areas. Many of these farms are open to visits, and among the most enticing are the strawberry farms, easily spotted from the road. Many can be visited for a fee of $1 USD, and visitors can pick their own fruit (pay for what you pick) and purchase other tempting products such as jams, jellies and strawberry wine (just don’t drink too much if you’ve come here on your bike!). There are several tour companies offering organized tours to farms, but it’s fun just to look out for signs and call in.


Don’t Miss the 100 Roofs Café

If you visit only one cafe-bar in Dalat, you really have to make it to the 100 Roofs Café. Also known as The Maze, this labyrinthine eating and drinking establishment is truly a one-of-a-kind experience. The owners will tell kids Gandalf and his hobbit pals have pitched up here, and while it can’t really claim to have played host to fictional characters, the network of dim corridors, caves and stairwells makes it feel like you are stepping into a fantasy novel. There are great views from the roof, and it’s possible to spend literally hours navigating the corridors and uncovering secret spots, such as an aquarium-themed underground room. Happy hour promotions make this an extra-fun experience for the grown-ups, while kids can enjoy soft drinks and snacks, but it’s the opportunity for limitless exploring that’s the real draw.


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Get off the beaten track in Nha Trang, ditch the beach crowds and full moon parties in favour of family-friendly fun at these under-the-radar spots!

Long sandy beaches, a lovely mountain backdrop, reviving hot springs, excellent diving and delicious seafood: Nha Trang has a lot to offer family visitors to Vietnam. But those appealing attractions mean it’s far from an undiscovered gem. Nha Trang is, with good reason, one of the most popular beach destinations in Vietnam, which might be a little off-putting for families who like their traveling to have a more local experience. Independently-minded families visiting Vietnam shouldn’t avoid visiting Nha Trang because of its popularity–aside from the obvious attractions, there are some less-touristy family attractions and activities in Nha Trang, and a whole lot of lovely swimming and sunbathing to be done.


Take a Trip to Yang Bay

Active families in Nha Trang will find it well worth taking a short side trip to the nature-lovers’ paradise that is Yang Bay. Around 50 kilometers from Nha Trang, it’s easily and inexpensive to reach by local bus (or pay a modest fee for a reasonable group or private guide). And while large groups of visitors flock to the pretty waterfalls and pools, the surrounding area is full of blissfully quiet trails. The Yang Bay eco-tourism site covers nearly 600 hectares and includes some truly spectacular flower displays. Look out for the magnificent, color-changing King Lotus flowers, whose leaves span up to two meters! Search for vine trees and weeping fig trees which wind around each other 25 meters into the sky, with a trunks so wide that even the largest family would struggle to reach around it hand-in-hand. There’s also a beautiful bird garden, home to more than 1,000 species. Families can pack a picnic and ditch the group tours in favor of independent exploring; just don’t get lost!


Encourage a Passion for Science at the Alexandre Yersin Museum

One for a rainy day, perhaps, this museum is within easy walking distance of the city center, and will thrill kids with a passion for science. Most tourists are too busy sunbathing or swimming to visit, but it’s well worth coming here to check out the exhibits dedicated to the life and works of Swiss-born, naturalized French scientist Yersin, who spent the last stages of his life in Nha Trang. Best known for his work in combating the bubonic plague, he arrived in Vietnam in the late 19th century to work on treatments for various animal diseases. The museum is located in the stellar scientist’s former home, and items on display include slides, photographs and medical instruments as well as his desk and  his death bed. Entrance is little more than $1 USD.


Hone Your Haggling Skills at Xoi Moi Market 

Bargain-hunting visitors to Nha Trang usually head straight for the famous Dam Market, and there’s certainly a lot of fun to be had browsing everything from crafts and keepsakes to weird and wonderful fruits and vegetables. But while Dam Market does play a large part in catering to the local community, it’s also become something of a tourist attraction, and where tourists flock, higher prices soon follow. For more local flavor, it’s well worth setting the alarm early for a morning visit to Xoi Moi Market on the outskirts of town (get here before 7:30 AM for the freshest local produce and the best bargains). Visitors can get a caffeine fix and a delicious breakfast  or fruit smoothie, if the thought of savory noodles before noon doesn’t appeal. The goodies range from locally-produced arts, crafts and items of clothing to every foodie ingredient imaginable, and with scarcely an out-of-town in sight, prices compare extremely favorably with elsewhere. Just be prepared to haggle, haggle haggle.

 ?Eat this: Its coastal location makes Nha Trang a favorite destination for fish-loving foodies. Among the most popular of the town’s local specialties is bun cha sua. A favorite breakfast dish, it’s a potent mix of rice noodles, steamed fish and spicy-sweet broth. Another key ingredient is jellyfish, which may have kids clamoring to try it or refusing to give it a go, depending on their level of culinary curiosity. Given Nha Trang’s six-kilometer coastline, it’s no surprise that bun cha sua is one of its must-try delicacies. The dish comprises of rice vermicelli, jellyfish, and steamed sailfish fillet in a sweet and savoury fish broth, though some eateries add in crab, shrimp and pork to the ensemble. A popular breakfast amongst locals shopping at Xoi Moi Market, it’s a surprisingly addictive dish.


Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud

Some attractions are worth braving the crowds for, and travel-weary families in Nha Trang  would be wise to follow the tourist trail to Thap Ba Spa, where hot springs, mud baths and all manner of soothing massage treatments will soothe away the stresses and strains of an active, adventurous family break in Nha Trang. The kids are going to love being given the green light to cover themselves in sticky mud (just don’t tell them it’s mineral-packed and bound to do them good).

Spice up your trip with some of the city’s hidden secrets…

With its honking motorcycles, chaotic Old Quarter, and vibrant culinary scene, Hanoi is well-established as a favorite destination among backpackers and adventurous travelers. The Vietnamese capital is often overlooked as a family-friendly destination, with many families skipping the metropolis to head to Ha Long Bay. But don’t let that steer you away from Vietnam’s bustling capital! Hanoi has a whole lot of kid-friendly attractions, including museums, water-puppet shows, vertigo-inducing “sky walks”, fun food, and flower markets. These attractions do tend to draw quite a crowd, however, so families in Hanoi will need to head off the tourist trail for a queue-free experience. Read on for the low-down on how to spice up your trip with under-the-radar sights and activities in Hanoi.


Cook Up a Storm with Culinary Classes

Kids usually take well to Vietnamese food (once everybody’s clued up as to how to ask for dishes that won’t bombard your taste buds with fiery heat), and the whole family can usually be found happily chowing down on phó after just a day or so. Fire up your family’s new-found fondness for Vietnamese cuisine with cooking classes, some of which also involve a shopping trip to one of Hanoi’s colorful food markets, fragrant with spices and alive with the sound of shouting traders and bargain-hunting shoppers. For English-language classes with kid-focused options, check out Hanoi Cooking Center, which offers kids’ classes from around $14 USD. This centrally-located school has an excellent reputation, and also arranges street food tours and other foodie treats. There’s an on-site café, too, should the kids want to see how it’s done before they sign up.


Feed a Passion for Books at the Temple of Literature

An inscription at the entrance advises horse riders to dismount their steeds, providing a clue as to the aristocratic importance of the young scholars who once strolled these blissfully quiet courtyards in the heart of Hanoi. The home of Vietnam’s earliest university (founded in 1076), the Temple of Literature was set up to educate sons of mandarins and to honor the great and good of literary accomplishment. Ornate pagodas and temples, statues and stone tortoises dot the grounds, which make for a pleasant place for a stroll or just to let little ones race around without fear of a car or motorbike mounting the pavement.  The entrance fee is less than $1 USD, so it’s a cost-effective way to get some fresh air and exercise while goggling at the architecture.


Take a Free Walking Tour

Strap babies into slings (forget strollers on these busy streets) and tell older kids to get their comfy trainers on! Hanoi’s Free Walking Tours are a great way to get to know the city’s nooks and crannies without the all-too-real possibility of getting lost. As the name suggests, the tours are free-of-charge, although the friendly volunteers that run them will happily accept donations. The tours were set up in 2012 by a group of students as a way of showing the best of their city to curious visitors, and today walkers can take tours ranging from three hours to a full day. Don’t worry, there are plenty of pit stops along the way, and each tour explores a different areas of the city such as the Old Quarter or French Quarter. There’s even a dedicated street-food tour, which will delight foodie families. It’s best to book in advance so the guides know how many people are coming along.


Try an Egg Coffee at Giang Café

Visitors to Hanoi can get a caffeine kick and protein hit in one fell swoop by sampling one of Hanoi’s most intriguing coffee creations. Rich, fragrant cà phê trứng (egg coffee) was invented by Nguyen Van Giang in 1946 in response to wartime milk shortage, and the success of his brew was such that he was able to open a café on the back of it. Nowadays the coffee is a more elaborate confection made with top-quality coffee, sugar, hot whisked egg and condensed millk or butter. It’s possible to try egg coffee at lots of places in Vietnam today, but where better to try it than the place where the delicious drink was invented?  The café is hidden away in the backstreets of the Old Quarter, but well worth hunting out, and kids can be lured here with the promise of sticky-sweet cakes, or even try the drink itself. Just ask for it with a mere drip of coffee to keep the caffeine level low and minimise the risk of the kids tearing around at an even faster pace than normal.

Our recommended family-friendly hotels in Hanoi!

Need more ideas regarding how to travel on a budget with your family? Check out my eBook available for download on Amazon here!

With its rocky mountains, deep gorges, thick jungle and thousands of miles of coastline, Vietnam is a top destination for thrillseekers looking for their next adrenaline rush. There’s a whole lot of white-knuckled fun to be had here, and there’s no need to strike them off your holiday checklist just because you’ve got kids in tow.

Some activities are suitable for all but the tiniest of visitors to Vietnam, while others are strictly for the grownups. Little kids are sure to enjoy watching their parents rack up cool points by taking part in some seriously daredevil activities. Think you don’t have the guts? You’ll never know until you try!

 Try Sandboarding in Mui Ne

No snow? No problem! Families in Mui Ne can enjoy some of the most epic sandboarding adventures in the world. The giant dunes stretch out for miles. Hire a quad bike to whizz from spot to spot, and the whole family can have a go at soaring down the giant white sand peaks, before making their way over to the Red Dunes, which offer a similar experience but with the added wow factor that comes from whizzing down red dunes. Meanwhile the desert-like landscape provides a pretty dramatic background to the whole experience. Serious sandboarders will bring their own equipment, but newbies can get by just fine on the flimsy plastic boards for sale or rent at numerous spots in this coastal resort town, about a 6-hour drive from Ho Chi Minh City. Families are best advised to take the sleeper bus, and hope the kids sleep en-route.

Why you should do it: The different-sized dunes means all ages can have a go, and the sand means there’s always a soft landing. No experience is necessary, and there’s always a chance to refuel with delicious shrimp pancakes–you’ll see locals unloading their hauls of fresh shrimp as you hike up and down the giant dunes.

 Whizz Along Vietnam’s Longest Zipline

Every adventurous soul loves a good zipline, and families in Vietnam can whizz across the country’s longest  (almost half a kilometer!) over deep river to arrive at Hang Toi (or “Dark Cave,” as it’s popularly known), in Phong Nha, Central Vietnam.  Once you’ve clambered down from the double-cable zipline, you’ll strap on a head torch and wind through narrow passageways enter a cave filled with the gloopiest mud imaginable. Wear your swimwear–you’re going to get very, very muddy. You’re also going to bob around like a cork on water in this curiously buoyant gloop. At around $19 USD per person, it’s very affordable adventuring.  

Why you should do it: Pretty much every age group is going to love the zipline, and once you’re over the river there are mud baths, an obstacle course and another zipline called the “Flying Fox.” The zipline is one-way, so you’ll be kayaking back home after taking a pitch-dark river bath to wash off the mud.

Find the Courage for Canyoning in Da Lat

Never been canyoning? Get ready for some seriously high-energy fun. Adventurous families in Vietnam should head to Da Lat for memory-making adventures that involve rapelling, ziplining, scrambling, swimming and jumping through thick jungle, deep caves and waterfalls. This isn’t for toddlers, naturally, but kids aged 10 and over can get involved (and might give their parents a kick up the backside if they look like wimping out!). There are jumps and descents to suit all levels of experience. The most famous route is the Washing Machine Waterfall descent, which whooshes canyoners around as though in a spin cycle.

Note of Caution: There are countless operators running canyoning expeditions in Da Lat (by the way, Dalat is just a few hours’ drive from Mui Ne), but families need to exercise caution. The best-established outfit is Phat Tire, which has an excellent reputation for family trips, and offers full training before letting anyone loose on the ropes. At around $75 USD per person for a day’s adventure it’s pricier than the others, but it’s worth it for the professionalism and peace of mind.

Visit the World’s Largest Cave at Son Doong

Talk about off the beaten track! This giant cave in the middle of central Vietnam’s Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park has only recently opened up to visitors, and fewer people have stepped inside than have stood on the summit of Everest. There’s some serious trekking to be done (this is best suited for older kids and teens), and visitors need to be physically fit to take part. Once inside, it’s like something from another planet. An airplane could comfortably fit inside the main cavern, and the cave network is so vast that it has its own weather system and cloud-shrouded jungles (yes, jungles INSIDE the cave!). There’s a lot to take in, but visitor numbers are limited, and there’s currently just one operator allowed to run tours to the caves: Oxalis. Prices vary according to duration and comfort levels, but this is not going to be a cheap part of your trip – be prepared to pay up to $3,000 USD, for 4-5 days trekking, accommodation, and the caves themselves.

⛷ Boxout: Huge Cave, Tiny Village

Visitors to Son Doong will pass through the isolated Ban Doong Ethnic Village (population: 40), based inside the National Park. The remote community had very little contact with the outside world before the caves opened up to (very limited) tourism in 2013.

Eat Some Extreme Foods

Vietnam lends itself well to adventurous eating, and families in Vietnam can challenge themselves to some seriously hardcore snacking. Think you haven’t got the stomach for bugs or crocodile? Maybe it’s time to introduce yourself to some new and sustainable protein sources (and you don’t want to lose face in front of the kids, right?). One of the best spots for out-there eating is Bo Tung Xeo in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) – where diners can tuck into grasshoppers, scorpion, snake, rat and ostrich, grilled right in front of you.

⛷ Boxout: Crickets on the Go! Forget nuts and potato chips: Adventurous eaters in Vietnam can chow down on crickets as a bar snack or quick protein fix on the go. BugSnack, which launched in 2016, is a pre-packed insect snack, in packaging that features a cheery-looking hopper on the front.

Need more ideas regarding how to travel on a budget with your family? Check out my eBook available for download on Amazon here!

Vietnam is a terrific destination for families who prefer to spend their time amid wild nature than lounging by a pool. (But if you DO want to spend your time lunging by a pool- here is a great place for that ?).

The richly diverse country offers unspoilt beaches, mysterious caves and caverns, thick jungle and towering mountains. And while the landscape offers plenty of opportunity for off-the-beaten track adventures, there’s no shortage of organized activities that will thrill everyone from toddlers to teens (while keeping the grownups entertained too, of course). Think ziplining through jungle canopy, kayaking, caving and canyoning, as well as more tranquil outdoor pursuits such a swimming, snorkeling and trekking across mist-swathed mountain passes.

Our 30-day itinerary allows plenty of time for nature-loving families in Vietnam to see the big-ticket outdoor attractions as well as under-the-radar sights, and includes some truly off-the-beaten track spots. It allows time for families to appreciate the route rather than whizzing along ticking items off a ‘must-see’ checklist.  A word to the wise: Make sure you have your visa in place well in advance of your family trip to Vietnam.

Day 1-3 Hanoi

It can take a day or so to settle into the seemingly chaotic pace of life in the Vietnamese capital, but after catching your breath and  fueling up on pho in the Old Quarter, families can spend a day or so  checking out city center outdoor attractions such as Thong Nhat Park (where families in Hanoi can ride swan pedal boats around the scenic lake) and a couple of kid-pleasing water parks. But the best Vietnam attractions for nature-loving families are to be found outside the big city, so don’t plan to stay here for more than a few days.

? Box out: Home stay in Mai Chao

For a real off the beaten track experience, head to Mai Chau (around 3-hours’ drive from Hanoi), where the bright green paddy fields are as picture-perfect as the Vietnamese country gets, and families can bed down for the night in houses built on bamboo ‘stilts’. The vilages of Ban Lac and Pom Coong offer homestays where, for a few dollars,  visitors can eat home-cooked meals with their hosts, before heading off for cycling trips in the stunning surrounds.


Day 4-10 Sapa

Nature-loving families in Vietnam will be in their element in Sapa, which at 1500 meters above sea level in the Hoang Lien Son mountains is a little off-the-tourist track, but easily reached by express bus (around six hours, $20) or overnight train (expect to pay up to $140 for a fairly plush private family cabin). There are lodgings in every price bracket and luxury level here, and it’s wise to allow a few days here in case of inclement weather – when the mists descend, the views vanish) Trekking through rice paddies and visiting the neighboring waterfalls are the most popular family activities here, and the scenery is simply incredible. Little legs may tire quickly on the treks, but fit families are often to be seen hiking along with babies and toddlers in slings and baby carriers. Set aside at least a day or so to visit Silver Waterfall and Love Waterfal both of which are accessed by a scenic forest walk and offer terrific views. Hiring a scooter or motorbike is a good way to visit surrounding villages, many of which offer homestays with local families.

?Box out: The Hill Tribes of the  ‘Tonkinese Alps’

Nicknamed the ‘Tonkinese Alps’, the mountain region surrounding Sapa includes Fanispan, the highest peak in the country. Close to the border with China, the area is home to several hill tribes who remain apart from mainstream society and who are notable for their colorful dress – visitors can pick up eye-catching handicrafts on sale at the town’s market.

Day 11-16 Ha Long Bay

With towering limestone cliffs jutting dramatically from sparkling green waters, Ha Long Bay is instantly recognisable from countless tourist board images of Vietnam. This incredible part of the country is justifiably one of the country’s top tourist attractions, but there is plenty of scope for families in Ha Long Bay to dodge the packed boat trips and find their own piece of paradise. It’s a little under six hours’ bus ride from Sapa ($10-20 depending on comfort level) and families traveling to Ha Long Bay might want to consider the overnight option if kids are likely to be restless during daylight hours. There’s no shortage of places to stay, and great scope for taking to the water in a kayak – it’s wise to go with a guide, who can lead nature-loving families out to hidden lagoons and secret islands that bigger boats just can’t reach. Other off-the-beaten track highlights include cycling on the spectacular Cat Ba archipelago, notable for its swoonworthy topography – waterfalls, caves and grottoes are hidden in the hills –  and rich flora and fauna. Snorkeling here is a treat, with colorful marine life galore.

? Tip: There are a large amount of scam ‘tour boat’ operators in the area. Do your research online before handing over any cash, and make sure you are clear on exactly what is included in the price. Also be sure to check that on board safety is adequate.

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Day 17-21 Ninh Binh

Sometimes known as the ‘Inland Ha Long Bay’, the impossibly scenic Ninh Binh remains under-the-radar (possibly not for much longer, as it’s beginning to grab the attention of the international travel press). For now, families visiting Ninh Binh can expect to find rural Vietnam at its most blissfully unspoiled. The crowd-free beauty spot offers rivers, caves and majestic mountains as far as the eye can see, and rafting along a snaking river past golden paddy fields is about as far removed from the packed tourist boat of Ha Long Bay as it’s possible to get. Lodgings range from simple homestays to  eco lodges and luxury hotels, and family visitors to Ninh Binh will find enough to see and do here to merit a stay of at least four or five nights.

?Box out: Secret Caves

If there’s one thing that’s certain to impress kids visiting Ninh Binh, it’s the opportunity for exploring dark and spooky caves. The Jurassic Park-esque Thuong Mountain range is filled with grottoes and caverns, some of which are accessed by underground rivers. Grab a guide and visit  Dong Thien Ha (Galaxy Cave) which is accessed by boat and remains little-known to tourists – you may find you have only bats for company.

Day 22-24 Cuc Thuong National Park

Vietnam’s largest and oldest national park, Cuc Phuong has a staggering biodiversity, and is one of the best places in the country to escape the tourist hordes and embark on some nature trails. There are several places to stay within the park itself, and families in Cuc Phuong can marvel at the brightly colored birds and butterflies that flit through the trees here. Remote tribes still live on the peripheries of the park, and caves house prehistoric remains dating back over 7000 years.

?Fun fact: Cuc Phuong is home to some of Asia’s rarest flora and fauna – there are more than 120 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 135 types of mammal, including Asian black bears and rare clouded leopards.

Day 25-27 Phong Nha

Another highlight of any nature-focused family trip to Vietnam, Phong Nha (around 9 hours on the overnight train, from $60 pp) is still one of the country’s best kept secrets, best known for housing Son Doong – the world’s largest cave. You’ll need deep pockets to venture in – treks cost thousands of dollars – but families on more modest budgets will find plenty of other caverns to explore. Kids of all ages will relish a visit to Dark Cave (prices vary according to activity and season, from around $4 for basic cave entrance). Brave families can plunge into a giant mud pit, swim in a pitch-black pool, and zipwire across natural lagoons.

?Box out: Kill Your Own Chicken?

One of the most (in)famous watering holes in the park is the place simply known as the Pub With Cold Beer (as per the handwritten street signs), which serves delicious grilled chicken. The gimmick? Diners are offered the opportunity to choose – and kill – their own chicken. Squeamish families should feel free to decline the offer.

Day 28-30 Da Nang

It might be a nature-based trip, but families in Vietnam may well want to tick Ho Chi Minh City off the bucket list, but there’s more family fun to be had at Da Nang – the largest city in central Vietnam, and accessible via overnight or daytime train (from $30), where visitors will be richly rewarded for the trip with some incredibly pretty beaches, and the UNESCO World Heritage town of Hoi An less than an hour’s drive away.

Try to book this amazing family-friendly hotel in Danang, it will be a great ending to your trip.

From here, it’s just over an hour’s flight back to Hanoi, where you might want to overnight or hop straight back on your flight home.