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.
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