Dip your toes in cool water and watch the day wake up on Vung Tau’s beautiful Back Beach. This three kilometer-long strip of sand will entice you to spend a day in the shade of an umbrella, cocktail in hand. A handful of high-end hotels, restaurants, and beach clubs line Back Beach, and local vendors rent umbrellas on the sand. When you’re hungry, break for a delicious seafood lunch overlooking the water.
TIP: The waves on Back Beach are fairly flat and safe, so it’s a great place to bring little ones.
It’s only a 30-minute trek to the summit of Big Mountain, where you’ll have a panoramic view of Vung Tau city and the coastline. Along the way, stop by Villa Blanche for a quick tour. This colonial mansion was built in the late 1800s as a home for the district’s French governor. Today, Villa Blanche is a quiet museum displaying local and cultural artefacts.
Vung Tau is known for its wide range of mouthwatering dishes made with fresh, local ingredients. Try a fragrant, steaming hot pot of stingray and baby bamboo shoots; or crispy bánh khọt, a mini-pancake made of flour and curry powder, topped with fresh squid or shrimp, green onion and shrimp powder. Each piece is wrapped in lettuce and fresh herbs, then dipped into a mix of fish sauce, papaya and chili.
TIP: Try Vung Tau’s signature bánh khọt at Banh Khot Goc Vu Sua at 14 Nguyen Truong To. The eatery opens from 7am to 2pm on weekdays, and 7am to 8pm on Sundays.
Vung Tau’s famous Jesus Christ statue was built in 1974, and stands at 32 metres tall. You’ll need to cover about 800 steps up the headland to reach the feet of the statue, plus another 100 steps to its shoulders. Prepare for a steep climb, as well as amazing views from the top.
TIP: Entrance to statue is free, but you’ll need to follow the standard dress code for religious sites.
A short ride from the city, Ben Dinh is populated almost entirely with fishermen and their families. Bright, multi-coloured boats are moored by the beach and the catch is hauled in every morning before sunrise and sorted on the sand. In summer, the locals lay their fish out on nets to dry in the sun. Visitors can walk among the fishing boats, watch the morning’s catch being brought in, and buy fresh seafood to cook later.
Hon Ba is a miniature island off the end of Back Beach that can only be accessed at low tide. Make your way across the rocks and pebbles to the other side, where you can explore the beach for shells, or wander up to see the shrines at Mieu Ba temple, dedicated to the patroness of sailors and fishermen.
About 30km from Back Beach you’ll find Chua Khi (Monkey Temple), a Buddhist pagoda complex that’s home to nearly 200 long-tailed macaques. Nestled among rolling hills a few hundred meters from the ocean, Chua Khi is a popular site for Vietnamese buddhists. The 40-minute ride can be done in a taxi — stop at Long Hai beach for a quick dip in the sea.
TIP: Be careful with your belongings - the monkeys are quite curious and have been known to steal.
Buses - Two comfortable bus companies run between Vung Tau and Ho Chi Minh City: Phuong Trang Bus Company (FUTA Bus) and Hoa Mai. Visit the FUTA Bus office on De Tham to buy tickets, or get the luxury Hoa Mai bus tickets for VND150,000 from 83 Nguyen Thai Binh.
Hydrofoil - The hydrofoil from Saigon River in Ho Chi Minh City to Vung Tau’s Front Beach, takes roughly two hours. Tickets range from VND120,000 to VND250,000. Simply head to Ben Nha Rong Port in District 1 for tickets and schedules.