Situated off the coast of Hoi An, Vietnam, the Cham Islands are a group of eight small landmasses surrounded by a near-transparent ocean. As rich in history as they are in their beauty, the Cham Islands are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Cham Islands are a great alternative to the hustle and bustle of Vietnam’s major cities. A true tropical paradise, visitors can enjoy a day swimming in pristine waters while taking in its picturesque views.
The largest of these islands is known as Hon Lao and is the only inhabited island. Hon Lao’s port, Bai Lang, has an illustrious maritime history as a trading post. The opposite side of the island has long been utilized as a military base, and visiting Hon Lao was prohibited altogether until fairly recently.
The other seven islands that make up the Cham Islands are Hon Cu, Hon Kho, Hon La, Hon Dai, Hon Lo, and Hon Tai.
Villages on Hon Lao
Being the only inhabited island within the Cham Islands, Hon Lao is home to two main villages: Bai Lang and Bai Huong. Bai Lang is the capital and is home to about 2,400 people meanwhile, Bai Huong only has around 400 residents.
Bai Lang is home to several restaurants whose specialty is fresh local seafood. There are plenty of notable sights and attractions present and it’s recommended that you pick up a tourism brochure upon arrival and explore Bai Lang to your heart’s desire.
Those who enjoy the simpler things will love Bai Huong, a small fishing village located only a few miles from Bai Lang. Far from being the most bustling location in Vietnam, Bai Huong’s charm lies in its modesty. There isn’t much for tourists, but Bai Huong still offers a candid look into the lives of those living in the Cham Islands.
If you’re looking to spend the night on Hon Lao, there are homestays offered by locals in both villages. Homestays are very affordable for budget-friendly travelers and a few offer breakfast as part of the stay.
The Beaches of the Cham Islands
The undisputed highlight of the Cham Islands is the immaculate beaches that grace its shores. Hon Lao Island, alone, is home to eight beaches. Some of these beaches are busy and populated while others are secluded and tranquil. It’s worth visiting a few of these beaches until you find one that’s just right.
All of the beaches on the Cham Islands are UNESCO-protected sites and are popular destinations for sunbathing, swimming, snorkeling, and diving. A true wildlife haven, the Cham Islands are home to a variety of marine wildlife such as turtles, rays, sharks, and large fish.
The most notable maritime site that the Cham Islands has to offer is the Cu Lao Cham Marine Park. This 12,000-acre sanctuary is a popular diving destination and is thriving with both aquatic and terrestrial animals.
Remarkably, the Cham Islands are only 15km away from the town of Hoi An. A private canoe is a popular and efficient way to travel to the islands, but this is by far the most expensive method of transport. However, a private canoe trip will take only 20 minutes and will give you full autonomy to explore the islands without the burden of being in a tour group.
Those who are on a budget will be relieved to know that there are numerous tour groups who organize express boats to the Cham Islands. Usually, these journeys aren’t too costly and will provide you with food and a range of snorkeling supplies.
The Best Time to Visit The Cham Islands
It’s recommended that you arrive at the Cham Islands as early in the morning as possible. Locals also use the charter boats, so getting there before 8 AM will ensure you beat the crowds and can travel there in peace.
During the monsoon season (which runs from October to February) the Cham Islands are closed off from tourists. This is due to the season’s adverse weather and strong, crushing winds, which pose a threat to public safety. May, June, and July are the ideal months to enjoy the site’s tropical, sun-kissed surroundings.
In a country so full of hustle and bustle, the Cham Islands offer a relaxing getaway from the juggernaut of human civilization. Boasting plenty of beaches to spend the day soaking the sun on, spend a day or two exploring this island paradise.
Address: Tân Hiệp, Hội An, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam
Season: March – September | Closed during monsoon season