Positioned on the coast and featuring more than 12km (7 mi) of beaches, Dong Hoi is the provincial capital of the Quang Binh Province. A hub for business, transportation, and tourism, the city is also an important destination for travelers exploring Vietnam’s North Central Coast Region.
Tourism in Dong Hoi is fueled by its local beaches, markets, historical sites, temples, and churches. Less than 1 hour away, tourists can head to the Phong Nha Township to explore the famed Phong Nha-Ke Bang (Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng) National Park. Lively and upbeat, Dong Hoi is an alluring city that showcases the best sides of the North Central Coast’s urban and natural landscapes.
Provincial Capital in the North Central Coast Region
Situated at the midway point along the coast in North Central Vietnam, Dong Hoi (Ðồng Hới) City has a flat landscape that is backdropped by low-lying mountains. Sitting front and center of the city is an extensive coastline that features glitzy promenades and white sand beaches.
Situated on Vietnam’s National Route 1, the North-South Railway, and Ho Chi Minh Highway, Dong Hoi has plenty of transportation options. Considered the heart of Quang Binh Province, many people will visit the city for business or leisure purposes. While Dong Hoi is well-connected by road and railway routes, it’s still somewhat isolated from other cities along the coast.
Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital, is about 9.5 hours to the north of the city. Looking to avoid extensive travel times, many tourists will fly from Hanoi to the Dong Hoi Airport. Also to the north, although much closer to the city, Vinh is a popular destination where travelers can visit by flying or road tripping. The drive from Vinh City to Dong Hoi City is about 201 km (125 mi) and takes around 4 hours.
Along the coast, travelers visiting Hue may also find themselves wandering north to explore Dong Hoi and the Quang Binh (Quảng Bình) Province. Hue City is about 3.25 hours away from Dong Hoi.
Tracing back to the Stone Age, evidence of human habitation has been found throughout Quang Binh Province. Artifacts that have been unearthed in the province include ceramic pieces and stone tools. One of the biggest discoveries was in 1926 when a French archeologist found artifacts in the province’s west mountainous region, proving the existence of the Hoa Binh (Hòa Bình) culture.
Specifically, in the area around Dong Hoi City, history can be traced back 5,000 years. At the Bau Tro Lake, Stone Age artifacts have been uncovered that belonged to the Viet Thuong Tribe, who owned the area at the time. Prior to being under Vietnamese control, the territory was heavily disputed between the Champa Kingdom and Dai Viet (Ðại Việt).
Ultimately, a marriage between a Tran (Trần) Dynasty princess and a Champa king meant that the Dai Viet acquired the territory. Thousands of years later, Dong Hoi City would be drastically affected by both the First Indochina and Vietnam Wars. Used as a base during both wars, extensive damage was caused by bombing during the Vietnam War. Most of the city was left in ruins.
One site that still stands today is the Tam Toa (Tam Tòa) Church, whose bell tower survived the war. Although damaged, the church is now a historic site in the city.
After the Vietnam War, Dong Hoi was rebuilt and reshaped as it was merged with the Binh Tri Thien (Bình Trị Thiên) Province before being separated into 3 entities. The final administrative divisions saw the creation of Quang Binh Province and in 1990, Dong Hoi was named the provincial capital.
- Dong Hoi’s nickname is the “City of Roses”.
- The city covers an area of about 155 sq km (60 sq mi).
- The estimated population of Dong Hoi City, as of 2017, was 169,000 people.
Tourism in Dong Hoi City is thriving and much of the attention comes from its numerous attractions. This North Central city offers a full range of tourist activities that get visitors to explore the culture, lifestyle, nature, and history of Dong Hoi.
Dong Hoi City’s main attractions are Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Bau Tro Lake, Bien Nhat Le (Biển Nhật Lệ) Beach, Dong Hoi Night Market, Tam Toa Church, Citadel Dong Hoi, and the Dai Giac Pagoda.
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
Less than 1 hour northwest of Dong Hoi, Phong Nha Ke-Bang National Park is one of the most famous protected areas in Vietnam. Covered in dense jungles, the national park is acclaimed for its 300 cave systems. Among the many caverns is Hang Son Doong (Hang Sơn Ðoòng), the world’s largest known cave system.
Other famous caves include Hang En (Hang Én), Hang Toi, Phong Nha, and Paradise. Tourists who are interested in touring the caves can travel from Dong Hoi City to Phong Nha Township to access the national park. Guided tours are essential to exploring Phong Nha-Ke Bang for tourist safety. Tours can be booked upon arrival, however, Hang Son Doong and Hang En Cave have closed access.
To tour the world’s largest and second-largest caves, travelers must arrange a tour with Oxalis Adventure, which is the only official tour operator given access to those caverns. In addition to cave tours, activities at the national park include hiking, boating, farm stay, and eco-tour excursions.
Bau Tro Lake
A short distance from Bien Nhat Le Beach, travelers should head to the shores of Bau Tro Lake. A body of fresh water, the lake sits amidst coastal sand dunes and a small forest. More than a pretty place in nature, the lake is important to the local culture because of its archeological importance.
Uncovered along the shores of Bau Tro were numerous Stone Age artifacts that proved human life has existed in the area for thousands of years. Today, tourists can visit Bau Tro Lake to learn more about its ancient history and to enjoy the scenic shoreline.
Bien Nhat Le Beach
In the heart of Dong Hoi City, at the mouth of the Nhat Le River, is Bien Nhat Le Beach. A seemingly endless stretch of sand, the beach boasts beautiful scenes of blue skies, an open ocean, and gentle waves.
Tourists visiting Bien Nhat Le will find plenty of activities that include swimming, sunbathing, dining, and a few water sports. On the beachfront strip, there are resorts, hotels, restaurants, and shops to cater to the tourist crowds.
Dong Hoi Night Market
One of the best places to explore the area’s local culture is at the Dong Hoi Night Market. Open at 4 pm, the market comes to life later in the night when local vendors open food stalls to showcase the city’s best dishes. Selling an array of traditional meals and drinks, tourists will love exploring the Night Market’s lively scene.
The market is located on the bank of the river near the Dai Bridge. For budget travelers, the food stalls at the market are the best place to get delicious food for an affordable price.
Tam Toa Church
Destroyed by bombing during the Vietnam War, Tam Toa Church was originally built during the mid-17th century. Left in ruins with plans to rebuild up for debate, the church has become a tourist attraction and historical site in Dong Hoi.
Still standing at the site are the church’s main entryway and bell tower. Tourists are welcome to visit the church and take photos of the ruins. Tam Toa Church is located in the Dong My Ward on Nguyen Du Street in Dong Hoi City.
Citadel Dong Hoi
Another historical site in the city is the Citadel Dong Hoi. Dating back to ancient times, the citadel is a remnant from when Dong Hoi was first settled. Aside from the main citadel, attractions at the site include a history museum and the main entrance, Quang Binh Gate, which was recently restored in 2010.
Situated in the center of Dong Hoi, the Citadel is a perfect mini excursion for tourists in the city. Admission is free and it’s open daily. For more history about the citadel and the city, tourists should include time to visit the nearby museum too.
Dai Giac Pagoda
A newer addition to the city, the Dai Giac Pagoda is Dong Hoi City’s largest temple. Built over a large area, the main attractions at the temple are the 2-story hall, 9-story tower, and Amitabha Buddha marble statue. Open daily for tours, a temple is an active place of worship. Areas that are open to the public include the courtyard, main hall, and gardens.
Tourism is an important part of the local economy in Dong Hoi, and to cater to the crowds, the city has plenty of accommodation options to offer. Luxurious properties are common in the city as large resorts have been set up along the beachfront. However, there are smaller properties and more affordable options too.
The best places to stay in Dong Hoi City are the Melia Vinpearl Quang Binh, CKC Thien Duong Hotel, Manli Resort Quang Binh, and the Hoa Mai Plus Hostel.
Melia Vinpearl Quang Binh – Part of the famous Vinpearl empire, the Melia Vinpearl Quang Binh is a luxury hotel with world-class service. Located on the busy waterfront and a short walk away from Bien Nhat Le Beach, the hotel is highly rated for its guest rooms, facilities, and services.
Each room at the Melia Vinpearl is air-conditioned and it comes with a seating area, TV, private bathroom, desk, and kettle. Wi-Fi is available throughout the property, including the rooms. On-site, guests will have access to the restaurant, shared lounge, bar, fitness center, indoor pool, spa services, business center, entertainment staff, and hairdresser.
Staff members are on-site 24 hours to assist guests with room service, transportation, and tour arrangements.
CKC Thien Duong Hotel – Another luxurious riverfront property is the CKC Thien Duong Hotel. Situated only 600 meters from Bien Nhat Le Beach, the hotel’s facilities include a restaurant, bar, outdoor swimming pool, and children’s playground. There is also room service and currency exchange available through the 24-hour front desk.
Guest rooms at the hotel are equipped with AC, a TV, a minibar, a private bathroom, and bed linens. A few units also have access to a balcony and family rooms are available too. All guests at the hotel are provided with a complimentary buffet breakfast.
Manli Resort Quang Binh – On the beachfront of Bien Nhat Le, Manli Resort Quang Binh is one of the highest-rated luxury properties in Dong Hoi. Giving guests the celebrity treatment, accommodation options include Double and Twin rooms. All rooms have air conditioning and are outfitted with a private bathroom, desk, fridge, minibar, and safety deposit box.
Features of the property include a restaurant, bar, outdoor swimming pool, room service, 24-hour front desk, garden, shared lounge, free private parking, and private beach access. For easy transportation to and from the resort, an airport shuttle is offered for an additional fee.
Hoa Mai Plus Hostel – Less than 10 minutes walking distance from Bien Nhat Le Beach is the Hoa Mai Plus Hostel. Featuring a small property, the hostel has luxurious accommodations for an affordable price. At the hotel guests can enjoy access to the restaurant, bar, terrace, and free private parking. The 24-hour front desk can assist with room service, transportation, and tours.
Room options include private and shared accommodations with each unit outfitted with AC, a TV, fridge, desk, and a private bathroom. Every morning, guests are treated to an Asian-style complimentary breakfast.
Most of the hotel properties in Dong Hoi will have an on-site restaurant and bar, but travelers who want to explore the culinary scene in the city should head to the local establishments too. Amongst the dozens of restaurants in Dong Hoi, the highest-rated establishments are the 7th Heaven Restaurant, The Worst Bar, and Oregano’s Pizza.
7th Heaven Restaurant – Offering dine-in, takeout, and delivery, 7th Heaven Restaurant is well-known and well-liked by tourists in Dong Hoi. The menu at the restaurant has a mix of traditional Asian dishes, as well as some Western-based options. Diners at the restaurant have rated the staff highly for their excellent service, as well as the delicious flavors of the food.
The Worst Bar – Contrary to the name, The Worst Bar is another hotspot for tourists in Dong Hoi. With a great atmosphere, delicious food, and affordable prices, the bar is a fun place to spend the night. Tourists can socialize amongst themselves and meet some of the locals too. Favorites on the menu are fried rice and cocktails.
Oregano’s Pizza – For some good old-fashioned comfort food, tourists won’t want to miss Oregano’s Pizza. Considered to be the best place for pizza in Dong Hoi based on reviews, the restaurant serves traditional toppings, as well as Asian-inspired infusions. For vegetarians, there are several meat-free options. Open for lunch and dinner, the restaurant offers dine-in, takeout, and delivery services.
Just before the beginning of the rainy season, Dong Hoi City hosts a famous Boat Racing Festival to honor the gods and ask for a bountiful season of crops. Organized by the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, the Boat Racing Festival takes place in September on the Nhat Le River, which runs through the city.
Apart from the races, activities during the festival include performances, ceremonies, and conferences. Visitors are welcome to partake in the festival and its activities. Particularly popular, Dong Hoi is very crowded during the festival, so tourists should plan accordingly.
In Dong Hoi, getting around is easy because the city is relatively compact. In the city center, along the riverfront, and at Bien Nhat Le Beach, tourists can easily walk between destinations. Alternative transportation options include taxis and mototaxis, which are common throughout the city.
With affordable rates, taxis use meters to track the cost. Tourists using mototaxis will need to negotiate a price before beginning their ride. Additionally, hotels may provide transportation services to their guests. Airport shuttles and bicycle rentals are commonly offered for an additional price or complimentary through the front desk.
The climate in Dong Hoi City shifts from wet to dry throughout the year. Typically mild overall, tourism in the city remains rather steady throughout both the wet and dry seasons. The wet season brings high humidity and the hottest temperatures from June to August. For some travelers, the heavy rains deter them from visiting, especially if they want to visit the national park.
During the wet season, many caves are closed for safety because the caverns are often flooded and inaccessible. However, for local tourists, the high temperatures are a perfect time to hit the beaches of Dong Hoi. Much more popular with tourists is the dry season with February being the peak visiting time.
Boasting beautiful coastal scenes and an upbeat character, tourism in Dong Hoi is steadily growing as more people venture to the North Central Coast in Vietnam. With plenty of attractions around the city center and the famous Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park a short distance away, tourists should plan to spend at least a few days exploring this dynamic capital.
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