Núi Chúa National Park is known as South Central Vietnam’s “island of life”. Although not technically an island, the national park is often described as an “island” or” oasis” due to being one of the only preserved natural spaces that protect Vietnam’s marine flora and fauna.
Surrounded by agricultural fields and developed resorts, Núi Chúa is continually working to expand and implement its conservation efforts. Sought after by international tourists, visitors can stay in the nearby 5-star hotels while taking in the park’s natural beauty.
Atop a mountain promontory, Núi Chúa National Park juts out into the South China Sea between the Cam Ranh and Phan Rang Bays. Standing at 3,408 feet (1,039 meters) tall, Núi Chúa is the highest peak in the park. In dramatic fashion, the landscape slopes down to become level with the sea before spreading out along the coast.
The national park is bordered by Highway No.1, agricultural fields, and developed tourist areas. Officially, Núi Chúa is in the Ninh Thuân Province, although one of the national park’s boundaries is flush with the neighboring Khánh Hòa Province. Phan Rang-Tháp Chàm is the capital of Ninh Thuân Province and the nearest major city to Núi Chúa National Park.
In addition to Phan Rang-Tháp Chàm, there are multiple ethnic villages established in the national park’s buffer zone.
Beloved for centuries, the area around Núi Chúa National Park was once part of the Kingdom of Champa. Established during the 2nd century AD, Champa thrived until the late 1800s when it was annexed from the Vietnamese Empire. Phan Rang was originally established as a town and was separate from Tháp Chàm.
In 1992, the government combined Phan Rang with Tháp Chàm to create the modern-day province capital that exists today. The subsequent boom in development and tourism flooded the area and protecting the last remaining natural resources became critical. In 1986, even before the capital province was settled, Núi Chúa was established as a nature reserve.
Further protection was granted in 2003, which is when Núi Chúa became a national park. Today, Núi Chúa is one of the only places in Southeast Asia where the coastal and marine ecosystems are in decent condition. For this reason, the national park is a gem that has earned Vietnam international recognition from the World Wildlife Fund as a Global Ecoregion.
What to Do
Leaving no stone unturned, visitors to Núi Chúa National Park can participate in various outdoor activities like hiking, boating, and swimming. Those who have more time to explore the national park might want to venture to the buffer zone where they can book a homestay to explore the local culture.
With independent and guided tours, Núi Chúa National Park is a divine destination for ecotourists.
Hike from the Shores to the Summit
Varying altitudes and landscapes ensure that there is a hike to suit every visitor at Núi Chúa National Park. Easy and moderate trails crisscross the lower hills and seaside cliffs.
During low tide, the walk to Otter Cave is a popular choice for travelers interested in viewing some of the park’s marine wildlife. With coral reefs, tide pools, and seaside caves, visitors can easily spend a few hours exploring amongst the rocks.
For a more challenging trek, visitors can attempt to summit Mount Núi Chúa, which is over 3,000 feet (914 meters) tall. The most extreme itineraries in the park will take guests on multiple-day journeys to some of the park’s most remote areas. Multi-day hikes often include stops to the Hang Da Hamlet, O Liem River, ethnic villages, and Mount Núi Chúa.
Boating in Núi Chúa
With ocean, lakes, and rivers flowing through Núi Chúa, boats have become a fun way to explore more of the national park’s diverse terrain. Motorized boats are great for groups of tourists who want to get out on the ocean or lakes. Individuals or smaller groups may enjoy renting a quieter vessel, like a kayak, to explore more of the park’s shorelines.
Take a Dip
For casual swimmers, snorkelers and divers, Núi Chúa has a surprising number of places where visitors can take a dip and explore. In the mountains, the Plunge Pool is a popular stop on many hikes where visitors can cool off. Additionally, mountain lakes provide calm spots where it is safe for swimmers to enter the water.
On the shore, the park’s coral reef island is the place to go if you want to swim, snorkel, or dive. At low tide, the receding water also reveals a series of rocks and colorful coral.
Visit the Buffer Zone
While culture thrives in Phan Rang-Tháp Chàm, Vietnamese traditions can also be explored in the Buffer Zone of Núi Chúa National Park. An estimated 30,000 locals live in the park’s Buffer Zone in small villages, while a relatively small number of locals may live deeper within the park’s remote areas.
Whether you decide to stick to the more developed villages or head to the remote wilderness, participating in a homestay is an excellent way for travelers to be immersed in the local culture. Villagers are eager to share their traditions and are happy to open their doors to visitors to share a meal, observe their day-to-day lives, or have guests spend the night.
Plants and Wildlife
Important for both terrestrial and marine ecosystems, it is estimated that more than 1000 various plant and animal species live within Núi Chúa National Park. As an arid climate, there isn’t as extensive a list of plant life thriving in the park. Most of the plants are restricted to the mountain, desert, or oceanic climates.
Forest degradation is a serious threat to Núi Chúa and the Vietnamese government is focused on its continual effort to protect the primary forest ecosystem.
Of all the animal species in the national park, there are 72 mammals and 181 bird species recorded within Núi Chúa. Some of Vietnam and Asia’s rarest animals including the pygmy loris, sun bear, Asian black bear, large-antlered muntjac, and black-shanked douc live in Núi Chúa National Park.
Furthermore, 12 bat species hide in the park’s cave with the lesser short-nosed fruit bat listed on Vietnam’s Red List as endangered.
For marine wildlife enthusiasts, the oceanic ecosystem of the park is home to an array of aquatic plants and animals, including 11 turtle species. Sea turtles frequent some of the beaches to lay their eggs, while others remain terrestrial and hidden in the mountainous terrain. Perhaps the most fragile ecosystem, Núi Chúa’s marine biodiversity is certainly the park’s greatest marvel.
How to Get There
Since Núi Chúa National Park is located in South Central Vietnam, the majority of international visitors will travel from Ho Chi Minh City to Phan Rang-Tháp Chàm. Driving between the southern metropolis and seaside town will take about 7 hours by car. Trains and domestic flights may also be available for travelers looking to quickly access the national park.
From Phan Rang-Tháp Chàm, Núi Chúa National Park is only a 45-minute drive outside of the city. Slightly north from the town, travelers can arrange for public, private, or rented transportation. Visitors who have arranged for a guided tour will most likely be provided transportation by the tour company. Taxis, buses, and motorbikes are the alternative options for visitors looking to visit the park.
When to Visit
Unlike northern coastal areas in Vietnam, the national park’s semi-arid coastal location makes it one of the driest regions in the country. Receiving an average of 650 millimeters of rain annually, the park’s dry season lasts about 8 months.
Visitors can enjoy the park with less rain during the winter months (November/December) through the end of summer (July/August). Otherwise, rain returns to the park, although not as intensely as some other regions. Núi Chúa is open year-round, but due to the extended dry season, the winter and summer months tend to be the national park’s most popular time for visitors.
Protecting some of Vietnam’s most vulnerable habitats, Núi Chúa National Park is one of the country’s most unique protected areas due to its sea to summit landscape. From the tide pools to the lush green hills and emerald mountains, there is a deluge of places for visitors to explore.
With nearby resorts, access to Núi Chúa is easily accessible and visitors don’t have to travel far to immerse themselves in nature’s profound beauty.
Address: Thôn Thái An, Ninh Hải District, Ninh Thuan Province, Vietnam
Phone: +84 94 672 06 97
Established: July 9, 2003