Da Nang is a really up and coming city. On our last trip to Vietnam seven years ago we didn’t meet anyone who was headed there, this time it was on many people’s list. New resorts are springing up all over the place, though it still currently has a refreshingly chilled vibe.
Vietnam’s third city offers a blend of beautiful beaches, tree covered mountains and a bit of culture that makes it a worthy destination in its own right.
Many of the best things to do in Da Nang made our list of favourite things to do in the whole country, and the biggest difficulty can be allocating enough time to this area in a country that is full of amazing places to visit.
Unmissable things to do in Da Nang in just two days
We barely scratched the surface of Da Nang as we got a bit side tracked by its gorgeous neighbour Hoi An but it is definitely somewhere we’ll head back to next time we visit Vietnam. Top of the list would be motorbiking around the Son Tra Peninsula which is supposed to have beautiful views and checking out the bridge that breathes fire on weekends (yes, that is true)!
However, we did manage to cover the big ticket items and would highly recommend a visit.
Hai Van Pass
The Hai Van Pass grabbed international attention when Top Gear swapped their cars for motorbikes and drove around this beautiful coastal road back in 2008. Ten years later and the Hai Van Pass is still as popular as ever with hundreds of people visiting every day.
We did the pass from Hue, heading south towards to Da Nang. As soon as you start on the Pass you notice the dramatic changes in landscape. The road narrows and begins to wind up a huge mountain with views back to Hue as you climb. If you’re driving in a car rather than on a motorbike you want to be on the left hand side of the car coming from Hue.
The coast looks sublime from here and on a sunny day it’s breathtaking. The northern section is by far the quietest as most people choose to go from Da Nang, head to the viewpoint halfway and then head back. This section is the closest you’ll get to that rural, coastal road feel.
Around the middle of the pass at the lookout, things get a bit manic though, especially at midday. The view is epic but you will be sharing it with coach loads of other tourists. The tour groups make driving a motorbike up here slightly more hairy as Vietnamese bus drivers overtake blindly and would happily drive head on with a motorbike (they expect you to get out the way, even if they’re in the wrong lane).
You’ll see the main lookout straight away, it’s where everyone is headed but there are actually a couple of others where we didn’t see another soul. They are just behind the restaurant, one straight on and one to the right (both are signposted). It’s not that they are better than the main lookout, but they are just as good and you will likely have them to yourself.
As you head further down towards Da Nang you get our favourite lookout, which seemed to be known locally simply as ‘the rocks’. From the rocks you can get a great vantage point over two golden sand beaches in the distance.
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The picture above is taken on a lower rock reached by taking a path to the right of the last drinks stand, don’t forget to buy drinks from them as you are walking over their land.
There’s a slightly easier rock to climb, but it doesn’t quite offer that same edge of the world feel.
The Hai Van Pass starts just 30 minutes north of Da Nang and heads towards Hue before joining Highway 1. There are plenty of ways to see the pass, but we’d only recommend confident motorcyclists take it on with two wheels. You’ll face a lot of buses and cars along this narrow, windy road, although the road itself is in excellent condition.
Alternatively you can get a driver that stops along the way or - gulp - a tour bus.
Golden Bridge - Sun World Ba Na Hills
A few months ago, a beautiful bridge held up by two hands in the mountains of Vietnam went viral. As soon as we saw it, we wanted to find out where it was. To our surprise, it was in Ba Na Hills, just an hour out of Da Nang.
Getting to the bridge requires a lot of effort, but it is well worth it (especially if you are a photographer). It is located at Sun World where you hop on the world’s longest cable car to get there! In the morning, the mist creates a stunning golden glow and the views from the bridge are breathtaking. If it didn’t get so busy, we could have spent hours on that bridge alone.
The key to having the best time here is to get on the first cable car (it leaves at 7am). You’ll have about an hour maximum before the mega crowds turn up and the bridge becomes one big queue full of selfie sticks.
Even in the early morning there were a few people, including couples trying to get wedding photos. But there’s enough room to still get some good shots.
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Da Nang Beach
Da Nang Beach was our favourite beach in the area and had a lot that reminded us of the Gold Coast in Australia. There was plenty of room to lay your towel along this endless stretch of golden sand.
Unlike An Bang Beach in Hoi An which can feel pretty windy, wild and overcrowded, Da Nang Beach felt pristine and quiet. It had the usual sun loungers, shades and drinks stalls, but it didn’t feel over touristy. the pictures below are taken in the middle of the day to give you an idea of how quiet it was.
It’s also long and wide, which meant you could easily go for a stroll, taking in the mountains in the distance. The water was still fairly wavey although the no swim flags weren’t out like they were in An Bang beach.
The Marble Mountains iares one of the star attractions in Da Nang and just a 20 minute drive south of the city. When you approach, you’ll notice the huge limestone mountains that stand out in the otherwise flat landscape. Soon after you’ll see the thousands of marble shops around the entrance, selling huge statues (who knew there was such a demand for huge marble animals?!).
The mountains are home to a series of cave temples, as well as lookouts and a few beautiful pagodas.
You can either climb the 150 stairs or take the elevator. Make sure you go to Huyen Khong Cave (the furthest one away from the lift). This cave is huge with a natural shaft of light coming through a hole in the top. The small temple and shrine are bathed in the glorious light rays.
Even if you have temple fatigue, it is worth checking out this one.
You can choose to walk up to the temples (paying only the 40,000 dong entry fee - roughly $2 USD) or take the elevator for an additional 15,000 dong (75c) each way. On a hot and humid day, you’d be forgiven for taking the elevator!
Day trip to Hoi An
Visiting Hoi An is a must, even if it’s just a day trip from Da Nang! This old trading town is unlike anywhere else in Vietnam, retaining its ancient architecture and feel.
The Old Town has been fully pedestrianised (apart from the odd motorbike that slips through), meaning you can stroll along the streets in peace. Stopping for a coffee or two is almost compulsory and you’ll find that every other building is a sweet little cafe.
It’s a town that makes you slow down and chill out, whilst also offering unique tailor made clothing (that is also pretty cheap), the best Banh Mi in Vietnam and the beautiful lanterns strung up on the streets and floating on the river at night.
Where to stay in Da Nang
Although we intended to stay in Da Nang, we couldn’t actually peel ourselves away from Hoi An (it should come with a warning), choosing to do day trips to Da Nang rather than move again.
We were planning to stay in the Hadana Boutique Hotel, a place that is in a great location and looked pretty stylish for the price. $35 USD gets you quite a lot in Vietnam!
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Are you planning a trip to Da Nang? Do you have any places you think we should have included? Let us know in the comments below!