Family travel in Vietnam is a lot easier than you might think. This long country boasts endless miles of tropical coastline, lush national parks, cooler mountain climbs and bustling cities, offering a wealth of things to do and places to see that are suitable with kids. Meanwhile, well-established tourist infrastructure and a family-centric culture make Vietnam a welcoming place for all-ages travel. For your next family holiday in Vietnam, here’s our list of top 15 things to do with kids.
1. Cruise in Halong Bay
As the country’s most famous UNESCO World Heritage Site, Halong Bay is truly a wow-factor destination in Vietnam for families. The best way to explore it is over the water, and luckily there are no shortage of boats offering Halong Bay family cruises suitable, even for those traveling with toddlers. Safety is of course number one priority when traveling anywhere with children, so before choosing a cruise, research reputable operators and even consider bringing your own toddler life vest. If you have a larger family, a private cruise on Halong Bay will let you enjoy the most comfort and convenience, though older children may appreciate the extra space and potential playmates a larger boat affords.
TIP: It’s not recommended to do a day cruise from Hanoi as Halong Bay is at least a three-hour drive from the capital, and the return trip is generally too much for junior travelers to enjoy.
2. Vespa tour in Saigon
After five minutes in Saigon, you understand how much the city relies on mopeds (and beeping) to get around. One of the top things to do in Vietnam with kids that will really amp up excitement levels is a Vespa tour. There are a few different operators who offer day and night tours, some that showcase city sights and others that are more street-food or nightlife centred. Children who are old enough to reach the foot pegs can ride pillion by themselves, but small children are better off sitting pillion between the driver and an adult. Obviously, helmets, closed shoes and long pants and sleeves are essential for protection. While the traffic might seem chaotic, tour drivers take it slow and keep the group together.
TIP: Choose a private tour so you can go ‘off-script’ and see the things you want to see.
3. Cable cars
You haven’t been on a cable car until you’ve been on one of Vietnam’s epic aerials tramways. On your next family holiday in Vietnam, check out Vinpearl Cable Car, which runs a 3.3 kilometer route from the famous coastal city of Nha Trang to Hon Tre (Vinpearl) Island on the south central coast of Vietnam. Once you’re on Vinpearl Island, you can pay extra to use the facilities there, such as a water park, amusement park and aquarium.
Halong Bay also has a pretty amazing gondola ride – the Sun World Halong Cable Car. Constructed by a Swiss and Austrian company, this tramway holds the world title for largest cars, each holding 230 passengers. Cruise through the air and see Halong Bay’s limestone cliffs from above. Sun World also lays claim to the world’s highest ferris wheel, which cuts a striking if unexpected silhouette above Halong Bay.
TIP: Avoid the Vietnamese summer holidays (June-August) unless you don’t mind battling the crowds in Nha Trang.
4. Basket boats in Hoi An
Here’s a fun cultural activity when you’re next in Vietnam with kids. Tung chai, or basket boats, came into use when the French came in and started taxing all and sundry, including boats. In order to avoid the levvies, local fisherman wove basket-style vessels that couldn’t be taxed. Today, they’re used to ferry tourists around the Thu Bon River and you can still see them being made.
TIP: For even more cultural immersion, find a half-day eco tour that pairs a basket boat ride through mangroves with another activity such as crabbing or fishing.
5. Beach time in Danang
If you’re in Hoi An, a family holiday in Vietnam demands some beach time in Danang. This vibrant coastal town offers up the full spectrum of hotels and resorts, alongside amusement parks, beaches, shopping malls and countless cafes and restaurants. For a touch of culture, Marble Mountain is worth exploring for its various shrines and grottoes, while the longest bridge in Vietnam – Dragon Bridge – offers a different type of entertainment with its weekend ‘fire-breathing’ display.
TIP: To keep everyone happy, choose one of Danang’s generous array of family-friendly resorts – one that comes with a kids club, kids pool and kid-friendly dining at the least. The InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula, Hyatt Regency Danang Resort & Spa and Vinpearl Luxury Da Nang are just three with supervised kids clubs.
6. A cyclo ride in Hoi An
Another must-do in Hoi An is a tour around the Old Town in a cyclo. This traditional form of transportation lets you relax while you take in this charming city’s historic streets. Hoi An is overall a great destination in Vietnam for families, with a vast range of hotels and restaurants, a laidback pace and stroller-friendly pavements if your children are still little. The markets, both day and night, are colorful and interesting, the water puppet show is always a fun diversion for children and you’ll even find cafes with little playgrounds in them so you can relax with a coffee while the little ones play.
TIP: Take a private cyclo tour of Hoi An for a better look at its landmarks and for an authentic taste of its street food.
7. Trip along the Mekong River
Just as with Halong Bay, you’ll find plenty of family cruises along the Mekong waterways. In a lot of ways, cruising is the easiest way to enjoy a Vietnam family holiday, as there’s no need to hop from hotel to hotel, and you get to see more of the countryside than you would flying or driving on freeways. Spend your days stopping off at riverside villages and floating markets, cycling through dusty streets and rice paddies and discovering hidden temples. At night time, enjoy the peace and quiet of the river or spend the night at a local homestay.
TIP: To get the most out of your cruise, choose a multi-country trip from Vietnam to Cambodia, with onshore activities along the way.
8. Cu Chi Tunnels
These famous tunnels just outside Saigon are a fascinating remnant of history for (older) children and adults alike. Inconceivably narrow, they’ve been widened for tourists, yet are still practically impassable for the average-sized person. On a tour you – or your kids – will be able to hop into the tunnels, climb on tanks and watch rifle-shooting on the firing range (which will be loud). Tours leave from Saigon via car, bus, moped and speedboat – the latter being the most exciting for kids.
TIP: Some of the Viet Kong trap displays can be upsetting, so use your discretion – the Chu Chi Tunnels aren’t for everyone.
9. Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi
This city attraction is perfect for day of immersion into local life. A family holiday in Vietnam will likely include some time in Hanoi, and Hoan Kiem Lake is a must if you want to get a glimpse of local culture. In the park you can see iconic landmarks such as Turtle Tower, Huc Bridge and Ngoc Son Temple, and it’s a fantastic spot for people-watching, with community activities like Tai Chi and traditional games. If you have young children or babies, be prepared to get a lot of attention from locals.
TIP: Avoid Thu Le Zoo in the park as the animals are not well taken care of.
10. Yen Tu Mountain
A new theme destination has recently opened halfway from Hanoi to Halong Bay, this is worth a stop if you’re driving between the two and want to stretch your legs. Yen Tu Mountain, which has long been a local pilgrimage site for its mountain-top shrine, has been developed into a historic park where design by Bill Bensley has recreated an ancient Vietnamese village. There’s a five-star hotel onsite, but if you’re just visiting for the day you can take the cable car to the top of the mountain to see the statue and the view (fog allowing), enjoy some cultural performances and pick up some apricot wine or jam (the mountain is famous for apricots). It’s an interesting diversion with important religious context for Vietnamese families and Buddhists of the Vietnamese-born Truc Lam sect.
TIP: There’s quite a lot of walking involved this expansive site and even if you take the cable car, there are many sometimes slippery steps along the trail, so it’s not recommended for smaller children.
For an adventurous family holiday in Vietnam, Sapa is an unforgettable destination for those with older, active children. It’s a long drive from Hanoi, but you can opt for the overnight train, which is an adventure in itself. In Sapa, you’ll be trekking through breathtaking scenery – terrace rice fields and lush green mountains – to see hill tribe villages and experience a completely different way of life. You’ll find treks that are designed for families and that take children’s needs into account. In the villages you visit, you’ll see that local children (nor the mothers carrying smaller ones) have no problem navigating the steep and winding trails.
TIP: Get a private local guide and take as many snacks as you can while traveling as lightly as possible.
12. Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
Here’s another destination for active and adventurous family holidays in Vietnam. Quang Binh Province is home to some seriously spectacular caves, including the world’s largest (Hang Son Doong). While that one is still off limits to mass tourism, within Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park you’ll find cave systems and underground rivers you can easily explore together as a family. Phong Nha Cave and Paradise Cave are both readily accessible with children, and offer up incredible stalagmite and stalactite formations, with wooden walkways so you can walk to different chambers. Organised boat operators get you into the caves.
TIP: Phong Na is still off the map for foreign tourists (outside the world of caving), and it’s a little tricky to get to, so it’s not really suitable for short trips.
13. Make kites in Hue
Hue is another fantastic destination in Vietnam for kids. This richly historic town has the UNESCO-listed Imperial Citadel to explore, markets, rickshaw rides, dragon boats on the Perfume River, kite-flying in Hue’s Ngo Mon square, and of course a range of luxurious family-friendly resorts to call home. For older kids, a kite-making workshop keeps them engaged between strolling historic sites. Cycle to the studio, decorate and construct a traditional Hue-style kite with a local expert and then learn to fly it!
TIP: If kites aren’t your kids’ thing, lantern-making, cooking classes and conical hat-making are also an option.
14. Cuc Phuong National Park
In Vietnam’s Red River Delta, 120 kilometers from Hanoi, Cuc Phuong National Park is Vietnam’s oldest park, providing a habitat for hundreds of different animal species. It’s a beautiful place for family trips in Vietnam, with guided trekking and cycling tours, and the Endangered Primate Rescue Center where langurs, lorises and gibbons are rescued, rehabilitated and bred. Though the rescue center isn’t a tourist attraction, you can still visit for a private tour. Inside the park you can also trek to a Hmong village or visit rehabilitation centers for turtles and pangolins. As a well-established tourist destination, and one that attracts an influx of local families at the weekend, there are family-friendly facilities in place, including accommodation within the park.
TIP: Avoid mosquitoes by traveling after wet season, aim for December to April. Bring light jackets as it can get chilly.
15. Phu Quoc island time
If you’re a beach-loving family, Phu Quoc is a top destination in Vietnam with kids in tow. There are calm, clear bays to swim in, waterfalls to visit, cultural activities such as night squid fishing, snorkeling and even Vinpearl Land for amusement park-style entertainment. The island is quite small and quiet, so you can get around on a moped, looking for deserted beaches (which aren’t hard to find). Main attractions include the pepper farm, the old prison, the fishing village, night markets, and the strong-smelling fish sauce factory. There’s also the world’s longest cable car, stretching eight kilometres to Pineapple Island (and an as-yet-unfinished amusement park), a 15-minute ride each way and definitely not for those afraid of heights.
TIP: Phuc Quoc is a tropical island with mosquitoes, so take precautions when outside at dusk and dawn.
For information on private, tailored family tours in Vietnam, contact our Travel Specialists.