In this travel guide, I share all useful information about Cham Islands, from island hopping to underwater adventures.
Cham Islands, Vietnam: A Brief Overview
With an intriguing past tied intimately to the evolution of the bustling Hoi An port town, the Cham Islands is a cultural treasure trove.
Stepping onto these islands is like traveling back in time. There’s the profound legacy of Sa Huynh, Champa, and Dai Viet civilizations, plus many ancient architectural marvels of the Cham and Vietnamese people dating back several centuries. What an incredible snapshot of history, right?
Of course, we can’t forget the natural delights that await! Boasting a pleasant climate throughout the year, these islands are home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. But the true showstopper? The breathtaking coral reefs of Cu Lao Cham, which are so precious, they’ve made their way onto a special protection list.
The Cham Islands consist of eight awe-inspiring islands: Hon Lao, Hon Dai, Hon Mo, Hon Khoi, Hon Kho Con, Hon La, Hon Tai, and Hon Ong. Hon Lao is the star of the show and the only inhabited island, while the others, despite being mostly rocky mountains, still hold their unique charms.
Best time to visit Cham islands
Timing your visit to the Cham Islands right can make all the difference. The perfect window? March to August. During these months, the sun is warm and welcoming, the sea clear as crystal and calm, perfect for those impromptu beachside photoshoots and exciting water activities.
Storms and rough seas in the remaining months can make the islands feel a little too secluded. If you’re keen on experiencing the charming Hoi An Lantern Festival, try syncing your trip with the full moon of the lunar months.
And to dive deeper into the island’s religious culture, you might consider visiting during the Cau Ngu Festival, usually held around April 3-4 in the lunar calendar.
How to get to Cham Islands?
Situated about 15km from the coast of Cua Dai Beach, Hoi An, and around 40 km from Da Nang City, getting to the Cham Islands is easy. From Cua Dai Port in Hoi An, you’ve got two options:
- The quick and thrilling speedboat journey, a mere 30-minute ride.
- Or the slower-paced, more scenic journey by the local market boat.
Cham Islands Boat schedule
Whether you opt for the morning or afternoon departures, make sure to check the specific boat schedules and confirm in advance, as some trips are more frequent than others. You can do it at the boat gate.
a) Cham Islands Speedboat schedule
- Morning departure from 8 am to 10:30 am and returning in the afternoon around 3 pm (frequent departure)
- Afternoon departure at 2 pm and returning the next morning (this trip you have to check in advance because not often departure)
b) Cham Islands Market boat schedule
- The boat time for market boats, which are for people traveling to transport food in and out of the island, usually departs at 8 am from Cua Dai pier.
Getting around Cham islands
Once you’re on the main island, getting around is a breeze. Motorbikes are the most common mode of transport, with rentals available at reasonable rates.
Fancy exploring the surrounding islands? Hop onto a boat ride! The price varies, but many of these boats also include scuba diving services – an excellent option for the outdoor enthusiasts among us. Ask your hotel or guesthouses for suggestions.
Cham islands tour
When we visited the Cham Islands, we chose a convenient day tour, and it was worth every penny!
The tour was impeccably organized, and our guide was a fountain of knowledge with a friendly demeanor. The highlight? Snorkeling amidst the vibrant marine life and savoring the stunning views of the Cham islands. We were lucky enough to have fantastic weather that day, making everything extra beautiful.
Our day tour offered a great mix of comfort and adventure, providing pick-up and drop-off services, speedboat trips to and from the islands, a delectable lunch, a knowledgeable tour guide, and all ticket fees.
Plus, the itinerary was packed with fun and exciting activities.
- A pick-up from our hotels in Hoi An Ancient Town between 8 am-8:30 am.
- A quick transit to the harbor (8:30 am-8:45 am), followed by a speedy boat ride to Cham Island (8:45 am-9:30 am).
- Then came the sightseeing! We visited the Protected Marine Area, the Boat Shelter, Hai Tang Pagoda, and a traditional fishing village.
- From 10:30 am to 11:30 am, we swam and snorkeled.
- Post-swim, we enjoyed a relaxed lunch at Bai Chong Beach. (11:30 am-2:15 pm).
- The day ended with a return to Hoi An via speedboat (2:15 pm-3 pm), dropping us off at our respective hotels.
Cham island ticket prices
The ticket price for the speedboat to Cham Islands is 450,000 VND per person, and this includes a 70,000 VND ticket to visit Cu Lao Cham and a 20,000 VND eco fee.
If you opt for the market boat, it costs 30,000 VND per person, or 80,000 VND if you’re bringing your bike along.
For those seeking a unique underwater experience, scuba diving to a depth of 7-8m with scuba oxygen is priced at 800,000 VND per person. Afterward, if you fancy trying out a Parachute fly, it’s an additional 700,000 VND per person.
Tips: You should arrive at Cua Dai pier at 7:30 am to buy tickets for a speedboat or market boat to the island.
Things to see and do on Cham islands
So, what’s there to do once you’ve made it to Cham Islands? Plenty! Here are a few recommendations:
1. See the Champa ancient well
This nearly 300-year-old well, known for its consistent supply of clear water, provides a touch of history to your visit. It’s about 5.5 – 7 m deep and has a circle of about 2m wide and 1.2 meters high.
This testament to the Cham civilization is a cool stop on your island exploration. Take a moment to marvel at its age-old structure and feel the coolness of its fresh water.
2. Explore the Marine Protected Area
For those with a love of marine life, visiting the protected marine area of Cu Lao Cham is a must. Home to various rare and precious species, this area offers a unique opportunity to appreciate the aquatic life in a protected setting.
Plus, models of the small beaches of Cham Islands provide a nice visual of what the islands have to offer.
3. Visit Hai Tang Temple
Built in 1958, this ancient and sacred temple holds a special place in the hearts of the locals. It’s the go-to spot for prayers for safety from natural disasters and fishing rituals. The temple has survived through the years and still stands as a symbol of resilience and faith.
4. Explore the local fishing market
The bustling Tan Hiep market, also known as Cu Lao Cham Market, is the perfect spot for seafood lovers. From fresh catches of the day to unique souvenirs, there’s much to explore here.
Purchase fresh catch of the day and have a local restaurant cook it for you for an authentic seafood feast.
4. Relax on the beaches
Cham Islands have seven breathtaking beaches, perfect for a bit of downtime. Swim, sunbathe, or simply soak up the beautiful views on these immaculate beaches. The locals take pride in keeping the beaches clean and free of plastic, making them even more appealing.
4. Go snorkeling and watching corals
For water enthusiasts, snorkeling and scuba diving offer a chance to explore the vivid coral reefs surrounding the islands. Most tours offer these activities and include all the necessary equipment. The clear water ensures an up-close view of the marine life.
5. Island hop by boat
With several small islands around Hon Lao, renting a boat for a visit is an exciting option. You can join in groups to share the cost if you’re traveling with fewer people.
6. Go fishing
For a taste of the local lifestyle, you can rent a boat and try your luck at fishing, complete with gear, bait, and friendly advice from the boat owner.
There’s nothing quite like the thrill of catching your own dinner! If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, go squid fishing at night.
For bird lovers, the Cham Islands are a paradise. The islands are home to various species, including swifts, so bring a pair of binoculars and enjoy some tranquil birdwatching.
Take advantage of the islands’ rugged beauty by going on a hike. You’ll come across various flora and fauna and get to enjoy some spectacular views.
Cham islands travel tips
- Remember, Cham Island doesn’t allow plastic bags, so bring a reusable bag instead.
- Flycams are not permitted, nor are welcome banners written in any language.
- Taking videos and photos within Army Zones is a big no-no.
- While snorkeling or scuba diving, remember it’s strictly prohibited to damage the coral or take any back to the mainland. These precious ecosystems need to be preserved.
- Don’t forget to pack essentials like hats, sandals, sunglasses, sunscreen, water, and insect repellent. If you plan to camp overnight, insect repellent is a must.
- Lastly, keep your ID card or passport handy.
The Cham Islands are an absolute gem for travelers seeking a mix of adventure, relaxation, and cultural experiences. With its ancient relics, rich marine life, and welcoming locals, I’m sure you’ll have fond memories and stories to share.
So, whether you’re planning a quick day trip from Hoi An or considering a longer stay, the Cham Islands will not disappoint. Happy traveling!