North of Nha TrangThe ride north of Nha Trang follows hill-hugging road up and around the coast. It sounds nice, and often it is, but traffic on the two-lane Hwy 1 can deter the atmosphere a bit.

Transport-wise: A taxi out here runs US$20 or US$25. If you’re going my motorbike, follow Hwy 1 north of Nha Trang for about 35km, where signs point too the resorts about 5km north of Ninh Hoa. It’s a 12km drive from there – go left when you hit the roundabout. It takes about 70 minutes one way.

Also see private ISLAND HOTELS north of Nha Trang.

Monkey Island

About 15km north of Nha Trang on Hwy 1, the mountainous road swings by Da Chung village and the PIER (tel 058-839-436) for the boats to Dao Hon Lao, or Monkey Island. It’s a silly lil’ thing – an island of monkeys brought here in less-glorious times (some say for scientific experiments, some say to breed for Hong Kong restaurants) – but the rowdy things (they steal drinks or wallets out of your hand if you let them) can be fun to be around. Boats go every hour or so from 8am to 4.30pm for US$3 per person round-trip.

It’s also possible to arrange boat trips to other destinations, including Monkey Island plus THI ISLAND (with a good beach) and ORCHID STREAM (with cliffs and a waterfall). This trip is about US$7.50 per person.

Bac Ho Falls

Several kilometers north of the Monkey Island pier, a small road turns to the right to these clear falls, which are reached by a 3km walk. There are a couple areas you can swim in.

Doc Let Beach & Around

The great hope to the north, the sweeping white-sand bay of Doc Let (about 50km north), has been touted in whispers and roars as the ‘next Nha Trang’ for years now. It’s finally getting some worthy accommodations, but – to be honest – the beach isn’t quite as good as Nha Trang’s. But if you’re looking for serious isolation and no car honks or moto-taxi hassle, you’re likely to love it.

The best place to stay, and it’s a beaut, is KI-EM ART HOUSE (tel 058-670-952;, [email protected]; rooms incl all meals from US$59 per person), an artful collection of nine villas around landscaped gardens of palms and plants potted in empty coconut shells; a couple ‘sea view villas’ face the private stretch of white sand, with decks a few feet from the surf. All villas are super – with lots of cozy details, like poster-bed frames, the owner’s (and her friend’s) artwork on walls, bamboo vaulted ceilings, outdoor deck chairs. Antique pieces and artwork fill common places. There’s no TV – but you can get Internet if necessary. One villa fits six to eight people. The Ki-em folks are planning to build a 50-room hotel by the end of 2008.

Next door, PARADISE (tel 058-670-480; [email protected]; single/double rooms incl all meals US$15-18/22-30) is a cheapie, there for shoestringers wanting simple rooms, meals and the water.

A newer resort nearby, WHITE SAND DOC LET (tel 058-670-670; [email protected],; rooms from US$85) has 54 rooms in bungalow-style villas in a glaringly unlandscaped, but large, spot on a slightly better stretch of beach than the others. It’s more for group tours, but is nice enough.
Book White Sand Doc Let Resort online

Jungle Beach Resort

Hidden away to the south of Doc Let, this barebone resort is a let-it-flow place with a private patch of beach that wins hearts from shoestringers and budding Robinson Crusoes. There’s a wide stretch of beach and hammocks to look at it from. Guests can stay in the house, in a long house or in basic cabana huts on the water. Prices include all meals and water. In mid 2008, the resort was electrifying all huts.

The place is tough to find. It’s accessed from the ‘Hyundai-Vinashyn’ road, a few kilometers south of the Doc Let turn-off on Hwy 1. Go 14km to the road to a shipyard gate, then right and immediately left down a 1km rough dirt road, then 4km (after it the road gets better) to a crossroads; turn right for 2km past an ugly concrete bunker; the hotel’s to the left, across from a mango grove.

[Note: I wasn’t able to visit Jungle Beach during research, but heard great things from those who did.]

Tel 058-622-384, 091-342-9144; [email protected]; rooms incl meals US$22 per person