Located 80 kilometres off the southeast coast of mainland Vietnam, the archipelago of Con Dao is fast becoming a top destination in the country.
If you are looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Vietnam’s busy, well-trodden tourist spots, Con Dao islands may just be perfect for you. The tranquillity and quiet it offers, alongside pristine beaches, colourful coral reefs, scenic bays, diverse marine ecosystem, lush greenery, green paddies and deep valleys make a trip worth it.
It is accessible through a 45-minute flight from Saigon or a 15-hour ferry trip from the city of Vung Tao. The latter option, however, is only available when the sea condition is favourable.
Visitors will find out that there are two sides to Con Dao islands. On one hand, it boasts of striking natural beauty contained in 15 rugged, mountainous islands with unspoiled beaches. On the other hand, it is on the receiving end of a harrowing past as a colonial prison where many of Vietnam’s revolutionary heroes were incarcerated.
There is no surprise why Con Dao was once referred to as ‘Hell on Earth.’ It is an island prison where medieval punishments and tortures were constantly inflicted upon political prisoners; a place where death and executions are a normal occurrence.
Con Son, the main and only inhabited island of the archipelago, offers a haunting look into a painful history. Despite the relatively accessibility, stepping foot in the islands seems like a step back in time as it memorialises over 21,000 Vietnamese who lost their lives as the result of the French and American occupation. If you want to take a trip down memory lane, a trip to the Con Dao Museum is a must.
Despite a gruesome past, Con Dao transformed itself into a top tourist destination—its present and future laying in its bountiful beauty.
Along the gorgeous coastline of Con Son are hotels, resorts, guesthouses, and other accommodation options at all price points. Unlike budget accommodations across Vietnam, expect to pay more in Con Son for the same amenities.
You can get a room from $20 to $40 a night. If you want to stay somewhere closer to the beach or seafront, set aside at around $50 to $200 dollars a night for mid-range accommodations.
If you are looking to splurge, Six Senses Resort and Spa is the only luxury resort in the area. The rooms are priced from $600 to $2000 a night in exchange for contemporary private villas, quality staff services, and an outstanding view of the sea.
There is no lack of selections when it comes to dining—upscale restaurants, cafés, and street food stalls abound. For those who prefer to prepare their own meals, the Cho Con Dao or Con Dao Market has fresh produce, live seafood, pork, and beef. Locals also sell souvenirs in this market. It is advisable to get here as early as you can if you want to buy all the items on your shopping list. There is a small supermarket in the area for other items you may need. There are also small convenience stores here and there that sell beverages at an affordable price.
Among the popular activities in Con Dao are discovering the island beaches, snorkelling, scuba diving, hiking, trekking and exploring Con Son by a scooter. You can arrange your tours and activities when you land in Con Son.
Tourists can also explore Con Dao’s dense tropical forestry, which, thanks to the remoteness of the area, remains undisturbed. Wildlife enthusiasts have a lot to explore as the archipelago’s flora and fauna are wildly diverse. Specifically, there are 882 forest plant species, 144 animal species, and 1,300 marine animal species. One can spot dugong, dolphins and sea turtles in the waters or a bow-fingered gecko native to the area and black giant squirrel on land.
Like most tropical islands, the Con Dao weather is greatly dependent on the monsoon. It has rainy and dry seasons with an average of 27C. The months of September to December are often very windy. While the temperature during these months is comfortable, the wind causes huge waves that make most water activities impossible. From January to June when the seas are calm and temperatures are higher which could reach up to 38 Celsius. If you do not wish to experience rainy weather, keep in mind that it is rainy from April through October. Finally, the best time to visit the islands is during the months of April and May. Aside from having fewer winds, the waters are very clear. Therefore, scuba diving enthusiast can enjoy up to 30 meters of visibility.
At CLB Global Travel, we promote the best travel destinations you can go to each year. Looking forward to an amazing travel in the Far East? Con Dao Islands in Vietnam is one of the top places you can visit. We will be happy to arrange your flights, accommodations, and itinerary. Send us an email or give us a call for more information.
Charles is a world traveler having lived in 44 states and 11 countries and traveled to dozens more. He and his wife spend time between London, Ireland, Canada, and the Philippines.