One of the best-kept secrets in Vung Tau and often overlooked for its small size, Hon Ba Island is home to the Mieu Ba Temple. Typically only accessible by boat, every 14th and 15th lunar day of the month, the tides recede enough that you can walk from shore to the island.
An important religious site to the locals, the island also hosts many spiritual festivities throughout the year. A great addition to your Vung Tau itinerary, this small island is ideal for those looking to enjoy a half-day trip on the water.
Small Isle in Vung Tau City
Hon Ba Island seen off the shore of Vung Tau City in Vietnam. Photo: Sinh Đôi
Hon Ba is a very small island about 200 m (656 ft) off the coast of Vung Tau City in Southern Vietnam’s Ba Ria-Vung Tau (Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu) Province. The estimated area of the island is about 5,000 sq m (53,819 sq ft) or about 1.2 acres. Often described as an isle or islet, the highest point on Hon Ba Island sits about 4 m (13 ft) above sea level.
The only infrastructure on the island is the Mieu Ba Temple (Miếu Hòn Bà). With rocky shores that decline steeply into the ocean, the island’s position off the tip of the peninsula is about 11 km (6.8 mi) from Vung Tau’s city center. Bai Sau (Back) Beach, which is one of the most renowned in Vung Tau, is just 800 m (2,624 ft) from Hon Ba.
The most direct way to get to Hon Ba Island is by traveling from the City Center to Bai Sau Beach. Easy to access, the city’s main highway leading out of Vung Tau (Vũng Tàu) and around the tip of the peninsula passes by the island.
Hon Ba Island. Photo:
Unless you are visiting on the 14th or 15th day of the month, the only way to access the island is by hiring a local guide to take you by boat. When the tide is low, a rocky pathway is revealed that can be used to walk to the island.
Throughout the years, Hon Ba Island has been known by a few different names. To the locals, the island was originally called Ba Vien Dan during the time of French Occupation. The name “Ba Vien Dan” was given because one legend states that a French officer fired his gun three times on the island and one bullet struck a corner of the temple.
However, the French called the island “Archinard Temple”, after the officer who originally fired his gun died on the island due to his carelessness. More famously known as Hon Ba, the Mieu Ba Temple that sits atop the island was originally constructed in 1881.
A house was built on the island in 1915 by Dr. Yersin, who used Hon Ba Island to grow canh ki na to make Ky Ninh Tri medicine to treat malaria. Finally, in 1971, with a generous donation from a local resident, the temple was redesigned.
Hon Ba Island before its redesign in 1971. Photo: TommyJapan1
Historically, the island was known for being the place of secret meetings for communists during times of war. A 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) long tunnel was built to provide a secret passage to the island. Today, secret meetings on the island have ended, and instead, Hon Ba has become an important site for worship and cultural preservation.
- The Mieu Ba Temple mainly worships Thuy Long Than Nu (Water Dragon Holy Lady) who is the Patron Goddess of Sailors and Fishermen.
- There are 4 pilgrimages to Hon Ba Island throughout the year occurring in January, April, July, and October.
- Food and fresh water have to be imported to the island from Vung Tau City.
Hon Ba Island is such a small place that there’s really only one main attraction – the Mieu Ba Temple. Featuring one main gate and the temple, Hon Ba Island is the perfect destination for a half-day adventure. Additional attractions on the island include the rocky shore and its coral reefs as well as the nearby Bai Sau Beach.
Mieu Ba Temple
The Mieu Ba Temple on Hon Ba Island. Photo: johnmburgess
Situated atop Hon Ba Island is Mieu Ba Temple. Featuring one large main temple, a small garden, and the main entrance gate, the temple has become an important place of worship for locals. The biggest celebrations are held in January for the Lunar New Year as well as in April, July, and October. Worshippers gather at the temple to ask for prosperity, good health, peace, and luck.
Open throughout the year, the temple is quickly crowded during times of celebration. January and the Tet (Lunar) Holiday are the most popular time for visitors to make their way to the island. On the island, visitors are permitted to enter the temple and stroll through the garden. Although the elevation on the island isn’t very high, there’s still an amazing view of the coastline and Vung Tau.
Surrounding the island and leading visitors across the sea is a seabed of jagged rocks. In the deeper water around Hon Ba, there are coral reefs that are filled with marine life. Along the rocks, it’s most common to see shellfish species like oysters.
The best way to see the coral reefs is by hiring a local guide and taking a boat. From the shores of Hon Ba Island, the rocks are often too jagged and slippery to enjoy viewing the coral. However, local guides can show tourists the best spots to see marine wildlife and Hon Ba’s coral reefs.
Bai Sau Beach
Bai Sau or Back Beach in Vung Tau City, Vietnam. Photo: manhhai
Wrapping around the tip of the peninsula and just a short walk away from Hon Ba Island is Bai Sau Beach. Commonly called Back Beach, this is one of the best beaches in Vung Tau and it’s frequently named “the most beautiful” sandy spot in the city.
With plenty of wide-open space, Bai Sau has clean, fine sand and excellent surf. Many tourists will head to Bai Su for watersport activities like surfing and swimming. Along the beach, there are a few hotels and resorts as well as open park spaces where tourists can enjoy the seaside views.
Anyone looking to stay overnight sadly won’t be able to do so as there are no hotels or resorts on Hona Ba Island. Moreover, Mieu Ba Temple does not offer any overnight accommodations to visitors. Tourists hoping to visit the island will have to stay on the mainland in Vung Tau, which has plenty of options including hostels, hotels, and resorts.
The Mercure Vung Tau Hotel. Photo: Mercure Vung Tau
Spread out along the peninsula, the closest hotels to Hon Ba are located on Bai Sau Beach or around the city center. The Ananas Beach Hotel, Mercure Vung Tau, Coast Hotel, and Riva Hotel are a few of the nearest accommodations options to Hon Ba Island. For even more places to stay, tourists can also head further into the city center, which is still a short distance from the island.
Hotels and lodging:
Just like there are no hotels on Hon Ba Island, there are also no restaurants. Tourists can pack snacks in their bags to eat while they are visiting, but there aren’t any food stalls or restaurants where food can be purchased on the island. There are plenty of restaurants in Vung Tau City where travelers can refuel.
Tom and Jerry Bar and Cafe in Vung Tau. Photo: Tom and Jerry Bar and Cafe
Many hotels will have their own in-house restaurant, but tourists can also dine out in the city. Along Bai Sau Beach there are small food stalls and restaurants that cater to beachgoers and travelers. Closer to the city center and not too far from Hon Ba Island, the best restaurants are Tom and Jerry, Luca Pizza, and the OMG Restaurant Cafe.
Hon Ba Island is too small to have roads and there aren’t any ways for vehicles to get to the island. However, because of its small size, tourists can easily take a walking tour of the island and its temple. While the base of the island is left undeveloped and rocky, there’s a stairway that leads visitors through the temple’s main gate and into the garden.
Pathways around the temple and garden ensure that visitors stay away from the edges of the island and its sharp rocks. Every month during the aforementioned lunar days, the tides are low enough that a rocky pathway is revealed. Tourists can walk from the mainland to Hon Ba using this pathway, though, caution should be taken.
The rocks around Hon Ba are incredibly sharp and jagged. With flora and fauna growing on the rocks, the pathway is often very slippery – even when the tide is low. Tourists taking the walk to the islet should wear proper footwear to protect their feet from the sharp rocks. Though the walk is short, it’s important not to rush to avoid slipping and falling.
Tourism to Hon Ba Island is dependent on the weather. Low tide is especially popular because of the pathway that opens up to the island. However, tourists should also note the weather in Vung Tau. Typically, Vung Tau has a wet and dry season throughout the year.
View of Vung Tau City, Vietnam. Photo: Hoangvantoanajc
Starting in May and ending in October, the wet season is the least popular time for tourists in Vung Tau because of the high humidity, heat, and rain. The dry season, which begins in November and lasts until April is the best time to visit Vung Tau and Hon Ba Island.
There’s less rain to interfere with visiting the island and the temperatures are cooler too. During the dry season, many of the biggest celebrations are held at the Mieu Ba Temple on Hon Ba Island. A small but beautiful island off Vung Tau, Hon Ba is perfect for a small getaway from the city. Located in Southern Vietnam, make sure you find time to visit this religious site.
Address: Hon Ba Island | Vung Tau, Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province, Vietnam
Season: Year-round | Best during the dry season
Keyword: Hon Ba Island, Vietnam