Of the hundreds of islands in the Ha Long area, Monkey Island has become famous for its private beach resort, troops of monkeys, and spectacular front-row view of Lan Ha Bay. More compact than the nearby Cat Ba Island, this tropical destination is popular for day trips and weekend getaways.
Visitors can spend the day enjoying Monkey Island Resort’s luxurious facilities or take on a challenge by climbing to the island’s highest peak.
Monkey Inhabited Island in the Cat Ba Archipelago
Clear, blue skies over Monkey Island in the Ha Long Bay Area. Photo: Nicolas Mirguet
Compact enough that its exact size has not been measured, Monkey Island can be walked in just a few hours. Geographically part of the Cat Ba (Cát Bà) Archipelago in Northeast Vietnam, the island sits in one of the area’s three primary bays, Lan Ha. Close to the much larger Cat Ba Island, Cat Ba Town is about 5 km (3.1 mi) away.
Only accessible by boat, many travelers leave from the town’s Ben Beo (Bến Bèo) Harbor. Offering tours that are designed to be taken as day trips, Cat Ba’s local guides will take visitors to the island as well as places like the Cai Beo fishing village within their packages.
Alternatively, cruises that depart from Ha Long City will also take visitors to Monkey Island, though they only stop long enough for guests to explore its beaches or summit the peak. Those who wish to stay overnight at the resort can arrange for a private speed boat from Cat Ba Town or Ha Long (Hạ Long) City.
Jagged rocks along the shoreline of Monkey Island. Photo: leiris202
Before Monkey Island became famous for its small colony of primates, it was known to locals as Cat Dua. Originally given the name “Pineapple”, or “Dứa” in Vietnamese, due to the abundance of pineapple trees along the rocky shores, the fruit produced by the trees were inedible, instead being used in local traditional medicines.
The name of the island changed when forest rangers brought monkeys over to live along its beaches and forests. The popularity of Monkey Island then expanded beyond local knowledge as Ha Long Bay became more well-known amongst international tourists.
In 2007, investors stumbled across the uninhabited Monkey island by accident, shortly after securing permission to develop it as a resort destination.
- There used to be a military Camp on Cat Dua 1 Beach on Monkey Island.
- Monkey Island is one of 1,600 islands and islets in the Ha Long Bay – Cat Ba Archipelago.
- In addition to pineapples, there are maple and white apple trees growing on Monkey Island.
Small in size, there are quite a few attractions for visitors spending time on Monkey Island including hiking, swimming, and sunbathing . With the biggest draw being Lan Han Bay, the island is particuarly famous for its wild monkeys.
Boats at the Cat Dua 1 Beach on Monkey Island. Photo: Lanza Romanza
Cat Dua 1 & 2 Beach
Once controlled by the military, Cat Dua 1 is the longest and most developed beach on the island. Uncrowded, visitors are welcome to swim and sunbathe on the opposite side of the military station. Having floats and kayaks available for visitors, the resort is at the far end of the beach.
Cat Dua 2 Beach, on the other hand, lacks development and is lined with an abundance of fruit trees. More untouched than Cat Dua 1, this beach is often completely empty. To get to Cat Dua 2 Beach, tourists can walk along a rocky ridge that juts out from the coastline and acts as a barrier between the two areas.
Those looking to participate in a more challenging activity should hike to the island’s summit. With a rewarding view of Lan Ha Bay, local tour guides can take tourists on the steep and winding path to the top. Mostly a vertical assent, there are a few spots that require climbing over sharp rocks, which can be a bit tough for some individuals.
The starting point of the summit hike on Monkey Island. Photo: jeffrey.pick
Hikers are advised to bring water and snacks as well as wear sneakers since climbing in flip-flops can be dangerous.
Tourists should be aware that the monkeys on the island are free-roaming, wandering around the forests and beaches as they please. Comfortable around humans due to tourism, guests should be wary of getting too close or feeding them as they can be aggressive when agitated. Sneaky and curious, monkeys will grab any items that are unattended, so make sure to keep your belongings close.
Swimming and Sunbathing
With shallow, clear water and gentle waves, swimming at Cat Dua 1 and Cat Dua 2 Beach is completely safe. Additionally, small coral reefs act as a protective line for swimmers against larger waves. Close to shore, guests can also take a set of goggles to view marine life living on the reefs.
Lounge chairs are available for rent through the resort on Cat Dua 1 or tourists can enjoy sitting on the sand of Cat Dua 2. Both beaches are excellent for sunbathing as there are wide spots that are completely open to the sun’s rays. When the temperatures get too hot, visitors can simply head further back along the beach to find shade in the treeline.
The Monkey Island Resort on Monkey Island. Photo: Magalie L’Abbé
The only accommodation for visitors is the Monkey Island Resort. With 39 rooms and a beachfront location, the resort feels rustic and down to earth. Coming in a variety of layouts that include twin, standard, and queen, all of the rooms are spacious and have a private bathroom. With modern amenities, there are also a few small suites and larger rooms with beachfront balconies.
Anyone looking to arrange a tour of the island can head to the front desk. Happily assisting their guests, packages often consist of kayaking, snorkeling, and adventures to the summit.
Dining on Monkey Island is also provided by the resort. Set up in an eco garden, the restaurant serves a mix of Vietnamese and Western food. Boasting amazing views of the beach and bay, it’s open throughout the day. Tourists should keep in mind that the restaurant can get crowded during the late morning and afternoon as boatloads of daytime visitors head to the island.
Take a local boat tour of Monkey Island. Photo: jeffery.pick
Due to having no roads, transportation options are non-existent on Monkey Island. Instead, tourists will have to walk if they want to explore the island’s two beaches, resort, and summit. While hiking isn’t required, it’s best to take full advantage of the area’s natural beauty while visiting.
With a wet and dry season, tourism on Monkey island is dependent on the weather. While the wet season, which takes place from May to October, is very hot, humid, and rainy, it’s a popular time for locals to visit since there are fewer foreign travelers. On the other hand, international tourists prefer exploring Monkey Island from November to April, better known as the dry season.
With cooler weather and fewer showers, the dry season offers guests more opportunities to explore the island.
A beautiful destination off the coast of Cat Ba, Monkey Island is a great place to spend a few days while in the Ha Long Bay area. Ideal for those who want to relax on the beach, go hiking, and see wild monkeys, make sure you plan some time on this Northeastern Vietnamese island.
Address: Monkey Island | Cat Ba, Cat Hai, Hai Phong, Vietnam
Season: Year-round | Best during the dry season
Keyword: Monkey Island, Vietnam