Are you wondering about the best things things to do in Hoi An, Vietnam? You are in the right place then! I have spent a few days there and explored inside out, and in this post I will share the best places to visit in Hoi An, the unmissable day trips from Hoi An, and all the tips you need to make the most of this fantastic destination.
Hoi An is definitely one of the best places to visit in Vietnam – and certainly my favorite. Compared to the capital Hanoi or to the immense Saigon down south, Hanoi is a much smaller city which is easier to tackle.
But what it lacks in size (though don’t expect a village) it definitely makes up for with its offer of tourist attractions.
If you are anything like me, you will definitely appreciate the fact that the historic center is closed to traffic during the day, which means exploring is incredibly pleasant without the incessant noise of traffic and the constant worry of having to watch out for cars and motorbikes driving through (and never stopping for you to cross the street).
So, if you are traveling to Vietnam, you should definitely include Hoi An in your itinerary. Curious to find out more about what the city has to offer? Continue reading for a selection of the best things to do in Hoi An.
If you are planning a trip to Vietnam, you will need to read my post 18 Things To Know Before Traveling To Vietnam.
The Best Things To Do In Hoi An, Vietnam
Explore the Old Town
The UNESCO-recognized Old Town of Hoi An is absolutely laced with history. This incredibly well preserved trading port features an array of streets and buildings that date from between the 15th and 19th century.
Hoi An actually translates to “Peaceful Meeting Place” in Sino-Vietnamese, and it’s not hard to see why the city got its name. It’s a charming place with a network of streets that boast colorful buildings, reflecting not just local styles but also foreign influences.
It goes without saying that one of the unmissable things to do in Hoi An is exploring the Old Town.
One of the best places to visit in Hoi An, for example, is a Japanese bridge — a covered footbridge topped with a small temple — built in 1593 to link the Japanese quarter of the city with the Chinese neighborhood.
Here in this pedestrian-friendly district of the city you’ll find shophouses now home to hostels, cafes and boutiques, as well as myriad museums such as the Museum of History and Culture, the Hoi An Folklore Museum and the Museum of Trade Ceramics.
You need a tourist ticket to access the attractions of the Old Town. This is a bit like a City Pass that allows you to visit a number of attraction included in the circuit, which as the Japanese Bridge and the Folklore Museum. You can get the ticket at one of the many stalls scattered around town.
If you’d rather join a guided tour, you may want to consider this one which also includes lunch.
Spend a day at the beach
Though Hoi An is known primarily for its Old Town, it may surprise some people to learn that there is actually a beach nearby – and let me add, to the eyes of an expert such as yours truly, it is indeed a great beach!
In fact, not only chilling at the beach is one of the best things to do in Hoi An, but a lot of visitors to the city actually choose to stay in the coastal part of town, where there’s ample beachside accommodation.
One of these is An Bang, where you can relax on sun loungers under the shade of umbrellas. Here there’s also the chance to get stuck into water sports, like SUP and jet skiing, and there are many places to choose from for refreshments when you’re hungry or thirsty.
There’s also Cua Dai, a busy beach backed by resorts and located only 5 kilometers (little over 3 miles) from Hoi An Old Town. Its close proximity means it’s easy to pedal there by bike, or you could get a taxi. Cua Dai Beach is also a lovely place to stroll around in the evening.
Ride a Thung Chai Boat
When we visited An Bang beach we saw some weird, massive round baskets all over the beach wondered what they were. It turned out they are boats, called “thung chai”.
The reason why these boats are made to look like baskets is quite interesting. During the French colonial era, Vietnamese people had to pay heavy taxes on almost any good to the French rulers. Even their fishing boats were taxed!
So, they invented the “thung chai” to basically pretend they were not boats – which meant they’d not be taxable.
The heavy taxation days are now gone, but the boats have remained, much to the amusement of tourists who can actually ride them. Admittedly, this is one of the most touristy things to do in Hoi An, but also a lot of fun.
You can ride the “thung chais” along the Thub Bon River. Most tours will also include a guided tour of the market and end with a fun cooking class. If you are interested, you may want to consider this boat tour option which is highly rated.
Check out Cham Island
Looking for a slice of tropical paradise during your trip to Hoi An? Take note of the Cham Islands. This small archipelago sits around 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) off the coast of Hoi An and makes for a deliciously inviting day trip from Hoi An.
Once completely closed off to outside visitors (due to military connections), they’ve since become a magnet for tourists looking to spend a day in sublime settings. Here you can snorkel in its surrounding reefs, kayak in the turquoise sea, or just sit back on the powdery white beaches.
A very budget friendly ferry connects Hoi An to the islands (it takes around 20 minutes) or you could join a tour, however – unfortunately many of the tours have poor reviews and are considered too rushed.
The best reviewed tour is this snorkeling and underwater walking tour of Cham Island which includes hotel pickup and drop off, snorkeling equipment, a live guide and is not rushed.
Bike to the rice fields in Cam Kim
One of the best things to do in Hoi An is to explore the super scenic landscapes around town, and there is no better way to do that than to get out on a bike.
Many people choose to rent a bicycle in Hoi An itself; in fact, most accommodation will offer either free or affordable bike rental for the whole day. We rented out directly at our guest house.
One of the best places to aim for is the island of Cam Kim, set in the Thu Bon River. Once accessible from Hoi An by ferry only, since 2016 a bridge connects the island with the mainland.
But despite the new road connection, Cam Kim remains a distinctly rural slice of Vietnam, a sleepy place with traffic-free roads and flat pathways that weave around rice paddies and past water buffaloes.
It’s around 3.5 kilometers (little over 2 miles) away from Hoi An Old Town, taking around 15 minutes by bike to get there.
You can easily bike around Cam Kim by yourself once you get hold of a bike – that’s what we did. But if you’d rather have a guide while exploring, you may want to consider this tour.
Looking for inspiration on other places to visit in the country? You will find my post The Best Things To Do In Vietnam really useful!
Go to Tra Que Vegetable Village
Away from the busy center of Hoi An lies Tra Que Vegetable Village. Located around 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from the city center, this bucolic village is where much of the fruit, vegetables and herbs for the people of Hoi An are grown.
Visiting is really one of the most interesting things to do in Hoi An, as it means experiencing life in a rural farming community that hasn’t changed much for hundreds of years.
You can travel here and learn the ropes from the farmers themselves — you get to learn how to plant crops and plough fields, all while wearing traditional farming clothing. There’s even the chance to sample the delicious local produce with a spot of lunch at the village, too.
There’s a variety of ways to visit Tra Que Vegetable Village, with some comprehensive tours on offer, or you could make your own way there by hopping in a taxi. You can also bike or rent a scooter all the way to the village.
One of the best guided tours to Tra Que Vegetable Village is this electric scooter tour that also includes drinks, snacks and pick up from your hotel.
Get a tailor-made dress
Hoi An has long been a big player in the silk trade, with many local families being part of the industry for numerous generations. There’s even a Hoi An Cloth Market where you’ll still find stalls stacked high with all manner of fabrics in an array of colors.
With all this textile heritage, it’s no surprise that one of the unmissable things to do in Hoi An is to get a tailor made dress. These can be whipped up in seemingly no time by any number of skilled tailors and dressmakers found around Hoi An.
However, I recommend giving yourself at least three full days in town because you will need to shop for a tailor you fully trust and once you place your order you need to attend fittings before your order is finally delivered.
Another tip is to actually go with an idea of what you’d like made. My sister walked into the shops with photos of dresses she wanted. I improvised and ended up with the gorgeous green coat that you can see in my profile photo.
If you don’t need a new dress or suit, but still feel like engaging in some retail therapy, don’t worry: Hoi An is a great place for shopping.
The Old Town in particular is an amazing place to pick up all sorts of souvenirs, from pieces of art, bamboo baskets and ceramic tableware to shoes and Hoi An-themed T-shirts. You’ll also find all manner of stalls selling jewelry and traditional handicrafts.
Browse through the stalls of the Central Market
From the early morning Hoi An’s Central Market whirrs into life. It’s the largest market in the city and attracts crowds to match; with its history of being a trading port, some might even say that Hoi An’s biggest market is actually one of the best in the country.
Although it’s obviously a place where tourists regularly visit, and you can pick up a range of souvenirs here, it’s still very much part of the local life of Hoi An.
The market is sectioned off into different areas — you can pick up tools in one part, fresh fruit in one part and herbs in the next — making for a veritable wonderland for exploring on a morning visit. Take your time and make sure your bargaining skills are sharpened!
If you have time to spare and money to spend, you’ll love wandering around Hoi An looking for that perfect item. One particularly good store is Reaching Out Arts & Crafts, a fairtrade gift shop where you can pick up just about anything: lacquerware, stationery, ceramics.
Get a massage
After all the sightseeing and wandering around, why not treat yourself to a relaxing massage while you’re in Hoi An? Wellness has become big news in this former trading hub, meaning you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to finding somewhere to unwind.
Traditional Vietnamese massage has a focus on improving circulation, using kneading techniques that get rid of knots, and utilizing pressure to target deep tissue. Overall, getting a massage is one of the most popular things to do in Hoi An. This stress-relieving experience will leave you feeling fresh and ready to tackle the busy streets of the city once more.
There are many spas where you can get a massage in town, and you can definitely shop around. Otherwise, do what we did and simply ask your hotel or guest house manager to point you to a place they recommend.
Join a cooking class
One of the best souvenirs you could take back home with you from Hoi An is the knowledge of how to create some of its incredible cuisine.
Thankfully, there are plenty of cooking classes to choose from where you can learn from local chefs and cooks who’ll guide you through the basics of how to make some mouthwatering morsels.
Options include this particularly popular cooking class, which focuses on making four authentic dishes — beef noodle soup, deep-fried spring rolls, fresh spring rolls and banh xeo (Hoi An pancakes).
Other cooking classes such as this one take place in rural villages outside of Hoi An, where you can cook with families in their homes.
Finally, you have the option of going on a “thung chai” boat ride along the Thub Bon River on a tour that includes a market visit and ends with a fun cooking class. This option is highly rated.
Go on a food tour
Hoi An is a crossroads not just of culture but also cuisine. Combinations of French, Chinese and Japanese influences have left their impact on the gastronomy of the city, resulting in a plethora of delicious dishes to devour on your trip.
With such premises, it goes without saying that one of the things to do in Hoi An is eating!
Make sure you spend time hunting down mi quang — a noodle dish from Quang Nam province with pork bone broth and flat rice noodles — and cao lau, which is a classic Hoi An speciality that mixes udon noodles, char siu pork and a sauce native to the region.
If you really want to get stuck into the wonderland of food on offer in Hoi An, I’d recommend hopping on this food tour to be guided to the very best eats in town.
Go on a sunset boat ride on the Thu Bon River
Once the sun is about to set, Hoi An is enveloped in a special light. A fantastic way to appreciate this is a boat ride along the Thu Bon River. You really won’t have trouble finding a ride – just head to the river, and you will ushered onto a boat in a matter of minutes.
Boat rides last about 20 minutes. You can pretty much take it for granted that tourist prices will be higher than what the ride actually costs, so make sure to negotiate before you get on board. Otherwise, you could consider simply buying one of the sunset boat tours sold online.
This boat tour includes a nice dinner and is well reviewed.
If you want something more budget friendly, consider this option that has several departures throughout the day.
Want a more active approach? Consider this kayak sunset tour in Hoi An!
Enjoy the nightlife
Once night falls in Hoi An, and the daytrippers go home, the city comes alive with colorful night spots to enjoy a drink or two.
Some of the best spots in town to soak up the atmosphere include The Deck Hoi An — a rooftop bar that serves craft cocktails that’s perfect for sunset views — but for something a little more down to earth, head to Hoi An Night Market.
Under the glow of colorful lanterns, street food stalls waft enticing aromas into the air. There’s music and places to eat and drink here, making it a pretty comprehensive night spot.
You can even take a night boat tour such as this one along the river from Hoi An Night Market, too.
Attend a Bamboo Circus show
If you like Cirque Du Soleil you are bound to enjoy the Vietnamese Bamboo Circus – Teh Dar. I had seen Cirque Du Soleil in Denver, so I did not want to miss this show in Hoi An which is a series of dances, acrobatics and lights.
You will love the fact that no animals are involved in the show. The actual setting is indeed quite minimal – wood and bamboo here represent the simple life of rural Vietnam.
The show takes place at Hoi An Lune Center, a bamboo dome in the heart of Old Town Hoi An. It lasts about one hour.
You can also book your Bamboo Circus experience online, here.
Explore Bach Ma National Park
There’s a lot of nature in the immediate surroundings of Hoi An that you can easily enjoy, but if you are looking for something a bit more remote you could consider going to Bach Ma National Park, which is just a couple of hours drive.
The area is incredibly scenic and perfect for hiking, with a tropical rainforest, unique rock formations, lots of viewpoints for the perfect shot (the best is Bach Ma peak, which is at 1,450 meters or 4,757 feet) above sea level, and refreshing lakes where you can go for a quick swim.
Keep your eyes open as there’s quite a bit of wildlife living in the region.
It is a full day-trip to Bach Ma National Park – you’ll be out for a minimum of 10 hours, probably more depending on traffic on the way there and back. For ease, you may want to go on a guided tour that also includes transportation from Hoi An and a live guide.
For example, there is this tour that includes hiking and a picnic lunch.
You also have the option of joining this tour that includes a hike and a scenic jeep drive.
Hike the Marble Mountains
Hiking lovers will agree that exploring the Marble Mountains is one of the most fun things to do in Hoi An.
The Marble Montains is a group of five mountains located about 20 minutes drive south of Da Nang. If you have been to Cuba, these formations will actually remind you a bit of the mogotes of Vinales.
Scattered along the mountains are beautiful pagodas, Buddhist temples, caves and tunnels, which make for a fun exploration! There are five Marble Mountains, each named after a different element: Thuy Son (water), Kim Son (metal), Moc Son (wood), Hoa Son (fire), and Tho Son (earth).
Most people visit Thuy Son, where you can tackle the 150 steps to the top – though don’t worry, there is also an elevator. Once up, peek inside the Hindu and Buddhist caves and take in the incredible views.
To make the most of the area and everything it has to offer, you are probably better off joining a guided tour. There are several that depart daily from Hoi An. I recommend this one which goes to Thuy Son and included the elevator ride.
Go on a day trip to Da Nang
The large coastal city of Da Nang is a thriving commercial center, and the biggest city in the region (not to mention an important port city).
The gleaming urban cityscape of Da Nang is modern Vietnam through and through, and couldn’t be more different to Hoi An. But there’s an energy here that’s worth experiencing, with a huge university meaning a vibrant youth culture below all the skyscrapers.
Da Nang can be easily reached on day trips from Hoi An. The cheapest way is to hop on a public bus that regularly connects the two destinations; it’s super cheap and takes approximately one hour.
Once you’re there, spend the day ticking off its handful of sights — the Instagram hotspot of Dragon Bridge, the colonial era Da Nang Cathedral and the enormous Cao Dai Temple.
Head out to the Golden Bridge And Ba Na Hill
Located in the Sun World Ba Na Hills, the Golden Bridge – also known as Golden Hand Bridge – has recently become one of the most popular places to visit in Vietnam. It is, indeed, quite a unique spot! Picture two massive stone hands that rise from the ground and hold a golden, circular viewing platform.
The view from the platform is certainly impressive, but just as well, the platform and the hands themselves are quite the view here.
Since it’s close to Da Nang, the Golden Hand Bridge is actually quite easy to visit from Hoi An too. Once there, you should take your time to explore the rest of the theme park, which is actually quite large.
You will find all sorts of attractions and rides, including the French village, which is literally a reconstruction of a typical village you’d find in France, French wine tasting included! Not a fan? Then there’s a German beer hall.
You can move from one area to the other within the park via cable car. Many travelers go there by motorbike, but it’s probably easier to get a shuttle bus ride from Hoi An, or join a guided tour.
For a shuttle bus ride to Ba Na Hills and the Golden Bridge, click here.
For a guided tour that also includes cable car tickets, click here.
Or to My Son
If you’re a fan of ancient, jungle-clad ruins of once-great civilizations, then you should definitely take a day trip from Hoi An to My Son.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site, located at the source of the Thu Bon river, consists of a number of spectacular sacred Hindu structures built between the 4th and 13th centuries by the Champa Kingdom.
Sadly, as a result of American bombing during the latter stages of the Vietnam War, My Son was devastated, reducing much of the site to rubble — there were around 70 structures, but now only 20 still stand.
My Son has been described as Vietnam’s Angkor Wat, which may be an overstatement as it’s much smaller, but it’s still an enchanting place to explore. To get more insight into the history and significance of the site, you should also visit the My Son Museum.
Around 40 kilometers away by road, the best way to get to My Son is by joining a tour such as this small group day trip which also goes to the Marble Mountains, or to hire a private driver to take you there. The public bus is not particularly direct.
Spend a day in Hue
Just over 120 kilometers from Hoi An lies the city of Hue. This is a really interesting place to visit; an exciting slice of Vietnam that reveals a city both old and new.
There’s a friendly youth culture here, sitting on the backdrop of the 19th-century Imperial City of Hue (also a UNESCO World Heritage Site), all along the banks of the picturesque Perfume River.
It’s a compact town that makes for a fun day trip from Hoi An — just ensure that you get up early if you want to make the most of it!
The route between Hoi An and Hue is a popular motorbike road trip due to the beautiful views along the way.
However, to get there you can also simply hop on a train – the ride is also particularly photogenic (but you’ll have to go from Da Nang train station). By bus or car it can take up around three hours.
You also have the option of joining a guided tour to Hue departing from Hoi An such as this one, which includes hotel pick up and drop off, a local guide that speaks English, and lunch.
If you are planning a trip to Vietnam, these other posts will be useful:
- How To Get The Vietnam Visa
- The Best Things To Do In Saigon
- The Best Things To Do In Hanoi
- The Best Day Trips From Hanoi
- The Best Things To Do In Sapa