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Hidden Gem of Vietnam: Discover The Con Dao Islands

May 13, 2022
13 Min Read
Vietnam
Colorful boats near Con Dao island.

Hidden Gem of Vietnam: Discover The Con Dao Islands

A tropical paradise, Con Dao island boasts peaceful, beautiful, and untouched nature. Explore the secluded beaches and learn about the tragic history of one of the most breathtaking islands of Vietnam.

May 13, 2022
13 Min Read
Vietnam
Colorful boats near Con Dao island.
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Hidden Gem of Vietnam: Discover The Con Dao Islands
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If you are looking for the perfect place to spend a weekend beach getaway in Vietnam, then Con Dao is the place for you. Located on the southern coast of Vietnam, Con Dao consists of 16 islands and islets, of which Con Son is the biggest and the only inhabited island. So when people say Con Dao, they actually mean Con Son island. 

In this guide, we have listed everything you need to know to enjoy this tropical paradise. You will find the best things to do in Con Dao, the best beaches to visit, and where to stay. We also added many insider tips that will help you plan your trip and hopefully inspire you to visit this beautiful island in Vietnam.

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Is Con Dao Island Worth Visiting?

Con Dao is a must-visit as it is one of Vietnam’s most stunning and remote islands. What was once dubbed as "the living hell on earth," Con Dao Island has now become the epitome of paradise. And compared to the more popular Phu Quoc Island, Con Dao is smaller and less visited. Because of that, you will more likely enjoy quiet, empty, and secluded beaches. 

You will also find that most of the visitors are locals because the island holds religious and historical significance for the Vietnamese people. Most locals come to the island to pray and visit Hang Duong Cemetery, where thousands of independence fighters and prisoners who died at Con Dao Prison remain.

Other than that, this tropical paradise offers dense jungles and unspoiled beaches. Visit Con Dao Island and discover the history as you enjoy the beauty of this peaceful, beautiful, and untouched nature.

Colorful boats near Con Dao island.

Is 2 days Enough to Visit Con Dao?

Absolutely! If you only have two days to visit Con Dao Island, then so be it. Make the most of those days and enjoy the beauty of the island. It is small enough that you can visit all the main attractions and still get a chance to discover the beaches and drive around leisurely.  

Colorful boats near Con Dao island.

When to Visit Con Dao

The best time to visit Con Dao is from February to September, when temperatures are relatively mild and the skies are clear. During these months, the waters around Con Dao are clear and ideal for diving and snorkeling. The dry season runs from October to February, but the waves tend to get bigger during this time. 

Cliffs cut into the sea at Con Dao Island.

How to Reach Con Dao Island

By Plane

The best and most convenient way to reach Con Dao Island is to take a plane from Ho Chi Minh City. Flights can be affordable if you book ahead and if you avoid going on holidays. The most common airlines with routes to Con Dao include Vietnam Airlines, Vietjet, and Bamboo Airways. Depending on the season, a round-trip ticket costs around 60 USD. 

A plane flies over a beach at Con Dao Island.

By Boat

If you are in Vung Tau, you can also take advantage of the Phu Quoc Express Boats. The journey takes about 3 to 4 hours, and a round-trip ticket costs around 790,000 to 950,000 VND (35 to 42 USD). Find more information on their website.

Colorful boats near Con Dao island.

Best Things to Do in Con Dao

1. Relax on the Beaches in Con Dao

One of the best things about Con Dao is its long stretches of unspoiled, empty beaches. And what better way to start your vacation than by exploring and relaxing on the beaches? Here are some of the best beaches on Con Dao Island.

A woman walks on a beach on Con Dao Island.

Dam Trau Beach

One of our favorite beaches in Con Dao is Dam Trau Beach. This is an unspoiled beach tucked away in the northern part of the island. What’s special about it is that this beach is located behind the airport, so you can get a glimpse of the planes landing on the island. There are also a few restaurants on this beach where you can get food and drinks. With few tourists around, you can definitely enjoy swimming in the crystal water while you wait for the airplanes to land. However, watch out for the monkeys, and do not leave your food unattended!  

Dam Trau Beach, Con Dao Island.

Suoi Nong Beach

Just a few minutes' walk from Dam Trau Beach is Suoi Nong Beach. This is one of the best beaches we’ve been to in Vietnam. Simply because there’s barely any soul around because of how inaccessible it is. It is very deserted, unspoiled, and relatively beautiful. 

The best way to reach this beach is to climb up the boulders on the left side of Dam Trau beach, which are only accessible during low tide. So check the tide times to be safe. We recommend heading there in the morning and paying attention to the tides. During our visit, the tide started to come in at around 1:30 in the afternoon. Otherwise, you will have to hike up the trail into the forest located at the end of Dam Trau beach. This way will take you about 20 minutes. 

Suoi Nong Beach, Con Dao Island.

An Hai Beach

An Hai beach has golden fine sand and is the closest beach to the center. There are a few resorts located in front of the beach, so it’s still very quiet. We recommend heading further on the right side of the beach as it gets underdeveloped with fewer crowds. We accessed the beach around this area. We found this beach to be quiet, with few people swimming, as well as the waves being very gentle. We went swimming in the afternoon, but it can be a great place to watch the sunrise.

Colorful boats near Con Dao island.

Lo Voi Beach 

Lo Voi Beach is a long beach with fine sand located at the northeastern end of Con Son town’s promenade, in front of the Con Dao Prison. The water here is shallow and crystal clear as it overlooks a large mountain range on the left side. While we saw people swimming when the tide was high, this beach is great for walking during the low tide, especially in the late afternoon. 

Lo Voi Beach, Con Dao Island.

Dat Doc Beach

We didn’t get to visit Dat Doc Beach, but would like to mention it so you don’t waste your time finding an entrance. This beach is not accessible to the public as it is owned by the luxurious Six Senses Resort. This makes the beach only available to guests staying at the resort. 

Colorful boats near Con Dao island.

2. Visit the Con Dao Prison 

Learn about the island’s tragic history as you visit the prison complex, which is one of the biggest and most brutal prison camps in Vietnam. A ticket costs 50,000 VND (2.20 USD) and you can buy it at the Con Dao Museum. The ticket includes entrance to the museum and three main prison camps: Phu Hai, French Tiger Cages, and Phu Binh Camp, also known as the American Tiger Cages. These sites are spread throughout the island, so you will need to rent a bike to get around.

Yellow walls and blue doors at the prison on Con Dao Island.

Plan your visit accordingly, as the prison sites have two opening times. You can visit in the morning from 7:30 to 11:30 and in the afternoon from 13:30 to 17:00. We also recommend hiring a guide as there are only a few placards in English. The guide can also explain the detailed history and the sequence of incidents in detail. Spend at least an hour visiting the complex as you walk through the prison cell blocks, along with mannequins showing the suffering of the prisoners, as it depicts the inhumane conditions of the cells.

The yard of one of the prisons on Con Dao Island.

3. Visit the Hang Duong Cemetery

One of the main reasons why locals visit Con Dao Island is to pay their respects to those who died on the island by visiting Hang Duong Cemetery. For some Vietnamese, it has become a yearly pilgrimage. The cemetery is home to over 20,000 marked and unmarked graves of tortured prisoners. It is also where Vo Thi Sau, the first woman to be executed at Con Son Prison, lies. She is considered a Vietnamese national martyr and heroine, which is why most of the crowd swells around her grave.

Visiting the cemetery at night might sound unusual. However, it is an extraordinary experience as you witness a crowd of people visiting around all night, with most arriving around midnight. At night, you will see the whole cemetery sparkle with the light from incense sticks offered by people wandering around to commemorate those fallen. Vigils are held everywhere, and people take turns offering plastic-wrapped fruits and flowers, and prayers.

The number of offerings we saw during our visit was tremendous! There is no entrance fee, but dress appropriately if you decide to visit. 

A woman buys vegetables at a market on Con Dao.

4. Drive around the island

Renting a motorbike and driving is the best way to get around and explore Con Dao Island. With relatively little traffic, if you find somewhere you want to explore, then stop, park, and away you go. There are many viewpoints around the island with great photo opportunities, like looking through a picture frame onto the vast ocean. One of our favorite spots is a cliffside on the south of the island overlooking Hòn Trác islands. You can find the location here. Another great place to check out is the Mũi Cá Mập which is a great place to watch the sunset. 

Cliffs meet the crystal blue water in Con Dao.

If you decide to discover the island on a motorbike, which you definitely should do, watch out for some tourists stopping on the road to take pictures. There are also parts of the island where you’ll see monkeys on the road. Watch out for those too! However, exploring the island on a motorbike is a must.

Motorbikes drive along the coast of Con Dao Island.

5. Eat Fresh Seafood

There are plenty of restaurants on Con Dao Island that serve a variety of fresh seafood. You can find restaurants around Con Dao Market, but if you’re looking for a different experience, then we recommend heading to Nhà Hàng Nổi Kim restaurant. It is located in the south of the island, where a small boat will take you from the pier to this floating restaurant. Then you will get to choose your fresh seafood for a reasonable price. 

A man tries to get seafood on Con Dao Island.

6. Have Breakfast at Infiniti Cafe & Resto

For such a small island, the quality of food and service at Infiniti Cafe & Resto is surprising. This chic cafe offers delicious western food and drinks. The prices are relatively high in comparison to other restaurants in Con Dao. However, they have good coffee and a great breakfast selection that will fuel you throughout the day. If you’re looking for an instagrammable space to hide out from the sun while enjoying delicious food, then Infiniti is for you. Head here in the morning and enjoy the spacious space, delicious plates, and friendly staff. 

Breakfast at Infiniti Cafe & Resto

7. Visit An Hai Lake

Drive along the road tucked in the middle of An Hai Lake with thousands of lotus flowers. To catch the calm and the picturesque landscape, drive early in the morning or around sunset. You may also catch a glimpse of some locals fishing on the side. 

An Hai Lake, Con Dao Island.

Have More Time? 

Here are other things you can do on Con Dao island that we didn’t get to experience. We’ve heard and read great things about them, and we think they are worth checking out. 

A colorful boat near Con Dao Island.

Diving in Con Dao

Because of the islands' remote location and clear water visibility, Con Dao is considered one of the best places to dive in Vietnam. The diving season in Con Dao Island is from March to October, but the best months are April and May. So if you’re visiting around these months, try diving and inquire at Con Dao Dive Center. They offer diving courses and other diving packages, as well as snorkel tours if that’s what you prefer!

Colorful boats near Con Dao island.

Hiking in Con Dao 

Con Dao Island consists of endless greenery and plenty of hiking opportunities. If you want to explore more of the island's great outdoors, then head to the forest. You can hike through Con Dao National Park or along the coast to the deserted beaches. Enjoy the fresh air and discover the diverse ecosystem of Con Dao. 

Head to the National Park office for your hiking permit, which costs 60,000 VND (2.60 USD), and they are open from 6 a.m to 5 p.m. 

Colorful boats near Con Dao island.

Where to stay in Con Dao

Most accommodation options in Con Dao are found in the main town on the east side of the island. There are plenty of restaurants and markets nearby, and it is very convenient to go anywhere. Some of the bigger and more expensive hotels are located a bit further from the town. But if you wish to have a beach view, book your accommodation along Ton Duc Thang street or close to An Hai beach.

During our trip to Con Dao, we stayed at Homestay De La Rosa. 

It is located in a quiet area about 5 minutes away from the center. This is a cabin-style homestay with cozy and comfortable rooms. The property also has plenty of space in the garden where you can relax and barbecue. During our stay, we bought fresh and cheap seafood at the Con Dao Market and enjoyed our barbecue in the garden. You can use their big kitchen to cook, and the staff can also help you prepare your grill. You can check their availability here.

De La Rosa homestay, Con Dao Island.

Best Ways to Get Around Con Dao?

By Motorbike

The best way to discover the island is to rent a motorbike. The roads are easy to drive on and there is no heavy traffic. But watch out for monkeys on the road! A motorbike will also give you the flexibility to visit the hidden beaches on the island. You can easily rent a motorbike at your accommodation for a cheap price. Expect to pay around 140,000 VND (6.12 USD) for a day’s rent. 

By Taxi

Despite the island being small, there are many taxis available for transportation. This is the best way to get to and from the airport. You can hail a taxi on the main streets or inquire at your accommodation so they can call one for you in advance.

By Golf Carts

During our trip, we noticed many golf carts driving around the island. These carts are mostly courtesy of the hotels as an added service to their guests. Ask your accommodation if they have a golf cart service that you can take advantage of.  

Colorful boats near Con Dao island.

And that’s the ultimate guide to visiting Con Dao Island!

Now it’s your turn to learn about the history of the island, explore the pristine beaches, eat fresh seafood, enjoy the magnificent views, and discover the many amazing things waiting for you on Con Dao Island. 

We are always curious about what you think and if we missed anything, so please let us know in the comments below!

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