Last Updated on March 3, 2023 by Sammie
Best Things to do in Hoi An, Vietnam
Goodness me! There are countless things to do in Hoi An, Vietnam! That’s the reason I keep coming back again and again. From having my Circus Christmas party dress made there every year (I was working in a circus in Southeast Asia at the time, very convenient for my wardrobe), to drinking coffee that kept me up for the rest of the year, or eating all the pho, there are still things I would go back to do for the first time. Take a look at my favorite things to do in Hoi An below :).
While working in a circus in Macau, Asia, I had the pleasure of living within a 90 minutes flight of the beautiful country of Vietnam. This made it easy to discover the best things to do in Hoi An. Even with the proximity to Thailand, Cambodia, Japan, and South Korea, Vietnam was the most visited country I went to with friends and family. And honestly, it was the least I could do to show my gratitude for the visits they took to the other side of the world just to see little ‘ol me. Ugh. Love them.
Anyhoodles, Vietnam is beautiful and Hoi An is a remarkable gem of a city located a mere 29 kilometers from the busier hub of Da Nang. Unless you’re being cool and traveling around Vietnam already, more than likely you will be flying into the larger city of Da Naag and have to make the trek by foot. Just kidding, there are cars and even tuk tuks! What fun!
How to get to Hoi An from Da Nang Airport?
There are four options to make the 29-kilometre travel:
- 1 Hour shuttle bus
- 1 Hour Taxi- You can easily grab a taxi right outside of the airport. They will be very very excited to see you so don’t be alarmed. Discuss the price before sitting down. It should be about 300,000 to 600,000 Dong which equals about $13-$26.
- 1 ½ Hour local bus- Since Covid, it seems that the local bus routes have ceased operations but it is possible that they have resumed since.
- Private transfer from Hotel- This can be discussed with your hotel prior to your arrival
There are so many things to do in Hoi An, it’s hard to keep track. That’s why I made a list!
Table of Contents
Best Things to do in Hoi An
1. Get a strong cup of coffee
It won’t take you long to realize the copious amounts of cafes sprinkled throughout Hoi An. You could easily make a day of coffee shop hopping, as I have before. But a word of warning, Vietnamese Coffee is STRONG. 97% of the plantations produce the Robusta variety which has more than twice the amount of caffeine than the better-known, Arabica bean. Bring on the caffeine shakes wahoo! Coffee is a way of life in Vietnam, so taking the time to appreciate it is a perfect way to enjoy the city of Hoi An. Some traditional Vietnamese Coffee Beverages are listed below:
As referenced in photo 3, WEASEL COFFEE is coffee produced from the partially digested coffee cherries from the weasel’s poop. I wish I was kidding.
- Ca Phe Den- Strong black drip coffee
- Ca Phe Nau- Black coffee with condensed milk
- Egg Yolk Coffee- Originated in Hanoi, has a cappuccino-like flavor
- Coconut Coffee- Black coffee with condensed milk & coconut cream
- Avocado Coffee- Nau with avocado to make it extra creamy
2. Have clothes Tailor Made
HEADS UP: Give yourself a few days to have the clothes made. The first fitting won’t fit you like a glove so plan ahead to do this within the first day or two when arriving to Hoi An.
Besides drinking ridiculous amounts of coffee, having clothes tailor-made is my favorite thing to do in Hoi An. I was most definitely spoiled living within a 90 minutes flight of Vietnam. I took great advantage of this by having clothes made for me every season, especially for all those holiday parties. You can make out like a bandit by going to one of the more reputable tailors such as Kimmy Tailor or BeBe. There, you’ll be assured to have great quality garments that will last for a great price. Once you arrive, you’ll pick out your fabrics and show them pictures from Pinterest. Afterward, they’ll bring you to another room where they will start the measuring process.
3. Tailor design a pair of shoes
Besides having a new amazingly exotic and stylish wardrobe made, you can get shoes custom-made for yourself as well. Usually, the tailor that you go to create your garments will give you suggestions for a shoemaker. I had a pair of flats made custom to my big floppers of feet (they are strangely wide for a human, honest). I’ve never had so many compliments on a pair of shoes.
You will get to pick out the style of the shoes and then the material that they will be made out of. Keep in mind, if you want them to last, it will require a higher quality of material that will be a bit pricier but worth it. This is another thing to do in Hoi An that is best done in the first day or two to give ample time for fittings. It usually takes about 24 hours before the first fitting is ready then a day subsequent for every fitting henceforth. A little planning will take all the stress out of this amazing thing to do in Hoi An, Vietnam.
4. Lounge at the Beach
Wandering the beach in Hoi An. Thanks for the photo mom!
Getting a collection of Handstands around the world going…
Thailand gets all the credit for fabulous beaches, but Vietnam is high on the list of amazing beach destinations in Southeast Asia. Their waters are warm, calm, and crystal clear, and the sand is as soft as a blanket. It makes it easy to pass the day on the coast, with a Siagon (the most popular beer in Vietnam) in hand.
For a local experience, check out Binh Minh Beach, translated as Sunrise Beach. It’s not as touristy and it’s a great location to enjoy the waters and wander the local fishing villages to get your fill of fresh seafood.
Another option is Cua Dai, only 4 kilometres from the center of town. Just a word of caution, Cua Dai can get quite crowded on the weekends. If you don’t feel like fighting the crowds you can enjoy the beaches by renting a bike and seeing the gorgeous waves from your personal set of wheels.
5. Take a traditional boat ride down the Hoai River
My mom’s bucket list item, checked off! Pay little attention to the sunburns. PSA: wear your sunscreen.
If you gaze along the Hoai River you’ll notice the swaths of boats along the waters or gathered in perches on the side. Riding a traditional Vietnamese boat had been on my mom’s bucket list for a while so we “indulged” and paid 150,000 Dong for the two of us (roughly $6). Honestly, you could probably barter a lower price if you’re in low season but I couldn’t be bothered to haggle to lower the price by a dollar.
There are multiple boat rides to choose from. Some take you out for a cute 20-minute trip on the calm river, others let you light a lantern and release it onto the water at sunset, and many offer trips to visit famous attractions and markets. Most boat drivers are more than happy to help you decide what is the best option. If you can point on a map of the destination you are heading to, they will usually take you there themselves or have a fellow boatman take you. Don’t let the language barrier scare you, a smile gets you a long way, and trust me, they are used to tourists not knowing how to speak Vietnamese.
6. Try over 40 samples on the BEST food tour
Indeed, it doesn’t look appealing but it is darn tasty. Make sure you don’t skimp on the black sesame soup for dessert. Or tell everyone it’s a weird black ink eel smoothie thing and steal theirs.
One of my all-time favorite food tours in all of my travel happened in Hoi An. The Original Taste of Hoi An is a 40 PLUS food sampling tour run by Neville, an Australian, and his wife colleen. The only tour featured in National Geographic’s 15 Food Tours Worth The Travel. I have to say a big THANK YOU to my sister for discovering this tour before our girl’s trip to Hoi An.
I’m always a touch skeptical of tours run by foreigners in the country but Neville was incredibly knowledgeable and engaging. He put any and all of my concerns to rest within the first 5 minutes of meeting him. Neville has such a love and respect for this country it made me want to stay and learn as much as possible during the tour. We went through markets meeting local vendors, small restaurants anyone could easily miss on the street, and street stalls, trying over 40 samples of food. Some of which I had never seen in my multiple trips to Vietnam. I learned about the paradox of Vietnam’s simple complexity of flavor in their food and was even taught a few Vietnamese Words by the end of the morning. I can’t recommend this tour enough.
7. Rent a bike and do your own ‘splorin
As I mentioned earlier, taking a bike is a wonderful way to visit the beaches in and around Hoi An. There are many bike rentals located on every other corner of Hoi An so I wouldn’t stress about finding one. Rentals start at about 20,000 VND ($1) for a bicycle and 150,000 VND ($6) for a motorbike. Riding a bike in the Old Town of Hoi An can get a bit crowded so I would suggest taking a bike ride to An Bang Beach or booking a bicycle tour.
The ride to An Bang Beach is beautifully scenic and takes between one to three hours. You can stop at the smaller village of Tra Que Vegetable Farm for garden views and a bite to eat at their restaurant. Once arriving at An Bang Beach pay little attention to potential groups of people trying to convince you that you are not allowed to take bikes to the beach. They just want you to pay them for a parking spot, but if you bypass them you’ll find plenty of free bike parking spots closer to the beach. Park your bike, grab an umbrella and chair, and get yourself a beer for some chill time.
8. Take a cooking class
As you’ll learn after enjoying a few meals in Vietnam, their cuisine is nothing shy of spectacular. They utilize color, texture, and flavor that create an experience in every bite. Take home something that will last longer than a souvenir and take a traditional Vietnamese cooking class. It is a wonderful way to learn a bit more about Vietnamese culture while gaining some skills to wow your friends and family once arriving back home. Imagine, a Vietnamese-themed dinner party. You’ll be the talk of the town. Oh, la la! What fun!
Typical Vietnamese dishes that you would learn to make might include; Goi Cuon (fresh spring rolls), Canh Chua (sour soup), or possibly Pho (noodle soup dish).
There are different versions of cooking classes available. You can simply help out with the finishing touches in a more observing styled class (30 minutes), a half-day class that includes the ingredients already bought and potentially partially prepared (3-4 hours), or a full-day class which would include heading to the local market to source the ingredients and bringing them back to full by prepped and cooked within the class (5-6 hours). Any and all are wonderful options suitable for all skill levels.
9. Head to the spa
Vietnam is home to some of the most world-class spas including; the spa at the Four Seasons Resort, and the divine but less pricey Woosah Spa. But don’t feel the need to break the bank to enjoy a traditional Vietnamese massage. There are dozens of massage parlors around the city to choose from. And as long as you stick to the traditional massage you won’t be in for any ummm…surprises at the end.
A traditional Vietnamese massage is about blood circulation. The therapist will apply direct pressure to specific areas of the body to relax and calm organs or areas of the body. This is usually accompanied by clapping and some stretching. Think more relaxing claps, not so much b*****y slaps. Another thing that will keep you relaxed and feeling zen will be the prices. Spas in Vietnam are typically very affordable. They have a wide price range to choose from making it a very accessible thing to do in Hoi An.
10. Day trip to Marble Mountain
Just under 20 kilometres from Hoi An, taking a little hiking trip to explore Marble Mountain is a perfect day trip from the city. The hike up Marble Mountain won’t win you any street cred in the mountaineering world but it’s a beautiful excuse to do some ‘splorin. You’ll see some amazing temples, caves, tunnels, and pagodas all while having some glorious views of the country and sea.
The 5 Mountains that make up the site are named after the elements; Earth, Wind, Fire, Water, and Air, each made up of limestone and marble in the Ngu Hanh Son District. But before you think of becoming the conqueror of all elements, Thuy Son (Water Mountain) is the only one accessible to tourists. Take some time to wander and get lost as you weave in and around the cave temples. As you lean in and look closer, you’ll see many carvings of Buddha, lions, elephants, and more.
You can get to Da Nang using the same options you use to arrive to Hoi An from Da Nang listed above.
11. Check out the Bamboo Circus at Lune
It wasn’t until my third time in Hoi An that I discovered the beauty that is Lune Productions. And lucky I did because I was able to enjoy it with my sisters and mom on our girls’ trip. Lune Theatre is a magnificent cultural experience located right in the middle of the Ancient Town. It is the only bamboo theatre of its kind in Vietnam, measuring 13 meters high and 24.2 meters across. And yes it is entirely made of traditional materials such as bamboo, wood, and clay.
The eye-catching dome was built as a way to bring local art to the community and has become a regular honored home to the Vietnamese Bamboo Circus. The productions are constantly changing but you can expect to be immersed in a storytelling circus by means of using bamboo props and live music to tell tales of the traditional Vietnamese culture. Even if you don’t have time to catch a show, it is well worth a visit to its prime location, at the junction of Thu Bon and Hoai Rivers.
12. Take a lantern Making Class
Take a walk through any part of the Ancient Town in Hoi An and you’ll see the streets lined with colorful lanterns made by local hands. The Ancient Town of Hoi An is an incredibly well-preserved representation of a trading port, dating back to the 15th to 19th centuries. From these times, artisanal handicrafts flourished giving this town an exceptional air of craftsmanship.
By taking a lantern class, you’ll be able to take this cultural skill home with you while also creating a souvenir to remind you of that time you dreamt of being an artisan in Vietnam. Depending on how much you want to learn (maybe you have big plans for the future) there are different classes available. Most classes involve a premade frame where you simply choose and attach your preferred fabric. However, if you prefer to learn how to construct a lantern in its entirety, check out Hoi An Handicraft Tours. The company is run by a brother duo who’ve been in the business for over 7 years, taking over the family company after their grandfather retired.
13. Check out Central Market
You’re going to need to take a deep breath before diving into all that is the central market of Hoi An. There will most likely be crowds and lots and lots of stalls so if you become easily overstimulated I suggest waiting at a cute little coffee shop while your friends buy all the things. It’s amazing, and worth a couple hour gander. It’s hard to say what exactly you’ll find at the Central Market because I don’t believe I’ve managed to explore it all just yet. But I can advise you that if you’re looking for souvenirs, this is the place. They have bamboo kitchen utensils, handmade kids’ toys, beautiful jewelry that is painfully cheap. Not to forget the tailors to make you clothes at the drop of a hat, local street food, spices, fabric, amazing leather goods, and so many more things that I probably forgot.
Now, a big part of Central Market is the art of haggling. Don’t get scared, you never HAVE TO haggle, but where’s the fun in not trying? Everything in this market has a moveable price tag so might as well give it a go. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to try.
Though some vendors beat to the rhythm of their own drum, the official opening time of the Central Market is 9 AM-6 PM.
14. Visit the countryside
With every passing decade, it feels as if there are fewer and fewer traditional practices being protected and preserved around the world. Hoi An is the exception. This city is at the brink of 3 rivers; Thu Bon river, Truong Giang river, and De Vong river giving it strong support for agriculture and raising livestock. Taking great advantage of the rich waterways and canals, villagers are holding on to their traditional practices. It’s a beautiful slice of traditional Vietnamese rural life that is easily accessible from the lively city of Hoi An. Simply by taking a bicycle you can explore specialty villages within a day’s trip.
Take a bike or motorbike to the countryside and visit one of these villages:
- Thanh Ha Pottery Village
- Ta Que Vegetable Village
- Cam Thanh Water Coconut Village
- Cam Kim Island
- Kim Bong Carpentry Village
- Tra Nhieu Fishing Village
- Triem Tay Bamboo Village
15. Hoi An Lantern Festival
The Hoi An Lantern Festival is a large event filled with activities for travelers and locals alike. The focus is lighting lanterns as an offering to the god and passed family members and placing them on the Hoai River. It takes place in the Ancient Town (Old Town) of Hoi An every night of the full moon.
Hoi An is known for its old-world charm but it goes a step further during the Lantern Festival. By banning the use of motorbikes and bicycles until 10 PM to pedestrianize the area, as well as banning fluorescent lights to add to the old-world feel, the lanterns can illuminate the night. It might seem touristy on paper but it genuinely comes from ancient tradition and is a beautiful experience. This festival transports you to a simpler time filled with the magic of poetry readings on the corners, musical offerings, traditional dancing in the street, and chess on the sidewalks.
All good things must come to an end. Did you enjoy?? If yes, please share!
I almost forgot! Don’t forget to try a Bahn Mi!