The 300 or so karst islands of Lan Ha Bay are south and east of Cat Ba Town. Geologically they are an extension of Halong Bay, but these islands lie in a different province of Vietnam. The limestone pinnacles and scenery are just as beautiful as Halong Bay, but these islands have the additional attraction of numerous white-sand beaches.
Lan Ha Bay is a fair way from Halong City, so not so many tourist boats venture to this side of the bay. In short, Lan Ha Bay has a more isolated, off-the-beaten-track appeal (and far fewer visitors). There is an admission fee to the bay, but this is often incorporated into the cost of tours.
Around 200 species of fish, 500 species of mollusc, 400 species of arthropod and numerous hard and soft coral live in Lan Ha Bay. Larger marine animals in the area include seals and three species of dolphin.
Sailing and kayak trips here are best organised in Cat Ba Town. With hundreds of beaches to choose from, it’s easy to find your own private patch of sand for the day. Camping is permitted on gorgeous Hai Pai Beach (also known as Tiger Beach), which is used as a base camp by the Cat Ba adventure tour operators and also hosts occasional full-moon parties. Lan Ha Bay also offers superb rock climbing and is the main destination for trips run by Asia Outdoors.