The Hai Van Pass: Motorbike Guide

Last updated February 2018 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle

INTRODUCTION | GUIDE | MAP | RELATED POSTS

A contender for the most famous road in Vietnam, the Hai Van Pass is a short but scenic route winding around a mountainside above the East Sea, on the central coast. Đèo Hải Vân – Ocean Cloud Pass – is famous for a number of reasons: as a geographic and political boundary between ancient kingdoms; as a climatic divide between the tropical south and the subtropical north; and as a strategic military post during times of war, both ancient and modern. But, most recently, the Hai Van Pass is famous, quite simply, as a great road trip linking the popular central Vietnamese destinations of Hoi An, Danang, and Hue. For Vietnamese and foreign road-trippers alike, the Hai Van Pass is a favourite ride, its fame bolstered by the popularity of the Top Gear Vietnam Special (2008), in which the presenters waxed lyrical about the pass, inspiring a generation of travellers to take to the road on two wheels and hit the Hai Van Pass. Although it’s certainly not the greatest road in Vietnam, the Hai Van Pass is still a lot of fun to ride, with excellent views, light traffic, and easy access from several cities.

The Hai Van Pass by motorbike, VietnamOne of the most famous roads in Vietnam, the Hai Van Pass makes a great & relatively easy road trip

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GUIDE: THE HAI VAN PASS BY MOTORBIKE


ROAD TRIP DETAILS:

  • Total Distance: 165km (or 135km)
  • Duration: 1-3 days
  • Route: the scenic coastal route between Hoi An, Danang & Hue [MAP]
  • Road Conditions: good, smooth, wide highways, paved back-roads, light traffic
  • Scenery: high coastal passes, excellent sea views, empty beaches, fishing villages, farmland, cities


CONTENTS:

The Hai Van Pass, VietnamThe Hai Van Pass weaves around a mountainous headland as it meets the sea in Central Vietnam

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ABOUT THIS ROUTE:

The Hai Van Pass can be ridden as a day-trip from any of the three main cities on either side of it: Hoi An, Danang, and Hue. Alternatively, the Hai Van Pass is a great way to ride all the way between these three cities via an extended coastal route, which avoids busy Highway 1 for the vast majority of the way, and uses quiet, scenic coast roads instead (see the blue line on my map). Although this route is slightly longer than taking Highway 1 (see the brown line on my map), it’s far more scenic, more rewarding, and quieter (not to mention safer). Renting motorbikes in any of the three cities should be fairly easy, and some rental companies even offer one-way pick-up and drop-off services, allowing you to ride in one direction without having to return to your starting point to give the bike back. The total distance for the scenic coastal route between Hoi An, Danang, and Hue is 165km. This can be completed in one day, or you can break it up into 2-3 days, by staying somewhere in the middle (see Accommodation). There are several options for side routes along the way (see the red lines on my map), including exploring the scenic roads around the Son Tra Peninsular, getting lost on the paved lanes and muddy tracks leading down to the coast from the top of the Hai Van Pass, and short detours to Elephant Springs and Bach Ma National Park. The best time of year is April to September; at other times, the pass can be covered in cloud and very wet. After riding the Hai Van Pass you can loop back via the mountains on the Ho Chi Minh Road, as described in the Golden Loop, or you can continue along coastal back-roads to Dong Hoi and Phong Nha, following the Tomb Rider route.

Riding the Hai Van Pass by motorbike, VietnamRiding between Hoi An, Danang & Hue via the Hai Van Pass is a great road trip with spectacular views

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ROUTE MAP:

The Hai Van Pass: Hoi An-Danang-Hue| 165km (or 135km)


View  in a LARGER MAP

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HISTORY & COMMENTARY:

Đèo Hải Vân – Ocean Cloud Pass – is a mountainous stretch of road in Central Vietnam. On days when vapour from the East Sea rises into the forests and clings to the mountaintops, the pass lives up to its poetic name. But, despite its romantic title, the Hai Van Pass has always been something of a frontier: a boundary of kingdoms and climate; often fought over, sometimes tragic but never losing its ability to inspire awe.

The Hai Van Pass, VietnamThe Hai Van Pass has a long been a physical barrier; now it is best known for its fabulous views

During the ‘American War’, the Hai Van Pass was known as the ‘Street Without Joy’. Back then, the pass connected the two war-scarred cities of Hue and Danang via the dangerous and hotly contested Highway 1. Thanks to a tunnel under the mountains, completed in 2005, the Hai Van Pass today is the ‘Street Without Traffic’. The majority of transport now takes the tunnel, which leaves the Hai Van Pass – one of the most scenic coastal roads in Vietnam – to two-wheeled vehicles and the occasional oil truck (both of which are not allowed through the tunnel). The spectacular Hai Van Pass is perfect for a relatively easy, safe and short motorbike trip between the popular tourist spots of Hoi An/Danang to the south and Hue to the north.

The Hai Van Pass, VietnamA tunnel under the mountain takes most the of the heavy traffic, leaving the Hai Van Pass virtually empty

The Hai Van Pass is a natural wall: a mountainous finger of land jutting into the East Sea. This is an east-west spur of the Truong Son (Annamite) Range that runs north to south along the western spine of Vietnam. For centuries this natural barrier represented the limit of one kingdom and the beginning of another. The Hindu Kingdom of Champa resided south of the Hai Van Pass, while the Confucian-Buddhist Kingdom of Dai Viet was to the north. The two kingdoms fought constantly to control land either side of the pass. The Cham pushed as far north as the Dai Viet capital of Thang Long (Hanoi) in 1371.* Partly due to the favourable climate and fertility of the land south of the Hai Van Pass, the Cham in this area were known as the ‘Coconut Palm Group’. The Hai Van Pass sheltered the Cham from strong, cold winds and storms that blew from the north. Known as ‘Chinese Winds’, these still ravage territory north of the pass each year during the ‘typhoon months’, which are usually around September and October.
*Historical information in this article is based solely on my reading of various sources and conversations with local people. I make no claims as an historian.

The Hai Van Pass, VietnamThe mountains of the Hai Van Pass formed the border between kingdoms; they’re still a climatic divide

The good climatic conditions south of the Hai Van Pass helped to build the Cham civilization, which lasted for more than a thousand years, from the 3rd century onwards. It was the lure of the land of the ‘Coconut Palm Cham’ that led to its eventual conquest. Dai Viet, to the north of the Hai Van Pass, was growing steadily thanks to liberation from Chinese rule in AD938 followed by two strong imperial dynasties, the Ly (1009-1225) and the Tran (1225-1400). Agricultural productivity and population were on the rise, but unpredictable weather and devastating flooding in the Red River Delta was a constant threat to stability. With China looming large over their northern borders, Dai Viet looked to the south for more land and a better climate for their growing population. After centuries of fighting, it was the Le Dynasty who finally defeated the Cham, in 1471, annexing the sunny territory south of the Hai Van Pass for Dai Viet. The ruins of the Cham temples at My Son, near Hoi An, can still be seen today.

Ruins from the Kingdom of Champa at My Son, near Hoi AnThe Hai Van Pass was the border between Dai Viet & Champa, whose ruins can be seen near Hoi An

The appeal of the land of the ‘Coconut Palm Cham’ is still obvious today. If travelling from north to south, heading out of Hue on a wet, grey February morning and driving up the Hai Van Pass in thick, moisture-laden cloud, when you arrive at the top and look down on the sun-filled Bay of Danang to the south, it’s easy to imagine how attractive these lands must have been to the Dai Viet from the north. Curling your way up the switchbacks and hairpin bends, the motorbike engine struggling to deal with the gradient, and then rolling down the other side, wondering if the brake pads will wear away before you reach the bottom, it’s also apparent how the pass could have separated two civilizations for so long.

The Bay of Danang, from the Hai Van Pass, VietnamLooking over tropical beaches and the Bay of Danang from the southern slopes of the Hai Van Pass

Whatever the weather, the Hai Van Pass is always a scenic route. As with other great views, the pass has often inspired wonder, sometimes in the most unlikely of contexts and least likely of people. When Paul Theroux was passing through Vietnam during his Great Railway Bazaar, in 1973, the Paris Peace Accords had only recently been signed by the United States, South and North Vietnam. Direct American military participation in Vietnam was officially over, but the war still had two more long years before the fall of Saigon. As most of the Trans-Indochinois Railway (now the Reunification Express) that linked Hanoi with Saigon had been blown up, Theroux was only able to travel on short sections of the line that were deemed safe. Fortunately for him one of these safe sections was between Hue and Danang.

Danang City, seen from the Hai Van Pass, VietnamDanang, seen from the Hai Van Pass: a ‘poisoned city’ when Theroux came in ’73; now it’s a boomtown

At that time, Hue was a ruin. Having been pounded for years, not least during the Tet Offensive in 1968, the city was all mud and rubble. Danang, formerly a massive American military base, was, according to Theroux, ‘a poisoned city’. But the landscape between these two wounded cities, including the Hai Van Pass which the railway snakes around just below the road, was still majestic. Perhaps because of the juxtaposition between the ugly urban destruction in Hue and the rural peace and beauty around the Hai Van Pass, Theroux, having travelled across Europe, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent by train, was amazed by what he saw from his compartment on the Trans-Indochinois:

Of all the places the railway had taken me since London, this was the loveliest.

Beyond the leaping jade plates of the sea was an overhang of cliffs and the sight of a valley so large it contained sun, smoke, rain and cloud – all at once.

I had been unprepared for this beauty; it surprised and humbled me.

Who has mentioned the simple fact that the heights of Vietnam are places of unimaginable grandeur?

Lang Co Beach, seen from the Hai Van Pass, VietnamFor Paul Theroux, the train ride over the Hai Van Pass was the most scenic of his ‘Great Railway Bazaar’

35 years later, Jeremy Clarkson, former presenter of the popular BBC car show, Top Gear, had a similar reaction to the landscape around the Hai Van Pass. Famously sarcastic and not one to be easily moved – except by a good car – Clarkson and his co-presenters couldn’t help but be awed by the green mountains rolling down in pleats and folds toward the East Sea. On this strip of tarmac, that he proclaimed ‘one of the best ocean roads in the world’, Clarkson began to enjoy motorbiking. Indeed, the Top Gear Vietnam Special must surely have inspired thousands of travellers to follow in their tyre-tracks, because nowadays hawkers at the top of the pass will often ask, “Are you here because of Top Gear?!”

VIDEO: Top Gear Vietnam Special (skip to 3:15 for the Hai Van Pass scene):


Like other borders and frontiers, the Hai Van Pass has seen its fair share of blood and battles. At the top of the pass, by the brick gate built by Emperor Minh Mang in the 19th century, are gun towers that were used by French, South Vietnamese and American lookouts respectively, during the long wars from 1946-75. More recent reminders of tragedy on the pass are the small shrines lining the road that mark the sites of fatal accidents. (Note: most of these date from before the tunnel was built, when the pass was far more dangerous than it is today). As with many famous battle fields and scenic roads in Vietnam, tragedy contrasts sharply with the natural beauty of the surrounds.

An old gun tower at the top of the Hai Van Pass, VietnamAn old gun tower stands at the top of the Hai Van Pass, a reminder of its historical strategic importance

As for me, I’ve always thought of the Hai Van Pass as a point of transition: both a boundary and a gate. When riding from south to north, the pass is the point at which I feel I’ve entered more unfamiliar territory. The clouds usually close-in and fierce rain pinches the skin on my face. With this comes a sense of adventure. Being from the south in both my native and adopted countries (London in Britain, Saigon in Vietnam), I’ve long associated travelling north with going into higher, wilder landscape and colder climes. Likewise, when I travel from north to south, the Hai Van Pass is the point at which I feel I’ve arrived ‘home’ again, safe in the land of the ‘Coconut Palm Cham’ and the warmth of the tropical climate I’ve become accustomed to.

The Hai Van Pass, VietnamOftentimes, weather is warm & sunny on the south side of the Hai Van Pass, but cool & wet on the north

Located on the 16th parallel, just one south of the infamous 17th parallel that once divided the nation politically, the Hai Van Pass is a permanent natural boundary that will always divide the nation climatically, between tropical and sub-tropical. The ‘Ocean Cloud’ clings to the pass, but this 30km stretch of road is beautiful in any weather, and each time I ride it, in either direction, there’s always the sense of having crossed a barrier.

The Hai Van Pass is a climatic divide between tropical and sub-tropical, VietnamThe great divide: the Hai Van Pass crawls over this mountain as it meets the sea: a great physical barrier

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DIRECTIONS:

I’ve written these directions going south to north, starting in Hoi An, going via Danang, and ending in Hue. You can, of course, ride this route in the opposite direction.

Leave Hoi An’s old town in the morning – the earlier the better if you want to make it all the way to Hue in one day. Take the coast road to Danang, stretching all the way from Cua Dai Beach, past An Bang Beach, and the Marble Mountains, to Danang’s My Khe Beach, once known as China Beach. If you want to explore the Son Tra Peninsular side route, continue along the coast and onto the winding roads crisscrossing the headland (see the red line on my map). If not, turn west onto the famous Dragon Bridge over the Han River and into Danang city. Cruise along the river bank before turning onto Nguyen Tat Thanh Street which skirts the ocean along Nam O Beach. At the end of the beach road, turn onto the broad lanes of Highway 1 for a brief stretch before the road starts to climb into foliage: this is the start of the Hai Van Pass.

Cầu Rồng (Dragon Bridge), Danang City, VietnamAfter the coast road from Hoi An, take the Dragon Bridge into Danang, and continue to the Hai Van Pass

Curling around the mountainside, the pass opens up spectacular views across Danang Bay. At the top of the pass, a collection of overpriced food and drink shacks vie for your custom. The ancient gate and old gun towers are located across the road, offering good viewing points and short, pleasant walks. On either side of the top of the pass, the small paved lanes and dirt tracks leading down the slopes towards the sea, are possible side routes (see the red lines on my map), especially if you have a bike that can cope with muddy conditions. However, be aware that you may be stopped from continuing down these side routes due to military presence in the area.

The Hai Van Pass, VietnamLooking down over the Hai Van Pass as it curls down the other side towards Lang Co Beach

Snaking down the other side of the pass, the views get even better: looking over the winding tarmac as it drops towards the long, empty beach of Lang Co. Just after one of the last hairpin bends of the pass, a much-photographed scene opens up over Lang Co bay and fishing village, with a long bridge over the water (the exit of the Hai Van Tunnel) and the lush, misty mountains behind. This might as well be known as the ‘Top Gear Viewing Point‘, as it was here that the final scene on the Hai Van Pass from the Vietnam Special episode was filmed, with the three co-presenters all gazing at the sunset, enraptured by the beauty of Vietnam’s landscape.

The 'Top Gear Viewing Point' on the Hai Van Pass, VietnamLooking over Lang Co bay from the ‘Top Gear Viewing Point’ near the bottom of the Hai Van Pass

In Lang Co, where you can stop at one of the many seafood restaurants (nhà hàng hải sẳn in Vietnamese), it’s necessary to join Highway 1 briefly, before turning off on the Chan May coast road. (If you want to continue to Hue on the shorter route using Highway 1 follow the brown line on my map. Or if you want to explore the side routes to Elephant Spring and Bach Ma National Park, see the red lines on my map).

The Chan May back-road, Hue Province, VietnamTurn off Highway 1 at Lang Co for the pleasant & quiet Chan May road, past beaches, trees & fields

The Chan May road stays close to the coast, where there are several high-end resorts and backpacker campgrounds (see Accommodation). Veering off the Chan May route, a good paved roads leads over a bridge and along a back-route before connecting with Highway 1 again at the Phuoc Tuong Pass. On the other side of this pass (now empty thanks to a new tunnel), weave your way across Highway 1 to join road QL49B, heading north along the shores of the Cau Hai Lagoon. (Alternatively, stay on Highway 1 all the way to Hue: see the brown line on my map).

A field on buffalo on the road between Lang Co and Chan May, VietnamPastoral scenery on the road between Chan May & Thuan An, a much better alternative to Highway 1

QL49B crosses a bridge at the mouth of the lagoon and turns west along a long peninsular to Thuan An. This road has been mostly upgraded, but some patches are still in the process of reconstruction. The route is notable for the thousands of elaborately carved family tombs, which are scattered across the sandy banks between the road and the sea. At Thuan An village, turn south over a bridge and follow the Pho Loi River into Hue. (For ideas about how to continue this road trip from Hue, see Related Guides.)

Decorative tombs & temples on Road QL49B, near Hue, VietnamElaborate tombs & temples line Road QL49B as it crosses the Thuan An Peninsular before reaching Hue

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ACCOMMODATION:

Although there’s no accommodation on the Hai Van Pass itself, there are a handful of good and interesting places to stay along the coastal route, as well as an enormous array of hotels and resorts for all budgets at either end of the route: in Hoi An, Danang, and Hue. 

*Please support Vietnam Coracle: You can support the work I do by booking your hotels via the Agoda links & search boxes on my site, like the ones on this page. If you make a booking, I receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you). Any money I make goes straight back into this site. Thank you.

Hoi An:

Hoi An has possibly the best-value and range of hotels in all Vietnam. The sheer volume of hotels, and the continuing popularity of Hoi An as a travel destination, drives prices down and quality up. For budget accommodation check out the cheap but clean and classy rooms at Kiman Hotel, and Hoi An Backpackers Hostel. Two excellent-value mid-range places to stay are Lasenta Boutique and Hoi An Waterway. For luxury it’s hard to beat the Anantara or Victoria Beach Resort. Besides these recommendations there are hundreds more to choose from, which you can browse here.

Lasenta Boutique Hotel is one of many excellent-value accommodations in & around Hoi An

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Danang:

Funtastic Beach Hostel is a great budget option by the sea, just 5 minutes from Danang city. Stay Hotel offers good mid-range value, with neat rooms, good views and a pool. The Novotel Danang is very swish and modern with incredible views over the city and sea. Or to really splash out, head to the Intercontinental Sun Peninsular Resort on the Son Tra headland, which is another world of luxury.

Danang city skyline, VietnamDanang’s recent boom has led to many new accommodations, like Funtastic Beach, Stay Hotel & the Novotel

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Hue:

Hue Backpacker Hostel is as cheap as they come, and offers all the familiar characteristics of a budget, dorm-based hostel. Villa Hue is fabulous mid-range accommodation with lots of style and charm. The Pilgrimage, just outside the city, is also excellent. The most famous high-end option is the colonial-era La Residence, occupying a prime location by the riverside.

Villa Hue Hotel, Hue, VietnamVilla Hue is a wonderful hotel in the former imperial capital, offering great value & lots of atmosphere

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On the Route:

In many of the small towns along the route, you’ll find nhà nghỉ (local guesthouses), which offer cheap rooms for a night on the road, particularly around Lang Co and Chan May Beach. Budget travellers can spend a night under canvas at Canh Duong Beach Camping or Tan Canh Guesthouse, for example, both on Chan May Bay. But there are also some luxury accommodations along the coastal route which you can stop at for a night or two to break the journey. After Lang Co there are several ultra luxurious resorts spread along the coast, including the Bayan Tree and Angsana. Further down the road, near Phu Loc village, Verdana Lagoon Resort is very good for a night of affordable luxury in a very atmospheric position.

Camping, Chan May Beach, Lang Co, VietnamThere are several places to stay on the road between Hoi An, Danang & Hue, including beach camping

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RELATED POSTS:

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Selected Resources for Travellers & Expats:  What's this?

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71 Responses to The Hai Van Pass: Motorbike Guide

  1. Carlos Ferreira Junior says:

    Hello Tom, great article and infos.

    One question, I’m going to Vietnam in January 18 until february 4. I never ride a motorbike but want to try to do Hue Hoi An. Do you thing I can do it? And the weather will help to do this trip in 1 day maybe 2?

    Thank you.
    Carlos

    • Hi Carlos,

      The weather can be quite wet and cloudy at that time of year in that region, especially around Hue. But you can ride between Danang/Hoi An and Hue in one day, and then back from Hue to Danang/Hoi An the next day. However, you should start in the morning to give yourself enough time.

      If you’ve never ridden a motorbike then you need to be very careful riding on Vietnam’s roads. You can contact Style Motorbikes, or Rent a Bike, or Tigit, or Dragon Bikes in Danang to rent a motorbike and they can give you some lessons before you go on your road trip. I think Style Motorbikes also offer one-way rentals, so you wouldn’t have to ride back again.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  2. Callum says:

    Hello, this route looks great! I have done the pass a couple of times but have always been directed through the laborious long highway roads, so I’m please I discovered this new route 🙂 However, when I open the ‘larger map’ I can see the route in google maps, but I can’t find an options to navigate with directions. My plan was to plug my headphones in and let google do the talking. If I am doing something wrong can you let me know how to access this feature.

    I’d rather not have my phone out constantly making sure that I am following the right path. I have some friends coming in less than a week and if you can let me know I’d greatly appreciate it!

    On a side note, an

    • Hi Callum,

      You can’t get Google navigation for this route – but it’s not difficult to follow this route on the map.

      If you need to have your GPS location on the route, you can export the map to KML and then upload that file to your maps.me app, then you will have the route on your phone with you current GPS location marked on it, so it’s easy to follow.

      In general in Vietnam, Google navigation only works for the routes that Google takes you down, which are most often not the most scenic routes to ride.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  3. BG says:

    Hey Tom,

    I’ve been looking for information for awhile now on renting/riding a bike from Hoi An to Hue, and am so happy to have found this article. It’s terrific information – thanks! I hope I didn’t overlook this, but wanted to ask what kind of scooter or bike is typically rented for this kind of ride? (Like 50cc, 125, etc.?) Is a basic automatic scooter enough to get up and down the Pass, or will I need something a little more powerful? I have a few months before my trip and I’d like to take some practice rides around home as much as I can to get used to driving a bike, but was curious about what kind I’ll likely be renting there.

    Thanks again – I’m bookmarking your site now for future reference!

    • Hi BG,

      Yes, a standard automatic or semi-auto (usually around 125cc) is fine for this route. You can rent them from most places in Hoi An, Danang and Hue.

      I hope you enjoy the ride,

      Tom

  4. Redelvis says:

    Rode from Hoi An to a little ways beyond Lang Co. perfect weather and the scenery was excellent! I’d consider the ride around the Son Tra Peninsula as a must do part of the route. Also, the side trip from the top of the pass was a little intense for a while on a scooter. I have a lot of riding experience so I had no problems, but your average rider would probably not enjoy it. It was awesome though!

    Thank you so much for maintaining this blog. It is a gem!

  5. Philip says:

    Hi there,

    Lovely post and a very informative one at that. I’m planning a trip to Hoi An & Da Nang and the Hai Van Pass is definitely one that I don’t want to miss. However, although we know how to ride a motorcycle, we do not have any sort of motorcycle license. How strict are the laws in VN and will we likely get in trouble for renting a motorcycle just to travel around the Hai Van Pass from and back to Da Nang? Or would your advice be to stick to a driver and have someone drive us around (although the experience will be a whole lot different from riding a bike)?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Philip,

      In general, you should be fine riding the Hai Van Pass without a local license: Although technically foreign riders are supposed to have a local license, in reality most don’t. However, check what the current situation is regarding licenses by contacting any of the reputable motorbike rental companies that I mention on this page – they should be able to help.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  6. San says:

    This route is fantastic, we followed it word for word from Hoi an up to hue and it worked perfectly.

    Thanks so much for your effort in creating this.

    For felllow riders, one option is to skip the last part where you go the long way round the lake as it’s mucj longer and quite samey. You can go straight up the highway to Hue in under an hour instead of two. (If you’re tired or pressed for time)

  7. Jess says:

    Hi Tom,

    We are currently in Hoi An and have one full day left. Do you think it is possible to do Hoi An to the end of the Hai Van pass and back in a day comfortably with stops? Any help would be great!

    Thanks!

    • Jess says:

      Hi Tom, sorry, after reading all the posts I missed the one below which had my answer! haha! thanks!

    • Hi Jess,

      Yes, you can ride from Hoi An to Lang Co (the end of the Hai Van Pass) and back in one day, but try to leave early to give yourself plenty of time to do it: the total distance is about 140km. Also, be careful on the roads tomorrow: because of Tet lots of people will be driving the Hai Van Pass and the celebratory mood sometimes leads to lots of careless driving.

      I hope you enjoy it,

      Tom

  8. Anja Robinson says:

    Hello!
    Great article! Thanks for the info! I’m planning on taking a motorbike along the route you suggested but I only have one day and I have to start and finish in Hoi An. Is it still worth it to go up to the pass and then return to the city? Thanks in advance for your help!
    Anja

    • Hi Anja,

      Yes, you can ride from Hoi An up to the top of the pass (or all the way to the other side of the pass at Lang Co) and then turn around and come back to Hoi An in one day. It’s worth it if the weather is good.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  9. Ricardo Rodriguez says:

    Hi,
    I am planning to ride from Hue To Da Nang, the thing is that at 8PM i need to be in Da Nang Airport.

    My question is if from Hue i can rent a motorbike and someone leave my backpack in the airport and also if i can leave the motorbike in the airport.

  10. László Pencz says:

    Hello Tom,

    Do you think it is feasible to take the journey through the Hai Van Pass from Hoi An to Hue within one day?

    Thank you for the help,

    Best regards

    Laszlo

    PS.:We had just finished the Northern Extreme Loop based on your informations, it was amazing experience.Your advices were great.

    • Hi Laszlo,

      Yes, it is possible to ride from Hoi An to Hue via the Hai Van Pass in one day, but make sure you leave in the morning so that you have plenty of time to complete it.

      I hope you enjoy the ride,

      Tom

  11. Huracars says:

    I spend 2 hours to read your post. You give us many ideas to improve our services.
    Great article, Tom.

  12. Sarah says:

    Hi Tom,

    thank you for this great post. We are thinking of driving the Hai Van Pass but are not sure between which cities, due to time constraints we’ll probably have to choose. Which part is the most worthwile: Da Nang to Hue or Da Nang to Hoi An? I think the Pass itself is located between Da Nang and Hué only, is that correct?

    Thank you in advance for your advice!

    • Hi Sarah,

      Yes, that’s right: the Hai Van Pass itself is just north of Danang, on the way to Hue. So that is the section you should ride if you have limited time.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  13. David says:

    Hey Tom

    Great post man.
    Can you please help me recommending a motorcycle company which could rent us an automatic bike in Hue Airport to head down straight to Hoi An. We intent to take a bike as soon as we leave the airport on the 23rd may morning and head to hoi an to arrive the same day. It would be great if as you say they could also deliver our bags to our Hoi An hotel.
    Do you have any idea how much it would cost?

    Thanks in advance for your help

    • Hi David,

      Try contacting Rent a Bike Vietnam and Tigit Motorbikes, they should be able to help. There are links to both of them in the right sidebar and bottom of all my pages. You can mention Vietnam Coracle if you like, they know me.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  14. Fatima says:

    Hi Tom
    Really enjoying your blog – it’s very useful in planning my first trip to Vietnam.
    I’d like to do a day trip from Hoi An and go along the Hai Van Pass. Is this possible by car? I intend to hire a car and driver. Am mindful that cars go through the tunnel – are they not allowed on the pass itself? Would be very grateful for your input!

    Thanks,
    Fatima

  15. Valentin says:

    Hi Tom!

    It was a pleasure to read your blog. A friend of mine and I are going to stay in Hoi An from 20.11-24.11. We want to spend two whole days on motorbiking. It would be so great if you could recommend us something that could be combined with the pass.

    One more thing. We are both experienced bikers and want to rent a bike >150cc. Again, could you recommend something, either in Danang or Hoi An?

    Best regards and thank you, Valentin

    • Hi Valentin,

      For rental, try Rent a Bike Vietnam and Tigit Motorbikes, they both have offices in Danang and they are both good. You will find a link to both of them in the right sidebar and bottom of this page. You can mention Vietnam Coracle if you like, they know me.

      You could easily spend 2 days riding the Hai Van Pass from Hoi An to Hue and back again, or stop overnight by the beach near Lang Co or go up to Bach Ma National Park. Or you could extend your route to include the Golden Loop.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  16. Tuan says:

    Hi Mr Tom, i read your website many time. Its very signification for me and everybody. Can i have the pictures in this post (‘CHINESE WINDS’ BRING BAD WEATHER NORTH OF THE PASS), i ride from Hue to Da Nang many time. The view so amazing. I like riding motorbike, too. Thank in advance !!!

  17. the most guide that I’ve read.
    Did you ride from hue to Hoi An via 14B via A Luoi – Prao – My Son – Hoi An, Tom?

  18. maxime peters says:

    Heyy Tom,

    I am in Dalat right now and I was wondering what route you would recommend to go to Hoi An?
    I don’t want to take too many days and I am wondering what would be the best places to stay. I feel like Nha Trang is to close but I don’t know how to divide the road..

    Thank you in advance 🙂

    • Hi Maxime,

      The road to Nha Trang is very beautiful so it usually takes a few hours to get there. If you want to push on further from Nha Trang, you could continue up to Hon Gom Sandbar, Dai Lanh Beach or Vung Ro Bay (please read any comments at the bottom of these guides, because they may contain useful updates). After that, Quy Nhon and the beaches to the south and north of it is great. Quy Nhon City is a good place to spend the night or you can stay at Life’s a Beach or Haven which are both just south of the city.

      You can ride from Quy Nhon to Hoi An in a day if you like on Highway 1. Or you can take it slower by taking the much more scenic coastal back-roads instead. Have a look at the relevant section of my Beach Bum route map to see the roads I’m referring to.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  19. Elizabeth says:

    I’m in Hoi An now, want to go via Hai Van pass to Hue but can’t drive a motorcycle dammit, OK with riding pillion. Suffer from major bikerider envy! O the freedom! Top Gear video made it worse. Any suggestions on good way to get to Hue, solo traveller, 66 y.o. woman? By the way your advice on Saigon food was very helpful…and in Hoi An saw coracles in action today first time. Coracle, Oracle, you’ve been my fave guide in Vietnam these past couple weeks. Thanks!

    • Hi Elizabeth,

      You could try contacting Hoi An Motorbike Adventures – they might have someone who you can ride pillion with over to Hue. Also, try to find the Easy Riders in Hoi An and just pay one of them to ride you over the pass to Hue.

      I hope you work it out,

      Tom

  20. Kellie says:

    Ahh, now I see you said this:
    “The journey between the Hoi An/Danang and Hue via the Hai Van Pass is 100-160km depending on which route you choose to take. Driving time is approximately 3-5 hours, but allow at least another 3 hours for soaking up the scenery, stopping for seafood along the coast, coffee at the top of the pass, and for any unforeseen circumstances, such as bad weather and flat tyres.”

    So maybe from Danang to Hue it will be around 130km and around 4 hours? And I see you don’t have a post on Hue! Maybe it’s not that exciting?

    • Hi Kellie,

      Yes, the scenic route between Danang and Hue would probably take you around 4 hours. But, really, it depends entirely on you: how good the weather is, how many stops you make for food and photos etc.

      And yes, Hue is definitely worth at least a night. Great local food, lots of history, a good riverfront location, and friendly people.

      Enjoy!

      Tom

  21. Kellie says:

    Hey Tom!

    I asked you for advice about Mu Cang Chai and you’re always so spot on, so I thought I’d check your blog for tips about this drive- and again you have a lot of great info!

    Maybe I need to read through the post more slowly again since all the names of places are becoming a blur for me, lol– but you could tell me if you think that it’s a good day plan to leave early from Danang and go to Hue and check out Hue for a bit and then drive back to Danang, the same day…? Roughly how many hours drive each way you think it takes?

    And then do you think it’s worth it to drive to Hoi An too, when we go there another day, or if we do the big drive to Hue is that enough and should we just taxi to Hoi An?

    Love your advice, Thank you!!

    • Hi Kellie,

      I would definitely spend a night in Hue after riding there from Danang. You could do it there and back in a day if you really wanted to – but it would be a lot of driving and you would have to take the shorter route which is all on Highway 1, which would be a shame.

      If you do take the shorter route (all on Highway 1) then it would take about 3 hours in one direction). Personally, I would take the longer route (along the Thuan An Peninsular) and just spend a night in Hue before heading back to Danang.

      And, yes, the short ride from Danang to Hoi An is nice, easy and worth staying on the bikes for.

      Please bear in mind that this guide to the Hai Van Pass is due an update – so if you have anything to add after your journey please do let me know.

      Also, if you’re in that area and keen on motorbiking for a few days, check out my Golden Loop guide too.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

      • Kellie says:

        Tom~ thanks so much, really! We are planning our trip there right now~~ but I’ll also update here after we do it 🙂

        Now, our idea is to leave from our spot here in Danang early tomorrow morning to drive the long way to Hue (what was your guess for how many hours the longer route along the Thuan An Peninsular takes, sorry?! I know you said 3 hours for the Highway 1 route, but of course we want the view route!). And then we are thinking to check out Hue for a bit during the day (is this actually an interesting place to see and stay for a night in your book btw?), and then we will either drive back to Danang the following morning- or, if we are feeling like 1 drive was enough, we may put our motorbikes on the train and take the train back to Danang! I saw that you suggested the train as an option, so I called and found out that only the 6:40am train will allow passengers to tow bikes along, and you need to be there 45 mins early to fill out the paper to get your bike on. Maybe that info will help someone else 🙂 Will let you know how it goes!

        Cheers~~ Kellie

        • Kellie says:

          Hey~ Just wanted to say that the drive was great! Loved the Hai Van Pass part of the drive 🙂 so glad I got the idea to do that from you! It was cool to drive past Lang Co as well. I kind of wish that we would have had more time in the day to stop and swim in the spots you mentioned, and take our drive more slowly– but we had to get to Hue, eat and get ready to get right back out to see some of the cultural spots there- and we hardly had time for that since places closed at 5:30! Guess we should have got an earlier start! We even had to take the Highway 1 route and it still took us at least 3-ish hours with a couple stops for photos/water. Even though we live and drive in HCMC, we’re not really used to longer drives sitting on the motorbike- so this trip was a good amount for us for 1 day. The Highway wasn’t too filled with cars as I was worried it would be either. But driving back to Danang in the same day would have been a little ridiculous haha. We were really happy with our decision to put the bikes on the train in the morning and ride back comfortably on the sleeper beds from Hue to Danang.
          Thanks again for your advice~~ Talk to you on the next trip 😉

  22. Gene says:

    @[email protected]
    great website. ive been reading for a year now.
    i did a 10-day northern loop last year. loved the karst formations, especially ma pi leng.

    i really want to do a coastal trip.
    -which area do you recommend for about 7 days please? less traffic, great views of the sea and hills/mountains, + some beaches.
    could it be hai van Pass?
    thanks!

  23. Marcela says:

    Awesome. Very useful post. I’m planning to ride it in a week or so and I couldn’t find much “data point” information about it. Thanks for the time to described it with details. Respect.

    All the best!

  24. David says:

    Great post, beautiful pictures!
    I did it last month, and now I want to recommend it to my friends but am too lazy to write about it and here I found your post!
    I appreciate you taking time detailing the motorbike route in Google maps, thank you!

    One more thing: If you time it right, on the way back to Da Nang, passing Hai Van Pass during sunset, is an amazing experience.
    I also found that from one of those cafes where you can park your bike, you can descend and hike to the beach beneath Hai Van Pass. Once getting there you are alone, in a different, (almost) isolated world…

    • Thanks, David.
      Hiking to the beach sounds great. I’d like to try that next time I’m riding over the Hai Van Pass 🙂
      Tom

      • Jason says:

        The hike down to the beach is grueling but incredibly rewarding. About an hour straight down (and then back up) the mountain. Just before the shops at the top of the pass (if coming from Hue) there is a road that branches off. Follow that down until you see a building on your right, and just past that is a dirt path on your left that takes you down to the beach. Bring a snorkel, there’s lots of coral, anenome, and tropical fish just offshore.

  25. Sharon says:

    Great post! We’re driving from hoi an to hue but have no time for a night in the places you recommend which is a shame. Other than at the gate, are there any other places that you’d reccomend as good places to stop and take in the views?

    • Hi Sharon,

      The are plenty of great viewing points on the Hai Van Pass – you’ll know them when you see them 🙂 Fortunately, traffic is light on the pass so stopping by the side of the road to take in the views is not a problem. A particularly good viewing point is just before you drop down to the bridge on the north side of the pass. This is the spot where the Top Gear presenters stopped and stood in awe (as you’ll see in the video clip in this guide).

      I hope you enjoy the ride – everyone does 🙂

      Tom

  26. Jessica says:

    This blog is fantastic!! My boyfriend and I plan to ride the Hai Van Pass but are trying to figure out the best way to plan as we fly into Danang but want to ultimately end up in Hoi An. Is it difficult renting motorbikes for one-way trips (Danang to Hue)? Thank you!

    • Hi Jessica,

      I think you should be able to do that, yes. Although I don’t know a specific rental company in that area, try contacting Flamingo Travel as they might be able to assist you or a least point you in the direction of another rental agency.

      Failing that, the distance between Danang and Hue is not too far, and it’s a great ride, so you might want to ride in both directions anyway – it’s a fabulous trip, especially taking the Thuan An back-road so that you don’t have to be on Highway 1 too much.

      Have a great trip,

      Tom

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  31. john obrien says:

    as always great photos and detailed narrative.thank you.

  32. Chau Le says:

    Thanks to you, I love my country, my home town more and more. I am such a fool not to realize how wonderful my country is. Thanks again.

  33. Hi there, You’ve done a great job. I’ll definitely digg it and for my part suggest to my friends. I’m sure they will be benefited from this site.

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