Vung Ro Bay

Introduction | Vung Ro Bay | Map

First published September 2015 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle

Calm, clear waters, rocky escarpments, coves, hidden beaches and forested hills are what characterize Vung Ro Bay, 100km north of Nha Trang. Ever since I first glimpsed this gorgeous natural harbour – from the seat of my bicycle, high above the bay, on the precarious, meandering switchbacks of the Ca Pass – I’ve always thought of it as one of the loveliest stretches of coast in Vietnam. Over the years, I’ve visited many times; exploring the floating fishing village, climbing the steps to the historic French-built lighthouse, driving the deserted coast road, and swimming at Bai Mon, one of my Top 5 Beaches in Vietnam. Despite its natural beauty and ease of access, travellers rarely make it here, and there’s no tourist development whatsoever. But, that’s about to change, in dramatic fashion, with the announcement of two multi-billion dollar projects for the area. If you want to see Vung Ro Bay, 2015 is probably the last chance you’ll get.

Images of Vung Ro Bay:

Floating homes in Vũng Rô Bay

Beautiful Vũng Rô Bay

Perfection: Bãi Môn Beach

Driving the coast road to Vũng Rô Bay

Fishing boats & fish farms in Vũng Rô Bay

Bãi Môn Bay

View to Vietnam’s most easterly point

View from the French lighthouse

Spectacular road to Vũng Rô Bay

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VUNG RO BAY

Vũng Rô Bay seen from the Cả PassVung Ro Bay is formed by a tongue of land that spreads southwest and shelters the main shoreline from the winds and weather coming off the East (South China) Sea. The large main bay is dotted with hundreds of floating homes, fish farms and wooden fishing boats. A dramatic backdrop is created by rugged, forested mountains that culminate in a free-standing slab of stone on the highest peak, known as Núi Đá Bia, which means ‘Tombstone Mount’. North of the main bay there’s a perfect V-shaped inlet, filled with golden sand, called Bai Mon Beach, which is great for swimming. From the beach there’s a long, steep staircase up to a lighthouse, originally built by the colonial French in 1890. Climb to the top of this lighthouse on rickety spiral stairs for superb panoramic views of the entire bay.

Although there’s no accommodation at Vung Ro Bay for now, it’s only a short drive (by taxi, motorbike taxi or rented motorbike) from Đại Lãnh Beach to the south, or Tuy Hòa City to the north. The latter has regular train, plane and bus connections to all major Vietnamese cities, and the former can be easily reached by bus or rented motorbike from Nha Trang (read this for more about Đại Lãnh Beach and how to get there from Nha Trang). Indeed, part of the fun of visiting Vung Ro Bay is the drive there: approaching from the north or south on Highway 1, via the spectacular Ca Pass. One of the most dramatic, scenic stretches of Vietnam’s major national highway, the Ca Pass cuts along a mountainside, offering tremendous views down over Vung Ro Bay. If coming from Tuy Hòa, the road to the bay is clearly signposted to the left at the top of the Ca Pass, but if coming from Đại Lãnh it’s not: just look out for a right turning once you reach the summit of the pass. There’s also a scenic and quiet back road to Vung Ro Bay from Tuy Hòa, the last few kilometres of which run alongside the ocean with beautiful views over Bai Mon Beach.

Bãi Môn Beach seen from the coast road

Until recently, Vung Ro Bay was famous for a military incident rather than its natural beauty. In February 1965, a North Vietnamese vessel was found to be smuggling war supplies into Vung Ro Bay in order to aid the North’s campaign to ‘liberate’ the American-backed South Vietnam. On discovering this, the latter sent in ships, planes and a submarine to sink the North Vietnamese boat and capture the smuggled goods, which included thousands of arms and a million rounds of ammunition. The North Vietnamese lost that battle but they eventually won the war, and today there’s a large monument near the water’s edge, erected to commemorate the Vietnamese soldiers who fought and died defending the supply ship and the bay.

Fishing boats & fish farms in Vũng Rô BayIt seems somewhat ironic then that, 50 years after the ‘Vung Ro Bay Incident’, as it came to be known, the bay is soon to be developed by one of the most powerful family empires in America, the Rockefellers. Earlier this year it was announced that a $2.5 billion resort, marina, tourism and residential project, funded by Rose Rock Group, a Rockefeller-backed investment firm, would be built on Vung Ro Bay. Oil is where it all started for the Rockefeller Family back in the 19th century, so it’s perhaps no surprise that the gigantic development in Vung Ro Bay is closely linked to a huge $4 billion oil refinery that’s also to be constructed here, taking advantage of the bay’s natural deep water harbour. Take a look at the promotional video below to see what’s in store for this area, or find out more about the development on their website: www.visitvungrobay.com

2014: last chance to see it like this!All this means that Vung Ro Bay will be a construction site for the next few years, and after the projects are completed they’ll be minimal public access to the beaches and bays in this area. Work was supposed to have started by the end of 2013, but when I last visited, in early 2015, there was no sign of it. However, if you want to see Vung Ro Bay before these massive projects take over, 2015 may well be your last chance. The cheap guesthouses on Đại Lãnh Beach make a good base for exploring Vung Ro Bay, or for more style and comfort try the CenDeluxe Hotel (www.cendeluxehotel.com) in Tuy Hòa City, which has a swimming pool and a ‘sky bar’ with panoramic views over rice fields and the foothills of the Annamite Mountains. Cheaper accommodation in Tuy Hòa can be found on Hùng Vương Street.

RELATED CONTENT: Đại Lãnh Beach | Hòn Gốm Sandbar | Top 5 Beaches in Vietnam

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MAP


View ‘Vung Ro Bay’ in a LARGER MAP

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

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23 Responses to Vung Ro Bay

  1. Pingback: Dragons’ Graveyard: Mui Dinh Coast Road » Vietnam Coracle

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  4. Connor says:

    This is an amazing place. Rode from Quy Nhon to Nha Trang and stopped here to relax during the afternoon heat. This is the most beautiful and interesting section of coastline I’ve seen in Vietnam so far. No sign of construction (or tourists) and the “deep natural harbor” is still home to a vibrant and very active fishing community.

  5. Ryan says:

    Hello,

    First of all thank you for the informative article and blog.
    Does anyone know if any construction has started in Vung-ro? I plan to visit this month

  6. Joseph Murphy says:

    I was in Vung Ro with the navy Miuws 11 in late 60’s. Stayed there with a Army unit. mostly truck drivers. There was a place for oil tanker ships to unload.

  7. Sara says:

    Hi tom me again:))) just staying in a secluded place close to Nha trang and thinking of visiting this place. Do you know if any building has begun yet? Looks gorgeous!! Happy new year by the way:)))

  8. Butch Cornell says:

    Back in 1968 I was stationed with Jim Ellis (Navy) and others at Vung Ro. Spent six months there and eventually was stationed at Qui Nhon. Looking into getting a passport and return to Vung Ro. Understand that there has been some development in Vung Ro. Is it still feasible for a return trip sometime in 2016 or has the build up limited out ability to enjoy the beaches after the passage of 47 years. Enjoy this site. Many thanks for the updates. Butch C.

    • Hi Butch,

      So far the development has been nothing but talk and planning. The one major development has been the improvement of roads to Vung Ro Bay – this, of course, makes it much easier to access, either from Quy Nhon/Tuy Hoa from the north or Nha Trang from the south. Unless major works start in the next few months then I don’t see any problem for you visiting this area and enjoying the beaches and bays in 2016. I certainly hope the development projects stall as long as possible so that everyone can enjoy this bay.

      Tom

  9. Juha-Matti Viitanen says:

    Thank you for the great site, it has helped me a lot. Is the Vung Ro Bay still accessible or has the building started yet? I am going to Vietnam little over a month and it would be nice to visit Vung Ro Bay.

    • Hi Juha,
      I was last at Vung Ro Bay 6 months ago and no building work had started. People have commented that perhaps it won’t go ahead at all. So I think it should be OK to visit when you are in Vietnam :-)
      Tom

  10. Martin says:

    I planned a trip there but because of heavy rains I had to abandon it and stayed in Dai Lanh for two nights. Then I took a train (the only one) to Tuy Hua and took aglipse of the VungRo Bay from the train window. It is a real beauty! I also noticed one thing – a row of tanker cars on the road and a small, but not exactly newly looking rafinery down there….

  11. Roy Hornsby says:

    Thanks for the article Tom. I’ve lived in Viet Nam now for over ten years and hadn’t heard of Vung Ro until today. Shows what a sheltered life I lead I guess :-)
    While it would be great to think that an unspoiled place like this could remain as it is, it’s obviously unrealistic. Hopefully they’ll delay beginning construction long enough for me to pay a visit.

    cheers

    • Hi Roy,
      Yes, I suppose it’s inevitable that places like Vung Ro will eventually be developed – we’re lucky to see some of them before that happens! I hope you find the time to visit soon.
      Tom

    • Jim Ellis says:

      My unit was stationed here.Inshore undersea Undersea Warfare Group (IUWG 1 Unit 5. We were overrun during TET 68. Lost 25. We left a marble memorial but understand it has been since destroyed.

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