As I mentioned previously, when researching Ha Long Bay Sam and I found that people recommend going instead to Lan Ha Bay, an area south of Ha Long proper with the same magnificent limestone karsts. Pretty much any guesthouse on Cat Ba Island can book you kayak trip into the bay. We ended up going with a company called Asia Outdoors, which was slightly more expensive than some other options but had glowing TripAdvisor reviews.
One of the biggest tourist attractions in northern Vietnam is Ha Long Bay, an area off the coast filled with thousands of towering limestone karsts. Tourists flock there in droves to spend a couple of nights on junk boats. While the bay is supposed to be beautiful, the experience of visiting is a mixed bag. It’s extremely crowded, and decent tours get expensive fast. In addition, it’s risky booking a tour in advance because of how unpredictable the weather is (it’s often rainy, or at least too foggy to really appreciate the karsts).
Sam and I knew there had to be a better way to see the area. After a little searching, we figured out that you can travel independently to Cat Ba, an island near the bay. From there it’s easy to book day trips into Lan Ha Bay, the less touristy (but just as majestic) southern portion of the bay.