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My Complete Guide to the Cham Islands in Hoi An

Today, I’m taking you to the Cham Islands (or Cu Lao Cham in Vietnamese), where I had the chance to spend a day.

Located 15 km by boat from Hoi An, they are accessible from the pier at Cua Dai Beach. So, what is there to do on the Cham Islands? I’ll explain everything in this article.

I recommend the Cham Islands, which are among the 25 must-do activities in Hoi An.

The Cham Islands Briefly

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The archipelago consists of eight small islands (Lao, Dai, Mo, La, Kho Me, Kho Con, Tai, and Ong), home to about 3000 Vietnamese. These inhabitants primarily subsist on fishing. The islands’ biosphere reserve was recognized by UNESCO on May 26, 2009.

These islands are mostly covered with forests and dominated by a mountain that peaks at 517 meters. They fall under the administration of Tan Hiep commune in Hoi An.

The Cham Island Marine Park encompasses these eight islands as well as 5,175 hectares of aquatic area, including 165 hectares of coral reefs and 500 hectares of seaweed and seagrass, habitats for hundreds of marine species.

Two fishing villages, Bai Lang and Bai Huong, are located on the only inhabited island.

Scuba diving is among the most popular tourist activities in the region.

Regulations for Visitors to the Cham Islands

The first regulation that all travelers must know before visiting Cham Island is the prohibition of bringing plastic bags. This measure was adopted after the region was declared a global biosphere reserve. Additionally, it is strictly forbidden to touch, pick, or break corals in order to preserve the marine ecosystem.

For safety reasons, wearing a life jacket onboard is mandatory. Smoking on the boats is also prohibited to avoid fire hazards. Regarding drone use, it is allowed as long as they are operated away from the island’s military bases to respect the security and confidentiality of these areas

How to Get to Cham Island from Hoi An

cham islands maps

By Speedboat

The fastest way to travel from Hoi An to Cham Island is by motorboat. All departures and returns are from the tourist port of Cua Dai, located 9 km east of downtown Hoi An. If your accommodation is at Cua Dai Beach, the distance to the port is considerably reduced.

The journey to Bai Lang port takes between 20 and 30 minutes, depending on weather conditions. Organized tours generally include round-trip transport by speedboat. Prices range from 300,000 to 400,000 VND for a same-day return, and between 400,000 and 500,000 VND for a delayed return. It is possible to book online through tour operators, hotels, or directly at Cua Dai port. During the high season (summer), it is strongly advised to book in advance.

iles cham hoi an bateau

By Ferry

The wooden ferry represents the traditional option for getting from Hoi An to Cham Island. Departures occur in the morning, between 7:00 and 7:30 from An Hoi Island, or between 8:00 and 8:30 from the tourist port of Cua Dai. An Hoi port is accessible via a small alley next to the Hoi An Silk Marina Resort & Spa, at 127 Nguyen Phuc Tan Street, and is easily accessible by any type of vehicle.

Fares are 150,000 VND from An Hoi and 100,000 VND from Cua Dai. If you wish to bring your bicycle or scooter to Cham Island, an additional fee of 50,000 VND will be charged. The journey takes about an hour. For the return trip, make sure to be at Bai Lang port between 11:30 and 12:00.

In addition to the ferry fare, visitors must pay an entrance fee to the island of 70,000 VND per person. Be sure to have enough cash to cover these expenses.

By Private Boat

cham island bateau

If you are looking for a private and customizable experience, you can rent a speedboat for about 5,000,000 VND for approximately five hours. The time and price are negotiable and must be discussed with the agent or captain.

Ask your hotel or a travel agent to reserve one if necessary. There is a good chance that you will need your own equipment for all the activities you wish to participate in. However, you may be able to include it as part of the transaction.

Accommodations on Cham Islands

The main accommodation options are guesthouses and homestays. This indicates that Cham Island has not been heavily commercialized for tourism, preserving its pristine beauty. Prices vary from about 50,000 to 100,000 VND per person, or 150,000 to 200,000 VND per double room.

I recommend these accommodations:

Tam Hien Homestay
Address: Bai Ong Beach, Cham Island
Contact: (+84) 120 618 3516

Bich Van’s Homestay
Address: Ong Beach (Bai Ong), Cham Island
Contact: (+84) 169 500 7779

Huynh Van Tri Homestay
Address: Lang Beach (Bai Lang), Cham Island
Contact: (+84) 974 994 189

Thu Trang’s Homestay
Address: Lang Beach (Bai Lang), Cham Island
Contact: (+84) 985 237 941

Lan’s Homestay
Address: Huong Beach (Bai Huong), Cham Island
Contact: (+84) 510 386 3822

Hiep’s Homestay
Address: Huong Beach (Bai Huong), Cham Island
Contact: (+84) 986 651 448

What to See on Cham Island?

Although the islands were not very touristy a few years ago, they have opened up primarily to Asian tourism.

If you’re adventurous, you can take a scooter tour around the main island (not all areas are accessible due to a military base dividing the island). The roads are not all in good condition, to say the least.

To rent a scooter on-site, simply ask one of the villagers you encounter on a scooter; it’s as simple as that. However, the rates are much higher than in Hoi An, expect to pay 200,000 VND, and you will only get a semi-automatic scooter for nearly impassable roads.

ile cham vietnam

If you are a trekking enthusiast, you can explore parts of the island that have breathtaking landscapes. Personally, I did a trek and went diving.

I loved wandering around this island and strolling through the narrow lanes of the small fishing town. It’s a place far from the hustle and bustle of Hoi An.

Don’t forget to pick up a map at the agencies on the main island. It will help you find your way around more easily.

1. Bai Ong Beach

cham island beach

Just a few minutes by boat or on foot from Bai Lang, Bai Ong Beach is the hub of activities on the Cham Island coastline. This beautiful stretch of fine sand extends for 500 meters and is bordered by clear, shallow waters. The beach is equipped for safe swimming and also offers a floating playground as well as various water sports.

For thrill-seekers, activities such as paragliding, jet skiing, banana boating, surfing, and stand-up paddleboarding are available, although they are not included in the price of the excursions. Prices for these activities vary between 800,000 and 1 million VND for 15 minutes of thrills in parasailing or flying over the waves. Lifeguards are always present to assist swimmers when needed.

Behind the beach, you will find folding beach chairs, hammocks in the shade of coconut trees, and rustic restaurants built from bamboo. Fresh water is available free of charge for those who wish to rinse off or shower after the sea.

2. Snorkeling

Many visitors choose snorkeling over scuba diving during their day trips to Cham Island, due to the simplicity of the skills required and the more affordable cost.

Snorkeling equipment is generally available on board the boat, but it is necessary to book in advance. If this has not been done, travelers must quickly communicate their needs to the guide so that everything can be optimally prepared.

Before diving to explore the splendid coral gardens of Cham Island, make sure you understand the price of renting the equipment.

3. Scuba Diving

Plongeurs aux îles Cham à Hoi An

No visitor wants to miss the scuba diving activity during their day trip to Cham Island. This activity is included in guided tours, but it is also easy to book for independent travelers. It is necessary to wear a life jacket, have swimming skills, and not have any cardiac or respiratory problems.

Typically, this activity ends before lunch and lasts between 30 and 60 minutes, depending on weather conditions. After putting on a swimsuit, the boat takes participants to authorized coral reef sites within the protected area of the Cu Lao Cham Marine Park. There, it’s just a matter of donning a mask and diving to discover a rich and colorful underwater world.

The waters around Cham Island host one of the most diverse marine ecosystems in Vietnam. To explore more sites (and of better quality), travelers can choose to pay an extra fee or book a specialized snorkeling tour. This second option is offered either for a day or over several days, thus providing a more thorough and enriching experience.

Cham Island Diving

Cham Island Diving Prices

1. Snorkeling day and lunch at Cham Island
Price = USD 55 (1,300,000 VND per person) / 2 snorkeling sessions

2. Discovery diving day and lunch at Cham Island for non-certified diver
Price = USD 80 (1,900,000 VND per person) / 1 dive + 1 snorkeling
After the first dive, depending on the availability of their instructor and the confidence of the divers underwater, if someone wishes to participate in the second dive, they must discuss it with the instructor on board and pay an additional 600,000 VND.

3. Leisure diving day and lunch at Cham Island for certified diver
Price = USD 92 (2,200,000 VND per person) / 2 dives

Included in the price:

  • Transfers from the hotel departing from Hoi An (extra charge for departure from Da Nang).
  • Boat transfers.
  • Full snorkeling or diving equipment.
  • Drinking water, tea, coffee, and snacks on board. Drinking water is also provided during meals.
  • Vietnamese lunch on the beach (seafood, meat, or vegetarian option).
  • All fees related to the island: Marine Protected Area (MPA) fees, Bai Chong fees, and Cham Island fees.
  • Multilingual tour guides and PADI diving instructors speaking Vietnamese, English, French, Spanish, and Italian.
  • Insurance.

Blue Coral Diving
Address: 33 Tran Hung Dao – Hoi An
Tel & WhatsApp: +84 (0) 235 627 9297

Tiger Fish Divers
Address: 135 Tran Quang Khai Street, Hoi An City
Tel & WhatsApp: +84 905 113 119

4. Sea Trekking

Touristes marchant sous l'eau aux îles Cham à Hoi An

Sea Trek Vietnam is currently the only company offering underwater walking tours on Cham Island. Globally recognized, this organization welcomes both non-swimmers and non-divers aged 8 to 80 years. Their shortest excursion lasts 7 hours and 30 minutes, including transfers to and from the hotel. Participants are asked to meet in the hotel lobby between 7:30 and 8:00 AM, where they will meet their guide and then be transported to Cua Dai port.

A traditional wooden boat is used for the journey to Cham Island, taking about an hour to reach the underwater walking area. The underwater walking experience is the highlight of the day. After the walk, participants have the opportunity to swim and snorkel before heading to a quiet beach for a seafood lunch.

The cost of this adventure is 1,700,000 VND per person (approximately 68 EUR), including everything mentioned in the itinerary, travel insurance, and the use of a GoPro to capture these unique underwater moments. A discounted rate is offered for children under 12 years of age. A video of the trip is also available for purchase for 300,000 VND. For those staying in Da Nang, a bus service is available from 7 AM.

Sea Trek Vietnam

5. Hai Tang Pagoda

pagoda cham island

Hai Tang Pagoda is used to worship Buddha, the Bodhisattva, the local god, and the sea god so that residents can practice Buddhism and pray for their safety and prosperity. It was built in 1758, 200 meters from its current location. In 1848, following a destructive storm, the local people moved, rebuilt, and redecorated it. Hai Tang Pagoda is located at the foot of the western mountain of Hon Lao Island, facing a small valley, the only rice field on Cham Island.

Legend has it that a ship carrying many wooden pillars from the north to the south of Vietnam stopped on Cham Island but could no longer move due to a strong storm. Then, a person entered Cham Island to pray, and the sea god told them that the wooden pillars should be used to build a pagoda on this island. Thus, the crew and local population built the pagoda and named it Hai Tang Pagoda. “Hai” means sea, and “Tang” refers to the Tipitaka, the holy Buddhist scriptures that store the words of Buddha. The name Hai Tang implies that this pagoda holds the teachings of Buddha as much as the sea.

Address: Hon Lao Island, Cham Island

6. Visit to the Historical Sites of Bai Lang

Located near the main port, Bai Lang is the most populated village on Cham Island. Thanks to better living conditions than the rest of the island, its history of human occupation dates back to 3100 BC, making it the oldest known site in Hoi An. Today, this area is full of many historical sites, some of which are included in day-long guided tours.

From the coast, the Cham Island museum is the first notable stop on the tour, followed by the Xom Cam well, the last Cham relic. Locals believe that drinking tea made with leaves from nearby forests and water from this well can prevent seasickness.

Around the village, independent visitors can discover small shrines dedicated to whales, ancestral tombs, or a large monastery located next to the Hai Tang temple.

At Bai Ong and Bai Huong, you can utilize services offered by the locals. Otherwise, Bai Bim and Bai Xep are the best choices for travelers who love open spaces and wild nature.

7. Visiting Other Islands

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As mentioned above, Hon Lao is the main island of the Cham group, where nearly all activities occur. Around Hon Lao, the seven other islands are as beautiful as Hon Lao itself. To travel from Hon Lao to other islands, you must rent a boat.

Typically, a boat can carry up to ten people, and the owner will take you to Hon Ba, Dao Yen (Salangane Island), and Bai Bim.

My Opinion

The majority of tourists visit the Cham Islands primarily for snorkeling and scuba diving, which are among the most popular activities on the island.

Personally, what I particularly enjoyed about diving was the boat tour around the islands and the scooter ride up to high points for a panoramic view of the Cham Islands.

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