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Ultimate Guide to the Hai Van Pass | A Must-Do Road Trip in Da Nang

Best Road Trip in Vietnam

Located 30 minutes outside of Da Nang and 1.5 hours from Hoi An, the Hai Van Pass is the most famous mountain pass in central Vietnam. It offers 21 kilometers of winding and mountainous roads, promising a true road trip experience. And having done it several times, I can confirm it for you.

It was popularized in 2008 by the Vietnam special of Top Gear UK, where presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May crossed it and dubbed it “the most beautiful coastal road in the world.”

At the highest point, you will find ancient fortifications including an old gate, the Hai Van Quan.

If you want to discover Da Nang, I recommend that you read my article on what there is to see in Da Nang.

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The Hai Van Pass is probably the most spectacular coastal road in Vietnam. It offers breathtaking panoramic views. It also acts as a sort of climatic border between the North and South and is notably the highest pass in Vietnam.

Until the Hai Van tunnel opened in 2005, the Hai Van Pass was the only route vehicles could take to go north or south in this region. It goes without saying that the journey to reach the 496 meters in altitude was dangerous. But with the tunnel (6.2 kilometers long – the longest in Southeast Asia), most of the traffic now bypasses the pass, making it a beautiful place for motorcyclists or avid cyclists.

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After crossing the pass, you arrive at Lang Co with a magnificent view of the city and its bay.

Moreover, it can be a perfect stop on the Hoi An – Hue journey for swimming or dining if you’re a seafood lover. If you are a photographer, I recommend visiting the surrounding area.

Brief History of the Hai Van Pass

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The mountains also constituted an important geopolitical boundary, separating the Champa and Dai Viet kingdoms for centuries. The steep and relentless mountains were a difficult barrier to overcome in any conquest. The Hai Van Pass was also a crucial land link between the cities of Hue and Da Nang during the American war. The top of the pass had fortifications to prevent unauthorized crossing from the kingdom of Dai Viet.

The Hai Van Pass and the spur of the Truong Son (Annamite) mountain range it crosses have played a significant role in Vietnam’s history. The road itself is 21 kilometers long with slopes of up to 11 degrees in some places. It reaches a summit of 496 meters.

The beauty of the landscape that unfolds before you as you drive on the Hai Van Pass cannot be underestimated. The road winds through steep hills, surrounded by lush tropical jungle.

It offers magnificent views of the ocean and white sand beaches. From the south side, you can see the entire curve of Da Nang. And from the north side, the sparkling beach of Lang Co is simply beautiful.

Hai Van Gate

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Emperor Minh Mang built the imposing brick gate next to the road in the 19th century. On one side of the gate, “The grandest gate in the world” is inscribed. Around the gate are battle-marked bunkers that were initially built by the French during the Indochina war by the Vietnamese and later used by American forces during the American war.

Keep an eye out for bullet impacts on some of the bunkers. Now, the bunkers are empty, and all that the pass separates are the provinces of Quang Nam and Thua Thien – Hue.

The Hai Van Quan was classified as a national monument in April 2017.

Currently, the Hai Van Quan gate is under renovation and is expected to reopen in 2024. I will add new photos when it reopens.

Best Time to Visit the Hai Van Pass

The best time to travel the pass is later in the dry season around September. At this point, the sun still shines, but the heat is not as oppressive as it can be earlier in the season. That being said, the pass is an excellent road trip at any time of the year, but caution is advised when it is wet.

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Due to the nature of the pass, the summit can sometimes be enveloped in fog, blocking the view. However, it generally only covers the highest section and there are still stunning views from either side. Moreover, the mist gives it a nice ambiance, enhanced by the lush jungle.

What to See at the Hai Van Pass?

The main reason to travel the Hai Van Pass is to enjoy the beautiful landscapes throughout the journey, but there are also good places to stop and relax.

In recent years, I’ve lost count of the number of coffee shops that have opened on the Hai Van Pass, offering unique views.

Here are the best picks for photo opportunities and other activities.

The Summit of the Hai Van Pass

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At the summit, you can see the Hai Van Quan gate and admire the remnants of fortifications.

The summit was renovated in 2023 to regain its original status as a ‘defensive citadel‘ from the Nguyen dynasty. On this occasion, old buildings and ramparts were either constructed or renovated. If you visited the Hai Van Pass before this date, you will notice a notable change.

Personally, I found that the renovation has enhanced the place and restored its appeal.

The main viewpoint is located from the two French bunkers at the very top of the Hai Van Pass. This is where many Vietnamese take their wedding photos.

There are quite a few coffee shops here and this is where all the tourist buses stop, so expect to see many tourists. You can get superb views from here to the north and south.

Photo Spots at the Hai Van Pass

During your drive through the Hai Van Pass, nothing stops you from pulling over at any time to take a photo, as soon as you find a landscape that justifies it—and there are many, I assure you. Just make sure you are well out of the way of traffic as trucks sometimes pass very close.

Being kind, I have listed the best photo spots on the Hai Van Pass. This will help you not to miss any.

The best places on the road to stop are the tight curves and hairpin bends that offer stunning views. Particularly the one here, which is the last big turn before the summit.

One of the Best Photo Spots at the Hai Van Pass

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On the other side, a stunning ocean view can be found here. One of the best spots is here, just before crossing the railway track at the bottom of the pass.

From this point, you can admire the Lang Co Bay and see the beach, the town, and the new bridge leading to the Hai Van tunnel. And if you’re lucky, you might even snap a photo with the train passing in front of you.

This is the same spot that you can see in the Top Gear UK special on Vietnam.

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Having Coffee at the Hai Van Pass

Make a stop at the numerous coffee shops at the Hai Van Pass and enjoy a unique view; it’s an increasingly popular experience. Stop at one of the many coffee shops along the road to the summit or pause at the summit to admire the French ruins and the Hai Van Quan gate while enjoying a coffee or coconut.

My preference is the “In the Clouds” coffee shop, which boasts a breathtaking view of the Hai Van Pass and is located at the summit.

Note that the coffee shops are on the south side of the Hai Van Pass, that is from Hoi An to the summit of the Hai Van Pass. If you are coming from Hué, you will need to reach the summit to find coffee shops.

The Don Ca Arch Bridge

Another cool place is the Don Ca arch bridge, which is a great spot for photos. The road to get here is relatively challenging.

At the bridge, you might have the chance to see a train passing over the arch.

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A river flows beneath the bridge where you can swim.

To find the exact location of the arch with the train, simply type “lối vào cầu vòm Đồn Cả” into Google Maps or follow my link.

How to Get to the Hai Van Pass?

Crossing the Hai Van Pass by Motorcycle

One of the most popular ways to see the Hai Van Pass is to rent a motorcycle and tour around it, even going as far as Hue. The freedom to stop wherever you want and to take detours wherever you wish are the main reasons for traveling the Hai Van Pass by yourself.

I recommend having motorcycle experience before attempting the pass, especially if you are riding with a passenger as some of the turns are very tight.

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From Hoi An, it takes about an hour and a half of riding to get to the beginning of the Hai Van Pass, and to get from one side of the pass to the other takes only about 45 minutes on a good motorcycle. I recommend taking your time and planning at least an hour and a half for stops and photos.

If you wish to rent a scooter or motorcycle, here is my article on the best motorcycle rental companies in Hoi An.

Don’t forget to note the numbers written on the walls of the pass; these are the numbers of roadside assistance services. Obviously, any issues can cost you an arm and a leg…

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Route from Hoi An to Hai Van Pass

Getting to the start of the Hai Van Pass from Hoi An is relatively simple if you stay close to the beach until you reach the base of the hills. The only slightly more complicated part is crossing Da Nang. The route I recommend takes a few minutes longer than the most direct route, but it is much more pleasant and comfortable to follow because it avoids going directly through the center of Da Nang. Click here to see directions on Google Maps.

From Hoi An, head up the main road (Hai Ba Trung) towards An Bang Beach, then turn left at the last traffic light. Stay on the coastal road for the next 20 kilometers until you reach a large roundabout. Turn left here and continue straight through the next two roundabouts until you have crossed the Dragon Bridge of Da Nang.

Take the first right turn at the other end of the bridge to arrive on Bach Dang Street next to the river. Continue on this road for two kilometers and stay left at the road fork. Go straight at the roundabout.

At the end of the road, turn left and stay on the road next to the coast. It veers left and connects to the main road. At the main road, turn right and stay on this road that takes you to the beginning of the pass road.

Other Options for Getting There?

Easy Rider Hoi An

Mr. Thong has been organizing easy rider tours in Hoi An for a long time and really knows his way around. They offer day trips back and forth through the Hai Van Pass, as well as longer one-way trips to Hue and beyond.

Prices for a full day excursion to the Hai Van Pass, including the Marble Mountains, start at 1,000,000 VND (€40).

Address: 109 Le Hong Phong

Private Car

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If you are with family or do not ride a motorcycle, a private car may be an option. It’s a hassle-free way to travel. You can stop wherever you want and you can add additional landmarks like the Marble Mountains, Lady Buddha, Lang Co, etc…

Count 1,550,000 VND (€62) for a 4-seater car, 1,650,000 VND (€66) for a 7-seater car.

One of the best private car services in Hoi An that covers the Hai Van Pass and that I recommend is Hoi An Transport Service ( Their service is top-notch, the prices are competitive, and Olivier responds quickly and in English or French. Their WhatsApp: +841238441732

Tourist Buses

The only way to take a bus tour through the Hai Van Pass is if you are traveling to Hue. All tourist buses passing through the Hai Van Pass will stop at the top so you can get out and take photos.

Taking a bus is certainly the cheapest way to get to Hue. However, you do not get the same experience as you would by taking a car or motorcycle tour since it only stops at the summit.

It is the worst experience you can have at the Hai Van Pass if you do it by bus.


The Hai Van Pass is the must-do road trip in Vietnam.

The best experience is to do it by motorcycle, but if you are not proficient in riding a motorcycle in Vietnam, I recommend going by private car.

This allows you to stop wherever you want to take photos.

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