Vietnam group tour – an unforgettable journey to the luminous Coto Islands

If you are searching for an escape where you are all on your own, then this journey is probably not meant for you. It is always said to be an exciting feeling traveling, discovering and conquering something by yourself.

However, the fun only begins when someone shares his victory with the others. This time, pack your bags and get ready for a three-day-two-night journey to the promising Coto with your mates.

1. Coto – the symphony of the blue sea

Have you ever fancied lying somewhere on this Earth, empty head, and hearing only the sounds of wind and waves? Have you ever felt the moment when you stand there, among earth and sky, feel like touching the horizon right in between? Whatever the sensation is, it will always be something that we carve in our remembrance. There is no recall of when Coto has so much been mentioned in the books, in some lines of a poem or in a literate piece of some famous literate pieces as something to be treasured. Yet, the beauty of Coto is incomparable to an extent.

Coto’s view to the horizon

Coto’s view to the horizon

Silently nestling in the Northeastern sea of Vietnam, Coto is indeed an ideal getaway for the sun-seekers. When mentioning of Quảng Ninh, most people will call the name of Halong Bay instinctively and naturally, and it seems that Coto has been left somewhere in the middle of the road even it lies just 80 kilometers from Halong Bay to the East of Quảng Ninh Province. If saying Coto is an island, it will be untrue. More exactly, it is an archipelago of different islands such as The Big Coto (Cô Tô Lớn), The Small Coto (Cô Tô Nhỏ) and Thanh Lân with beautiful beaches such as Vàn Chảy, Hồng Vàn, Bắc Vàn and so on.

2. Travel plan for a group tour to Coto

There are various types of group tours in Northern Vietnam, but group tour to Coto from a few years back has grown dramatically. This is also very reasonable because Coto has always been listed in the top islands in Northern Vietnam. Usually, people go to Coto in a group of 6 to 10 persons and rarely travel separately. Basically, there is this fact because Coto usually offers great promotions and services that only by traveling in a group can you enjoy to the best of them. For this reason, most people when finding to Coto alone will be for the reason of business.

Funny moment with the sisterhood in Coto

Funny moment with the sisterhood in Coto

Below is the suggested itinerary for backpackers who travel on their own without a tour operator. For visitors who prefer to go in tour, there will be many tour operators for you to choose from that offer great promotion and only cost you from 3.000.000vnd per person for the whole trip.

How to get to Coto from Hanoi?

Before you start your trip, you should know that usually, a trip from Hanoi to Coto takes about half a day. In addition, because Coto is an archipelago so you will need to travel by boats or ships to get there in time. The departure time of these cruises is also very tight, sometimes there are just two trips or even one at a day so you really need to be prepared yourself for unexpected inconvenience or miscalculation.

From Hanoi, you can get to Coto in two ways and either way, it will still take you at least 4 – 5 hours to arrive at the harbor before entering Coto. Because it is a long journey which requires you to have a smart calculation of time, therefore, we advise that you start traveling from Hanoi at 7:00 or sooner.

The first way is to catch the bus from Mỹ Đình or Lương Yên Station to get to Cẩm Phả, Cửa Ông. Usually, between each trip, there will be an interval of 15 – 30 minutes. From Cẩm Phả, you must catch another bus to Vân Đồn (Bãi Cháy) or also known as Ngã Ba Vân Đồn (Vân Đồn Three-way Crossroad). As you arrive at Vân Đồn, remember to take the local bus with the sign “Cái Rồng” to get to Cái Rồng Harbor. If you do not want to stay at the harbor overnight, it is recommended that you should arrive at Vân Đồn before 13:00 because that last speedboat trip and wooden boat trip are at 13:00. As you get to Cái Rồng Harbour, take one of these boat trips to Cô Tô Islands. The water-way trip will take about 1 hour for speedboats and approximately 3 hours for the normal ones.

Hoang Long Coach

Hoang Long Coach

If you want to save your budget, it is better to use this second way. From Hanoi, you can get directly to Vân Đồn without traveling through Cẩm Phả. You can choose either Mỹ Đình Station from which the coaches will depart at about 6:30, and Lương Yên Station where the coaches depart at 17:00. However, it is advisory that you take the 6:30 trip to arrive in time without spending the night at the harbor. From Vân Đồn you can catch the local bus with the sign “Cái Rồng” as above or if you travel by bus, remind the driver to drop you at Vân Đồn Post Office (Bưu Điện Vân Đồn). At the post, you can catch another bus or xe ôm with 10.000vnd or even travel on foot to the harbor which is located about 1.5 km from there.

Kumho Viet Thanh Coach to Bai Chay

Kumho Viet Thanh Coach to Bai Chay

From the harbor, you can travel by speedboats or normal boats, but the speedboat is still recommended because it is faster though it can cost you a little bit more. The speedboat usually departs in the time range from 13:00 to 13:30 and the fee is around 200.000 per ride. With the normal boat, there will be two trips at 6:30 and 13:00 on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, and only one trip at 6:30 on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday with the fee of 110.000vnd per person. Therefore, it is advisory that you travel on Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday so the time will not be too tight.

Manh Quang speedboat

Manh Quang speedboat

Notes: As mentioned above, if you want to save your budget, choose the second way. Usually, a trip from Hanoi to Cửa Ông takes you about 150.000vnd while traveling directly from Hanoi to Vân Đồn just costs you about 120.000vnd. Not to mention, when you get to Cửa Ông, you still have to take another bus which can cost more to get you to Vân Đồn.  

You can choose from a range of credible coach operators such as Hoàng Long and Kumho Việt Thanh with high-quality 45-seat coaches.

Your main vehicle at Coto will be motorbike or bicycle you make sure that you bring along your driving license.

In general, a one way trip from Hanoi to Coto can cost you around 400.000vnd so you should spend your budget wisely.

Itinerary for a 3-day trip to Coto

If you depart at 7:00 then you will probably arrive at Coto at 14:00 or 14:30 if you travel by speedboat which departs at 13:00. The first thing you must do before officially starting your journey of exploring the islands will be check-in. As we have mentioned in many previous posts, you should always book your room before traveling 1 month or 2 weeks in order to get the preferential price and avoiding running out of rooms. Coto offers a wide range of accommodations so you can check it out on the Internet.

The interesting Coto Lodge

The interesting Coto Lodge

There is a little reminder that there is no actual “resort” in Coto, yet. However, you can still enjoy some great places which are designed to bring a “resort-feel” such as Coto Lodge which brings you the feel of Hawaii or Coto Life which is a kind of “mini-resort”. A few high-quality hotels to be mentioned are Green Coto, Khánh Linh, Hải Âu and so on. Coto also offers homestays with cheap price from 150.000vnd/ night so if you want to tighten your belt, you should stay in a homestay.

At this post, we will not go into details about where you should stay but will give you a referential itinerary to look through.

First day

After you have all done with the check-in procedure, it is time to start digging up the place!

Visiting Hồng Vàn Beach

If you have never heard of Coto, then you will be amazed at its extreme wilderness hidden among the blue waves of the most astounding seas. It is not exaggerating at all when saying Hồng Vàn is going to blow your mind away with its mysterious beauty of the charming blue water and the sandy coastline.

Hong Van – the unspeakable beauty

Hong Van – the unspeakable beauty

Hồng Vàn is tranquil, silent and graceful from dawn till dusk. Located to the East of Coto, Hồng Vàn is the true wonder made of the wild nature. What can be better than after a whole long trip to the destination, safe and sound, now you are lying on the beautiful Hồng Vàn, hands in hands with your dear friends?

After you have done with the sea, it must have been dawn now. You can either stay a little while to admire the beautiful Hồng Vàn at dawn when the sun sets or get back to your hotel and get ready for a seaside dinner.

Eating seafood by the shore

If you have been fed up with eating at your hotel or at the restaurants, a seaside dinner with fresh seafood will not be a bad idea. If you walk along the way, you will find yourself among very many seafood restaurants by the shore.

Dinner by the sea

Dinner by the sea

However, you must consider carefully which one to choose from because some restaurants may not include the official price in their menu. Usually, the price will be based on the kilogram of the seafood that you have chosen but it often costs only from 150.000vnd per person. When choosing seafood, it will be better that you choose something like oysters, arcas, barnacles because they are cheap, easy to eat and always fresh.

Night riding around the town

Finish your dinner? It is time to have a few rides around the town! Coto at night is always crowded and exciting. The sleepless Coto is always full of amazement that you wish to explore. This night, spend your time riding on a couple bicycle with your friends around the town to see how life is going on in the beautiful island.

The legendary “triple-seat bicycle”

The legendary “triple-seat bicycle”

The rental price often ranges from 20.000 – 30.000vnd per bicycle and there may also be renting time limit. For example, you can only rent the bike for 1 hour, if your riding time exceeds the limit, you will have to pay more.

Second day

After such a good night sleep, now you must be so excited to discover the whole island. On the second day, you should get up early, maybe at 7:00, to be able to visit as many destinations as possible before it comes the last day.

Having breakfast in the town

Before going anywhere, do not forget your yummy breakfast. There are many restaurants or food stalls in the town that serves delicious breakfast with a cheap price. You can choose from a wide range of breakfast dishes that Vietnamese usually have such as the sticky rice (xôi), phở, bánh mỳ, Donerkebab with the price ranges just from 10.000 – 30.000vnd.

A normal Doner kebab in Vietnam

A normal Doner kebab in Vietnam

Notes: Remember to ask for the price if they do not include it in the menu before you decide to order. If you feel that they are not being honest, do not be afraid to choose another restaurant. Usually, a portion of xôi costs from 5.000 – 10.000vnd; if it is the whole dish with simmered meat, eggs, and some vegetables, the price can range to 30.000vnd. A bowl of phở will usually cost 30.000vnd, some places can sell at a slightly higher price but it is still acceptable. A doner kebab or also known as “bánh mỳ tam giác” often costs from 20.000 – 25.000vnd and bánh mỳ is just 10.000 – 20.000vnd

Visiting Coto’s lighthouse station

Being one of thirty “eyes of the sea” in Vietnam, Coto’s lighthouse station is the must-visit in Coto. Built in the 19th century, the lighthouse until now is still working properly and become one of the most brilliant tourist attractions of Coto archipelago.

Coto’s lighthouse station from below

Coto’s lighthouse station from below

To get to the lighthouse, it seems like an impossible mission. First, you will have to cross a narrow and crooked slope then keep climbing 72 steps of stairs in order to get to the top. As soon as you are there, everything seems small below your feet. Now, it is only you and the whole sky. The island, the town, the sea and every red rooftop are all there, calmly and still, for you to contemplate.

Dropping by Cầu Mỵ Stonefield

After you have enjoyed your moment at the lighthouse, it is time to get to Cầu Mỵ Stonefield. If you have come to Coto, Cầu Mỵ is something that you should not miss. Situated to the North of The Big Coto, Cầu Mỵ looks like a natural wonder with thousands of stones and stone cliff eroded and smoothed by the ocean for thousands of years. The stones just lie there, layers by layers on one another. Each layer bears a different form and color, forming a vividly look and perfectly gorgeous painting that one could ever see.

Hand in hand on The Love Road

As you leave Cầu Mỵ Stonefield, it would be by noon. You can have your lunch at any restaurant that you want, but because you are now not in town so you can choose a restaurant by the sea. After you finish the meal, it is time to check out the Love Road. This is definitely where the lovers love. What can you expect from a Love Road? The romantic sensation as if in a Korean drama of course!

The romantic Love Road

The romantic Love Road

Located 100m from the town center of Coto, the 2-kilometer Love Road brings the feeling of a tranquil place with the evergreen lines of poplar trees which seem to unwind to the infinity. Envision holding your lover’s hand and walking along the road and whispering little nothing to each other’s ears, what can be more wonderful than that?

Discovering Ho Chi Minh Reservative House

Situated in Area 3 in Coto Town, Ho Chi Minh Reservative House is always on the bucket list of travelers when coming to Coto. The whole Reservative House is a complex of different features including the monument, the memorial stele, and the main house. Built in 1968 and restored in 1975, this is the only place allowed by Ho Chi Minh himself to situate his statue.

Joining the most exciting BBQ party by the sea

At the time you get back to your stay, it must be late. You should get a nice rest in your hotel and get ready for the biggest event of the night – the fantastic BBQ party! Usually, there will be a BBQ party by the shore held by the host of the resort nearby.

You can either join or go to the market to buy some ingredients and rent the kitchenware to throw the party with your friends. It is always exciting when going to the beach in group because there will be a lot of fun doing exciting things together such as camping overnight.

Third day

This is your last day on Coto. The journey now has almost come to an end and there is not much left to see. However, there are still some things that you should definitely do before going back home.

Admiring sunrise in Coto

Seeing the sunrise in Coto must be one of the most wonderful things that one could ever dream of. It is not natural that the literator Nguyễn Tuân has mentioned of this scene as the most treasurable moment that he had ever had in life. What can be more beautiful than watching the sunrise with your friends? However, do not forget to set your alarm!

Checking out The Small Coto

Since it is still early, you can have quick breakfast such as bánh mỳ bought in the town and start your day by checking out the Small Coto. The uninhabited island seems to still keep all its most natural state until this very moment. From your place, you can rent a boat to the island.

A corner of the gorgeous Small Coto

A corner of the gorgeous Small Coto

Usually, it will take about half an hour and cost you from 600.000 – 800.000vnd per person to get to The Small Coto. It may seem expensive but you will definitely regret it if you do not drop by this place once before you leave.

Bringing some gifts home

Muc mot nang after being cooked

Muc mot nang after being cooked

This time, you should get back now. However, before you return home, do not forget to bring some souvenirs or specialties as gifts to your friends and family. For Coto, there is nothing much except for some seafood. You can buy some of these home or you can also buy dried squids, which are absolutely delicious. For Coto, the best squid is still “mực một nắng” or “one-sun squid” if translated word by word.