It’s hard to believe that a 90 minute flight from Hong Kong can transport you to tropical paradise. We flew out of Hong Kong on a rainy, cold March day and a few hours later were sitting by the pool with a coconut in hand savouring the ocean breeze in Da Nang. A building boom has sprouted some 150 resorts that wrap the coastline – from shabby chic to ultra chic. It is an easy family holiday for kids of any ages with interesting cultural excursions, delicious food, and silky sand beaches.
Where to Stay:
- The Hyatt Regency Da Nang is a perfect spot for families with a variety of different room and villa options. The hotel rooms are centrally located near the main pools and restaurants. There also one, two, and three bedroom villas (apartment-style) — the higher floors have expansive ocean views where you can see the sunrise. Ocean-front villas are stand-alone with their own swimming pools. They are beautiful but keep in mind that the third bedroom is separate from the villa (designed as a maid/nanny’s room). The hotel caters to families with young children with a beach-entry swimming pool and Camp Hyatt. There is also a water slide suitable for ages three-plus. For older kids, there are football goals and hammocks on the beach for reading (or napping). You can borrow boogie boards from the beachside hotel stand. There is even kite flying in the afternoon! The hotel helpfully provides beach toys too.
What to Do:
- Commission a set of tropical duds! There are countless tailors in Hoi An — the hardest part is choosing which one. The hotel recommends Bebe, on the outskirts of the old town. It’s definitely not the cheapest tailor but the quality was good. They will deliver the next day to the hotel.
- Tour the town. If it’s hard to convince the kids to walk around the many shops in Hoi An, hire a cyclo to take you through the streets. You need to bargain for a 30-minute ride which should be about US$5-10.
- Go mad for marble. Nearly across the street from the Hyatt hotel, is Marble Mountain. Take a two-minute taxi ride to the entrance. It is best to go early in the morning to beat the heat. (Try going the first or second days of the trip while the kids are still waking up early from the one-hour time difference!) You can buy a ticket for the glass-elevator to the top (or walk the 150 steps). Once there, you can scramble into caves, visit temples and take in the view. The marble can be slippery so, be warned, flip-flops are not the best choice of footwear! At the base of the mountain are a multitude of marble shops. We purchased a hand carved marble chess set and some brightly colored marble Easter eggs.
- Take a break from the pool. There are a variety of excursions in the area. They usually involve some combination of a cooking class, rowing a basket boat, learning to plant rice, cycling through fields of rice, and exploring the markets. Our hotel recommended Hoi An Eco Coconut Tour because it is good value and suitable for children. Jack Tran also offers similar tours for a higher price but they are private tours. We were picked up at the hotel at 7:30 am and returned at 2:00 pm — still enough time to spend a few hours by the pool. The kids said the highlight was the cooking class, where they wielded chef knives and learned to mince garlic and julienne carrots — much to my constant panic. There is something about participating in the cooking process that transforms even picky eaters into wilful experimenters.
Where to Eat in Hoi An:
- Morning Glory is a popular spot for visitors serving Vietnamese street food specialties and traditionally prepared dishes.
- Ancient Faifo was recommended by the Hyatt and was also excellent, albeit a bit more expensive.
- The Mango Mango is a good choice if you are able to slip away without the kids. At night, the view of the colourful lanterns across the river impresses. The upscale fusion fare by the American Vietnamese chef is relatively pricey for Hoi An.
My Top Tips:
- Try to walk around Hoi An from 4 pm onwards to avoid the intense mid-day heat
- Take the Cathay Dragon early morning departure (only on certain days) to maximize your time
- The Hyatt Regency has a deli-store called Baguette that sells everything from baguettes, of course, to fruit, milk, butter, wine, dried spaghetti, and more. If you are staying in a villa, it’s the perfect place to pick-up some fixings for dinner.
- Taxis are affordable and readily available at the Da Nang airport. Since there were seven of us, we hired (in advance) Hoi An Transfer (firstname.lastname@example.org) to pick us up from the airport for US$18.
- Easter is a good time to visit because it’s not too hot yet. It can be a bit too chilly to swim at Christmas/New Year’s.
- You can obtain your Vietnam visas in Hong Kong to save time when you land. That being said, it’s time consuming to go back and forth to the Vietnam Consulate so it really only “saves” you the time at the airport and the headache of queuing up with the kids running around underfoot.
- If you are content to stay at the hotel and lounge by the pool, then four nights is ideal. If you are planning to do a few excursions outside, then five nights would be better!
Hopefully these tips will be helpful for your trip-planning. Please let me know if I missed any of your favorite spots in Hoi An and Da Nang!