I have a confession to make: I don’t think Vietnam’s beaches are all that great. Not usually, anyway.
During my trips to Vietnam I visited the popular beaches of Mui Ne, Nha Trang, Hoi An, and all the rest of it — and often came away feeling a little disappointed. The beaches are often soullessly developed with big hotels aimed at Chinese or Russian package tourists, or they’re just too crowded or lacking a certain charm.
And… that’s precisely why I want to tell you about Qui Nhon!
Qui Nhon (also spelled Quy Nhon) is one of those seaside places in Vietnam that actually made me crack a smile and think to myself, “wow… this is really lovely!”.
The beaches around Qui Nhon are only mildly developed and have maintained a low-key atmosphere, which is just what I like. The area around Qui Nhon is also home to numerous ancient Cham temples that you can explore in peace.
Where’s Qui Nhon?
Qui Nhon is a small city in the center of Vietnam, located roughly halfway between Hoi An and Nha Trang.
It’s still a bit unknown; most backpackers that I mentioned Qui Nhon to gave me a quizzical look. The only person I spoke to who was also going there was an in-the-know expat living in Vietnam who I met at a train station in Dong Hoi.
The city of Qui Nhon itself is not so noteworthy in terms of tourism, though it does offer the chance to explore some local markets and streets for a taste of Vietnamese city life.
More interesting than the city are the nice beaches that are within a 30-minute or so radius of it.
Although it’s a bit off the beaten track, once you get to Qui Nhon (pronounced like Kwee N-yawn), you’ll still find a good number of backpackers and independent travelers there.
The beaches of Qui Nhon
The beaches in Qui Nhon are not majorly developed (yet), with most having a relaxed hammock-ey beach hostel vibe.
I went to four different beaches in- or near Qui Nhon. Let me tell you about them in order of personal preference:
Nhon Hai beach
This is easily my favourite beach near Qui Nhon. Nhon Hai beach is in a cute fishing village without any major tourism development. It’s a simple place where you’ll fall asleep and wake up to the sounds of the sea.
I stayed at Nhon Hai Beach Hostel, which is a lovely little gem of a hostel. I was told that when the owner first set his mind to starting a hostel in this out-of-the-way place, the villagers declared him mad. But it was clearly a stroke of genius — and thanks to word-of-mouth it’s now a well-established hangout.
There isn’t much to do except reading a book in a hammock, kayaking around the bay, or snorkeling at a nearby reef. Nevertheless, many guests here come with a booking for just a night or two but end up staying much longer.
I should caution that Nhon Hai is not your typical tourist destination in that you won’t find Western food and amenities here. That may not appeal to everyone, but I loved the local vibe and idyllic setting.
I lent my kayak to this Vietnamese couple for a photo shoot. Looking cool!
How to get to Nhon Hai beach: it’s about 30 minutes from Qui Nhon city. It’s a bit out of the way, but worth it. If you have a motorbike you can just drive there, or you can take a public bus or taxi. If you need any help, you can also go to 5 Elements Hostel in Qui Nhon city, as this hostel is run by the same owner. There is no ATM in Nhon Hai, so be sure to bring cash!
Bai Xep beach
This is my second favourite beach near Qui Nhon, about 20 minutes south of the city. I stayed here before I discovered Nhon Hai.
Some enterprising Vietnamese turned Bai Xep into the go-to spot: the Life’s A Beach Hostel grew from one to a whopping four locations. Each location of Life’s A Beach Hostel caters to a slightly different crowd, so pay attention to which one you book!
Life’s A Beach Backpackers is definitely for a younger and drink-happy crowd. It has basic dorms and bamboo huts and a lively bar.
The hostel is a bit close to the road and the beach is merely OK, but it has a fun and WiFi-free vibe. It’s great if you’re in your 20s and open to some mild- to medium-intensity partying. Its somewhat isolated location makes it a great place for backpackers to meet people and to be in a bubble for a while.
The other Life’s A Beach location (the one without the word ‘Backpackers’) is on a prettier beach just up the road. The age range is a bit broader; there are some younger but also some grey-haired travelers. The atmosphere is social with often family-style dinners.
It’s next to a small fisherman’s hamlet with a few basic shops and Vietnamese eateries, making it a bit less isolated than Life’s A Beach Backpackers.
Bai Xep has many more accommodation options than Nhon Hai beach and is a bit easier to reach. Besides Life’s A Beach is another cluster of guesthouses and B&Bs.
How to get to Bai Xep: you’ll need to take a taxi from Qui Nhon. There are no ATMs in Bai Xep and you’ll be a little isolated, especially at Life’s A Beach Backpackers, so bring everything you need.
Ky Co beach
This is not a beach you can stay the night at, but it’s one you can visit as a nice little day trip. Ky Co gained some infamy among locals for being the ‘most beautiful beach in Vietnam’. I don’t know if it needs quite that much hype, but I certainly enjoyed it.
The beach is surrounded by some cool cliffs, though the waters can get very choppy and maybe aren’t perfect for swimming. It’s mostly locals who make it to Ky Co, along with a sprinkling of foreigners.
You’ll have to pay a 100,000 dong park entrance fee and for a minivan service to take you from the parking lot area to the beach itself. Once there, you’ll find a smattering of seafood restaurants and a spacious and blissfully clean beach.
In 2019 a huge luxury resort and safari park were under construction several kilometres north, so this beach may get more crowded in the future. Go there now!
How to get to Ky Co: the easiest way is to have your own motorbike. Some hostels in Qui Nhon may also be offering organized trips out to Ky Co.
Qui Nhon city beach
As far as city beaches go, Qui Nhon has a good one. It’s kept spotlessly clean and the city itself is typically Vietnamese, still mostly free of the rampant development seen in other beach resort cities like Nha Trang.
While Qui Nhon might also be a bit quiet for some, it’s got a couple of bars by the promenade that come alive at night.
A great place to stay in Qui Nhon is the 5 Elements Hostel, run by the same owners as the Nhon Hai Beach Hostel. It’s got some nice rooms and is located close to everything you might need, making it a great starting point for a stay in Qui Nhon.
Things to do near Qui Nhon
The area around Qui Nhon doesn’t have limitless sightseeing potential, but there are a few things you can check out.
Firstly, there are various Champa towers around the area. The Champa are indigenous people, following mainly the Hindu religion, who settled in large parts of Vietnam from the 11th century. The archaeological sites are very small, though of course of genuine historical significance and some are in quite scenic locations.
The most important site is Vijaya, which served as the Cham capital for over 500 years. The excellent blog Vietnam Coracle has detailed information on all the Cham sites.
You can also go sandboarding near Nhon Ly beach. I didn’t get a chance to do this during my stay, but I’ve heard the experience is similar to the sandboarding in Mui Ne in southern Vietnam, which I did a few years ago. Sliding down the sand dunes on a sledge is a whole bucket of fun and highly recommended.
Finally, Life’s A Beach hostel organizes afternoon boat trips where you’ll catch some fish and have a BBQ on a secluded beach.
Getting around in Quy Nhon
It’s possible to get around by bus or taxi, but I always like renting a scooter as it gives you the most freedom and flexibility to get around.
I rented mine at Rong Homestay in Qui Nhon city [map location]. It’s a guesthouse that also rents out a dozen or so scooters. The rate is about 100,000 dong a day. Expect to leave your ID card or some deposit for the rental.
Getting to Qui Nhon city
There are several ways of getting to Qui Nhon, from where you can take local transportation to the beaches:
Quy Nhon is served by Dieu Tri train station on the main line, around 10km west of Quy Nhon. All reunification express trains stop at Dieu Tri. A bus from Dieu Tri train station to Quy Nhon costs about 5,000 dong. I took a taxi which got me there a bit faster (about 15 minutes).
There are some buses going from Da Nang or Nha Trang and these are probably your best bet if you’re travelling Vietnam north-to-south or vice versa.
There is also a direct bus from Ho Chi Minh City, though it takes a whopping 14 hours. If you’re going all this way, the reunification express may be a more comfortable option.
I used a flight to get out of Qui Nhon, as I was backtracking to Hanoi at the end of my Vietnam trip. Vietnam Airlines runs a number of domestic flights from Qui Nhon to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
The nearest airport is Phu Cat Airport (UIH). Keep in mind it’s still 45 minutes to an hour from the centre of Qui Nhon. There is an airport shuttle bus, but you should leave sufficient time to get there.