Ranking among one of the most beautiful bays in the world, Nha Trang is also known as the Riviera of the South China Sea, and for good reason!
Located on the south-central coast of Vietnam, Nha Trang is the capital city of Khánh Hòa Province. As a popular holiday destination for domestic and international tourists, Nha Trang is best known for its stunning 6-kilometre stretch of beaches and for having many recreational activities to satisfy every traveller.
The famous seaside resort town has everything a tourist might need, a beach to relax on, calm waters to get your scuba diving certification, a rich cultural heritage, a vibrant nightlife scene, and a rich selection of restaurant and shops. Once more of a backpacker’s stop, nowadays Nha Trang caters to mostly Asian and Russian tourists
Scuba Diving in Nha Trang
Nha Trang doesn’t feature on many divers’ “must-visit” list, because it lacks the marine life of other prime diving destinations. But if like most scuba divers you enjoy exploring new dive sites around the world and crave for that feeling of weightlessness, then scuba diving in Nha Trang is an absolute must-do activity. Not only is Nha Trang a popular tourist spot, but it’s also the hub of the diving scene in Vietnam.
There are many dive shops, all ready to give you the best deal. But be wary of the lowest offer, as this often means cutting corners on equipment maintenance or having a high instructor-student ratio, putting your safety and wellbeing at risk. With that being said, scuba diving in Nha Trang is a lot cheaper than other popular diving destinations, making it one of the best places to get certified in favourable water conditions. Most of the diving takes place in Hon Mun Marine Park, which boasts many dive sites for divers of all levels.
Most dive shops in Nha Trang are not registered dive centres but have fully qualified and multilingual instructors who can offer a wide range of diving courses from beginner to professional level. There are diving courses with PADI, SSI, CMAS, as well as Nation Dive League and ACUC. If you want to dive with a dive school that is registered with a diving training agency, then you’ll have to narrow down your research.
Best Dive Sites in Nha Trang
Madonna Rock is an underwater playground for divers of all levels, and one of the best dive sites in Nha Trang, if not in the whole of Vietnam. With a maximum depth of 25 metres, this beautiful underwater rocky layout has caves and easy swim-throughs at different depth. There is also has a remarkable collection of corals that attract a lot of marine life, all hiding in different nooks and crannies. Keep your eyes open for glassfish, unicorn fish and barracudas.
Moray Beach represents the best that the South China Sea has to offer, making it one of the most popular dive sites in Nha Trang. Its underwater riches, good visibility and a maximum depth of 18 metres make it a top choice for fun dives and diving courses. Moray Beach has an extensive coral reef, and it’s a breeding ground for moray eels, nudibranchs, flying gurnard, clownfish and seahorses.
Electric Nose is one of the best dive sites in Nha Trang for advanced divers. Located further away than the other dive sites, Electric Nose is worth exploring. The dive site consists of a pinnacle that emerges from the seabed at around 50 metres and goes all the way to the surface. The boulder is covered in soft corals, home to diverse marine life including shrimps, crabs, flatworms, mantis shrimps and many species of nudibranchs. There is also a big swim-through plastered with bright yellow sunflower corals.
Whale Island is located 80km north of Nha Trang and a welcome change from the more crowded dive sites. Although there are hardly any sighting of whales in this area, other interesting marine species live in the soft corals of Whale Island, such as trevally, groupers, and snappers. The most popular dive site is Hon Trau Nam. With a maximum depth of 35 metres, you’re likely to spot stingrays, eagle rays, barracudas and many species of nudibranchs.
When to Visit Nha Trang
Nha Trang has two distinct seasons: a dry (Jan-Aug) and a wet season (Sep-Dec). But unlike other tropical destinations, its warm and comfortable climate make it a pleasant place to visit for most of the year.
However, the best time to visit Nha Trang is in the springtime, between February and May, when the temperatures are 26-27C. While the best diving happens between April and August, when the visibility reaches up 30 metres, the corals are in full bloom, and the water is a lovely 29C. This is also when Nha Trang reaches its highest levels of heat and humidity - all the more reason to go diving!
From September to December, there are heavy rainfalls with possible storms and typhoons, putting a stop to most of your sightseeing tours and diving excursions. To avoid any disappointments, when planning your visit to Nha Trang, keep in mind the weather conditions.
Getting to Nha Trang
Depending on your budget, time and preferences, there are three ways of getting to Nha Trang for both domestic and international travellers.
If you’re flying into the country, there are direct flights from Bangkok, mainland China and Russia. Other countries like Australia, Singapore, Canada, the US, the UK and a few European countries, all have connecting flights to Nha Trang.
If you’re already in Vietnam, you can get to Nha Trang by rail, road or air. The fastest - and often the cheapest option - is to catch a domestic flight from either Ho Chi Minh City (1 hour) or Hanoi (1h 45m). Alternatively, you can get the bus from Da Nang or Ho Chi Minh City. Although the buses are of high-standard, the journey from both ends takes around 10 hours and does not have much room for you (especially if you’re tall), or your luggage.
If you don’t want to compromise on comfort and want to enjoy the scenic views along Vietnam’s coastline and countryside in style, the railway journey is a great alternative. It’s more expensive than the other options but totally worth it for the experience. Depending from where you depart, either from Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang or up North from Hanoi, you can expect the journey to last between 10 to 20 hours or more.
With most restaurants, bars, hotels and shops located within walking distance from each other, getting around Nha Trang is quite easy. In Nha Trang, the roads are well paved and overall pedestrian-friendly, with a fraction of the chaos or traffic found in the bigger cities of Vietnam.
Should you wish to make your way around the city without exposing yourself to the heat, there are other alternatives. There are taxis which run on meters, motorcycle taxis and cyclo-taxis, which you’ll have to negotiate on the price beforehand.
Another popular way of getting around Nha Trang is to rent a motorbike, which allows you to explore the city centre and the countryside at your own pace.
Eat, Sleep & Drink
Living up to its expectations as one of the most beautiful bays in the world, Nha Trang has an interesting blend of traditional and modern touches. The urban city manages to preserve a laid-back beach vibe atmosphere, and a vibrant nightlife that matches that of Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi.
From street food to fine dining, from freshly brewed beer to mixology clubs, from backpackers’ hostels to luxurious 5-star hotels, there’s everything you need for a tropical holiday gateway.
Nha Trang has many accommodation, restaurants and bars to match both your needs and your budget. The main accommodation area is in Nha Trang City, but if you’re looking for more peace and quiet while still being where most of the action is, you can stay in Tran Phu Beach. For an upper scale and relaxing holiday, Nha Trang Bay and its islands are scattered with luxurious hotels and resorts.
Nha Trang is a great place to relax and to scuba dive, but there are more non-diving activities and attractions that will make your holiday to Nha Trang worthwhile.
The most popular nature activities include Ba Ho waterfalls and nearby islands, both excellent for trekking and swimming. Vinpearl Amusement Park offers the ultimate outdoor entertainment with water slides, a large aquarium, a wave pool, and a variety of rides. Situated across the Bay, the park is accessible by a 3,320-metre cable car – giving you an unbeatable view of the city, the bay and the passing boats.
For some history and culture, there are temples and Nha Trang’s French-style Gothic Cathedral, as well as museums and sleepy fishing villages.
And if you’re looking to pamper yourself, there is the all-time favourite leisure spot at Thap Ba Hot Springs and Mud Baths, considered to have therapeutic healing powers. Alternatively, you can book a SPA treatment or massage at one of the many wellness centres in Nha Trang.
Overall, Nha Trang is a safe travel destination for all. But like most cities, keep your belongings safe and exercise caution.
Over the past few years, there have been reports of coral damage and coral bleaching due to climate change, overfishing and boat pollution. To protect this delicate ecosystem, when diving, make sure you are neutrally buoyant and streamlined with your equipment snugly tucked in. Like anywhere else, don’t touch the corals or any other marine life, thus avoiding injuring yourself and harming any marine life.
Swimming in Nha Trang is relatively safe, what with the mountains and islands protecting the sea from natural calamities. However, the sea can become rough with dangerous underwater currents, especially between December and January.