I will go straight to the point and tell you that Monkey Island Resort in Cat Ba is not the lost paradise that you’d hope to find on a tiny island in Lan Ha Bay. But it’s still worth a visit.
When we were planning our trip in Vietnam we were thinking of visiting Ha Long Bay but after reading a lot of reviews and blogs it seemed a bit overcrowded and exploited by the tourists. And if there is something I always try to avoid it’s going to places where everyone else goes. Even more when there are equally beautiful alternatives
The alternative of Ha Long Bay is Lan Ha Bay, which is its expansion but it’s in a diffrent district. The scenery is the same but without the hundreds of boats getting in the way between you and the beautiful karst formations. There are plenty of cruises to choose from but we opted for an island retreat as yours truly suffers from seasickness. There are only 3 hotels on the islands and we chose Monkey Island Resort which is just 2 kms away from Cat Ba.
After the booking they sent us an email offering us a transfer from Hanoi (for an additional 15 usd) but then they disappeard. It took multiple emails and calls to get everything confirmed. The trip was nice and comfortable. It took us 4 hours and a half to reach Cat Ba Harbor. From there it was just another 15 minutes with a boat organized by the resort. The only problem is that nobody was waiting for us and they were not picking their phone. If this happens to you as well please know that you should go behind the ticket office, where the restaurants are and you will see a sign for Monkey Island Resort. The lady from the restaurant will call the resort and eventually they will come for you.
After reading the reviews I made sure to book the best room that had which is the Deluxe Sea View Room but upon check in they gave me the keys of the Superior Sea View Room. In a hindsight I can tell that this wasn’t the first time that someone tried to (unsuccessfully) downgrade us during our trip.
The best part of our bungalow was the big terrace with sunbeds and an unbeatable view towards the bay. As for the rest, the whole resort is a bit old and rundown. The limescale in our bathroom has never been removed from the sink and shower, my guess is that they are hoping to recreate a grotto in a few thousands of years.
The food in the one and only restaurant is not exilarating either. Every Sunday they have a bbq dinner for 150K vnd per person and if you happen to be there take advantage of it as it will be the best food experience while on the island.
Despite all the negative aspects if you go to this island with the right mindset you will enjoy the experience. It offers the unique opportunity to explore Lan Ha Bay on a slower pace and to enjoy the island life in the middle of this breathtaking scenery. With the canoes provided by the hotel (for 5 usd per hour) it’s possible to row to the nearby islets, visit the secluded beaches and have them all for yourself. What better way to explore the bay?
Here are a few pictures from our stay there. There are not any images of the evil monkeys that inhabit the island but they do exist. We witnessed how they were angrily chasing one of the maids around the resort, so make sure you stay out of their way