Can Gio is a famous tourist attraction in Vietnam for its marvelous mangrove forest with 10 kilometers of murky shoreline. The palm-fringed island is a Unesco Biosphere Reservation with a wide range of biodiversity of more than 150 species of flora and 200 species of fauna. This can be a lovely day trip for those loving traffic-free and natural-close trips.
I. Can Gio’s location
Can Gio is about 50 kilometers away from Ho Chi Minh City, which takes tourists about an hour to get there from most Ho Chi Minh City’s districts. Can Gio is among UNESCO listed biosphere reserve, so its main attraction is not a golden-sand beach like what tourists can see in Phu Quoc, Con Dao, and Nha Trang. But for adventure lovers, you can still find a large stretch of an untouched beach.
II. Best time to visit Can Gio
In general, the temperature in Can Gio varies very little, so you can visit Can Gio Mangrove Biosphere Reserve any time of the year. You should expect that the temperature here is humid and hot with hottest months starting from April to June. You can consult this list below:
1. Spring (From March to May)
The weather is quite warm and humid with occasionally fox rain. The temperature is quite ideal, from 95.3°F (35.2°C) to 90.5°F (32.5°C) all day. If you decide to go to Can Gio at this time of the year, you should expect large crowds of tourists since this is the second busiest time for tourism.
2. Summer (From June to August)
Since the weather is quite hot and humid in Can Gio during summertime, tourism is pretty slow at this time of the year. If you want to go against the trend to enjoy a quiet trip, this time is perfect, since you have a wider accommodation alternative and a smaller price to pay.
3. Autumn (From September to November)
Autumn in Southern Vietnam is especially nice for tourism with just enough humidity and wind.
4. Winter (From December to February)
This is the busiest time for travelers all over the world to get to Can Gio and enjoy all the raw beauty of it. This is also the breeding season of many wild species in Can Gio, so there is a high chance you can see some migrating birds such as painted storks and spot-billed pelicans at this time of year.
III. How to get to Can Gio beach
There are many ways you can get to Can Gio. Generally, you have three options as follows:
1. By Bus
If you start from HCMC, take a bus from Ben Thanh Market to Nha Be. At the end of that route, you will reach the Binh Khanh Ferry Terminal. From there, you will travel by ferry to cross the Nha Be River to take the second bus to get to Can Gio beach. This is a hard trip so we do not recommend family with little kids or elders people to choose this kind of transportation.
2. By private van
With a private van, your route will be exactly the same, but of course, you do not need to change your means of transportation, wait for the bus to arrive or to go back to HCMC. Therefore, we highly recommend tourists to have experts plan the whole trip for you.
3. By motorbike
For tourists who travel alone, taking a motorbike is the easiest way to enjoy the view as well as get to Can Gio beach. The route is quite similar to the one you take with a bus, but you will need the assistant of Google Maps and follow the precautions for driving a motorbike in Vietnam.
IV. Top attractions in Can Gio
1. Monkey Island
This can be considered the most famous tourist destination in Can Gio. Just over 30 kilometers past the ferry terminal, on the right of the main road, the island is actually a sanctuary, home to more than hundreds of wild and unafraid monkeys. Why unafraid? On this island, money far outnumber humans, therefore you will see that they are everywhere and these animals are aware of that too, so they become a bunch of cheeky thieves. You need to keep an eye on your belongings, especially things that are shiny like jewelry or sunglasses.
We do not recommend that you pay for the animal circus here with bears, dogs, and monkeys starring in each and every dangerous act since the circus is strongly criticized by animal rights activists and organizations for their cruel living conditions and training sections.
You can also enjoy a motorboat ride on the waterway to explore the one and only Rung Sat Special Zone, also known as the Forest of Assassins – a mistranslation during the Vietnam War. The trip is absolutely a highlight when you can discover everything, from the reconstructed base since the War to American bombs relics. You can also see a strange farm: crocodile farms, wildlife museums with archaeological finds and even local war displays.
2. Duyen Hai area
There are a lot of things to expect when you come to Duyen Hai: Cao Dai Temple, Duyen Hai War Memorial and a large market full of local specialties and fresh seafood.
Cao Dai Temple: Also known as the Holy See – the center of the Cao Dai faith. Caodaism is Vietnam’s religion, which is a mixture of Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, and Christianity. You can see the harmony of these religions in the temple’s architecture and their regular rituals. Each Caodainist is dressed according to their role. For example, followers wear white while priests’ coat is in yellow, blue or red, symbolling Buddhism, Taoism, and Christianity respectively. Men will sit on the right while all women sit on the opposite.
Can Gio Market: The market located at the southeastern tip of the Can Gio district. With its strong and unique odors from dried and fresh seafood, there is no way you can miss this market. Apart from seafood, salt, rice, and tropical fruits are also some famous local specialties.
Duyen Hai War Memorial is very close to the Can Gio market, just 2 kilometers away.
3. 30/4 beach
The beach with this special name is the only beach located in Ho Chi Minh City. It is no exaggeration to say that this beach is a green oasis for urban citizens to come and chill after a long week in the bustling city of Saigon. With its 8 kilometers of pristine seawater, many tourists may feel disappointed seeing that the sand here is totally black – but wait, it is not because of pollution, but the special geographical condition of the beach here making the sand darker.
You can care free playing on the beach, having some picnic with family or swimming in the crystal clear water here. Near the 30/4 beach is a seafood market called Hang Duong, which is only 50 meters away from the beach, so your empty stomach after a playing section on the beach can be secured!
4. Vam Sat
Another famous and must-see destination when coming to Can Gio’s mangroves is Vam Sat. Located 12 kilometers to the North of Money Island, Vam Sat is worth a visit for its all activities here which can only be approached by boat or canoe. This place is known for crab and crocodile fishing, as well as Dam Doi (Bat Swamp), the habitat of many kinds of storks and fruit bats. Also, if you want to have a bird view of the place, Tam Bong tower with 26 meters in height will be a perfect choice.
There are a lot of things that tourists can do and see here, making Vam Sat Mangrove Forest fantastic for a day trip from Ho Chi Minh city
5. Hai Duong Market
Hai Duong market is a big market where locals gather to sell their fresh catch as well as dried ones for souvenirs for tourists. Walking around the place, tourists can see all the ingredients. The most popular choice of tourists coming here is they pick some of their favorite fish or seafood which are still swimming, then watch the home cook in the market making these fresh ingredients into delicious dishes that you can not find elsewhere except for Can Gio.
The market is very close to the 30/4 beach, so we recommend you pick your seafood and wait on that sandy, lovely beach and enjoy your meal there. All the price in the market is quite reasonable.
6. Whale temple (Lang Ong Thuy Tuong/ Ca Ong mausoleum)
Ca Ong is a mutual Vietnamese name for all kinds of huge fish like sharks and whales. In Vietnam, fishermen worship these kinds of fish for the belief that they are very powerful and can affect their trip on the ocean (which, they indeed can). So when a body of these fish appear at the shore, they will build a temple to worship and pray for safety and prosperity before and after every trip.
The famous whale temple is the place to display a 17 meters long whale skeleton.
Every year on the 1sr and 15th of the August on Lunar calendar, the locals will organize a “Nghinh Ong Thuy Tuong” – a festival to pray for safety and lucky for fishing trips as well as the protection of the Whale while they are on the ocean. You can have the chance to witness many traditional customs, dance and even games on occasions like this.
V. Best things to do in Can Gio
1. Going around the Monkey Island area
Via a speedboat or a rowing boat, tourists can have the chance to see all the unique things on Monkey Island, but remember to keep your belongings in check so that the monkey thieves can’t find the chance to steal sparkling things while you are not noticing.
2. Exploring the war relics Rung Sac Guerrilla base
During the Vietnam War, the Viet Cong used the area of Rung Sac as their base until the turning point in 1975. This historically interesting spot can be reached by a speedboat, or you need to walk for 20 minutes from the main entrance. Visiting here, you will find out how Vietnamese at that time can survive and fight their enemies in the mangroves area that is full of crocodiles and without many modern communication facilities.
This place also comes with a walking path that leads you to a visiting zone full of mannequin soldiers: some are fighting a crocodile, some are helping their wounded friends. The great details from this visualization can amaze any foreign tourists! You can also find a shrine dedicated to the passed away soldiers with many Vietnamese locals coming daily to display their food and some paper-money offerings.
3. Learning about the local fishermen’s lifestyle
What is the difference between the life of a fisherman in a tropical third-world country and your country? You will be amazed by seeing how hard and dangerous life in the sea can be. For sure, you will have some different thoughts after having a taste of their life, just by walking up the beach on an early morning and listening to the busy and hurried sound of all the fishing boats, preparing their journey to earn their daily living from the can’t-be-predicted sea.
4. Fishing crocodiles
The Vam Sat is a huge crocodile farm that offers a wide arrange of activities for tourists to get to know these reptiles better, so of course, in here, you will have the chance to fish the actual crocodiles! It may sound dangerous, but it is very safe. Fishermen will be protected by layers of B40 wire and fishing the hungry reptiles on a composite boat. All you have to do is to drop the bait and wait for hungry ones to bites it.
5. Enjoying fresh seafood
How can one coming to a beach district yet do not try all the delicious food here? The seafood specialties in Can Gio beach are irresistible and you just have to try it all! One more thing, Can Gio is quite unpopular to most tourists when they come to Ho Chi Minh City, therefore you can’t find some street food stalls like in tourists hot spots, yet you are guaranteed a reasonable price and delicious treats since the locals eat at the same place as you.
You can go to big markets such as Hai Duong or Can Gio market, pay for around 1 to 3 USD for the home cook to prepare the meal for you. Just a small price for lovely, tropical dishes while you soak up the calm atmosphere near the beach? Does it sound lovely?
There are a lot of things to see and do in Can Gio. This small district has everything, from historic relics, fish-worshipping temples to dynamic and picturesque beaches with dozens of seafood specialties that no one can resist. For a day trip from Ho Chi Minh City, Can Gio beach is such a destination you should not miss!