Con Dao Islands: Paradise in the Making

The Con Dao Island is not just a single territory, but a whole archipelago in Vietnam, consisting of 16 islands. It is located approximately 185 kilometers off the coastline in the South China Sea. The total land area of the Con Dao archipelago is 76 square kilometers, while the largest island covers about 51 square kilometers.

Today, the archipelago is a perfect place for a peaceful beach vacation, as well as for active water entertainment. Considering the fact that Con Dao is quite remote and difficult to reach, these places are suitable for secluded relaxation. 

There are very few tourists here, and this is directly related to the fact that the tourist infrastructure of the island is still in its infancy: hotels, entertainment complexes, shops, etc., are being built. 

Currently, the vacation here is mostly accessible to wealthy travelers who can afford to rent one of the available villas or book a room in the few and quite expensive hotels. Budget accommodation is scarce here, so average travelers who have not managed to book a room here are forced to look for another place to stay, and they only come to the islands for familiarization purposes.

Since 1984, the archipelago has been classified as a National Park.

Brief History of Con Dao

Not so long ago, the archipelago was known for housing political prisoners, but today it is one of the most respectable, expensive, and beautiful resorts in Vietnam. During the French colonial period in Vietnam, 13 prisons were built on the Con Dao islands. 

Later, as a separate state, during the so-called puppet regime, the country’s leadership found similar use for these buildings – revolutionary prisoners were brought here to serve their sentences, and according to modest estimates, more than 20,000 people died here. 

At that time, the islands were unofficially called the “Devil’s Island”. Because the prison territory was always isolated from outsiders, there is still stunning wild nature, unique island and marine landscapes, untouched by humans, and wonderful scenery.

Read More: Con Dao Prison

Climate

The archipelago belongs to the tropical climate zone, so it is always warm here. As everywhere in the country, on Con Dao, there are rainy and dry seasons. However, regardless of the seasonality, there are no sharp temperature fluctuations here.

From mid-December to April, Con Dao experiences a dry season, which is the best time for recreation: there is practically no rainfall, the temperature is comfortable, moderate, and there is no intense heat or high humidity.

From the beginning of May, the rainy season comes to the archipelago, when strong winds blow, and precipitation occurs. However, your vacation won’t be ruined even if you come to Con Dao during this time, as the rainfall here is brief and mainly occurs at night.

Nevertheless, some phenomena on the islands are tied to seasonality, and if you want to see something special, it is necessary to visit the archipelago at a specific time. For example, those who want to see turtles crawling out for spawning should come here from May to November. 

Diving or snorkeling enthusiasts should visit from February to mid-July when the water is particularly clear and transparent.

Getting Here

There are two options for traveling to the Con Dao Islands:

By plane. There is a small airport in the town of Co Ong on the archipelago, although it is not an international airport. Flights arrive here from Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Can Tho, and other major cities in Vietnam, with the most frequent flights (up to 3 times a day) coming from Ho Chi Minh City. 

The approximate cost of the flight is $35. From the airport, you can take a taxi to your hotel, which will cost about $3.

By ferry. From Ho Chi Minh City, there are 8 ferries a day to the nearest coastal town that serves as a departure point for Con Dao. After about an hour, the ferry arrives at the port of Vung Tau. The ferry to the islands departs from the city of Vung Tau at around 5:00 pm daily and takes about 12 hours. It operates three times a week. 

However, this mode of transportation is not well-developed and is highly dependent on weather conditions, so if you choose this method of travel, be sure to confirm the departure time.

It’s worth noting that there is no public transportation system on the archipelago, so you’ll have to rent a motorcycle, bike, or bicycle to get around the island. Taxis are also available. 

There is not much transportation between the islands, so travel is only possible on special tourist boats.

Beaches

Today, the local government has set tough goals to catch up with and surpass Phuket in terms of the number of tourists. That’s why everything is being done here to attract tourists and holidaymakers.

The archipelago’s beaches are numerous. Those near Con Son town are the most accessible, but they are not as clean as the more remote ones. 

To the east of the town, in the direction of the airport, there is Bai Dam Trau beach – the most popular sandy beach. Here, there are seagrass thickets, and there is a possibility (however, very low) of encountering a dugong (manatee). 

To the southwest of the town, on the shore of Ca Map Cape, there is a beautiful Nhat beach. This Bamboo Lagoon cost has sharp stones, but there are beautiful coral reefs a few hundred meters from the shore, as well as Con Dao’s iconic views.

The beaches of Bay Canh Island are exceptionally good.

Read More: 6 Most Gorgeous Beaches of Con Dao

Attractions

The Con Dao Islands nature reserve is a sight to see in Vietnam. As a former French colony and later a place of exile for repressed Vietnamese, there are few man-made architectural monuments here. Most of them remind us of Con Dao’s horrifying past:

  • Phu Hai, a former prison now converted into a museum, is a testament to inhumane treatment. Exhibits depict the prisoners, frozen in the position they spent most of their incarceration. Inside, there is a temple built for local residents and inmates. 
  • Phu Son is a camp resembling a prison, but with many individual cells. This is where “tigers for cages” were located. The prisoners were inside, and the guards poked them with long sticks and threw various poisonous chemicals. 
  • Phu Bin or Camp No. 7 is another infamous prison consisting of 504 cells and 9630 chambers. 
  • Phu An or Camp No. 6 is much smaller than the others, but according to surviving testimonies, one of the most terrible. The prisoners of this small structure had it the worst. 
  • The Museum of the Revolution houses the Vietnamese archive and testimonies of chilling imperialist conquests and partisan resistance. Each photograph is supported by facts and documentary evidence. It is recommended to visit the museum before visiting prisons and Camps No. 6 and No. 7. This allows for a more detailed understanding of the conflict and who the prisoners were. 
  • The Hang Duong cemetery was created as a tribute to the martyrs of Vietnam’s past. It is located on the east side of the city. In the central part, there is a column with the names of over twenty thousand prisoners. Only seven hundred prisoners have graves with nameplates. The first woman sentenced to execution rests here. Vo Thi Sau was 29 years old. She became a heroine of her country. On most graves, you can see dishes of rice and fruits brought by local residents. 
  • The Wang Son Pagoda was built in 2011 on the site of an old one built in the 1970s. There used to be a one-and-a-half-meter statue of Buddha in the temple that disappeared in the 1980s when a group of French people arrived at Con Dao and plundered the sanctuary and island. The structure was restored. Today, tourists can admire a small pagoda surrounded by mountains and forests, which has become an embodiment of beauty and tranquility. It seems to be a symbol of a completely new chapter in the island’s history.

The unique natural beauty attracts tourists, not the history of war and revolution. People come here to see picturesque landscapes, which are the main attraction. 

The national park and Konshon Bay with its incredible underwater world are popular among tourists. However, access to the protected areas is only partial, and most areas require a guide. It is not allowed to be here alone.

On Con Dao Island, 60,000 turtles hatch every year. To witness this event, one must have patience and spend a considerable amount of time on the beach. The best chance to see this mesmerizing and heartwarming spectacle is to visit Bai Can Island, which is also a protected area. Visitors can arrange a camping trip with the local administration.

Activities

As it has become clear, Con Dao is not a center for nightlife, noisy parties, and active entertainment. It is more suitable for those who want to spend time in silence, reconnecting with nature, enjoying the unforgettable views of Vietnam’s natural landmarks, and visiting interesting and unexplored places.

One of the most popular activities here is diving, and there are several large centers for teaching this sport on the resort.

Fishing is also recognized as a popular activity, and it can be done from the shore or from a boat in the open sea. Furthermore, there are several large lakes on the islands where fishing is also possible. The popularity of this activity is also guaranteed by the fact that the water here is full of a great variety of marine life.

Con Dao offers snorkeling, boat rides, kayaking, catamarans, and other water sports as well.

Where to Stay

As the island is small and not considered a tourist center in Vietnam, there aren’t many hotels here, but they vary in price. Budget travelers should take into account that economical accommodation options are scarce, so if you decide to vacation on this island, make sure to book your preferred hotel in advance.

Currently, there is active construction of both hotel complexes and entertainment centers. Certainly, after their opening, the situation with rental housing will change, and we can expect an even greater influx of tourists.

If you haven’t arranged for a hotel room in advance and what is offered to you doesn’t fit your budget, you can stay in a tent city for a small fee and enjoy your vacation in solitude with the wild Vietnamese nature.