The 20 Best Things to Do in Hoi An, Vietnam

Things to Do

Hoi An Now has compiled The 20 Best Things to Do in Hoi An, Vietnam in the following way.

First, we surveyed the 10 most popular things to do searched for on the internet using our own special formula. Then we threw in 10 of our personal favorite things to do that sometimes get overlooked by visitors who are just here for a couple of days.

So, in all there are twenty activities listed here. But even so, there are many fabulous things to do that still didn’t make it that may be more to your taste.

Crossing the famous Hai Van Pass on a motorbike tour; visiting ethnic minorities in the mountains near the Laos border; making local handicrafts like lanterns or pottery; visiting Tra Que Vegetable Village or fishing villages; visiting Da Nang or the old imperial city, Hue; taking in Vinpearl Land Hoi An theme park; relaxing at Cua Dai Beach and exploring your local market didn’t make the cut for example.

Hoi An offers so many possibilities we simply can’t cover them all, but we have tried to include as wide a range as possible.

In the end the central purpose of The 20 Best Things to Do in Hoi An, Vietnam is to give you a helping hand putting together an itinerary that will best suit you given variables such as your length of stay and your personal preferences that only you can know. This page also acts as a gateway to many specific posts in our Things to Do in Hoi An section where you can find more detail about the activities that interest you the most. Happy hunting!

The 10 ‘Most Popular’ Things to Do in Hoi An, Vietnam

Japanese Covered Bridge Hoi An. Aspect from An Hoi Islet.
Japanese Covered Bridge, Hoi An. View from An Hoi Islet (Tony King)

Without question any 10 Most Popular Things to Do in Hoi An, Vietnam list needs to be headed by Hoi An’s unique Ancient Town as it has so much to offer. Unsurprisingly it overwhelmingly heads most searches.

Why? For starters the entire Old Town is a UNESCO world heritage site and an intriguing gateway to Hoi An’s history as a major trading port and its local life and culture.

Indeed, the Chinese Assembly Halls and the Japanese Covered Bridge in Hoi An Old Town often turn up in top-10 lists in their own right.

Hoi An Ancient Town also accommodates most of the tailors, the Central Market and scrumptious street food. including fresh seafood, that can be found all over the area. The Night Market too, is just close at hand.

But quite apart from its cultural interest, the beauty of Hoi An Old Town day or night can take your breath away. There are fewer more glorious sights than the massed lantern-light reflections that ripple across Hoi An’s Thu Bon River after dark and there are many waterside cafes and restaurants on the river banks from which you can take it all in.

The list below also features day-trips to another UNESCO heritage site, My Son Sanctuary, and the marine-protected Cham Islands – two very different experiences.

If you wish to explore closer to home we recommend you do it by bicycle (with our help) and if you want to just chill, a lounger at An Bang Beach ‘has your name on it’.

When it comes to food, experiencing street food is a must. You can either wander around select locations and take pot luck or join an organized walking tour that will showcase a vast range of Vietnamese cuisine.

1. Explore Hoi An Old Town – UNESCO World Heritage Site

header image, old town
Streets of Hoi An, early morning

While there are many wonderful day-trips available from Hoi An like My Son Sanctuary, the Cham Islands, Marble Mountains and Lady Buddha, or short trips to stunning nearby spots like Cam Kim Island and An Bang Beach, the best of the historical attractions Hoi An has to offer is Hoi An Old Town itself, right under your nose.

It is only when you wander the streets of this UNESCO World Heritage site that you truly grasp the timeless beauty and charm of the Hoi An’s Old Town. Brilliantly lantern-lit after dark, local street food is served amidst pre-colonial and colonial structures, and alongside historic Chinese Meeting Halls.

Hoi An Ancient Town is an exceptionally well-preserved trading port from the 15th century that has been called the ‘Venice of Vietnam’. Here extraordinary Chinese temples, historic bridges, lively bars, restaurants of myriad styles, quaint cafés and unique tailor shops will compete for your attention.

Walking through the narrow streets that are free of cars (all the time) and motorbikes (most of the time) gives visitors a chance to discover hidden treasures such as restored colonial buildings with spectacular views of the Thu Bon River, traditional markets, the Japanese Covered Bridge and the remains of old merchant houses.

The city is also known for its night-time lanterns which hang all around Hoi An Ancient Town projecting an array of festive, dazzling colors on both sides of the river.

Visitors can easily spend a day wandering through winding alleyways, indulging in delicious street food and admiring the many historical sites that give Hoi An a unique character unlike any other destination in Vietnam.

With so much to explore, little wonder Hoi An Old Town tops the list of the Top 10 Things to Do in Hoi An. So, whether you choose to explore via a leisurely bike ride, by boat along the Thu Bon River or on foot, don’t skip visiting the sights and sounds this town has to offer. See Hoi An Ancient Town for more detail.

2. Visit a Tailor

Manequins show off the work of Yaly Couture, one of Hoi An's Best Tailors
Yaly Couture, Hoi An

It’s a matter of dispute whether Hoi An has a long history associated with the craft of tailoring, but whatever the truth of its tailoring heritage, the town is now an established international center for fashion, renowned for its custom-made clothing, and for most of us that’s what counts.

Hoi An boasts more than 500 highly skilled tailor shops that can make virtually anything from suits to dresses to shirts within 24-48 hours.

Most offer free pickup and drop off and some even have showrooms with a wide range of fabric samples so that customers can choose exactly what they want.

Hoi An tailors are known for their quality workmanship as well as their competitive prices. So, not only will visitors get unique pieces made according to their own preferences, there are genuine bargains to be had.

So whether you’re looking for a custom-made suit, a unique dress or even just a souvenir from your stay in Hoi An, be sure to drop into one of the many tailor shops to get something truly special. You won’t regret it!

Tip: Hotel staff, taxi drivers and others will recommend particular tailors not because they are the best, but because they get a commission for the referral. It pays to do your own research – see Hoi An Tailors.

Are Hoi An tailors as good as anywhere in the world? The short answer is ‘no’, but where else in the world can you get a bespoke suit in beautiful fabric for 100 USD or a custom-made fitted dress for 35 USD?

3. Learn About Vietnamese Cuisine in a Cooking Class

tra que waterwheel organic farm cooking class
Tra Que Organic Farm Cooking Class

Cooking classes in Hoi An, Vietnam abound and are suitable for all ages and levels of cooking experience. They are also a great way to have fun and get the most out of your time in Vietnam. You can learn how to make delicious Vietnamese dishes, as well as about local culture and customs.

There is a tremendous variety and cooking classes can be full-day, half-day or just 2 hours in the evening.

Packages can include extras like: a bicycle tour; a river cruise; a visit to local markets; a visit to Tra Que Vegetable Village and fishing for crabs from a traditional basket boat.

Some cooking classes are conducted in professional, shiny kitchens, others in local home environments. Some will suit beginners, others more advanced cooks. Learning about local culture and customs is an added bonus in some cases, as well as having the chance to interact with locals.

There is no shortage of options and with our help – see Guide to Cooking Classes in Hoi An – you should be able to find the cooking class that’s suitable for you and anyone traveling with you.

In a typical cooking class you may make your own rice paper then move on to fresh spring rolls, banh xeo (traditional pancake), banana flower salad, and a meat or fish dish. The secrets behind Vietnam’s delicious pho may also be revealed. Entertaining, informative and a lot of laughs.

Is there a downside to taking a cooking class? Some report having trouble with language and being understood or not understanding the instructor but we’ve never had that problem. You will need however, to be able to put aside a fair slice of time for most classes, a good cooking class cannot be rushed!

4. Explore Hoi An by Bicycle – City or Countryside

Bicycle group exploring Hoi An Old Town (Tony King)

Exploring Hoi An, Vietnam by bicycle is one of the best ways to experience this magical city. With bicycles, you can cover more ground and explore at your own pace – and it’s also a great way to stay fit! There are many routes that will take you through some of the most picturesque sites in town. And no matter which route you take, there are plenty of stops along the way for drinks or snacks.

The waterfront area along the Thu Bon River is especially beautiful, with views of fishing boats bobbing on the water and temporary stalls operated by local fishermen selling their catch. The streets around the Old Town are a treasure trove of centuries-old buildings, temples and colorful markets.

Cycling from the Old Town through rice paddies to the local beaches like An Bang Beach and Cua Dai Beach or to Cam Kim Island or Tra Que Vegetable Village is also a great way to really get in touch with the local culture and get to know Hoi An in different aspects.

You’ll likely pass through small rural settlements that have remained unchanged for centuries and maybe even spy the local greens that will be on your plate later in the week. It’s an amazing experience that will live with you long afterwards.

Whether you choose to explore Hoi An’s backstreets and hidden gems, venture further out into Hoi An’s countryside, or just lob down to your local market, a cycling tour/trip is an unforgettable way to make the most of your time in Hoi An.

It’s a great DIY activity and our suggested DIY cycling tours are: An Bang Beach: The Scenic Route by BikeCam Kim Cycle TourAlternative Hoi An Cycle Tour.

Guided bicycle tours can also be wonderful experiences. They offer guides with commentary of course but they may also include special events along the way like visiting local farms and craftsmen and women, rural kitchens, local food and more. They vary considerably depending on the tour chosen.

5. Spend the Day Chilling at An Bang Beach

An Bang Beach Hoi An
An Bang Beach, Hoi An

An Bang Beach is the pick of Hoi An beaches with a variety of beachside restaurants – especially seafood restaurants – scattered bars and live entertainment. You can set up for the day at any beachside bar/restaurant and order a delicious seafood feast as well as snacks and drinks throughout the day.

All the beachside bar/restaurants have shaded loungers which can be had for the price of a bottle of water making a day in paradise very affordable indeed!

The beach is clean and the water is calm most of the time, making it an ideal spot for swimming and other beach activities. Only a 10-minute drive from downtown Hoi An or 20-25 minutes by bicycle, the beach has soft white sand to set up your towel or more likely, grab one of the shaded loungers

For those who’d rather stay active, you can rent surf boards, paddle boards and kayaks – plus many more activities including kite surfing lessons – as well as having spa treatments like massages right on the beach.

And for serious surfers the surf’s up between September and February

6. Take a Day-Trip to My Son Sanctuary

My Son Sanctuary Ruins

My Son Sanctuary is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and that features the ruins of a former Hindu temple complex that dates back to the 4th century.

At My Son Sanctuary, you’ll wander through incredible ruins that have been around since the Champa Kingdom established itself in south and central Vietnam around 18 centuries ago. The site has spectacularly detailed architecture with carvings on the walls and intricate stone sculptures. Museum style, you can learn about its history as you walk around its crumbling walls and ancient temples.

The best way to get there is by private transfer or guided tour by car or minivan through the local countryside – about an hour.

At My Son, you can take a guided tour or explore the ruins on your own – whichever you prefer. It’s an experience like no other and although not as vast as Angkor Wat in Cambodia, it’s certainly a half-day well spent.

My Son Sanctuary was a hideout for the Viet Cong during the American/Vietnam War and bombed extensively, severely damaging the temples and other buildings. Large craters still visible are poignant reminders of the destruction.

In addition, a significant section of the complex is not open to the public because land mines have not been fully cleared.

Not only does My Son provide valuable insights into Vietnam’s complex history, it also offers stunning views of ancient ruins surrounded by lush green jungle – all just a short drive away from Hoi An.

7. Visit the Hoi An Night Market

An old Korean man amongst masses of hanging lanterns posed to have his photo taken shows the many things to do at Hoi An Night Market
Get your photo taken among the lanterns at Hoi An Night Market (Tony King)

Adjacent to Hoi An Old Town proper, just across the An Hoi (Lantern) Bridge and open from 5pm to 11pm every day,Hoi An’s Night Market is conveniently set up whenever you have free time in the evening. The stalls are stuffed with lanterns, conical hats, clothes, bags and countless souvenirs and knick-knacks.

Street food is rightly famous in Vietnam and the Night Market is a key venue for local dishes. You’ll find some of the most popular Vietnamese food like banh xeo (savory pancake), cao lau noodles and sweet treats.

The Hoi An Night Market is also in the center of Hoi An’s ‘party-time’ district. A random hotchpotch of music, live and canned, pumps from nearby bar/restaurants but this, along with an extraordinary profusion of colorful lanterns, is more festive than annoying.

Adjacent to Hoi An Old Town proper, just across the An Hoi (Lantern) Bridge and open from 5pm to 11pm every day, Hoi An’s Night Market is conveniently set up whenever you have free time in the evening. The stalls are stuffed with lanterns, conical hats, clothes, bags and countless souvenirs and knick-knacks.

Street food is rightly famous in Vietnam and the Night Market is a key venue for local dishes. You’ll find some of the most popular Vietnamese food like banh xeo (savory pancake), cao lau noodles and sweet treats.

The Hoi An Night Market is also in the center of Hoi An’s ‘party-time’ district. A random hotchpotch of music, live and canned, pumps from nearby bar/restaurants but this, along with an extraordinary profusion of colorful lanterns, is more festive than annoying.

8. Go Snorkeling or Diving at Cham Island

Cham island, under the water, fish
Cham Islands diving and snorkeling is world class

Clearly visible from Hoi An’s Beaches, Cham Islands is an unspoiled, marine-protected island group. This idyllic enclave boasts beautiful golden sands, luscious azure waters, and a centuries’ old way-of-life.

The islands have an extensive cultural history and are linked directly to the Cham people – Hindu traders, possibly from Borneo. The museum on the main island, Hon Lao, offers an introduction to Cham history, and more can be found at My Son and the Champa Museum in Da Nang.

But it’s the snorkeling and scuba diving as well as the pristine beaches that attract the day-trippers to the Cham Islands. With stunning coral reefs teeming with colorful fish, turtles, and other sea creatures, it’s an unforgettable experience.

Also, due to its remote location and low-level development, the islands remain relatively untouched by humans and provide excellent opportunities for those who want to explore natural habitats.

Snorkeling is one of the best ways to explore these idyllic surroundings. The calm waters make it easy to spot marine life in the Cham Islands’ crystal-clear lagoons. From starfish and coral gardens to clownfish and parrot fish – swimming with these creatures is an experience like no other.

For more experienced divers, the Cham Islands offer some amazing diving opportunities too. With depths ranging from 10-30 meters, there’s something to suit every skill level – from novices just getting started to seasoned veterans looking for a challenge. Coral gardens and even a few shipwrecks are waiting to be explored.

Simply put, the Cham Islands offer Vietnam’s most spectacular snorkeling and diving experience.

If you have some time up your sleeve, we recommend you stay overnight or even for a couple of nights to soak up the unhurried lifestyle permeating this paradise.

9. Visit the Hoi An Central Market

Red tomatoes, limes, beans, chilli squashed together, each in round containers show the fresh produce on sale at Hoi An Central Market
Fruit and vegetables on sale at Hoi An Central Market

Located on Hoi An’s bustling Tran Phu Street on the edge of the old town, Hoi An Central Market is one of Hoi An’s must-see attractions. It’s where local chefs, street food vendors and restaurants come to shop for fresh local produce and supplies.

For visitors, it can be an interesting experience to get a glimpse of Hoi An locals shopping and bargaining over prices – although don’t expect any discounts if you buy something!

Hoi An Central Market has separate sections for meat, seafood, herbs and vegetables in addition to a variety of dried goods like spices and snacks. A wide range of locally produced items like furniture made from bamboo, pottery, lacquerware and traditional silk garments can also be found there.

Hoi An’s Central Market will give you a closer look into the daily lives of locals and you’ll have the opportunity to explore unique products, many of which are handmade by artisans.

It’s also a great place to find some fresh ingredients for your own cooking as well as souvenirs to take home.

If you are staying a bit out of the center of Hoi An your local market will offer a similar experience, but on a much smaller scale.

10. Join the Locals and Jump into Hoi An Street Food

Breakfast in Hoi An_Banh Mi Phi
Banh Mi

When Hoi An is described as the food capital of Vietnam, it’s the vast array of fresh produce, seafood, and various street food stalls throughout the town that is in mind, not haute cuisine. Hoi An, Vietnam offers an incredible selection of food that must be experienced in situ – on the street – by just exploring, or via organized food tours.

From savory pancakes to Vietnamese sweet dishes, and from noodles to soups to banh mi; no matter what you choose the vibrant atmosphere of the street stalls and markets serves up not just not just Vietnamese food but a lot of fun and a true taste of Vietnam’s culinary culture.

An interesting option is to take an organized street food walking tour, often winding down backstreets and intriguing lanes, with an experienced guide sampling tasty morsels along the way. On such tours you’ll often bump into interesting locals and learn plenty about traditional cuisine and everyday life in Hoi An, Vietnam while you’re at it.

This unique culinary experience is also astounding value for money too. From traditional dishes to modern creations, you can explore the vibrant flavors at any time of day or night.

Some of the most popular dishes are: Banh Xeo – a savory pancake; Cao Lau Noodles – noodles with pork, herbs and greens; sweet treats – like cakes and candy; soups – like Pho or Bun Bo Hue; grilled seafood – like squid or shrimp on skewers; Banh Mi – Vietnamese sandwiches with pork, egg, pickled vegetables; and white rose dumplings – rice dough stuffed with pork or shrimp.

Hoi An Now’s Favorites (Not Included in the 10 Most Popular)

Hoi An Memories Show.
Hoi An Memories Show

For us the Marble Mountains is the premier half-day tour and must be included if you’ve never been. Organized tours often combine the Marble Mountains with a visit to the Lady Buddha and the Linh Ung Bai But Pagoda at the foot of Monkey Mountain and that’s a smart combination.

Two shows – the Hoi An Memories Show and whatever Lune Production has running – are also highly recommended. Hoi An Memories show is an extravaganza with a cast of hundreds in a vast arena while Lune Production stages its show in an intimate theater where you’re close to the acrobatic action, wherever you sit.

It’s the nature of such lists to not have many ‘chill and relax’ activities, especially as time is often short in most Vietnam itineraries, but if that’s your inclination, there are some world-class massages to be had in Hoi An spas. This could be a welcome reward after a tough couple of hours shopping in tailor shops and leather stores.

A cruise on the Thu Bon river, romantic or otherwise, is another gentle experience that gives you a good look at the town and surrounds without taxing you at all.

A further recommended water-world experience is to drift through the primeval nipa palm forests by either basket boat or kayak (and by that we don’t mean the basket boat ‘circus’ near the Cua Dai Bridge popular with East Asian tourists).

The best way to visit Cam Kim Island and Kim Bong Carpentry Village is by bicycle. You can follow our DIY tour or opt for a relatively inexpensive organized bicycle tour with a guide (which is well worth it).

Cam Kim Island is literally a walk back in time. It feels like the march of progress has side-stepped Cam Kim and many traditional ways of living are still in place – just as they have been for centuries – the occasional TV screen flickering in the houses these days notwithstanding.

Finally, if you have a complete day or more available in your itinerary, Ba Na Hills with its medieval French village, Golden Bridge with giant hands and massive cable-car ascent is a great outing.

1. Explore the Caves and Pagodas at the Marble Mountains

Shrine in a cave in the Marble Mountains
Shrine in a cave in the Marble Mountains (Tony King)

For us, one of the best things to do in Hoi An, Vietnam is a visit to the Marble Mountains. If you only have time for one day-trip in the area this is the one we recommend, and it can be combined with a visit to Lady Buddha at Da Nang comfortably too.

Located just south of Da Nang, the Marble Mountains (aka Ngu Hanh Son) are a cluster of 5 marble and limestone hills representing five elements – metal, water, wood, fire and earth according to local lore.

These distinctive outcrops are made up of caves, tunnels, pagodas and temples that were once used as sanctuaries by Buddhist monks and are still used as places of worship. These spiritual locations feature fascinating sculptures and alters, including some sculptures carved into the mountain’s surface.

It’s an incredible opportunity to experience Vietnam’s cultural heritage with a gorgeous scenic landscape and religious sites thrown in. As you wander through the area you’ll find a variety of structures, including terraces, pagodas and caves, each with their own story to tell. And you can take the elevator or climb the stairs!

2. See the Magical Hoi An Memories Show

Hoi An Impression Park. Hoi An Memories Show
Hoi An Memories Show is a breathtaking extravaganza

Hoi An Memories Show exists in a magical world on its very own islet (attached to Cam Nam Island). There a cast of hundreds bedazzle the audience across a vast arena the size of a football field.

Through music and dance, the Hoi An Memories Show takes the audience through the city’s colorful history – a series of stories showcasing the region’s farming heritage, its place on the Silk Road and its importance as an international trading port.

It’s rare to see a theater-piece of such scope and ambition anywhere in the world. The action is exciting and varied, and the music a cinematic backdrop to an ever-moving stage. Like all the best theater, life can be left at the door and a better one picked up on the way out.

After two hours of vibrant costumes, affecting choreography, myriad stories and traditional music you’ll get a real sense of the beauty and culture of this part of Vietnam.

3. Visit Cam Kim Island and Kim Bong Carpentry Village by Bicycle

Quick guide to tours. Cam Kim water buffalo
Water Buffalo on Cam Kim Island

Cam Kim Island can be reached by boat from the nearby Hoi An Old Town or across a bike/pedestrian-only bridge which starts from the far side of An Hoi Island. Best accessed by bicycle, Cam Kim Island is a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of the city where locals make rice paper by hand and weave mats from river reeds as core daily activities.

The island consists of beautiful beaches with clear blue waters and peaceful settlements. Life moves slowly suiting an unhurried exploration of this long-established bucolic setting of rice paddies, cornfields, waterways and more by bicycle. There are motorbikes here and there, but the relative absence of traffic is a remarkable tonic for the soul.

Visitors can explore small hamlets first-hand, discover hidden temples and pagodas, or even go fishing in the river with locals. There’s something unique and special here that will leave all visitors feeling relaxed and inspired – making it an absolute must-see attraction in our book.

A highlight is Kim Bong Carpentry Village which dates back to the 16th century and is renowned for its beautiful and intricate woodwork. The carpenters use traditional methods for their ancient craft and are highly skilled at creating artisan furniture, home decor, sculptures and much more that you can take home as a souvenir.

The village also features shops, restaurants and art galleries that showcase the amazing work of these talented craftsmen. And nearby are some traditional boat-building yards that craft wooden boats in the same way they have been assembled for centuries.

4. Visit Majestic Monkey Mountain and the Divine Lady Buddha

Red-Shanked Duoc, Monkey Mountain, Da Nang
Red-Shanked Duoc, Monkey Mountain, Da Nang

Located on the side of Monkey Mountain, Lady Buddha stands tall at 67 meters, a guardian for the all seafarers on the ocean, especially the local fishermen.

Lady Buddha is part of the famous Linh Ung Bai Pagoda, a local icon in itself. Linh Ung Bai Pagoda is the largest pagoda in Da Nang and is made up of the main shrine, an ancestral home, an auditorium, and the Arhat statue garden. The sculptures of spiritual rites that stand in the Arhat statue garden express love, hate, anger and joy.

The view from Lady Buddha is absolutely breathtaking! From here you have sweeping panorama of Da Nang city below but the view from the peak of Monkey Mountain much higher up is a total knock out. Go on a clear day because the peak is high enough to be shrouded in mist.

A great spot for nature lovers and trekkers, Monkey Mountain hosts a massive variety of tropical plants and trees, exotic birds and of course the endangered Red-Shanked Douc!

5. Pamper Yourself with a Massage

Citrus Health Spa, Hoi An, Vietnam, Hot Rock Massage, Guide to Spas in Hoi An
Citrus Health Spa, Hoi An, Hot Rock Massage

Hoi An, Vietnam is renowned for its relaxing spa and massage services, offering a variety of treatments from traditional body massage to aromatherapy. But it’s very much a case of ‘you get what you pay for’. If you pay a little more you’ll find it worth it.

The best spa centers in Hoi An are known for their top-notch facilities and experienced therapists who provide quality Spa treatments at very reasonable prices. Many spas also offer natural Vietnamese herbal remedies that will help to restore balance in the body and mind.

Whether you are looking for a full body massage or just want to relax with an aromatherapy session, there are bound to be good spas nearby, wherever you’re staying. See Massage in Hoi An for recommendations.

6. Be Enthralled by Lune Production Show

Lune Production, Teh Dar, Teh Dar - Lune Production
Teh Dar, Lune Production

The Lune Production Show is a unique, captivating performance that portrays aspects of Vietnamese life through music, theater and dance. The show currently centers around Teh Dar, and oscillates between frenzied action and calmer, poignant moments. It symbolically imagines life as lived by the ethnic minorities in the mountainous regions of Vietnam. Teh Dar literally means ‘going in circle’ and the circle metaphor looms large throughout the production – birth, death and re-birth if you like.

Visitors will be enthralled by this mesmerizing journey as they watch acrobats soar through the air, traditional musicians play classic Vietnamese instruments and graceful dancers spin together creating a beautiful choreographic whole.

This unique theater, with its stunning visuals and high-energy, is a must-see for those who enjoy live shows.

7. Take a Day-Trip or Stay Overnight at Ba Na Hills

Train at Ba Na Hills
Train at Ba Na Hills

A fun day-trip or even an overnight stay to Ba Na Hills must come into contention when considering the best things to do in Hoi An, Vietnam. Also known as the ‘Kingdom in the Clouds’, Ba Na Hills is a mountain resort located about 60kms from Hoi An and the – 90 mins by car.

The area offers stunning panoramic views of lush green forests and valleys that appear to be suspended in mid-air.

The region has become a popular travel destination due to its unique cable car system which takes you up and down the mountainside.

At Ba Na Hills visitors can explore many attractions like Fantasy Park – an amusement park with exciting rides and games; Adventure Park – an outdoor activity center with zip lines and rope courses; Flower Gardens – featuring over 500 species of flowers; as well as the Golden Bridge – an impressive and unique bridge that features stone hands – the ‘hands of God’ – that seem to be holding it up.

The combination of lush greenery, panoramic views and incredible attractions make Ba Na Hills one of best attractions for visitors to Hoi An and a must-visit when in the area for many.

8. Explore the Nipa Palm Waterways by Basket Boat or Kayak

Hoi An Cocnut Palms
Basket Boat in the Nipa Palm ‘canals’

Hoi An, Vietnam is known for its peaceful and serene ‘canals’ created by the Nipa palms (coconut palms) that line its estuarine waterways. And one of the best ways to explore this lush landscape is by basket boat or kayak.

Basket boats are a traditional Vietnamese fishing vessel that have been crafted from bamboo and woven together to form a large, round floating platform. Paddling these vessels through Hoi An’s canals gives visitors an up close and personal look at the unique flora and fauna found in this region.

Alternatively, you can rent kayaks.

Tours in both basket boats and kayaks are readily available in the Nipa Palm areas on the shore of Cam Thanh Island, especially near the Cua Dai Bridge.

9. Go Shopping for Leather Goods

Close up of brown leather BQ Walking Boot to show quality of shoes on sale
Good quality walking leather walking shoes on sale in BQ Shoe Shop Hoi An

After visiting tailors, shopping for leather goods in the old town is the most popular shopping activity. Why? Just as it is with tailors, the quality – price equation of Hoi An’s leather goods is hard to beat anywhere.

Hoi An Old Town hosts a range of shops and workshops that specialize in the craftsmanship of bags, shoes and accessories made from the finest quality leathers available. And since it’s one of the main industries here, you can find great deals on genuine products when bargaining with shopkeepers.

From handcrafted backpacks and wallets to colorful belts and ornate sandals, there’s something for everyone in Hoi An’s collection of leather stores.

As you wander down the narrow streets and lanes of Hoi An Old Town, take time to observe the artisans as they cut, stitch and dye these amazing creations – truly inspiring!

10. Treat Yourself to a River Cruise

Cinnamon Cruises. Boat
Cinnamon Cruises Hoi An is one of many river cruise options

Most river cruises start along the Thu Bon River adjacent to Hoi An Old Town. Boat trips are readily available from numerous operators moored on Bach Dang Street or can be had as a component of organized tour packages that may include a cooking class for example, or dinner on board.

Sunset is the favored time by most though many take a boat ride earlier just to look around and get the ‘lay of the land’.

The Wash-up

‘How long are you staying in Hoi An, Vietnam?’ The answer to this question will obviously dictate how many, and which things, you choose.

We’ve tried to cover as many bases as possible on this page while keeping a bifocal approach sharing what we know to be the most popular, on one hand, and what we believe to be the most interesting, on the other.

The old town ticks both boxes and simply can’t be ignored. After that it depends on how long you’ve got and your personal preferences. We have half-day trips like Marble Mountains and My Son and full day-trips like Ba Na Hills and the Cham Islands for those with enough time.

On the other hand, you can go shopping, take cooking classes or explore the Central Market or Cam Kim Island without having to travel far, and if you just want to relax, the beach and a massage beckons just minutes away, no matter where you’re staying.

The wash-up is that this page provides everything you need to choose the best activities and attractions in Hoi An for you, so you can put together an itinerary tailored to your tastes and the particulars of your stay.

Most visitors will be interested in where to eat and maybe where to get good coffee or have an ale or two as well as exploring what’s on offer. For these activities see: Hoi An Restaurants, Best Coffee Shops in Hoi An and Best Bars in Hoi An.

Hoi An Now’s 20 Best Things to Do in Hoi An – The Verdict

hoi an old town, hoi an street life, ao dai
Girl in ao dai walking through Hoi An Ancient Town (Alden Anderson)

So, now we’ve looked at the 10 most popular and included another 10 activities that we recommend that didn’t make the 10 most popular list. But what’s our overall 20 Best Things to Do in Hoi An by rank? Well, after some agonizing soul searching, here it is.

Enjoy your stay in Hoi An!

  1. Explore the Old Town – UNESCO World Heritage Site

    The stand-out best thing to do in Hoi An.

  2. Explore the Caves and Pagodas at the Marble Mountains

    The best half-day trip

  3. Spend the Day Chilling at An Bang Beach

    The beach is gorgeous outside the wet season and the amenities superb and affordable

  4. See the Magical Hoi An Memories Show

    A unique extravaganza

  5. Visit a Tailor

    Possibly the best value-for-money around

  6. Visit Cam Kim Island and Kim Bong Carpentry Village by Bicycle

    A delightful walk back in time

  7. Take a Day-Trip to My Son Sanctuary

    A stunning site of ruins dating back over 1500 years, pockmarked with bomb craters

  8. Join the Locals and Jump into Hoi An Street Food

    Many local iconic dishes to sample

  9. Learn About Vietnamese Cuisine in a Cooking Class

    Not just a food education – loads of fun even for kids and non-cooks

  10. Visit Hoi An Central Market

    An enlivening encounter of sights, sounds and aromas

  11. Visit Majestic Monkey Mountain and the Divine Lady Buddha

    Majestic views at the peak, stunning pagoda by the iconic Lady Buddha

  12. Pamper Yourself with a Massage

    Enough said!

  13. Be Enthralled by Lune Production Show

    A stunning acrobatic circus, all seats close to the action, evocative of traditional Vietnamese life

  14. Take a Day-Trip or Stay Overnight at Ba Na Hills

    Extraordinary cable car access, Golden Bridge supported by the ‘hands of God’ and much more

  15. Go Snorkeling or Diving at Cham Islands

    Dazzling beaches, coral reefs – suits snorkelers and divers, great getaway for all

  16. Explore Hoi An by Bicycle – City or Countryside

    Explore at your own pace, especially Old Town and rice paddies

  17. Explore the Nipa Palm Waterways by Basket Boat or Kayak

    Wondrous Primeval Nipa Palm canals

  18. Go Shopping for Leather Goods

    Great value and high quality

  19. Treat Yourself to a River Cruise

    A graceful way to check out the town and surrounds

  20. Visit the Night Market

    Easy access to street food and souvenirs

Frequently Asked Questions

A rice farmer sowing seeds_opt
A rice farmer sowing seeds
How long do you need in Hoi An? +

The standard answer to this question is 3 days. But many who come for just 3 days wish they’d allocated more time. There’s plenty to do in Hoi An but it’s also a great place to unwind and take it easy. If there’s room in your schedule to both take in the sights and relax, consider more than 3 days.

What is Hoi An Vietnam known for? +

It’s UNESCO heritage status; its beaches; its glorious countryside, its restaurants and street food, and its shopping.

How many days in Da Nang and Hoi An? +

Da Nang and Hoi An are only 30 minutes apart by car so it’s better to think of them as a whole and make your accommodation choice depending on what attracts you the most. For us, Hoi An is the better base camp for most of the best things to do. Access to Da Nang is dead easy for around $10-15 round trip. There are more nightlife options in Da Nang however.

What is the best time to visit Hoi An? +

The Spring months of March and April are ideal. The wet season is over and high heat of summer still around the corner.

Written By
Stuart Neal

Former publisher at ABC Books and Consultant Publisher at Allen & Unwin in Australia, Stuart Neal is co-founder of the travel website, Hoi An Now.

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