If you have 3 days to spare away from Saigon, the South-Central coast of Cam Ranh and Nha Trang would probably be the best option for a beach getaway; it is best in terms of pristine beaches unspoiled by tourism, hidden waterfalls and amazing scenic motorbike routes. I had the chance to explore this spectacular p part of Vietnam on a 3-day chilled itinerary, spending as little as 1 Million VND (45 USD)
Getting To Cam Ranh
Cam Ranh and Nha Trang are only 1-2 hours away and share the same airport at Cam Ranh International Airport. A cheaper alternative to flying though is taking the sleeper bus at night and arrive there by morning.
I took the Gia Phuc bus, the cheaper but slower option since Phuong Trang’s only night departure (8pm) to Cam Ranh was already fully booked. My friend who lives near Gia Phuc station booked for me, but you can book Gia Phuc bus for 165K VND online here. The bus left the station (258 Le Hong Phong – P.4 – Quan 5 – Ho Chi Minh) on time at 8:15 pm. The ride was comfortable and a little slower, which caused me to sleep better. It arrived to Cam Ranh City at 5am. That was a total of 9 hours in the bus!
Phuong Trang also has an 8pm sleeper bus to Cam Ranh for 185K VND with an online booking option here. I figured out that this bus is more popular and gets fully booked fast. I took Phuong Trang going back to Saigon from Nha Trang and arrived in less than 9 hours because it was going faster.
Moving Around Cam Ranh
Once in Cam Ranh, the best thing to do first is to rent a motorbike. I got mine for 100k VND for a day because my friend haggled. I think the original price is at 150K, but they will whether send the bike to where you are, or pick you up and bring you to their place for you to see where you will be returning it. Also, after you return the bike to their address, they will send you to where you need to be. Assuming that you’re returning the bike after your 2-day exploration of Cam Ranh, I suggest you ask them to send you to the bus station for your ride to Cam Ranh.
Day 1 AM: Bãi Dài Nha Trang
After arriving in Lan’s place, we head out for an amazing Bun Rieu breakfast (25K VND), a cheap but deliciously refreshing Mangosteen smoothie (less than 25K VND). Then we headed to Bãi Dài, a wavy beach on the way to Nha Trang (around 45 mins from Cam Ranh town proper).
Unlike in Mui Ne where all beachfronts are privately owned by resorts, in Nha Trang and Cam Ranh, beaches are government-owned; therefore, anybody can enjoy his own spot without paying an entrance fee. While it’s an amazing beach mostly enjoyed by the locals, it’s not as crowded as other good beaches in Vietnam; I’m talking about Vung Tau, Nha Trang and Mui Ne. There are plenty of shades to hide from the scorching sun (for Asians like me, lol) and local vendors selling amazingly fresh seafood! The waves could also be harsh, so you should only swim if you’re experienced. I think this is also an amazing spot for surfing; there were a couple of white people surfing while we were there.
Day 1 PM: Beach Camping at Cam Lap Peninsula
In the afternoon, I went on my own to camp in one of the beaches in Cam Lap, a short ride from Cam Ranh town. Prior to coming there, I’ve read a lot first from my favorite Vietnam independent traveler site, VietnamCoracle. I enjoyed the scenic route that leads to its beaches.
Since I have my own sleeping bag with me, I decided to camp in Dao Hoa Vang resort which charges only 50K VND for camping if you have your own tent. You can also rent a bed in their dorm for 120VND. It has a chillax beach environment and the beach restaurant offer seafood for a cheap price!!! The receptionist was also friendly and could speak English well, so communication was not a problem. I went there during a holiday so there were more locals than the resort usually host. There were also a bunch of foreign backpackers staying there. Hammocks are abundant, just protect yourself from mosquitoes. The beachfront of the resort also has an amazing view of the sunrise, so make sure you’re awake to catch it.
Day 2: Nui Chua Park Coastal Loop and Waterfalls
After eating my seafood breakfast from the restaurant, without taking a shower because of the anticipation of a refreshing waterfalls ahead, I left the resort to drive south to the Nui Chua Coastal Road and made a loop back north to Cam Ranh town. The sun was extremely hot during my trip; I couldn’t be more grateful for having sunblock and sunglasses! What rewarded me were amazing spots along the coastal road. Empty beaches, blue waters and mountainous plateaus.
The Hidden Waterfalls
First stop was the refreshing waterfalls (suối Nước Ngọt) marked by a trail to the right prior to hitting a bridge. I parked my motorbike off the road, walked for less than 5 minutes and ventured through the rocks to find a twin waterfalls intertwined with big rocks. I easily spent 2 hours here. There was a couple having a pre-nup photoshoot with the theme of Adam and Eve; what a creative idea! The waterfalls is not managed by any local, and there were also no locals residing around the area. It’s entirely beautiful and free!
After a satisfying nature shower, I continued driving down south to Vĩnh Hải where I found an amazing beach, probably the most beautiful and bluest one I have seen in Vietnam so far (I haven’t been to Con Dao nor Phu Quoc yet, save the best for last). I stayed there to have another seafood lunch, took some pictures and moved ahead. There are also a floating restaurants which you can reach by boats easily available at the beach.
Heading down to the bottom tip of the Nui Chua National Park (the area marked by green in google maps), I looped around it to reach QL1A. The road absolutely provides stunning view of the countryside, especially the green fields back-dropped by Nui Chua mountain ranges. I started the entire trip at 9am and reached back Cam Ranh town early at 3pm because I needed to meet up with my friend for a trip with her relatives.
Along the coastal roads, there are a lot of beautiful and empty beaches that are easily accessible, time-permitting. A whole day is more than enough to explore this loop.
Day 3: Nha Trang Beach and Ba Ho Waterfalls
On my last and final day in this province, Lan took me with her family to Nha Trang. It was a chilled itinerary so we were not hurrying to arrive. We reached Nha Trang at about 11am and found some palm trees to shade us. We spread the car cover as picnic mat, and I hanged my hammock from the trees. At this time of the day, only foreigners are enjoying the beach under the scorching heat of the sun. By late afternoon, the coast gets (really) crowded by locals.
I didn’t wanna leave Nha Trang without trekking or doing anything adventurous. So, I googled and found Ba Ho waterfalls, just 45 minutes by car or 1 hour by motorbike from Nha Trang center. It’s a long stream of fresh water studded with big rocks. We had to trek for 30 minutes before reaching the 3rd level where we did cliff jumping.
My bus ride back to Saigon left Nha Trang at 8pm and arrived at 4:30am. In total, I only spent around 800K VND. Read further for the breakdown of expenses.
Suggested 3-Day Itinerary
20:15 – ETD Gia Phuc Bus from HCMC
06:00 – ETA at Cam Ranh Town
06:30 – Breakfast and explore town, rent a motorbike
09:00 – Drive to Bai Dai beach
10:00 – Arrive at Bai Dai for swimming and lunch
14:00 – Leave for Cam Lap Peninsula
16:00 – Arrive at Cam Lap, settle in a beach resort, whatever you wanna do
06:00 – Sunrise watching
06:30 – Breakfast and prepare to checkout
08:00 onwards – Nui Chua Loop (waterfalls, beaches, lunch)
16:00 onwards – Drive back to Cam Ranh, return motorbike, check in to a homestay. Explore some coffee shops and restaurants
08:00 – Board any northbound bus to Nha Trang center
09:00 – Breakfast, rent a motorbike, explore the city, go beach bumming
12:00 – Lunch
13:00 – Head out to Ba Ho waterfalls
14:00 – Arrive at Ba Ho, trek the path
14:30 – Swim, cliff-jump
17:00 – Head back to Nha Trang center for dinner
20:00 – ETD of Bus to Saigon via Phuong Trang
04:30 (next morning) – ETA to Saigon
My spending while I was in this trip was really trimmed because I stayed in my friend’s home for one night, and her family generously hosted me during meals that we spent together. I also brought my amazing hammock which I used for beach camping, which also reduced my spending. I’m itemizing my expenses below while giving you also a ballpark of how much a trip without a host would cost.
My actual expenses excluding food:
Bus to Cam Ranh (Gia Phuc bus) – 165K VND
Motorbike rent for 1 day – 100K VND
Gasoline for 1 day – 60K VND
Beach camping fee at Cam Lap – 50K VND
Bus from Nha Trang to Saigon (Phuong Trang) – 185K VND
Ba Ho Waterfalls entrance – 40K VND
Total 600K VND
Additional expenses for you:
Homestay or beach camping fee for 2nd night – 100-150K
Bus from Cam Ranh to Nha Trang – around 25K VND
Motorbike rent in Nha Trang – 100-150K VND
Items To Bring
Your own hammock if you want to beach camp
Sun protection (sunblock, sunglasses, hat)
Trekking sandals for the waterfalls trek
Downloaded map on your phone to navigate the motorbike routes
Gadgets (camera, powerbank, phone)
Swimming clothes for 3 days
I highly recommend Cam Ranh for travelers who either want to do adventures or just sit back and relax. It’s easily accessible by bus, food and drinks are good and cheap, and it’s studded with things to do. It’s good for those traveling solo and with companion.
You can also check out my 2-day budget itinerary in Mui Ne, where you can enjoy everything Mui Ne has to offer in less than $30.