Mui Ne on A Budget 2D/1N (Complete DIY Guide)

Jam-packed with thrilling nature adventures, the town of Mui Ne in Vietnam offers more than just the beach and deliciously fresh seafood. Within 2 days including travel time, you can hike a mountain, spend the sunset in red sand dunes, watch a glorious sunrise by the beach, travail a desert of stunning white sand dunes, and walk along a fairy stream surrounded by unbelievable red rock formations, all for just less than $30/EUR26. This itinerary is perfect for expats in Saigon who wish to spend a weekend exploring Vietnam, as well as backpackers coming from Saigon.

Sunrise in Long Son Beach Resort, Mui Ne
Sunrise in Long Son Beach Resort, Mui Ne

One Friday night, I spontaneously booked a bus to Mui Ne for the next morning for a solo backpacking adventure. I wanted to have a time to chill without missing out on the activities I could do there, since  I’m already physically there anyway! Upon searching, there are five must-do activities in Mui Ne: beach (of course), white sand dunes, red sand dunes, fairy spring and sunrise watching. Hope the following elaboration of the itinerary and budget will help you. Other weekend trips from Saigon include Black Virgin Mountain, Chua Chan Mountain, Dinh Mountain and Waterfalls, and Lang Biang Mountain in Da Lat.

White Sand Dunes lake
White sand dunes lake

Itinerary Summary

Day 1
0600 – Call time in Pham Ngu Lao for pick up, then board the bus
1020 – Drop off at Tacu Mountain Bus Stop
1040 – Start hiking
1240 – Arrival at the pseudo-summit where the Pagodas are
1310 – Start descend
1430 – Arrival at the bus station, board Bus 46
1515 – Drop off at Coop Mart Phan Tiet, wait for bus
1545 – Board the bus to Mui Ne
1615 – Arrival at Mui Ne, rent a motorbike, drive to Red Sand Dunes
1700 – Arrival at Red Sand Dunes for sunset
0600 – Drive to Long Son Beach Resort
0630 – Arrival at the resort, check in, dinner, whatever you want to do

Day 2
0500 – WAKE UP! The glorious sunrise will arrive soon!
0600 – Swim then have breakfast
0800 – Check out, drive to White Sand Dunes
0900 – Arrival at White Sand Dunes, take pictures, eat lunch etc
1200 – Arrival at Fairy Springs (Suoi Tien Cat), explore the rock formations
1320 – Depart from Fairy Springs, return your motorbike and go to the bus station
1340 – Board the bus to HCMC
1900 – Arrival at HCMC

Get To Mui Ne By Bus

Although other options are available to get to Mui Ne such as by train or by car, taking the bus is the easiest and more applicable for spontaneous travelers like me. Book the 6:30 AM bus throught Phuong Trang bus company, which you can do online through futabus.vn for 130,000 VND (all prices will be summarized towards the end). If you love road trips like me, reserve a level 2 bed at the right window so you can see the countryside.

The terminal of the bus is at at Mien Tay which quite far from district 1 but you can call the hotline 1900 6067 to inform them to pick you up from their Pham Ngu Lao office. The agent will inform you to go to 272 De Tham 30 minutes prior to the departure time. From their office, a mini shuttle will take you to a bus stop along Mai Chi Tho. Based on my experience, the mini shuttle picked the passengers from Pham Ngu Lao at around 6:40am; we waited for a long time! So don’t panic if you get a little late for the 6am call time. Tell the conductor to drop you off at Tacu Mountain.

Tacu Mountain

A standalone mountain with an elevation of 649 meters, Tacu mountain lies just an hour before Mui Ne. It’s popular to the locals for the buddhist pagodas at the pseudo summit. Getting off from the bus, ask a xe om to drive you to the entrance. It’s around a 5 minute drive to get to the entrance from the bus stop, but walking under the scorching sun is possible.

Once at the entrance, pay the fee to get in. You have the option to ride the cable car for 160 000 VND entrance fee. I chose to hike up of course, for a fee of 15 000 VND. Once you get inside the park, it’s easy to ask the staff the way to the trail.

Tacu Mountain
View from Tacu Mountain

The trail is really visible, it’s impossible to get lost. I made it alone! In just 1 hour and 30 minutes, you’ll arrive at the cable car station. From there, head to the stairs that lead to the pagodas, which will take less than 30 minutes. You will get a view of the fields of the countryside.

From the reclining buddha, which is the end of the path, I tried moving further upward to find the real summit. However, no trail exists, and it was eating a lot of my time to navigate through the seemingly uncharted territory. I have a sunset to catch so I decided to descend using the same way. It took only 1.5 hours to get back to the park entrance. From there, you can ride the bus 46 to Phan Tiet, which will drop you somewhere near Coop Mart. Cross the road opposite Coop Mart to the bus terminal where you will catch another bus to Mui Ne town proper. I forgot the bus number, but there’s printed signage that says Mui Ne, so it’s impossible to miss it! You can also grab banh mi or whatever you find from the street for lunch.

Renting a Motorbike

I asked to be dropped at the Phuong Trang ticketing office so I could buy my ticket for the next day. Once done, I walked back to rent a bike from one of the shops I spotted while the bus threaded the street. I got mine for 150 000VND, which is fair enough for me. The gas indicator of rented motorbikes are usually not working, which will trick the drivers to always gas it up. So I advise that you check your tank before driving. Mine had a considerable amount inside and I only gassed it up the next day for only 30 000 VND.

Red San Dunes

Once you have your motorbike, you can go wherever you want, do whatever you want! But I suggest you head out for the Red Sand Dunes first, which is best to see during sunset, when the sand is in gleaming red. Park your motorbike in one of the stalls opposite the dunes for 10 000VND. You would also see locals offering their mats for rent which you can use to slide down the slopes. I didn’t try it myself because I have a backpack with camera and gadgets.

Red Sand Dunes - Mui Ne
Red Sand Dunes – Mui Ne

Sunrise at Long Son Resorts Beach Camp

After a tiring day of hiking and chasing the sand dunes, a drive to Long Son Beach Resort will reward you with a chill environment for you to relax and spend the night on. The resort has high ratings for its beach campground, which I availed for only 90 000 VND for one night.

Chill by the beach at Mui Ne
Chill by the beach at Mui Ne

The single-tent is wide enough and has a mattress and pillow for a comfortable sleep. The wild breeze and waves are perfect for meditation and reflection during the night. There are also swings and beds at the beachfront, but the comforters are removed at night to keep it from getting wet from dew. The covered lounge area was full of backpackers, so you could mingle with co-travelers there. I however just spent the rest of the night in silent mode by the beach after having shower and dinner. I slept perfectly well inside my tent, and woke up 5:10 the next day to a stunning horizon, when the sun was about to rise. Being a sunrise-lover and having seen countless sunrises in the past, this one in Mui Ne is one of the most gorgeous I have ever seen!

Sunrise at Mui Ne
Sunrise at Mui Ne

The waves are also great for surfing (I think), but it could cost you much to rent if you don’t have a surfing board. You can dip into the ocean; you can swim if the waves are not too harsh. After taking breakfast, check out and drive  20 kilometers Northeast of Long Son to the terrific White Sand Dunes. The direct sunlight hits the tents furiously; there are no shades. So it’s better to move along . While driving, if you need to gas up, there’s a gas station somewhere before you turn right to DT716B. The long and winding road with consistent views of the red/orange countryside will make you enjoy the drive!

Long Son Resort Campground
Long Son Resort Campground

White Sand Dunes

The White Dunes will give you a feel of Sahara and Gobi desert, except that instead of camels, your option is to rent an ATV for at least 150 000 VND which will take you further to the hills. I preferred walking the dunes, however, feeling the sand on my feet. Just make sure you have sun protection, ie hat, sunglasses, sun block; having umbrella is really good. There are also food stalls in the outskirts of the desert. A fresh coconut juice was so refreshing for me, for only 25 000 VND! Once you feel satisfied with you shots, it’s time to head for the last, yet not the least part of the itinerary. It’s a 32 kilometer drive from the White Sand desert to the Fairy Stream.

White Sand Dunes Mui Ne
White Sand Dunes Mui Ne

Fairy Stream (Suoi Tien Cat)

The highlight of this stream is actually the long wall of  red, orange and white sand and rock formations, with continuous streams flowing at its foot. There’s no entrance fee to visit this place, but parking, of course, costs a little (10 000 VND). You could hike up to the formations, but be very careful as they are not rock-strong. They easily fall off with added weight.

The fairy stream is just very close to the bus station, so allot maybe 15-20 minutes prior to your call time to return the rented motorbike and get to the station. I took the 2pm bus back to Saigon but there’s one leaving every hour. The bus is fully booked, though, so it’s better to get your ticket earlier, either online or upon arrival at the town.

Fairy Springs in Mui Ne
Fairy Springs in Mui Ne

Expenses

For a total for 620 000 VND, less than USD30, not including food expense though, you can explore all Mui Ne has to offer. Here’s a breakdown of the expenses:

260 000 – Round trip bus SGN to Tacu, Mui Ne – SGN
30 000 – Tocal bus from Tacu Mountain to Mui Ne
20 000 – Tacu Mountain entrance fee
150 000 – Motorbike rent
10 000 – Parking (Red sand dunes)
90 000 – Camping fee
30 000 – gas
15 000 – White sand dunes entrance fee
5 000 – Parking (White sand dunes)
10 000 – Parking (Suoi Tien)

Tips

-Bring sunglasses to protect your eyes from sands. It gets windy a lot of times in Mui Ne!
-Keep the sand from getting into your gadgets’ surface and controls.
-Book the bus online to be able to select the bed assignment. If you book on site, the staff will not ask you which slot you want.
-Pack very light since you will hike a mountain.. You wouldn’t want to carry a lot when climbing up!

Is Mui Ne Worth It?

Definitely YES! It is activity-filled with opportunities to relax! I have not included food suggestions because I prioritized visiting the sites rather than spending a lot of time eating. But if it is a must for you, then head on along the stretch of Nguyen Dinh Chieu where local restaurants offer fresh seafood.

You can also check out my 3D-2N guide to exploring the amazing beaches and hidden wonders of Cam Ranh and Nha Trang in a budget.

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