Amazing things to do in Con Dao Island:
Con Dao, Vietnam is one of those quiet and relatively unknown places that needs to be on your South Vietnam itinerary. Located in the southeast part of Vietnam in the Ba Ria – Vung Tau (Bà Rịa–Vũng Tàu) province, Con Dao (Côn Đảo in Vietnamese) is an archipelago of 16 islands. Con Son (Côn Sơn) is the largest island and most populated island.
From the island’s dark past as a former prison for 113 years and the use of the infamous “tiger cages” to the current unspoiled, stunning beaches, you can’t go wrong with a trip here.
In this post, we’re sharing our top recommendations of the 8 best things to do in Con Dao and helpful tips to plan your trip here.
We highly recommend that you visit Con Dao as soon as possible. Con Dao’s tourism is still not heavily developed so there are fewer crowds and a lack of mega-resorts along the beachfront. We love how this beautiful island maintains its local lifestyle as many local restaurants close early by 9:00pm. If you’re into nightlife, then you’re out of luck as there isn’t any.
We’re sharing our recommended attractions to visit in Con Dao Islands. Most of the Con Dao sightseeing is on Con Son Island.
Con Dao Museum (Bảo Tàng Côn Đảo) is a good introduction to the history of Con Dao and its dark past. First the French then the Americans occupied Con Dao and used it as a prison (also known as “Hell on Earth”) from 1862 – 1975.
We recommend that you visit the museum before checking out the prison cells on the island. The museum has plenty of English-translated signs as you walk through the galleries.
There are two parts to visit – 1) Overview of Con Dao’s biodiversity and 2) History of the prison system. The history section is extensive with over 2000 artifacts and photos of life in the prison and its influential Vietnamese fighters, including Vo Thi Sau (Võ Thị Sáu) who fought against the French, was captured, tried, and executed at 19 years old. You’ll also see how two U.S. Congressmen, Augustus Hawkins and William Anderson, exposed the gruesome tiger cages to the world.
If the outdoors of Con Dao are too hot for you, the museum is where you can cool off with AC units everywhere.
Admission: 10,000 VND ($.0.5 USD)
Address: Số 10 Đường Nguyễn Huệ
Opening Hours: 7:30am – 11:00am, 1:30pm – 4:30pm
Con Dao Prisons is a must-visit attraction. The three main prison sites are open to the public for you to explore – Phu Hai, American Tiger Cages, and French Tiger Cages.
It’s a solemn experience to think about how far the human race went to torture and kill thousands of Vietnamese fighters and revolutionary soldiers. You’ll see the tiger cages which were cells with bars and barbed wire so prisoners could get tortured and abused like animals.
Address: Along Lê Văn Việt
Across from this prison is the Phu An Camp (Trại Phú An) which has two sections of cells to browse through. There isn’t any additional fee to visit and an admission ticket isn’t necessary.
Address: Off of Nguyễn Chí Thanh
Address: Off of Nguyễn Chí Thanh
Admission: 40,000 VND ($1.70) which provides you access to all four locations on the same day, including the Palace of Island’s Governor (Di Tích Nhà Chúa Dảo)
Opening Hours: 7:30am – 11am, 2:00pm – 4:50pm
Con Son Island doesn’t have a shortage of beaches. You’ll find that many of the public beaches are in pristine conditions with the superfine white sand and the lack of garbage. It’s truly paradise! Let’s hope everyone makes an effort to sustain these beautiful beaches for future visitors.
Here are the top beaches that we went to:
While riding your motorbike around Con Son, you’ll see many signs for boat day trips and phone numbers listed. By collecting these numbers and calling around, you can find yourself a boat tour operator to explore the other Con Dao islands via a day trip. It’s recommended to speak Vietnamese to make the arrangements as English isn’t widely spoken.
We met our tour contact and the boat operator at the ferry terminal (Cầu tàu du lịch) which is in the downtown area. The boat holds 7-8 people so the more people that you have in your group, the cheaper it costs per person. Foreigners need to carry their passports for the trip to register at the port.
The day trip includes two swimming excursions and hanging out at a private island. The coral reefs were the most impressive that have seen in Vietnam, even after snorkeling in Ly Son, Phu Quoc, and Quy Nhon.
The water was also super blue and clear due to the low number of visitors. We saw no one else at our “private” island and just 2-3 groups snorkeling at the second swimming spot.
Vietnam loves having night markets! Con Son Night Market is an impressive size as the intersection between is closed to vehicles every night. Check out the various sections of fresh grilled seafood, Vietnamese local delicacies, and desserts. Or, sing your heart out in the public karaoke section and also try traditional Vietnamese games such as balancing on a beam.
Admission: Free, additional costs for food
Address: Intersection of Lê Hồng Phong and Nguyễn Huệ
If you want some hiking and to experience nature through the forest, then you must visit Con Dao National Park (Vườn Quốc Gia Côn Đảo). Depending on your interest and time, feel free to spend all day here. While we didn’t do any of the longer hikes, we’ve read that there are beautiful views from the mountain peaks.
Due to the humidity and heat, we spent 4 hours at the park and we started at 8:00am. The highlights include:
The Con Dao National Park has trails to visit other beaches in the park, such as Bang Beach (Bãi Bàng) and Dat Tham Beach (Bãi Đất Thắm) but it’ll require more time. Expect to spend about 1-2 hours each way to get to the beaches. Come prepared with water and sunscreen. These are rocky beaches as we mentioned before.
Admission: 60,000 VND ($2.50) per person. Based on availability, you may hire a guide at the ticket office for an additional fee.
Address: Continue west from Huỳnh Thúc Kháng until you reach the entrance.
Hang Duong Cemetery (Nghĩa Trang Hàng Dương) is one of the somber locations which reminds you of Con Dao’s horrific past. While there are over 1900 graves with many unmarked tombstones, it’s a peaceful place to walk through.
Most Vietnamese people pay respect to the unknown prisoners of wars and famous martyrs, such as Vo Thi Sau. You’ll see a crowd of people praying in front of her grave. The center of the cemetery also has an impressive memorial.
Please wear appropriate clothes prior to entering the cemetery, such as no shorts above the knees. If you’re sensitive to incense smoke, you may want to avoid this place.
Address: On Nguyễn An Ninh Street
Considering that Con Son is surrounded by the ocean, you won’t have any difficulties eating delicious and fresh seafood here. Check out our recommendations on places to eat in Con Dao’s Con Son. Don’t forget to bring cash as many places don’t accept credit cards.
Address: Off of the smaller side street of Trần Huy Liệu and Nguyễn An Ninh
Address: Off of Nguyễn Đức Thuận and Lương Thế Trân
Address: 22 Đường Nguyễn Huệ
Countryside Adventures offer Outdoor Tours plus Con Dao Island or your tailor-made base on your requests:
Countryside Adventures Team