BEACHES & BAYS in Con Dao Island:
Con Son is a wild and rugged island: mountains and rocky headlands plunge straight into the sea. There aren’t that many long, sandy beaches, like the ones you find on Phu Quoc Island. However, there are several bays where the mountains give way to some stunning strips of sand and turquoise water, which are, for my money, more spectacular than Phu Quoc. The following list of beaches and bays are scattered around the main island of Con Son, and are listed in order of my own personal preference. All these beaches can be visited by motorbike or taxi or, in some cases, only on foot. There are other beaches on the outlying islands, but you’ll need to charter a boat to get to those
At the tip of the headland that juts out south of Con Son town is Mũi Cá Mập (Shark Cape). A fierce wind smacks the side of your scooter as the road twists around the cape to reveal the best view on the island. Looking down, you can see the road cutting along the coastline below the windswept southern slopes of Núi Thánh Giá, the highest mountain on Con Son Island. Big boulders that were dynamited during the construction of the road, (also paid for with prisoners’ lives), lie strewn on the seaside of the tarmac, decreasing in size as they roll down to meet the rice-white sand and gin-clear water of Nhat Beach, behind which the Jurassic Park-like island of Hon Ba looms (where Prince Nguyen Anh and Phi Yen are said to have stayed). This is my favorite beach on Con Son Island. In fact, it’s one of my favorite beaches in all of Vietnam. The swimming is excellent, especially before noon, when the water is often calmest, and when the tide is usually out so that more beach is exposed. However, there is very little shade on Nhat Beach, and it is increasingly difficult to ignore the landfill on the opposite side of the road, which is yet another reminder of how fragile this island is.
Dam Trau Beach:
In the northwest of the island, Dam Trau Beach is a sandy cove shaded by casuarina trees and flanked by rocky headlands covered in tropical foliage. Just a couple of years ago, the beach was only accessible via a sandy dirt lane through the foliage. Now, however, a wide new paved road has been constructed, ultimately to facilitate development of the beach. For now, Dam Trau is still very quiet and peaceful for most of the day. But, in the late afternoons, tour buses often arrive (they can do so now because of the new road) and disgorge dozens of visitors. However, there’s lots of space so the beach is never crowded. Dam Trau is right next to the airport (the runway ends just as the tarmac meets the sand), so when the flights come in to land, everyone on the beach stops to gaze as the small propeller aircraft drift down over the sea. During the last couple years a few makeshift cafes have opened on the sand. They’re shabby and temporary-looking, and trash is piling up behind them, stewing in the sun. However, it’s nice to have some food and drink available on this side of the island, because previously the only place for refreshments was the airport cafe. A hundred metres before you reach the beach there’s a small shrine to Prince Cai, Phi Yen’s son.
Lo Voi Beach:
At the northeastern end of Con Son town’s fabulous seafront promenade, Loi Voi Beach is a ribbon of white sand spreading out under a line of casuarina trees. It’s a gorgeous spot: the water is shallow and blue, there’s a constant sea breeze drifting through the trees, the wooden skeletons of wrecked fishing vessels lie entombed in the sand, and the rugged hills of Shark Cape lead out into the ocean to south. The beach is protected and calm, sheltered by a hilly headland. At low-tide, usually early in the morning, the sand is exposed for over a hundred metres, during which time I’m told it’s possible to walk around the headland to a secret sandy cove at its tip. As always on Con Son Island, just as you’re wallowing in tranquility of Lo Voi Beach, you’re reminded that the past stalks every corner of this island. During the century that Con Son served as a prison island, many of the remains of the thousands of prisoners who died in captivity were discarded under the casuarina trees between the road and the beach. A memorial plaque by the roadside, covered in fresh flowers and burning incense, serves as a reminder.
Con Son (An Hai) Beach:
An Hai Beach is a sandy continuation of the harbourfront that stretches southwest of Con Son town. Fringed by palm trees and overlooked by green mountains, this beach is dotted with the only beachfront accommodation within walking distance of the town. However, even if you’re not staying at one of the beachfront resorts, you can still access this beach by walking or driving to the southernmost section of sand, where the road nearly meets the sea. The water here is clear and cool, and great for swimming. But sandflies have always been a problem and, now that the new boat pier has been constructed at its northern end, there’s a lot more trash in the water and washed up on the sand (much of it, sadly, comes from the fishing boats moored along the pier, whose crews tend to throw their beer cans and polystyrene boxes of food straight into the sea). However, the broad stretch of sand is such a beautiful sight that you soon forget about the flies and the litter…..well, almost. Another popular place to access what is, I suppose, technically Con Son Beach is either side of the smaller, old boat pier, directly opposite the old French customs house, in the centre of Con Son town’s seafront promenade. An hour or so before sunset, dozens of Vietnamese tourists and locals come out to play in the surf. It’s a great time to be here: watching the sun set behind Shark Cape, having a drink and snack from one of the street vendors, before walking back along the silent coast road, looking out at the anthracite ocean pricked with the glow of fishing boat lights.
Dat Doc Beach:
Although the vast majority of the sand at the western end of Dat Doc Beach is now owned (and conspicuously guarded) by the ultra-luxurious Six Senses Resort, the wider bay is just as appealing to swim, snorkel, wander, and find a large shady tree under which to camp for a few hours. The road runs very close to the coast, allowing you to park your motorbike on the verge and scramble down to a nice, isolated spot. At low-tide there are some sandy patches, but most of Dat Doc Bay is rocky. However, I find this is actually more convenient than sand: wet trunks out to dry in the sun on one boulder, picnic table on another, seats on others. I really enjoyed hopping from rock to rock along this bay in the late afternoon, when the sun sets over Con Son town. The views are dramatic and there’s no one around at all. The bay itself is protected from the winds and usually quite good for swimming. But if you swim be very careful not to go out too far, where the sea is exposed to the prevailing winds and the current can take you away.
Dam Tre Bay:
Only accessible via a beautiful hiking trail through thick jungle, Dam Tre is a lagoon right at the northern tip of Con Son Island. The trek takes a couple of hours and should be made in the mornings, when the tide is out, so that when you arrive at Dam Tre the water level will be low enough to get down to the lagoon and bathe. Swimming here is a real treat, especially after the hot and sweaty walk. The water is beautiful and there’s good snorkeling too. (Remember to bring drinking water.) It’s a gorgeous spot, and it’s easier than ever to get here since the pathway has recently been cleared and widened.
Review our Outdoor Trip plus Con Dao Island: