Hoi An is one of Vietnam’s most beloved destinations thanks to its charming scenery and personality. Exploring this small city on the central coast of Vietnam is a feast for the senses with lots of sights to see and foods to try. The city is definitely an essential stop on your Vietnam itinerary and as such you’ll want to know how to make the most of your time there.
While it may not be a large city, you can actually spend quite a lot of time exploring Hoi An. Three days is long enough to cover the best places to visit in Hoi An, but once you begin to visit places nearby too, you’ll realize just how much this corner of Vietnam has to offer. That’s why we’ve put together this Hoi An itinerary, so that you can understand how to best use your time during your 3 days in Hoi An. So let’s get into it shall we?
Best Time to Visit Hoi An
Whenever you’re planning a trip to Vietnam, it’s important that you think carefully about the time of year that you visit. Not only do you need to take tourist high season into account, but also the fact that different parts of Vietnam experience completely separate weather and seasons from one another.
Sitting on the central coast of Vietnam, Hoi An really only has a dry season and a wet season. It’s generally agreed that the best time to visit Hoi An is during the dry season which stretches from February to August. For cooler, more comfortable weather consider visiting between February and April, but if heat and sun are what you want, wait until May or June. September is the closest thing Hoi An gets to a shoulder season, making it a good pick for lower tourist numbers and more affordable accommodation.
As for the wet season in Hoi An, that generally runs from October to February. Those thinking of visiting during this period should know that the rain is at its heaviest during October and November, with flooding of the Ancient Town not uncommon. The local wet season aligns with Vietnam’s high season as a whole, so you may not have much choice if you’re traveling across the country. Just be prepared for weather disruptions if you do choose to visit then.
How to Get Around Hoi An
With so much to see and do, you’ll want to know all your options for getting around while visiting Hoi An. Now, just getting around the Ancient Town of Hoi An is very simple. You should have no problem walking from one place to another as you explore the historical center.
But this Hoi An itinerary extends far beyond the borders of the Ancient Town, so you’ll need to know your options. To get around on your own, it’s possible to rent bicycles and motorbikes, although the bicycles will probably only be useful for reaching the closest beaches. Bicycles cost around 30,000 VND per day, electric bikes around 70,000 VND per day, and motorbikes in Vietnam are often somewhere around 150,000 VND per day. Less flexible options include taking a taxi or a Grab (Southeast Asia’s equivalent to Uber), or hiring a driver for the day.
To reach Hoi An from the nearest airport which is Da Nang Airport, you have several options. The cheapest option is the local bus which costs 30,000 VND, but it’s also the slowest at around 1 ½ hours, and is not ideal for those with lots of luggage. A better option for most tourists is an airport transfer shuttle, which is a little faster at roughly 1 ¼ hours and costs around 140,000 VND. You can book a private airport shuttle here.
Where to Stay in Hoi An
Finding the right accommodation is always a crucial step in any trip as it can have a huge impact on your visit. The good news is that there’s plenty of accommodation to choose from in Hoi An, with options that will suit every budget and style of travel. Still, to ensure you don’t miss out on the best places to stay in Hoi An, it’s best to book in advance when possible.
To save you having to work out where to stay in Hoi An, we’ll provide some suggestions and advice on where you should be looking. In terms of location, the closer you can stay to the Ancient Town the better as that’s where you’ll want to spend the bulk of your time. There are also clusters of accommodation around one kilometer to the north and east of the Ancient Town, an area which is home to luxury hotels and villas that are often a little more affordable.
For a seriously luxurious stay in Hoi An, the Little Riverside Hoi An is the way to go. This 5-star hotel sits right on the banks of the Thu Bon River in the Ancient Town, offering stylish and spacious suites, a rooftop pool, and superb complimentary breakfast.
If you’re in search of both comfort and affordability, La An Central Boutique Villa is an ideal choice for your visit. Staying at this villa on An Hoi island, guests can enjoy spacious rooms at a reasonable rate, a great breakfast, and an outdoor swimming pool.
Hoi An is home to plenty of great budget and backpacker accommodation, with Tribee Bana Hostel one of the best options out there. This relaxed hostel has private rooms and dorms without bunk beds, a funky common area, and an unbeatable location right in the heart of the Old Town. For more hostel recommendations, check out our hostel guide to Hoi An.
For more accommodation options in Hoi An check out Booking.com. They continuously offer the best rates and their custom service is on point.
The Perfect 3-Day Hoi An Itinerary
Like most tourist destinations in Vietnam, there’s a wonderful variety of attractions to explore in Hoi An. With three days there you’ll have no trouble covering the best things to do in Hoi An, particularly around the Ancient Town. What’s more, you’ll be able to head off on day trips to beaches along the coast and other awesome places found on Vietnam’s central coast. That is, of course, if you follow this Hoi An travel itinerary.
However, before we get to our Hoi An itinerary, we just wanted to remind you to purchase travel insurance. You never know what will happen and, trust us, you do not want to get stuck with thousands of dollars in medical bills. As a wise man once said, “If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.” So don’t leave home without it.
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Having addressed that important matter, you can now fully dive into the best of Hoi An with this itinerary. Below you’ll find a highly flexible outline of what to do in Hoi An in 3 days to make your time in this colorful city enjoyable.
Hoi An Itinerary: Day 1
On your first day it’s best to start by exploring the various attractions and markets found around the Hoi An Ancient Town.
Hoi An Central Market
Start off with a visit to the Hoi An Central Market. The market can get much busier later in the day, so a morning start is a good idea. What’s more, you can also get a bit of breakfast here if you like, or watch as local fisherman bring in their catch to sell.
Throughout the market you’ll find all manner of things for sale, from textiles and handicrafts, to local produce and spices. Inside the market is a food court where you can get food, while snacks and coffee are hawked around the outside. Even if you don’t buy anything during this visit, you’ll have a good idea about what food and potential souvenirs are sold for.
Much of what makes Hoi An so special as a tourist destination relates to its incredibly well-preserved historical center. Known either as the Ancient Town or Old Town, this central part of Hoi An managed to survive the Vietnam War mostly unscathed, leaving it with plenty of old-fashioned character. This area is also said to have been settled for at least 2,000 years, all of which explains its inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The Hoi An Central Market is actually in the Ancient Town so feel free to wander about its immediate area. Down every street you’ll no doubt find countless faded yellow merchant houses and lanterns along either side, creating the wonderful scenery Hoi An is famous for. As for specific landmarks around the Ancient Town, below are some to keep an eye out for.
Japanese Covered Bridge
Perhaps the single most iconic landmark in Hoi An is the Japanese Covered Bridge in the Ancient Town. The well-preserved bridge dates from the 16th century and once connected the Japanese and Chinese communities of the city. Thanks to its beautiful, ornate carvings the bridge is a firm favorite among photographers and local couples looking to have their photo taken.
Next, it’s time to pay a visit to some of the old houses of Hoi An that have been opened up to tourists. These historic residences allow travelers to see what these traditional homes look like on the inside, as well as learn about the city’s history through the stories of the families that lived in them.
Old House of Tan Ky is probably the most popular one to visit, belonging to the descendants of a wealthy family of local merchants. Built in the 18th century, it incorporates a mix of Japanese, Chinese, and traditional Vietnamese architecture, and is still decorated with antique furniture and assorted memorabilia. Guided tours are possible here if you’d like to learn more about the family and their life. Another historic home is the Old House of Phung Hung, featuring a colorful entrance hall and a pleasant balcony area.
Fujian Assembly Hall
Hoi An is in part a popular destination for its colorful scenery and one of its most vibrant landmarks is the gate to the Fujian Assembly Hall. Originally just a pagoda built by Vietnamese locals in the 17th century, it was sold to Hoi An’s Fujian-born community as a place to socialize. While described as an assembly hall, it’s really more of a place of worship, especially as the Jinshang Golden Mountain temple is considered the heart of the complex. There are quite a few things to see here, but the gorgeous pink and green gate is certainly the most photogenic.
Precious Heritage Art Gallery Museum
To learn a little about just how diverse Vietnam is, head over to the Precious Heritage Museum and Art Gallery. There you’ll find an exhibition that explores the culture and heritage of Vietnam’s many ethnic tribes through portraits, stories, and traditional outfits. This free museum is the life’s work of French migrant Réhahn who has spent years studying and sharing the traditions of the 54 ethnic tribes and subgroups found across the country.
The ideal way to end your first day, and really any day in Hoi An, is at the city’s treasured Night Market. Each night the streets around the island of An Hoi fill with people and stalls selling food, clothes, and all sorts of other things. The Night Market is a true spectacle and delight to the senses, with the incredible sight of thousands of lanterns in the area and the tempting smells of cheap snacks like banh mi and banh xeo. If you’re lucky, you may even catch the monthly Hoi An Lantern Festival, where a flotilla of small paper lanterns drift down the nearby river.
Hoi An Itinerary: Day 2
While you could easily fill your day with visits to local tailors or cooking courses, why not make the most of the nearby seaside for at least part of the day. What follows are several quality beach options easily accessed from Hoi An.
Cua Dai Beach
The most famous beach near Hoi An is Cua Dai Beach, running along the nearest stretch of coast from the city. Cua Dai Beach sprawls for kilometers and is also quite wide, allowing plenty of space for beachgoers. Its popularity comes from the combination of fine, white sand to lie on, clear tropical blue water to swim in, and willow trees that provide a little shade.
There are plenty of options to rent sun loungers and parasols here, while hawkers with food and drinks regularly walk up and down the beach. Admittedly, the hawkers and weekend crowds can mean that at times Cua Dai Beach isn’t the most peaceful beach spot. The upside to its popularity though is that there’s no shortage of seafood restaurants and bars nearby to fill up at.
An Bang Beach
A quieter alternative to Cua Dai Beach for Hoi An beachgoers is to continue north along the coast to An Bang Beach. This beach is a local favorite that tends to see fewer people, while still offering flawless white sand. An Bang Beach is also free from the kind of commercial development that can ruin the relaxed atmosphere of Vietnam’s beaches. That said, you can still find seafood restaurants and bars just back from the waterfront. At An Bang it’s possible to rent sunbeds, as well as surfboards and stand-up paddleboards, and even take lessons if you’ve never used them before.
Recommendation: If you don’t want to spend the whole day laying on the beach, consider joining this amazing eco tour. On this tour you’ll get to visit a local market, cruise down the Thu Bon River and take part in a hands-on cooking class. It’s a great experience and afterwards there is still time to go to the beach.
Rather than visit the beaches near Hoi An, you could instead journey up to the city of Da Nang and see what it’s coast is like. Da Nang doesn’t have the kinds of historical sights that Hoi An is known for, and instead is actually best known for its beaches.
My Khe Beach and Non Nuoc Beach are generally considered to be the best beaches in Da Nang. My Khe Beach is a city beach that’s very central to Da Nang and is the closest section of the beachfront that stretches right along the coast here. With city streets immediately behind it, you can easily reach restaurants and spas from the beach.
Non Nuoc Beach on the other hand is down to the south end of the city and is mostly surrounded by resorts. What’s nice about Non Nuoc is its calm surf and particularly unpolluted sand and water.
Finally, another option is to wave goodbye to the mainland and take a boat ride out to the Cham Islands. This collection of eight islets off the coast of Hoi An are only accessible during the dry season, but are worth the journey when possible. The most popular activities here are snorkeling and scuba diving in the Cu Lao Cham Marine Park that surrounds one of the islands. Head over to Hon Lao Island and you’ll find a spotless beach to relax on. You can book a boat trip to the Cham Islands here.
Hoi An Itinerary: Day 3
Rounding out your 72 hours in Hoi An, look a little further beyond Hoi An and see what other great destinations there are on Vietnam’s central coast. Choosing which Hoi An day trip you want to do will add another dimension to your trip and help you further customize your itinerary.
1. Marble Mountains
One of the easiest and most rewarding day trips from Hoi An is to head north to the Marble Mountains. This striking cluster of five limestone and marble mountains are hard to miss amidst the flat coastal countryside that runs between Hoi An and Da Nang. Besides their eye-catching nature rising above the landscape, these mountains also have important religious significance.
The best place to start is at Mount Thuy, as it’s one of the only ones you’re allowed to climb. Staircases that seemingly never end wind their way up this mountain, with small pauses to show you pretty shrines and pagodas such as the Non Nuoc Pagoda. Mount Thuy is also home to several caves, including Huyen Khong Cave which actually hosts a wonderfully atmospheric Buddhist shrine inside.
Before further exploring the Marble Mountains, make sure to keep climbing up until you reach one of the summits of Mount Thuy. Up there, you’ll be given some magical views of the rest of the Marble Mountains on one side and the stunning coastline on the other.
2. Hai Van Pass
The central coast of Vietnam is famous for having one of the country’s most scenic roads, the Hai Van Pass. This winding road carves its way through the coastal mountains north of Da Nang and is widely considered the ultimate road trip in Vietnam.
It owes much of its popularity, at least with Westerners, to the TV show Top Gear in which the cast rode through on their Vietnam Special and raved about the scenery. Even though this route lies on the well-traveled route between Hue and Hoi An, few get to see its incredible coastal views as most transport takes a modern tunnel through the mountains instead. As such, if you want to see the Hai Van Pass, it’s best to make a day of it.
Since your transport is so integral to this day trip, there are a few things you should know. To ride the Hai Van Pass you can either rent a motorbike, ensuring you have an appropriate license and insurance, or take a motorbike tour which covers those issues for you. Either way, this road and its landscape are not to be missed.
3. Ba Na Hills
Easily the hottest day trip destination right now is the Ba Na Hills out to the west of Da Nang. Once a hill station resort built by the French in the early 20th century, the Ba Na Hills have been transformed into a resort theme park that really needs to be seen to be believed. You’re unlikely to encounter anywhere else quite like this in Vietnam that’s for sure.
The most famous landmark in the Ba Na HIlls, at least these days, is the Golden Bridge which opened in 2018 to much fanfare. This elevated pedestrian bridge was all over Instagram then, thanks to its mesmerizing design which features two giant hands that hold it up.
But there’s more to the Ba Na Hills than many may realize. For instance, there’s a substantial replica of a French village, complete with its own scaled-down Notre Dame Cathedral. Helping you forget you’re in Vietnam is the German beer garden, an alpine slide, and other amusement park rides.
Here ends this guide to sightseeing around Hoi An in 3 days. It should be clear just how many options you have open to you regarding how you spend your time there. But no matter what you choose, it’s unlikely to disappoint.