Whale Island – Travel guide & 5 things to do

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Whale Island, also known as Hon Ong Island or Palm Island, is located about 110 km from Nha Trang in Van Phong Bay. This green, tropical island is known as a good destination for diving, but there are also a lot of other activities you can do. You can enjoy the beaches, walk and kayak around the island.

About Whale Island

Whale Island is located in central Vietnam about 100 kilometers from the popular resort of Nha Trang. The island is probably named Whale Island because whales are occasionally spotted in the waters around it, especially between the months of April and July.

It is mainly a well-known place to go diving, but even if you don’t like this you can spend 2 days or longer here on the beach and keep yourself busy with some island activities. The beauty of this area is that there is nothing else to be found except a resort, making the island clean and quiet.

Diving on Whale Island

This island has been called one of the best places for diving in Vietnam for a long time and it is even said that it was this place that Jacques Cousteau first found his love for the underwater world. Whale Island is ideal for both novice and more experienced divers, with drift dives, deep drop-offs and shore dives. Life underwater is wonderful, where you even have the chance to spot whales and sharks as the water gets deep off the coast quickly.

diving Whale Island

Rainbow Divers opened the PADI Center on the island in early 2002. Every day from February to October, the instructor and dive guide on site gives the opportunity to start a Padi course or go for some recreational dives on the daily boat trip or off the coast.

Every morning there is a boat trip to the best dive sites of the archipelago. The night dives in the Whale Island Marine Reserve are also recommended.

Dive highlights here include an abundance of snails (some of which have not yet been identified by science) and an array of diverse macro life making it a dream for underwater photographers and wildlife enthusiasts. There is also a wreck in the bay.

Whale Island Dive Season

The diving season on the island ends in mid-October and starts again in mid-February. The best season for diving is from April to September. Between April and June, you have the best chance of spotting whale sharks and whales, which come to this region for food such as krill and plankton.

Dive sites

There are several dive sites around Whale Island, including these:

  • Hon Trau Nam: Underwater caves and swimthoughs, rays can often be seen taking a rest here.
  • Hon Kho Trang: Two places for diving, with good visibility and lots of coral gardens and marine life.
  • Hon Tai: Coral plateau, with white tip reef sharks and nurse sharks often found here. Also good place for nudibranchs.
  • Napoleon Rock: A covered dive site with sandy bottom and Napoleon fish.
  • Raoul’s Reef: A coral wall with feather stars and you can find ghost pipefish here.
  • Bai Su: Caves at 15 meter deep, great place for finding nudibranchs and for night dives.
  • Hon Ong: Good spot for night dives, with shrimps, Spanish dancer and seahorses.
diving Whale Island

Things to do on Whale Island

Also if you are not into diving, it is a great place to visit and there are a few very nice things to do on Whale Island.

1. Beaches

Whale Island beach

Besides all the activities, you can of course also just enjoy the beaches, by lazing around, reading a book or swimming. There is one resort on the island that also has its own beach, but around the island you will find several beaches that you can visit by walking or kayaking. Because the island is very remote, far from the big cities, you don’t have to worry about them being full of loud people.

2. Snorkeling

If you can’t or don’t want to dive, you have the option to snorkel. If you have not brought a snorkel slut yourself, you can rent one for 2.5 USD per day. From the coast you can enter the clear water to see the coral or you can join diving and snorkeling trips with Rainbow Divers.

3. Kayaking around the island

Whale Island

For 5 UDS you can rent a two-person kayak with life jackets and paddles for a day. Kayaking is a fun and good way to discover the island and visit new snorkeling spots. The best time to go kayaking is in the late afternoon, to avoid the hottest time of the day and on your way peddling back you can enjoy a nice sunset.

4. Walking around the island (trekking)

Whale Island

There are some hiking trails that take you around the island. At the reception of the Whale Island resort you can get a map, with tips where you can stop to rest and take pictures. There are three trails you can choose from. It takes about 2 hours to get around the island (Red & White trail). You can also hike up the mountain for a great view of the island. Remember to bring plenty of water and long-sleeved clothes to avoid brushing against the forest leaves and protection against the sun and insects.

5. Water sports

There are also various other water sports that you can practice, such as a catamaran trip, windsurfing and beach volleyball. These activities can be arranged through the resort.

How to go to Whale Island?

From the mainland to the island it takes about 15-20 minutes, from Dam Mon. At the pier there is a boat from the resort that takes you to the island for free. Here are 3 ways to get to the pier:

Option 1: By resort shuttle bus

The Whale Island resort offers a shuttle bus service from Rainbow Dive Center in Nha Trang to Whale Island. A one-way ticket is $20 per person and leaves for the island at 9:00 AM and 2:00 PM. The shuttle bus returns at 12:00 PM and 4:00 PM from Dam Mon pier.

Option 2: By bus

From Nha Trang City, go to the Northern Bus Station and take the bus to Nha Trang – Tuy Hoa. This bus goes to Co Ma (ticket price is about 50k). You get off to go to the pier from here. You can go with a motorcycle taxi or a normal taxi.

Option 3: By car or motorcycle

You can also drive to the pier by motorbike or rent a car with a driver. The latter option is especially recommended when traveling with a group. You can arrange to be picked up directly from the airport.

Best time to visit Whale Island

The best time to travel to Whale Island and Nha Trang is from March to August. This season in Nha Trang has a swear mild climate with little rain and storm which is the best time to visit the island and this coastal city. It is also the time when the waves are calmer so that swimming and boat trips are pleasant.

Whale Island Resort

Whale Island resort

Hon Ong has only one resort, so all food, sleep and activities services are provided by this resort.

The resort owners are a French (husband) and Vietnamese woman. The staff on the island speak French, English and Vietnamese. Tourists are mostly foreigners.

This resort has 31 rooms, all bungalows. Some bungalows have a sea view and others a garden view. Standard room is 2 persons, and there are large rooms for families (4 persons, 2 double beds). Children under 5 years old stay for free. The resort also provides a free crib for children upon request.

Whale Island resort

Room rates range from about 60 USD per day to 120 USD per day, depending on the location of the room (sea view or garden view).

Rooms are pretty basic, no water heater, no TV, no fridge, no aircon, just ceiling fans (it’s cool all year round, no aircon needed).

Eating and drinking

Because Whale Island resort is the only place on the island and is completely uninhabited, this automatically means that this is the only place where you can eat. Every day there is a different set menu for about 12 UDS, excluding drinks. Drink is priced from 1 to 2 UDS for coffee and tea to 5 UDS for cocktails.

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