If you’re headed to Vietnam, you’ll likely be spending some time in the country’s biggest city, Ho Chi Minh City (also known as Saigon). This busy metropolis will likely keep you busy for days on end. Most spend their time here enjoying mouthwatering meals, learning about the country’s history, and soaking in the culture – but southern Vietnam has a ton to offer, and Ho Chi Minh City is just a gateway to other breathtaking areas.
Those looking to explore this region will have plenty of opportunities to get away from the hustle and bustle of Saigon and discover white-sand beaches, verdant nature areas, and wartime relics.
Scroll down to see the top 15 best day trips from Ho Chi Minh City, and plan your relaxing day trip!
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Dubbed the coconut capital of Vietnam, there’s a ton to do in the quaint town of Ben Tre on a day trip from Ho Chi Minh City – even if you’re not a fan of coconuts.
Located on the banks of the Mekong Delta, this is a great spot to book a boat tour along the famed river and explore the small islands that are home to eco-resorts, bee farms, lush orchards, and of course, coconut candy factories.
While you’re in Ben Tre, it’s simply a must that you try some of the square coconut candies that are produced here. You’ll see a wide variety of products made from coconuts, including milk, oil, and even furniture.
The town is yet to be totally taken over by tourists, making it the perfect spot to get away from the crowds of Saigon and interact with some friendly locals.
Although not the largest or most famous, Cai Be is the closest floating market to Ho Chi Minh City, and it’s a very impressive sight to see.
Floating markets are few and far between these days, but back in their prime, they were the main way to trade and transport goods.
Hire your own boat to experience the market from up close and watch as locals barter over fresh fruit, fish, rice, and other stores. There are also various stalls selling souvenirs, local wares, and tantalizing Vietnamese food.
The village itself is worth a visit, and you can do so via kayak, boat, or bicycle.
One of the most popular day trips from Ho Chi Minh City is a visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels. The Viet Cong utilized the 250 kilometers, of underground passages during the Vietnam War. If you’re not claustrophobic, you can explore these small labyrinths and have a glimpse of what life was like for the soldiers.
Some of the tunnels have been widened to accommodate tourists, and besides the narrow passages, you can also see bunkers, living quarters, trade routes, and even an underground hospital.
There are two different sections of tunnels to visit, the closest being Ben Dinh. Head a bit further to the Ben Duoc section, where the tunnels are truer to their original form and less inundated with crowds.
Those looking for a relaxing day on the beach should head straight to Vung Tao. This popular beach destination boasts white sand beaches and incredible mountain views, and is also well known amongst tourists and locals alike – so you can almost always expect a crowd.
It’s still a great place to relax and soak up some sun and stunning scenery, and there are tons of other activities to keep you busy for a full day. Head up the Nui Nuo Mountain for a photo-op with the 105-foot Jesus statue and lighthouse, or take a ride on the cable cars and visit the amusement park that awaits you up top. There are also a swath of restaurants along the beach, many of which boast fresh seafood and beach chairs.
One of the most interesting day trips from Ho Chi Minh City can be found in the town of Tay Ninh, and more specifically in the Cao Dai Temple.
The religion of Cao Dai encompasses aspects from Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, and Islam. Although young (founded in 1926), it is the third-largest religion in Vietnam. The temple is simply astounding, with ornate structures and artwork from all the different religions. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind structure that should be on the bucket list of anyone traveling through Vietnam.
You can witness the monks worshipping at four different times a day, and the chanting reverberates throughout the temple providing you with a fully unique experience.
If you have time, make sure to spend some time in the city of Tay Ninh as well. There’s a great market and a host of restaurants that’ll leave you with a full belly and a sense of the local culture.
Natural beauty and fabulous wildlife watching opportunities await you in the Can Gio Biosphere, located just outside of Ho Chi Minh City.
Escape the hubbub of the urban center and bask in unspoiled nature. The mangrove forests of this area were destroyed during the Vietnam War, but have since regrown and been dubbed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Take a boat tour through the verdant waterways where you’ll see an array of flora and fauna, including crocodiles, king cobras, hundreds of bird species, and monkies.
Take a trip out to the aptly named Monkey Island, which is home to thousands of the creatures. They are quite cute, but incredibly mischievous – so make sure you have a good grip on your belongings at all times. The island also houses the Rung Sac Guerilla base, which was used during the war.
Those looking to get into nature without venturing too far away from Ho Chi Minh City should take a day trip to the Giang Dien Waterfalls.
These easily accessible falls are beloved by locals and offer the perfect way to cool off on hot sunny days. There’s also a swimming lagoon, various walking paths, and idyllic gardens surrounding the falls.
If you’d like to enjoy the tranquility of this area for longer than a day, you can hire a tent and stay the night.
Black Virgin Mountain, locally known as ‘Ba Den Mountain”, is a great place to stretch your legs amidst beautiful scenery.
Experienced hikers can summit this tall peak in a few hours, and those who aren’t keen on getting a workout in can use the cable cars to reach the top – where you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the nearby villages and rice paddies. There are even some shrines and pagodas you can visit while you’re up there.
Those looking for a less crowded beach destination should make their way to Ho Coc Beach. It’s a bit further from Ho Chi Minh City than Vung Tao, but much less crowded; you may even have the beach all to yourself if you visit during the week.
Although the surf here is a bit rough, the sandy beach is the perfect place to lay out and soak up some sun and you can even rent sunbeds from the resorts along the shore.
One of Saigon’s best-kept secrets, Tan Lap Floating Village is located about two hours away. This eco-tourism destination is a great place to spend the day and leave the bustling metro behind.
There are no occupants in this “village”, rather a verdant nature reserve with elevated walking platforms that you need a boat to access. If you visit the reserve in September, you’ll be greeted by a host of beautiful blooming lotus flowers.
Once you arrive, you’ll get to walk through forests of melaleuca trees and bask in the quiet ambiance that can only be found this far out of the city. For the best views, climb up the village’s watchtower.
Another great day trip awaits at one of Vietnam’s largest nature reserves – the Cat Tien National Park. If you’re hoping to see some of the country’s real jungle topography, then look no further.
The park is home to some incredibly diverse animals, including elephants and leopards. They’re not a common appearance, but if you keep your eyes peeled, you might get lucky. You’ll see a great diversity of plants, including some trees that are hundreds of years old.
Spend your day in the park hiking, visiting animal rescue centers, or cruising around the picturesque Crocodile Lake.
Although it is a bit far out from Ho Chi Minh City, as long as you get an early start and plan ahead, the day trip is doable.
Hikers looking for an active day trip should head east from Ho Chi Minh City to Chua Chan Moutain.
Hike up to the summit in just a few hours, and be treated to a series of pagodas, shops, and restaurants along the way. Fuel up on banana chips and cold drinks at these stop-offs, take a longer break in a hammock. You can also take a cable car up to this area if you aren’t in the mood for hiking.
Those who make it up to the summit will find breathtaking views and large rocks to sit on while you take it all in.
If you feel like making the long trek, a trip to Can Tho is a great place to spend the day. This city is home to the country’s most famous floating water market, and you can book a tour to observe the local trade from up close. There’s also a noodle-making factory along the river that sells fresh, mouth-watering noodles.
The city itself is also a fun, less touristy place to explore, with lots of temples, including the world’s largest Buddhist temple, and even more markets to peruse. If you have time, don’t miss the Con Son Ecotourism Area and the My Kong Tourist Village on the outskirts of town.
One of the closest day trips from Ho Chi Minh City is the Suoi Tien Amusement Park. At less than an hour away from Saigon, it is a great place for families and those looking to get a healthy dose of Vietnamese culture.
The park has a Buddhist theme, so you’ll see plenty of shrines, temples, sculptures, and exhibitions that nod to this beloved religion. There’s more to do here than simply gawking at the incredible backdrop, however.
There are roller coasters, rides, a zoo, and a water park that’ll be a welcome reprieve on hot days.
15. Buu Long Pagoda
The Buu Long Pagoda is also just a short way away from the center of Ho Chi Minh City, and this impressive piece of architecture shouldn’t be missed when you’re this close.
This urban oasis is a Thai and Myanmar style of architecture with an incredible gold stupa and ornate carvings with statues all around. It’s a quiet and peaceful area, making it a popular reprieve from the big city.
If you climb to the top of the pagoda, you can take in views of the city and the Dong Nai River. There are also a series of verdant walking paths around the temple and a vegetarian restaurant nearby if you get hungry.