cham-islands-snorkeling-tour
Central Vietnam,  Vietnam

Cham Islands Snorkeling Tour from Hoi An

Taking a Cham Islands Snorkeling Tour from Hoi An is one of the more popular day tours in the city. The experience depends a lot on the season, the weather, which tour provider you pick and the other people in the group. With so many variables to consider, here is everything you need to know.

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Cham Islands from Hoi An

The Cham Islands are a group of 8 islands about 20 kilometres off the coast of Hoi An. They are part of the Cu Lao Cham Marine Park, which was declared a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in 2009. Roughly 3000 people are estimated to live on the islands, with most of them living on the main island Hòn Lao (Pearl Island).

Tours from Hoi An depart daily, except for the Tết holiday or extreme weather conditions. What counts as extreme weather? Thunderstorms, heavy rains and strong winds. Since the tours depend on speedboats delivering the people to the islands it is not safe to do so during these weather conditions. I would also advise against going the day after any of these weather conditions since the ocean floor will still be disturbed and muddy and you won’t have a good view underwater.

Tours depart from meeting points or pick the group up at their lodgings by minibus. You can also take a grab taxi or a scooter to Cua Dai Quay and buy a speedboat ticket there. All speedboats, no matter which tour company, depart from Cua Dai and take about 30 minutes to reach Cù lao Chàm pier on Hon Lao island.

On the main island, you can see Hải Tạng Pagoda, the Cham Museum, a small museum with two rooms and a research room for local scientists, an ancient freshwater well (Giếng Chăm cổ) and the Đèn Biển Cù Lao Chàm – Cham Lighthouse. Careful: Most tours do not include enough time to visit anything apart from the museum and well, since they only stop at this island for about 20 minutes.

The island itself is also worth some time, it has beautiful scenery you can enjoy during a scooter drive or hiking up one of its two hills. There are no hotels on any of the islands, but there are a handful of homestays*.

Snorkelling and Monkey Island

Once we had left the main Island there was a short stop on an island with showers and changing rooms, which nobody on the tour needed, because everyone had come wearing their swimming clothes under their normal clothes. 30 people, all prepared.

The boat was anchored in a natural bay in front of the third island – Hòn Dài, and snorkels and swimming goggles were given out to everyone, life vests, too for those who couldn’t swim or couldn’t swim well enough. I gave up on the snorkel pretty quickly, since my brain wouldn’t work with me and constantly told me I was drowning when I tried to breathe through it.

It wasn’t too bad though, since without the snorkel I could dive much easier, deeper and get an up-close look at the colourful coral reefs and many many fish and starfish. I did not take my phone into the water with me, despite the “underwater bag” I had bought and brought. One of the other tour guests, a nice older lady from the UK, took a few pictures of me with her phone though, so I have those.

If you have an option to bring an underwater camera, or you are willing to risk it with your phone in an underwater bag you can take many pictures of the fish. I didn’t expect the wildlife to be so abundant in a popular tour destination. The fish weren’t afraid of the tourists either, swimming around them in swarms and even coming close with curiosity when you remain still under water.

After snorkelling we were taken back to the second island – Hòn Lá, where we had a seafood lunch with grilled oysters, steamed shrimp, fried calamari with veggies and a local fish in a tomato sauce; served with rice, soy sauce, omelette and (as always on tours) French Fries.

After lunch, we had about an hour to hang out on the beach, watch the monkeys (careful, they WILL steal your stuff if there is food inside) or go swimming. At the end of the tour, we stopped a moment at Pearl Island again to pick people up, and then we embarked on the 30-minute drive back to Cua Dai Pier where we were picked up by the same van and driven back to our accommodations.

Where to book your Tour from Hoi An

You can book different tours with different companies. Each tour comes with different options.

If you are staying in Da Nang or Hoi An you can book this tour* (Viator), with pick up and drop off included. You’ll have time for snorkeling, as well as a lunch and time to relax.

You are unsure about snorkeling or want to stay underwater as long as a diver can, but don’t have diving experience? Then you can book this tour* (Klook), with a sea walk helmet included, as well as lunch and water. This tour is the most-booked one I linked here.

This tour* (Klook) is the best option to see the Cham Islands when you are on a budget or a time-crunch, you’ll see and do as much as possible in a small time frame.

The best value for money, with good reviews, is this Cham Islands Snorkeling Tour* (GetYourGuide). They focus on a balanced itinerary and while the visit to the main island could’ve been longer I enjoyed the extra time during snorkeling.

Important things to know about the Cham Islands Snorkeling Tour

Will you see fish?
Yes, if the weather conditions are right. There were many fish and corals when I went and most of them were very colourful. You don’t have to dive deep either. Even when snorkelling close to the surface you can see many fish.

What is the ideal time of year for this tour?
April to September

Take a day trip or DIY your own tour?
If you have the time, do both.

Asking can get you far, believe it or not. It is possible to get to the island with one tour and then stay overnight in a homestay* on the main island, explore Pearl Island the following day and later get back to Hoi An with a different tour boat. Will it cost you a little more? Yes, but you won’t have to pay for two tours/transportation this way.

Important:

There is no ATM on the island. Bring enough cash!

There is a “no plastic” policy on the island, so bring your stuff in a reusable bag.

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