da-nang-to-hue-via-hai-van-pass
Central Vietnam,  Vietnam

Da Nang to Hue via Hai Van Pass

The first time I heard of the Hai Van Pass was in 2009, I was twelve years old and watched Top Gear on YouTube to learn colloquial English. On my second Vietnam trip in 2022, I was in Da Nang, with Hue on my list as the next stop. And yet I almost missed out on the adventure that is going from Da Nang to Hue via Hai Van Pass!

There are several ways to get from Da Nang to Hue. The Highway is one option, it was finished in 2005 and has a tunnel through the mountains between the two cities. The second option is the train, which takes you along the coast as well, with amazing views on the way and is the cheapest option. And the one I almost picked.

The third option is to take the Hai Van Pass; either via Scooter, Motorbike or Jeep. I opted to take a motorbike tour with an experienced driver, as I am not one. Here’s how it went:

From Da Nang to the Hai Van Pass

From the city centre of Da Nang, you need about 45 minutes to an hour to reach the starting point of the Hai Van Pass. Since the pass itself takes about one hour to drive, with stops for maybe two hours, my driver took me to Son Tra Peninsula first.

On the way we stopped at a fishing boat harbour and then we were on our way to Son Tra Mountain, which is also called Monkey Mountain, because it is home to a lot of monkeys (of which I saw none ๐Ÿ™ˆ). Since many tourists have gotten into accidents on the steep roads with automatic ones, only manual bikes are allowed in the area.

From the top of this Mountain, you have terrific views over the greater Da Nang area! The higher up you go, the quieter the world around you becomes.

view-of-danang-from-monkey-mountain

When you reach the Hai Van Pass from Da Nang on your way to Hue, it doesn’t look like much at first, until you turn a corner and get a breathtaking view of Da Nang Bay. Locals have set up small stands here and if you buy a coffee or something else you can climb a big stone to get an even better view. My driver decided to stop before that though and took a picture of me near an unsecured stone ledge. With my fear of heights that wasn’t much fun, but today Iโ€™m glad I have this picture as a memory.

The bay is beautiful, nearly untouched, with only a handful of fishing boats on it.

Further up the serpentine road, the world becomes foggy. The Hแบฃi Vรขn Pass is called the โ€œocean cloud passโ€ for a reason. You can see the clouds floating over the street and down the mountain towards the ocean in the second picture. The higher up we got, the less view we had and at the highest point I didnโ€™t even bother taking a picture as I could barely see anything more than 2 meters in front of me.

On a clear day, the views must be spectacular!

Hai Van Pass near Hue

When we reached Lap An Lagoon we took a sharp turn to the left and ended up at a natural spring called Dream Spring. This natural pool, with water coming down a waterfall from a nearby mountain, is frequented mostly by locals since it is further away from the main road than the two you see on Google Maps when you scroll around near the lagoon. We took a break here from the 35 ยฐC heat, but I would advise not to jump into the water immediately, since it is effing cold.

If you go here, go to a place higher up. Since the water flows down the mountain itโ€™s cleaner and less crowded near the top. Just know that the higher up youโ€™ll get, the less road thereโ€™ll be. When the road ends you are at the right place.

Being sufficiently cooled down after the spring, we went for a late lunch at a seafood restaurant on the small strip between the lagoon and the open sea. There we had chili Shrimp, fried morning glory with garlic and rice for lunch. Advice from my driver: If a restaurant looks shady or unkempt from the outside, don’t eat there, the kitchen will look the same.

After lunch, the sky had turned cloudy and the temperature dropped to a nice 25ยฐC. The lagoon was quiet since the fishers were either out during the night and returned in the morning or were out during the day and returned in the evening.

An hour later we reached Hue, the sun started to set and the wind picked up, forecasting a colder night. My driver brought me to the door of my homestay in Hue and we said our goodbyes.

Recap Da Nang to Hue via Hai Van Pass

The scenery was breathtakingly beautiful and the road was quite empty, so it was an enjoyable drive. The stops along the way were perfect for taking pictures, and seeing places other tourists might not, like the Dream Spring and the food was excellent, delicious and filling at a spot with a great feel to it.

I would link my driver for you because he seemed like a safe driver and the places he took me were great spots, but I didn’t feel comfortable with him as a person. He tried to get me to book another tour with him, for several days, asking at every stop and even messaging me after the tour on WhatsApp, where we had communicated before this tour even though I had said no several times. I ended up blocking him.

If you are looking for a driver or tour company, look on Trip Advisor, Google and Instagram! Especially in Vietnam Facebook and WhatsApp are very popular, almost everyone is on there and smaller local guides have started advertising on Instagram as well, since the big green portal takes such a huge commision. One such example is @NguyenTours

Hai Van Pass – as seen on Top Gear

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If you like driving a motorbike and enjoy a curving road with little traffic or want to take in the amazing sights while being the most mobile I encourage you to drive on a motorbike from Da Nang to Hue via Hai Van Pass.

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