From which cruise to choose, to activities and packing tips, this guide will help you if you’re visiting Halong Bay with kids.
As we set sail from the harbour, I couldn’t believe the view ahead. Dotted in the emerald waters around our ship were towering limestone karsts topped with greenery. They went on and on towards the horizon. It was one of those views where when you take a breath in, it feels like your heart slows down to truly take it all in.
We’d been travelling around Vietnam for two weeks already, but this was the place I was most excited about visiting. I’d dreamt of seeing the postcard-perfect views of Halong Bay for myself. Now I was here! As long as the weather was on our side, I knew we were in for an incredible 48 hours.
There are plenty of guides about visiting Halong Bay, but I didn’t find many useful resources about visiting with kids or travelling around Halong Bay with a baby. After spending a month in Vietnam and Thailand with our 8-month-old son Cooper, we’ve come home with plenty of tips to help you if you’re planning a similar adventure.
So, whether you’re deciding which cruise company to book with, you want to know details of the itinerary and the activities on offer, or you want some packing tips, my guide to visiting Halong Bay with kids will help you prepare for your trip.
Plus, I’ve just published my top 10 tips for visiting Vietnam with a baby – an absolutely essential read in conjunction with this post!
A little About Halong Bay
Halong Bay, located in north-eastern Vietnam, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its natural beauty. In this region, there are 1,600 limestone karsts and islets, all topped with lush vegetation.
The water here is a stunning shade of emerald and there are lots of hidden gems tucked away. As you travel around, you’ll discover secret beaches with pure white sand, turquoise lakes and incredible cave systems. When you visit, you’ll understand exactly why Halong Bay is considered to be one of the most beautiful places on the planet!
How to visit Halong Bay with kids?
The best way to visit Halong Bay with kids is on board a cruise. Most people book the 2 day / 1 night cruise, but it’s worth also considering a longer 3 days / 2-night cruise too. If you’re really short on time, you can also book a day cruise, but I think the experience is far greater if you stay overnight.
We booked our trip with Emeraude Cruises – one of the leading cruise providers in Halong Bay. There are so many companies to choose from, but Emeraude had lots of great reviews, helpful customer service (when we were arranging what we needed for our baby), plus we’d be travelling on board a vintage paddle-steamer ship. The Emeraude Classic ship accommodates up to 80 guests and is an absolute beauty! If you’re looking for a family friendly Halong Bay cruise, I’d definitely recommend Emeraude.
We also discovered the cruise company is owned by Thien Minh Group, one of Vietnam’s leading travel groups. We were really impressed with the experience, and I’m excited to share more about our trip in this post.
A Halong Bay Cruise with kids
Most of the cruises in Halong Bay follow a similar itinerary. I thought it’d be helpful to run through what a standard trip looks like. Then, I’ll share a few top tips to make the most of your time on board.
Halong Bay Cruise Itinerary
Here’s what we did on our 2 day / 1 night cruise on board the Emeraude Classic cruise.
12:00 – 12:30: We checked in at the Emeraude reception in Tuan Chau Marina. Here we were welcomed by the team, then briefed on how the next 48 hours would run. The team also prepared our luggage to go on board the ship.
12:30: We boarded the ship, checked into our cabins and then enjoyed a welcome drink on the top deck of the ship.
12:45: The ship set sail and we were invited to enjoy a buffet lunch in the restaurant.
14:00: We arrived at Ti Top Island and were transported to the island on small boats. There was time to climb up to the panoramic viewpoint, as well as relax on the beach or take a swim.
15:30: We returned to the Emeraude Classic ship and headed to the top deck for some tasty crepes with a range of toppings.
16:30: The ship sailed over to the famous Pearl Village. Here we learned about how pearls are cultivated and could shop for pretty jewellery. There was also an option to go kayaking here too (at an extra cost).
17:30: The ship’s main bar hosted a happy hour before dinner. We enjoyed a few cocktails on the sundeck. The chef also hosted a cooking demonstration, showing us how to make Vietnamese spring rolls. Lots of us had a go, and got to eat our creations too! Yummy!
19:00: From 7pm, a large buffet dinner was served in the restaurant. After dinner, people gathered in the bar area for more drinks, enjoyed a movie screening in the restaurant or tried their hand at squid fishing. We put our baby to bed just after dinner, and then sat outside our cabin chatting and watching the stars for a bit! It was nice to have a bit of adult time alone to reflect on the first day.
06:00: We woke up early to watch the sunrise (and because you never have a lie in with a small baby!) It was so beautiful, and well worth getting up for. From 6am, the team served coffee and pastries on the sundeck. There was also an optional tai chi class to ease into the day.
07:30: We were taken by small boats to the entrance of Sung Sot Cave (Surprise Cave). One of the Emeraude team led a guided tour, giving us key information about the cave.
09:00: Back on board the ship, we enjoyed a buffet brunch in the restaurant, as the ship sailed back towards the marina.
11:00: Back at Tuan Chau Marina, it was time to disembark and wave goodbye to the Emeraude Classic!
Highlights of our Emeraude Classic Cruise
It’s hard to choose just a few moments, as this cruise was the highlight of our entire trip to Vietnam! Here are a few experiences that were particularly memorable.
Sailing through the islands
I’ve described how amazing it was when we first set sail. I had all the tingles!! Well, that didn’t change throughout the trip. While the itinerary is quite busy, there was still some downtime when we weren’t doing activities. At these times we’d grab a sun lounger on the deck and watch as the ship passed the impressive limestone karsts. Cooper was either in our arms or in our Ergobaby carrier as we walked around the top deck taking in the views. I’d love to know what he thought of the views!
The landscapes were constantly changing. Sometimes you’d pass several large islands, then you’d feel totally penned in by huge steep-sided cliffs, while at other points there would be an expanse of turquoise water all around. Halong Bay is such a magical place – you’ll find yourself taking endless photos.
Sunrise and sunset
Daytimes were lovely, but there was something extra special about seeing the sunrise and sunset from the cruise. The golden glow illuminated the rocks, the water glittered and the shimmery light transformed the landscapes in front of our eyes.
I think the sunrise we saw on day two was particularly special. Cooper was still asleep and there weren’t many people around on the sundeck, so it felt like we had a moment to enjoy it by ourselves!
The view from Ti Top Island
If you’ve seen those perfect photos of Halong Bay, there’s a chance they were taken from the viewpoint at the top of Ti Top Island. This is a conical-shaped island with a large beach, some basic facilities (toilets, shop, café) and a steep-stepped pathway up to its 110m summit. There are around 450 steps to reach the top. While it didn’t take that long, it was a pretty sweaty climb, especially for my partner who had Cooper napping in the carrier on his chest!
The views from the top were absolutely incredible. We could see so many islands dotted in the still waters. It was also up here that you really got an impression of how many boats visit Halong Bay each day. A lot! Some places did feel pretty busy, but I guess this is one of the key destinations for anyone touring Vietnam.
Exploring Sung Sot Cave
There are hundreds of caves tucked away on the islands in Halong Bay, but one of the biggest is Sung Sot Cave. It was discovered by the French, who described it as “Grotte des Surprises” – the surprise cave. When you head inside, you’ll see why! It’s certainly surprising!
This cave is absolutely vast inside. In fact, it covers a whopping 10,000 square meters and in parts is around 30m high. It’s split into two chambers, and is filled with endless stalagmites and stalactites. This is one of the main tourist attractions in Halong Bay, so it’s been adorned with lights and illuminations and has a clear one-way system to follow.
We loved looking at all the rock formations and deciding what they looked like.
“Look, there’s a tiger!”
“ No way, that looks more like a monkey.”
“Oh, whatever, I can see a snake up there!”
Relaxing in our Cabin
As we were travelling with a baby, we booked one of the suites on board the Emeraude Classic. Most of the cabins are doubles / twins, but having a suite meant we had space for a cot and all the extra luggage a baby naturally seems to require! Featuring turn-of-century wooden features, it was a lovely space to relax in, with a comfortable double bed, sofa area, desk and shower room.
One of my favourite things about our suite? The fact it was on the top deck! We’d open our door and be met by the most incredible views!
I was surprised there was WIFI on board the ship. I didn’t see it as a necessity, as we were immersing ourselves in the natural beauty of the region. However, it was reassuring to know we were connected in case of any emergencies. There was also air-conditioning in our cabin. We didn’t find the temperatures too crazy, but it was nice that Cooper was kept cool when he was sleeping.
I didn’t know what to expect from the food on board our cruise, especially as it was all served as a buffet, but we were really impressed! There was so much variety and the quality and presentation were excellent. I loved that there were so many delicious Vietnamese dishes on offer too. My favourites were the green papaya and mango salads, the Vietnamese spring rolls and a delicious Asian seabass dish.
At each meal there was soup and a selection of salads, hot dishes, a few Western favourites (e.g. spaghetti bolognaise, chips, chicken), a range of fresh fruits and a few desserts. It was unlimited too! We definitely feasted during our time on board.
can You Visit Halong Bay With Kids?
Whether you’re planning to visit Halong Bay with a baby or bigger kids, it’s definitely doable! Don’t let anyone say you shouldn’t or you’re mad for considering it. We absolutely loved our time there and didn’t find it stressful.
All of the activities we did were suitable for all ages. You can take kids inside Sung Sot cave, up to the viewpoint on Ti Top Island and to the Pearl Farm. It’s worth thinking about how far they’ll need to walk, for example there are a lot of steep steps to go up to the viewpoint on Ti Top Island. However, it’s lovely down on the beach so it’s not a necessity to climb up if their little legs won’t manage it.
Depending on the ages of your children, you might want to book a couple of cabins and have one adult and one child per cabin.
As mentioned, we booked a suite and spoke to the Emeraude team to arrange the cot as an extra. They provided a beautiful wooden cot, with lots of space for Cooper. It’s worth noting that the main cabins are quite compact, so it’s unlikely you’d have space for a cot in those. If you’re co-sleeping though, it might work out ok.
Safety was a big consideration for us. You will need to keep a close eye on your children, as you would if you took them on any boat. We never left Cooper on his own anywhere for even a second. He’d just started crawling and I had a few moments worrying about him finding some way to crawl off the deck… ridiculous I know!
In terms of food for your little ones, the buffets always had a huge selection of items. Cooper had just started weaning, so he usually ate some fresh fruit, yogurt and bread at breakfast. We’d then feed him some snacks or fruit puree in our room. For bigger kids, you’ll definitely find things even for the fussiest of eaters. The restaurant staff were very accommodating too, often asking if they could help prepare anything special for Cooper!
A Packing List For Visiting Halong Bay With Kids
We packed a lot of items for our Vietnam trip. If you’re figuring out what to take on your Halong Bay family cruise, here are a few items we’re relieved we packed:
Ergobaby carrier – An absolute essential. After all, Halong Bay isn’t the kind of area you’ll be wheeling a pram! We popped Cooper in the baby carrier for all of the activities. He napped in there a few times too! We have the Ergobaby Aerloom, which is made from a lovely breathable fabric. I think it was our most-used item on our trip!
Portable high chair – The ship had big wooden high chairs in the main restaurant, but we found it helpful to strap Cooper into this little chair so we could feed him in our cabin, or sit him up on the sundeck with us. It was a great item to take to Vietnam as so many restaurants didn’t have high chairs.
Baby monitor – We were really happy we packed this as it meant we could sit outside our cabin once Cooper was asleep in the evening.
Food – I packed a selection of snacks and pouches of puree for our Vietnam trip. During the Halong Bay cruise it was great to have some familiar items for Cooper to snack on, especially during those early days of weaning.
Spoons and cups – I packed a few types of spoons and cups that he was familiar with using at home. I think this really helped with feeding him while we were on the ship.
Baby sunscreen – We bought some Child’s Farm SPF 50 for this trip. We were worried about how fair his skin was and so we made every effort to keep him in the shade. When that wasn’t possible, we slathered him in a thick layer of gentle sunscreen. We also made sure he always wore a sunhat.
Motion sickness tablets or wristbands – We didn’t require these for Cooper, but if you’re doing a Halong Bay cruise with kids and think your little ones might suffer, perhaps consider stocking up before you travel.
Toys – We packed a few compact toys and books for our trip so that Cooper had some entertainment at mealtimes and in our cabin. Items like these spinners or this sensory toy are ideal for travelling with babies, especially as they suction onto high chairs and windows. You’ll definitely want to bring a few of your kids’ favourite board games and activities to keep them happy. If they’re at the age where they enjoy screens, download some games or shows before the cruise.
For more advice on what to pack, I’d recommend reading my guide to what to wear in Vietnam. I’ve included tips for clothes, accessories and other items you might not have thought about.
I hope you enjoy visiting Halong Bay with your kids! If you’re keen to follow in our footsteps, check out the latest prices and availability on the Emeraude website.
Halong Bay is the most magical place – you’re guaranteed to have an amazing and memorable trip. If you have any questions about visiting with your family, feel free to drop me a message or leave a comment below.
Looking for other content about Vietnam? Don’t miss these posts:
- The Ultimate 3-Week Vietnam Itinerary
- 10 Tips For Visiting Vietnam With A Baby
- What To Wear In Vietnam For Women And Men: Vietnam Packing Guide
- Review: Hoi An Food Tour: Vietnamese Street Food and Traditional Dishes
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