Van Don Island
is the largest (around 30 sq km), most populated and most developed island in the archipelago. However, there remains only very limited tourism development here to date. Cai Rong (pronounced Cai Zong) is the main town on the island.
Bai Dai (Long Beach) runs along much of the southern side of the island and is hard-packed sand with some mangroves. Just offshore there are stunning limestone rock formations.
The only hotels are at Cai Rong Pier (Cai Rong Pha), about 8km north of the bridge to the mainland. Cai Rong is an unattractive, bustling port full of karaoke bars and motorbikes but it does have a couple of decent hotels: Hung Toan Hotel ( 387 4220; r 140,000d; ) is good value while Viet Linh Hotel ( 379 3898; r 210,000d; ) is fancier. Down on Bai Dai the Bai Tu Long Ecotourism Resort (see Bai Tu Long Bay
) is a far more attractive place to stay, with fine beachside bungalows or more traditional rooms in stilt houses.
Frequent buses run between Hon Gai (Halong City
) and Cai Rong bus station (32,000d, 1½ hours) along a road lined with coal mines. There’s also a hydrofoil operated by Mui Ngoc ( 379 3335), which leaves Halong City (US$12, one hour) at 8am and returns to Halong City at 4pm. These boat schedules are dependent on the weather.