Vietnam’s ancient city of Hoi An is a seamless mix of traditional and modern Vietnam. A happy place, it is a quaint, colourful village nestled beside the Thu Bon River and surrounded by countryside. Hoi An is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is thought of as one of Vietnam’s most beautiful cities. Today, a stroll past the ancient temples or a ride in a bamboo basket boat bookended the range of things to do in Hoi An.
A former trading port home to nearly 800 historic buildings, Hoi An is a popular destination in its own right. It’s also a key day trip from Da Nang. While there are more than enough things to do in Hoi An to keep you busy, if you are arriving (in Da Nang) via cruise ship, you’ll want to visit a few fascinating destinations between Da Nang and Hoi An, plus a couple of quick photo stops in Da Nang before returning to your ship.
First, check out these highlights of our Southeast Asia exploration …
Things to do in Hoi An Vietnam
- Basket boat in the countryside of Cam Thanh
- Explore ancient Hoi An
- Discover some of the many temples in Hoi An
- Learn how silk is made and visit a custom tailor
- Shop at Cho Hoi An Central Market
- See the famous Japanese covered bridge
- Take a cooking class
- Enjoy a bicycle tour
- Tempt your tastebuds with a meal
Basket boat in the countryside of Cam Thanh
Sometimes the “tourist trap” type commercial activities actually are the most fun. The bamboo basket boat, sometimes called the coconut basket boat, is one of these opportunities. Our guide brought us right to Cua Dai River in Cam Thanh, a countryside region just outside Hoi An. Here, we boarded our boat with a local who did the paddling.
Gliding down the river, we passed a floating fishing village before paddling through coconut palms. Next, we stopped to watch a traditional fisherman throw his net. Then, Jeff caught a crab whilst fishing with a line hanging from a bamboo stick. There were a few other fun surprises along the way (see the video).
Our local guide effortlessly moved the bamboo basket boat with only one paddle, a skill that is much harder than it looks. I failed when I tried to control our round boat.
Even if you don’t have a private guide, it’s easy to book your own eco-tour and basket boat ride, and it can include transportation from Hoi An and a meal.
Explore ancient Hoi An
Once a trading port for wood, gold, and silk, many of the structures dating back to the 15th-century still stand. Today, the ancient city is a colourful collection of mostly Chinese and Vietnamese architecture in a quaint riverside town that managed to avoid being bombed during the war.
Temples in Hoi An
There are 22 old temples in the ancient city of Hoi An. We walked by about eight of them as we strolled through the old town. There is a fee for entry to each of the temples that we saw, and there is a pass that can be purchased to get you into five temples, museums, or old houses.
Silkworms and custom tailors
Every stage of production takes place at Yaly Couture Tailor Shop. We observed the steps from silkworm through to fabric weaving. With 300 tailors on staff, they are one of the top places to order custom items in Hoi An.
Cho Hoi An Central Market
Food, tailored clothing, trinkets, and whatever else you need can be found at the Cho Hoi An Central Market. An indoor market, there were plenty of outdoor stalls leading up to the main building.
Japanese Covered Bridge
Hoi An’s most romantic photo spot, the Japanese Covered Bridge, houses a Taoist temple. Architecturally, it differs from other old town structures, as it has a distinctively Japanese character as well as ornate carvings including monkeys and dogs.
Other things to do in Hoi An
While our cruise allowed for many overnight and even some three-day ports, unfortunately, Da Nang was not one of them. Therefore, we ran out of time long before we completed our list of things to do in Hoi An. Even with limited time, we are glad we made the short trip from Da Nang to Hoi An. Here are some of the things we saved for a future visit:
- Order tailor-made clothing: Talented Hoi An tailors can create custom dresses in a few hours and suits in about 12 hours. If you don’t have enough time, have it shipped home. My neighbour did this, and it worked out fine.
- Take a cooking class: A Hoi An cooking class would have topped our list had we had more time, as we enjoy learning about a culture through food. We have taken cooking classes in Chile and in Singapore.
- Explore on a bicycle tour: Our shipboard friends did a Hoi An bicycle tour and loved it. Getting out into the countryside is a more traditional Vietnam experience. Cycle past rice fields, vegetable farms, and waterways. See locals building boats, fishing, weaving mats, and more as you get a glimpse into traditional Vietnam life.
- Enjoy a meal: We had a delicious lunch at Dao Tien River restaurant. Our top food recommendation was to try shrimp pancakes, but somehow we forgot and ordered a fabulous chicken dish. So good, in fact, we learned how to make Vietnamese grilled chicken ourselves.
Roadside images from Da Nang to Hoi An
One of the big advantages of having a private guide is the ability to add unscheduled photo stops at completely random points along the road.
Water buffalo smoking break
When I looked out the window and saw a man taking a smoking break on the back of his water buffalo, I knew instantly this was a once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity.
Getting from Da Nang to Hoi An
As we cruised into the port of Da Nang, we had a plan. Our goal was to negotiate and hire a private driver and guide at the port to take us from Da Nang to Hoi An. While this often works out well, this time, the guide we negotiated with switched with another guide as we got in the car. While the replacement guide was okay, we felt a bit tricked.
Another option is this top-rated small-group excursion from Viator, which visited nearly all the places we recommend above. It starts and ends at Da Nang’s cruise port, provides an English-speaking guide, and is limited to 10 participants.
Final thoughts Da Nang and Hoi An
- The distance from Chan May Port in Da Nang to Hoi An is about 30 kilometres (18 miles), although it takes about 40 to 50 minutes by car. As you can see above, there are interesting things to see along the way.
- The population of Da Nang is 1.134 million people, plus 6.6 million visitors annually. There are plenty of amazing things to do in Da Nang, like visiting China Beach, Marble Mountain, and seeing the fire-breathing dragon bridge. (It is one of the most unique bridges we have seen worldwide.)
- Hoi An’s population is 120k, drawing 3.2 million annual visitors.
Save on your trip with these resources
We use these aggregator companies to save time and money. They do the work for us by providing a list of options, prices, and reviews for anywhere we are travelling worldwide. Plus, we have personally had positive customer service experiences with all of them:
- Flights: we use Expedia for the best and cheapest flight options.
- Hotels: we use Booking.com as they consistently return the best rates and their reviews are from actual guests. However, for self-contained lodging, use VRBO
- Cars: we use RentalCars to find the best deals and dealer ratings.
- Private guides: we often hire private guides from Tours by Locals
- Travel Insurance: we start at InsureMyTrip as they are the best option to compare plans and find the right coverage for you.
Before you book the rest of your trip: Check out our travel resources page for more companies that we use when you travel.
We believe this list to be the best in each category. You can’t go wrong using them on your trip too.
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My son is heading there next month and I’m so jealous! Vietnam is high on my list of want-to visit spots.
Hoi An is so high on our dream travel list! Love these ideas – can’t wait to put ’em to use!
Ooh thanks for this! We’ve been considering Hoi An/Da Nang for our main trip this year. Will be pinning and saving for later!
Hoi An looks like such a great place to visit. Even though the basket boat is a touristy thing to do, it sure looks like fun. The temples are beautiful and I’d love to explore the markets. You were able to do so much with just a day!
I lived in Ho Chi Minh City most of last year and very unfortunately did not make it to Hoi An or Da Nang. The only city I managed to visit in Central Vietnam was Hue, which I liked a lot but which seems fairly different from these two towns based on what you’ve written. I would love to go back some day to see what Hoi An has to offer, especially because many people have good things to say about it. I’ve seen bamboo basket boats throughout Vietnam but never knew what they were called or even how they maneuvered in the water! And with 800 historic buildings, I think I could easily spend a full day admiring the historic town center.
You are amazing Rhonda. I know I’ll never be visiting these places but thank God, I have a friend who travels around the world and shows us the many wonders that are there. You & your husband look great in that round boat and it’s nice to see that you can take a few minutes to rest and take good care of your feet.
Keep cruising my friend.
Such a magical post full of beautiful details and pictures: made me wanna visit Vietnam and realize that I´ve barely seen anything in Asia! The coconut basket boat really looks like so much fun, even if it´s a touristy thing to do!
I honestly don’t mind the occasional tourist trap! You’re definitely right about them usually being the most fun! And in my opinion, at one time, these things were just for tourists, but locals which makes them part of the culture!
Beautiful photos! :] It’d be so cool to get to explore here! I’d love to take a cooking class + getting a custom dress sounds awesome as well!
I spent about a month in Hoi An last summer and this post brought back so many great memories! It´s such an elegant and charming village, albeit overrun by tourists trying to sneak a photo opportunity! One thing I didn´t do while there was the coconut boat and I regret it a bit! Your video makes it look like so much fun, and it really is a unique experience… I guess I´ll just have to go back! 🙂
Great info and beautiful photos!
Esha M Dutta
Wow! Loved all the beautiful pictures. Thank you for sharing such an informative post.
Enchanting post full of useful information. Liked all the pics!
Such fun pictures. I wish to visit Vietnam someday too. I am now adding Hoi An on my Bucket List.
Beautiful photos! Vietnam is a country I have wanted to visit for a long time now. So many destinations, so little time (and money)! 🙂
They are beautiful place. This is so amazing article. This is so fascinating. Thanks for sharing this information.
You have the most fun adventures.
I think the traditional fishing would interest me. How are you going for water there? Are you on tank or do you have a bore?
The photos are beautiful and the tips for travelling are useful. Vietnam is on my list for travel. Would love to visit there next year.
Aletha Oglesby, M.D.
My husband was among the first Vietnam Army veterans to travel to Vietnam in the early 1990s. It was far different then, as far as accomodations, travel options, and communication (phone calls were expensive and there was no email, so he contacted me through fax). He returned several times with a humanitarian group, Vets with a Mission (VWAM) and watched it develop into the tourist attraction you describe. I went several times also. VWAM still provides assistance in rural Vietnam. Thanks for reminding us of how much we love this country and its people.
This looks like a great place to explore I would love watching the silk weavers this seems fascinating I would also love to explore ancient Hoi An and the temples. What was your favorite temple?
I was delighted to read your post as I am visiting Vietnam in March.
Fun place to visit. I like the basket boat. Pretty view of the beach! Great photos from your trip!
Enjoy your day, wishing you a great new week!
Dana Howard Freeman
Your photography is fantastic! It really makes me want to plan a visit here.
L. Diane Wolfe
I would love the markets. Do the round boats spin well? I’d want to spin in mine!
OMG We loved Hoi An! Such a photogenic place, you’ve captured it brilliantly. Great list of things to do too. I think if we ever get chance to return I would defo do a cookery lesson. We loved the food in Hoi An and Vietnamese food in general 🙂
Hoi An is my favourite olave in Vietnam, loved it!
Next time I am in Vietnam I have to make sure to visit this place!
Alex J. Cavanaugh
Nice to see so much is still traditional and done manually. Industrialization hasn’t ruined it.
Nicole | Mapless Adventures
This article is getting me so excited for my upcoming visit to Vietnam! Thank you for including such lovely photos! I will be coming back to reference this when I get to Da Nang.
It looks like such a beautiful place!
I loved the Da Nang/Hoi An area. Unfortunately, I was in Hoi An over a public holiday so most places were really crowded. I’ll just have to come back one day!
Your pictures are amazing!
Beautiful place to explore. I’ve heard so many things about beautiful Vietnam.
Great shots as always.
Have a fabulous day and weekend, Rhonda. ♥