The path to the beach on Con Dao Island. By Lee Starnes
With their pick of beaches, each as peaceful and secluded as the next, Con Dao travellers are spoiled for choice. Inside the park, take a hike to Ong Dung Beach, a stony coastal spot where you can snorkel close to shore, or head further afield to Dam Trau Beach. Not far from town, Dat Doc Beach is a prime spot for sunbathing.
Snorkeling and diving excursions on Con Dao reveal some of Vietnam's best underwater sightseeing. On land, hikers can arrange a guide through the national park office or set off on their own with a national park map. If you're a wildlife watcher, don't miss a trip through Con Dao National Park to visit Bay Canh Island, home to its own turtle sanctuary.
Con Dao is also home to one of the most infamous former prisons in Vietnam. Throughout the 20th century, the island's prison complex was an incarceration facility for the French as well as the Americans. Roughly 20,000 prisoners lost their lives here due to abuse and malnourishment. Visitors can get some solid background on the island's history at the newly built Con Dao Museum.
Spend your first day getting acquainted with the island and its history at the Con Dao Museum. This brand-new facility gives insight into Con Dao’s past as well as its present. From there, take a stroll down the waterfront road to Quay 914, the island's original pier, which acquired its name from the number of prisoners who lost their lives during its construction. Purchase a ticket for the prison complex and explore the island’s historical sights. In the afternoon, enjoy a drive toward the fishing village on the southern end of the island, or visit Ong Dung Beach.
48 hours in Con Dao
On your second day, continue your island adventures with a trek out to Dam Trau Beach for a lazy day by the water. Be sure to bring your own snacks and supplies, as there are no shops to be found here. If you like hiking, book a guide out to Dam Tre Bay, home to one of Con Dao's best snorkelling beaches.
Con Dao's coolest weather takes place between September and January while its hottest months are June, July and August. Given the island's location, Con Dao is also prone to strong winds in December and January. Wildlife watchers should note that turtle-hatching season takes place from mid-August to early December.
Flights depart daily from Ho Chi Minh City and land at the island's modest airport. Seats tend to book up fast, and it's recommended to book in advance. If you don’t find a seat, sometimes the hotels can provide assistance.