Visiting Cham Island: The Secrets to a Perfect Day Trip (+Photos)

Somewhere between the beach and the fire-breathing dragon of Da Nang, you will long for a little break from the city. A place where the informal nature of Vietnamese life still shines through but you don’t need to travel by train, plane, and car to get there.

This slice of paradise is a cluster of islands about 40 km off the shore of Da Nang, and even closer to Hoi An. This underrated gem takes you back to a simpler time when fishermen were the backbone of a community and your day was dictated by the changing tides.

My journeys to Cham were never conventional, but maybe this retelling will get you excited for an off-the-beaten-path odyssey to Cham Island!

In this post, we’ll cover:

It All Starts With A Boat

Boat to Cham Island

All Cham adventures start at the Cua Dai Pier in Hoi An. Here a string of speedboats wait to take eager visitors to the islands for as little as $13. You quickly learn to leave all pretense and expectation on the mainland.

The boats will go when they go, and in the meantime, you will eat a bag newly acquired of clementines under the shade of a palm tree.

But be ready to scramble for a spot on the boat, especially when traveling back, as the boats are often slightly overloaded. Grab your seat and a life jacket and watch as the mainland fades into the horizon. These boats cut through the water with ease, with just a hint of unhinged navigation to remind you where you are.

The Speedboat to Cham

You can also take the slow boat if you want to take your trusty motorcycle with you or if you simply prefer a more relaxed ride. These ferries cost around $6 with a small additional charge if you take your motorbike too. This trip takes around 1.5 hours while the speedboats nearly cut this time in half.

Finding A Home Away from Home

Home Away from Home

Homestays are the way to go when visiting Cham. These family-run operations ensure that you get the most authentic experience possible and hosts go out of their way to cater to every one of your needs, no matter how basic.

Arriving at Cham Island, you dock at the local market and usually your host will be waiting to greet you with a warm smile. Ours arranged for his friends to drive us to his home as we were quite a large group. It seemed like something from a movie to have a fleet of 6 motorbikes lined up, waiting to chauffeur us around.

Home Away from Home

Our homestay exuded a rustic charm, with its thatched roof and simple furnishings. Yet, it was the warmth of our host that truly made it feel like home. From the moment we arrived, he treated us like family, sharing stories of island life and offering insights into the local culture.

These homestays also offer family-style dinners where they cook a massive assortment of local dishes for you to share. It is a celebration of local cuisine and the coming together of friends.

Our host even gave us access to his prized beer fridge and relied on us to implement an honor system for payment. It was a gesture that spoke volumes about the trust and camaraderie that permeated the island—a reminder that sometimes, the simplest gestures can leave the deepest impression.

Take a Snorkeling Trip

Snorkeling Trip

Exploring Cham Island’s underwater world is probably the most popular attraction to the area. Many tour groups just come to the island to snorkel for the day but this is a cardinal mistake, completely missing out on all the other treasures on offer.

Our snorkeling portion of the adventure was another ultra-informal expedition, plastered together by our host. Our neighbor whipped up 10 containers of food and a bin full of cool seawater and ice served as our beer fridge onboard.


The captain for the day was none other than our host’s father, a local fisherman with a lifetime of experience at sea. Unlike traditional tours, there were no strict schedules or crowded dive sites—just the freedom to immerse ourselves in the beauty of nature.

With each dive, I felt a deeper connection to the ocean, marveling at the intricate ecosystems that thrived beneath its surface.

Boats have a bucket full of snorkels and goggles and it is a hit or miss on whether you grab a leaky one or not. You can always buy your own gear at a local market if you want to ensure that you don’t run into any trouble.

There are also tours with a more professional offering and you can even go scuba diving, but when it comes to Vietnam, I prefer to be as low-key as can be.

Eat Fresh Fish

Casual seaside dining

Sampling the island’s fresh seafood was a culinary adventure like no other. From grilled fish to succulent shellfish, each dish was a testament to the island’s abundant ocean pantry.

One evening, we dined at a restaurant along the pier instead of the usual homestead buffet. Here we could feast on a variety platter that showcased the bounty of the sea and introduced us to some weird and wonderful dishes.

Cham Sea Food

It’s not always a hit though. Giant sea snails sit like little pyramids on a plate and proved to be tough as can be. But ốc, or rather small sea snails, restored our faith in Vietnamese escargot.

Other treats include blood cockles, prawns, periwinkle, and mud creepers. These are all cooked to perfection on a grill or served with a sauce that perfectly compliments each crustacean.

Bike Around the Island

Bike Around the Island

Exploring Vietnam on two wheels is an experience that fills one with a sense of freedom and exhilaration and on Cham, it is no different. Renting a motorbike from our host and his extended network of friends felt like a leap of faith—a testament to the trusting nature of the islanders.

No contracts, no insurance, just a gang of friends willing to lend us their bikes in the hopes that we don’t drive them off a mountain.

As we traversed the island’s winding roads, each twist and turn revealed a new vista—a hidden cove, a secluded beach, and a lush jungle canopy stretching toward the sky.

Each was more beautiful than the next. My favorite spot was a narrow cement road along the beaches where the sunset (and a sunset swim of course) was at its most beautiful.

Enjoy the Beaches

Cham Island Beach

What is an island without a beach? Nothing! Luckily, Cham Island has many beaches in every shape and size. Bai Ong is the most popular among day visitors and Bai Chong also draws many people to its shady shores. Bai Xep is also easily accessible with plenty of traditional round boats bobbing in the water.

Bai Bim was a personal favorite of mine. It was just far enough from the town to deter most day visitors and there were plenty of rocky outcrops where you could snorkel directly from the beach. We spent hours watching a curious clownfish defend his anemone from us pesky swimmers.

Learn about Cham History

Cham Museum

Cham Island is more than just an island paradise. These communities have centuries of history to share and the island is thought to have been inhabited by the Cham people as far as 3000 years ago. There is evidence of trade from the island that goes back 1000 years. This is a remarkable feat considering the minute size of the island.

The Cham Museum does a great job at informing you about this exceptional history but also dives into information about the island’s fragile marine ecosystems.

It is important to learn about local history, and not simply enjoy the current setting without any context. There is also an archeological site at Bai Ong Beach and you can visit the Hai Tang Pagoda which was a spiritual haven for sailors from the late 1800s.

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