Con Dao is not a very big island full of attractions and sights like in Phu Quoc. You mainly come here for the local life, the untouched nature and the tranquility. The best things to do are therefore mainly to explore the beautiful nature, on the island, on the water and underwater. There are also historical sites in Con Dao related to the Vietnam War and colonial times.
The beaches of Con Dao are some of the best in Vietnam and are the reason for many travelers to travel here. Most of these beaches can be found on the main island of Con Son and are easily accessible by road. Here you will find very soft with sand and fortunately little waste.
The best beach on Con Son Island, Bai Dat Doc is a pretty bay, made up of a mile long crescent of light sand, surrounded by green hills.
Dam Trau Beach is the second best beach on the island. Soft sand and clear water stretches wide, with rocky green hills on either side.
Bai Loi Voi is a wide sandy and pebble beach with lots of shells and shade. There is a good stretch of sandy beach in the center of the town of Con Son.
Bai An Hai on the south side of the town of Con Son is beautiful, but there are a large number of fishing boats nearby.
Diving in Con Dao is one of the best things to do, because it has the most pristine sea in Vietnam. The waters around the islands are officially protected and there is a lot of coral to be seen.It is best known for its biodiversity; there are over 1,300 species of marine life in the area. You will also find one of the only shipwrecks where you can dive in Vietnam. Diving is possible all year round, but for ideal conditions and good visibility, January to June is considered the best time.
3. Trekking in the national park
There are many treks around Con Son Island as much of the inland is heavily forested. The best place is in the Con Dao national park. It is recommended that you take a national park guide when going into the forest.
You can make short hikes to a cave, several beaches or a centuries-old tree. But the best trip is all the way to the peak of the park. On clear days you can enjoy a beautiful view of the entire island here.
One of the most impressive things to do in Con Dao is to visit the old prisons. These prisons were built during the French colonial era and were also used during the Vietnam War. Political prisoners were detained here and tortured themselves. The three main prisons you can visit are the Phu Hai, Phu Binh Camp, and French Tiger Cages.
Phu Hai Prison (Con Dao Prison) is the largest of the 11 prisons on the island, dating back to 1862. Thousands of inmates were held here, with up to 200 inmates crammed into each detention building.
The infamous cells called “tiger cages” were built by the French in 1940 to hold nearly 2,000 political prisoners. There are 120 rooms where the guards could poke the prisoners like tigers in a Victorian zoo.
Phu Binh Camp was built by the Americans on the outskirts of the city in 1971 and had 384 rooms. The cells had corrugated iron roofs and became very hot. Here you will also find the “American Tiger Cages”.
You will find many smaller islands around the main island of Con Son. You can visit these islands with a boat trip. There are a few boat tours available, both private and in a group. Take a good look at what is included, for some private islands you have to pay an extra fee for example.
On and around these islands you can enjoy the beach and great snorkeling. The water is clear and you will find the most beautiful coral in Vietnam here.
If you are here in the right season then the best thing to do in Con Dao is without a doubt turtle watching! The remote Con Dao Islands has the largest population of sea turtles in Vietnam and is home to many protected nesting sites for them. Every year, these sea turtles travel from the Philippines to Con Dao to breed. Once the turtles arrive in Con Dao, the female turtle will lay about 100 eggs at a time. The Con Dao turtle nesting season runs from May to October and peaks from June to September. There are about 400 sea turtles every year.
The most popular islands to see the turtles are Bay Canh Island, Tre Lon Island, Cau Island and Tai Island. Bay Canh Island, the large island right in front of Con Son Island, is the most popular island. If you want to see sea turtles laying eggs in Con Dao, you should join a Con Dao Turtle Tour, which is arranged by the Con Dao National Park office.
If you want to visit different beaches, take a walk in the national park and visit a prison, it is useful to rent a motorbike. It is also great to drive along the coast and impossible to get lost as there is only 1 road.
There is little or no traffic on the island. You can rent a motorcycle from 150,000 VND per day. A sportier alternative is to rent a bicycle.
If you want to learn more about Con Dao’s dark past, visit the Con Dao museum. Here you can learn more about the prisons on the island and how they were used during the French colonial era and later by the Americans in the Vietnam War.
Another part of the museum has a slightly light-hearted theme, but no less interesting. Here you will learn more about the unique biodiversity of the islands.
In Vietnam you will find markets everywhere, including in the very sparsely populated Con Dao.At the Con Son night market you will find a lot of local food, such as freshly grilled seafood and a few places where you can buy souvenirs. There is a fun atmosphere and one of the best things to do in Con Dao in the late evening.
Visiting a cemetery during your vacation sounds very gloomy, but it is recommended to visit the Hang Duong Cemetery.About 20,000 Vietnamese prisoners died on Con Son and nearly 2,000 of their graves can be seen in this cemetery, located on the eastern edge of the city. Unfortunately, only 700 of these graves have the names of the victims.