During our 2016 visit to Dong Hoi, we attempted to visit Dark Cave in the Phuong Nha Ke Bang National Park.
It wasn’t to be as bad weather flooded the cave, foiling both our plans and a second shot at it since our schedule was pretty tight at the time. But not this time!
For this trip we planned things a little differently.
One, we made sure we had amazing accommodation at Au Lac Bar and Hostel. A nice, cozy spot to stay for a few extra days in case the weather got nasty. Two, we had a backup plan this time.
We were ready to get our cave on, no matter what!
Phong Nha is well known for its extraordinary cave systems. Heck, it sports the world’s second largest cave, Song Nha.
But we weren’t interested in big brother. We wanted to see two of the smaller systems, famous in their own right, called Paradise and Dark Caves.
Lucky for us, Au Lac Bar and Hostel had connections to a variety of tours to the cave and we picked one by Tour to the Caves. Best part was we could choose which of the three caves we wanted to do! This was perfect because not all tours offer this option and we specifically wanted to see Paradise and Dark caves.
In this blog we’ll tell you all about Paradise Cave and then more on Dark Cave in a different blog as they were two very differed experiences.
Almost everything you read will tell you to stay in Phong Nha because it’s closest to the caves, but we beg to differ.
Dong Hoi isn’t that much further out and most tours are happy to pick you up from your hotel in Dong Hoi, as was the case with Tour to the Caves.
If you prefer to do the caves on your own then a taxi or private transfer is your best option. Private transfer possibly being the cheaper of the two options. Most hotels and/or hostels can hook you up with private transfers.
We opted to do this one first and keep the fun and excitement of Dark Cave for last (wink-wink).
On arrival we made our way to a waiting electric buggy that took us up to the stairs leading to Paradise cave. It’s an approximate 1.2 kilometers ride and you can walk it using the covered walk way provided.
Good thing is there are plenty of rest stops for catching your breath.
At the entrance to the cave is a visitor’s area with seating, vending machines and an attendee desk.
This is a great spot to grab a seat, catch your breath and revel in the breathtaking jungle covered karts surroundings.
There are boards with basic information on the discovery of Paradise Cave, its layout and basic safety instructions to be aware of.
You can buy water or other cold beverages from the vending machines, but we opted to take our own which you can do too.
A fun experience for all.
Paradise Cave is a relaxing and fun experience that anyone can enjoy.
The staircase from the mouth of the cave down to the viewing platforms and walk ways might look intimidating but it’s not that bad.
The walk ways are relatively well lit. Enough to make your way around comfortably but doesn’t detract from the stunning views.
The experience will either leave your jaw dragging behind you or leave a massive smile on your dial.
Is Paradise Cave affected by weather?
It sure is. We weren’t sure whether we were actually going to make it to the caves due to rain the previous two days.
Fortunately, the rain wasn’t heavy enough to affect the cave for our visit but it can and does flood during the wet season, which may affect your visit.
The tourism industry in Dong Hoi is pretty onto too, especially during the wet season! This means all you have to do is ask your hotel on the status of the caves. We got unprompted updates each morning at breakfast from our hostel hosts.
Another great testament to the amazing customer service you can expect in Dong Hoi.
What’s best, a guided tour or a DIY tour?
It’s a cave, so you have the option of going with a tour or you can just do it on your own.
Pros and cons of a tour depends on your travel needs. Usually we avoid them but this time round we decided a tour was better and we weren’t disappointed.
We learned things about the area and the discovery of the cave systems in it from a local that we wouldn’t have found by ourselves.
Also, our tour guide, was amazing to interact with. He was not only local but passionate about sharing his knowledge of his home and had some really interesting tidbits to share with us.
Tour to the Caves were great at making sure their guests got the most out of their experience and we thoroughly enjoyed our company!
How long does a visit to Paradise Cave take?
One kilometer doesn’t sound like much but we loved every second of it and almost ran out of time to see the whole thing.
It took us two hours to do Paradise cave but mostly because I was running around taking a million photos and we were shooting for our vlog too.
On your own, you could probably smash it out in 45 minutes to an hour. Maybe less if you’re just there for a quick look and it would still be worth the visit.
Discovery of Paradise Cave
In 2005 by a local wandering the mountains looking for a specific kind of wood found an entrance to what he thought was a small cave.
Not wanting to get lost, he went home and reported the find. This resulted in the government getting a team together to go in and explore the area to see what turned up.
It turned out to be so much more than they expected!
Once the geologists finished digging around and exploring the cavernous space, they found it was over 30 kilometers in length. Think about that for a second…
What you can see of it today
The first one kilometer of the cave is open to visitors and is accessible by existing walkways. The widest section in this part of the cave is about 170 meters across and the deepest spot takes you down 150 meters.
There are many platforms connected by a wide walk way, catering to large crowds making it easy to get around. You get plenty of opportunities to gawk in awe at the different formations and changing sub terrain landscapes.
The fact that it has sat dormant for so long is extraordinary but then, Vietnam is discovering a lot about herself in a short space of time and we love exploring her!
Paradise Cave entrance fee
Our day tour with Tours to the Cave cost us VND1,350,000 (~USD59.00 / ~AUD82.00) per person, which included entry to both Paradise and Dark Caves. Lunch was also included in this price.
If you prefer to visit Paradise cave on your own, then entry is VND250,000 (~USD11.00 / ~AUD15.00) and includes the electric buggy ride.
Tickets are available at a stand by the entry gate or if you are travelling with a tour group, then stick with your guide, they’ve got you covered.
One thing that sold us on the tour was the included lunch. There are some options to grab something to eat at the caves but it won’t be cheap and might not be what you feel like.
Our lunch consisted of a share table of different dishes including chicken, pork, an array of veggie and rice dishes. There was plenty to go around and it was nice and filling but not too heavy.
Would we recommend Paradise Cave?
We enjoyed our visit to Paradise Cave and if caves are your thing, then Paradise Cave is definitely worth adding to the itinerary.
Note: We’re not able to compare it to Phong Nha cave as we opted not do that one. Two of our tour companions went and they were beaming when they joined us, saying it was well worth the visit too.
Dark Cave is a very different experience all together and might not be everyone’s cup of tea but we’ll tell you more about why in our next blog.
If you’re looking for a fun and relaxing experience with a bit of action to get the heart pumping then we highly recommend a visit to Paradise Cave.
And if this is your first visit to our site, welcome! Head on over to our Things to do in Vietnam Page where we tell you about more things you should add to your Vietnam itinerary.
Thanks for reading guys and we’ll see you in the next post…