Paradise Cave Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park

Paradise Cave Phong Nha national park, things to do in Vietnam, cave tours, dong hoi
Paradise Cave Phong Nha national park, things to do in Vietnam, cave tours, dong hoi

Seen one cave, seen ‘em all? Not the case at Paradise Cave, Phuong Nha Ke Bang National Park

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!

What attracted us to Paradise Cave?

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.

The best way to get to Paradise Cave

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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.

The beauty of Paradise Cave

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.

Paradise Cave Phong Nha national park, things to do in Vietnam, cave tours, dong hoi

Good thing is there are plenty of rest stops for catching your breath.

Before entering Paradise Cave

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.

Paradise Cave Phong Nha national park, things to do in Vietnam, cave tours, dong hoi

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.

Leon and Tash Vlog

Paradise Cave was the first half of our Tours of the Cave experience and we loved every minute of it!

What to expect of your visit to Paradise Cave

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…

Paradise Cave Phong Nha national park, things to do in Vietnam, cave tours, dong hoi

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.

Leon and Tash Blog

You don't need to stay in Phong Nha to see the caves and we tell you why!

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.

Don’t forget to subscribe and join our Tribe!  You’ll find us on Twitter, Facebook , Insta  and YouTube too!

Thanks for reading guys and we’ll see you in the next post…

Paradise Cave Phong Nha national park, things to do in Vietnam, cave tours, dong hoi

Au Lac Bar and Hostel, Dong Hoi

Au Lac Bar and Hostel Dong Hoi, Dong Hoi accommodation, Vietnam accommodation, Vietnam hostels
Au Lac Bar and Hostel Dong Hoi, vietnam, vietnam tourism, phong nha, places to stay in vietnam, vietnam hostels

Au Lac Bar and Hostel is more than your average Vietnamese hostel

This was our second visit to Dong Hoi and it was for pretty much the same reason. We wanted to visit the Phong Nha caves. While researching accommodation options, we found that not only was Dong Hoi cheaper than Phuong Nha, it had more to offer too.

Leon and Tash Vlog

The famous Phong Nha National Park Caves

On our first visit we found one hostel, Buffalo’s Hostel and all the foreigners were raving about. Everything else, was either in Vietnamese or way out of our price range, so we went with it.

We chose to book it as they offered accommodation and cave tour options, which at the time, was just what we needed. While our stay there was a fun experience, it wasn’t the warmest or most comfortable experience.

This time round we did the same thing and found the same result. Phong Nha just didn’t offer value for our money so we went back to looking at Dong Hoi.

I’m going to be honest and say that I wasn’t completely thrilled by the idea of staying at another party-hard hostel. What saved the idea was that it wouldn’t be for long and I could work with that.

Our stay at Au Lac Bar and Hostel turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip!

 

How we found Au Lac Bar and Hostel

Our regular readers will know that Hotels Combined is our ‘go to’ for finding a place to sleep and so far, it has been good to us. Though when it gave us another hostel option in Dong Hoi, I was a bit hmmmm.

As it turned out, Au Lac Bar and Hostel is now a new addition to our favorite accommodation list. Not to mention our first option for future visits to the super funky city of Dong Hoi.

Affiliate disclosure: This blog contains affiliate links for our accommodation partner, Hotels Combined. We trust and used them for most of our trip and we are happy to recommend their services (especially since they were so easy to use and found us really good choices too.) Now, you don’t get charged extra for using these links and we may earn a small commission from them which goes towards finding and managing all the awesome content on our site.  You are under no obligation to use these links but if you do, we want to salute and thank you for your support, we appreciate it!

 

Location

Au Lac Bar and Hostel

Au Lac sits at 68 Dong Hai, Dong My, Dong Hoi.

The area boasts plenty of restaurants, bars, hole-in-the-wall eateries and you can walk to the city center or river front in no time.

 

Au Lac Bar and Hostel Facilities

The first thing we noticed about Au Lac was the awesome decor and welcome feel when you step inside.

The massive pool table greets you at the entrance then leads you to the bar/reception area. before sweeping you up the stairs to the rooms.

The communal area extends from the comfy couch by the window with a great view, across to the the row of small tables and chairs on the opposite wall leading to the bar.

There’s no lift but thankfully it’s only three levels so you don’t have far to go. The staircase is nice and wide too, so you’re not wrestling your luggage to the room.

 

Parking

Au Lac Bar and Hostel does offer parking and at first, we thought the parking facilities were a bit silly as there wasn’t much room in front of the building.

We soon learnt thought that they use the parking space across the street as well as the space out front.

The staff also bring the bikes inside round 11 PM and then wheel them back out at 7 AM the next morning. We thought that was super courteous of them, making our stay so much more enjoyable.

 

Socializing at Au Lac Bar and Hostel

The ground floor area is great for mingling with other visitors or just doing your own thing.

We had a blast playing a few games of pool and chatting to Thao who was manning the bar. Not only was she awesome to hang out with but she had great taste in music and was happy to find a few of our favs too. Thanks Thao!

We met a few of the other visitors in passing, though we got the feeling it wasn’t fully occupied.

 

Our booking bonus

Another bonus for us and booking via Hotels Combined was that we got a free breakfast out of this deal.  Kien delivered our breakfast as soon as we were ready for it and it consisted of the most delicious banh mi. Freshly made by the local banh mi legend and we loved every bite.

Au Lac also has a proper coffee machine too! You can order a choice of Vietnamese or western coffees at very reasonable prices.

 

Red Peppers Restaurant and Pizzeria

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If you’re looking for somewhere to to eat, then head on over to Red Peppers Restaurant and Pizzeria.

Au Lac guests receive a 10% discount on their food bill. Extra bonus, whahoo!

The food selection is a good combination of western and Vietnamese food. The ingredients are fresh, the dishes are really yummy and reasonably priced.

Red Peppers is a short walk from Au Lac and like the hostel it has a very welcoming vibe to it too. It is a sister property to Au Lac and you’ll receive the same high level of hospitality there.

It’s not unusual to see Thao, Binh or Kien floating between the two either.  Good company guaranteed!

 

Where to eat in Dong Hoi

If you’re looking for something of the more local variety, then head right out the front door where you’ll find plenty of options to choose from.

A short stroll across the bridge towards Cang Dong Hoi takes you to an area that is full of eateries with mouthwatering selections to chose from.

Dong Hoi also sports a lively night market. On of the main features is the selection of local delicacies and crowd favorites, which we miss out on thanks to the wet weather and of coarse a good reason to come back. HA!

 

Au Lac Bar and Hostel Dong Hoi, vietnam, vietnam tourism, phong nha, places to stay in vietnam, vietnam hostels

 

We tried a local spot at the other end of Đông Hải that had a lovely little old couple running it. While communication was almost non existent between the four of us, Leon and I were quietly confident they would deliver a superb meal, which they did of coarse.

Our order turned out to be beef and noodle soup dishes that were absolutely divine, not to mention a great find as it cost us next to nothing at VND80,000 (~USD3.50 / ~AUD4.80) for both bowls.

The most enjoyable part of the meal was watching the old couple get excited about their foreign visitors, finding ways to converse which ended in a fun and hilarious conversation via Google Translate that still makes us laugh.

 

Our Room

Our room was a basic but lovely and comfortable space where everything felt and looked bright and fresh and the private bathroom was huge (compared to previous places we’ve stayed).

 

Au Lac Bar and Hostel Dong Hoi, vietnam, vietnam tourism, phong nha, places to stay in vietnam, vietnam hostels

 

The queen size bed was a dream with a Western style mattress, crisp sheets and a super warm and comfy duvet.

The first bonus was the balcony with a view over the Cau Rau river and out over towards the Nhat Le river. It was a great spot to have a beer and watch the world go by.

 

Au Lac Bar and Hostel Dong Hoi, vietnam, vietnam tourism, phong nha, places to stay in vietnam, vietnam hostels

 

Two special mentions.

One, there is no TV. We weren’t bother as we were too tired after exploring and touring. Two, there is no wardrobe as such but they do offer coat hooks. Still if you’re only there for a few nights, you won’t even notice it.

The bathroom was clean and modern with the traditional all-in-one set up and was big enough to swing a cat in. We love it!

It had a western toilet, basin, double head shower which was perfect for Leon and stocked with basic toiletries as well as plush towels.

 

Au Lac Bar and Hostel Dong Hoi, vietnam, vietnam tourism, phong nha, places to stay in vietnam, vietnam hostels

 

Service Experience

Can’t fault the service in any way. Owners Binh and Kien, along with their team did an amazing job of looking after us. They give us heaps of insight into Dong Hoi and some great recommendations too. Then they hooked us up with a great tour to Paradise and Dark Caves, assuring us it would be both value for money and memorable.

We enjoyed hanging with these guys so much so that we’ve become friends and stay in touch regularly and it’s experiences like this that make us love this country so much!

 

Cost

We paid VND 200,000 (~USD 8.50 / ~AUD 12.00) per night for our three nights at Au Lac Bar and Hostel. It was an awesome deal and one of the best we’ve come across in our travels so far.

 

That’s our stay at Au Lac Bar and Hostel

We really enjoyed our stay. In fact, we enjoyed it so much so that we almost considered extending our trip to spend just so we could spend more time with Binh, Kien and Thao!

If you are thinking of doing the Phong Nha caves, don’t feel obligated to stay in Phong Nha. Dong Hoi has so much more to offer and Au Lac is the ideal spot for a base.

Check them out guys, you won’t be disappointed!

They are locals who know Dong Hoi well. They have a ton of recommendations that you will never find on TripAdvisor. Or any other review platform for that matter. (*Hint: Ask Binh about the hot springs.)

Thanks for reading and see you in the next one…