Hạ Long, a city on Vietnam’s northern coast, is a jumping-off point for Hạ Long Bay, a broad inlet of dramatic, often mist-covered limestone islands. Replicas of traditional junk boats tour the bay and depart from the city’s Bai Chay district. Bai Chay also has an artificial beach, a casino, cafes and dozens of hotels from resort-style complexes to hostels.
Bai Chay connects by bridge to Hon Gai, the more industrial part of town, and together the 2 districts make up Hạ Long City proper. Still, the most popular destinations are offshore: Many of Hạ Long Bay’s islands are peppered with scenic lakes, caves and grottoes. The largest island, Cát Bà, is home to Cát Bà National Park, a habitat for rare, endangered langurs; Hospital Cave, a secret 1960s wartime hospital carved into a cavern; and several beaches at Cát Cò Cove.