Destination Guide: Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An is my favorite city in Vietnam – it’s a beautiful, small town situated on the river with a lovely old town that invites you to hang out, read a book over coffee or wander among the stores. You can explore the rice fields around the town or head to the beach by bike. And some of the most important historic sites of Hue and My Son are just a day trip away.  Read my mini-guide to Hoi An to find out why you should go, where to stay in Hoi An and the top things to do! All you need to know on one page and in less than 5 minutes!

Why you should go: Hoi An is very easy to fall in love with. It’s situated on the river, lazily flowing by, with colorful boats along the shore and bridges crossing it.

The old town is charming with its narrow alleys lined by trees, countless cafes, restaurants and stores inviting you to while away the time. And thanks to years of growing tourism, it punches well above its weight with regards to the quality of the restaurants you find!

That alone would be enough for me to visit, but wait, there is more: Hoi An can get increasingly busy during daytime, with tour groups being herded through the old town. If there are too many people for your taste, grab a bike and explore the surrounding areas: the rice paddies look like they haven’t changed and you’ll be the only visitor soon enough.

And if a vacation isn’t complete for you without some beach time, keep that bike and head to Anbang beach, the beginning of a 30km stretch of white sand. You can enjoy drinks or a meal at the restaurants and beach clubs facing the oceans, laze away the day in a lounger or find your very own spot of deserted beach after a short walk.

If you have to have a little dash of culture with your vacation, a day trip to the imperial palace at Hue or the Champa ruins of My son certainly offers history in spades.

But what keeps me coming back is the friendliness of the locals. People are helpful and you won’t have to worry about the countless scams I’ve found in Ha Noi or Ho Chi Minh City. And the service quality has improved greatly since my first visit almost 15 years ago – you’ll never want to return to the US or Europe!

Thanks to the growing number of international flights to nearby Da Nang, it’s easier than ever to make Hoi An your destination and if you only visit one place in Vietnam, make it Hoi An. You can explore the rich history of the country, while away the time in the old town or relax on the beach, all in one town.

Where to stay: Now that you can’t wait to go, it’s time to pick a place to stay. Most of Hoi An’s charm emanates from the river front, so a prime spot is a hotel along the river in the old town. The Royal Hoi An MGallery by Sofitel has a prime spot and the best sunset views from the highest rooftop bar in town.

Across the river is just as good a spot with independent hotels. If you want to save a little, you can opt for a hotel a few streets back from the river. The Cozy Hoi An Boutique Villas are in a quiet side street and offer great value.

Cozy Hoian Boutique Villas

If you want to stretch your budget, the prices drop the further you get away from the old town and Hoi An is small enough to make that work. That’s also where you’ll find budget hotels, in case you throw away your return tickets and decide to stay longer.

You can find some of my favorite hotels in the table below.

HotelCategoryLocationChain/RewardsGreat for
Royal Hoi An - MGallery by Sofitel5*River, Old TownAccor LeClubLocation, Luxury, Rewards, Amenities, View
Lantana Hoi An Boutique Hotel & Spa4*River, Old TownLocation, Style
Little Riverside Hoi An4*RiverLuxury, View
Little Hoi An Boutique Hotel & Spa3*River, Old TownLocation, Value
Cozy Hoian Villas Boutique Hotel3*Old TownLocation, Value, Service

I do receive a small fee, if you decide to book through the link, at no cost to you – thank you for supporting my blog!


What to do: Hoi An is a great place to do nothing. Seriously, there are some places that are begging you to just sit (or lie) and relax, dream, maybe read a little, watch people – and not feel the least guilty about it. Hoi An is such a place. Whether you sit by the river, at an old town cafe or restaurant or stroll along the beach, doing nothing never felt better. That relaxing vibe lends itself well to massages offered on every street or cooking classes.

If you are planning a stroll through town, make sure to bring a camera – Hoi An is one of the most instagramable cities, with the river, colorful boats, flower-lined streets and gorgeous sunsets. It also makes for some good candid people-photos, with plenty of tourists from all over the world.
And bring your wallet, too, there are lots of markets and street stalls selling everything from local crafts, souvenirs and tourist nick-nacks to fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, meat and household items!

When you are done doing nothing, you should consider a day trip to Hue. It was the capital of various kingdoms from the 18th to 20th century and the citadel from the 19th century is a wonderful place to visit and learn about the history.
Even older are the Champa temples of My Son, built from the 4th to 14th century. At their peak, the Champa competed with Angkor for power in South East Asia.

If you want to combine the trip with some beach time, Hoi An is a short bike ride from white sand beaches that stretch all the way along the ocean to Da Nang 30 km to the North. The most popular beach is An Bang, with a number of bars, restaurants and beach clubs, as well as concessionaires offering loungers, umbrellas and drinks. There are bike parking lots where staff will watch your bikes for a small fee while you lounge on the beach.
To the South is somewhat quieter “Hidden Beach” and the beach ends at Cua Dai where storms washed away most of the sand.

The sunsets over the river are another good opportunity to do nothing – you can sit in little pop-up bars and restaurants along the river for inexpensive drinks or snacks. Or you can enjoy it in peace & quiet from the rooftop bar at the Royal Hoi An!

Where to eat: I started my food exploration with some highly-rated and recommended restaurants in town, but it didn’t turn out too well. Apparently, the success got to their head and the service suffered.
Instead I recommend to just wander through the old town, check the menus of the various restaurants and find a spot you like. Some of the restaurants next to those tourist magnets offered better service, great food at lower prices – with just the same views.

How to get around: Hoi An is perfect to explore on foot, so bring some comfortable shoes. It’s very compact and the old town is closed to vehicle traffic anyway (ok, apparently some motorcycles are not vehicles).
Many hotels will rent bicycles to their guests or for a fee, making it easy to get to the beach, ride along the river or through the country side.

For the ride to the airport I recommend Dichung Taxi. The airport ride is about $10, the company is reliable and the drivers where all on time and safe drivers.
For day-trips, you can hire a car & driver from the many providers in town, you can’t miss them walking around. Prices are similar, but a little negotiation hasn’t hurt anybody.
Grab ride hailing (see my grab review) is available, too, but more expensive for longer rides, like the airport.

Explore More: To get a “lay of the land” and see where all the hotels, restaurants and sights are, check out my map below and plan your visit to Hoi An! Click on the box in the upper right corner for a full map! Where are you going to stay? What’s your number one thing to do? Or have questions – feel free to comment below and I’ll help with your trip!

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