If you’re travelling to Vietnam and are looking for a few days of pure relaxation on secluded beaches and immersing yourself in beautiful nature, Con Dao is the right place. Located off the southern coast of Vietnam, the Con Dao island group is still a well hidden secret amongst Vietnam’s many popular travel destinations. You might have also been wondering where to go hiking in Vietnam? Con Dao is a perfect location if you’re looking for a few relaxed hikes that reward your efforts with breathtaking views, protected wildlife, and secluded beaches.

In this post I want to share my experiences from spending 5 days on Con Dao and obviously spill the beans on one of my favourite hiking routes on Con Dao.

Giant lina while hiking on Con Dao Island in Vietnam

What do You Need to Know About Con Dao, Vietnam

The remote Vietnamese archipelago Con Dao includes 16 mountainous islands and islets and has a total land area of around 76 square kilometers. It’s permanent population only consists of around 5,000 people. The largest and main island is Con Son Island, which most people (also locals as I’ve been told) mostly talk about when they refer to Con Dao. The island is best known for its stunning, secluded beaches and untouched nature, which is preserved through a large nature reserve. The island also has a storied past as a former prison during the french colonial period and the war between Vietnam and the US. You can visit the prison and learn more about the island’s past in the Con Dao Museum.

How to get to Con Dao Island?

There is an airport on Con Son island (Con Dao Airport VCS), which you can fly into. But why not make getting to Con Dao an adventure in itself? The from my opinion much cooler way to get to Con Dao is a ferry ride from the mainland city of Vung Tau. The ferry takes around 3 hours and operates daily (7am from Vung Tau to Con Dao and 1pm from Con Dao to Vung Tau). You can buy tickets and find all the official information here.

Cliffs on Con Son Island, Con Dao Vietnam

How to Get Around Con Dao?

One of the highlights of Con Dao is the freedom to get around each island by renting a scooter and simply letting the adventure unfold. You can hop on and simply cruise along the coastal roads, stopping wherever strikes your fancy to take in breathtaking viewpoints and immerse yourself in the island’s mesmerising natural beauty. To travel between the different islands you’ll need to book a speed boat trip. Most of them go from and to Con Son Island, Con Dao’s main island.

Where to Stay on Con Dao Island?

Once you arrive, you’ll be enveloped in a delightfully laidback vibe, where the friendly locals move at an unhurried island pace. I stayed at the serene Eden Con Dao resort, which offered the perfect base to explore the island from. But Eden is so much more than a place to stay. It’s run by two of the kindest people I’ve met on my journey through Vietnam, Trinh, X, and their dog. They were extremely helpful and more than happy to share all their tips about the island with me. The large rooms are simple, clean, and offer everything you need. But what makes this place really special is the courtyard, where you can hang out in front of your bungalow, in a hammock or small seating area, get to know other guests or chat with Thrin, Hai and their dog. Eden just has a beautiful vibe to it and you can really feel the love the two put into the place.

Walk along the coast on Con Dao Island, Vietnam

What to Expect When Hiking on Con Dao

Weather and Nature

With its tropical climate, Con Dao offers warm, humid weather year-round, with temperatures averaging between 25-30°C. The dry season from November to May tends to be the best time for hiking, but even during the wetter months, the trails are still accessible. You might get a bit wet – okay, soaked – during a sudden downpour, but as temperatures are quite hot, I tend to find this rather refreshing. Just make sure to wear light, fast-drying clothes and trail runners.

While the coasts consist of bare cliffs with a fantastic view over the ocean, venturing into Con Dao’s interior, will expose you to a verdant blanket of largely undisturbed nature. The island boasts an impressive 83% forest cover, including both evergreen and semi-deciduous forests teeming with a rich array of plant and animal life.

Hiking Trails and Permits

Being quite frank, I wouldn’t say Con Dao (or Con Son Island) is a typical hiker’s destination, as the number of hiking trails isn’t extensive. But I think that’s part of its allure. Because fewer visitors come explicitly for trekking, you’ll often have the trails all to yourself, save for the occasional wildlife encounter.

Additionally, the trails that do exist on the island are stunning, winding through lush nature reserves and protected areas. To access these, you’ll need to obtain permits from the main nature reserve office on Con Son Island. It’s located in the center of the island. They also offer guided hikes or snorkling tours. You can reach out to them beforehand, but from my experience it’s easiest to just stop by and get a permit. The proceeds also help support conservation efforts.

Giant linas while hiking on Con Dao Island in Vietnam

What to Pack for Hiking on Con Dao

To make the most of your Con Dao hiking experience, it’s essential to come prepared with the right gear. Obviously, you’ll need your regular hiking gear. While I’m usually a big fan of merino wool clothing, for more humid and tropical climates, I recommend to also pack a functional, fast-drying set of hiking clothes. They have the advantage that a) they’ll dry quickly if you get surprised by a rain shower, b) they won’t be as heavy when soaked, and c) you can do a quick dip into the sea in them if you fancy.

So, the core items, I recommend packing for hiking on Con Dao island are:

  • Mosquito repellent (the island’s humid climate means these pesky critters are ever-present)
  • Sun protection (sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses are a must)
  • Breathable, long-sleeved clothing to protect against bugs and overgrowth
  • Light trekking shoes (trail runners) rather than heavy hiking boots

Trail runners have the advantage (apart from being a lot lighter) that they dry quickly, which is quite essential in this humid climate. They are also more airy and offer better ventilation in warm climates. I also like that they are more versatile and can be worn to dinner or other trips as well. Lastly, you won’t encounter super challenging hikes with lots of cliffs or lose gravel on Con Dao. Many paths are even laid with stone paths.

Just in case you need some general packing & gear insights, here’s my ultimate packing list for hiking a long distance trail.. Apart from a different pare of trail running shoes, everything I took to Vietnam is also on this list.

A hike to the Vietnamese Heritage Tree on Con Son Island, Con Dao, Vietnam

A Beautiful Short Hike on Con Dao: The Vietnamese Heritage Tree Trail

One of my favorite short hikes on Con Dao is the trail leading to the magnificent Vietnamese Heritage Tree. Clocking in at 3.5 kilometres with a modest 90-meter elevation gain, this winding path offers a perfect introduction to the island’s lush interior.

The trail starts just north of the main national park ticket office. You can either leave your scooter at the national park office or drive up to the starting point (which I’d recommend as the road leading up to the trail entrance is not particularly spectacular). The journey begins by winding through a thick jungle canopy, where towering trees are adorned with some of the most massive lianas (woody vines) I’ve ever seen. As you ascend, the trail transitions to a series of stone steps, taking you up a modest elevation gain.

At the end of the trail, you’ll be rewarded with a true natural wonder: the Vietnamese Heritage Tree. This colossal tree, a species of tropical hardwood, has stood guard over the island for centuries, its massive trunk and gnarled branches a testament to Con Dao’s enduring wild spirit.

You can download the full gpx track for the trail here.

Secret Tip: I recommend doing this short hike on Con Dao in the afternoon, so you can enjoy the sunset over the horizon from a super nice spot afterwards. When you’re done with your treck and get back to your scooter, drive north following the road. Soon, you’ll pass by a small stand selling Vietnamese coffee, cool drinks, and fresh coconuts on the road leading nestled along the trail. This unassuming spot offers the perfect vantage point to watch the sunset over the sea while sipping on fresh, chilled coconut water – simply the perfect way to cap off your Con Dao hiking adventure.

Fresh coconut water with sunset views over the sea on Con Dao Island, Vietnam

Finding Serenity on the Trails of Con Dao

Whether you’re an avid hiker or simply someone who appreciates the restorative power of nature, Con Dao Island offers a truly unique experience. From the freedom of exploring its coastal roads by scooter, hanging out on serene beaches you have all to yourself, to the peace of trekking through ancient rainforests, this Vietnamese paradise is a world of itself. Although not necessarily known for being a hiker’s destination, Con Dao is a great secret gem in Vietnam that from my perspective offers the perfect balance between serenity and adventure. So, make sure to check it out and say hi to Trinh and Hai from me, if you’re staying at Eden Con Dao. ☺️

Jungle vibes while hiking on Con Son Island, Con Dao, Vietnam