Nam Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam

Nam Cat Tien is one of the most beautiful national parks in Vietnam. It has attractive landscapes with diversity, including the hills, the riverside, the vast flat grasslands, and streams. In the rainy season, the gentle streams become waterfalls pouring water on the big stones. Many waterfalls create wide golden sandbanks which are suitable for swimming.

Cat Tien National Park
Butterflies in Nam Cat Tien National Park – photo by Vinh Pham

The location of Nam Cat Tien

  • Nam Cat Tien National Park is 160 km from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and it takes us about 4 hours to drive.
  • Cat Tien National Park is located on the Dong Nai River, in the territory of the three provinces of Dong Nai, Binh Phuoc, and Lam Dong.
  • Cat Tien National Park Vietnam has a total area of 70.548ha. Among them, a part of the area of Dong Nai is 39.108 ha, the province of Lam Dong is 26.969ha, and the province of Binh Phuoc is 4.469ha.
  • Headquarters control Cat Tien National Park is located in Tan Phu district, Dong Nai province.
Beautiful butterflies in Nam Cat Tien National Park – Photo: @mytientruong97

Stories telling about Cat Tien National Park

Many legendaries talk about Nam Cat Tien National Park. Vietnamdrive collected a few nice stories to tell with you as below.

The first story is to tell about the name Nam Cat Tien. The park had a beautiful sandbank of the river which can be seen from heaven. Attracted by the beauty of the forest and river, many beautiful fairies from heaven often came from heaven to swim in the river at the south of the national park. And, the hunters went pass this area they saw the fairies swimming. It, then, is called “Nam Cat Tien” which means “South Fairy National Park”.

The second legend tells about the creation of the waterfalls and lakes in the park. In the past, while hunting in the forest, the Chau Ma hunter found a colorful deer gassing near the waterfall, which looked very beautiful.

He used a sword to shoot that deer. Suddenly, water rushed vigorously and quickly to chase him. The man ran, and the stream still followed him over the hills and trees, this created many waterfalls in the forest. When he was too tired to stop to rest, water covered him, this created the lakes in the park.

Now, when visiting Nam Cat Tien National Parks, we can find many waterfalls, rivers, and small lakes.

>> You may like to see the top well-known waterfalls in Vietnam.

The third story talks about the orchid which can be seen in the national park when discovering this place.

K’Du was a local person living alone without relatives near the forest. And, the fairy Ka Mai from heaven came to travel in the woods and to swim at the waterfalls. She often saw K’Du work here. And, day by day, she fell in love with him and became a husband and wife living together.

They had lived happily for a while, but because of breaking the law of heaven, the Ka Mai fairy was captured to heaven. The husband K’Du missed his wife, and he died then became the trees living in the forest. In heaven, Ka Mai wished to incarnate to become the orchid living on the trees to live together with her husband in the mountains.

Through many challenges, their love was finally rewarded, though not in human form. K’Du and Ka Mai fairies still lived together as orchids and trees in the forest, which you can see in the Nam Cat Tien National Park.

Cat Tien National Park Vietnam – photo by Amy

The best time to visit Nam Cat Tien

If you want to travel to Nam Cat Tien National Park, but do not know when is the best time to visit it.

Vietnamdrive recommends the appropriate time to travel there from December to May of the next year. During this time, Nam Cat Tien forest has little rain and a dry environment, so it is convenient to explore its nature.

You should check the weather forecast before traveling to this for the rest of the year. And, Nam Cat Tien is located in an area of climate that transits from mountains and plains, making Cat Tien have a unique environment, and it can get heavy rain at any time. The rivers and waterfalls in the forest create the general style of tropical climate forests in the south of Vietnam.

Transportation to and from Nam Cat Tien from Ho Chi Minh

You can choose different kinds of transportation from Ho Chi Minh City to Nam Cat Tien, including motorbikes, local buses, or private cars. Travel by motorbike is an adventurous way, and a local bus is not convenient for most foreign tourists because of the language barrier and conditions of the coaches. A private car is the better choice, it is a much higher price.


Follow National Highway 1A to the Dau Giay Post Office (this road is 67km long).

After that, turn left to go along National Highway 20 (the road forward to Dalat) about 58km to Ta Lai, also known as KM 125 (kilometer 125 is the old name, actually kilometer 58).

From this site, you continue to turn left and continue for another 24km to Cat Tien National Park (on this distance, there are direction signs showing to Nam Cat Tien.)

Note: when traveling to this park, you should clearly mention the location of Nam Cat Tien National Park. It is because, in Lam Dong province, there is also a site named Cat Tien, which is easily confused.


Kim Hoan Bus is currently operating a bus route from Mien Dong Bus Station to Nam Cat Tien Bus Station.

+ Route: Saigon (Ben Xe Mien Dong) – Ta Lai – Nam Cat Tien

+ Operation hours: 
from Mien Dong Bus Station: 6:50 am, 7:00 am, 9:00 am, 12:00 pm, 13:45 pm, 14:45 pm, 4:00 pm;
from Nam Cat Tien: 6:00 am, 7:00 am, 8:30 am, 12:00 pm, 13:00 pm, 14:00 pm.

+ Contact phone: 061 379 1133 – 061 3605233

Also, you can go to gate number 5 of Mien Dong Bus Station to buy tickets for Kim Hoan to Nam Cat Tien.
+ Address of Mien Dong Bus Station: 292 Dinh Bo Linh, Ward 26, Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City
+ Phone: (08) 3899 4056; (08) 3898 4441; (08) 3898 4442; (08) 3898 4893

In addition, you can also contact the buses to run from Ho Chi Minh City to Dalat to buy tickets to Nam Cat Tien. However, you need to note that you have to check with them if you stop at the Ta Lai Intersection. It is because you have stopped at the Ta Lai intersection to continue going to Nam Cat Tien. You can keep using a motorbike or taxi to the rest distance.

A private car

Always, this is the most convenient transportation for the route from Saigon to Nam Cat Tien. But you have to pay more than other kinds of transport.

To book a private car, you can contact us to reserve your car with a friendly driver to get door-to-door service and start any time if you want.

The diversity of this national park

The variety of plant species includes:

  • 50% of the area is a green forest
  • 40% of the area is a bamboo forest
  • 10% of the area is a farm

The diversity of animal species includes many species in the Red Book of World, including 1 -horn rhinoceros, Asian elephants, Gaur, Dog bears, Horse bear, Buffalo, Tiger, Leopard, Clouded leopard, Deer, Black Eagle, and White-winged ducks.

Flora of Cat Tien National Park is also diverse, with more than 1,362 flora species of vascular plants, more than 440 species of precious wood, hundreds of medicinal plants, and 133 species of orchids.

About types of animals, there are 62 animal species and 350 species of birds with some rare birds such as pheasants, green ibis, rhinos, and elephants.

Cat Tien National Park, mainly Nam Cat Tien (South Cat Tien) is a good eco-tourism. Coming to Nam Cat Tien National Park Vietnam, tourists can choose many activities, including hiking, bird watching, camping, boating, and adventure travel.

>>> You may want to know forest survival skills.

What to see and activities in Nam Cat Tien National Park

When coming here, you can choose the eco-tourism tour, rent a bicycle to ride on the old road, or can walk to view much more nature there. Many streets near the edge of the forest are easy to bike or walk to visit the streams.

Now, check more about what to see, and some suggested activities to do in the national park.

1. Walking or trekking to see nature with rich vegetation

Trekking in Nam Cat Tien National park
Trekking in Nam Cat Tien – Photo: @nn_vy

In Nam Cat Tien Park, the first experience is that you can walk or trek on narrow trails, surrounded by small and big trees. There are the special trees with hundreds of years old, divided into many branches with pleasant shade.

Trekking in the forest is the best way to enjoy the true beauty of Nam Cat Tien. While trekking, you may see butterflies, birds, and other animals.

If you’re really a fan of trekking, you can get a long distance to Bau Sau (from 5 to 14 km, depending on the way).

2. Visit Bau Sau

Bau Sau – Crocodile Lake – is far from the center of the forest, so you should choose a bicycle or car to go there to visit. You should prepare water to ride a bike through the woods.

Bau Sau is a large lake with many kinds of birds and crocodiles living. Sometimes, you will enjoy the dance of peacocks and lovely scenery; you will see attractive eyes from crocodiles somewhere.

Usually, you can ride a bike or motorbike a long way from outside of the forest, then you need to trek around 5 km to Bau Sau (crocodile lake). This is a little hard to visit, so we just recommend for tourists who have strong health to trek for long distances.

3. Biking through the narrow roads

Biking in Nam Cat Tien
Biking in Nam Cat Tien – Photo: @anhtho_pham

Many narrow roads in Nam Cat Tien are interesting for biking. You can use a bicycle to ride in the early morning through the streets in the forest. This activity helps you enjoy the fresh air, and nature of the morning and see trees with tropical fruits.

4. Watching birds

With different kinds of birds in Cat Tien National Park, watching birds attracts a lot of tourists. With over 350 species of birds, Cat Tien is famous as the kingdom of birds.

To watch the bird in Nam Cat Tien, you have to book a local guide in advance to guide you to see the birds. It is because this is a difficult activity in the national park.

Come to Cat Tien with the camera and binoculars, and travel with the local guide, you will have priceless memories. It is the color of nature showing on colorful birds.

5. Visit Dao Tien – Bear Rescue Station

Many people think that Dao Tien (Fairy Island) is an island located in the middle of the river. But in fact, this area is just a forest surrounded by protective barriers. With an area of 57 hectares, Fairy Island is a good place to preserve unique animals. You can find a system of lush primeval forests waiting for you to explore.

Also, at the bear rescue station, visitors can see bears. Most of them are in distress or injured and brought here to take care and treatment. Because of proper care, the bears in the rescue station are quite dynamic and friendly. But, when you visit this place, you should notice that being careful with bears and keeping your children far away from the bears is a good choice.

6. Visit Ta Lai ethnic village

Nam Cat Tien is the home of the ethnic groups Mạ and S’tiêng. Visiting the Long House of Ta Lai at Ta Lai Village is a favorite activity when traveling to Cat Tien.

This cultural tourist destination in Cat Tien National Park creates more colorful journeys for your holidays here. Besides, you can choose to go kayaking on the river at Ta Lai Village.

7. Watch animals at night

Watching animals at night is one of the exciting activities chosen by many visitors. You discover the life of the animals at night to find a different experience.

To participate in this activity, you need to book the service in advance (you cannot do it by yourselves because of safety). Contact the management of Nam Cat Tien National Park to buy tickets to join a group. Please note that you should not open the car door to ensure safety when watching animals at night.

If you want a private group, you can give them or tell the Vienamdrive team to arrange it for you.

Local food to taste in Nam Cat Tien

When traveling in Nam Cat Tien National Park, you should bring Vietnamese snacks and water to feed you when you feel hungry and thirsty.

Not many restaurants have enough conditions to serve tourists in this area. However, in the tourist center of Nam Cat Tien, there are two big restaurants to check out. Both restaurants can serve up to 300 customers at the same time, with a variety of dishes of South style.

Here are three local dishes of Nam Cat Tien to taste:

  • Canh Luc Binh (Hyacinth soup): Luc Binh (hyacinth) is also called Beo Nuoc (water hyacinth). The local people use its flowers and body to cook soup with a different forest flavor.
  • A hot pot of Nam Cat Tien: This hot pot is cooked from the forest vegetables and the fish from the rivers and waterfalls. Taste this hot pot to learn about the style of local eating.
  • Perch and snake-head fishes: These kinds of fish from the freshwater. Local restaurants here can serve you. However, you should be careful to taste the fish because they have a lot of bones.

Where to stay in Nam Cat Tien

Different kinds of accommodations are available in Nam Cat Tien. Depending on your budget, you can check some of the homestays, hotels, and resorts below:

  • Cat Tien Jungle Lodge, 3 stars, price from 35USD/room, check it now!
  • Orchard Home Nam Cat Tien Resort, 3 stars, price from 52USD/room,
  • Green Hope Lodge, 2 stars, price from 7 USD/room,
  • Cat Tien National Park, price from 3USD/bed (shared room), 8.5USD/room
  • Bird Song Lodge, 2 stars, price from 12 USD/room,
  • Thuy Tien Eco Lodge, price from 10 USD/room,
  • Gibbon Singing Home Stay, price from 10 USD/room.
Bau Sau in Nam Cat Tien
Photo: @dylan_viaje

Notes while exploring the national park

Visit Nam Cat Tien National Park
Visit Nam Cat Tien National Park – Photo: @helly.95
  • Cat Tien National Park is a biosphere reservation, so it is strictly forbidden to capture and exploit flora and fauna, so just leave footprints and don’t take anything but photos.
  • The forest has many leeches and other reptiles (snakes, or centipedes), so you should prepare all necessary protective equipment such as specialized climbing shoes, leggings, gloves, and medicine (DEP medicine is popular in Vietnam to avoid leeches).
  • Absolutely, comply with the instructions of the park staff, and avoid going to areas with dangerous big animals such as bears, bulls, and rhinos.
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    About the author

    The editorial staff of Vietnamdrive is a team of travel experts managed by Mr. Thom who has worked in tourism for 14 years. Trusted by thousands of tourists from all over the world.

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