All about guides to visit Cham Island

Cham Island (Cu Lao Cham) is located 15km from Cua Dai Beach, 20 km to the east from Hoi An ancient town (Quang Nam, Vietnam), and 50km from Da Nang City, Vietnam. The name of Cham Island relates to the history of the Cham people living here, so it’s called Cham Island. The island had been a commercial port and large fishing grounds since the 15th century. It also belonged to on the Silk Road, international species and ceramics.

Cu Lao Cham consists of 8 islands: Hon Lao, Hon Dai, Hon Mo, Hon Kho Me, Hon Kho Con, Hon La, Hon Tai and Hon Ong. The population on these islands consists of about 3,000 people.

Travel to Cham Island (Cu Lao Cham) is a journey to discover the most beautiful island of Hoi An, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam. Tourists can live with sea and enjoy quiet white sandy beaches of Bai Dang, Bai Ong, Bai Chong, and Bai Huong, and do many activities such as snorkeling, watching coral reef, or visiting Hai Tang Pagoda, 200-year Ancient Well, and Lang Yen Communal House.

We are proud that this article covers most of the useful information which the others cannot do. It’s because we are the local people living in Hoi An and organizing many tours to explore the Cham Islands. Our team believes that with our local knowledge to every corner of Cu Lao Cham will help you feel confident to visit Cham Island. Don’t let you wait longer; let’s start to read about Cham Island!

Cu Lao Cham Island
Cu Lao Cham Island – Photo: @mitukate

1. The best time to visit Cham Island

Cham Island (Cu Lao Cham), as well as other parts of Central Vietnam, has two seasons of rain and dryness. Due to the impact of global climate change, the rainfall is very little, and some small storms often affect the island. If you want to make sure your trip better, you should check the weather forecast before booking your journeys to Cham Island.

The best time to visit Cham Island is from March to September. You should know that if you travel to the island for diving and swimming, come to Cu Lao Cham since the end of April. In March or the beginning of April, the water still a little cold and sometimes get big waves to do some activities in the sea. The most beautiful place for swimming and diving in Cu Lao Cham is Hon Dai and Bai Xep.

Hon Dai and Bai Xep Cu Lao Cham
Hon Dai and Bai Xep Cu Lao Cham Map

2. Reasons which I like Cham Island

Cham Island always brings satisfaction to most tourists when coming here. Check top things I like when visiting this island.

  • The fresh environment of nature: Cu Lao Cham has clean air, good security. Lots of trees and hills, coral reefs are preserved to preserve rare coral varieties and to develop the local tourism industry.
  • Friendly fishermen:  You will meet a lot of friendly and open-minded people. They will welcome you as their relatives. Sometimes you see a stranger greeting, smiling, or quickly talking to you.
  • Beautiful natural beaches: Many beautiful beaches are still wild with clean water for swimming and diving.
  • Fresh seafood: Cham Island is an excellent place to taste fresh seafood. Most of the people are fishermen, so you can find a lot of fresh seafood just coming from the sea, and many crabs or fishes still alive at the markets or local restaurants.
  • Cu Lao Cham does not use plastic bags. The local people support this activity strongly to protect the environment of the island, and the tourists should note this.

Now is your turn to explore Cham Island and share it more with us and your friends.

Cu Lao Cham Island
Visiting Cham Island. Photo: @maikahere

3. How to travel to Cham Island?

Many years ago, when tourism was underdeveloped, Cu Lao Cham was a pristine island with the local people mainly on fishing. And, the only transportation was a wooden boat (Tau cho) moving from the mainland to island and vice versa, one trip per day. The wooden ships bring all necessities and people to the island.

In 2009, when Cu Lao Cham was recognized as the World Biosphere Area, visitors started coming to Cu Lao Cham Hoi An. And, the high-speed canoes have served. This mean fixes the needs of tourists for sightseeing, traveling, diving, watching coral, participating in fishing tours.

Nowadays, most of the main transportation of the local people to go to Cham Island as well as going from many islands of Cu Lao Cham is the water-based equipment such as:

  • High-speed canoes
  • Wooden boats
  • The wooden fishing boats
  • Round bamboo boats
  • Motorbikes on the land on the island.

In addition, if you want to visit around the island, you can choose a motorbike (the local in the island have motorcycles for 150,000 – 200,000 VND/day. And, the cost of gas depends on tourists). Before visiting the island, visitors should note that many vertical slopes and rough roads are difficult to travel on the island; they need to check the brake system. And, it is especially noteworthy to wear a helmet when riding a motorbike.

Besides, if you want to join a group to admire the hidden beauty of Cu Lao Cham Island, you can rent a wooden boat or a high-speed canoe (if your budget is allowed) to move quickly and safely.

4. What are the local food in Cham Island?

The team of Vietnam shares with you some experiences to taste some local food in Cham Island, which is a highlight of your journey to this island. Many specialties of the sea and mountains in the islands might attract you because of unique flavor.

Cu Lao Cham Food - Scallop and Vu Nang
Scallop and Vu Nang – Photo: @sammy.lk

Vu Nang (Her Breast)

This food is a famous specialty of the Central Coast of Vietnam, especially in Cham Island. You should go to Cu Lao Cham Island on the full moon days to enjoy Vu Nang. It’s because, on the full moon days, there is more Vu Nang, so the fishermen catch it easier. Its name Vu Nang (her breast) makes many tourists curious.

Vu Nang is a kind of sea snail with its shell like a cone, or like a breast of a girl. Typically, its body has a light yellow and blue color, but every time a person touches it by hands, it turns to the pink color, like a shy girl.

The number of snail species is tiny. To catch them, the fishermen have to soak in the sea for hours, use a sharp knife to take each snail from the stone. Vu Nang, then, can be processed into many dishes such as boiling, baking, or cooking as a soup. Each dish has a different flavor.

Cua Da (Rock crabs)

The rock crabs are not very big with very impressive color.  Their carapaces and legs have purple-brown color, and the abdomen is yellow. The rock crabs are very strong, run fast, and often only head out of the cave to find food when night falls. That’s the time when the islanders hunt the crabs. If a crab hunter sees ten crabs, catching 4 or 5 ones is a good job.

The features of rock crabs are running fast, climbing sharply, and just eating vegetable; this makes the meat of crabs fragrant and tougher. Evenly, the crab-flavored boiled broth is very lightly sweet and good to taste. According to the experience of the people on the island, there are some good ways to cook rock crabs:

  • It’s better to steam rock crabs with lemongrass and ginger; this can keep the original flavor of the crabs.
  • Steam them with beer makes crab flavor special.
  • Roast them with tamarind and salt.
  • Grill them on chart coals (without any things) creates the very good smell.

Dry squid

The local people choose fresh squids from the sea and dry them in the strong sunshine only one day. Squids become a little crispy dry but still, keep the sweetness and freshness. The only dish from dry squids is to grill on the charcoal, and when they change into light yellow, it’s ready to taste them with chili sauce and beer.

Scallop with spring oil and onion

Scallop with oil and onion in Cham Island have a unique flavor when tasting. This food is a favorite dish of many diners when coming to Cu Lao Cham. Scallops have white meat, lightly sweet taste, not very tough. Eaters enjoy the taste of the scallops with the excellent smell of roasted peanuts, the fragrance of spring onion and sweet and sour sauce.

Abalone

Coming to Cham Island, enjoying the fresh abalone that has just caught from the sea is lovely. Abalone is one of the extremely rare snails, known for many names such as hole snails (due to many holes) or sea ears (due to the shape of an ear).

Local Food Cu Lao Cham Abalone
Very fresh abalones – Photo: @sammy.lk

Abalones often cling to coral reefs in high salinity, so it is difficult to find them. To catch abalones, experienced fishers must dive deeply into the sea, and use a knife to separate them from the rocks or corals. Many guests like to taste them when visiting Cham Island.

How to cook abalones in Cham Island: The chef washes them carefully with fresh or sea water. They can grill them with oil and onion like cooking scallops, or just steam them with lemongrass. When tasting them, they use more lemon and chili.

Sea fishes grilled in silver paper

With many delicious dishes made from sea fishes, the most delicious and most popular is still the fished grilled in the silver paper in Cham Island. And, many restaurants can serve you this dish when visiting the island. When raping to grill the fish in the silver paper, its meat becomes very white and sweet. Combining with the spicies, sea fishes grilled of Cham Island make guests love to taste its flavor.

Banh La Gai (little cakes)

Banh La Gai is the dessert that we like best when visiting Cu Lao Cham, which you also can find in the list of local food of the island. To make these little cakes, the people in Cham Island have to pick up la gai (the thorny leaves) in the forest to grind them with sticky rice, so the little cakes here have a delicious flavor. Inside of the cakes made of mung bean mixed with coconut helps them more fragrant.

Vegetable from the forest

Coming to Cu Lao Cham, many guests try to taste vegetables from the wood. It seems the mixed plant is collected from the jungle of the island. Many kinds of vegetable combining create a different taste, which is hard to find somewhere else. The simple dish is to steam forest vegetables to taste them with fish sauce.

Swallow nests

Bird’s nest is not beautiful, singing is not good, but it produces a very rare food, that’s bird’s nest. Swallow birds use their saliva to build nests. New saliva coming out from the mouths of birds has a white color. But, it quickly becomes the dark white color because of the wind and normal temperature. Swallow nests are of high-quality food with high nutritional content. 1 kg of swallow nest in Cham Island costs up to 3,000USD. It’s because it is expensive. When tourists want to taste it, they have to book in advance to prepare this food.

5. Where to stay at Cham Island?

There are no big hotels in Cham Island, so you stay at the accommodations of homestays. This also makes your trip exciting and good chance to explore the local life on the island.

Many people just do one day tour to Cham Island, they book hotels in Hoi An or resorts in Da Nang City. This choice is for who does not like to spend a night in Cham Island.

Camping in Cu Lao Cham
Camping in Cu Lao Cham Island – Photo: @supercags
  • To make sure the room is available; you should book at least 15 days before you visit Cu Lao Cham.
  • The price of homestay services ranges from 150,000 VND – 200,000 VND/person or 400,000 VND/2 person room.
  • Most of the Homestay in Cham Island serves free breakfast, and often charge the room rates including taxes and service charges of about 5-10%.
  • Most accommodations of homestays are concentrated mainly in Bai Lang, Bai Ong, and Bai Huong of the island.

We range the system of Homestay in Cham Island with specific areas and standards so that you can contact to book them easily and quickly. There are not many homestays in Cu Lao Cham; we just want to introduce some famous homestay which is an ok and good standard and loved by many guests visiting the island.

Travelers can contact some homestay addresses as below:

  • Ms Tam Hien Homestay, Address: Bai Ong, Cu Lao Cham, Hoi An, Quang Nam. Phone: 07 06 18 35 16
  • Ms Bich Van Homestay, Address: Bai Ong, Cu Lao Cham, Hoi An, Quang Nam. Phone: 03 95 00 77 79
  • Mr. Huynh Van Tri Homestay, Address: Bai Lang, Cu Lao Cham, Quang Nam, Phone: 0974994189
  • Ms Thu Trang Homestay, Address: Bai Lang, Cu Lao Cham, Quang Nam. Phone: 0985237941
  • Ms Lan Homestay, Address: Bai Huong, Cu Lao Cham, Quang Nam. Phone: 0510 3863822
  • Ms Hiep Homestay, Address: Bai Huong, Cu Lao Cham, Quang Nam. Phone: 0986651448

These homestays not only provide accommodations but also supply to visitors other services such as catering services, laundry, car rental, tour guide, boat rental, and diving coral. People here are gentle, friendly, and very helpful. Although there are many services to choose at homestays, Vietnamdrive recommends you to book the services of diving or guiding from professional companies to get safer and better experience.

Also, if you want a separate space, and live with immense nature, you can choose for staying at a tent. Rental price of one tent is from 150,000 VND to 200,000 VND per night.

6. Tourist sites to visit in Cu Lao Cham

Bai Huong (Huong Beach) in Cham Island
Bai Huong (Huong Beach) in Cham Island – Photo: @sophiacohn

Attractions that you should visit when visiting Cham Island are:

  • Cham Island Museum
  • Champa Ancient Well
  • The cave of Swallow birds (Hang Yen)
  • Seafood Market
  • Hai Tang Pagoda
  • Fishery Village Area
  • Yen Village Communal House
  • Au Thuyen (boat parking)

Tips: Rent a motorbike to visit around the island, rent a canoe to visit the islands, and hire a wooden boat to go fishing.

7. Ticket price for visiting Cham Island

You should know some information about the ticket price to visit Cham Island to plan your budget.

  • High-speed Canoe ticket: 450,000 VND /2-way to pick up passengers at the port (not including meals or sightseeing fee)
  • Environmental conservation cost: 90,000 VND/guest
  • Cost to enter the island: 30,000 VND/guest
  • Cleaning cost: 20,000 VND/guest.

=> Total fee when entering the island (not include transfer): 140,000VND/guest.

8. What to buy as a gift when visiting the island?

Cu Lao Cham has beautiful beaches, coral reefs, friendly peoples, many unique local dishes, gifts for relatives and friends, or for tasting after visiting the islands:

Fresh seafood in Cham Island
Fresh seafood in Cham Island – Photo: @thanhthitn
  • Fresh seafood: This is just for Vietnamese travelers. They can buy different types of lobsters, rock crabs (the only specialty here), and many kinds of fish. The best place to buy them at Cham Seafood Market.
  • The hammock made of Ngo Dong tree (only available at Cu Lao Cham, you can order. After one month, you will receive a hand-made Ngo Dong Hammock. The price for a hammock is 2,500,000 VND – 3,500,000 VND.

9. A suggested tour to visit Cham Island

Cu Lao Cham Island in Hoi An

Many tourists staying in Hoi An or Da Nang City, Vietnam, like to visit Cham Island. So, the local companies organize one day tour or 2 days 1-night tour to explore this fantastic island. Vietnamdrive would like to introduce you about the one-day tour because this is a popular tour to Cham Island.

  • 7:30 am pick-up: the car will pick the guests up at the hotels in Da Nang City if the guests join the Cham Island tour from Da Nang City. 
  • 8:00 – 8:30 am pick-up: The car welcomes guests from hotels if the guests stay at hotels in Hoi An City.
  • The cars take you to Cua Dai tourist harbor to go on a boat to prepare for departure to visit Cu Lao Cham tour.
  • 08:45 am: High-speed canoes take 15- 20 minutes to run to Cu Lao Cham to start exploring the beauty of a beautiful island.
  • 9:00 am – 11:00 am: Get on the island and visit Bai Lang, Cham Island Museum, Au Thuyen (boat parking), and Hai Tang Pagoda.
  • 11:00 am, the high-speed canoe drives you to take a bath and snorkeling to watch coral and see the only marine creatures that are only available at Cham island.
  • 12:00 pm: Have lunch at the restaurant with seafood and local specialties.
  • 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm: Tourists are free to get sunbath, swimming, exploring the island.
  • 2:30 pm: Canoe transfers you back to the Cua Dai Port of Hoi An City.
  • The car will drive you to the hotels. End of a 1-day tour of Cu Lao Cham.

Many local companies often organize the join group tour, especially for Vietnamese people. Thus, the quality of trip and tour guides is different from the requests of foreigners. If you want a private tour to get more comfortable to explore Cham Island, please mention your need when you book a tour. Or, you can tell Vietnamdrive to support this activity.

Vienamdrive spent a lot of time to give you the best information about Cham Island and the ways to visit it. If you find this article helpful, please share it. Or, if you have any ideas (even correct and update any information), please tell us by leaving your comments or email to us. Thank you!

If you would like to ask more information, to book a tour and a private car, or customize any tours, please tell us at info@vietnamdrive.com. Thank you!