With so much to do in and around Hoi An, it can be hard to know where to start. As you wander the Old Town and its surrounds, you’ll see cyclos, coconut boats, kayaks, lantern boats, bicycles, and even sidecars—all offering activities and day trips for tourists. There’s simply so much on offer that you are spoilt for choice and may be struggling to choose an activity that is just right for you.
Due to the sheer volume of activities on offer, we’ve dedicated a separate article to cover Hoi An’s rich handicraft heritage. Hoi An has classes in a multitude of crafts involving leather, bamboo, wood carving, sedge mat making, masks, lanterns, and silk. Apart from gaining new skills at these workshops, you get to take home your personal, very unique souvenir and fond memories from working alongside your Vietnamese hosts. Hidden has written about these workshops in detail in several articles: Silk Village Tour, Crafts Workshops, and Lantern Making.
In this guide, the Hidden team has reviewed and tested the best activities and tours in Hoi An. We’ve done the legwork (and occasional paddle) for you and put together a concise list with all the details on the best day activities and tours Hoi An has on offer. We’ve gathered the stack of information, sorted it, and here it is: your guide to the best day activities and tours in Hoi An.
Activity Tours in the Old Town
Apart from wandering the city and getting lost in the little alleys yourself, there are many other ways to explore the Old Town, either being driven around on a traditional cyclo or enjoying the scenery from the water. Both tours let you experience this World Heritage town in very unique ways.
Cyclo Rides in the Old Town
You can’t miss them—from the moment you enter the Old Town, it will be literally seconds before you see your first cyclo. In 2003, cyclos were organised into a Labour Union, and since then, their service has been completely professionalised. Drivers all wear a type of uniform, and the cyclos are spotless, and all have a registration number. Prices are as good as fixed, and fighting for passengers has stopped.
Unlike in many other cities in Vietnam, it is fun and safe to enjoy a cyclo ride here. The standard tour takes you along the waterfront, through the central market and back via one of the small alleys, there are photo stops along the way, and you can also hop on or off along this route.
To arrange, either approach one of the drivers directly to agree on a cyclo tour or choose an organised tour that includes the cyclo experience.
Why do it? A good option for those who don’t have a lot of time and want to experience a traditional Vietnamese activity, with a nostalgic feeling of “old Vietnam,” or maybe you are not good on foot (or just too tired!) to explore the Old Town. Cyclos cater well to large groups so you can set off together without the worry of losing track of someone. It’s also a good activity for families with small children that may find it all a bit too much walking through the busy streets.
1. Individual travel:
Take the standard tour through the Old Town or negotiate a personalised tour
Cost: Starting at 200,000 VND (8.70 USD)
Duration: minimum 20 minutes, longer rides can be negotiated
2. Organised tour:
Cyclo rides are often included in organised tours through Hoi An. They can be included in a combination of cyclo/boat or cyclo/bike experiences and cyclo groups can be seen travelling out to the countryside or down to the beach.
Cost: 575,000 – 1,265,000 VND (25 – 55 USD), depending on group size and duration
Duration: 3 – 8 hours, longer tours also include lunch
Where: These tours include hotel pick-up
Lantern Boat Rides in the Old Town
Change your perspective of the Old Town and hop on a boat to enjoy the view from the river. It’s a particularly lovely thing to do in the evening or at sunset. You can soak up the atmosphere and be slightly removed from the crowds. Later on in the evening, you’ll find yourself surrounded by floating lanterns instead of shoulder-to-shoulder with crowds. It can be quite romantic, too, and an extraordinary experience during Hoi An’s Full Moon Lantern Festival.
Boat owners line the banks of the Thu Bon River, making them very easy to find. Have a ride duration and price in mind before boarding, then just relax and enjoy!
Why do it? It’s the best way to escape the buzzing streets at night, especially during festivals. It’s also a great option if you are with your special someone and want to experience one of Hoi An’s most romantic activities.
Cost: 100,000 VND (4.40 USD) per person, depending on boat and group size, duration, and season
Duration: Approx. 30 minutes
Where to find them: The majority of boats surround the lantern bridge
Activity Tours on the Outskirts of the Old Town
It always surprises us how quickly the scenery changes here from a buzzing little city to a very traditional, rural countryside. In a matter of minutes, you can swap the hustle of the Old Town for endless rice paddies, water buffalo, remote villages with thatched roofed houses, people practising their traditional arts and trades, and of course, the iconic conical hats dotting the landscape. Add pagodas, local fishers and farmers, and it won’t take long until you’re lost in the scenery.
There are many tours you can choose from to explore the beautiful areas surrounding Hoi An, and all you have to do is pick the most enjoyable type of transportation for you.
Water Coconut Palm Basket Boat Rides
Just five kilometres outside the Old Town, you’ll find the small hamlet of Cam Thanh. Famous for its water coconut palms (also Nipa palms), its mangrove forest is home to a seven-hectare unique ecosystem. Once planted to protect the village from monsoon floods and storms, it became a place of hiding during the American War. There’s a big crater in the middle of it where the water is nearly seven metres deep, rather than one metre like everywhere else—it is a silent witness of this time. Apart from providing shelter for the village, the forest is full of birds and fish, the Nipa palm fruits make for a tasty dessert, and there’s never any wastage as their leaves are used for thatching houses.
To visit the creeks through the forest you need to travel by basket boat, please don’t forget to wear your life vest even if you think you’re the best swimmer—it is mandatory for boat operators here that you’re wearing one. The circular, nearly hemispherical design of the basket boats, prevents them from tipping over and leaking—they really don’t look like boats at all! Originally they were designed to avoid taxes on boats during the French colonial era, and they soon became a defining feature of the Vietnamese landscape. Woven from bamboo and coated in waterproof resin made from coconut oil, each boat can last for decades if well looked after.
Local fishers are masters in rowing the basket boats and are more than happy to show off their skills, albeit disturbing the peace a little as many boats are accompanied by loud music and cheering spectators. The boat guides get very creative with little gifts for you during your ride made by from the water coconut leaves. We saw Harry Potter and the Statue of Liberty disembarking boats! Additionally, remember to tip after performances or for particularly creative effort with the coconut leaves.
The Basket Boat tour can be a stand-alone experience and is also included in many of the other tours offered. It’s easy to travel to the village by scooter or bicycle (10-30 minutes from town) and turn up and find your boat owner, or you can book an organised tour that also includes a motorbike/bicycle ride and other activities.
Why do it? It is a fun, diverse experience when visiting Hoi An.
1. Individual travel
Cost: Starting at 200,000 VND (8.70 USD)
Duration: 1 hour
Where to find them? Boat owners all along the river map
2. Organised tour:
Cost: 650,000 – 805,000 VND per person (29 – 35 USD), depending on the type of tour and operator
Duration: 3.5 – 5 hours
Where to find them? These tours include hotel pick up
A great way to explore the surroundings of Hoi An on the water is to use your muscles and kayak. There are a vast number of different tours on offer, catering for absolute beginners to more advanced kayakers, from sunrise to sunset. Stand up paddle boards are also available on calm days. You can paddle through the coconut palm mangrove forest, the countryside, and explore further down the river. As the river flows in an East/West direction, it allows for unobstructed views of the sun at dawn and dusk. Longer tours include lunch and visits to Vietnamese families, and some can also be combined with a bike tour. All these ensure you get to enjoy the peaceful life on and along the river.
The Hidden team is impressed with the social project initiated and organised by one of the operators, Hoi An Kayak Tours. Every Saturday morning, you can participate in their River Clean Up, where both locals and expats come together to clean up the Thu Bon river. Hoi An Kayak Tours understands that environmental awareness can’t start early enough, so their second project, School Think Green, aims to increase knowledge on establishing a clean environment. Their third initiative is to support local artisans by encouraging visitors to participate in workshops and visit local craftspeople to learn from their skills. It provides an essential income to this community and helps keep their skills alive, preserving them for future generations.
Why do it? If you are an active person and want to explore a different way of travelling through the countryside. You want to support the local community and would like an interactive family tour.
Cost: 400,000 – 1,610,000 VND (17.40 – 70 USD), depending on duration, tour and group size
Duration: 2 – 8 hours
Where to find it? Hotel pick-up is included
Tour operators: Hoi An Kayak Tours
If you prefer to stay on dry land and love cycling, there are numerous tours on offer for all levels of fitness. They vary from easy-going, suitable for families, to long(er)-distance tours, and even several day excursions. You can ride up the Hai Van Pass, or ride through the countryside and end up at the water coconut palm village. You’ll soon find that pedalling through picturesque surroundings and along hidden trails has an immediate calming effect.
Tours include snacks, lunches, stops at local farmhouses, and some even drive you back to your hotel if the tour takes you further away. All tours include the equipment you need. If you’d prefer to explore the rice fields and little villages on your own, you can easily hire a bike at your accommodation or at one of the shops in town (costs are around 50,000 VND (2 USD) per day).
Hidden Hint: Some of these tours are seasonal, so make sure you check availability with operators beforehand.
Why do it? You are passionate about cycling and would like to get a more personal experience with Vietnamese families, or you are travelling as a family and look for a suitable activity.
Cost: 851,000 – 1,817,000 VND (37 – 79 USD), depending on duration and tour
Duration: 4 – 6.5 hours
Where to find it? Grasshopper adventures office or hotel pick-up service
If you are after a really unique and premium experience, how does riding in a retro soviet-style sidecar sound to you? It’s a fun outing for couples, families, and even small groups.
The vintage sidecars you have the pleasure to ride in are based on sidecars designed initially by BMW in Germany in the late 1930s. The design and production line was sold to the Soviet Union at the beginning of WWII and later to the Republic of China, where they are still produced today, making it the vehicle with the longest production life: 80 years to date.
Sidecar tours range from an introductory ride to a half-day excursion—yet another way to make the most of your time in Hoi An and its surroundings. Add authenticity to your journey, enjoy traditional Vietnamese coffee which is part of the tour, and some tours even offer lunch and visits to local artisans and farms.
Why do it? You want a very unique, safe adventure, or want a one-off special experience for your family
1.200,000 (52 USD) for 1 hour per sidecar (max 2 people)
1,250,000 – 1,400,000 VND (54 – 61 USD) for 3.5 – 4.5 hours per person
Duration: 1 – 4.5 hours
Where to find it? This tour includes hotel pick-up
Tour operators: Hoi An Sidecar Tours
Food Activities in Hoi An
Food and Vietnam—a match made in heaven. There are so many dishes, tastes, and flavours, so it’s hard to pick a favourite. Given the number of restaurants, street carts and small vendors, people in Vietnam seem to spend a lot of time eating. Most places have their speciality, and often, they sell just one dish that is prepared to perfection. Visiting Vietnam is only complete if you indulge in all the offerings available for your taste buds. As food is a big part of cultural identity, through food exploration, you can immerse yourself deeper into Vietnamese culture.
Again, it can also be quite overwhelming—so many choices with dishes and ingredients you may have never heard of. A great way to explore the food scene to its full extent is by joining a food tour—let people with a passion for their food introduce you to their cuisine. You will learn a lot about the ingredients used, how dishes are prepared, and how they should be eaten. You can confidently try all the little things that you had previously been unsure about, and all tour operators ensure the food you try is safe to eat.
Prevent a guilty conscience by combining the food tour with a cycling tour (all cycling tour operators featured above offer this option). They all cater to special dietary requirements—just let them know beforehand, and they will look after your needs.
Why do it? You love food and are curious about it but may be a bit reserved to try new things out of your immediate comfort zone.
Cost: 805,000 – 1,600,000 VND (35 – 70 USD), depending on duration, tour type, and operator
Duration: 3.5 – 5 hours
Where to find it? Hotel pick-up or meeting in the city, depending on the tour
If you not only love to eat but you want to enjoy the tastes of Vietnam when you are back home, then participating in a cooking class is a great way to gain a deeper understanding of the food you love so much. Courses are designed for all skill levels and often include visits to local markets and farms. You have the flexibility to pick and choose what suits you best. We’ve reviewed the different classes you can attend in a separate article. Don’t worry if you have specific dietary requirements, there are so many options in Vietnamese cuisine, and your tour guide will pick the right choices for you—just let them know beforehand. Have a good time with like-minded people, and take home another great memory of beautiful Hoi An.
Why do it? You want to take home new skills, not just pictures and memories
Cost: 483,000 – 1,265,000 VND (21 – 55 USD), depending on duration and type of class
Duration: 1.5 – 10 hours
Where to find it? Different meeting points depending on the cooking school
Hoi An is one of those places you can completely immerse yourself in. There is something new to discover every day and as we’ve shown above, as the city caters to such a wide variety of interests. There’s flexibility to tailor make your itinerary too. When looking at activities around town, we found that while some tours focused on one specific activity, many offered a combination package. We recommend you do a bit of a mix and match. If for example, your main interest is cycling, you can focus on a cycling tour but add in a food experience, or if it’s all about the food for you and you are happy to cycle a bit, then start with the food section and add in a “side” of cycling.
Taking part in any one of the activities above not only guarantees you’ll have a lot of fun, we found that they also provide such a unique chance to develop a very personal connection to the country and its people. The hardest part is to choose what you want to do during your time here. We recommend that you allow time for at least one or two activities during your visit. Once you get started on exploring the area, you might just end up like us and not want to leave!