What to do in Hoi An – Local Tour Guides Top Tips and Favourite Places
How do you find the hidden gems and best kept secrets of Hoi An? Ask a local off-duty tour guide. That’s just what we did. The result is a well-curated list of 20 things and places that will make your stay in and around Hoi An absolutely memorable.
Kien – Professional Tour Guide at Hoi An Kayak Tours
“My wife and I moved to Hoi An two years ago. I was born in Thanh Hoa province, 600 kilometres up north, close to Ninh Binh. and coming to live in Hoi An was a very deliberate decision. I didn’t come here for a job, I moved here mainly for the lifestyle. To me, Hoi An provides such a unique quality of living: The city is relatively small and not polluted, it has beaches, mangrove forests, rice paddies, and beautiful surrounding nature. What always amazes me is how friendly and open the people of Hoi An are: You will find many houses unlocked, you can just walk through the gate to enter. You won’t find that in many other places in Vietnam.
Initially, my plan was to buy a piece of land in Hoi An to become a farmer. I love gardening and growing vegetables. But ever since 2017, prices for property in Hoi An have skyrocketed. I guess I should have come one year earlier when land was still affordable …
Working as a guide with Hoi An Kayak Tours, I get to see the most amazing sunrises and sunsets. For the morning tours, we paddle out at 4:30 a.m and have the river almost to ourselves, there are just a few fishermen, the birds and us. I once tried working at the reception of a hotel but quit after two months. But I need to be out in nature and Hoi An definitely has a lot to offer in that regard. So I consider myself to be very lucky.“
Kien’s Favourite Place in Hoi An – Duy Hai Fish Market
Not many tourists come to Duy Hai Fish Market because you have to get up really early to enjoy its magic. The market which opens daily between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. is located about six kilometres southeast of the Old Town, on the banks of the Duy Hai fishing village. It provides most of the seafood for the city. Therefore the fishermen bring in their catch from a night at sea on the river delta.
If you get to the Duy Hai Fish Market before 5 a.m, you are in for a real treat: On the way to the market, you cross the Cua Dai Bridge and will be stunned by the beauty of the landscape. The Cua Dai Bridge gives you a wonderful view of the estuary, mangrove forest and the sea. No other place is better for watching the sunrise, at least in my opinion. A perfect spot to welcome the new day and to enjoy nature ́s tranquillity. Then head on to the market, a hustling and bustling place, where maybe even an octopus twinkles at you, that’s how fresh the food is here.
More of Kien’s Top Picks In and Around Hoi An
Best Authentic Vietnamese food? Hiep Ky Restaurant
I was introduced to this local restaurant by a Vietnamese friend and have loved it ever since. The food is freshly cooked and simply amazing: I usually go for the roasted duck or one of the delicious fish stews.
Address: 20 Tong Van Suong, Cam Thanh – Opening hours: daily from 10 a.m to 11 p.m.
Best Spot to Take a Break and Have a Drink? Trang Keo Lake
About five kilometres north of the Old Town are two lakes (Ho Canh Quan). Alongside these, there are nicely paved sitting areas, where you can indulge in freshly squeezed juices and enjoy the shade from the trees. It is like a mini-getaway from city life.
Best Spot to Watch the Sunset? The Pier at Kim Bong Carpentry Village
A 45-minute walk from the Old Town or a 20-minute bicycle ride gets you to Kim Bong Carpentry Village, which has origins dating back to the late 15th Century. So during the day watch artisans do all kinds of wood work: religious statues, finely crafted wooden doors, even ships. But at 5:30 p.m, the village quietens down. Then there are hardly any boats on the river, meaning you have the whole pier to yourself to watch the sunset.
Khieu – Hostess at The Secret Cocktail Experience
I was born and raised in Hoi An. My dad used to be fisherman, so we have always lived by the sea. Growing up at the beach definitely had an impact on me: I love being out in nature and I am a big fan of seafood, especially squid.
As a hostess with the Secret Cocktail Experience, I take guests to hidden spots in Hoi An. Some of them date back 200 years. We enjoy exquisite cocktail creations in places that you wouldn’t be able to discover by yourself. The job also made me realise how beautiful Hoi An is. Yes, it has changed a great deal over the years, the Old Town I used to know as a kid is not the Old Town I know today, it has become a lot busier. But when I see the lanterns at night, watch old ladies and kids selling lotus candles, when I stroll along the canal, it’s magical. You sometimes forget about that beauty when you have it right in front of you.
Khieu’s Favourite Spot – Sound of Silence Coffee
At first glance, it may look like any regular coffee shop at the southern end of An Bang Beach. But wait till you get to see the tropical garden – and the scenic, secluded backyard that opens up to the sea. The Sound Of Silence owners truly created an outdoor oasis. The backyard comes with a pleasant breeze because it is lined with palm trees. And hey, if you feel like taking a quick dip in the sea, it will take you three seconds to do so: There are a few steps leading down to the beach.
In addition, you are served the best coconut coffee Hoi An has to offer – at least that’s how I feel about it. I come here regularly since I live only a stone’s throw away from the Sound of Silence. To me, it’s even a great place on rainy days. When it pours, I sit inside, with a book in my hands … pure bliss.
Address: 40 Nguyen Phan Vinh – Opening hours: daily from 7.15 a.m to 4.30 p.m.
More of Khieu’s Top Picks In and Around Hoi An
Best Authentic Vietnamese Food? Baby Mustard
I discovered this family-owned place in the beautiful Tra Que vegetable village – 3.5 kilometres out of downtown Hoi An – by accident. My friends and I were supposed to go to another restaurant. But it was closed. So we ended up at Baby Mustard, which is hidden in a side alley, and I have come here ever since. Three generations of women run it: daughter, mother, grandmother and they only use fresh ingredients for their traditional dishes. A lot of them are hand-picked at the herb and vegetable garden. The steamed fish in banana leaves and seafood fried rice are to die for.
Best Spot for Late Night Munchies? Boom
Where do you go if you crave food at night? To me, that question was awkward at first. I am not much of a party-goer, so I usually fix myself a plate at home or have a cup of instant noodles. My friends recommend Boom Restaurant though. It is open until 1 a.m., which is rare for Hoi An, pretty much everything in this city closes down by 11 p.m. Boom serve great pizza, pasta and Vietnamese food and also does home delivery. So now one doesn’t have to go hungry to bed.
Best Thing to Do on a Rainy Day? Randy’s Book Exchange
I am a bookworm, I love reading, mostly I buy non-fiction. To stock up on English books, I turn to Randy’s Book Exchange, which is among the top 10 bookstores in South-East Asia and run by a retired American expat. The store is quirky: To enter the store, you have to climb stairs painted to resemble huge books stacked on top of each other. If you bring your old books, you get credit for the purchase of new books. The book exchange is on Cam Nam Island, very close to the Old Town. Just cross Cam Nam Bridge (you will find it next to the general market) and take the first right, then follow the signs.
Ai Phi – Tour Guide at Hoi An Sidecar Tours
I have lived in Hoi An all my life so I know the city quite well. I am happy that my son gets to grow up here too. What I really enjoy about my home town is the countryside. It is so diverse and beautiful. Working as a guide, I mostly do motorbike and sidecar tours. So I get to cruise through the most beautiful landscapes and get to talk to farmers, fishermen or gardeners. I really like that part of the job.
Ai Phi’s Favourite Thing to Do in Hoi An – Exploring the Rice Paddies and Tra Que Vegetable Village
I am a mother to a seven-year-old son. His name is Van Phong, I like to call him my little “prawn“. Whenever I have a day off and the sun is not too hot, we go out exploring. I enforce those trips as I want my son to play outside and engage with nature as much as possible. And thankfully, he loves it, we always take loads of pictures. Hoi An makes being in nature easy. We start off at Tra Que vegetable village or in the rice paddies. It can be easily reached by bicycle or motorbike.
After that we head on to Cam Kim Island. There is a pumpkin field, which is great for pics when pumpkins are in season. Also, Van Phong gets to play by the water. The other day he was fishing clams. Nature is a wonderful classroom. We talk to local farmers and fishermen, I want him to realize how much work it takes to grow food. I also want him to learn about recent history and teach him to be compassionate. In Duy Nghia village we visit people who were born with disabilities due to Agent Orange.
Anyone who comes to Hoi An as a family can easily do what we do. Just rent a motorbike and go through the little side alleys, you can’t go wrong. There’s something to discover behind every corner and your kids will really appreciate it.
More of Ai Phis’ Top Picks In and Around Hoi An
Best Coffee Shop? Tri Long
This coffee shop can be found in a small alley that opens up to the rice paddies. The chairs are painted in bright colours. Some tables have been created from vintage sewing machine tables and there are nice sitting areas in the shade and many plants. I love this place. But I don’t come here for the coffee though. Truth be told, I have never been much of a coffee drinker, even though the whole country of Vietnam seems to run on coffee. I am more into tea and freshly squeezed juices and at Tri Long, I get my fix on iced passion fruit juice. It is delicious, reasonably priced (expect to pay around 25.000 VND / 1 USD for a fruit juice) and offers a nice, chilled atmosphere.
Best Sandwich/Banh Mi Place? Lo Banh My Sai Gon and Banh Mi Lanh
I can’t decide which one I like better. Both places serve mouth-watering sandwiches: The bread is fluffy and soft on the inside and crispy on the outside, the filling is rich and tasty. And the best of it: there is no waiting in lines. Lo Banh My Sai Gon: 151 Tran Hung Dao – Opening Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Banh Mi Lanh: 430 Cua Dai – Opening Hours: 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Some might ask: What about Banh Mi Phuong, which seems to be the most popular place in Hoi An for Banh Mi? Don’t get me wrong, their sandwiches are absolutely delicious and of great quality. But I find the queues way too long. I have actually known the owner before the hype, from the time when she ran a small food stall in Hoi An. She is great. I used to stop by as a kid to buy my school lunch from her. One time, my mum only gave me half as much money as I needed to buy a sandwich – and the lady, who ran Banh Mi Phuong, laughed, cut the sandwich in half and sold me only one half. It was hilarious!
Best Local Bar in Hoi An? Toan Phi
Small bar, local people, Vietnamese run. I personally like tap beer better than beer in a can. So if you feel the same, look for signs that say „Bia Hoi“ (Vietnamese for “fresh beer”) and you are at the right place. Typical for a local bar, your drink comes with fries. Address: The bar is located on the corner of Ngo Si Lien street and Phan Ba Phien street.
Tram – Tour Guide at Heaven & Earth Bicycle Tours
What do I like about my city? The people. They are super-friendly, always smiling, there is a real positive vibe throughout Hoi An. I grew up around the area of the Coconut Village, which is located between Hoi An city and the beach.
Even though I ride a bicycle all day – some of our tours are 30 kilometres – you can still find me cycling on my days off. To me, it is an easy way of fitting physical exercise into my busy schedule. I love biking through the rural areas of Hoi An, one hand on the handlebar, the other one holding my phone up to my ear, listening to music and enjoying myself.
By the way, if you want to learn about the life in my area pre-war, read the 1989 memoir “When Heaven & Earth changed places” by Vietnamese writer Le Ly Hayslip. The name of the tour company I work for, “Heaven & Earth Tours“ is inspired by the title of the book. But most of all, it’s a really good read and the book was also made into a Hollywood movie.
Tram’s Favourite thing to do in Hoi An – Duy Vinh Village
Imagine the vibrancy of the Old Town in Hoi An. The motorbikes. The honking. The colourful markets and busy street vendors. And then imagine taking your motorbike or bicycle and heading six kilometres south of the city, traversing Cam Kim Bridge – and just like that, the bustle of downtown Hoi An is replaced by a zen-like rural calm. You find yourself on Cam Kim Island. But the journey doesn’t end just yet. Keep going, to the southern tip, that takes you through quiet roads. There is a floating wooden bridge that is great for testing your balance and for Instagram shots. You see giant fishing nets on the river. And finally, you arrive in the remote and peaceful Duy Vinh Village.
Around 400 families live here, whose main source of income derives from fishing and the traditional craft of sedge-mat weaving. But what I like most is the tranquillity of Duy Vinh Village. Wandering around, you will even find a house that dates back to the 18th Century and was the residence of an influential Frenchman who was friends with the emperor and political advisors in Hue. You wouldn’t expect something like that in Duy Vinh, would you?
More of Tram’s Top Picks In and Around Hoi An
Best Pho Noodle Soup? Pho Lien
I eat Pho for breakfast, as most Vietnamese people do. To me, the best place to enjoy the traditional noodle soup is Pho Dong Lien. The little restaurant has been around for ages, I remember coming here 20 years ago, when I was still a little kid. Pho was expensive food back then, today it is an everyday staple. I always order Pho with beef, it’s great quality and absolutely delicious.
Best Instagram-Worthy Spot?
You need to get up early for this one: But An Bang Beach at sunrise is really something. Plus: There are outdoor gyms there, so you see people exercising, which is also great for photos. Hidden Hoi An has a guide to Hoi An’s best Instagram spots and also a guide to An Bang Beach.
Best Vegetarian Restaurant? Tam Quang Minh
This little family-run place on Ly Thai To serves meat-free dishes Vietnamese style and has the typical charm of a local’s hangout: plastic chairs, an altar for the ancestors and a small, but mouth-watering menu card.
Thanh – Tour Guide at Vespa Adventures Hoi An
I am a 1,000 per cent local: I was born and raised in Hoi An and it’s fair to say, I know the Old Town and the surrounding islands – there are eleven of them – quite well. I went to study Tourism in Saigon, it was always clear to me: after university, I am moving back home.
Now my wife, my three-year-old daughter and I share a house with my parents. Three generations under one roof, that’s typical for Vietnamese life. I like our living arrangement, but it can get quite noisy and strenuous at times because my mum runs a daycare centre for kindergarten children from home. That means a lot of action for one household. That’s why I like going out on tours with Vespa Adventures and exploring off the beaten track.
My clients call me Bean, as in Mr Bean. It’s derived from the Vietnamese word “Bin”, which is a nickname often given to little children.
Thanh’s Favourite thing to do in Hoi An – Song Bien Xanh Floating Restaurant
The family who runs this floating restaurant on Cam Nam Island used to be fishermen. In January 2019, they opened Song Bien Xanh which serves great local food on an old ferry boat. It’s a simple restaurant, nothing fancy, but the seafood is amazing. I usually pick the grilled stingray in banana leaves or the stir-fried prawns. The location is one-of-a-kind in Hoi An: From the upper deck, you get to overlook the ancient houses of the Old Town, the market area and the river. At night, candle-lit paper lanterns floating on the Thu Bon river add to the charm.
More of Thanh’s Top Picks In and Around Hoi An
Best Breakfast Place? Op-La Mrs Dong
For breakfast, I prefer mi ga (chicken noodle) or op-la. The latter term originally comes from the French “oeufs au plat“ and means sunny-side-up eggs. In Vietnam, they are served in a small pan with crispy banh mi sandwich bread. Mrs Dong is a local place, very basic. You will love it.
Address: 40 Tran Hung Dao (right by the big Banyan tree)
Best Place to Visit on a Rainy Day? Faifo Coffee
This coffee shop in the middle of the Old Town not only serves great coconut coffee, but it also has a cosy feel to it and has proven to be a great place for people-watching. So grab a seat on the balcony – the view from here is magnificent and you get to study Hoi An and its architecture from above.
Quickest Way to Recharge? Star-Gazing in the Rice Paddies
When I need to find my own headspace, I take the bike and go from the city to An Bang Beach. On the right-hand side, two alleys come up leading into the rice paddy area. You can’t miss them. I come here twice a week, usually around 8 p.m, and then I just ride my bike in circles. It´s so quiet out there. You can gaze at the moon and stars. Then if the night is not overcast, you can even see the Ba Na Hills in the distance or the top of the Hai Van Pass. Not many people know that.