For nature lovers, sun seekers, and holiday makers in general, the Cham Islands — or Cu Lao Cham as they’re known locally — are simply paradise. This archipelago of eight islets set in the sparkling East Sea is a hotspot for biodiversity, on land and under the water.
Today the Cham Islands is a pioneer for sustainable models of eco-tourism and aquaculture within Vietnam. With thousands of tourists visiting daily, it’s even more important to take a responsible approach to preserve the beauty and amazing wildlife of the islands. Here’s everything you need to have a sustainable getaway on Cham Islands.

About the islands

The Islands got its name from the centuries when trading ships passing the coast of Vietnam would stop at the islands to restock firewood and freshwater. The Cham people who settled Quang Nam province used the Cua Dai estuary — partly sheltered by the islands — as a center for trading and commerce.

The Cham Islands are home to colonies of swiftlets. The birds’ nests are harvested each year by brave local gatherers who scale the islands’ cliffs to secure this expensive delicacy. Since its first marine protected areas were set up in 2003, the islands have been designated as the core zone – Hoi An Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.

Cham Islands' stunning beaches - A guide to the Cham Islands
Photo by Sylvain Calac

Culture and community on Cham Islands

About 2,400 people live on the islet of Hon Lao. Fishing plays an important role in the lives of Cham Island locals. On-the-water activities such as night fishing will give you a small glimpse into their world, as well as the chance to hear stories from fishermen. You may like to learn about the charming culture and history of the islands by joining tours with local guides to see the Hải Tạng Pagoda, the Cham Museum and the archaeological site at Bai Ong Beach.

TIP: Seafood from the islands is prized all over Vietnam. Feast on freshly caught fish and seafood cooked the local way when you visit the islands.

Cham Islands' sandy beaches - A guide to the Cham Islands
Photo by Sylvain Calac

Nature and ecotourism on Cham Islands

There are seven stunning beaches awaiting you. On Hon Lao, the largest island in the archipelago, forested hills are filled with birds, butterflies, monkeys, reptiles and other land animals. Walk or cycle along the coastal road to the most beautiful lookout points on the island, or go in search of streams, caves and unique rock formations.

Under water, the Cham Islands boast 261 coral species and 220 species of reef fish. Go island-hopping to dive or snorkel off beautiful reefs in areas designated for tourism. You can protect the natural beauty you see by not bringing or creating any plastic waste during your visit, and by following responsible practices when diving or snorkeling.

TIP: Join a tour with Cham Islands Diving Center, whose expert dive masters will show you the best spots for spotting marine life, and give you an unforgettable experience.

Nature and ecotourism on Cham Islands - A guide to the Cham Islands
Photo by Sylvain Calac

Giving back on Cham Islands

A portion of each ticket collected from visitors to the Cham Islands goes to conservation efforts, so just by visiting, you’re already helping! Simple acts such as buying seafood or coconuts from locals can mean a lot to small families who live off the sea year-round. If you have time, stay longer and support the local economy by choosing local home stays, restaurants and guides.

Cham Islands snorkeling tours - A guide to the Cham Islands
Photo by Sylvain Calac

Best time to visit the Cham Islands

From March to September are the best months to visit the islands, with warm weather and calm seas. In the fourth lunar month each year, the fishing communities on Cham Island celebrate Le Cau Ngu, a colorful festival dedicated to whale worship. The festival is a fascinating opportunity to enjoy the music, dancing, boat races, and traditional games of the Cham Island community.

How to get to the Cham Islands

While it’s possible to visit the islands on a quick day trip, spending a night or two will give you much more time to appreciate the beauty of the Cham Islands. The public ferry from the wharf in Cua Dai takes 90 minutes to reach Hon Lao. Private boats shorten the journey, and speedboats can reach the islands in just 30 minutes. Bicycles are easy to rent on the island if you want to explore on your own.

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