If you’ve never heard of Quy Nhon (pronounced kwee nyohn), you’re not alone. Situated on Vietnam’s South-Central coast, sandwiched between the tourist meccas of Hoi An and Nha Trang, this pretty, laid-back city of about 500,000 doesn’t get a lot of press outside of Vietnamese-language media, and even then it’s mostly limited to striking drone shots by adventurous travelers.
However, despite its low profile, there’s actually a lot to love about this capital city of Binh Dinh Province that’s been described as everything from an “on the rise” “dark horse” destination to the “Maldives of Vietnam”.
Locals have long known about Quy Nhon’s 42km-long coast boasting cheap, fresh seafood and relatively few tourists (especially foreign ones). Walk along its clean, municipal beach bordered by parks and broad boulevards and you’ll be struck at how much it resembles what Nha Trang must’ve looked like 20 years ago, before the international charter flights and United Nations of signage took away a bit of its local personality.
In Quy Nhon, you’ll find a typical Vietnamese city where people go about their business sipping coffee from one of the new, trendy cafés or making plans to meet up with friends for some shopping and street-food eating at the night market, all blissfully unbothered by tourism.
However, what draws the locals to Quy Nhon – secluded beaches just waiting to be explored, a slow-paced lifestyle fanned by ocean breezes, and a friendly, fishing village, “simple living” vibe – also makes it an excellent choice for a quiet beach getaway for the rest of us.
That said, travelers with their ear to the ground are saying to get there sooner rather than later because this sandy Shangri-La is too good a secret to remain hidden for long. Over the last couple of years, a small number of mid-range resorts have quietly sprung up adding hundreds of new rooms and January 2020 saw the first international charter flight (from South Korea) land in Quy Nhon. While the province of Binh Dinh (where Quy Nhon is located) only got roughly half the number of tourist arrivals in 2019 compared to Nha Trang, those four million tourists represented an increase of nearly 20% compared to 2018.
While the pandemic has slowed whatever momentum Quy Nhon started to pick up, it’s undeniable that the town has all the elements for a star in the making: an easily accessible airport and train station; good infrastructure including wide, empty roads ideal for independent travelers on motorbikes; several excellent day trip options ranging from ancient ruins to breathtaking bays; and best of all, relatively few tourists (at least for now).
Here are our top reasons why your next beach getaway should be to Quy Nhon:
What’s a beach trip without getting your fill of freshly-caught seafood? While there are plenty of places in town, drive 30-40 minutes south and you’ll start seeing lots of fish ponds taking advantage of the quiet waters of the area’s natural lagoons and estuaries. Some offer wholesale seafood plucked straight from the underwater cages beneath the floating houses, whereas a host of floating restaurants stand ready to serve up the seafood cooked-to-order.
The area around Bong Benh is especially popular, with lots of restaurants to choose from, all with great views of the colorful fishing boats bobbing in the estuary.
Simply pick your protein (most with prices clearly marked), have it weighed, and choose your cooking method ranging from deep-fried with salt, steamed in beer, or stir-fried with a tangy tamarind sauce. A feast of tamarind crab, seafood fried rice, and freshly squeezed lemonade set us back a paltry USD 8. Gorgeous views: priceless.
Social Distancing Splurge
The hotel boom hasn’t quite hit Quy Nhon which means that secluded stays are still there for the taking. However, no one does blessed seclusion quite like Anantara Quy Nhon Villas. Tucked on seven acres of woody hillside cascading down to the sea, each of the 26 villas in the all-villa property is set up to be its own little world. Wake up to gorgeous views of the islands and spend the day lounging around your private pool. Curl up with a book on the spacious granite sundeck, either bronzing in a lounge chair or sprawled out on the plush daybed under the covered cabana. Swim, sun, seclusion. Lather, rinse, repeat.
We won’t spoil the many surprises in store for lucky guests, but let’s just say the afternoon treats brought around by the private butler (think delightfully hand-painted chocolates and refreshingly chilled puddings) were a great way to mark time in a world where you’ll immediately want to ditch your watch and shoes, and the oversized tub framed by a giant picture window with views of the sea will be one of the most memorable baths you’ll ever have.
While privacy in the best of times is a lovely perk, in 2020, it’s the must-have accessory. Anantara scores highly here, with enhanced cleaning techniques focusing on high touch point areas down to the disinfection of all in-villa bar items before each new arrival. While there are several public areas, including a beachside swimming pool, a fitness center, and a library, you could happily spend your entire stay within the very comfortable confines of the villa.
One night, we ordered a pizza topped with Quy Nhon seafood and it was delivered piping hot from the oven to our villa within 20 minutes. Even breakfast can be delivered in-room, but the amazing spread down at Sea.Fire.Salt, the resort’s all-day restaurant, may very well tempt guests to peel themselves away. A gorgeous mix of buffet items as well as included a la carte offerings were a beautiful way to start the day in the airy restaurant with floor-to-ceiling doors thrown open to the sea breezes. Our favorites included the Eggs Royale with smoked salmon and Hollandaise, and the array of healthy offerings including daily shooters, vegetarian nori wraps, and chia jars.
- By default, the staff will bring a selection of freshly baked breads and pastries, fresh fruit, savory Vietnamese cakes, and yogurt to your breakfast table in addition to what you order, so leave some room.
- The Anantara Spa is jaw-droppingly beautiful. Tucked down a jungle path, the treatment rooms are some of the most striking you’ll ever see, with floor-to-ceiling windows framing views of the surrounding tropical sanctuary and the sound of the surf as a backdrop to your treatment. Book a daytime massage to best enjoy the serene setting.
The deal: Now through March 31, 2021, Vietnam residents can stay at a villa for just VND 9,299,000 net per double room / night with a generous list of perks, including full-board package (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), Daily Happy Hour, complimentary laundry, complimentary round-trip transfers, and more.
Contact the resort directly to make your reservation:
T: +84 (0) 256 3840 077
Great Day Trip Options
Binh Dinh has a surprising number of attractions, most blissfully un-touristy. Natural attractions include Ky Co, Quy Nhon’s top-rated beach where clear, turquoise water, fine sand, and glassy sea has some calling it the ‘Maldives of Vietnam’. While the name may be a bit of a PR stretch, the long coastline is replete with little bays just waiting to be explored, like crescent-shaped Eo Gio that’s backed by dramatic cliffs, as well as nearby islands just a 15-minute boat ride away. For culture seekers, Binh Dinh has more Champa-era ruins than any other province, including the well-restored twin towers (known in Vietnamese as “Tháp Đôi”) right in the city.
Quy Nhon’s lightly-trafficked roads make driving a breeze, so even novice drivers will feel comfortable puttering around on their own. One afternoon, we arranged a third-party motorbike rental through Anantara Quy Nhon Villas (VND 150,000 / 250,000 for half-day / full-day rental) and headed south with only a vague notion of seeing more of the coastline. Within 20 minutes, we passed floating seafood villages and took a detour to explore a nearby peninsula. Looking for the beach, we came across a non-descript town where friendly locals directed us through a maze of narrow alleyways to a paved lane which ended up at the town beach.
However, instead of a swimming area, we serendipitously found dozens of coracles lined up on the beach, with families busy mending nets, sorting through the previous night’s catch, and generally looking amused to see visitors on this beach tucked away in the middle of nowhere (seriously, it’s not even on Google Maps!)
The day held more delightful surprises like this one – a mountainside café where we enjoyed an iced coffee overlooking the beautiful bay below, an impromptu town volleyball game complete with huge drums and a cheer-leading section, and roadside stands selling dried squid and seahorse-infused rice wine, specialties of the area.
Travel tip: Because most of the attractions are along the coast, your choice is either north or south of the city of Quy Nhon. Research the locations well and plan your route accordingly as some of the attractions can be rather spread out, up to 2 hours in either direction.
All Aboard The Vietage!
While Vietnam has several hidden beach gems favored by the adventurous crowd, part of Quy Nhon’s mass appeal is its accessibility. The town is served by Phu Cat Airport, roughly 30km northwest of the city, with direct flights to / from Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and other Vietnamese cities.
Starting July 2020, there’s been a more stylish way to get to Quy Nhon: the luxury train journey between Danang and Quy Nhon operated by The Vietage. With just 12 reservation-only seats, each pair of seats is neatly compartmentalized into a near-private space making for the ideal socially-distanced experience. Think “first class” airline spaces with all the amenities but minus the turbulence.
Arriving at the Danang Railway Station, we were met by a smartly dressed butler who zipped us through the check-in process. Soon enough, we were comfortably ensconced in our cabin, with complimentary Wi-Fi, electrical sockets, and a loaded amenities bag with plush neck pillow and a warm fleece blanket to help while away the 6-hour journey.
Sipping on a hot peppermint tea accompanied by a warm cinnamon danish, we watched as the urban shrubbery gave way to leafy banana trees. The oversized window offered mesmerizing, ever-changing vignettes of pastoral living: buffalo half-submerged in the rice fields living their best life, blindingly white ducks and egrets breaking up the deep emerald green fields, and colorful cemeteries with ornate monuments peeking out from behind spindly palm trees. It felt like world’s most wholesome binge watching session.
Our pre-ordered lunch arrived promptly at noon: a fresh, Quy Nhon seafood salad, Salmon with charred asparagus topped with a roasted chilli beurre blanc, and a decadent crème brûlée made with artisanal Vietnamese chocolate to finish off the gourmet meal. Embroidered napkins, custom charger plates, a jazzy soundtrack, and immaculate service added to the fine dining ambiance.
While Google Maps shows the route tantalizingly hugging the coast, the tracks never actually get close to the water. However, the cheerful train butler told us that there’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment when the blue sea peeks out from between the trees at about 2pm. So we scheduled our complimentary 30-minute head and shoulder treatment for after lunch, and roused ourselves from the blissful massage just in time to see the ocean from the comfort of the massage chairs thoughtfully facing the windows.
Between the meal, snacks, massage, and hanging out at the lovely sit-up bar, the journey flew by. Too soon, we arrived at the Dieu Tri Station near Quy Nhon and were whisked away by resort car. Whoever said “it’s not the destination, but the journey” might well have had The Vietage in mind.
A one-way ticket aboard The Vietage costs US$185 per person, including a three-course, pre-ordered meal, free-flow wines, beers and soft drinks, bar snacks and a 30-minute head and shoulder treatment. The Vietage departs from Danang every morning at 09:31, arriving at the Dieu Tri Station in Quy Nhon at 15:43. The return journey departs from Dieu Tri at 17:29 and arrives in Danang at 23:01. The Vietage runs for eleven months each year, taking a break during the annual Vietnamese Tet holiday period.
Simple Pleasures at Avani
We all love that scene from Oprah where she screams at the audience: “You get a car! YOU get a car! YOU get a car! EVERYBODY gets a car!”
That’s what it feels like to check into Avani Quy Nhon Resort where every one of the 63 rooms and suites has its own spacious private balcony with gorgeous views over the bay. Sure, you can take a few steps out onto the private 1km-long white sand beach, bookended by dramatic rock formations perfect for selfie backgrounds. But why bother, when you can lounge on a generously-sized padded lounger on your own balcony, reading a book, or simply chillaxing to the soundtrack of waves washing up on the beach?
Situated next to sister property Anantara Quy Nhon Villas, Avani has a more traditional, open layout where social activities revolve around the resort’s main building – Tre (the all-day restaurant featuring everything from steaks and seafood to Vietnamese and International favorites), the open-air GIO bar with all-day drink specials, and the scenic swimming pool overlooking the beach below.
We were happy to grow roots in our spacious room (all rooms and suites measure at least 50 sqm), grooving out to tunes played on the Bluetooth speaker, ducking between the sun-kissed terrace and the respite of the air-conditioned room, and doing brief stints of work at the large work desk. Simple pleasures in not so simple times.
Travel tip: The Anantara Spa is open to Avani guests. Simply ask Reception to book an electric buggy for the short ride to bliss.
The deal: Now through March 31, 2021, Vietnam residents can stay in a double room for just VND 3,495,000 net per room / night on a full-board package (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), Daily Happy Hour, complimentary laundry, complimentary round-trip transfers, and more!
Contact the resort directly to make your reservation:
T: +84 (0) 256 3840 077