Chances are, you’ll want to spend far longer than 24 hours in Hoi An – this pretty town remains a firm favourite amongst first-time visitors. But if you don’t have much time, Travel Consultant Dylan has a plan for how to make every moment matter.
The old fishing town of Hoi An is a wonderful place to spend a few leisurely days exploring. In fact, most visitors return wishing they’d spared more time to enjoy the atmosphere, beach and beautiful countryside. But what if you only have 24 hours?
But first, coffee.
Start your day with a classic Vietnamese coffee, the best way to kick off your fun filled 24 hours with lots of energy! Try the classic Vietnamese iced black coffee (cà phê đá), or opt for a local speciality: for those with a sweet tooth, cà phê Sua đá comes with condensed milk, and Cà Phê Trứng (Coffee with Egg) is a surprisingly delicious sweet treat that is more dessert than caffeine fix.
Continue the morning with a walking tour. If you wake up early, make the most of the main sites at their quietest. Hoi An is my favourite place to wander, partly due to the impressive (and very yellow) colonial architecture – there are no end of beautiful buildings, including impressive Chinese Pagodas. The whole town centre is pedestrianised, so you can walk without fear of a motorbike zipping past on the pavement (which is a strong possibility in Southeast Asia’s big cities!)
Head out with a guide to understand the culture and history as you walk through the pretty streets. A good guide can explain the history of the different areas and buildings, giving you a greater understanding of central Vietnam.
There are so many things to do in Hoi An, but if you only have 24 hours you need to prioritise! My favourites are trying the local food and gently cycling through the flat streets and countryside (seeing more than you would walking or driving through the area).
Street food tour
Combine the two with a street food tour on two wheels! I loved cycling through Hoi An’s winding streets while tasting the delicacies this region is known for, such as Cao Lầu and Hoi An White Rose. My favourite trip takes you to a merchant house to meet a 7th generation maker of Hoi An White Rose Dumplings, a unique local dish with a mix of Chinese and Japanese influence; a popular local eatery to try Cao Lau; and a local family home to learn about how green leaf cakes are made.
Don’t miss the chance to try the national sandwich, banh mi, and finish the feast with a generous serving of the most popular dessert in Vietnam, che (sweet soup).
Good luck getting back on the bike!
Later this afternoon, before the sun starts to set, head to the beach to feel the sand between your toes. If you have more time, definitely spare a day to chill out on the sand. The beaches around Hoi An are beautiful.
Hoi An Lantern Festival
If your trip coincides with the Hoi An Lantern Festival (every lunar month) meet a local guide to make the most of the experience – it can get very busy and it’s worth knowing the top spots!
Cruise on the Thu Bon River
Alternatively, join a sunset cruise along the Thu Bon River – a crucial artery for local trade and transport to this day. Getting out on the river at dusk is a lovely, relaxing end to the day – wave farewell to the sun as it sets between the water coconut palms lining the network of rivers and streams.
More time in Hoi An?
If you have more time in Hoi An (preferably 2 or 3 days to make the most of this beautiful town), you certainly won’t be bored!
Take a cookery class at either a local organic farm to learn about Vietnamese farming techniques and the rise of organic farming, or at the market to meander between the stalls and purchase your ingredients before cooking them up into a beautiful lunch.
Take a cycling tour along the Thu Bon River to get off the beaten track. Seeing the countryside away from fellow tourists you’ll spot local fisherman, countryside bridges and scenic rice fields.
If you enjoy hands-on experiences and crafts, make one of the famous traditional Hoi An lanterns. This is a particularly good experience for families, and always makes a great souvenir or gift.
My Son ruins
If you have a keen interest in Vietnamese history, visit the My Son ruins to learn more about ancient Vietnamese history and the Champa Kingdom.
We have a feeling you might be staying for longer than 24 hours after that… Explore Hoi An on our Vietnam’s Greatest Hits itinerary. Alternatively, give our Southeast Asia experts a call (Dylan loves any excuse to talk about travel…)