Hoi An River Cruise: Guide to The Best Boat Tour in Hoi An

Hoi An town is by the left bank of the Thu Bon River, and by that, it draws plenty of merchants by sailing boat to visit and trade. Its golden age in maritime commerce was from 15th to 19th century. Although the role stopped, the boat building industry is still living in the area. To see up close, visitors can get a ferry across the river to come to Kim Bong carpentry village. Local fishermans are their main buyers and today, craftmans are facing competition from metal boat producers. Several historians said that the Chams taught local families when they migrated to the land 500 years ago.

During the day time, a cruise along Thu Bon River is for visiting two traditional handicraft villages Thanh Ha and Kim Bong, or transfer from My Son Sanctuary back to the town. In the end of afternoon, sunset lovers take it to enjoy the brilliant beauty of nature, before landing and strolling around glimmery lantern-lit quarters. Someone chooses to stay on board, and enjoy pre-booked delicious dinner dishes with their beloved person(s). Cycling tours often include a short cruise to get from the Old Town’s harbour to Cam Kim Island, and then an exploration into a peaceful countryside begins. Organizers in the east of the town also recommend a ride to get to their base (office) as a kind of transfer. After getting off, eco-friendly activities are ready to give fun experiences. This article provides detailed information about all mentions.

Read also:

Table of content

About Thu Bon River in Hoi An

Introduction about Thu Bon River

Thu Bon River (or Song Thu Bon) is the largest river in Hoi An, and the greater province Quang Nam. It’s nearly 200 km long, originating from the peak of Southern Annamite Range (at elevation of 2,6000 meters) and flowing into the sea by Cua Dai Estuary. Being one of a few rivers running in Vietnam’s territory only, this has a catchment area of 10,350km2 and plays an important role in local agriculture, fishing, waterway traffic and tourism. Hoi An is by its left bank, and near confluences of many waterways, giving it a prime location. Thanks to that, the town reached prosperity in international trading in many periods, from Champa, Viet to today.

Islands, estuaries, and related ecosystems of the Thu Bon River are within the Cu Lao Cham-Hoi An biosphere reserve designated by Unesco in 2009.

Thu Bon River Meaning

Thu Bon is popularly understood as “the Autumn” but according to historians, it has a different meaning. For them, its name in the language of the Chams is Sumut Drak, meaning “the large estuary”. Before 15th century, the people established a trade port by the river, called Champapura (or City of the Champa) and now, it’s Hoi An. In the religion, the river also represents the Ganges in India, because the Chams followed Hinduism at that time.

Fact: The stretch of Thu Bon River flowing in Hoi An, is named “Song Hoai” that means “the missing river”. Locals said that their ancestors were migrants from other places in the country or from China, so they always missed their hometown.

Islands and Riverside Villages

On the body of water of the Thu Bon river near Hoi An, there are many alluvial islands that were inhabited by Vietnamese at least from 14th century. The largest island is Cam Kim, famous for its peaceful countryside, lively craft and fishing villages. It’s popular for cyclists and cycling tours. To get to it, people can pass over new and old Cam Kim bridges, or more conveniently, get on a boat ferry. The most visited village here is Kim Bong where locals specialize in making wood works and boat building. The closest ones to the Old Town are An Hoi (the night market), Cam Nam, and the Hoi An Impression (theme park). All are walkable. Not far away from the town, Thanh Ha pottery village is accessible by boat, well-known for 400-years-old industry in producing unglazed porcelains. Getting there, and starting shaping your first clay works ever. 

Read also:

  • The Perfume River in Hue
  • Han River of Da Nang


Boats and Harbours

Bach Dang Quay – The Main Harbour

Bach Dang Quay is 500m long, between the An Hoi Bridge and the Central Market. It’s linked to the history of the town since it was designed to be a trading port by the Chams. Being bustling from 15th century, this is where sailing boats of foreign merchants moored to load and unload the cargo. Nowadays, its role still continues and travelers can see many boats and sampans. Almost every river cruise board here, from sightseeing handicraft villages, transfering to islands, watching the sundown to getting to cooking schools. During the night, lantern boat rides await pedestrians to embark.

Types of Boat

In Bach Dang Quay, there are three types of boat with different sizes and prices. The smallest one is the sampan, allowing 4 passengers. It’s used in short rides and transfers, especially in the evening to convey people to drop candle lanterns. The second option is the boat with seatings and cover (also called cruise). This type is popular in sunset trips or long voyages. The last is the most expensive, the tourist cruise where passengers dine out and chill with a cocktail while enjoying the romantic surroundings. 


Sunrise Cruise to Duy Hai Fish Market

Some Hoi An’s tour operators organize a river cruise along the Thu Bon River in the early morning. It aims to provide an experience featuring the active life of people and the wonderful beauty of nature in the sunrise. After passing under the Cua Dai Bridge, the highlight is Duy Hai fish market, the largest in the area. Around the harbour, travelers will see colorful boats docking and embarking, with fishers at work in offloading their catches of fish to women sellers. A variety of seafood is seen in vendors on the ground, including extremely fresh and living ones. The ambience becomes bustling right from the first boats landing, when the resellers and restaurateurs visit. There are lots of photo opportunities. In the surroundings, it’s possible to seek and try local breakfast dishes.

River Cruise to Cam Kim Island

This boat cruise is short, boarding from Bach Dang harbour (in the Old Town) and landing at Cam Kim harbour, in Kim Bong carpentry village. Travelers can choose to pay a private ride or join the local ferry. Many cycling tour operators design it as a transfer to Cam Kim island. And then, exciting bicycle expeditions through the most peaceful countryside area of Hoi An, begin. It’s possible to expect authentic rural villages, traditional handicraft households, hidden temples and pagodas, and breezy rice paddies. If wanting to do the same but by yourself, bringing your bike in the boat, the cost may be free.

Read also: Cam Kim Island, Hoi An’s Cycling Tours

Cruise to Pottery and Carpentry Villages

Thanh Ha and Kim Bong villages are both by the Thu Bon river, on the left and right bank respectively. Their craft in making potteries and carpentry products are still alive, passed down from father to son over 400 years. A visit to two villages allows travelers to understand better about these on-going traditions. It’s not hard to see artisans at work in the workshops, and products to buy and bring home as souvenirs. Not only that, there, travelers also have a chance to create a particular thing by themselves under the instructions of locals. Thanh Ha village owns a terracotta museum, exhibiting world’s wonder miniatures made by the clay.

A river cruise to Thanh Ha and Kim Bong villages, including sightseeing and joining classes, may be in some hours. Travelers can book a guided tour or walk straight to the harbour.

Read also: Thanh Ha (Hoi An) Pottery Village, Cam Kim Island


Brunch Cruise

Anantara Hoi An Resort provides a brunch cruise that is only in the city. It’s a 2-hours experience along the Thu Bon River to view scenic sceneries, and enjoy scrumptious brunch dishes beside beloved persons. To enhance the flavours, the resort prepares selected soft drinks, beers and wines to choose from. This cruise is from 12 to 14 daily, requiring a reservation in advance at least 24hrs. Its price is 2,8 millions dong for 2 people.

Add: 1 Pham Hong Thai St (near the Old Town)

Contacts: tel (+842353914555), email (hoian@anantara.com)


“Cooking Class” Cruise

One of the Cinnamon Cruise’s boat trips includes a hands-on cooking class. It begins at 8:30 a.m or 5 p.m in the office (76 Bach Dang St). After that, the local guide will take travelers to a nearby traditional market, to introduce local ingredients, shopping culture and interact with sellers. The harbour is the next place. There, the boat embarks and tours across the Thu Bon River for 30 minutes before arriving at a calm spot to start the class. The menu includes banh xeo pancake, banana flower salad or papaya salad, fresh spring rolls and hot pot. Each passenger will pay 35 USD which also covers a foot massage, welcome drink and finger foods.

Contacts to book: tel +842353623777

Read also: Hoi An’s Best Cooking Class

Sunset Cruise in Hoi An

Sunset Cruise on Thu Bon River Experience

The sunset is the best time to view and photograph the beauty of the Thu Bon River, the largest body of water in Hoi An. While many travelers select to board right in the dusk to enjoy for a while, others plan to start earlier, to have time enough to visit somewhere or see tranquil sceneries along the banks. Just about seeing the sun, it’s wonderful. Passengers can expect an amazing disappearance around the horizon with a chain of purple mountains, and the river becomes striking by golden reflections. Near the Old town, thousands of silk lanterns lit up and paper lanterns dropped down, transforming the scene into an enchantment.  

Cost of Sunset Cruise in Hoi An

Cost of a sunset cruise depends on how long the passengers like to experience, and type of boat. If just for a while on a wooden sampan, it may be 50,000 VND per person and around 100,000 VND per person when traveling in a larger one. An affordable price for the ride to Cua Dai Bridge and return, is from 200,000 to 300,000 VND. The boat owners may charge the same when travelers request to visit pottery and carpentry villages before the sunset. In the harbour, bargaining is needed to get a better deal because first prices are higher than usual.

How to Get a Sunset Cruise in Hoi An

A sunset cruise can be booked through any local tour operator. Some of their packages provide drinks or foods that are unavailable in boats docking along the Old Town’s quay. If looking for a boat for a while or a voyage with more freedom, go straight to Bach Dang waterfront and ask boat owners there. The price may be more expensive than the offers in travel agencies, when without bargaining.


Hoi An Dinner Cruise

The Cinnamon Cruise Hoi An

The Cinnamon Cruise provides the most-loved dining experience on the boat in Hoi An. If don’t book a private ride, travelers can reserve a table in “public ones”. The standard trip boards at 6 p.m in the front of 76 Bach Dang St. Then passengers will get to the table with a complimentary cocktail and finger foods placed on. During 2 hours, the cruise moves leisurely to allow living slower and enjoy sparkling sunset and romantic scenes of lanterns. Hungry? Here, the menu serves some tasty local specialties and popular Vietnamese dishes to stop the hunger. After satisfying with nice flavours, passengers can light up a candle lantern by themselves to give it to the water. Price is 35 USD per person, and a departure requires two passengers at least. 

Contacts to book: tel +842353623777

Note: Cinnamon Cruise also organizes a dinner cruise in which passengers enjoy the dishes made by themselves after a cooking class. Boarding time is 7:30 p.m.

Hoi An River Cruise and My Son Sanctuary

A halfway to My Son Sanctuary Unesco world heritage from Hoi An (and vice versa) may be a river cruise. If starting the tour in the morning, the ride is usually downstream, and upstream when it aims to arrive at the sanctuary in the sunset. The arrangements are to avoid strong heat in the middy while visiting. A morning My Son tour includes lunch on board, and sightseeing to a handicraft village before landing in the Old town. From the boat, passengers will see tourist-free villages, farmlands, fields, and fishermans at work. Looking for an off-the-beaten-path to explore My Son? This is one of the best options.


Hoi An River Cruise Map

Related Posts

Featured Tours and Experiences

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>