"Son Tra Peninsula, aka Monkey Mountain is hands down the best day trip in Da Nang. Hire yourself a scooter and get yourself up nice and early."
Son Tra Peninsula - Day Trip
Da Nang is booming, the first noticeable difference you will encounter is the huge concentration of Hotels popping up at the beach front strip. This city is becoming a tourist hub for wealthy visitors coming from China, Korea and the world as Vietnam blasts its way onto the tourism map. Now that's not to say that Da Nang doesn't have its share of classic Vietnamese experiences.
As soon as you get yourself out of the city you will find astonishing beauty and jaw dropping sights. The one we are talking about today is Son Tra Peninsula often referred to by westerners as 'Monkey Mountain.' Son Tra Peninsula is well known for it's incredible mountain top views but there is far more to do and see on your day trip.
During the French occupancy in the 19th century they were so stunned by the beauty of this peninsula that they named it Tien Sa - Angels Landing. It was the Americans who coined the area Monkey Mountain. It was not until 1997 that this peninsula became known as Son Tra Peninsula.
Your first stop is the Man Thai Fishing village which is located at the base of the peninsula. The fisherman who operate out of this village supply the majority of the fresh fish served in Da Nang's local restaurants. The village has preserved the local way of fishing and if you are up early enough you can watch the local morning rituals of the fisherman as they prepare for the day at sea. Aim to get to the village by 6am, bring your coffee with yah. It's gonna be a long day of adventure.
The next stop after Man Thai fishing village is the Linh Ung Pagoda. Here you will find a complex of beautiful Pagoda structures and monks carrying out their daily routines. Tip- Get there nice and early to avoid the crowds and to see the morning rituals undisturbed.
The main feature of the Pagoda is the 67 metre tall Lady Buddha (not including the 35 metres of lotus flower below her), she stands watch over the city of Da Nang protecting the city from wind and incoming storms.
Take your time to check out the whole area especially if you are early. If you plan to come back in the afternoon you will be greeted with a flock of tourists.
From Linh Ung Pagoda the road winds gently up and along the coast. You are probably going to want to stop at almost every corner to take photos so I will tell you now. The view just gets better and better as you go along.
To your right you will find stunning cliff edges that drop into the deep blues of the ocean and to your left you will see stunning green hills reaching for the sky. In between corners you will see vendor stands selling anything from sun glasses to juices. You will also noticed the barriers change as the posts are replaced by monkey sculptures connected by black chain, a small thing that really adds to the beauty of this drive.
You will reach a junction as you arrive at the entrance of the Sun Peninsula Resort. Apparently there are two improvised Gas stations here if you need to top up then now is the time. Personally I recommend topping up before you start your journey. You can first turn right and follow the road ahead slowly. The road changes often so take the corners carefully and be ready to brake if necessary as the road can quite often be blocked with debris. Follow signs for the Giant Banyan tree.
The giant Banyan tree is estimated to be almost 1000 years old with an impressive root system, to the locals this is a living embodiment of the spirit world and holds great importance to them. we were unable to make it to the tree due to time constraints but it sounds like an amazing spot. We will definitely be back to check it out.
Return back to the crossroads and this time go the other way following signs for Ban Co Peak. This is where the road gets really steep and you will be able to notice the difference in scooter quality (if you have decided to go with a Scooter for the journey). If you have decided to go for the scooter option or if you have hired a car be aware that this section of road requires a bit of power, good traction and solid brakes. If you aren't confident then park up somewhere safe and walk.
Once you get to the top of the steep section you will encounter another crossroads. You can turn right to try and find the shy and reclusive Red Shanked Duoc - a very rare monkey that is very hard to see. Dotted along the road you can see rope ladders strung between the trees to help the monkeys move across the roads safely without being hit by passing vehicles.
Pretty awesome to see measures being put in place to keep this place beautiful and keep the local animals safe. It is apparently quite easy to see the monkeys in large groups if you go hiking in the area - an adventure for the next trip!
On your way back to the intersection continue straight following the signs for Ban Co Peak. On your left you will see glimpses of the amazing view shrouded by the greenery. If you want to get a better view try find the small trails and head out to the small rock outcroppings. Be careful as Vietnam is snake country, if you are by yourself I recommend staying on the road.
If you are with others and want to venture out then be sure to make plenty of loud noises and heavy steps to scare away any snakes in the area.
Your next main stop will be Ban Co Peak, this is probably where you will find any sort of crowds (maybe 10 people), but if you get here early you will have the peak to yourself. The peak boasts 360 degree views with lush mountain greens, calming ocean blues and the orange haze of the city skyline of Da Nang. If you fancy yourself a checkers player you can snap yourself a photo playing Confucius. The bronze statue of Confucius highlights his great influence over Eastern Culture and pays tribute to an inspirational philosopher.
The Son Tra Peninsula itself contains many more locations that would all be equally worth visiting but it would require multiple days of riding and exploration. Sites like:
-The coves: Bai But (Buddha beach), Bai Nam, Bai Con, Bai Bac, Bai Rang and the rocky fishing harbour Bai Tien Sa. Most of which are accessible by Scooter or walking.
-Dong Dinh Museum, which is very rarely open.
-Carry on from Ban Co Peak and view the old US helicopter landing zone.
-Spanish and French War Graves.
-Tien Sa Harbour
Make your way towards the beach then turn left heading North. From here the road hugs the coast as you make your way up the peninsula. HERE is a google maps link with directions, plus we have included a picture below for those visual learners.
You are better off getting yourself a motorbike or scooter for this trip. Some of the roads are only accessible by bike or on foot so a taxi or car is not going to give you many options.
Driving a Scooter really adds to the adventure and it is a pretty safe place to ride with minimal traffic and open roads. There are some checks you NEED to make though before you take your Scooter up; be sure to check your brakes are functioning well, your tires have solid tread, your headlights work and your Scooter is powerful enough to get up the hills (100cc plus).
A car or taxi can still get you to Linh Ung Pagoda & Ban Co Peak if you are skeptical about riding a motorbike or scooter.
Hire a Scooter
When it comes to hiring a scooter you need to make smart choices. There is a reason why some insurance companies will not cover scooter accidents. People love to crash them and quite often it is because travellers aren't willing to spend a little bit extra in order to get a decent ride.
Our recommendation is Da Nang Bikes located at 44b Lâm Hoành, Phước Mỹ, Sơn Trà, Đà Nẵng 550000.
They are reliable, helpful and their scooters are properly maintained.
Here is a handy map for your reference. The marker indicates the start of the Son Tra Peninsula.
There is no accomodation on Son Tra Peninsula for the budget conscious traveller, if you are willing to spend some money and enjoy the luxurious travel lifestyle then you can book yourself into one of the five star resorts dotted around the base of the peninsula.
There is plenty of accomodation options in Da Nang though, we stayed at Haka Boutique Hotel but there are also plenty of Hostels and a S#%T load of water front hotels to choose from.
What Should I Take
Your packing list is going to differ depending on what kind of day tripper you are, but... these are what we deem the essentials:
-Breakfast & Lunch
-DSLR or Point & Shoot Camera (LEARN more about photography here)
-Gangster face cover for the dust
-Solid shoes for the short side walks
-GPS and a Map
-2 way radios (great for communication between your crew)
Enjoy your Trip
There you have it team! A rundown on the amazing, must visit Son Tra Peninsula in Vietnam. We have multiple blogs coming out on Vietnam over the coming months. If you want to get notified then please be sure to Subscribe below. If you have friends that might enjoy our blogs then send them our way. You can catch us on most other social media outlets including Youtube for all our Vlogs, Tutorials and Videos.
Dream, Travel & Live
J & P