Vietnam is the family vacation you’ve been looking for, but might not have thought of yet. Although it’s still slightly off the radar of many travelers, Vietnam is a jewel box filled with delights for adventurous families. There are captivating historic towns to discover, bustling cities to explore and some of the most beautiful beaches in Southeast Asia, if not the world, to soak up the surf and sun. All this combined with fabulous luxury hotels that offer incredible value for money will make you wonder why you didn’t visit this family-friendly destination sooner.
Here are a few of our favorite spots for families in Vietnam.
Start your Vietnamese adventures in the captivating town of Hoi An where the charming small streets that weave along the Thu Bon River are filled with a fascinating mix of Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and French architecture and influences. The entire historic Ancient City area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with mesmerizing temples and colorful shrines. One not to miss: The Fujian Chinese Congregation Assembly Hall, where 10 foot carved dragons and brightly painted gods of water and wind are sure to capture your kids’ imaginations. Kids, too, will be excited to take a cruise down the river where you'll spot softly mooing cows, houses and green fields along the quiet shore banks. Choose from colorful wooden long boat (the Ananatara hotel, below, offers custom trips) or the round basket boats that look like a teacup ride come to life.
Where to stay:
Anantara Hoi An is as kid friendly as it is charming; the entire low-slung property is walking distance from the old town and right in the heart of all the shopping and art galleries that make the town a perfect spot to stroll or bike around (the hotel has complimentary bikes, but stick to the river paths if your kids aren’t skilled riders). All the rooms here are large, bi-level suites with separate sitting rooms and terraces. Most face the quiet interior courtyard where there’s an open-air library with pint-size kids furniture and a large infinity pool perfect for splashing and swimming.
The street-side Art Space restaurant lets the kids keep an eye on the hustling street life while choosing from a huge selection of international small plates and, wait for it, pizza! There are some fun Vietnamese style toppings, like the pork and cilantro bahn mi pie, as well as a kid’s menu (a rarity in Vietnam), that includes a banana split for dessert. Or try out some authentic local dishes you make yourself in a private Spice Spoons cooking class at the hotel’s outdoor kitchen. Private classes are designed just for your family—kids especially love creating spring rolls they stuff with shrimp and herbs and helping to fry up bahn xeo, savory Vietnamese rice crepes they can top with anything from diced pork to bean sprouts.
For a quintessential tropical beach vacation, Vietnam’s golden shoreline and warm waters are a must. The beaches of Quy Nhon (a leisurely 4 hour drive south from Hoi An) are as enticing as any Mediterranean destination, with gilded sand, cerulean water and swaying palm trees. Near Quy Nhon are quaint fishing ports that look as though they’ve been transported from the Riviera, with multihued fishing boats and waterside seafood cafes where your family can eat fresh fish pulled right from the water. Also in the area are 900-year-old Bahn It ruins. The brick towers are as impressive as many popular archaeological sites, but shockingly crowd free. Plan some time to explore the Buddhist Thien Hung Temple, with fantastical sculptures and a relaxing garden to explore (the Avani, below, can create custom, accompanied itineraries).
Where to Stay:
Chic Avani Quy Nhon faces the sea and offers direct access onto the golden sand. An infinity pool stretches towards the water, and is also near a new glass-walled kids’ club, so you can relax in the water while the little ones are entertained. Or, leave the kids with the caregivers and indulge at the tree-house-style spa with a Thai massage or rejuvenating facial. The hotel also has a lower level game room and lounge area for families to relax in; it’s the perfect spot to have a light snack or unfussy meal. Unusual for Asia, or anywhere actually, the hip hotel offers duplex family suites with a second floor bedroom created especially with kids in mind so you can all stretch out in comfort.
Hanoi is a lively metropolis and the capital of Vietnam. It’s the country’s second largest city and navigating with kids in tow isn't always a breeze, so base yourself near the historic old Colonial town to reach attractions easily. One surefire kid pleaser is the Water Puppet Dance where puppets glide across the water, operated by submerged, hidden puppeteers. It’s a magical show and an art form that goes back 1,000 years.
Where to stay:
Everyone from kings and queens to presidents to movie and music stars have stayed at the historic Metropole Hotel in the heart of Hanoi’s French quarter, which feels a bit like you’ve stepped into Paris. There’s a large outdoor pool surrounded by a landscaped terrace where the kids can sip rich Angelina hot chocolate and nibble authentic French croissants (there’s also a chocolate high tea every afternoon). A leafy park across the street is the perfect spot for kids to run around and play.
By Melissa Klurman