Best Day Trips from Ho Chi Minh City

By: John Mark Harrell

Suoi Tien Amusement Park is a fun and quirky break from the usual attractions in Ho Chi Minh City.

Find your zen with a day trip to the stunning Buu Long Pagoda.

Take a day or a weekend trip from Ho Chi Minh City to Giang Den Waterfall and Black Virgin Mountain.

Know your history with a fascinating adventure to the Cu Chi Tunnels.

There’s no shortage of things to do in Saigon, but travellers, expats, and locals alike sometimes crave a quick getaway, whether it’s a weekend trip from Ho Chi Minh City, or a quick half-day escape from the hectic city center. Read on to discover our top five picks for the best one-day adventures, all easily accessible right from the city centre.

Suoi Tien Amusement Park

120 Ha Noi Highway, Tan Phu, District 9, HCMC

Perfect for: Families and curious travellers looking for a unique, fun, and quirky experience

How to get there: Suoi Tien Amusement Park is an easy 30-40 minute drive from the city center along the Hanoi Highway 52. Adventurous and frugal travelers can take the city bus (number 19, 50, 52, 53 or 150), for only 5,000 VND.

Day Trips from HCMCImage source: vietnamtravel.guide

Overview: Suoi Tien Amusement Park is a well-known favourite among children and fun-loving adults alike, making it a perfect day trip for families. This popular theme park is Buddhist-themed, with traditional shrines and temples. Intricate statues and scenic backdrops around every turn make this a selfie-lover’s dream. Foreign tourists in particular will find plenty to wonder and gawk at in this truly unique setting, worlds apart from any amusement parks in other parts of the globe.

The Buddhist theme carries over into various “palaces”, which each offer unique exhibits expounding on different Buddhist themes. Be warned! Some of them take you on a journey through the equivalent of Buddhist “hell” - sort of like walking through a haunted house. Youngsters may do well to avoid these attractions. They’ll find no shortage of good, clean fun, however, with a roller coaster and an assortment of thrill rides mostly catered to a younger crowd. 

Day Trips from HCMCImage source: asiawebdirect.com

There’s also a zoo here, though there is certainly room for improvement as the animal enclosures seem inadequate and at times inhumanely small. A “Crocodile Kingdom” teeming with these impressive creatures can be observed, and even fed, from afar. Overall, this park offers an enchanting and unforgettable experience that is sure to entertain and delight visitors of all ages. 

What people are saying

"We went along on a Saturday morning to escape the humidity & heat. The colours and art work of the park was amazing... we had a great time, so did all the many families & young school groups visiting.” (ElCondor2, Tripadvisor)

Buu Long Pagoda

81 Nguyen Xien Street, Long Binh Ward, District 9, HCMC

Perfect for: Anyone looking for a quick zen getaway in the countryside

How to get there: Buu Long Pagoda is an easy 40 minute drive from the city center. A taxi will cost upwards of VND300,000 each way. If you prefer to hire a motorbike service it’ll cost around VND120,000. Unfortunately, no public buses run conveniently close to the pagoda, though you can take a city bus to Suoi Tien Amusement Park (number 19, 50, 52, 53 or 150) and hire a car or motorbike from there for a more cost-effective measure.

Day Trips from HCMCImage source: wikimedia.org

Overview: Buu Long Pagoda is a little-known gem tucked away in the outskirts of rural District 9, making it a perfect day or half-day trip for any visitors looking for something beyond the typical tourist favourites near the city center. Locals and expats living in Saigon will appreciate this otherworldly oasis hidden right in their own backyard.

Visiting this pagoda feels like a trip to the Thai countryside. Built in 1942, what locals call the “Thai Temple” is replete with Thai and Myanmar-style architectural embellishments, from the golden bell-shaped stupa towering overhead, to the carvings and statues depicting the Naga, a mythical river snake that replaces the Dragon in the Thai zodiac.

In its peaceful, pastoral setting with spectacular views of Dong Nai River, Buu Long Pagoda is truly one-of-a-kind in this part of Vietnam; a unique blending of Southeast Asian Buddhist cultures, and a rare escape to a quiet place of peaceful zen in the midst of Vietnam’s busiest and most populous municipality.

Day Trips from HCMCImage source: vntrip.vn

What people are saying: 

"Remarkable architecture. Most pagodas' architecture in VN is influenced by Chinese design, but Bửu Long temple is exceptional with its mixed architecture from India, Myanmar and Việt Nam … one of the most beautiful pagodas I've ever seen in VN.”  (Thinh_Nguyen_SG, TripAdvisor)

Tay Ninh Province - Ba Den Mountain (Black Virgin Mountain)

Ba Den Mountain, Thanh Tan, Tay Ninh Province

Perfect for: Adventurous travellers looking for an authentic cultural experience or hiking near Ho Chi Minh City

How to get there: For those willing to drive to Ba Den Mountain, a delightful and breathtaking excursion through the countryside will be your reward. Cheerful, bright green rice fields and winding roads through shady groves of rubber trees are among the beautiful scenery you can expect to enjoy along the way. The journey takes roughly 3 hours, depending on how often you stop for a cà phê sữa đá. Alternatively, take a bus by visiting any travel agency around Bui Vien street to book your ticket for VND75,000 (buses leave frequently every day, so booking far in advance shouldn’t be necessary). You can also hire a private taxi for around US$50.

Day Trips from HCMCImage source: indochinakings.org

Overview: Ba Den Mountain is a lonely, dormant volcano rising out of the vast flat landscape of southern Vietnam. Its name revolves around a female deity of Khmer origin, whose story varies among different ethnic groups in the area. It’s a rarity to encounter any geographic features with such a high elevation in this part of Vietnam, making this mountain a highly-contested strategic outpost during the war. Now, any remnants of conflict have been erased, and the mountain stands as a peaceful monument to an ancient legend and a favourite holy site for Vietnamese pilgrims and sightseers.

Day Trips from HCMCImage source: asiatravel.services

You can access the temple on the mountain via the theme park at its base. Visitors eager to hike can take the stairs for a long and gruelling ascent. For most visitors, however, the convenient gondola is the preferred mode of transport, offering scenic views of the surrounding countryside on the way. 

Day Trips from HCMCImage source: vnexpress.net

Once you reach the temple, you’ll be greeted by fragrant plumes of burning incense, and a multi-terrace compound jutting out from the side of the mountain with a few places to worship, offer prayers, and enjoy the scenic vista below. In addition to tourists and local families who frequent this site, you might make friends with a few of the mischievous monkeys clambering through the tree branches.

What people are saying: 

"The views are amazing! Quite an interesting site. Not crowded. Unlike the roads we travelled to get there. The drive from HCMC was quite a thrill! What a contrast when we took the cable car to the top of the mountain. A peaceful location. Many temples to view and worshipers bringing offerings. Yet - peaceful. I enjoyed the colours, smell of incense, sounds of birds, rustling leaves, etc. I also appreciated opportunity for a bit of exercise climbing the stone steps to visit the large reclining Buddha. We enjoyed the tour!” (117darlenef, TripAdvisor)

Giang Dien Waterfall

104/4 Hoa Bình Hamlet, Giang Dien Ward, Trang Bom, Dong Nai

Perfect for: Anyone looking for an escape to nature and a refreshing break from the Saigon heat

How to get there: For those who own or rent a motorbike, the waterfall is roughly a 1.5-2 hour drive from the city center, depending on how frequently you stop along the way. You can also catch city bus #12 from Ben Thanh bus station for VND5,000, or hire a taxi for around VND600,000 (a hired motorbike will cost closer to VND200,000). 

Day Trips from HCMCImage source: 35photo.pro

Overview: Giang Dien Waterfall is a sight to behold, easily accessible, and serves as a refreshing getaway for nature lovers, families, and anyone looking for a reprieve from Saigon’s persistently warm weather. This place is a well-known hot spot for locals though, so avoid public holidays and weekends for a less crowded experience.

There’s a lot to explore here: various pathways, lakes, streams, farms, and gardens are all within walking distance. For those who want to relax, there’s a shuttle that takes you down the main path directly to the waterfall. Here you can hire a tent for the day (or even an overnight stay), as well as barbecue equipment and communal hotpot facilities (a favourite among locals). 

Day Trips from HCMCImage source: nrityanjali.org

The waterfall is surrounded by many shady areas to relax by the water, as well as a shallow swimming lagoon and plenty of paths to explore the surrounding area. Staff at this “eco resort” strictly enforce the use of life vests, even in areas where water is only knee-deep, so be prepared to pay a nominal fee if you want to dip your toes in or go for a swim.

Giang Dien is a delightful place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and a local favourite. Come here for a slice of local culture, as well as an idyllic natural escape just outside of the crowded concrete jungle of Saigon.

What people are saying: 

"Wow! Conveniently located only 50km from the mayhem of Ho Chi Minh City. You will love to connect with nature here. Soak in the natural environment of the camping and waterfall areas. Water temperature great for a dip. We sat with the waterfall cascading on our backs. It felt like a jacuzzi! Wear your sandals or trainers to walk steadily on the mossy rocks beneath the water. The campsite is within walking distance of the waterfall.” (Anna Marie S, TripAdvisor)

Cu Chi Tunnels

TL15, Phu Hiep, HCMC

Perfect for: History buffs and visitors who like organized tours

How to get there: Cu Chi is a 45 minute drive northwest of the city center. Alternatively numerous tour buses leave throughout the day and can be easily booked at any travel agency on or around Bui Vien street. You can also book a taxi for approximately US$60.

Day Trips from HCMCImage source: urkaaa.com

Overview: Perhaps Saigon’s most famous day trip attraction, the Cu Chi tunnels are an interactive history lesson sure to pique the interest of anyone curious to know more about the Vietnam War (appropriately referred to as the American War by locals). Tour groups frequent this site daily, so almost no planning is required for this trip as it is tailored to just about any tourist eager to learn about Vietnam’s recent history.

The Cu Chi tunnels are an incredible, elaborate network of wartime tunnels dug in the 1940s by the Viet Minh, extending all the way to the Cambodian border. Currently there are two areas open to the public: Binh Dinh and Binh Duoc. Binh Dinh is the more popular, touristy option for those with limited time and resources, but if you have all day and are feeling more adventurous, most visitors to Binh Duoc (slightly further from the city centre by 10 kilometers) report having a more authentic, less crowded experience.

Day Trips from HCMCImage source: fantasea.vn

At either location, you’ll have a chance to explore the network of tunnels yourself, as well as hear stories and learn all about their incredible history. There are also numerous exhibits and you can even watch documentaries about the tunnels and the Vietnam war. Both locations also feature a shooting range for visitors age 16 and up, but each bullet will cost you around US$1.50 depending on your weapon of choice. 

What people are saying: 

"Visited for a few hours during a recent visit to Ho Chi Minh. Had honestly never heard of the tunnels, but glad to have paid them a visit! When we arrived we were assigned a guide free of charge and he was hilarious and very informative! Had a great time!” (taylorl56, TripAdvisor)

Conclusion

No matter which experience you choose or what kind of traveller you are, Ho Chi Minh City has no shortage of easily-accessible adventures, even on a tight schedule. These are our favourite destinations guaranteed to create incredibly unique and unforgettable memories.

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