Driving The Hai Van Pass in Vietnam | The Bucket List Series

The Bucket List Series: A series of short, inspirational travel articles focusing on single bucket list experiences from all over the globe. The goal; to bring you the very best things that our fabulous planet has to offer.

Driving The Hai Van Pass in Vietnam

The Hai Van Pass in Vietnam is one of the most beautiful and scenic drives in the world according to Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson. The BBC has even praised it as “…A deserted ribbon perfection – one of the best coast roads in the world”. “Hai Van Pass” directly translates to “Ocean Cloud Pass” and that is just what it does. 

The drive spans 13 miles, taking you through the Annamite Mountain Range, and as you leave the ocean behind, you travel through the clouds and come out on the other side. The pass connects the city of Da Nang and Lang Co in central Vietnam. It sits 500 feet above sea level making it the highest pass in the entire country.

When you travel through Vietnam, driving along the Hai Van Pass is sort of a right of passage. As you move through the country there’s no doubt that someone, at one point, will bring up this epic drive; curiously asking when you plan to do it. (It’s usually a matter of when not if). It’s well known amongst locals, tourists, adventure-seekers, and those who are just curious as to what makes this drive so incredible.

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Hai Van Pass | Canva

How to experience The Hai Van Pass

If you plan to cross off this bucket list activity yourself, know that there are a few different ways to complete the drive along the Hai Van Pass. You could go via motorbike or car, or you could choose to drive yourself or even hire a local to drive you.

As someone who was craving the *full* experience (hair whipping in the wind, the sound of cars honking as they passed by, the smell of the fresh air), I hired a local and chose to travel the Hai Van Pass by motorbike, extending the trip and traveling from Hoi An to Hue.

What was it like to drive The Hai Van Pass?

My driver picked me up at my hotel, where a separate car came to transport my stuff to my hotel in Hue. As I hopped on the back of the bike, I nervously said a prayer as the Hai Van Pass has a reputation for being a dangerous and deadly road if you’re not careful.

As we left Hoi An and made our way to Da Nang to begin the drive, we left behind colorful lanterns, crowded streets, and food vendors mulling around. The scenery changed from a busy and crowded city to quiet and desolate countryside. Upon arriving in Da Nang, the scene that stretched out in front of me began to look familiar again. The streets were once again crowded with people, street vendors, and cliché tourist attractions. As we navigated through the city, making our way through the snaking streets, I gasped at what was coming up – the Hai Van Pass.

Leaving behind the South China Sea, we ascended up the mountain range. As we inched our way up the mountain, the weather drastically changed from hot and sunny to chilly, misty, and cloudy. I tugged a jacket over my shoulders as rain splattered on my face, my smile widening. All around, I noticed locals and tourists alike experiencing this difficult drive. Slowing down at sharp corners, speeding up at long stretches of the drive.

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Hai Van Pass from Above | Canva

With many points along the way to stop for photos, the sides of the streets were littered with people who had their phones and cameras out. But the truth is, the real beauty of this drive couldn’t be captured on a camera. It could only be captured in your heart, experiencing the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings of discomfort, excitement, and sheer fear as cars whipped around you.

Once we reached the highest point of the pass, we began our descent down towards Lang Co. The weather drastically changed once more, this time back to hot and sunny and we left behind the clouds and rain arriving at the pristine Lang Co Beach (in one piece). Before we continued onto Hue, we stopped at Be Lai, a delicious seafood restaurant that sits right on the beach.

As we pulled into Hue, I looked at my watch and couldn’t believe the time. In seven hours I had left behind the city of lanterns, driven one of the most beautiful and thrill-seeking drives in the world, and safely arrived in the imperial city of Hue. Dirt caked on my face, hair windblown, and sweat dripping down my back. I picked up my bag that was dropped off ahead of me, checked into my room, and felt a complete sense of joy, as this is what traveling was all about – epic experiences that you’ll carry with you your entire life.

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Beaches along the Hai Van Pass | Canva

Tips for doing the Hai Van Pass

Logistically, there are many different ways to experience the Hai Van Pass. As I explained earlier, you can travel by motorbike or car, alone or with a tour guide. You can also make this drive from Lang Co to Da Nang or Da Nang to Lang Co. Or, depending on where you’re staying, you can extend the trip with the most popular option being to go from Hoi An to Hue or Hue to Hoi An.  

I personally recommend making this drive on a motorbike for the full experience, and to hire a local so that you can freely look around and take in all of the sights, and to drive from Hoi An to Hue (or vice versa).

A great company to use for this bucket-list-worthy adventure is Easy Rider Hoi An. On the website, you can choose if you want to go by Jeep or motorbike, and even choose the route you want to take. As with most of Southeast Asia, almost anything can be arranged ahead of time. If you do want a private tour, or you want to add/subtract something from your trip, all you need to do is ask. It might cost a little bit more money, but people are generally happy to do as you request.

About the Author

Kylee is based in Chicago, IL and a Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU) nurse with a love for solo travel, wine, and Taylor Swift. Inspiring nurses to travel both near and far, Kylee began Passports and Preemies in 2017 while volunteering in Skopje, North Macedonia. Passports and Preemies was created as a way to reach nurses and advocate for the prevention of nurse burnout by traveling.

You can catch up with Kylee on InstagramFacebook and Twitter

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Becki from Meet Me In Departures

Adventure travel blogger with a big addiction to the World. An ex-rat-racer who was fed up with sleep-work-eat-repeat materialistic mentality that plagues modern living. I love anything to do with off-beat travel, abandoned places, temples & ruins, street art, wildlife in its natural habitat, adventure sport.....basically anything but the 9-5!

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