Vietnam’s peaceful meeting place, Hoi An, is my absolute favorite city in the country. I fell in love with the quaint waterfront village so quickly that I stayed put here for two whole months. There’s so much to love here–from endless rice terraces, delicious vegan eats, the incredible UNESCO World Heritage site of Hoi An Ancient Town, and wonderful people. There are so many fun things to do in Hoi An, it’s truly the most magical place I’ve been in Southeast Asia, or maybe the world. Leaving Hoi An was the worst, and I’m already planning on going back. If you’re visiting my beloved jewel of a city, don’t miss these fun and unique things to do in Hoi An.
TAKE PICTURES WITH HOIANESE LANTERNS
These beauties are meant to be photographed by day and by night so snap as many photos as your heart desires. I love the stark white lanterns, especially when they hang against the decaying yellow facades in the Hoi An Ancient Town. The Chinese brought wood, silk, and lanterns to Hoi An. Locals in Hoi An believe that hanging lanterns in front of their house or business will bring them wealth, happiness, and luck.
Each shape has a different meaning–such as the sunrise, which represents young women, sunset which represents older women–both shapes are also known as garlic. There’s also a shape called diamond, lotus, cake, and even a UFO shape! The lotus is the most common shape of lantern you’ll see in Hoi An.
LEARN HOW TO MAKE A TRADITIONAL LANTERN
After constantly admiring all of the lantern-lined streets of Hoi An a fun activity to do is to create your own silk Hoianese lantern! Luckily, impact travel platform Backstreet Academy has developed a lantern making tour with a local family that still crafts lanterns. The best way to learn about the cultural heritage of Hoi An and the traditional use of lanterns is to take a class led by a local.
I thoroughly enjoyed my class and was surprised that my lantern turned out pretty beautiful! The steps to create the lantern were well thought out and easy to follow. It was really fun to bend the bamboo into the perfect ‘garlic’ shape for the Hoianese lantern.
I was able to make a lantern in my favorite shade of lavender. Although the lanterns are quite large they can collapse into a cylinder-like shape for packing. Making your own lantern in Hoi An is a fun thing to do and a meaningful souvenir to take home or gift to give to a loved one.
SEE AT LEAST ONE SUNRISE ON THE BEACH
It’s seriously impossible to get me motivated to get out of bed in the morning–unless I have a transport to catch to a new place. But, even I swear that it’s absolutely waking up at the crack of dawn to watch the sun paint the sky as it rises behind the Cham Islands and reflects vibrant colors on the choppy seas below it. If you’re lucky you may even see a traditional fisherman rowing his bamboo basket boat with a paddle…with his feet! There are many morning beach yoga sessions that take place along the coast–in case that’s extra motivation for you.
RELAX AT THE BEAUTIFUL HOI AN BEACHES
The main beach in Hoi An is An Bang. It’s really lovely and although it’s quite touristy and gets packed with locals in the evenings it’s still maintained the charm of a wild beach. There are so many fun things to do along An Bang beach from water sports to listening to live music at Soul Kitchen (Google Maps). Whenever you go to the beach in Hoi An please pick up a bag of trash. Vietnam contributes some of the worst plastic pollution in our oceans. Many expats love Hidden Beach (Google Maps) which is generally quite empty and has a massage bungalow right on the beach.
However, I’ll let you in on a secret that my friends may disown me for. The very best beach in Hoi An is at the Sound of Silence Coffee Shop (Google Maps) which is a part of the Tan Thanh Garden Homestay. Everything about this place is pure beach bliss. From an empty stretch of wild beach that’s dense with palm trees, cozy beach chairs, rustic umbrellas, a beach swing, lush garden, and a distance far away from most other spots that beachgoers flock too. My gal pals also say this is the best place in Hoi An for coconut coffee, but they can’t make a vegan version as they don’t actually use coconut milk!
HANG OUT AT THE BEACH UNTIL SUNSET
No good beach day ends without a sunset. Hoi An usually never fails to put on quite a display as the sun dips behind Da Nang and brings the entire bay to life with an array of color.
Just like sunrise, you’ll have the chance to watch fisherman head out to sea for the evening catch. I love to be on An Bang beach at sunset to mingle with locals–they wait until the sun starts to dip behind the mountains before visiting the beach in order to avoid the sun and have massive family-style grill outs every night right on the beach.
TRY TO MAKE TRADITIONAL VIETNAMESE COFFEE
I’ve already shared some of my favorite coffee shops in my guide to all things vegan in Hoi An. But, even better (or not?) than drinking delicious coffee is learning how to make it at home! I happened to stroll past a shop that was having a free tutorial on how to make all sorts of Vietnamese coffee, including vegan coconut coffee! I attended the class with a group of girlfriends and we had a great time overdoing our caffeine intake together. Some were brave enough to drink–and enjoy–egg coffee.
GET LOST IN ENDLESS FIELDS OF RICE
So many tourists I meet tell me they felt Hoi An was hectic and I can’t help but wonder if they wandered 5 minutes outside of town to the rice fields. They’re that easy to visit and a zillion times larger than the Hoi An Ancient Town. Rent a bicycle and go for a ride through the terraces and you’ll come across water buffalo, farmers, and maybe even a Kingfisher or two. Be sure to go by the Tra Que vegetable village!
WORK ON YOUR WELLNESS WITH A YOGA CLASS
While I was living in Hoi An I only practice yoga at Hoi An Muay Thai (Google Maps). I know, wait, what? A Muay Thai gym with yoga? That’s right! They usually have yoga classes in their open-air gym twice a week. The classes are a serious workout and focus on hip openers which can benefit any of us!
TEMPLE HOP ALL DAY LONG
Just like many cities in Southeast Asia, Hoi An has no shortage of temples. However, within the small town, you’ll find a variety of religious structures of significant historic importance or cultural gathering places.
The most significant temples to visit are located in the Hoi An Ancient Town. Visiting these sacred places requires a ticket–but I never bought it. I was able to just walk into many of the temples, however at a few a guard asked to see my ticket, some let me in any way but I wasn’t able to go into a few places. If you’re short on time I wouldn’t risk it and would just go ahead and buy the ticket for 200,000 VND.
The ticket is only meant to grant you entry to 5 of the attractions that require the pass so only show it when you’ve been asked for it so that you can visit all of the places of interest as there are much more than 5 to see. The ticket is also required to visit an of the ancient houses in Hoi An. Here are a few of the temples to keep an eye out for in the Hoi An Ancient Town:
TRIEU CHAU ASSEMBLY HALL
Trieu Chau Assembly Hall (Google Maps) is community meeting place was built by the Chinese in 1845 for gatherings and worship of Gods and Goddesses that specifically protected the sea.
HAINAN ASSEMBLY HALL
The Hainan Assembly Hall (Google Maps) also has an affiliation with the sea, which isn’t surprising considering it’s so close to the ocean. This temple is dedicated to over 100 Chinese merchants who were killed while out on the water. It was built around the same time, in 1851.
QUAN CONG TEMPLE
The beautiful Quan Cong Temple (Google Maps) was built in honor of a Chinese General, Quan Cong, in 1653. It’s one of the most beautiful temples in Hoi An–the highlight of which is the exterior facade. I loved walking past the dragon door every day. Quan Cong is a symbolizes loyalty, security, integrity, and justice. It is still one of the most important temples in Hoi An. An annual celebration takes place here on June 24th, Quan Cong’s birthday, and shouldn’t be missed if you’re in town at that time!
ASSEMBLY HALL OF THE FUKIAN CHINESE CONGREGATION
To enter the Assembly Hall of the Fukian Chinese Congregation (Google Maps) you must have bought the entrance ticket. I tried to stroll in twice and failed. When I go back to Hoi An next I’ll give in and purchase the ticket so that I can see the grounds of this location myself.
WALK ACROSS THE JAPANESE BRIDGE
You can enter the Japanese Bridge (Google Maps) with your ticket but there isn’t much to see inside so save your limited entries for another place of interest. The Japanese use to live in the town and built this bridge in the early 17th century over the stream that separates the inlets so that so they could do business with the Chinese. The shape of the roof correlates with a message of happiness for local people who refer to the bridge as Chua Cau. The bridge is sacred for local people as they believe the structure as supernatural powers.
TAKE A SUSTAINABLE CRAFT CLASS
In the quiet neighborhood behind the hectic Chua Cau Japanese Bridge is the Vietnam Sustainable Space (Google Maps). The community-based non-profit focuses on sustainable development through the conservation of culture and the environment. VSS often hosts pay-as-you-wish community craft workshops. I attended a class where we handmade notebooks created from upcycled fabric scraps from Hoi An tailors. It was a long process to make such a tiny book, but one I thoroughly enjoyed!
TEMPLES TO VISIT OFF-THE-BEATEN-PATH
Some of my favorite temples to visit in Hoi An are those located outside of the Ancient Town.
CHUA LONG TUYEN
I lived in a house near the rice terraces that are home to the colorful Chua Long Tuyen Buddhist temple (Google Maps). The pagoda grounds are a bit over the top with quirky details and larger-than-life lotus motifs.
TEMPLE OF CONFUCIUS
This shrine is considered a relic but was actually only erected in 1961. The temple (Google Maps) honors Confucius and education. It was recently renovated in 2005. The customary triple gate structure at this temple is simply stunning and opens up to a sloped bridge that cuts over a lotus pond. Be sure to explore every corner here as it may not seem like the most embellished place but there are special things to uncover around each corner. Across the street from the temple of Confucius is a memorial park with a beautiful monument.
FIND THE PINK HOI AN VIBES ONLY SIGN
When I tried to look up where this sign was prior to arriving in Hoi An I couldn’t find any information and thought it must be super hidden. It is–sort of. This mural isn’t on the street but instead is nestled inside the gorgeous SUNDAY in Hoi An decor boutique. The confusing thing is that there are two locations nearly right next to each other in the Hoi An Ancient Town. These photographic wall decals are at the Tran Phu Street location (Google Maps).
I was a guest on the Backstreet Academy Lantern Making Class. This page contains affiliate links. Please read the Miss Filatelista disclosure policy for more information. Many thanks to my friends Rose of Where Goes Rose and Tara of Silly Little Kiwi for taking many of these photos of myself enjoying these fun and unique things to do in Hoi An, and my beloved tripod.