Con Dao is a small group of island around 100km south of the Vietnamese coast. Despite its horrifying history as former prison island it is considered an island paradise best to relax and enjoy nature and the beaches. As a tropical island you can also take a hike into the rain forest under protection of a national park authority. In general I can highly recommend coming to Con Dao as it is not very overrun by tourists (especially western ones) and you can really have a calm down holiday here.
Myself did stay for 10 days on the island and I must say it never got boring. If you don’t want to spent that much time, you can surely see most of the things in around 3-4 days. Although the main island Con Son is not that big I highly recommend to rent a motorbike to get around easily. There is only one main road on the island, so it is almost impossible to get lost. Driving is not as crazy as in other cities in Vietnam and there is a general tempo limit of 50km/h.
Con Dao has a variety of different beaches, some sandy ones others with harsh rocks. Some of them are hidden just behind a small path starting at the main road. So there is a lot to discover.
Bai tam An Hai
This is one of the beaches directly in the village of Con Son. It is quite long and has very nice sandy dunes.
Bai Lo Voi
The second beach in the village is on the right side. Is not that long but also quite nice. There is a fraction of an old fisher boat on the top end which is nice to spot.
Going outside the village after the first hill down again there is Bai Nhat. It has some small sandy parts but most f the cost is covered with rocks. Lots of people come here to take pictures and also to watch the sun set.
Bai Suoi Nong
The first beach near the airport and for me the #1 beach at Con Dao. The sand is very intense yellow and the shoreline is rather long. You can also spot the airplanes taking of from the airport nearby.
Bai bien Dong
The second beach near the airport is very long – it took me 30min+ to walk it. At the top end there is the airport where you can watch the landing planes coming in from the ocean side.
There are plenty more beaches on the island, i just showed here some of my highlights. More of them you can only reach via boat from the ocean side, for some you have to take a long hike through the jungle. So there are many more things to explore than shown here.
Maui Ca Map
Turning to left side and going outside the village of Con Son on top of the first hill and below there is this viewpoint. You also look down on Bai Nhat here. Caution: it is very windy up there.
Maui Chan Chim
Going on the road to the airport there you will find this viewpoint with harsh rocks and a steep cliff.
Prisons & other sights
Con Dao has a very tragic history a as prison island since the French colonization. You can visit this areas and there is also a museum that documents the cruelty that has happened here in the past. There are also countless memorials around the island that are mostly visited by locals who had relatives that go through the terror of that era.
Bao Tang (History museum)
The museum is inter center of Con Son and documents the history of the island starting from the first settlements, then later through the period when it was a prisoner’s island until the newer period when tourism and opening started. The entry fee is 20k dong and you can visit with this ticket all prisons sights in the village – in sum 6 places are included. They are all in walking distance and to see all shouldn’t take you longer then half a day.
Trai Phu Son
A very big prison complex is almost in the heart of Con Son. It has a very unique entry door and a huge patio surrounded by many different buildings. This prison was mostly used by the Vietnamese government to imprison political critics and other enemies of the regime.
Con Dao Prison
Next to the history museum is the first large prison complex on the island. It consist of various buildings serving different ways of inhabit prisoners. Pay attention to the tiger cages, a very cruel way to keep prisoners invented by the French and then adapted later also by the US.
So Lo Voi
A smaller venue is at the end of Con Son village right after a sharp left turn. There is no entry fee required here.
The national park is a military zone and you need to get a ticket for 50k dong first to be allowed to enter. The trails are nicely maintained and take you deep into the rain forest. Nearby the national park office there is the small holy cave, which is also worth seeing.