Travelling Southeast Asia for several months has provided me the opportunity to visit some pretty spectacular waterfalls amidst some jaw dropping scenery. Admittedly, I’ve developed a bit of a snobby traveller motto, “if there isn’t a waterfall near by, I’m not going”. Lucky for me, and other travellers to the Vietnamese coastal city of Nha Trang, it offers one pretty incredible entry on my “top waterfalls of all time” list. Perhaps my favourite on the list, Ba Ho Waterfalls. Visitors are in for not one, but three exceptional cascading pools, along with great boulder scramble action and hiking. Your Nha Trang travel isn’t complete without a trip to Ba Ho Waterfalls.
Ba Ho Waterfalls is approximately 27 kilometres, or a 40 min drive West from of Nha Trang’s downtown. There is a slightly more direct route through the hills, however the scenic coastal drive along Phạm Văn Đồng is strongly recommended. Regardless of your initial route, be warned the last four kilometre stretch of road turns into a disaster zone of mud, large rocks and dust. It’s a journey unto itself, whether during rainy or dry season.
Taxis are comparatively much more costly than exploring via motorbike (bikes are 100 to 200k VND for day rental), but ultimately both will get you to the entrance and car park area of the Ba Ho Waterfalls. Most taxis will gladly wait a few hours to take you on the return trip without an extra waiting charge. Your taxi may by chance refuse to take you all the way to the car park – for fear of getting stuck in the aforementioned mud. If so, you’ll have to walk through a small village, likely jumping puddles along the way. The ‘bonus’ walk will add an extra 45 minutes both ways.
Worth the Hike
From the car park you’ll need to pay a 25k VND entry fee per person to be allowed in to Ba Ho Waterfalls. Then you’re off on a 30 minute hike to the first of three magical waterfalls. The initial jungle walk isn’t too strenuous for reasonably fit people, but it certainly requires focus. Locals waiting at the entrance are eager to informally guide you along the route, carrying your backpack and offering a hand to cross boulders as needed. After nearly three hours of guidance, holding our belongings as we swam, taking our photos, and literally pulling us up over massive boulders, we were thankful we had a guide. I consider a 200k VND tip to be money well spent.
The first waterfall you are presented with isn’t necessarily the most impressive sight. However, it provides an excellent introduction to boulder scrambling. Visitors criss cross from one side of the river to the other, following crudely marked red arrows painted onto the rocks. Within seconds of coming into contact with the rocks themselves I found my nirvana. They are perhaps the smoothest “most approachable” rocks I’ve ever encountered. Unlike the jagged limestone karsts of the Philippines, or slippery rocks of Bali, the Bo Ha boulders seem perfect. Better yet, the water is blissfully clear with very little algae thanks to the fast moving current. It’s chilly yes, but a pleasure to swim in.
Depending on what time of the year you visit Ba Ho Waterfalls and the resulting water levels, swimming is a must. While our guide was able to take our bags and effortlessly leap from one rock to the next in flip flops, we were not. Proper shoes are a must. I repeat, proper shoes are a must. The only option to continue up to the higher falls with more impressive views is to swim a few meters (only 5-10) to cross the river. In all honestly, if you’re over 5’7″ you can cross while wading into chest deep water and don’t actually “swim”.
After the first falls and series of pools, you’ll continue to hike onwards for nearly a kilometre along the river to the second, more stunning, cascading falls. The opportunity for glamorous photoshoots is nearly endless. I brought my GoPro and DSLR cameras and found plenty of use for both. Ultimately about a hundred meters further, the large and final fall presents itself. Standing over 30 meters high, it’s not the tallest waterfall in Vietnam, not by a long shot, but it’s still immensely rewarding. As you can see from my mother and sister posing atop the falls, reaching them is a proud moment.
Overall Ba Ho Waterfalls present an active diversion from bumming it on the beaches of Nha Trang. It’s a spectacular adventure through nature with minimal tourists. In fact, when we visited during “high” season just the week before Christmas there were only a handful of other travelers along the trail. Water levels at this time of year are also optimal. Magical on all accounts.
More Nha Trang Travel Experiences
Looking for more to do around Nha Trang than just waterfalls? We’ve got you covered from good eats and cold beer, to a temple or two:
Delicious BBQ and friendly service is served up riverside at BBQ Ủn Ỉn. Continuing along the theme of tasty, although not so local, cuisine Sushi Kiwami is renowned for it’s super fresh sushi and skillful presentation. If you want to go truly luxe, the pool and ocean side dining at Evason Ana Mandara is second to none. Craft beer with a beach view is also on tap at Louisiane Brewhouse. For a taste that is more local Lanterns Vietnamese Restaurant offers authentic food and cooking classes. Moreover, there are several cheap and cheerful local seafood restaurants that dot Nha Trang worth exploring.
Between food and drinks, you’ll have plenty of time to explore both the beaches of Nha Trang (the main strip is an impressive 6km long), or temples.
The French Gothic cathedral (or Nha tho Chanh toa Kito Vua) was built in 1933 and worth a visit en route to Long Son Pagoda, one kilometre away. Located on Thai Nguyen St., Long Son Pagoda is home to a nearly 14 meter tall white Buddha. Entry and parking are free, despite what local tours try to suggest. This tourist site is notorious for scam artists. As such, watch your wallet and apply a healthy dose of skepticism to those around you. Perhaps the best feature of the site is the spectacular view of the city enjoyed atop the 152 stone steps of the pagoda.
Just outside of the downtown is Po Nagar Cham Towers. Originally made of wood in the second century, then replaced by brick between the 7th and 12th century, its construction by the Cham people honours the mother or goddess of the kingdom Yang Ino Po Ngar. Though not the size of the grand Angkor ruins in Siem Reap, it is still impressive for both its historical value and use as an ongoing religious site for local Buddhists. Po Nagar Cham Towers is located on the outskirts of downtown, at 2 Thang 4 St. It can be reached via Tran Phu Bridge along the beachfront road. Admission to this ancient ruin is 22k VND.
Nha Trang Travel & Ba Ho Waterfall photos courtesy of Madeline Burch, and Flickr contributor Binh Huynh.
More Ba Ho Waterfalls Tips
For a step by step and turn by turn guide on enjoying Ba Ho Waterfalls, Pineapple Explorer has a great article here.
Looking for the best of Vietnam’s waterfalls? Vina Travel has a comprehensive guide to what it deems to be the nation’s top 17 falls, here.
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