Vietnam is jam-packed with fabulous activities for children but reading some holiday itineraries you wouldn’t know this. Yes, we know that there is a rich and sometimes troubled history, and yes, teenagers should learn a bit about this, but endless temples and historical sights are going to leave the kids cold.

The trick to a enjoying a holiday to Vietnam with kids is to intersperse the sightseeing with activities that the children will love. Here are our top 10 things to do with children in Vietnam but if you want more ideas, do let us know. Or jump straight to our Vietnam family holidays section for a country overview, example itineraries and prices.

Our Vietnam with kids Top Ten

1 – Take a cyclo-rickshaw ride through the backstreets of Hanoi

Most families either start or finish their visit to Vietnam in the crazy teeming streets of Hanoi. These can be quite a challenge with younger children. The absence of any pavements together with the presence of about 50 million motorbikes (not quite literally, but nearly) means that toddlers definitely need to kept close. However, to enjoy the mayhem in a more relaxed fashion, hop in a cyclo for a leisurely tour of the old city.

A cyclo is a bicycle rickshaw in which you sit on a comfortable seat on the front of a bike and are pedalled around by the cyclo driver. The seats fit one adult and one (small-ish) child or two children. Hold on tight as the driver navigates the noisy streets, past street vendors pushing carts of fresh flowers and stalls selling brightly coloured handicrafts. See our example Vietnam itineraries – two of which include time for the family to explore Hanoi.

Family on cyclo tour of Hanoi on Vietnam with children holiday

Have some great family fun on a cyclo-rickshaw tour of Hanoi

2 – Homestay in a traditional village in Pu Luong

For children who somewhat take their lifestyle for granted, a night in a village homestay can be a rather humbling experience. Deep in the mountains of northern Vietnam is the gorgeous landscape of the Pu Luong Nature Reserve, home to cascading rice terraces. And within this is a small village of stilt houses where you can spend the night with a friendly local family. Dinner will be cooked over the open fire, bed will be a mattress on the floor under a mosquito net and the hot shower? Well, there isn’t one.

This is not for families who must have their creature comforts, but if you can forego these then a night in a village will be an experience that the children will remember forever… definitely one of our top Vietnam with kids experiences. Ask us more about home stays in Vietnam or see our customer reviews to read what our families say about home stays.

Vietnam with kids - Homestay Pu Luong

Homestay Pu Luong

3 – Take a boat ride through a cave system in Ninh Binh

South of Hanoi lie the remains of the country’s ancient capital at Hoa Lu. Frankly only the most historically minded families will find much to divert them at the ruins as there is very little to see. However, not far away is the small village of Trang An in the heart of some of Vietnam’s most sublime scenery. Here towering karst peaks sheer up out of the paddy fields and wide rivers meander past the steep cliffs.

You can take a rowing boat ride on one of the rivers that has carved its way through the mountains over millennia. You don’t row the boat yourselves (there’s only so much time you want to spin around in circles…) but will be piloted by a local rower. Follow the river as it curls around the mountains then head directly into a narrow opening at the base of a cliff. Here you find yourselves in a dark cave that tunnels through the hills. Duck under low hanging stalactites and marvel at the dexterity of your rower, as they navigate the narrow channel. See our example itinerary,  Highlights of Vietnam, for more on how to incorporate Ninh Binh into your trip.

Vietnam with kids holiday - Ninh Binh boat trip

Ninh Binh boat ride

4 – Bike ride through Hanoi’s backstreets and help cook lunch

For a bit of respite from the chaotic streets of central Hanoi, make your way to the Red River District. This is one of the few parts of Hanoi that escaped bombing during the Vietnam War and the quiet streets are lined with traditional courtyard houses and peaceful Buddhist temples. Join a local family in their ancestral home and help grandma make a tasty lunch of spring rolls washed down with a pot of green tea.

From here take a bike ride out into the countryside, passing through paddy fields, fruit plantations and small villages. The busy streets of central Hanoi seem a million miles away! Check out our example Vietnam itineraries – two of which visit Hanoi.

Vietnam with kids - Home-cooking Red River District

Home-cooking Red River District

5 – Explore less visited parts of Halong Bay

You have to be careful with Halong Bay. Parts of this are now horribly over-crowded and hundreds of boats ply the same routes through the bay. The views are gorgeous… or would be if they weren’t blocked by other boats.

Our advice is to head to the more remote Bai Tu Long Bay. Quite aside from the family jokes you can enjoy at the name of the bay, here you find pristine scenery but few other tourists. We can’t quite work out why more people don’t head this way, but for now they don’t, so enjoy it whilst it lasts!

Once here, you can stop on a deserted beach, paddle in the emerald waters, explore remote caves and generally enjoy the idyllic scenery.

See our Highlights of Vietnam example itinerary which includes a sailing trip on a Junk in Halong Bay.

Vietnam with kids holiday, photo of children canoeing in Vietnam and swimming in a river

Exploring the more secluded areas of Halong Bay on a Vietnam with kids holiday

6 – Basket boat ride and crabbing in Hoi An (together with beach time!)

The enticing streets of Hoi An need little introduction and are an essential stop on any Vietnam family holiday. Families will be seduced by the pretty town with its wooden shop fronts, bustling markets and sensational restaurants. Few tourists venture far beyond the bustling town centre but if you do, you find a slower pace of life that offers great activities for children. Take a boat out into the estuary and then into one of the narrow channels that weave through the paddy fields. Here you can switch to a circular basket boat and paddle into thick groves of water bamboo. Have a go at crabbing, Vietnamese style, trying to catch the well camouflaged purple crabs that scuttle around the bamboo stems.

After lunch in a local restaurant on the banks of the river you can continue on by bike, cycling through friendly villages with beautiful views. This is similar to the scenery of the Mekong Delta so if you don’t have time to make it to the far south, this is a great alternative. See our Highlights of Vietnam and our Cambodia and Southern Vietnam itineraries for ideas on how to include Hoi An in holiday with the kids in Vietnam.

There are also some of Vietnam’s most picturesque beaches outside Hoi An so if you want to build some R and R into your trip, this is the ideal place to do it (if travelling at Easter or the summer).

Vietnam with kids - Basket boat ride and crabbing, Hoi An

Basket boat ride and crabbing, Hoi An

7 – Zip-wire into ‘Dark Cave’ in Phong Nha Ke National Park

Phong Nha Ke National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, famous for its incredibly beautiful scenery. Here you find the oldest karst mountains in Asia together with a vast network of underground rivers and caves, many of which remain completely unexplored. The area is a paradise for families, with endless scope for bike rides through the beautiful karst landscape, heading underground to explore some of the caves, jumping into deep water pools and taking boat rides along the picturesque Son River. And for one of the real highlights of any trip to Vietnam with kids…..taking a zip-line into the appropriately named ‘Dark Cave’. Junior Adrenalin Junkies are welcome! See our Highlights of Vietnam for more.

Teenagers enjoying swims and zip line at Phong Nha - on Vietnam with kids holiday

Jumping in the river pools and zip-lining into the Dark Cave are favourites on our Vietnam with kids holidays

8 – Visit the Dam Sen Waterpark in Saigon

Okay, so it might not be an overly Vietnamese experience, but the Dam Sen Waterpark really is a real treat for the children. It’s vast and there is something for all age groups. Older children will disappear off to take an inflatable ring down a terrifyingly steep slide or take a turn on the giant rope swing, falling off into a deep pool. Younger children will love the huge toddler pool with animal slides, water fountains and plenty to clamber over. Always a big hit on our ‘Vietnam with kids’ itineraries.

The park gets very busy at the weekend and during Vietnamese holidays so is best visited outside of these times if possible.

Vietnam with kids - Dam Sen Waterpark

Dam Sen Waterpark

9 – Crawl through the Cu Chi Tunnels

There’s no two ways about it, the history of the Cu Chi tunnels is harrowing. However, somehow a visit to the tunnels invariably turns out to be a highlight of any holiday to Vietnam with kids. Children of all ages are entranced by the stories that they hear and the younger ones perhaps don’t understand the more traumatic aspects of the history. Everyone will enjoy searching the forest floor for the entrance to the tunnels (almost completely impossible), climbing on the old tank and heading down into the tunnels to follow them as far as you can manage. Most parents have to give up quite quickly as the heat and need to crouch and crawl takes its toll. However, most children will happily continue through the whole length of the tunnel, meeting you at the end.

Inspired? See our example Cambodia and Southern Vietnam itinerary which includes a visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels.

Cu Chi Tunnels - Vietnam with the kids

Cu Chi tunnels

10 – Ride bikes along the narrow channels of Mekong Delta

The Mekong Delta has changed immeasurably in recent years. Ignore any pictures taken more than a couple of years ago that show bustling floating markets as these have all but disappeared. However, this area is still well worth a visit as the Mekong fans out into an endless network of channels creating hundreds of small islands. These are best explored by bike and sampan and you can spend a wonderful day or two exploring the area. Families with older children might enjoy a night on a converted rice barge, slowly cruising along the palm-fringed canals and enjoying dinner on deck.

Vietnam with kids - Biking in the Mekong Delta

Biking in the Mekong Delta

More on holidaying in Vietnam with kids

These top 10 activities can be incorporated into many of our Vietnam family holidays. In order to get the most out of your trip, take a look at our when to go page and read some of our customer reviews. A holiday to Vietnam with kids can be an experience they’ll never forget but you don’t want to arrive expecting sunshine only to realise that it’s the wet season! For up to date health advice see the NHS travel website.

Vietnam also combines well with Cambodia so you might like to visit our Cambodia family holidays section and also check out an example itinerary that includes Southern Vietnam and Cambodia.

Liddy Pleasants, MD Stubborn Mule Travel
I’d love to hear from you with your experiences of travelling to Vietnam with kids so do email me at [email protected].