Co To island district, an archipelago in the northeastern province of Quang Ninh province, can become an important sea tourism destination in Vietnam.
With pristine white sand beaches and crystal clear water, mountains covered with jungle, roads zigzagging the island, a diverse plant ecosystem and fresh seafood, Co To archipelago is perfect for tourists.
From Cai Rong port in Van Don district, another island district of Quang Ninh province, you can take high-speed boat trips that take one hour and half to cover the distance.
The port on Cai Bau island also offers super-fast boats which can travel to the island in just 45 minutes. The trip itself provides spectacular views.
Since connecting to the national grid at the end of 2013, Co To Lon, the largest island in the archipelago, has its tourism infrastructure developed quickly, giving a facelift to Co To town on the island, with bigger and modern hotels and more eateries and cafes.
To navigate Co To Lon, you can hire an electric vehicle with a tour guide or a motorbike to explore the island on your own. Luckily, Co To Lon is small enough to explore in one day.
For those who love to swim or relax on beaches, Co To Lon has plenty. Beaches are on all sides of the island. Some small accommodation services have popped up on some beaches, providing options for visitors who want to savour the island.
There is a small lighthouse to visit as well. It is located atop a mountain, 70m above sea level, in Co To Lon and can be accessed via a road winding through the pine jungle with wild flowers all around.
Riding a motorbike around Co To Lon is the best way to explore and see the daily activities of island natives. You travel along roads lined with trees or through rice paddy fields scattered with buffaloes.
The peaceful feeling around the island is unique, particularly for those who come from big cities.
Co To archipelago district consists of 15 islands, so if you are ready to spend more, you can take boat trips offered by local residents to nearby islands, which are more wild, pristine and off-the-beaten-track.
After exploring, you can return to the town to enjoy coffee or drinks and find a restaurant to eat seafood. Because Co To Lon is little known among foreign tourists, most tourism services from hotels to restaurants are typically Vietnamese but the quality is good at reasonable prices.
The downside of Co To Lon is that its town has not been designed well with buildings lacking charisma, while the streets are not lined with trees and do not have the ambience of a tourist town.
Despite these problems, Co To Lon in particular and the Co To archipelago district in general have great potential to become a sea tourism destination. The district administration has aimed to bring the ratio of tourism in its economy to 45-50 percent by 2020 with revenue of 1.6 trillion VND (72 million USD) and income per capita of 3,000 to 3,500 USD.VNA