Hoi An is a magical little town on the coast in central Vietnam and we enjoyed 6 months there with our kids. Famous for its UNESCO listed Old Town, tailors’ shops and monthly full moon lantern festival, it also has long sandy beaches and 5 star resorts. It attracts family holiday makers in large numbers. They visibly out-number backpackers these days and a lot of families with kids from babies to toddlers to tweens and teens pass through Hoi An. We were luck enough to spend over 5 months in Hoi An with kids so can give up up-to-date, accurate information on the experience of visiting and staying there, we’ve seen many a full moon night and festivals including Tet along with seeing Hoi An submerged in November floods. Our family fell in love with this town and the Vietnamese on this, our second, visit to Hoi An. Information on Hoi An for families and holidaying in Hoi An with kids, at the luxury, budget and backpacker level, because we happily do things all ways.
Hoi An With Kids and For Families
Vietnam with Kids
You”ll find all the important information on travelling, touring or backpacking Vietnam with kids on our Vietnam travel blog page, the page you are on now purely deals with Hoi An, experiences, reviews, guides, things to do and tips. All reviews are our genuine personal opinion only. Please double check facts and figures for yourself as things do change.
Things to Do in Hoi An with Kids
The Hoi An Old Town Ticket, Ancient Buildings, Temples and Museums
Hoi An has ticketed entry but you don’t actually need to buy one. If you’re just wanderring the town, eating and browsing shops, nobody will ask for a ticket. The tickets cover admission to a selection of historic sites, the Japanese covered bridge, is one of these. If you try to cross that bridge during the day you WILL need a ticket. You can buy these tickets at many booths and offices around town, they are about $8 and free for kids.
I have absolutely no problem with this system, we all think it’s great and cheap, we only bought a ticket once during our 5 months in Hoi An and visited the Old Town almost every day. Once you have your ticket you can choose which of the old buildings and small museums to explore, with kids I’d certainly pick the one pictured above, the Cultural Museum. The ancient houses all seem to be pretty much the same, so pick one and visit a couple of temples or family shrines too. Your ticket includes a map and brief description of each place that you can enter.
Eating and Drinking with Kids in Hoi An
We have a full post on food in Hoi An here. You can get anything you want in Hoi An including western foods, vegan and vegetarian options. It’s far easier to access things like cheese and dairy in Vietnam than in Thailand.
As a word of warning, watch out for MSG, it’s massively over used in Hoi An and for some people ( my husband and I developed bad MSG reactions) causes pain and other symptoms. We list some places that don’t use MSG in our post.
After conversation with a Vietnamese woman who also reacted badly to MSG, it seems it could be the type of MSG, not all MSG. Aparently some cheap stuff from China causes her to react, the ” real” MSG which her grandmother used, didn’t. Obviously they give the cheap stuff to tourists in a lot of places. So it’s interesting and we don’t have it fully figured out yet, but we only eat in places that don’t use MSG or at street food stalls and pho joints used by locals.
Hoi An’s Beaches for Kids
Cua Dai beach really didn’t exist at the end of 2017 but in early 2018 the sand was back and it’s a nice beach for kids, the sand slopes far more gently than at Ang Bang and there is less commercial development. Ang Bang is the main beach focus. It’s a nice beach but very developed. The back of the beach is lined with restaurants, most selling seafood. In our experience some of these restaurants are hugely overpriced and often not very good, you’ll do better away from the beach. Ang Bang beach has sun loungers and umbrellas, lifeguards and parascending, it’s busy and popular.
Ang Bang beach is by no means useable all year round. Between October and February good beach days and water conditions have been rare. If you’re visiting Hoi An during summer ( northern hemisphere) be sure to book a hotel with a pool, in winter you’ll probably be too cold to want one.
Secret beach is small and less developed, it’s more like the backpacker beaches I remember from 20 years ago. It’s between Ang Bang and Cua Dai beach.
Hoi An Night Market and Riverside Games
There are several markets in Hoi An and most tourists will visit the Central Market and Night Market. The central market is interesting for children to discover local fruit and veg, there are also many stalls selling live crabs, fish, meat and so on. Depending on how squeamish your child is, take a look. The night market is on the far side of the river, we call it the party side. There are various amusements that kids will love and yummy things like ice cream and banana pancakes to enjoy. The noisy music bars and clubs are in this area and they’re pretty annoying, each competing to play their music loudest. Thankfully, this sort of development is confined to a small area.
Cooking and Banana Boat ( Coracle) Rides
We found a cooking class that was great for kids, included coracle ( banana boat) rides and a market tour. I can’t over stress how much my boys loved this tour, particularly as they spent an hour or so at the end catching crabs with some other kids after eating everything they’d cooked themselves ( full post on our cooking school here) . Check out or book a similar tour here. You can take one of hundreds of cooking classes in Hoi An, but for kids, make sure it is hands on, you can also arrange a coracle ride in the fishing village and take a paddle through the submerged coconut forest. Be sure to haggle over price.
Gardening, Rice Growing and Cooking
In the centre of Hoi An, sandwiched between the Old Town and Ang Bang, is a large expanse of beautifully ordered green. Other than the rice farmers you’ll find vegetable and herb growers, flower growers and kumquat growers, each a master of their art. Absolutely get the kids out here, by bike is best, paths criss-cross the fields. Let them observe traditional agriculture, water buffalo, ducks and geese, but also, there are opportunities to take courses and classes out here, many involving cooking after tours of gardens and farms. Incidentally, if they want to have their photo taken sitting on a water buffalo, the tourist buffalo is usually on the left hand sife of the Ang Bang to Hoi An road. Give his owned a few thousand dong and you get a ride.
Making Rice Paper or Noodles
You can do this too in Hoi An, we made rice paper as part of our cooking class, from grinding the grains of rice to cooking the pancake-like sheets. More information on this to come.
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The Ship Builders’ Island ( Kim Bong Carpentry Village)
You can watch wood carvers and ship builders at work on one of the islands. It’s connected by bridges, so you can take your bike. There is some beautiful unspoiled countryside over here too.
Water Puppets in Hoi An
The water puppet show is something culturally unique to Vietnam and your kids will love it. The show is quite short, so no boredom issues even for toddlers and small children and it costs just 40,000 Dong ( $2) for kids, 80,000 Dong ( $4) for adults. The theatre is at the rear of the old town, just off the main road ( Nguyen Tat Than, which become Ly Thurong Kiet after the traffic lights ) and you can buy a ticket on the door.
The show is on Friday and Saturday and some weekdays, but check locally, it’s seasonal. You will learn about Vietnamese culture and heritage and be delighted, surprised and charmed at the same time. The show starts at 6.30 pm, we got there at 6pm and had front row seats. It’s a short walk from Jim’s Snackbar if you’d like to grab a really good burger ( they have vegan too !) after the show.
Lune Theatre Productions
Have you wondered what the new dome shaped building is in town? We did so we Googled and discovered that it’s a purpose built theatre space for Lune productions. Lune have 4 shows that they rotate around 3 theatres in Vietnam, Hoi An, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. I took my tween ( he is 11) along to Lune’s production of “The Mist” in Hoi An. I found it mesmerising, see their trailer below.
The show is stunningly beautiful and blends traditional music with many styles of dance ( including some ballet). My son suffered a little from ants-in-his-pants but certainly enjoyed it. I think whether or not your children enjoy the show will very much depend on their personalities and interests. If you have a little ballerina, certainly take him or her. I love to get my kids involved in the arts and see it as part of their education, so for me this was a must do. Unfortunately my teenager had a date that night and we just couldn’t fit it into his schedule. I think he would have enjoyed it more. But I loved it, so go if you can. Find more information on Lune performances here. Or pre-book your tickets from home before arrival here. There are three different Lune shows, which you see will depend on when you visit, they rotate around Vietnam.
Lantern Making Classes
There are various lantern making classes in Hoi An, they are probably too fiddly for younger kids and so far my teenager and tween have refused to join me in taking a class. I’m going to go by myself! The one pictured above is on Tran Cao Ban, this little lane is a popular hang out with us, it’s to the rear of Hoi An Old town, near the water puppet theatre, Jim’s Snackbar and an excellent expat grocery store. Our favourite mi quang lady is almost opposite the lantern maker’s and there are several restaurants on this street ( including vegetarian) that do not use MSG. The lantern making class here costs about $16 US each.
We tried this one with the kids, I enjoyed it, but it was too restrictive for my 11 year old and the 13 year old was on the fence about this one. This was rather expensive and through Lifestart Foundation ( below) . Contact them and book well in advance.
Vietnamese Language Classes
We took a free 1 hour Vietnamese class at Lifestart Foundation. We had to book well in advance, so if you’re heading this way and want to learn the basics of Vietnamese, contact them here. It was fun and well worth doing.
Climbing, Kayaking, SUP, Bike Tours and More
There are a heap of active tours and experiences to try in Hoi An if you have slightly older kids. We hired our own bikes in Hoi An for the whole 6 months they were there and every day we battled with our old Chinese clunkers. Getting on good mountain bikes ( with helmets provided) for the Grasshopper Adventures tour above was heavenly! We’re a bike family, you may know my husband is a triathlete, we like our bikes. The tour above took us all over Hoi An, from the islands to Tra Que herb village, sampling just about every local dish I’d recommend you try, plus more. I’ll give this tour a full write up soon, but you can find this Grasshopper Adventures tour here. They have bike tours throughout Asia. My teen and tween were both really happy with this tour and Grasshopper provided a fantastic kid-sized mountain bike for my 11 year old.
There are plenty more active tours to try in Hoi An and we hope to add more to this page soon.
Trips, Tours and Places of Interest Near Hoi An
Hoi An’s Pottery Village
My boys loved the little pottery village and its museum. They tried their hands at throwing pots and making ocarinas befor cooling down with an ice cream at the rather fantastic pottery museum. We have a full post on Hoi An Pottery Village Here.
Marble Mountain is nearer to Danang than Hoi An and is absolutely spectacular. The main cavern and its Buddha images will take your breath away. It’s fine to take kids, there is a lift up the mountain. There is a cave climb that is slippery and somewhat dangerous, wear good shoes ( I wore flip flops, not good!) and keep a close eye on small kids. My boys thought scrambling up through the caves was great fun, this is also a great place to play Pokemon Go. A full post on Marble Mountain is coming soon.
My Son Sanctuary ( it’s UNESCO listed) is incredibly ancient, beautiful Cham ruins older than Angkor Wat. It’s a sprawling site and to get the most out of it you should most certainly take a guide. It was insanely hot when we visited and the kids were moderately interested in what our guide had to say. They found the bomb craters at the site far more interesting but I think they learned something from what he had to say. Both bomb craters and Cham ruins are history. A full post on My Son is coming soon. We took a tour, arriving in My Son by bus, returning to Hoi An by river. It’s a nice way to spend half a day and for me, My Son was unmissable.
Ba Na Hills
Ba Na Hills sits about 55 Km NW of Hoi An, it is the old French hill station and now boasts 3 cable cars, one of them has the highest vertical climb of any cable car in the world. It’s a man made tourist attraction and popular with the local and Asian market. There is a world class golf course and it is accessed via it’s own 3 lane highway from Danang. I haven’t been, my husband has. His verdict….skip this one.
Danang has China Beach, a pleasant strip of sand at the mouth of the river made famous by American GIs during the war. There is huge commercial development between Danang and Hoi An, massive resort hotels popular with Chinese and Russians. For us, the main attraction in Danang is Dragon Bridge, this fancy modern bridge actually breathes fire every Saturday and Sunday night a 9pm. There is a fun fair, plentiful seafood restaurants and a modern mall with English cinema and ice rink, Danang is very much the “big city” to Hoi An’s sleepy vibe.
Where to Stay in Hoi An With Kids
There are plenty of accommodation options in Hoi An suitable for families, from hostels, to homestays, hotels and resorts. There is nothing really within the Old Town as it’s heritage listed, so you can chooses beach, countryside or residential areas. There are some beautiful places with rice padi views, but these could be too cut off for you. Many big hotels have free shuttles to beach or Old Town.
Riding Motorbikes and Bicycles with Kids in Hoi An
A smart parent brings their own crash helmets from home, that goes for scooters, mopeds and bicycles. You can buy helmets here but a fake helmet offers little protection, you’ll have to hunt hard for a real one ( go to Danang). Small children generally sit on the back of adults’ bicycles here, bikes have little padded seats on the rear. Whole families can be seen riding one scooter. At first the traffic in Hoi An may look terrifying and chaotic, it actually isn’t. Forget your western road rules and flow with the traffic the Vietnamese way and it’s OK. It’s a real joy to go pedaling through the padi fields, market gardens and islands, it’s the best way to see Hoi An. Bicycle hire comes in at around a dollar a day, scooter hire around $5. Some hotels, hostels and guest houses will loan you a bike for free.
Other Ways of Getting Around Hoi An and Surrounding Areas
There are green metered taxis everywhere and we’ve never had a problem with them, they use their metres. There are also local buses if you need to go to Da Nang. Our preferred method of getting around Hoi An has become Uber since the wet season came in and I became more nervous on the roads after my bike accident. Trips around town will cost you a dollar or so and we like the security of Uber, all routes are trackable, there is no room for rip offs. Motorbike taxis are also common but with a family they’re rarely practical. Most of the places around Hoi An can be reached using organised tours with guides, or under your own steam.
For you, for Pinterest
Thanks for reading our Hoi An with kids blog and guide, we’ve loved our Vietnam trip and our time in Hoi An, to be honest it was a relief , we first visited in 2001 and feared change. Things are far more modern here, yes, but the charm remains despite huge tourist numbers, just walk a little further and Hoi An is still there. We wanted to make this the most complete guide to Hoi An with Kids on the internet, I hope we gave you all the information you need to plan your trip or holiday in Hoi An.