Hoi An is a picturesque UNESCO Heritage town on the central coast of Vietnam. Even being one of the most popular tourist destinations in Vietnam, Hoi An continues to showcase a well preserved example of an ancient port town. It’s traditional wooden buildings provide a beautiful backdrop to experience all the things to do in Hoi An with kids (and without too!).
Even though much of the ancient town in Hoi An is filled with shops geared entirely to foreign visitors, the lanterns, cute shop fronts and small lanes continue to lure visitors with it’s great food and fun energy, especially once the tour buses have left for the day!
To escape the crowds a bit, here are our top picks what to do in Hoi An with kids.
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TOP 13 THINGS TO DO IN HOI AN WITH KIDS
Lantern Making with The Lantern Lady
Hoi An is known for two things – tailors and lanterns! The entire town is covered in lanterns so what better activity to do here than make your own Hoi An lantern. While there are a myriad of classes around town, hands down the best one is with The Lantern Lady.
Thuy, *the* Lantern Lady is so sweet and helpful that you will not want to leave her little workshop. There are two options for lanterns, making one from scratch and the express version which starts at the point of adding the silk fabric.
My 8 year old did one from scratch, while I just enjoyed doing the express version. It was such a fun activity, my son wanted to return each day to make more! I have to admit we both love looking at our beautiful creations. The perfect hands-on activity that also acts as a souvenir.
Explore Ancient Town in Hoi An with Kids
One of our favorite things to do in Hoi An is to wander around the Ancient Town, especially in the late afternoon and evening as the lanterns begin to light up the night. Most of the old town is filled with shops primarily for tourists these days, but it’s still fun to explore the tiny shops and people watch. We even found our favorite Japanese candy in one shop!
During the day, the town will be full of the tour groups who arrive by the bus loads. Avoid it at that time and head over as the tour busses leave for the night. Start at the river and work your way away from the river towards ‘regular’ life! There is a massive market towards the end of the river past all the lantern boats that is fun to explore as it’s bursting with locals.
Cruise in a Hoi An Lantern Boat
In days gone past, the Hoi An Lantern Festival was a monthly occurrence coinciding with the full moon. These days however it seems to happen every night. Even though this tends to be mostly for tourists, you will still see locals setting off their candle lit lanterns before the tourists arrive for the evening.
The best way for kids to enjoy this fun cultural event is to hop on a boat and cruise up and down the river to deposit the lanterns.
You need to bargain hard or luck out to find someone who starts at a fair price! For myself and my son, we were able to bargain down to 50,000 Dong but we actually ended up going with a lady who started her prices at 60,000! This included two lanterns as well which was nice. The ride is only 15- 20 minutes so this can easily be done after dinner while out for an evening stroll.
Eat All the Vietnamese Food in Hoi An
There are so many restaurants and sidewalk cafes in Hoi an that it is often overwhelming trying to figure out what to eat. If you are new to Vietnamese food, we highly recommend a food tour where you can learn more about all the local specialities. We have loved our tours with With Locals in other cities, so if they offer one here, give it a try. Otherwise, there are tons of great food tours to check out.
I’ve also written about our favorite Hoi An restaurants if you want to check out where we ate. We loved our recommendations from The Lantern Lady as well as sampling our way through the small stalls along the river. Whatever you eat, make sure you try the local speciality Cao Lau. These wide noodles in a soup with pork and crispy noodles on top are so delicious and only found here in Hoi An!
Experience Local Village Life
There are a multitude of villages to visit, but the most popular seem to be ones that show guests how the local farmers work and to ride in a basket boat. We looked at a few options, but finally settled on Hoi An Village Experience with Mr Chu based on personal recommendations. He is hilarious and really focuses his energy on giving back to his local community as well, which we always admire.
Mr Chu picks you up at your hotel, where you then ride bikes through rice paddy fields, stopping along the way to take photos. You will ride a buffalo, plow a muddy rice field, prepare the ground for rice planting and then plant some rice. It’s all set up for tourists so that it can be done at any time of the planting season, but the kids did not care! They just LOVED being able to do hands on work.
From there we visited a small community where we went fishing in small bamboo basket boats while cruising peacefully along the river. Last, we headed to Mr Chu’s house to learn how to make rice pancakes before eating a beautifully prepared dinner. We would highly recommend Mr Chu, or at the least doing a similar tour as it’s very enlightening for adults and kids!
ARE YOU GOING TO NORTHERN VIETNAM? WE LOVED OUR VILLAGE HOMESTAY OUTSIDE OF HANOI
Take A Day Trip to My Son Sanctuary
If you don’t have a visit to Cambodia and Angkor Wat planned, a day trip to My Son Sanctuary should be on the cards. This ancient Hindu complex of temples is a fun day trip to explore ruins and get away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
If you have already been to Cambodia or have it on your list, you could give this a miss if you are short on time. Otherwise, there are a ton of tour options like a full day tour with cooking lessons, a My Son tour with Pottery Village tour added on and more.
Take a Hike with Pure Paths
My son was missing nature, so we decided to head out on a local hike with Pure Paths. We had a lovely day hiking in the forest, visiting a waterfall and just soaking up the forest views. There was not another person in sight – just the guide Nicko and us. It was such a beautiful escape from the city. This is a perfect hike for adults and for kids.
Visit the Big Hand at Ba Na Hills
We did not make it to Ba Na Hills but heard from everyone who went that it was a fun day out. A bit cheesy in ways, but picturesque and worth the afternoon. You can ride the world’s longest cable car and cool down at the top where it’s much cooler. There are amusement park rides for kids, massages for parents and of course a fun Instagrammable photo of the big hand! From Hoi An, you can do a day trip easily.
Get Messy at a Pottery Village
Warning, do not go to the pottery village if you don’t want to bring home lots of pottery! Thanh Ha Pottery Village located about 15 minutes from town is a fun outing for kids interested in pottery. Admission to the town is 35,000 Dong for adults with kids under 16 free. This admission price gets you a souvenir gift and as many pottery sessions as you feel up to.
After two pots and a pig, we were done only because our baggage couldn’t handle anymore! My son loved it, even though the workshops are quite basic. Different homes offer different types of pottery – some using the wheel with others making things by hand. My son loved seeing how they make things that he’s seen on the roadside. Well worth a morning if you have the time to spare. I also wrote about our morning at the Hoi An pottery village if you want more information.
Get Cooking with Goian
If you haven’t taken a cooking class in Vietnam yet, Hoi An is the place to do it. There are a variety of options offered all over town. You can combine a village visit with a cooking lesson or a market visit with cooking as well. We have heard great things about the Eco Country Cooking Tour as well as cooking classes from Goian. With either of these classes you get a choice of menu options as well as a visit to the local markets. This is a fun way to get kids to test out more Vietnamese food if they haven’t already fallen in love with it!
Cuddle Kitties at Jack’s Cat Cafe
Ever since my son first heard of the concept of animal cafes he has been keen to visit one. Once we saw there was one in Hoi An, we had to make a stop. Jack’s Cat Cafe isn’t quite like others in the world in that it’s actually a cat rescue center first and foremost. The cafe part comes in to play as an avenue to raise money and bring awareness to the cat meat trade in Vietnam. It’s heartbreaking to read the stories of some of the cats here, but it’s also heartwarming to see the amazing work that is being done.
It is also quite fun to cuddle some kitties for a bit! Admission is 100,000 Dong for adults and includes a free drink. This allows you to stay for 90 minutes. The cafe closes at 3 pm, so come early. It is also highly recommended to book and/or email in advance as the cafe only allows a certain number of guests at a time.
Relax at a Hoi An Beach
There are so many things to do in Hoi An that we had a hard time fitting it all in even with a week. One of the best things to do is take a down day at a Hoi An beach. We hopped on our bikes from our hotel and headed out to Soul Kitchen where there are plenty of lounge chairs and a perfect view of the ocean.
Order a little food, some drinks and soak it up all up with all the other foreigners in town! The beach was hopping on our visit and the kids ended up playing with a whole gang building a ‘spa’ in the sand. A perfect reset for all involved.
Note: If you ride your bike, ignore the aggressive bike parking attendants as you approach. Instead, continue on to Soul Kitchen where you can park your bike for free.
Hang with Expats at Dingo Deli
Having been an expat ourselves we find that it’s always fun to check out the local expat community. While most expats in Vietnam are there due to marriage, Hoi An does have a decent homeschooling community and group of expats who stay for a few months at a time. Dingo Deli is their local hangout!
With great western food, a playground for the kids and excellent WiFi for the grown ups, Dingo Deli a great place to visit for the day to catch up on route planning, do some work or just chat to other foreigners!
Ride Bikes Among the Rice Paddy Fields
One of our favorite things to do in Hoi An was ride bikes around the various paddy fields surrounding the town. Depending on where you stay, they are quite easily assessable and provide a welcome relief from the hustle and bustle of city life in Vietnam.
Most hotels have bikes for free, but if not there are tons of places renting them around town. Many places also have kids sized bikes or bikes with a baby seat on the back, just ask around and you will find something that works.
We decided to do like the locals and have my son just hop on the back as I pedaled is around! I was nervous at first, but it’s actually super easy and a great way to explore together.
WHERE TO STAY IN HOI AN
Hoi An has no shortage of hotels and homestay options. The problem will be choosing just which one of the many offerings you will try! We stayed in 3 places during our visit and checked out a few more. If you are in town for a week, you could easily split up your stay with a few days near the old town and a few days elsewhere like at the Hoi An beach.
For Luxury Travelers
The beauty of traveling in Asia is that you do not always need to go to a 5 star hotel to received exceptional service and amenities. In much of Vietnam, we have found that the luxury resorts are located outside of town, taking you away from the action and providing more of an escape. If this is what you are looking for, the Four Seasons is beautiful and will give you just what you need to escape.
For Mid-Range Travelers
However, for mid-range travelers, we would highly recommend the Little Hoi An Boutique Hotel. The staff was fabulous, rooms are adorable and the location is great. For $50 a night, we felt like we were in a 5 star hotel. Everyone knew our names from the first day, when we asked for something, we would get extras and by booking directly we also got several perks like a free dinner and free car transfer.
For Budget Travelers
For budget travelers, head to Ngan Phu Villas. This homestay is a bit out of the main center, but only a 20 minute walk. The homestay is a simple, but very sweet place. Homestay options here in Hoi An aren’t quite what you might expect. They are basically small hotels with a handful of rooms, resembling a small hotel rather than a stay in someone’s home.
Ngan Phu Villas provides breakfast, free bikes, and exceptional service for just $20 a night! We loved it here not only for the rooms and service but due to its proximity to the rice fields and being able to ride to the beach or walk to town quickly and easily.
If you want a beach location, check out Life Beach Villas. Adorable, close to the beach and again, so budget friendly at $20 a night!
GETTING FROM DANANG TO HOI AN
Most visitors to Hoi An arrive by flight to Danang airport located about 45 minutes from Hoi An. If you want a hassle free way to get to Hoi An, book a car or a shuttle bus. We opted for a private car which ended up being great since our flight was an hour delayed and arrived in the evening. Otherwise many visitors also take the local bus, but for $6 the shuttle is pretty great.
From Hoi An, there are many options to get back to the airport, from shared minibus to private cars. For more than 2 people it often makes more sense to just book a private transfer as the minivans are per person.
Have you been to Hoi An? Did it steal your heart too?
Are you headed to Vietnam? Check out our other posts to help plan your trip!
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