Sitting bang in between Vietnam’s long-established kitesurfing mecca- Mui Ne- and the raucous city streets of Nha Trang, Phan Rang is the new up-and-coming spot that everyone is talking about.
Phan Rang is the capital of Ninh Thuận, a seaside province set into the south-central coastline. A quiet rural area, much of the region’s land is dedicated to agriculture- grapes, peaches, rice paddies, and salt pans. But head for the coastline and you’ll soon see just why Phan Rang is the new place wandering nomads just can’t get enough of.
Phan Rang’s waters are bright blue and crystal clear. Thanks to the jagged coastline that twists and turns in every direction, kiters and surfers have been quick to adopt this fortuitous spot that seems to work in just about every wind direction.
A peaceful way of life, cheap cost of living, fascinating local culture and perfect watersports conditions; it’s no wonder Phan Rang is now being touted as one of Southeast Asia’s best up-and-coming destinations for outdoor adventurers.
Internet in Phan Rang is generally really good, with plenty of places already hooked up on optic cables with high speeds. Wifi speeds go from 10 Mb/s to 30 Mb/s.
However, due to occasional breaks on sections of the AAG Trans-Pacific underwater cable system, which connects 8 Southeast Asian countries, internet speed can be temporarily affected in the whole country. The last break occurred on December 23rd 2017, and was fixed by January 7th 2018. See here.
When it comes to mobile internet, you can pick up 4G in most places without encountering any black spots in reception. 3G/4G in Vietnam averages 5.4 Mb/s, which is lower than the Asia-Pacific average of 9.69 Mb/s.
SIM cards are cheap and so are monthly data bundles (you can avail of unlimited local internet for $4 if you register for the right package). The main 4G providers in Vietnam are Mobifone, Viettel and Vinaphone. See a full guide on Vietnam’s Sim cards options here or there.
Although it’s only 2 hours north of Mui Ne, Phan Rang’s kitesurfing conditions are worlds apart.
The main kiting season runs from November-April, during which time kiters can expect 20+ knots on 85% of days.
During the high season, the main kiting spot is My Hoa lagoon, which offers shallow, butter flat conditions for the first 700 meters. After that point the outside reef causes some clean little waves to form. The swell out the back of the lagoon can get pretty big. It’s not so unusual to see waves of 2.5 meters hitting off the back reef.
Note: the lagoon is heavily affected by the tides at certain times of the year, making it impossible to kite at certain times of day. Check with the local schools to find out details of the tides during your visit.
There are currently 3 kitesurfing schools operating in My Hoa:
Vietnam Surf Camp: Founded by the Rip Curl Vietnam team, the camp set up shop late in 2017 and offers lessons and rentals. They also offer the option to stay in their “glamping” beachfront tents.
Phi’s Kite School: The first school to set up on My Hoa lagoon, local kiter Phi and his team pioneered the development of the kite scene here. Phi’s offers lessons, rental, and storage, as well as some basic accommodation right on the beachfront.
Phan Rang Kite Center: The latest school to join the Phan Rang kitesurfing community, the center provides lessons, storage, and rental. They’re also great guys to know if you want to do some quality sightseeing around the area.
During the low season (May-October) Ninh Chu Bay is the spot to head for. This has been the host location for one of the Kiteboard Tour Asia’s biggest events back in 2016. It was also the first location in the world to hold one of Neil Pryde’s CR:X Convertible Kite Racing events.
When kiting at Ninh Chu Bay, you’ll enjoy a big stretch of sandy beach with shallow water at the front, getting deeper after the first 100 meters or so. Water is pretty calm inside the bay with some nice little kickers here and there to pop off of.
While this used to be the home of Ninh Chu Bay Beach Club & Bar, they have recently sold up the business. The future of the kite station here is unclear- for now. We will post updates here as they happen.
With over 50 km of jagged coast surrounded by reef breaks, Phan Rang enjoys the longest stretch of surfable shoreline in all of Vietnam.
Most of the top surf spots in Phan Rang can be found around Nui Chua National Park where there are tons of point breaks dotted along the coastline. The most popular spot is Binh Tien Beach, located on Cam Ranh Peninsula. Other locals and nomads in-the-know head for Vinh Huy.
For further information, advice, and surf board rentals, get in touch with the team at Vietnam Surf Camping.
Thanks to Phan Rang’s beautiful waters and diverse conditions, there are plenty of places to take out a paddle board and get exploring. The best spots are:
My Hoa Lagoon early in the morning or on no-wind days (dependant on the tides, that is). The interior of the lagoon stays nice and flat at these times. If you fancy something a bit more challenging you can paddle out to the back where the reef break is and test your skills on the waves.
Thai An is a quiet little spot nearby which offers pretty calm conditions and some subtle waves (this is also where the local turtle sanctuary is).
For further information, advice, and SUP rentals, get in touch with the team at Vietnam Surf Camp.
A lot of the surrounding land in Phan Rang belongs to the Nui Chua National Park. It’s chock-a-block with all different types of trails that are perfect for testing out your hiking and trekking skills.
The National Park takes up a total of nearly 30,000 hectares (23,000 of which are land based). The highest peak within the park, Co Tuy (sometimes also called Chua Anh Peak) measures in at 1,039 meters above sea-level.
One of the best hiking routes takes you through the forest trails up to the beautiful clear blue mountain lake on top, followed by a trek down to Thung Beach. You’ll be rewarded halfway up with a panoramic view of the surrounding Cam Ranh Peninsula, the jagged mountains and crystal clear waters on the coastline below.
Some trails are certainly more challenging than others (depending on which part of the mountain range you enter at). However, entering over at Ninh Chu Bay makes accessing the mountain range quite a bit easier. It’s a good choice for beginner trekkers.
Whether you’re a seasoned biker or a total beginner, the winding coastal roads and challenging mountain trails in Phan Rang make it a cyclist’s dream.
There’s a solid mix of trails suitable for all levels of riders. There are some beautiful easy roads along the coast, snaking paths through the national park, and fast paced downhill trails hidden away in the mountains.
Located just a few kilometers outside of Phan Rang City, the Nui Chua National Park is filled with all kinds of trails. Some are easy and relaxed, and others have some steep drops and challenging turns. It can be pretty tough going when the wind is strong!
Despite the fact that Phan Rang sits right in the middle of the “tourist triangle” of Dalat, Nha Trang, and Mui Ne, the entire area has remained more or less unchanged by modern tourism. One significant change Phan Rang has seen recently is the addition of a couple of new water sports centers.
The surrounding countryside is tranquil and dramatic all at the same time. Granite outcroppings tower over the national park and farmlands below, connected only by winding mountain roads that are practically begging for road trips.
Up until very recently, the foreign community here was virtually non-existent. But the recent addition of a couple new kitesurfing and surf centers has encouraged a few salty souls to settle down in the area. As for the locals, they’re as friendly and warm as you could ever ask for.
There’s plenty of opportunities to pause and appreciate the deep-rooted local culture in Phan Rang. From the unique “whale temples” scattered along the coastline to the vineyards producing their very own Phan Rang wine.
Although Phan Rang is still in its infancy as a tourist destination, there is already a pretty decent selection of guest houses and resorts available for short term rent (<1 month). The watersports centers also offer their own short term accommodation:
Vietnam Surf Camping: “glamping” tents on My Hoa lagoon (starts at $15)
Phi’s Kite School: dorms and bungalows on My Hoa (starts at $20)
Phan Rang Kitesurfing Holidays is another great resource for those looking for somewhere to stay short-term. They don’t offer their own accommodation just yet but they’ll help you find a suitable place in the locality.
For nomads looking to put down their bags and ride the waves of life in Phan Rang a little longer, we highly recommend going on the hunt for a house to rent. Finding a house near the kite spot can be a little challenging, but it is by no means impossible.
Basic Vietnamese style houses around My Hoa village go for $130-220/month, but it’s likely they’ll be unfurnished and without wifi. Alternatively, Phan Rang City (20 km away from My Hoa) has far more options. You can find a house or a room in a guest house to rent long term for as little as $180/month (furnished, with wifi).
Despite the recent surge of interest from nomadic travelers, Phan Rang still lacks decent working spaces (for now!). Restaurants are all very local style (think low plastic chairs and neon lights) and are missing most of the things a digital nomad would need from their workspace. However, there are a couple of cool cafes worth checking out. We recommend:
The Container Coffee: Embracing the true meaning of upcycling, the guys at the Container Cafe serve up cheap and delicious glasses of rocket fuel Vietnamese coffee in a super cool setting. The wifi is good, the music is quiet and low-key, and thanks to their choice of location you’re away from any noisy traffic.
Address: 18 Nguyễn Tri Phương, Mỹ Hải, Tp. Phan Rang – Tháp Chàm, Ninh Thuận, Vietnam
Cuban Bar & Grill: This chilled out bar and restaurant is a favoured spot for a handful of nomads who like to come here to pull out their laptop for a few hours and enjoy the relaxed vibes. They’ve also got a delish menu of local and international eats (and plenty of cold beers for when you clock out).
Of the digital nomads who are already spending time in Phan Rang, some choose to work in the kite stations and their adjoining cafes. Feedback so far tells us that while the space is pretty comfortable and the atmosphere is good, it can be a little crowded. Not to mention the sand and salt that will inevitably work its way into your laptop.
Best bet is to find digs that have reliable wifi and a good desk.
For those living near My Hoa and the main kite spot, the local wet market provides all the fresh fruits, veggies, eggs, fish, and meats you’ll need on a day-to-day basis. For anything more specific than that, you’ll probably need to take a trip to Phan Rang City itself. That’s where you’ll find the big Vinamart supermarket.
The local food in the restaurants is cheap, fresh, and pretty healthy. Think lots of soups, noodles, veggies & aromatic herbs, and seafood. But if you’re hankering for some different flavours, head over to the restaurant at Phi’s Kite School where house chef Rachel cooks up a storm of delicious eats every day.
When traveling from abroad, Phan Rang can be reached from either Tan Son Nhat (Ho Chi Minh) International Airport or Cam Ranh (Nha Trang) International Airport. The latter is far more convenient.
Ho Chi Minh: You can either take a connecting flight to Cam Ranh (which costs as little as $20 and takes around 1 hour) or the train from Saigon Railway Station to Thap Cham. Tickets start at $19 and the journey takes around 8 hours. But you’ll enjoy an awesome view of the passing countryside on the way!
Cam Ranh: You can take a metered taxi or privately organised vehicle for around $30. The trip will take less than an hour. Though you can expect to double that if you take a car all the way from Nha Trang city.
Thap Cham (train station): A metered taxi from here to Phan Rang will cost around $7.
Once in Phan Rang, you’ll quickly see that everything is quite spread out. So having your own mode of transport is a big plus. Renting a motorbike/scooter is the most popular option, and costs around $7/day. Cheaper rates available for long term rentals. It’s also possible to buy a secondhand motorbike (110cc) for around $250.
However, if you prefer to go motorless you can easily rent a bicycle from one of the local rental shops. Some resorts and guest houses will also be able to provide bikes. Best off avoiding Highway 1A and sticking to the beach roads. Not only are they safer for bikes, but the view itself is worth the entire trip.