Tourists on their way to Vietnam for a holiday often look towards the coastal city of Da Nang, given its proximity to both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. However, if your idea of a great vacation involves crystal clear turquoise waters, luxe accommodations, and incredible food, you should check out Nha Trang, Da Nang’s quieter, cooler cousin further south. Chic and lively but still unapologetically authentic, it’s the best place for a tranquil weekend escape. Read on for our list of must-sees and highlights:

The Main Attraction: Nha Trang City Beach

This 6-kilometer long stretch of golden sand is Nha Trang’s primary selling point—the waters are clear and blue as far as the eye can see, and there are numerous lounge spots and beach bars running the length of the coastline. It’s well separated from the noise and activity of the city behind it, too, thanks to a well-maintained promenade that sits between the beach proper and the coastal road. 

Go for a relaxed walk through the gardens and parks of the promenade while admiring the view, or settle in with a good book on a lounge chair on the sand and have your drinks delivered right to you. Swimming areas are sectioned off for safety, and the weather is almost always good for a refreshing dip. Head further south, past the popular lounging areas of the Sailing Club and Louisiane Brewhouse, and you’ll find serene stretches of the beach where you’ll likely go unbothered for hours.

Vietnam’s Most Attractive Amusement Park: Vinpearl Land

Located on an island off the coast of Nha Trang called Hòn Tre and only accessible from the mainland via cable car or power boats, Vinpearl Land Nha Trang is the country’s version of a Disneyland Park, dialed up to eleven. Opt for the cable car to get there—it’s the world’s longest oversea cable car with a total trip time from end to end of 12 minutes. The gondola takes you 60 meters above sea level and is a unique experience in and of itself, well worth the effort of queueing up. 

On the island, you’ll find a 200,000 square meter amusement park with its own centerpiece castle, a 50,000 square meter water park, an aquarium, and a zoo. There’s a resort hotel for those who wish to stay longer than a day, which may be a good idea. The island is packed with so many things to do that even an entire day may not be enough to get on all the rides and water slides. Buy your tickets online to skip the queue at the gates, and get there early to pack as many activities in as you can before heading back to the mainland. Keep in mind that the island tends to be packed during the months of July and August, when school is out. 

Plenty to See in the City

Yes, we understand it seems counter-intuitive to go in the opposite direction of the beach, but Nha Trang’s best restaurants, bars, and shopping venues can be found further inland. Start your day with a steaming bowl of seafood soup served with vermicelli noodles and grilled fish—this local specialty is called bun cha ca and is a local breakfast favorite that takes full advantage of Nha Trang’s proximity to the bounties of the ocean. There’s great Vietnamese iced coffee available all hours of the day; the brew from Alpaca Homestyle Café comes highly recommended, or head down to the Runam Bistro opposite the Intercontinental Nha Trang if you prefer to enjoy your daily dose of caffeine with a killer beach view. Dam Market is a great place to trawl for local produce and street eats, and for your dose of culture, go to the historic Po Nagar Temple. Reminiscent of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, this Cham temple is said to have been founded before 781 CE and is still in use today as a place of worship for Cham and Buddhist followers. Visit Nha Trang Center for your shopping, a spot of bowling, or a movie, then pop into Vĩnh Phước Mobile Nha Trang for all your mobile needs, from phone cases, a local sim card, to iPhone repair or jailbreaking services. 

By sunset, the city truly comes alive; Nha Trang is a party town and the nightlife here can be pretty intense. Altitude is a bar that occupies the 28th floor of the Sheraton Hotel and is the place to be for great cocktails and a breathtaking view of the city below. Booze Cruise is a time-honored institution, popular among expats and locals alike for their great pizza and burgers, as well as the great Nha Trang tradition of taking a boat out to sea with 25 of your closest friends and drinking yourselves silly—an activity aptly called, you guessed it, a booze cruise. For a more laidback, even romantic evening, Patrick Wine behind the Nice Hotel is a wine bar that serves excellent French and Vietnamese dishes that pair well with the hundreds of imported bottles they have on offer. 

Though the crime rate is relatively low, it’s still recommended to keep your wits about you. Scammers and pickpockets are common, and it’s very easy to get taken for a ride if you do not speak the language. Best to leave your valuables where you’re staying and take only as much cash as you feel you’ll need. Your passport and other travel documents should also be relatively safe if you leave them in a secure location, such as with the hotel or an in-room vault. If you party responsibly, there shouldn’t be any reason why you won’t enjoy a visit to Nha Trang.