The White Sand Dunes just outside of Mui Ne are one of Vietnam's charming geological oddities.
Although most people visit the White Dunes on a tour, getting there yourself is pretty straightforward. Going at your own pace affords you time to really appreciate the area, have a picnic, wipe out a few times sledding down the hot slopes, and make an interesting day away from the beach.
Outside of being extorted by a long-distance taxi, there are three options for reaching the sand dunes near Mui Ne: Tour jeep, bicycle, and motorbike. All three transportation choices come with advantages and disadvantages—choose what is best for you.
By Jeep Tour
Beautifully-battered and restored army jeeps ply the tourist stretch throughout Mui Ne. These jeeps can be booked for four-hour tours which take in both sets of dunes, the fairy stream, and sometimes the fishing village. Jeeps usually depart at 5 a.m. for sunrise in the dunes or 2 p.m. to catch the sunset. The drawback, as with joining other tours, is that you relinquish control of how much time is spent at each attraction. Go with certified guides or book through your accommodation to avoid frustrating surprises.
Depending on where you start along the tourist strip, the Red Dunes are around six miles away; an enjoyable cycling trip for anyone moderately fit. The Fairy Stream, at about three miles from the tourist strip, is along the way.
Although possible with enough blood, sweat, and desire, cycling to the White Dunes is not very enjoyable. The first half of the 22-mile journey is fairly easy, however strong winds along the coastal road and steep grades will have you wishing that your bicycle came with a motor!
Riding motorbikes on the slightly-chaotic roads in Vietnam is not for the faint-hearted, however, the reward for a few near-death experiences is sheer, exhilarating freedom with beautiful scenery. Traffic along the coastal road outside of town is extremely light; the road is flat and straight and easy enough for novices. Fully-automatic motorbikes can be rented through your accommodation. If a few gear changes don't bother you, manual motorbikes are cheaper.
Most of the free tourist maps found around Mui Ne are an excuse to kill trees and print ads. Much to the delight of tour operators, few maps have accurate directions to the White Dunes. Getting there is fairly straightforward, however, a lack of signs can throw you off with one wrong turn.
Saddle up, strap on a helmet, and prepare for a ride to remember!
- Begin your trip heading southwest—the beach will be on your right—along the tourist stretch into Mui Ne village; pass Joe's Art Cafe on the left and Pogo Club farther down on the right. If signs start turning to a mix of Russian and English, you have gone the wrong way on the strip!
- Easy to miss, the Fairy Stream is reached by a rough path on the left side of the first small bridge that you cross. Continue past the charismatic fishing port on the right, then turn left at the large Christian church on the left; there is a traffic signal.
- Drive to the end of the road, then turn left at the traffic signal. You will quickly reach a large traffic roundabout; take the first exit to the right. The photogenic Red Dunes will come into view on your left; you must pay 25 cents or buy a drink to park at one of the cafes across the street.
- Continue past the Red Dunes on the long, coastal road for a bulk of your journey; go straight through the small town and past newly-constructed resorts. When the stretch of coastal road ends, turn left and continue up the hill ignoring what looks like grassy sand dunes on your right.
- Pass the only petrol station on the right, then take the first red-clay road on your right; a sign indicates that you are near the White Dunes. The dirt road is rocky and unfinished—everything a motorbike driver doesn't enjoy. Continue bouncing along for some time with the sprawling lake on your left side. Do not worry about the White Dunes appearing so far away on the left, the road eventually wraps around the lake and brings you to the parking area.
Parking for the White Dunes costs a flat 25 cents; always lock up your motorbike! A small footpath leaves the left side of the parking area taking you through a park with cafes, beautiful strands of pine trees, and eventually to where the sand starts.
If you wish to try your luck, grab a sled rental before leaving the area; there are no options once in the dunes.
If you still wind up lost, try asking a local for Bau Trang which means "White Lake" in Vietnamese; good luck with the tones!
Visiting the Fairy Stream
Sometimes called the Fairy Springs, most people tack on a visit to the Fairy Steam when going to the Mui Ne Sand Dunes. A small, inconspicuous bridge along the main road to town—far before the fishing port—marks the entrance to the attraction.
Park your motorbike or bicycle at the cafe on the left for 25 cents, then proceed down the unfinished path. The fascinating smell comes from large, clay pots of fermenting fish sauce—a Mui Ne specialty—on the right. The small footpath weaves between houses where children will offer to guide you for a fee. No guide needed, just continue to where the path ends into a muddy stream.
Here you can either walk up the ankle-deep stream or take the steeper path to the right. Many people choose to make a circle and return via walking in the soft sand of the stream. Despite the magical name, a few interesting rock formations and a tiny canyon are the only highlights of the Fairy Steam.