The Incredible Sand Dunes in Mui Ne, Vietnam

A Fairy Stream, views overlooking a polluted beach, White Sand Dunes and a sunset at the Red Sand Dunes….all in a day’s Jeeps adventure in Mui Ne, Vietnam.

Mui Ne (from our experience) is a very slow, run down town and unfortunately the beaches are very polluted from what we witnessed. We were keen on visiting this area mainly for the kiteboarding, but unfortunately upon arrival we learned that it was low season and we could not rent out any equipment. I am always keen to kiteboard in new and exciting places, however after seeing the beaches and water, I don’t think I would have enjoyed it in such a polluted area of the sea.

Along with kiteboarding, Mui Ne is also famous for its beautiful sand dunes.  We originally thought we’d take a motorbike out to the dunes, but at the last minute decided to go on an organized tour, and thank goodness we did! The terrain getting out to the white sand dunes was tough, and we were doubtful the motorbike would have made it.

The half-day tour offered by most of the tour companies included a walk through the Fairy Stream, a stop off at a “Fishing Village” for photos and a visit to the White and Red Sand Dunes for only $7USD per person.  We were very excited for the excursion, which included being transported in an old Russian Jeep, until the tour was overbooked. This tends to happen a lot on tours throughout Vietnam.  Now there would be eight of us squashed together in this small outdated vehicle, without safety belts.

View from behind the driver.

We were only minutes into our trip when one of those sleeper buses was overtaking another bus before our eyes. We were a split second away from not being able to write this post! From all our travels, I must say that we felt very unsafe on the roads in Vietnam, so be aware if you are taking ground transportation.

After only ten minutes into the drive we stopped off at the Fairy Stream. Three minutes into the walk to get to the stream, we smelled this putrid odor in the air. It was coming from large clay pots that housed fermented fish. A very unique smell and I am sure something I have seen on one of Andrew Zimmerman’s Bizarre Foods episodes. The roundtrip walk upstream through a polluted river brought us to this unimpressive small waterfall and the trip took about 50 minutes. We wouldn’t recommend the trek up Fairy Stream as the sand formations seen in the photos below were the most impressive part of the Fairy Stream.

From the Fairy Stream, we headed over to the “Fisherman’s Village” which was really not a village at all.  The Jeep pulled over to the side of the road, where we got out to take photos of fishing boats anchored in the distance and a few that had been pulled up on the sand.  We were all very unimpressed with this stop off.

From there we drove another 40 km out from Mui Ne to the spectacular White Sand Dunes. We felt like we were somewhere in Africa and not in the middle of Asia. While at the White Sand Dunes you can rent loud, unsafe ATV’s or slide down the dunes on these plastic sheets the local kids try and sell you for about 25,000-40,000 dong. Though I am typically a big fan of ATV’s and anything with an engine, it was actually nice not to hear the ATV’s when everyone was done with their 20 minutes. We were given approximately and hour to explore the sand dunes, which we spent running up and down the dunes and taking fun video and pictures before we set off for a sunset at the red Sand Dunes.

While traveling to the red sand dunes, which is about 3km outside of Mui Ne, we came close to losing our lives once again by nearly hitting a ox-and-cart while driving at dusk. I wish I have video of the incident, but let’s just say, that we are very lucky that we lived to tell this whole story!

The sunset at the Red Sand Dunes was lovely, but we were disappointed about how much plastic was in and around the dunes. Thankfully, the White Sand Dunes were still pristine and we hope they stay that way for future travelers to see.

Overall it was a good trip, but our recommendation would be to see just the White Sand Dunes and then a sunset at the Red Sand Dunes, the other two stopped aren’t worth the time. The only other downfall of the tour was that it was overbooked, a tight squeeze for some, and the fact that we cheated death twice.

Insider Tips:

  1. When  you arrive at the start of the Fairy Stream, there will likely be locals trying to charge you a fee.  This is only if you decide to leave your shoes/sandals. You don’t have to pay and you can take them with you. We used our Keen Sandals, which were helpful as further upstream there are more rocks in the water.
  2. Originally we wanted to rent a scooter but after a previous flat tire and seeing the roads on the way to the white sand dunes we were happy we didn’t. The terrain is better suited for a jeep or off-road bike especially on the road you have to turn down to get to the dunes.
  3. Unfortunately at the dunes, there are no sand boards to rent, only thin plastic sheeting offered by the local children, which are not well made and can break very easily. Some tourists rented the ATV’s, but due to the poor maintenance and inexperience riders there was a lot of breakdowns and people getting stuck on the dunes.
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