Prior to my Cam Ranh trip, I asked around for travel tips. To my surprise, none of my acquaintances knew much about the island—some even second-guessed if I got the name right. It’s clearly not as popular as its neighbouring cities of Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh or Da Nang, but if you’re a beachgoer, chances are you’ll be hearing more of it from now on.
Once a major military seaport to offload supplies and equipment as well as being a Naval base, the island is now a family-friendly vacation spot. Even on the plane, you can easily spot the long stretch of white sandy beach dotted with palm trees and an overwhelming selection of resorts. Less than ten minutes away from the Cam Ranh International Airport—there’s a direct flight by AirAsia—I checked into the Alma Resort, a sprawling thirty hectares mega-resort.
Upon arriving, I was told that the resort was fully booked. The massive, semi-open lounge was filled with families and floaties of all shapes and sizes. There was also a group of young graduates at the check-in line, chirping about their graduation trip. The variety of guests boggled my mind, as I realise how Cam Ranh, or the Alma Resort specifically, is a summer vacation hot spot for family and friends that I’ve been missing out on.
For lone travellers like myself, staying in a one-bedroom Ocean View Suite fits the bill. The room comes with a kitchenette, a communal area flooded with natural light, and a spacious balcony overlooking the resort. If you seek more privacy, go for the Pavillion Suites up on the rolling hills, nestling in meticulously designed shrubs, or the Ocean Front Pavillion which comes with a private pool or jacuzzi. A tip for sunrise chasers: get the ocean-facing rooms—the stunning sunrise at 5 a.m. will literally be at your doorstep.
ON THE SHORE
I meant it when I called it a mega-resort—I needed a map on me at all times after I lost my way in the resort, which was almost like a small town—or you can just hop on a buggy. Not many resorts can boast that they have a whopping 12 swimming pools—one even comes with a projector by the pool, where you can dip and watch movies—cascading down to the pristine private beach where you get to do water sports or just sunbathe on the lounger. Parents who wish to take a day off can keep their little ones entertained at the arcade-like recreation room, kid’s club for the under 10s, a scaled-down science museum, and also frolicking at the water park—yes, one that you will not have to leave the resort for.
I had the opportunity to try the spa where I got to choose from 13 treatments. Eventually, I went for the Vietnamese traditional massage that involves suction cups. Unlike the usual ones, this cupping treatment was on the gentler side—part of me wished it was stronger, but at least I didn’t have to walk around looking like I’d been beaten up for the rest of my trip. One thing I noticed was the absence of mosquitoes and bugs, even when night falls. The Resort Manager, Giang, explained that a thorough pest control check takes place every dawn to ensure the compound is clear from insects, which is a major plus point.
ON THE PLATE
Alma Resort has not one but six bars and restaurants—there’s even a food court. The morning breakfast is a lavish buffet at the Alma Garden. Open only for lunch, the Alma Food Court has a great mixture of selections from Vietnamese delicacies to food truck sushi platters—there’s something that caters to every palate. They also have a French bakery for the sweet tooth, irresistible desserts and pastries fresh out of the oven, all hand-crafted by in-house patissiers. Drop by the convenience mart next door for some munchies—there is a surprising amount of Korean snacks and popsicles—and head to the pool, pairing them with the drinks served at the swim-up bars.
For dinner, La Casa is a top-tier Italian trattoria that serves delectable and authentic Tuscan meals, antipasto, and aperitivo to whet your appetite. Choose from a selection of fresh pizza, handmade pasta, and decadent desserts—you name it, they have it. Since we are at the bay, it only makes sense to have seafood for dinner, or better, barefoot by the beach. Decked out in fairy lights, the al-fresco seafood diner offers fresh “fruits from the sea” and a breathtaking view of the full moon rising as it’s strategically located on the East Coast. End the day with a nightcap at the American Bar, where you can play snooker or game consoles as you sip on some local craft beer. If you prefer to take things down a notch or two, the patio over grass and under the stars is an ideal option.
Alma also offers experiential workshops such as cooking classes or farm tours. Did I mention that they grow their own greens, herbs, fruits and chickens on-site? From farm to plate and vice versa, the harvest goes straight to the restaurant and food waste from the kitchens is used as compost. If you wish to go on a half-day city tour to Nha Trang which is 40 minutes away or a look-see around the Cam Ranh city centre—I highly recommend checking out the local farmer’s market for a sensorial delight—do check with the reception for available packages or book a tour with Zazen Travel at zazentravel.com.