Heaven at the beach is a deserted beach with a bamboo shack with cool drinks and nothing but the gently lapping small waves in the distance. So dream about… Jungle Beach.
About an hour’s drive from Nha Trang in south-central Vietnam, Jungle Beach is completely made of bamboo and natural materials, including three-story bamboo villas!
Jungle Beach is a wild and wonderful mix of sand paths, beach trees and bamboo hotel rooms facing eastward to a long quiet beach with towering Karst Mountains with that slightly unreal look of a lush forest and raw rock face just behind the resort. It even features a kid’s playground with a water slide made from natural materials!
Kids would love this place, too. There’s more than a touch of the Lord of the Rings “shire” about the place with the thatched roofs and odd-shaped windows and doors around the place. It just looks like a little adventure …
One of those places where you’d feel more comfortable wearing a sarong, bare feet and forgetting the world, Jungle Beach has hit the backpackers’/adventurers’ bucket list for Vietnam. Attracting both young and older guests from all over the world (and some Vietnamese), it’s remarkable for offering one of the best chill-out zones I’ve ever encountered in Vietnam.
Jungle Beach in Khanh Hoa Province, south-central Vietnam. Photo: Stivi Cooke
The unassuming entrance gives no hint of living in a garden atmosphere with as simple a set-up as it can be. The main guest house and reception area just down from the front gate also double as the main communal meal area with sandy paths winding around to the guest rooms.
The place had an extremely humble beginning. As Sylvio Lamarche, the owner, a big, tall, tanned and talkative Canadian who likes to walk around in a sarong, tells it, Jungle Beach grew from nothing more than a decade ago to something pretty big quickly:
“We had guests from day 1... At first we did day trips, with lunch and dinner at the beach, with a small fire on the beach... Then we had 3 tents, and one night we made a tipi (a North American Indian traditional house)… Then we had 3 guestrooms in the main house (and later) 3 more rooms in the longhouse… Then one day someone said, ‘Can we move the bed outside?’ In a few days, we had like 20 beds outside (then). At that time, we started building basic huts.”
It became known fast too, “We bought the land (2 pieces) in September and December 2001 … We were in Lonely Planet by March 2002.”
The property eventually went to 18 rooms, then the land was split up for personal reasons which left seven rooms, after which Sylvio and his band of local bamboo artisans have now finished 16 rooms with two more soon to be completed.
An extraordinary feat of bamboo architecture soon to be included is a three-story-high bamboo villa with a curved roof with views to the southern end of the beach and the mountainsides. Sylvio also has plans for a four-story restaurant (to see over the huts in front of it) facing the beach!
Two-story bamboo guest villa - Sylvio Lamarche is also building the only three-story bamboo guest house in Vietnam. Photo: Stivi Cooke
If you look back towards the beach from the shoreline, the resort fits in almost perfectly with its surroundings with not a single ugly Lego block structure in sight and looks exactly what it’s named – a jungle beach. The whole place seems to radiate a kind of peacefulness sorely lacking in a lot of Vietnam’s fancier beach resorts.
Although it seems rustic from the outside, most feature modern bathrooms, mosquito nets and outside deck chairs. The resort has Wi-Fi for the digital nomads but no TV in the rooms and no newspapers – there’s little here to remind the guest of the outside world. As Slyvio explained, “in the beginning there wasn’t much electricity around.”
Although it wasn’t intentionally designed as some kind of ‘nature resort,’ it does have that feel about it. “Jungle Beach developed its own soul and it just grew into what it is. I knew I wanted bamboo huts and I wasn’t into chemical lawns.”
Another intriguing feature is the lack of straight lines in much of the present hut designs – quirky odd-shaped windows, rounded doorways and one hut which looks like a crooked witch’s hat!
There are some trails to the surrounding hillsides although good shoes, water and planning are a must as the area is rugged; however, the views are stunning and the sunrise is unforgettable.
So if you are looking for something truly unique and special in Vietnamese tourism, get online, check it out and lie on a beach for a week. It is what you dream heaven should be, right?