UPDATE: FOR AN UP TO DATE LISTING AND REVIEWS OF CON DAO ISLAND HOTELS, VISIT THE CON DAO ISLAND PAGES OF RUSTY COMPASS HERE.
Happily though, while Con Dao Island's accommodations are simple and small, they're more than adequate and they provide a very nice base for exploration of an island that is certain to be deluged with travellers in the years ahead. There are four hotel options. None are flash but they're comfortable and very good value for money in the context of the views and access to the island they offer.
I recommend the villas that are the high end rooms at the ATC Villas Hotel. These are old French colonial era residences that have been refurbished without creating creating too much havoc. They're large - with two bedrooms and a living room and are available for around 100USD per night.
At the budget end of the range, there are lots of rooms available in the 35USD to 50USD range that are very good value for money.
All of the hotels on the island are well located with good access to the beach. If you want to be right on a swimmable beach, you'll need to stay at the Con Dao Seatravel Resort or the Con Dao Resort both of which share the same deserted white sandy beach.
Saigon Con Dao
The best known hotel on Con Dao Island is the Saigon Con Dao Resort. It's probably the largest building on the island and it presents as an international hotel - until you step inside. Saigon Con Dao Resort is owned by government travel behemoth Saigon Tourist from Ho Chi Minh City. Saigon Tourist has made a name for itself across Vietnam turning beautiful locations and architecture into awful hotels. Its work on Con Dao is especially shocking. In an act of staggering cultural vandalism, the hotel overshadows and obscures the main heritage prison complex that is the island's main historical asset and tourist attraction - picture a hotel complex blocking the view of Alcatraz or a nasty construction in the middle of Tasmania's Port Arthur ruins and you'll get the picture. Only in this case, historians might argued that this hallowed prison was the incubator for Vietnam's Communist revolution. Almost the entire cast of revolutionary leaders that conquered the French and then later the US backed South Vietnamese regime did some time in the former French run prison.
The Saigon Con Dao Resort has two complexes. One is brand new - the "international" standard property. Across the road is the second complex with cheaper, more basic and more appealing rooms that are part of the old French settlement.
The new building is bog standard Saigon Tourist - comfortably bland and devoid of imagination. While beautiful water views, an open pavilion and a very pleasing pool briefly create an illusion of quality, this is quickly dispelled after a few moments inside the premises. Staff are disinterested.
Rooms in the new wing are from around 45USD - 55USD for the superior room and around 75USD to 85USD for the "suites". This hotel is reasonably priced and is comfortable. Its big problem is its impact on Con Dao's heritage story and its cheap development of one of Vietnam's most beautiful coastal strips.
The cheaper French era rooms in the old block are a better option. Their renovation some years ago was also unimaginative but the garden and the views are nice and the old building still has some charm despite the best efforts of Saigon Tourist. And the price is right at around 40USD.
Saigon Con Dao Facilities Brief - Cable TV, pool, air conditioning, free wifi, bay views. No beach swimming (a few hundred metres away).
Pricing - Old wing rooms from 35USD. New building rooms between 55USD and 85USD
ATC Villas have been around since the nineties though some of the villas themselves date back to the French occupation of the island. Room rates range from around 35USD for simple modernish Vietnam kitsch villas with seaviews to 100USD plus for a renovated French era villa apartment with 2 bedrooms a dining room and kitchen - perfect for a family or a group. The apartments are the pick of the island - they're comfortable, minimally decorated and they have a great old world atmosphere with views.
Restaurant food is good though the service, while very friendly, is patchy. ATC is located right in the middle of town and overlooks the bay. It doesn't have a pool and an ocean swim is a couple of hundred metres away.
Prices at ATC villas seem somewhat hard to ascertain. If you call them you'll get better rates than they list on their website (I suspect this depends on the season). They also offer lower rates to Vietnamese travellers.
ATC Villas Facilities Brief - Cable TV, air conditioning, free wifi, bay views - no pool, no beach swimming (a few hundred metres away).
Pricing. Basic villas from 35USD French era villas (2 bedrooms) from 80USD
Con Dao Resort
Con Dao Resort is positioned on a beautiful stretch of white sand beach a few hundred metres outside the centre of the small main settlement on Con Dao Island. It is the same bland formulaic medium size hotel that you'll find throughout Vietnam but its location and views are lovely. Its rooms are well priced and adequate and the staff are friendly and helpful.
Con Dao Resort Facilities Brief - Cable TV, air conditioning, free wifi, bay views, pool, beach swimming.
Pricing. The hotel has a mesmerising range of categories. Keep it simple and go with a beach view room at 55USD or a rear room at 45USD.
Con Dao Seatravel Hotel
This is the newest hotel on Con Dao owned by a young local couple. They've built six bungalows on the same beautiful stretch of beach as the Con Dao Resort. It's small in scale and very cosy - with some unfortunate decorative choices. Still, a very appealing Con Dao option and one that imposes minimally on the beach.
Con Dao Sea Travel Resort Facilities Brief - Cable TV, air conditioning, free wifi, bay views, beach swimming. No pool - but you don't need one with a beach like this!
Pricing - All rooms 50USD including breakfast.
SAIGON CONDAO RESORT :
Add: 18-24 Ton Duc Thang - Condao commune, Ba Ria Vung Tau province.
Tel: (84-64) 3830 155 / 38330 336 / 3830 345
Fax: (84-64) 3830 567
Add: 16B Ton Duc Thang, Ba Ria Vung Tau.
Tel: (84- 64) 3830 666
Fax: (84-64) 3830 111.
CON DAO RESORT:
Add: 8 Nguyen Duc Thuan, Con Dao, Ba Ria Vung Tau.
Tel: 84 64 3830939
Fax: 84 64 3830949
CONDAO SEA TRAVEL RESORT
Add: 6 Nguyen Duc Thuan, Con Dao commune, Ba Ria Vung Tau
Tel: 84-64 3630 768
Fax: 84-64 3630 758