Being optimists, generally, we really hate to trash any destination, but frankly, Vung Tao has very little going on for the Western visitor.
For beaches, both Mui Ne and Nha Trangto the northeast are far nicer, cleaner, and less polluted.
For sightseeing, Nha Trang, with its Yersin Museum and assorted other sites, beats it by a mile.
Vung Tao, formerly the French outpost of Cap St. Jacques, is mainly a spot for Saigon Vietnamese to escape the city.
Only two hours away by hydrofoil, its easy access allows Saigonese to get away quickly for a fast weekend.
Vung Tao has four main beaches:
Front Beach is home to the busy fishing fleet, and very few beachgoers brave the dusky waters here.
Back Beach resembles a squatters' camp more than any beach we've seen in SE Asia, with as much trash per square meter of sand as many garbage dumps we've seen.
Mulberry Beach to the north is small, and construction is on the shabby side.
To the south, Roches Noires Beach is primarily maroon and black rock along the seawall.
Although hosting several temples, none are especially noteworthy, or offer much of a reason to visit.
Probably the best thing Vung Tao has going for it is the morning fishing scene at Front Beach, where the catch comes in, fish are weighed and sold, and colorful boats are painted and repaired during low tide.
Vung Tao has only two non-beach attractions of note:
Entrance location: GPS N10°21.037' E107°04.066' Villa location: GPS N10°21.054' E107°04.126'
Bach Dinh, also known as the White Villa, was built for French governor Paul Doumer in 1909, later becoming a summer palace for Vietnamese royalty.
The exterior is French Colonial, and there is a mildly interesting exhibit of old Chinese porcelain recovered from a shipwreck.
There are several nice hillside cafes along the way, perfect for enjoying the cool ocean breezes beneath the frangipani trees.
Lighthouse Complex, atop Small Mountain. Road entrance on Ha Long Street, a few meters northeast of the Hydrofoil Pier.
Lighthouse location: GPS N10°20.041' E107°04.660'
A twisty 4 km road winds you to the top of Small Mountain, where a lighthouse built in 1910 stands guard over the cape.
The views are terrific, and the gun emplacements, overgrown by encroaching trees, make this an oddly endearing site.
On our visit, the road was under construction, accessible by 4-wheel vehicle or motorbike ($2 USD, from Ha Long street).
Getting to Vung Tao
Vung Tao is 125 km south of Saigon.
Daily planes and buses (two hours) arrive in Vung Tao, but many people prefer the Saigon-Vung Tao hydrofoil, which does the job in 1 hour 15 minutes at a price of 120,000 VND.
Hydrofoils run hourly from 6 am - 5 pm.
Saigon hydrofoil station: located at the end of Ham Nghi street, at GPS N10°46.250' E106°42.387'
Vung Tao hydrofoil station: located on Ha Long street, at GPS N10°20.366' E107°04.313'