A hike along one of the island’s many trails in the national park may be more appealing than a tour of the prison. Some trails, such as one heading straight north to Ong Dung Beach, are well marked and can be followed independently, while others, such as to Thanh Gia Mountain, the island’s highest peak at 577m, require the services of a guide. Birdwatchers might be lucky enough to spot rare species such as the Red-billed Tropicbird or the Pied Imperial Pigeon. Make sure to take plenty of water and food, as there is nothing available outside the town. The Con Dao National Park headquarters are located north of the town centre at 29 Vo Thi Sau, and have information about hiking trails – it’s also possible to hire a guide here.
It’s also quite tempting to rent a scooter for the day, particularly if the relentless traffic elsewhere in Vietnam has so far put you off the idea. The roads are virtually empty, even in the middle of the village, for most of the day. You basically have two options: heading north from Con Son Town, you’ll pass the Six Senses resort and the airport before reaching Dam Trau beach, located down a side-trail branching off to the west. Alternatively, it’s an easy journey south to Ca Map Cape, at which point you’ll swing northwest towards the small settlement of Ben Dam where most of the fishing boats dock. Its population is an interesting mix of mostly sailors and prostitutes.