Admittedly not the best beach in Vietnam--that title belongs to the beaches on the list and interactive map--Back Beach is the place to go for some much needed sun and surf.
And as someone who has never been spoiled for choice, I feel particularly blessed to live 10 minutes away from swimmable saltwater. People used to the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, or Indonesia may want to pass on Vung Tau. But someone who has recollections of wicked undertows, hypothermia inducing temperatures (even in summer), and the lurking fear of great white sharks under the opaque surf, welcome to paradise.
Let the beach do its magic on you. The sun and waves and wind may not dominate an already crowded head space, but slowly I notice a pleasant effect on how I notice time passing. The sounds of the beach wash away the regular noise that makes up a regular day. The gritty sand softens my skin. The smell of the salt is a mild tranquilizer. A late morning at the beach sets the rest of the day right.
Mostly crowded with city slickers from Ho Chi Minh City, I've seen on-line reviews of Back Beach complaining about garbage left on the sand and even plastic bags floating in the water. I have personally seen remnants of picnics and it is unfortunate but not a deal breaker for me.
Though Back Beach is crowded on the weekends with out-of-towners, locals wish to enjoy the beach while avoiding the browning of the afternoon sun. They opt to visit the beach in pre-dawn or in the early evenings. There is a lot of activity and general fun at the beach at those times of day. I have not visited the beach much then. In the future I will just to photograph the festival-like atmosphere. Personally I much prefer tanning on my days off during the week when it is quiet and I feel that I have a large stretch of beach to myself.
I was told to avoid Back Beach because of water pollution. On the other side of the peninsula, off shore, are platforms drilling for oil. Still, I see no evidence of oil washing up on Back Beach. I do see brown-jellied discs in the waves. Could those be drops of oil? Well, they do not stick together. When I pick them up, they do not break apart. The surf doesn't carry them in clumps onto the beach leaving a slick layer. I figure they are a type of jellyfish. I have seen the mature version of them wash up on the beach. They most certainly become food for the colonies of crabs that peek out of their sand caves when they think that I am not watching.
Sometimes those jellyfish are quite big but I am also reminded that if the water was really polluted with industrial waste or crude oil, I would expect to see all kinds of sea life washing up dead on the shore from time to time. Besides for only a very few jellyfish, seashells and crab shells, I have see no other animal remains.
With miles of coastline and unmarked sections of beach named one thing of another, you should know that Back Beach is marked by the public square where the enormous Vietnamese flag flies.
Facing the sea, if you walk to the left you get to less populated sections of the beach where the restaurants and resorts are found. Sometimes you can get lunch there. It has a smaller draw because beach chairs and umbrellas cost slightly more, 100,000VND ($5 US) for two people compared to 40,000VND $2 USD).