Yok Don, located 45km north-west of Buon ma Thout, is Vietnam's largest national park covering 58,000 hectares. The park is home to many species of birds and animals, several of which are on the endangered species list. Almost 17 ethnic groups live in the surrounding area, the largest of which is the M'nong community.
You should be able to arrange tours to Yok Don National Park from Buon ma Thout and, if your finances will allow, book a 4 hour elephant ride through the forest.
Cat Ba is on a major migration route for ducks, geese and various types of shore birds so will be of interest to bird watchers. The park is also home to monkeys, deer, wild boar, squirrels, hedgehogs, and many species of birds. It's a good idea to hire a guide for the day, around $5 to $6, if you want to make the most of your visit.
This is Vietnam's first national park and one of its most important nature reserves. It was open in 1963 by Ho Chi Minh who said "Forest is Gold. If we know how to conserve it well, it will be very precious. Destruction of the forest will lead to serious effects on both life and productivity".
The park covers an area of 220 sq km and is home to a quite extraordinary collection of flora, fauna and wildlife. Cuc Phuong offers excellent hiking facilities especially in the months from October to March when the climate is at its best. One of the highlights your visit is likely to be the Endangered Primate Rescue Centre which is home to many species of gibbon and monkeys.
Cuc Phuong National Park is located about 45km from Ninh Binh. There is no public transport so you will have to arrange a tour or car in Nihn Binh.
Tam Coc consists of three caves between 40 and 170 metres long. If you take one of the rowing boats trips you can actually go inside the caves without leaving the boat. The trip takes about 3 hours including various stops along the way. Best way to get to Tam Coc is on a day trip from Ninh Binh which is only 10km away.
Hoa Lu was the capital of Vietnam from 968 to 1009 and you can visit the two temples, Dinh Tien Hoang and Le Dai Hanh. The former was restored in the 17th century and is dedicated to the Dinh Dynasty who ruled from 968 to 980. You can combine a visit to Hoa Lu with a trip to Kenh Ga Floating Village which is one of the best places in north Vietnam to see river life. Both are easily reached from nearby Ninh Binh.