The human occupation of Halong Bay can be divided into three distinct cultures who lived in the area over three different periods of time.
The earliest culture were the Soi Nhu people who lived in the area between 18,000 to 7,000 years BC and are believed to have sustained themselves picking fruit and collecting shellfish.
The Cai Beo culture existed in the area 7,000 to 5000 years BC and built on the existing methods of hunting and collecting with methods of marine exploitation.
After the marine transgression, which saw many of the Cai Beo migrate to the north-east area of the region, the Ha Long Culture began to form. During this time, between 4,500 to 3,500 years BC that the people relied on hunting, foraging and cultivation using hand-crafted tools to aid them.
Ha Long Bay's location on the trade route between Vietnam and China, Japan and Thailand, meant that it has been an influential area throughout time. During the 12th century, the region became home to the first trading port in Vietnam, Don Van Port. In more recent history, Ha Long and the surrounding bays have played a crucial part in defending Vietnam from invaders. The bay has fended off numerous invasions from the Chinese, advancing from the north. The US Navy also ped many mines in the area during the long and bloody Vietnam-American War some of which still lie undiscovered in the water. The remains from the war can still be seen in some relics which survived the fighting such as the deeply atmospheric Hospital cave on Cat Ba Island.