Do not confuse Hoi An with Hanoi. The name looks the same, but they are very different. A friend of mine is honeymooning in Vietnam over the holidays and I just sent her a massive email about Hoi An. It was the best place I went in Vietnam. You fly into the Da Nang airport and Hoi An is a very cheap 30 minute cab ride from there.
I love Hoi An so much because it has everything that I want in a vacation destination: cool town, great beach and the best food ever. It also helps that everything is super cheap.
Hoi An somehow escaped the war, so the town is made up of these beautiful, old French colonial buildings with colorful lanterns strewn across the streets. It's insane how pretty it is.
You can either stay in town or at the beach. It really doesn't matter which you choose because they are about a 10 minute cab ride from each other. We stayed in town and paid a $15 resort fee to hang out at some fancy beach resort during the day when we wanted some beach time.
The street food is unbelievable. The two major things that you will find in Hoi An that you will probably not find anywhere else is cau lau and white rose dumplings. Cau lau is very similar to pho and white rose dumplings are very delicate shrimp dumplings. They are both amazing. Hoi An also had the best bahn mi and ban xeo we had in all of Vietnam.
One more thing to look out for in Hoi An are the tailors. We were totally unprepared for this. If you want anything custom made, bring a picture with you and they can make it in 24 hours. Jason got 2 suits, 2 sport coats, a bunch of shirts and I got some dresses for literally next to nothing. Don't let them take advantage of you and barter with them. It can be a little overwhelming, so if you don't feel like dealing with it don't do it.
The Life Heritage - This is where we stayed in town. Definitely the nicest place in town and in a great location.
Victoria Hoi An Beach Resort - We hung out here during the day a couple times. Nice beach and hotel. Didn't see the rooms, but some friends of mine stayed here and liked it.
The Nam Hai - Definitely going to check this place out the next time we go. Supposed to be amazing.
Thin Nahn - Best meal we ate that was not off the street. Total local place near the beach. We had 7 courses of the best seafood and 6 beers for $15 per person. The whole fried tamarind crab, prawns with fried garlic and bbq squid were off the charts delicious.
Bahn Mi lady - You can't miss her in the center of the market. Here is a clip of Bourdain getting cau lau at the market and a bahn mi from my favorite lady:
Cau lau and white rose dumplings - Anywhere
Bale Well - Best bahn xeo is Hoi An. Down a narrow side street. Kinda hard to find, but worth it.
Ha An Hotel - Cute little hotel in town that serves great, classic Hoi An dishes. Super cheap and was nice to get our street food favorites in a sit down environment.