Known as Cap St-Jacques during colonial times, Vung Tau was a popular beach resort for the French and later, during the Vietnam War, it became a major United States and Australian army base. The area was later taken over by the Soviet Union as a concession for helping Hanoi win the war. The Soviets used the Vung Tau port as a navy base and drilled for oil off the coast. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, many Russians left, although Vung Tau is still home to many, who are mostly still involved in the area's oil industry.
Vung Tau is an easy getaway from Ho Chi Minh City, although not as popular as the resort town of Mui Ne farther along the coast. Tourism amenities are aimed at domestic tourists, who have a different set of expectations from international visitors. Vung Tau's quirkiness, rather than its beaches, makes it an interesting place to visit.
The city, which has made its fortune from the oil industry, is a good base for exploring the beaches along the coast: Long Hai and Ho Tram.