Surveillance is the backbone of any response to an infectious disease outbreak, and comprehensive evaluation of surveillance systems is crucial. However, structured evaluations of surveillance systems during the COVID-19 pandemic are scarce. We conducted an after action review (AAR) of the performance of the COVID-19 surveillance system in Quang Ninh Province, Vietnam, during 2020 using the COVID-19-specific AAR methodology developed by the World Health Organization in combination with guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We conducted a stakeholder survey, document reviews, and key informant interviews with staff from Quang Ninh CDC's COVID-19 surveillance system. The COVID-19 surveillance system was based on the pre-existing surveillance system in the province. The system's strengths were early preparation for emergency response, strong governance and central coordination, and multidisciplinary collaboration. Stakeholders agreed that the system proved useful and adaptive to the fast-evolving COVID-19 situation but was weakened by overly complex systems, redundant administrative processes, unclear communication channels, and lack of resources. Overall, the surveillance systems in Quang Ninh province proved effective in containing COVID-19 and adaptive in a fast-changing epidemiological context. Several recommendations were made based on identified areas of concern that are of relevance for COVID-19 surveillance systems in Vietnam and similar settings.