Known for its skyscrapers, Hong Kong can be overlooked by travellers thanks to its reputation as a bustling city. However, little do people know, almost 70 percent of the region is made of idyllic beaches, marine parks, nature reserves and countless natural wonders.
Cosmopolitan city life with the countryside and seaside on the doorstep: what more could you ask for? In Hong Kong, the kaleidoscope of possibility is vast; the compact nature of the city meaning you’re never far from the next awesome attraction, and only ever around 30 minutes from the great outdoors. Here we explore some of the greatest hits of Hong Kong outside the city, from stunning trails to geological wonders, golden beaches to glorious waterfalls.
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The Siu Sai Wan to Shek O trail
The moderate 4.5mi (7km) Siu Sai Wan to Shek O hike hugs the rugged shoreline of Hong Kong Island and immerses you in various multi-sensory nature experiences along the way. The route begins on the infinitely cool-sounding Leaping Dragon Walk, which you join from Siu Sai Wan Promenade before setting off uphill into the lush greenery. Follow the birdsong to Pottinger Peak View Compass, a scenic outlook that rewards hikers with outstanding views of the South China Sea and out to the island of Tung Lung Chau. Head back downhill to Big Wave Bay to the percussive accompaniment of the crashing waves, past prehistoric cave drawings, and finally down to Shek O Beach for a little post-hike R&R.
Take it slow in Shek O
For a chilled weekend of barbecuing and beaches, you can’t go wrong with the Shek O region in the southeast of Hong Kong Island. Shek O Beach is the headline act here, but those in the know head to the less-busy Back Beach and Ben’s Back Beach Bar. Try saying that after a session at Ben’s. If you need to refuel, you’re in luck: Shek O is home to a wealth of Thai, Chinese and Mediterranean food. And all just a 25-minute taxi ride from Central.
Walk the MacLehose Trail to the hidden Long Ke Wan beach
Hong Kong has many more beaches than you might think: one of the most beautiful is Long Ke Wan. Clear waters, relatively few people and proximity to a geosite in the Hong Kong Unesco Global Geopark (which has rare hexagonal rock formations) make it a must-visit. You have to walk to get there – but that’s all part of the adventure. You can either take a sedate 1mi (1.5km) stroll through the park on a short stretch of the MacLehose Trail – the full route is a gruelling but staggering 100km (62mi) hike up and down some of the highest peaks in Hong Kong – or make a day of it with the 11km (7mi) trek from Pak Tam Chung. You can camp near the beach at Long Ke Wan Campsite (limited numbers) – it’s well worth doing as the sunrise and early morning swimming here offer the best possible start to the day.
Step into history in the Hakka village of Lai Chi Wo
The bewitching village of Lai Chi Wo is steeped in history and surrounded by the woodlands, wetlands and mangrove forest of the nearby New Territories. The walled village is one of the oldest, largest and best-preserved rural settlements in Hong Kong, with centuries-old hillside houses, some of which have been converted into stores, stalls and visitor centres. On weekends, these stalls sell traditional Hakka food, from chicken congee to preserved radishes, and visitors can explore this deep heritage further through exhibitions at the Lai Chi Wo Cultural Hub. Not to be missed is a wander through the adjacent woodland, where gnarled ancient trees twist through the green canopy, and white flowering vines helix through spiny branches and across the ground.
Climb the Ng Tung Chai waterfalls
This 7km (4.5mi) hike is not an easy one, so you’ll need to be fit and well prepared to take it on. But the four Ng Tung Chai waterfalls – Bottom, Middle, Main and Scatter – you’ll experience along the trail are well worth the three-to-four-hour effort. The quartet sit among the foothills of the tallest peak in Hong Kong – the 957m (3140ft) high Tai Mo Shan – and there are idiosyncrasies to each that make the full hike worthwhile: the heavy forest of Bottom, the rhythm of Middle, the butterflies of Main and the flowers of Scatter.
Set sail for Lamma Island
Swap the city bustle for the tranquil magic of a traditional fishing village with a visit to Lamma Island. A 30-minute ferry ride will take you from Central Pier No.4 to Yung Shue Wan, where you’ll disembark and begin a 5km (3mi) cross-island hike. Your journey will be punctuated by such highlights as a swim at Hung Shing Yeh Beach and a terrific meal at the Sok Kwu Wan village. Here you’ll see fishing traditions in action – fish-farm rafts bobbing in the bay – as you enjoy fresh fish, squid and shrimp.
Explore the Sai Kung islands on a Geopark Boat Tour
Geography teachers across the world struggle to persuade students that coastal erosion and rocks are worthy of much more than a yawn. Except, perhaps, those that do their teaching in the Hong Kong Unesco Global Geopark. Here, the sands of time (and a supervolcano) have achieved some remarkable feats: sea stacks, hexagonal volcanic rock columns, tubular rocks, sea caves… Mother Nature has been more than a little extravagant across the Sai Kung peninsula islands. Man has helped by giving the geological marvels cool names including Elephant Trunk Cave and the Bell-Shaped Arch. A Geopark Boat Tour, during which you’ll see the likes of Kau Sai Chau, High Island and Sharp Island, will take about three hours.
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