Make the most of a visit to the 852 by checking out these sister cities and nearby attractions. The skyscrapers will be there when you get back, so head to the outlying islands for a tropical escape, or to mainland China for unbeatable shopping. There’s so much more to Hong Kong than a skyline – discover it for yourself with these easy outings.
Hong Kong is one of the most connected cities in the world. As any resident will tell you, it’s perfectly situated for quick, weekend trips around Asia. But if you don’t have a full 48 hours to spare, consider taking a day trip. In under two hours, you could be lounging on the beach, strolling through a Ming Dynasty garden or winning big at a Macanese casino. And the best part is, you can be back in Lan Kwai Fong for happy hour.
The most well-known day trip from Hong Kong is Macau. Our “sister SAR” has it all: Michelin-star restaurants, world-class entertainment, UNESCO heritage sites, a Grand Prix racetrack and street food galore (pork buns and Portuguese egg tarts are must-tries while in town). And if you fancy yourself a poker pro or a slot machine master, you’re in luck. Macau is the world’s gambling capital, taking in more casino revenue than even Las Vegas. Booking a tour will get you a full day in this historic city, including hotel pick-up, a boat ride and a local guide.
Get in touch with your spiritual side on Lantau Island, home of the Tian Tian Buddha. Known simply as the “Big Buddha”, this gigantic statue sits above the Po Lin monastery, where monks still live and study. You can visit the monastery to learn more about Buddhism before climbing up the stairs to the statue. The best way to get here is the glass-bottomed Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car, which offers a 360-degree view of Lantau and the South China Sea below. The monks often sell wooden bracelets near the Big Buddha, which make a nice souvenir.
Despite being just two hours from Hong Kong, tourists often skip Guangzhou. But China’s third-largest city has a lot to offer. If you’re only visiting Hong Kong for a few days, it’s worth booking a tour, as they’ll arrange your visa and round-trip transportation. So, really, all you need to do is show up and explore the blend of new and traditional architecture, visit pandas at Shenzhen Safari Park and see some of the famous Xi’an Terracotta Warriors.
Yim Tin Tsai is an abandoned island off the coast of Sai Kung. In the 1700s, it was home to a family of salt farmers. But their industry collapsed in the 1960s, and by 1990 the entire island was deserted. The families left their homes intact, leaving behind everyday items like bowls, radios and furniture, and creating an accidental time capsule. While it may have a slightly creepy vibe, it’s perfectly safe. There’s also a Romanesque chapel and a Village Heritage Exhibition to check out. Ferries run from Sai Kung, but don’t miss the last one back!
If you’re craving a beach day, you’re in luck. In Hong Kong, pristine beaches and azure-blue waters are just a ferry ride away. The Sai Kung peninsula is a wonderland for nature lovers, whether you’re keen to kayak, swim or explore the trails. Hike up the mountains to find postcard-perfect views, and then cool off in a waterfall pool, or explore the area’s distinct geology. Tours are available and easy to customise for your group – you can even rent a speedboat to whisk you away to the most remote spots, no hiking required.
Another island option for beach lovers is Lamma. This is Hong Kong’s “hippy” neighbourhood, known for barefoot children, seafood and expats who never leave. All the paths here are paved and suitable for most fitness levels, so you can hike out to the better beaches, like Shek Pai Wan. If you have time before your ferry, pop into the locally run boutique shops for an unusual souvenir. There are no cars on the island, and it’s a great place to bring kids.
Junk boats are all-day charters that dominate the social scene throughout spring and summer. You can plan your own or join someone else’s (keep an eye on Meetup.com if you’re visiting alone), just remember to bring plenty of sunscreen and water. Then, spend the day floating in the clear waters of Hong Kong’s most remote islands. If you’re feeling brave, take a leap off the top deck. Check out Hong Kong Junks or Junks.hk to start planning yours, or grab a seat on the Aqua Luna that does regular cruises around Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s famous skyline often overshadows its equally impressive geology. Spend the day exploring this unusual UNESCO site, where you’ll learn about the area’s volcanic origins and see the unique hexagonal rock formations that make it so interesting. Sharp Island is a great place to start exploring. Go at low tide to see the “pineapple bun” rocks, pieces of weathered quartz monzonite that look like a Hong Kong snack. You don’t need to be a geologist to appreciate this one, trust us.
Swap the tourist trail for a hiking trail with a visit to Tai Mo Shan, Hong Kong’s highest peak. You’ll pass the four stunning Ng Tung Chai waterfalls en route, each more picturesque than the last. Though the hike is tough, this area is popular year-round, and you can always dip into the waterfall pools to cool off.
Don’t be deterred by the crowds, Dragon’s Back is known as Asia’s best urban hike for a reason. Besides being one of the easier trails to find, it rewards hikers with beautiful views and a beach finale. The first thirty minutes are the hardest, as it’s basically a non-stop climb up stone steps. But from there, the ground evens out and you can enjoy the view over the Ninepin Islands, Shek O and the Red Hill peninsula. The trail finishes at Big Wave Bay beach, a perfect spot to reward the morning’s work with a few beers ice-cold beers.
Right across the border lies Shenzhen, the undisputed shopping capital of China. Lose yourself across the five floors of the infamous Lo Wu Commercial Shopping Plaza, where haggling is expected (start at 50% of the asking price). Then, take in a totally different side to the city at Lizhi Park, a tranquil oasis with lakes, pavilions and beautiful bridges. For even more relaxation, book into a 24-hour spa.
To find out why Cheung Chau is a local favourite, just hop on a ferry. A day is all you need on this small yet fascinating island where you’ll find a vibrant market, colourful fishing villages and beautiful beaches. Pak Tai Temple is over two centuries old and honours the Taoist god of the sea with Qing and Song Dynasty artworks. Cheung Chau is also a foodie’s paradise, so bring an appetite and make sure to sample the fishballs and the famous mango mochi before you go.
If you want to see China but don’t have the time for a full trip, Shunde is an excellent option. Just a few hours away by coach or train, this lesser known district is known as a culinary destination and was named gourmet capital of the world by UNESCO in 2014. Huagai Road is the place to go to sample all their best street food. If you’re in the market for some new furnishings, Lecong Furniture City is the largest market of its kind, selling over 20,000 types of furniture. Trains leave from West Kowloon station.
Boats, seafood, stilt houses and pink dolphins – Tai O pretty much has it all. Tucked into a quiet corner of Lantau Island, Tai O is home to Hong Kong’s Tanka people, or boat people. For the last few generations, the Tanka have built their unique homes above the tidal flats. Wander through their striking village, sample the seafood and take a boat tour. You might even see a rare Chinese pink dolphin. You can tack this on to your Big Buddha visit, or make a special trip on the MTR – it’s about an hour from Central.