Contrary to popular belief, Hong Kong is more than just a city with hundreds of towering skyscrapers. In reality, it is made up of more than 200 islands, country parks, hiking trails, beaches and waterfalls…most of them located no more than an hour away from the CBD! There are plenty of incredible things to do for first-time visitors to Hong Kong, and also unique and offbeat things to do in Hong Kong that probably aren’t in your guidebook. Not venturing off the beaten track and only seeing the most popular attractions is one of the biggest travel mistakes you can make in Hong Kong.
If you’re looking to add even more things to do to your Hong Kong itinerary and truly want to get off the beaten track, read on for 12 fantastic Hong Kong day trips that don’t involve too much hassle and travel time! But first, a quick refresher on basic Hong Kong travel tips!
Quick tips for visiting Hong Kong
- The local currency is the Hong Kong dollar. Most places accept Visa or Mastercard, and 40-50% of places will also accept American Express. There are tons of ATM machines around Hong Kong, just make sure you’ve enabled international withdrawal or your card has the “Plus” or “Cirrus” logo on the back.
- Hong Kong gets 4 seasons! It is not a year-round tropical country as many people seem to believe. Summers are HOT and it gets fairly cold during the winter months (December to February). The best time to visit Hong Kong is from March to early June, and September to November (but avoid the 1st week of October). If you want to head to one of Hong Kong’s beaches then aim to visit from about May to October – the weather will still be warm.
- The main language spoken in Hong Kong is Cantonese, a local dialect. Many people speak English (or at least basic English), and almost all signs are bilingual.
- Public transportation is efficient, cheap and clean, and the network is very extensive. Taxis are cheap and easy to hail down, though you may struggle at 4-5 PM when drivers change shifts.
- One of the first things you have to do when you arrive in Hong Kong is get an Octopus card. It is a stored value card that works on all public transportation (but not in taxis). You can purchase your tourist Octopus card in advance here – pick it up from the airport when you arrive, and it comes with HK$50 already pre-loaded! If you’re planning on traveling to Hong Kong again at some point, just hang onto the card for your next trip.
- The best way to get to and from the airport is via the Airport Express train which will take you to the CBD in 24 minutes. Want 30% off your Airport Express ticket? Buy your ticket ahead of time online here! Once you’ve purchased your ticket online, you can use the QR code that they send you to swipe through the special gates equipped with the QR reader.
- Look into hotels and apartments in Central, Soho, Wan Chai, Sheung Wan and Causeway Bay – these neighborhoods offer easy access to public transportation and there are plenty of restaurant options nearby! Click here to book accommodation in Hong Kong.
For a full list of things to know before your trip to Hong Kong, head on over here!
1. Cheung Chau Island
Cheung Chau is an easy 30-minute ferry ride away from Hong Kong island and is one of the most popular Hong Kong day trips. Rich in pirate tales, the island is a quiet escape where fishing boats bob in the harbour and seafood restaurants line the promenade. Head here to check out one of the easy hiking trails, try your hand at windsurfing or simply lie on the long sandy beach.
The ferry to Cheung Chau leaves from Central Pier 5 and the journey takes about 30 minutes if you hop on a fast ferry, and an hour if you get on a slow one. The ferry schedule is available here.
2. Sharp Island
Sharp Island is a fantastic place to head for geology fans as it is located within Hong Kong’s UNESCO Global Geopark and home to geological spectacles created 140 million years ago. During low tide, you can walk across the tombolo, but make sure you check the tidal levels as you might end up stranded on the other side if the tide rises!
To get there head to Sai Kung ferry pier from Diamond Hill MTR station. Bus 92 will take you to Sai Kung Town, and there are plenty of ferry operators who travel to Sharp Island; the ride takes about 15-20 minutes.
3. Lamma Island
Lamma Island is home for many Hong Kongers who don’t live on Hong Kong island and is laid-back with a village-feel to it. There are many hiking trails, small beaches and restaurants if you’re looking for a chill weekend spot. Don’t miss out on the tofu dessert on the way over to the power station! More Lamma tips and recommendations here.
The ferries to Lamma leave from pier 4 in Central – you can either head to the main pier at Yung Shue Wan or to the smaller pier at Sok Kwu Wan.
4. Tai Long Wan / Sheung Luk Stream
This is probably my favorite Hong Kong day trip destination for when the weather is warm and sunny. Tai Long Wan means “big wave bay” in Cantonese and occasionally offers some swell for beginner to intermediate surfers. Most of the time, it is a calm sand-bottom bay that offers clean sand and some small restaurants.
But the best part is Sheung Luk Stream consecutive pools – one of the most accessible waterfalls in Hong Kong. Tucked away in the jungle behind Tai Long Wan, Sheung Luk Stream is best visited after Hong Kong has experienced rain in the second half of the year. The water is more likely to be clear/turquoise during this time with running streams. You can jump from the top but I would very much advise against it, as the water levels vary throughout the year and many accidents have happened here.
To get to Tai Long Wan you have a few options. Take the MTR to Diamond Hill and then either 1) hop in a taxi to go to “Sai Wan Ting” followed by a 1 hour flat hike to the beach (take the path on the right from the pavilion), or 2) hop on bus 92 to Sai Kung Town followed by a small boat to Tai Long Wan.
To get to Sheung Luk Stream follow the paved path that runs along the backside of Tai Long Wan beach. When you get to a small concrete bridge don’t cross it, instead keep left and go through the jungle. There are no trash bins here so remember to take your rubbish with you when you leave!
5. Twin Peaks hike
The challenging Twin Peaks hike (AKA Wilson Trail) will take you from Park View to Stanley and is one of the best Hong Kong day trips for active travelers. There are some seriously steep sections where you walk uphill for what feels like forever, but once you get to the bottom after 2-3 hours you’ll end up in Stanley where you can grab a beer and some lunch.
To get to the starting point hop in a taxi and ask the driver to take you to “Yeung Ming San Zong”. More details here.
Like Hong Kong, Macau was handed back over to China in the late 1990s and was once a Portuguese colony. Today, it is home to dozens of casinos and is known as the “Vegas of the East”. It is an easy 1 hour ferry ride away from Hong Kong and you can either stop by for the day or spend a night at one of the hotels.
During your Macau day trip, don’t skip the ruins of St. Paul’s Church, Senado Square, Mount Fortress or even bungee jump off Macau Tower. If you’re staying overnight, make sure you check out the spectacular House of Dancing Water show. You can get 10-15% off your House of Dancing Water show tickets – book online here!
You can get to the Macau ferry terminal by heading to Sheung Wan MTR exit D, and ferries run every hour or so to either Taipa (where most of the newer hotels including the Venetian and City of Dreams are located), or Macau Outer Harbor which is where the historic centre is located. Getting between the two is easy – there are shuttles or you can hop in a taxi. Click here to get approx. 25% off your Hong Kong to Macau Outer Harbor tickets or click here for here for your Hong Kong to Taipa ferry tickets!
Remember: Macau is a “Special Administrative Region” which means you will need to bring your passport/travel documents if you are traveling to Macau from Hong Kong. Click here to see if you hold a passport from a visa exempt country.
7. Infinity Pool / Tai O
Photo credit: falco / Pixabay
Tai O is Hong Kong’s “Venice” as the fishing village is on stilts! It is a popular Lantau Island day trip destination and is small, but has managed to maintain its charm with mountains in the back and the ocean in front. If you are visiting the Big Buddha, then it is a short bus or taxi ride away. The market is filled with dried seafood and other knick knacks, and there are plenty of cha chaan teng (diners) where you can grab lunch.
To get to the infinity pool head towards the pier and cross the bridge on the left. Keep walking for another hour or so and you’ll find yourself at the picturesque Man Cheung Po Infinity Pool.
You can read the hiking directions here, but make sure you do not go swimming in the pool as it supplies fresh water for the neighboring villages.
8. Suicide Cliff
Another popular hiking trail, Suicide Cliff is named for its dramatic plunging cliffs. The entire trek will take you just over 2.5-3 hours, and offers panoramic views, but make sure you don’t venture too close to the edge as it is dangerous and accidents have happened here!
9. The Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery
The Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is a Buddhist temple complex located in Sha Tin. If you’re looking for a unique place to visit in Hong Kong and want a cultural travel experience, head to this monastery to visit the temple and one-of-a-kind golden statues (some of which are downright creepy). Plan to spend an hour or so at this temple.
You’ll need to walk 400-or so steps to get up to the temple, but it’s surrounded by jungle (and monkeys) which is downright lovely on a hot day. Because it’s one of the lesser-known Hong Kong day trips it tends to be free of crowds!
10. Dragon’s Back
Probably the most popular of all the hiking trails in Hong Kong, Dragon’s Back is a beginner friendly hike that offers beautiful views without the struggle. Most of the trail is exposed so you’ll want to bring a hat, water and sunscreen. It should only take you 2-3 hours to get to the end of the trail at Big Wave Bay in Shek O (not to be confused with Tai Long Wan in Sai Kung). The best time of year to do this hike is during the autumn months, when it is still sunny but much less humid and stuffy.
11. Shek O Beach and Back Beach
Shek O Village is only 45 minutes away from the CBD but feels like a whole other world. The village is chock full of colourful little houses and buildings, quirky eateries and offers two beaches – the main beach and the dog-friendly back beach.
If you’re looking for a relaxed Hong Kong beach day then head to Shek O Beach or South Bay (instead of Repulse Bay Beach which can get extremely crowded).
12. Dolphin watching around Lantau
Wildlife lovers will appreciate the rare opportunity to see pink dolphins around Hong Kong. Going on a pink dolphin watching tour is one of the most unique things to do in Hong Kong, but make sure you choose a responsible operator that doesn’t further endanger the wellbeing and survival of these creatures.
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