Tai Long Wan in Sai Kung: A Guide to Hong Kong’s Secret Beaches
Tai Long Wan is a rugged crescent-shaped bay on the far northeast coast of Hong Kong in Sai Kung. Tai Long Wan means “big wave bay” in Cantonese and is one of handful of identically named beaches including one in Shek O and another on Lantau island. This one, however, offers a row of pristine white-sand beaches where you can swim, sunbathe or even surf when the conditions are right – the four beaches that make up Tai Long Wan include Sai Wan, Ham Tin, Tai Wan and Tung Wan which stretch across 3 kilometres of coast.
It’s one of my favourite day trip destinations and visitors often can’t believe that they’re still in Hong Kong – the lush mountain ranges could be a film backdrop for the next Jurassic Park flick, and the stunning bays are almost reminiscent of the powdery sand banks in the Maldives. Tai Long Wan falls within the Hong Kong UNESCO Geopark and is surrounded by unique volcanic and geological rock formations. Here’s what you need to know about visiting Tai Long Wan and its string of world-class beaches in Hong Kong.
How to get to Tai Long Wan in Sai Kung
To get to Tai Long Wan you have a boatload of options (pun intended), with most of the routes beginning in Choi Hung or Sai Kung town and ending at either Sai Wan Beach or Ham Tin Beach. There are a multitude of ways to get to Tai Long Wan, but here are a handful of the most popular and most direct options. If there are 4-5 of you traveling together it’s also possible to get a taxi from Hong Kong island directly to Sai Kung town to cut down on the line changes – the taxi can cost anywhere from HK$250-$350+ depending on traffic and where you are hopping on.
Whichever way you choose to get to Tai Long Wan, you should set aside 1.5-2 hours (at a minimum) in travel time each way if you are setting off from Hong Kong island, or a little less if you begin your journey in Kowloon.
1. MTR to Choi Hung – taxi to Sai Wan Pavilion – hike to Sai Wan Beach or continue onto Ham Tin Beach
Take the MTR (subway) to Choi Hung (on the green Kwun Tong line) and take exit A. Head to the taxi rank behind the bus terminal and catch a taxi to Sai Wan Pavilion (“Sai Wan Ting” in cantonese / 西灣亭) which will take approximately 45 minutes to an hour.
Once you have arrived at the pavilion, take the small path on the right hand side and walk just under an hour to Sai Wan Beach – the hike is mostly flat and downhill. If you want to venture on towards Ham Tin Beach you will need to trek for another hour or so, the first half of the trail between Sai Wan and Ham Tin is uphill, but once you make it to the summit it’s largely downhill with outrageously cool views.
I recommend booking your return journey via speedboat back to Sai Kung town (from Sai Wan or Ham Tin) as soon as you’ve arrived at the beach as boats fill up fast. You could head back the way you came from, but it’s so much easier and quicker to take the boat after a long hot day at the beach.
Note: There are other ways to get to Sai Wan Pavilion from Sai Kung town (the 29R minibus or a taxi), but this route allows you to bypass an additional stop in Sai Kung town. If you are traveling on a budget and not short on time you may want to consider taking bus 92 from Choi Hung MTR station to Sai Kung town, and then switching to a taxi or 29R minibus.
Pros: quicker and cost efficient if you’re traveling in a group; great way to get to Sai Wan beach on a clear day as there are some lovely views along the way; good option for people who love to hike.
Cons: still a lengthy journey, especially if your destination is Ham Tin Beach; taxis aren’t always willing to drive into the country park to Sai Wan Pavilion, and there is often traffic within the park which means you might be forced to hop off and start walking earlier than expected.
2. MTR to Choi Hung – minibus 1A to Sai Kung town – shared speedboat to Sai Wan Beach or Ham Tin Beach
Like your first option, make your way to Choi Hung station via the MTR. This time, take exit C2 and hop on the minibus (1A) to Sai Kung town which will take a little over 30 minutes if there is no traffic. Once you are in Sai Kung town, head to the waterfront where you will see a dozen stalls selling tickets to various destinations in and around Sai Kung Country Park – we often use Sang Kee or Ham Tin Tai Long Speedboat. The speedboat to Sai Wan will take 25 minutes or so, and the speedboat to Ham Tin takes closer to 35 minutes.
Speedboats fill up fast and run more regularly over the weekends and public holidays, so you can reserve a seat in advance by contacting these companies via Whatsapp or Facebook to pre-book your ticket. You can get in touch with Frankie from Sang Kee at +852 6330 6039 and Alison from Ham Tin Tai Long Speedboat at +852 6210 8776. Again, I recommend booking your return journey as soon as possible – you don’t want to be stuck without a boat home!
Pros: fairly direct way of getting to Tai Long Wan; minibuses are fast, run frequently and operate on weekdays as well; incredible views of the geological volcanic formations along the coast from the speedboats; minimal walking involved; you can take a speedboat directly to Ham Tin beach and bypass Sai Wan Beach entirely.
Cons: speedboats don’t run as regularly on weekdays or if the wind/swell is too strong; speedboat tickets are costly, especially if you are taking one both ways; ride can be quite rough and not suitable if you’re extremely prone to sea sickness.
3. MTR to Yau Ma Tei – minibus to Sai Kung town – speedboat to Sai Wan Beach or Ham Tin Beach
Take the MTR (subway) to Yau Ma Tei station (on the red Tsuen Wan line) and take exit A1 or A2. Head towards Dundas Street where you will find the Mong Kok to Sai Kung red minibus stop. Hop on this minibus and the ride to Sai Kung town will take 30 minutes or so – this minibus departs when it is full or when the driver feels like it, so you might have a slight wait during off-peak hours.
Once you have arrived in Sai Kung town head to the waterfront and hop on a speedboat (instructions as above).
Pros: the red minibus runs all day, every day; by stopping in Yau Ma Tei instead of Choi Hung you cut down on one line change if you are traveling from Hong Kong Island; incredible views of the geological volcanic formations along the coast from the speedboats; minimal walking involved; you can take a speedboat directly to Ham Tin beach and bypass Sai Wan Beach entirely.
Cons: departure times for the minibuses vary and can be busy on the weekends/public holidays; speedboats don’t run as regularly on weekdays or if the wind/swell is too strong; speedboat tickets are costly, especially if you are taking one both ways; ride can be quite rough and not suitable if you’re extremely prone to sea sickness.
4. MTR to Choi Hung – taxi to Pak Tam Au – hike 1.5 hours to Ham Tin Beach
Take the MTR to Choi Hung and then hop on a taxi to Pak Tam Au (北潭凹) inside the Sai Kung country park. The taxi will cost approximately HK$180-220 depending on traffic. Alternatively, you can also take the bus 94 from Sai Kung town to Pak Tam Au if you have time to stop in Sai Kung first.
From there, take the path to the right of the public toilets and walk for 1.5 hours (approximately 6 KM) towards Ham Tin Beach. This would be my route of choice if I’m heading to Ham Tin Beach or Tai Wan Beach on days when the speedboats are not operating. Most surfers also take this route when boats cannot run, but head all the way to Wong Shek Pier instead of Pak Tam Au, before hopping on a small speedboat (or “kaitou”) to Chek Keng Pier (HK$150-200 each way) and hiking the remainder of the way to Ham Tin Beach or Tai Wan Beach.
Note: Bus 96R also operates on weekends/public holidays and can take you from Diamond Hill MTR station straight to Pak Tam Au or Wong Shek Pier for under HK$20 per person.
Pros: you avoid the awkward single-lane road to Sai Wan Pavilion which often gets jammed on weekends and public holidays; the 6 KM walk is fairly leisurely and includes some steep uphill sections but is mostly downhill/flat and shaded; this hike tends to be much quieter than the Sai Wan Pavilion to Sai Wan Beach trail; you can head straight to Ham Tin Beach and bypass Sai Wan Beach; if you opt to take the bus 94 this route runs regularly throughout the week.
Cons: the hike is longer than the Sai Wan Pavilion to Sai Wan trail; can be cumbersome to walk back – I would recommend taking a speedboat back to Sai Kung if possible; elevation changes can be extreme, be aware of this when you’re planning the hike.
Plan your day at Tai Long Wan
Now that you know how to get to Tai Long Wan, it’s time to plan your perfect beach day! Here are some of my best tips for visiting Tai Long Wan in Sai Kung.
- It’s possible to travel between beaches on foot – the walk between Sai Wan and Ham Tin is paved and will take you anywhere from 30-45 minutes (steep uphill walk followed by mostly downhill). The path between Ham Tin Beach and Tai Wan Beach is much shorter and unpaved – the walk will take no more than 10-15 minutes (flat trail). If you venture even further east then the walk to Tung Wan will take you another 30 minutes on foot from Tai Wan Beach. That being said, I would not recommend trying to visit all four beaches in one day because of the long travel times involved getting to the country park in the first place. You’re better off picking one, maximum two beaches and making the most of your time there.
- Best time to visit Tai Long Wan – weekends and public holidays are popular times to visit Tai Long Wan, so expect huge crowds. If you’re able to, head to the Tai Long Wan beaches on a weekday instead. The best time of year to visit Tai Long Wan is between about late March to October when the weather is warmer and the seas tend to calmer (barring the occasional summer typhoon that comes through).
- What to bring to Tai Long Wan – plenty of cash as there are no ATMs once you leave Choi Hung/Sai Kung town and most beach shops and speedboat operators do not accept credit or debit cards; sunscreen; refillable water bottle; hat; proper walking shoes if you are hiking; swimsuit; flip flops; sunglasses. Once you have arrived at Sai Wan or Ham Tim Beach you can easily rent beach umbrellas or a tent to keep the sun off you. You should also bring a plastic or reusable shopping bag to take your trash away with you – the beaches are not gazetted and trash disposal is mostly left to the village residents, so the best thing you can do is to bring your rubbish back to the mainland with you for proper disposal.
- Things to do at Tai Long Wan – relax, hike between beaches, venture over to the rock pools and waterfall, swim, try your hand at surfing, try aerial yoga at the beach, sunbathe, camp, go SUPing or kayaking, relax (again)!
- Safety at Tai Long Wan – there can be strong currents at the beaches of Tai Long, and none of them are gazetted public beaches (which means no lifeguards are available). Do not swim out too far if you are not a confident swimmer, and keep your distance from the speedboats which can zip and charge into swimming areas to pick up and drop off beach-goers. Some hikes between beaches are exposed and offer little shade from the blistering sun, so ensure that you carry plenty of water and a hat to avoid heatstroke.
The beaches of Tai Long Wan
There are four main beaches spread across the bay of Tai Long Wan. From left to right, the beaches are called Sai Wan (or Tai Long Sai Wan), Ham Tin, Tai Wan and Tung Wan. Here’s a little more information about each beach.
1. Sai Wan Beach
Sai Wan Beach is the most popular beach in Tai Long Wan as it is the most easily accessible – in other words, it also tends to get the most crowded. Some people who mistake Tai Long Wan for a particular beach instead of a bay made up of four beaches sometimes refer to Sai Wan Beach as “Tai Long Wan Beach”. The beach itself is U-shaped and well protected from the wind and swell, which makes it a great option if you’re looking for an easy beach day. Sai Wan Beach is divided down the middle by a small rocky outcrop, so you can head to the other side of the beach for a more quiet atmosphere.
This beach is best for beginner surfers and is home to Surf Hong Kong, a local surf school which runs lessons and also rents out surf boards, kayaks and SUP boards. The shop opens on weekends or by appointment in fall, winter and spring, and opens on most days during the summer months.
There are two beach restaurants here where you can grab lunch, buy speedboat tickets, rent beach gear or pick up some drinks and snacks: Hoi Shan Restaurant and Oriental Restaurant and Bar. A word of warning: the food tends to be expensive as everything including the produce has to be shipped in. There are also public toilet facilities at Sai Wan Beach.
One of the best things about visiting Sai Wan Beach is that you can venture to the “secret” (i.e. not so secret) rock pools and waterfall. Sheung Luk Stream is tucked away in the jungle behind Tai Long Sai Wan and best visited after Hong Kong has experienced some rain in the second half of the year (between June and October).
To get to Sheung Luk Stream follow the paved path that runs along the backside of Sai Wan Beach. When you reach the small concrete bridge don’t cross it, instead keep left and go through the jungle. Many people go cliff jumping into the top pool, but I would very much advise against it, as the water levels vary throughout the year and many accidents have taken place.
2. Ham Tin Beach
Ham Tin Beach is the next beach along from Sai Wan Beach and also easily accessible from Sai Kung. It tends to be slightly quieter than Sai Wan, but can get just as crowded on a weekend or public holiday.
The water here is crystal clear and popular with overnight campers seeking solitude. Ham Tin Beach is a perfect option for people visiting Tai Long Wan as it is framed by a stunning mountain range in the background. Like Sai Wan Beach, there are two restaurants available (Hoi Fung Store and On Kee Store) where you can grab some food or rent beach/camping gear.
The waves at Ham Tin are bigger than at Sai Wan Beach, and you can rent surf boards from On Kee for about HK$200 (deposit varies between HK$100-200 depending on the owner’s mood) though the selection is fairly limited.
3. Tai Wan Beach
My personal favourite and honestly probably the most beautiful beach in Hong Kong, Tai Wan Beach is a “secret” or lesser-known beach only 10 minutes away from Ham Tin Beach on foot. It’s also sometimes referred to as “Tai Long Wan Beach” – it’s all very confusing, I know! It is a haven for hardcore Hong Kong surfers as it tends to pick up the most swell, and as such the speedboats don’t usually drop off passengers here.
It is the longest of all the Tai Long Wan beaches, and is absolutely pristine – there are no facilities here so make sure you leave no trace. The surf report for Tai Long Wan is generally pretty accurate via Magic Seaweed – in our experience for the best surf conditions at Tai Wan Beach you should look for >0.5m swell, southeast or east swell direction, north to easterly winds under 15-20 KM/hour. The waves also tend to work better during high tide. Smaller swells (at least 0.4m) can also be fun for intermediate surfers.
The best time of year to surf at Tai Long Wan is between October and April when it is most consistent with winter storms (you’ll need a wetsuit in the winter months), although there is still some occasional surf during the other months, especially when the summer typhoons roll through.
4. Tung Wan Beach
Tung Wan Beach (“east bay beach” in Cantonese) is the furthest and most secluded of the Tai Long Wan beaches. From Tai Wan Beach, walk another 30 minutes or so to get to Tung Wan Beach. We tend to not venture over because it is too far away and the other beaches offer what we are looking for in a beach day – even on the most crowded public holidays, Tai Wan Beach is still quiet enough that you can find your own little spot away from other groups.
Unless you are an avid hiker you are not likely to visit Tung Wan Beach in Tai Long Wan.
I hope this guide to Tai Long Wan in Sai Kung helps you to plan your perfect Hong Kong day trip!
You might also find these Hong Kong guides helpful:
- For even more Hong Kong day trip ideas head on over to this insider’s guide
- Not sure where to start? Check out all of my Hong Kong destination guides by clicking here
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- Hong Kong is more than just a city with hundreds of towering skyscrapers. You won’t want to make these Hong Kong travel mistakes
- Looking for non-touristy things to do in Hong Kong? It’s not difficult to get off the beaten path, you just have to know where to go!
- Wondering where to stay in Hong Kong? These are my top boutique hotel picks in the city.
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