2 days hidden highlights of Hong Kong

Nature
The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
8
Culture
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
6
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
8
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
7
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
7
unique
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
8
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
77 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
continent
Asia
country
Hong Kong
Length of time
1-2 days
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 250
Time of year visited
April
Primary Tags
Click on any of the tags to see all travel experiences with the same tag
RANKING
How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
52nd/334 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 20% SUMMARY RATING: World Class

Summary

Hong Kong is a great place to visit either as a destination on its own, or, as many people do, as a nice 2 day stop over between flights.  I’ve lived in Hong Kong for 8 years, so . . . I’m biased . . . but also keen to share some tips to make sure you get the best from the place
The biggest overall tip I can give – many people when they think of Hong Kong think of the skyscrapers, the busy neon light lined streets, the sheer hustle of one of the most densely populated places on earth etc etc – and it is indeed all of these things.  But it is also 75% undeveloped and 40% national park.  In short, it is a world class city, with a tropical paradise a short ferry / taxi away.  That is why, for this review, I am focusing on some of the more unusual things to do in Hong Kong for a first time visitor
Should you want to check out the classic Hong Kong highlights – see my entry for 2 days for the famous highlights of Hong Kong

highlights

#1 Take a ferry to Lamma Island for a half day trip checking out the super chilled small villages, the very easy Family Walk across the island and to eat some great seafood. Bear in mind that the views from the ferry are just as good as those on the more famous Star Ferry

#2 Take in some of the walking trails that are right in the middle of HK Island, in particular Luggard Road and Bowen Road. Far better views that at the Peak

#3 Visit Deep Water Bay beach to walk along the sea front and be shocked when you realise that this tropical beach front is only 5km / 3miles from Central

#4 Hike or boat up to the stunning Tai Long Wan. Unbelievable that this is in Hong Kong

#5 Hiking the Dragon's Back for some great views of the surrounding islands and ending up at Shek O beach for lunch

#6 The South side beaches, restaurants and feeling of wilderness of Lantau Island

#7 Ocean Park Theme Park - only a 10min cab from Central and surprisingly good with its rollercoasters, aquarium and zoo

#8 Eat at one of the local Cooked Food Markets such as North Point Cooked Food Market, where rowdiness is encouraged

#9 Taking on one of Hong Kong's more challenging hikes and being rewarded with the amazing views

#10 Getting lost in the concrete jungle!

Travel Tips

1. Take a ferry to Lamma Island for a half day trip to check out the super chilled small villages, take a very easy walk across the island and eat some great seafood.  Lamma has a far more chilled out hippy vibe compared to HK Island, yet is only a 30min ferry ride from Central with ferries leaving roughly every 30mins from Pier 4 and for only HK$16 (USD2).  Lamma has two ferry spots – Sok Kwu Wan (West side and slightly more developed) and Yueng Shue Wan (East side and less developed) – ferry timetable here http://www.hkkf.com.hk/index.php?op=timetable&style=en .  Aim for Sok Kwu Wan, have a wander around the narrow streets with the little local shops and fishing spots, and then make your way along the family walk which connects the two ferries.  The Family Walk is around 5km / 3miles, takes only around an hour, very easy except for a brief 5min steep part, well signposted and allows you to see the beaches, small villages, mountains and small coves of the island.  When at Yueng Shue Wan, get some seafood from the various restaurants there – I’d recommend the Rainbow Restaurant as it is always good, plus they give you the option of taking their private ferry back to HK Island (Aberdeen), or just take the basic ferry back to central.  Nice fun half day and bear in mind that getting the ferry there gives you just as good views of HK Island as you would get with the Star Ferry

 

2. Take in some of the walking trails that are right in the middle of HK Island It always amazes me how many paths and trails there are right in the centre of HK Island that are flat, tree covered, not busy and with world class views.  Three in particular I would highly recommend: 1. Luggard Road – when visiting The Peak, get away from the crowds and walk around the 3.5km flat Luggard Road loop that starts and finishes at the Peak .  Better views than The Peak as you can see HK harbour, plus all around the rest of the island.  It also lets you easily see some of the wonderful jungle plants along the way, in particular a huge hanging Indian Rubber Tree.  2. Bowen Road – taking you from Central area to Happy Valley with regular views of the whole of HK harbour, this is a favorite with runners in HK and my personal favourite.  Start where Magazine Gap Road and Bowen Road meet and walk to where Bowen Road meets Stubbs Road.  3km, completely flat, most of it with no cars.  3. Blacks Link – superb views of Victoria Harbour, but also with views of the majority of the South Side of the Island.  Has the added bonus of being even quieter than the other two, although a little steeper just at the beginning.  Start at Wan Chai Park, walk along the clear signs for Blacks Link, finish at HK Cricket Club.  3km in total, around 80m / 260ft ascent

 

3. Visit Deep Water Bay beach and walk along the sea front.  It’s kind of crazy that a city as developed in places as Hong Kong can have such a beautiful beach within 5km / 3miles of city centre.  You can jump in a cab from Central, cross over to the south side of the island and be at Deep Water Bay Beach within 12mins – that’s pretty unique, especially considering that when you’re at the beach you’re surrounded by mainly the jungle and with views out towards the undeveloped Middle Island.  So, assuming nice weather, head down to chill out at the beach and make sure to try Coconuts Restaurant on the beach and take the gorgeous walk from Deep Water Bay to Repulse Bay along the seafront.  You’ll genuinely be amazed you’re so close to Central

 

4. Hike or boat up to Tai Long Wan.  In my opinion, HK’s most beautiful beach for both sand quality, water quality and surroundings.  It really is stunning as you walk over the nearby headland to see the two main beaches with Sharp Peak looming over them.  Not for the first time, you’ll be just amazed that you’re in HK.  Getting there and back you’ve got 2 options: road or sea.  For road – either take a taxi direct to the Sai Wan Pavilion inside Sai Kung National park, or a bus to the entrance of the National Park (Sai Kung Country Park Visitor Centre – 45/60mins from Central) and then taxi from there to the pavilion (15mins).  Must be a taxi as Ubers are not allowed in the park.  Once there, it’s an hour walk down to the main beach of Ham Tim.  For sea, take one of the speed boats from Sai Kung Public Pier, which you can reach in 45mins from Central.  Takes around 30mins and HK$120 / US$15 per person.  Can get a little bumpy as you get towards Tai Long Wan, but only for 10mins or so, and along the way you’ll see the UNESCO World Heritage rock formations that hug the coast.  My suggestion is to take the taxi to the Sai Wan Pavilion, walk to Ham Tim as you pass by some of the small beaches and villages, chill out on the beach, walk over to the longer Tai Long Wan beach (just around the headland from Ham Tim), and then make your way back via speed boat to Sai Kung Town for some food in one of the seafront seafood restaurants.  If looking for a bit more adventure when up in Tai Long Wan, the nearby rockpools are fun and the climb up to Sharp Peak (3 hours round trip) is well worth it.  I could write all day about Tai Long Wan, but won’t – instead, Sassy does a great summary here https://www.sassyhongkong.com/whats-on-hk-tai-long-wan-guide-beach-eat-drink-camping/

 

5. Hiking the Dragon’s Back and ending up at Shek O beach.  The Dragon’s Back is the final stage of the HK Trail and has some of the most beautiful scenery on the island.  You’ll finish up in Shek O which is a gorgeous village right on far corner of HK Island, home to a lovely beach and various surprisingly decent restaurants.  No need to do the whole thing (which is 7.2km / 4.5miles and ends up in Big Wave Bay).  Instead, get a taxi to start off where Shek O Road meets Cape Collinson Road.  There you’ll find some steep stairs that take you up to what is shown on google maps as HK Trail sec.8 Public Toilet.  From there, just follow the directions along the ridgeline towards Shek O.  You’ll eventually head back down to Shek O Road as what is shown on google maps as the Dragon’s Back Public Toilet.  From there get a bus (or passing taxi) to Shek O – they come by very regularly.  There’s a few other options for how to do the hike – you could for example hike all the way to Deep Wave Bay or start at the Dragon’s Back Public Toilet and walk back on yourself – but I recommend the above as it doesn’t loop back on itself and you get to enjoy Shek O

 

6.  South side beaches and restaurants of Lantau Island.  You’ll most probably visit Lantau Island to see the Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery.  If visiting, I’d really recommend the south beaches of Pui O and Cheung Sha – the beaches are lovely, the surroundings simply stunning (especially Pui O) and both have some gorgeous spots for enjoying the beachside restaurants.  Try Bathers on Cheung Sha, which is very good, or Treasure Island Beach Club (formerly Mavericks) for a very chilled beach shack vibe.  Biggest tip – getting taxis and / or MTR to get to the Big Buddha and Tung Chung area makes sense.  But, if visiting South Lantau, get the ferry from Mui Wo.  Much nicer and you have the added bonus of getting some of the world class views as you enter HK harbour

 

7. Ocean Park Theme Park.  Its surprisingly good! And with an amazing setting sat on top of the headland on the south side of the island.  Plenty of rides, animals, aquariums, cable cars, things to do.  You can also wander down to Deep Water Bay to chill out on the beach once finished.  Just make sure to get there early before the day tourists from mainland China arrive

 

8.  Eat at one of the local Cooked Food Markets.  HK has some of the best food in the world, but it doesn’t really have the same street food vibe that some of the nearby South East Asian countries do.  Yes they have the Temple Street night market and a few others nearby, but they’re fairly touristy.  The places where the locals actually go for their cheap food tend to be nearby neighbourhood restaurants, or . . . the Cooked Food Markets – 6 story buildings in all of the main areas that have the first floors selling produce and the top floor as a group of restaurants selling very cheaply to anyone.  It really is a mix of locals and increasingly expats who see great value in some of the restaurants.  Jump in to any of them, but I’d in particular recommend the North point Cooked Food Market (typically Chinese food and can get fun / rowdy) and the Sheung Wan Market & Cooked Food Centre (more variety with a good Italian and Indian)

 

9. Taking on one of Hong Kong’s more challenging hikes.  HK has a series of well laid out, long hikes that take in some of the most breath-taking scenery.  There are some which are only for lunatics, such as the 100km / 62mile  (including 6.2km / 20,000ft of incline) Maclehose Trail that goes East to West across HK and is raced annually over one day in November.  Others include the Lantau Trail (70km on Lantau Island) and Wilson Trail (78km South to North of HK), but my clear recommendation is the Hong Kong Trail which snakes 50km / 31miles across HK Island from The Peak in the West to finish by the beautiful beach of Big Wave Bay in the East and showcases some of the best views that HK Island has to offer.  It has some hard parts (especially the climb up to Mount Butler in the middle and the Dragon’s Back at the end), but it is very manageable in a day typically taking 10/11 hours (start at 7am and be in time for swimming and sundowners at 6pm), 66k steps and 315 flights climbed equivalent. Try to avoid during summer unless very fit and, even if you need to stop, there are opportunities to exit the trail every few kms / miles.  Give it a go – a great challenge to combine with your visit to HK

 

10. Just getting lost in the concrete jungle!  Most people arrive in HK and want to systematically work through all the famous things, which is understandable and I’ve written a post on how to get the most out of these experiences in this travel entry – 2 days for the famous highlights of Hong Kong.  But one of the best things about HK, and indeed any city, is wandering into areas where you can see the local people living their normal lives, in this case often in an impossibly high concrete jungle.  Some nice spots to start from and get lost around would be Kennedy Town / Sai Ying Pun / Sheung Wan area on the island and in Mongkok around the Flower Market

 

Broader tips:

  • First things first – The Protests  Whilst you will have seen Hong Kong in the press a lot the past years, mainly with it looking like it’s on fire, HK is not in the slightest bit dangerous.  In fact, it will almost certainly be safer than where you are coming from.  The protests were politically focused with no danger to visitors, and are now over.  A National Security Law was introduced in 2020 that effectively banned all protests.  The new law is immensely sad for many people living in HK who thought HK could be something different to mainland China, but day-to-day life hasn’t materially changed and the experience of visiting certainly hasn’t.  Sack off HK because you aren’t passing through / have other plans.  Don’t rule it out based on fears of safety
  • Where to stay This completely depends on what you’re looking for and how much you’re prepared to spend.  HK covers all options.  Just 2 tips.  1. HK is a pretty small place.  The key attractions of the harbour, Peak, Markets etc are all within around 30mins subway ride of each other, so you won’t completely screw yourself if a bit out the way.  That being said, for convenience, I’d suggest, on the island staying within the range of Sheung Wan (in the west) and Causeway Bay (in the East) on the Island Line MTR and, for Kowloon, anywhere around Tsim Sha Tsui or Jordan MTR stations. 2. I would in particular recommend staying somewhere in the Soho area, just because the vibe is so much fun, super close to all the highlights and with wonderful variety of restaurants nearby
  • Island / Dark Side.  You’ll hear a lot of the expats in HK (known locally as Gwei Los – white ghosts  . . . in a kind of nice way) refer to Kowloon as the dark side.  This is basically anything not on the main island or any of the other islands – so, anything on the mainland – and plays into the joke that typically expats only venture between Soho, Wan Chai and the airport.  Plenty of nice places on the dark side to stay and of course many of HK’s highlights
  • Getting around.  Very very easy.  Just get an Octopus Card, which can be used on all public transport and allows you to refund whatever you don’t spend.  MTR (subway) and ferries are very easy to navigate and taxis are everywhere.  Two points on taxis – 1. There are 3 colours.  Red is for the Island and Kowloon (where you will be spending 99% of your time); Green is for the New Territories (basically all the stuff north of the busiest bits of HK); and Blue (only on Lantau Island).  Just stick with the reds.  2. The red taxis will basically take you anywhere, but they are very particular about whether you will be planning to cross Victoria Harbour or not.  Most taxi ranks will make it clear if they are crossing the harbour or not; and if you are flagging a taxi down and want to cross the harbour do a wavy sign with your hands.  Don’t get grumpy with them if they refuse to take you across the harbour – it’s a well known local way of doing things.  Plus they’ll most likely just shout back at you in Cantonese.  Uber is also widely used
  • Eating There are thousands of restaurants in Hong Kong and the relentless competition keeps the standards high.  Biggest tip is to avoid the super touristy areas (you’ll just get overcharged and be surrounded by fellow tourists) and try Soho (basically everything within a few blocks of the escalator and between Wellington Street and Caine Road) and the restaurant buildings I’ve mentioned in #10 above
  • Drinking.  You’ll pretty much find bars everywhere in HK, but the main areas are:
    • Lan Kwai Fung.  Party central and, well, very central.  Basically the area around D’Aguillar Street
    • Wan Chai.  Traditionally known as the seedy end of town and synonymous with hooker bars.  Don’t let that put you off – many of the places are still great fun whether you are looking for ladies of the night or not.  Try Amazonia first for live music and atmosphere
    • Soho – I’ve mentioned it a few times.  Has heaps of bars as well as restaurants
    • Knutsford Terrace on the Kowloon side.  You’ll see far more local HKers here, but still very accommodating for tourists
  • Books – its always great to know a little bit about a place before you visit.  To add a bit of fun to the learning, I highly recommend Taipan by James Clevell.  Historical fiction telling the story of the founding of HK, the various Treaties of Nanking that made HK so important and just generally a great read

Experiences nearby

The below map shows experiences nearby with a colour that reflect the Overall Score of those experiences

Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone