Read on (on the link below) to discover the top outdoor activities in Hong Kong for families and for those who are looking for easy, enjoyable hikes through the countryside’s most scenic parts.
|Wild Hong Kong|
Don’t let the towering skyscrapers fool you, Hong Kong has mountains, sandy beaches, trekking trails, waterfalls and practically everything you expect to find in any other Southeast asian country that is known for its wild, unspoilt landscape. With 40% of Hong Kong reserved as parkland and 80% of its total area green, it is one of the greenest places on our planet, and home to a diverse ecosystem that offers nature lovers endless opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. If you are a family with kids, Hong Kong is an ideal destination to have fun in nature in one of its large and perfectly preserved country parks, or spend your day soaking up the sun at the beach, while at night you can still return to the top notch food, shopping and entertainment opportunities that the city offers. It is a city that has it all, so why not enjoy it all during your holidays?
Read on (on the link below) to discover the top outdoor activities in Hong Kong for families and for those who are looking for easy, enjoyable hikes through the countryside’s most scenic parts.
The beauty and diversity of Hong Kong’s landscapes is simply stunning, we are immensely fortunate to have such places in our ‘back yard’ to explore at will. During the hot summer months, kayaking is an ideal way to do this. Although paddling opportunities in Hong Kong are well documented for the most part, there are a few other options out there that fly under the radar a little bit. Below I share with you two different locations in the wilds of Sai Kung Country Park that will take your breath away.
Despite feeling like a complete wilderness, there are parts of the outermost Sai Kung peninsula that are very accessible. The village of Hoi Ha provides an ideal spot for beginners and families that almost anyone could have a crack at; whilst our other featured location at Pak Lap Wan is a much more intrepid paddling experience at the best of times.
Nestled on the southern end of a stunning coastal inlet, Hoi Ha is a sanctuary for many types of marine life and is among the most pristine places to be found in Hong Kong. Never mind the kayaking, for many the beautiful journey just to get there is worth the effort. However, once you dip your paddle into her clear calm waters, Hoi Ha takes on an entirely new aura.
Getting to Hoi Ha is pretty simple despite its far-flung location. Simply make your way to Sai Kung ferry pier, then embark on either a 20-minute minibus or taxi ride to Hoi Ha village. The minibus runs every half hour and a taxi will set you back around $120. Try to make this trip on weekdays, as there is a lot of pressure on transportation during weekends and public holidays! Don’t leave it too late in the day to head home either. From the bus stop, walk through the village directly down to the waterfront where there are a couple of different vendors of kayaks. One can rent a single kayak, life vest and paddle for $100 per day or double kayak at $200 (locker expenses included on weekdays).
Once on the water, Hoi Ha inlet is a joy to explore. With abundant sea life, scattered coral beds and beaches aplenty, there is more than enough to fill a day. If you’re eager to venture out further, navigate around the headland towards Wong Shek or Tap Mun Island and capture fantastic vistas of Sharp Peak.
PAK LAP WAN
Tucked away in the secluded eastern reaches of Sai Kung Country Park, Pak Lap Wan is a great location for a number of activities and serves as an ideal launch pad into the Hong Kong Geopark. Pass the dramatic High Island reservoir and through grassy fields home to numerous wild cattle, before reaching the white sands of Pak Lap Beach. Embark on an adventure in search of rocky islands and untouched beaches. But unlike peaceful Hoi Ha, once you escape the confines of Pak Lap Wan, you’re out in pretty exposed territory.
Between April and September, the easterly trade winds tend to deviate elsewhere and this is the prime time to paddle the Geopark. You may get lucky during the other half of the year, but be prepared to paddle through swell and stay clear of the rocks. If the conditions do indeed turn out to be a little choppy on the day, then one can hug the coastline and head for the sheltered waters of Sai Kung harbour to the west. Although the rock formations there are not as pronounced, they are still impressive. But when winds and swell come from the east, make sure you are fully prepared! Pay close attention to forecasts and sea conditions prior to departure on the day; if you are not sure, then it is better to paddle somewhere safer like Hoi Ha or Sai Kung Town.
The best way to reach Pak Lap Wan is by taxi from Sai Kung Town ($110) and walk down the hill from the road to the beach, the walk should take no more than 10 minutes. Once at the beach, there is a small building that rents out kayaks, camping equipment and prepares basic meals. A single sit down board will put you back $100 for the day; this includes a paddle and life vest. On busier days, there is sometimes the option to return to Sai Kung by speedboat. Out on the water one can either; follow the coastline northwards past rugged cliffs and around to the white sands of Long Ke for a picnic lunch, or paddle southeast to explore the dramatic sea arches of Wang Chau and Basalt Island.
I will reiterate that heading out on the open waters around the Geopark is not recommended for beginners and would recommend joining a tour group. Two operators provide tours here; ‘Kayak and Hike Ltd’ run by Paul Etherington who specializes in Geopark paddles and my company ‘Wild Hong Kong’ operates tours to both the locations mentioned above.
When you conjure up an image of Hong Kong, chances are your first thoughts will turn to that of skyscrapers, street vendors and busy markets, bright lights and the general hustle and bustle that comes with city living. You would be forgiven then for not realising that just a hiking boots throw away from the skyscrapers lie mountainous forests, picturesque landscapes shrouded in thick jungle, remote golden beaches, secret waterfalls and azure lakes. There is quite simply a bounty of nature’s wonders waiting to be explored.
Should you fancy leaving city life behind and exploring what is arguably the most beautiful, and less discovered side of Hong Kong, then a tour with Wild Hong Kong is the perfect place to start. Their tours focus on exploring Hong Kong’s wild areas, in the sense that the tours are, for the most part, going to places as far removed from human development as possible.
Hikes to be explored are those such as the Dragon’s Back trail which will reward you with stunning views over the southern Hong Kong island. It combines many of the areas finest attributes from mountain ridges and sheltered forest trails to the white sands of Tai Long Wan (Big Wave Bay).
Or there is the Tai Mo Shan (Ng Tung Chai) waterfalls, found nestled within dense jungle on the breathtaking slopes of Tai Mo Shan mountain. The tour takes you on climbs past rural villages and temples from other worlds to find a series of cascades spreading over several kilometres, each waterfall being more dramatic than the last. Then there’s the Sai Kung beaches. Described as the ‘crown jewel’ of rural Hong Kong, the Sai Kung peninsula is idillic and remote with no roads within the region’s outer reaches. In fact the only way there is to either hike or travel by boat.
Founder Rory Mackay says the aim of Wild Hong Kong is to share the territories beautiful backyard which is full of hidden gems. Growing up between Hong Kong and Scotland, Rory has never been a stranger to adventure. Whether it was scaling Munros in the Scottish Highlands or finding new waterfalls in the New Territories of Hong Kong, he has always been keen to utilise any opportunity to explore. Rory got his first taste of a big adventure sailing an 80ft yacht from Scotland to the Svalbard archipelago near the North Pole. Since then he has spent time working and skiing in New Zealand and has travelled around Southeast Asia. He cycled solo across Vietnam and China, from Saigon to Hong Kong, before proceeding to tackle the bigger challenge of cycling across Africa on a solo ride from Cape Town to Cairo which he completed within 5 months.
It makes perfect sense then that adventures aside Rory is now in the enviable position of having turned his passion into a business. We asked him if he felt his job satisfaction was higher than most peoples. His response? ‘Yes! There’s a lot of handwork going on behind the scenes but it’s always worth it.’
IN THE JULY ARTICLE OF OUR MONTHLY COLUMN IN SAI KUNG/SOUTHSIDE/EXPAT PARENTS MAGAZINES; WE CHECK KAM SHAN 'MONKEY MOUNTAIN'
Tucked away in the hills behind Kowloon lies a hidden wealth. Amongst picturesque landscapes shrouded in thick jungle, interspersed with azure lakes lies the domain of Hong Kong’s wild chiefs. This is Kam Shan, realm of the monkey.
Shek Lei Pui Reservoir stop. For those that have a private vehicle at their disposal, this is a really neat spot to visit as one can venture into the heart of the park with their car. Drive up Tai Po Road and turn off at Kowloon Reservoir, you can then drive across the reservoir dam wall and into the heart of the country park. Make sure to wind up your windows though, or else you may incur a few extra passengers, especially if you have food!
Arriving at the bus stop, you will soon be confronted by many monkeys, invariably a troop of Rhesus Macaques. Although the Rhesus species is native to Hong Kong, the macaques found today are believed to be re-introduced. In the 1910’s during the construction of Kowloon Reservoir, the apes were deployed to the surrounding areas in order to combat the spread of a fruit that tainted the water supply. They can roam in large numbers and enjoy the area around Tai Po Road, as the rubbish bins and increased human presence provides the chance of finding a meal. There are signs at the park entrance spelling out the dos and don’ts in regards to the monkeys. From experience, simply be relaxed. Don’t approach the monkeys with food and they will mind their own monkey business. Direct eye contact and sudden movements won’t endear you to them either. With those unpleasantries out of the way, the monkeys are great fun to watch and can be extremely photogenic!
Heading into Kam Shan Country Park, simply follow the concrete access road into the woods, then across the Kowloon reservoir dam wall. From here there are several cool options to choose from, the most enjoyable one being a walk up to the monkey mountain. Follow the road up the hillside for twenty minutes or so and one will reach a picnic area, usually full of macaques. The monkeys here are a little less feisty than those on Tai Po road and seeing them in their natural treetop habitat is a delight.
Heading back from the country park is equally simple as finding your way in. In addition to taking the bus or driving, there are plenty of taxis on Tai Po Road to flag down.
You’ll very quickly descend back into the city and that monkey mountain will seem a million miles away. A world of dense rainforests guarded by troops of charismatic macaques. Yes, in Hong Kong!
Wild Hong Kong: Plover Cove Ride and HikeFor the fathers who want a little bit of both, how about taking them cycling and hiking around the beautiful Plover Cove region? Cycle by the sea before venturing up the highlands on foot in search of lush forest landscapes and secret waterfalls. The best news? This tour is completely customisable. Feel free to add more cycling or more hiking to your personal tour and discover a whole new side of Hong Kong.
Where: Meet at the Tai Po Market MTR Station
How much: $800 person for a group of 1-3 people, $650 person for a group of 4-7 people.
Check our article with Localiiz HK, where we reveal some of HK's wildest places to explore with us!
IN THE MAY ARTICLE OF OUR MONTHLY COLUMN IN SAI KUNG/SOUTHSIDE/EXPAT PARENTS MAGAZINES; WE EXPLORE THE ISLAND OF TSING YI AND EXPOSE SOME EXCITING HIKING LOCATIONS THAT ARE LARGELY UNKNOWN IN HK
Once remote and untouched, the island of Tsing Yi is anything but nowadays. Located to the northwest of Hong Kong Island and south of Tsuen Wan, the island has become a major transport hub and commuter base. Many of us pass through on a regular basis, but most overlook the island as a destination due to its urban appearance. A hotspot for infrastructure, the creations that mankind has erected around these parts is the stuff of civil engineering dreams! Nevertheless, for all the construction of recent decades, Tsing Yi still possesses some surprisingly secluded areas, peppered with nature walks and stunning viewpoints to accompany them.
Tsing Yi's name literally means "green clothes", but the island actually got its name from a type of fish once abundant in nearby waters. Before the Tsing Yi South Bridge was built in 1974, the old Tsing Yi pier was the only link between the island and the outside world. Fast-forward to today, the island is now home to about 200,000 people and is connected by eight bridges all around the island. This includes the Tsing Yi and Stonecutters Bridges, respectively the largest and third largest of their kinds in the world!
There are a couple of fantastic short to mid length walks around the rural parts of the Island, offering a range of experiences from an easy going family stroll, to challenging assents. Either way, you’re guaranteed a peaceful retreat from city life, epic bridge vistas and fresh air.
Option 2, Sam Chi Heung (Harder)
For the more adventurous folk out there, climbing up Sam Chi Heung is an awesome option. The route is direct and prominent, gaining a few hundred meters of elevation above all the surrounding areas. The three summits of Sam Chi Heung are not as heavily forested as the Tsing Yi Nature Trail, thus providing uninhibited panoramas over Tseun Wan, Kowloon and HK Island. But undoubtedly, the main attraction of climbing Sam Chi Heung is the unique vantage point it provides to look over the Stonecutters Bridge and Hong Kong Port. Find the trailhead located beside Cheung Ching Bus Terminus and follow it past some football/soccer pitches. You will start to ascend and not before long, reach a large burial area scattered across the hillsides. Once atop the first peak, it’s worth continuing along the trail until you reach the third peak, as this is where the best views are to be had. The simplest way down is a return to Cheung Ching Bus Terminus. However, for the really adventurous folk out there, keep an eye out for ribbon marked alternate routes down.
If you ever wish to stop and take in views of the Tsing Ma Bridge without having to go hiking, the Lantau Link Visitor Center could be worth a visit. Open every day other than Wednesday, the center can be reached by public transport via the 308M minibus from Tsing Yi MTR. Taxi and by car are also great ways to reach this location.
If you’re really enthusiastic, both walks can be done together as a day hike. What is great about all of these itineraries on offer is the ease of return to public transport and other amenities. That is the beauty of venturing out in a place such as Tsing Yi (and Hong Kong in general for that matter); after working up a sweat out and about, you can soon find respite. This accessibility is certainly one of Tsing Yi’s main draw cards, a tremendous place to visit on a whim without premeditation. But once you have arrived and got under the skin of this dramatic isle, the rugged hillsides and ‘bridgetastic’ vistas will sell themselves. A trip through Tsing Yi will never feel the same, after coming to truly appreciate this underrated area of Hong Kong.
IN THE APRIL ARTICLE OF OUR MONTHLY COLUMN IN SAI KUNG/SOUTHSIDE/EXPAT PARENTS MAGAZINES; WE HEAD OVER VICTORIA PEAK IN SEARCH OF HIDDEN GEMS
Victoria Peak. You may have heard of it... Yes, Hong Kong is for many of us our home and long time residents may question the value of me telling you about visiting such a well-publicized area. However, it is packed full of lesser-known nooks and possesses bountiful options for exploration. I must admit, until recent times ‘The Peak’ was a spot I would only frequent when showing visiting friends around town and I never went there on my own. Since I have been back in HK and I am hiking a lot more these days, I have taken more time to explore this region of Hong Kong Island and have been thoroughly impressed with what I have found!
With such a plethora of options I’ll keep things simple here, sharing with you my favorite route over The Peak and highlighting a few appealing detours along the way. My optimal route begins in Admiralty, runs over Victoria Peak and finishes in Aberdeen.
Now as a local, I am aiming to walk the entire way up and over. But of course, there are no rules and if you want to take it easy or you’re short on time, half the route can be done on foot and the other by alternate means of transport. I love starting my adventure in the city and finishing in more tranquil surroundings on the southern side of HK Island. Beginning in Admiralty, one should proceed up the hill to the Hong Kong Botanical and Zoological Gardens if ascending on foot (otherwise catch the number 15 bus or a taxi from Queensway to the Peak Galleria, don’t bother queuing for the tram up).
Passing through the botanical gardens, one immediately escapes the hustle and bustle of Central, the gardens contain many interesting bird and marsupial enclosures and I love having a wonder around before pressing onwards and upwards. Ascending Old Peak Road, the gradient steps up a notch. The going gets much more physical, but a glance over your shoulder reveals an increasingly expansive view of the skyscrapers and motivates you to carry on. Once above all the housing developments, Old Peak Road transforms into a charming laneway. A smooth surface winding its way through the trees, the shady shelter harbors many native bird species, their calls providing a soothing soundtrack for the final uphill section.
Half an hour or so down and one will find themselves at the end of the Peel Rise where they can turn right and arrive in Aberdeen. I recommend turning left and taking a detour to explore the Upper & Lower Aberdeen Reservoirs. This area flies under many people’s radars, yet is incredibly scenic and the large dam wall at the upper reservoir alone is worth the walk to visit.
Back down in Aberdeen and a timely return to civilization. The whole walk should take between 2 to 5 hours depending on your pace and choice of route. There are plenty of dining options here for a post hike meal here, or simply shoot back to wherever you want on a bus or taxi. The MTR opening in Wong Chuk Hang later this year will be a game changer for the area.
This is a versatile itinerary that can satisfy all folk, from families in search of a spot of fresh air, to athletic individuals seeking an after work workout. One way or another, heading up Victoria Peak is a must do for anyone spending time in our great city. That magical view from the top never gets old.
IN THE MARCH ARTICLE OF OUR MONTHLY COLUMN IN SAI KUNG/SOUTHSIDE/EXPAT PARENTS MAGAZINES; WE VENTURE OUT TO THE REMOTE SOUTHERN TIP OF LANTAU ISLAND FOR A MEMORABLE ADVENTURE
There are many spots in Hong Kong that can feel far removed from the city, but are in fact just round the corner or over the hill from town. Then, there are those rare confines that are genuinely far removed from civilization. The Southern tip of Lantau Island is such a place. Take the time to venture this enclave and you will be rewarded with a trip back in time! An untarnished landscape bursting with deserted beaches, fertile valleys and lush jungles lying in wait.
Despite Southern Lantau’s geographical isolation from the rest of Hong Kong, it is easily accessible and can be reached from the city within a couple of hours. Once there, Southern Lantau is best explored by foot. My favorite route here follows the regions inspiring coastline, starting at Shek Pik in the east and finishing at Tai O in the west. As a direct hiking route, the more athletic types can complete the 15 kilometers within 4-5 hours. However, there are many sights worthy of a cheeky detour along the way and it is worthwhile dedicating an entire day to this adventure. As a coastal hike, the main path avoids any major hills and is ideal for families who enjoy the outdoors. It is advisable to bring a map along if unsure of your directions and plenty of fluids during the warmer months.
To reach the start of the trail, catch either the ‘number 11’ bus from Tung Chung, or ‘number 1’ bus from Mui Wo to Tai O. Keep an eye out for Shek Pik Reservoir and disembark at the first bus stop immediately after crossing the dam wall. Take in the beautiful sight of Shek Pik Reservoir and Lantau Peak behind before turning away and following the Lantau Trail south. The first part of the walk follows a catch-water and serves as a gentle warm up before hitting the dirt track. Staying up above the coastline, there are beautiful views to be had across many bays and beaches on this section.
The path then descends to the idyllic Fan Lau Peninsula and its two sandy beaches. There is a small dai pai dong here with a friendly owner that will do you a wholesome bowl of noodles, complete with drinks and fruit. This is the only such facility along the way, so make sure to recharge here before heading on. If interested in historical sites, one can take a half hour excursion to visit Fan Lau Fort on the far end of Fan Lau Peninsula. Built in 1729 during the reign of the Yongzheng Emperor, the fort was subsequently abandoned by the British in 1898 and a large stone rectangle is most of what remains today.
The second half of the walk from Fan Lau to Tai O follows a much more sheltered section of coastline and is more heavily forested. The area possess great biodiversity, so keep an eye out for interesting plants and animals. Pass through the majestic village of Yi O; complete with agricultural farmland, grazing cattle and abandoned buildings, it’s an exceptionally surreal settlement to stroll through.
Shortly after passing through Yi O the path meets an area of mangroves on the coast, at this juncture there is an option to check out the most stunning of detours at the Man Cheung Po waterfalls and infinity pool. Turn right onto a less distinct path and follow your way up the hill past a few abandoned houses. Continue for around 20 minutes up the valley until you reach the pools. It’s quite a popular spot nowadays, so you may suddenly see more folk in the first five minutes up there than you would have on the entire walk to that point. But upon reaching the pools on a sunny day, it is clear to see what all the fuss is about. Although it is prohibited to swim in the infinity pool (as it serves as a reservoir for Tai O), the numerous rock pools and waterfalls behind it are fair game. Go back down the same way you came up and upon returning to the main path, it’s a simple walk for one hour to reach Tai O.
Additionally, if hiking 15-17 kilometers sounds like biting off more than you can chew, there is always the option to hike either end of the trail as a shorter return from Shek Pik or Tai O, to Fan Lau and Man Cheung Po/Yi O respectively.
Once in Tai O, it’s always good to have a wonder around the village, no matter if it’s your first or one hundredth time there. Enjoying the sights and a refreshing beverage always go down a treat after a decent walk. From Tai O you can simply hop on the bus back to civilization, although beware that the ‘number 11’ bus to Tung Chung can sometimes have massive queues during holiday seasons. If this happens, then I strongly recommend cutting your losses by opting for the ‘number 1’ bus to Mui Wo and an onward ferry to Central.
Southern Lantau is such an incredible part of Hong Kong to explore. Any adventure here will leave you with a bunch of great memories and a sound nights sleep!
WE WENT FOR A GREAT TOUR UP TO NG TUNG CHUNG CHAI THE OTHER MONTH. CHECK OUT RANDEE'S AWESOME BLOG POST ON HER TIME IN HK WITH US!
We are one of Hong Kong's premier adventure & eco tour operators. This is our blog, documenting many of the wild places we explore and show guests.