Find out the Top 20 things to do and to see in Hong Kong, including the best hiking trails and beaches.
A quick guide to Hong Kong
Best time to visit: from September to December
How many days: 3 days to see the most interesting places
Why it’s worth visiting: with fantastic food, one of the most distinctive skylines in the world, one of the most popular shopping destinations, and a modern city perfectly integrated with nature, you can get a taste of China without censorship.
Where to sleep: options are virtually unlimited. It all depends on how much you are willing to spend. Remember that if you want to save money, you will be forced to sleep in hotels with tiny rooms, and by tiny, I mean probably the smallest you have ever seen. The best search engine for booking hotels in Hong Kong (and/or the train to get there) is Trip.com.
Hong Kong: hate or love it, but it’s unlikely that this place will leave you indifferent. It’s a city where millions live in tiny apartments in the shadow of super-modern skyscrapers built in the small spaces reclaimed from the rainforest.
Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China (HKSAR) (here is my travel guide to China) right in front of Shenzhen. Every corner of Hong Kong offers some interesting views, especially if it’s your first time in Asia. There’s something for everyone: old temples, giant Buddhas, huge shopping malls, forest-covered mountains, beaches, traditional fishing villages, and uninhabited islands.
But I’ll be honest with you: I’m not a big fan of Hong Kong, probably because I’ve lived in Asia for a while and every time I have the chance to travel, I’d instead go somewhere quieter and cheaper.
Every time I visited Hong Kong, I had to renew my Chinese Visa. So, a visit to Hong Kong doesn’t feel like a holiday to me (renewing the Chinese Visa is always stressful), but at the same time, I also realize that this is my own experience. And despite my feelings towards Hong Kong, there are many exciting things to do and see in this city.
You’ll find many ideas to start planning your itinerary in this article.
Let’s start with something that wouldn’t probably come to mind when considering Hong Kong: the beaches.
Hong Kong Beaches
Being built on a series of islands, Hong Kong has a lot of nice beaches. These are some of the most popular.
Big Wave Bay Beach
Big Wave Bay Beach is near the Dragon’s Back hiking trail on Hong Kong Island. Big Wave Bay Beach is a favorite place for surfers, and it’s also home to prehistoric rock carvings showing animals and geometric designs.
How to get to Big Wave Bay Beach: MTR Shau Kei Wan Station, Exit A3, then take the bus n°9 to Big Wave Bay Beach.
Pui O and Cheung Sha Beach
The other two beautiful beaches are Pui O and Cheung Sha Beach. Cheung Sha Beach is one of the longest beaches in Hong Kong. You can enjoy some fantastic views of the sunset from these beaches.
How to get to Cheung Sha Beach: Ferry from Central Pier 6 to Mui Wo, then take the bus n°1 to Pui O Beach (about 15 minutes) or bus 1 or 2 to Cheung Sha Beach (about 25 minutes).
How to get to Pui O Beach: Ferry from Central Pier 6 to Mui Wo, then take the bus n°1 to Pui O Beach (about 15 minutes).
Repulse Bay Beach
Repulse Bay Beach is famous for its calm waters, white sand, and palm trees. It’s one of the best and most popular in Hong Kong. You’ll also find some award-winning restaurants to make your day perfect in the area.
How to get to Repulse Bay Beach: Bus 6, 6A, 6X, 66, or 260 from Exchange Square bus terminus (near MTR Hong Kong Station, Exit D), then get out at Repulse Bay Beach.
Hung Shing Yeh Beach – Lamma Island
Hung Shing Yeh is the most famous beach on Lamma Island. It attracts locals and tourists alike.
How to get to Hung Shing Yeh Beach: Take a ferry from Central Pier 4 to Yung Shue Wan. From the Yung Shue Wan Pier, turn right and walk along the Family Trail to the beach. It takes about 30 minutes.
Kwun Yam and Cheung Chau Tung Wan Beach
Tung Wan Beach offers a charming night view of Aberdeen and Lamma Island. It’s the perfect beach for surfers. In a small nearby garden, a sculpture of a windsurfer commemorates Shan Shan’s achievement. Cheung Chau Beach is where Shan Shan (Lee Lai-shan) trained for the Atlanta Games in 1996 and won the gold medal.
How to get to Tung Wan Beach: Ferry from Central Pier 5 to Cheung Chau. From the Cheung Chau Ferry Pier, walk along Tung Wan Road for approximately 10 minutes.
Kwun Yam Beach: Walk another five minutes from Tung Wan Beach towards the Warwick Hotel.
Top Hiking Trails in Hong Kong
Hong Kong has many hills, parks, and mountains that are great for hiking. In the list below, you can find the top 5 hiking trails in Hong Kong.
Dragon’s Back is probably the most famous and well-known urban hiking trail in Hong Kong. It offers splendid and enchanting views of Hong Kong island’s rugged coast and beautiful beaches.
- Average hiking time: about 4 hours.
- Trail length: 8,5 Km.
- How to get to Dragon’s Back: From MTR Shau Kei Wan Station Exit A, walk to the Shau Kei Wan Bus Terminus. Take bus 9 or the red minibus with the “Shek O” sign to the To Tei Wan stop on Shek O Road.
Po Toi Island
Po Toi is a beautiful granite island often called by the locals the “South Pole of Hong Kong.” You’ll find impressive rock formations and many dried seafood products the locals sell. Don’t forget to try the seaweed soup. The circular hike from Po Toi pier will take you to famous landmarks like Tortoise Rock, Ngau Wu Teng Pavilion, Nam Kok Tsui lighthouse, and Monk Rock.
- Average hiking time: about 2,5 hours.
- Trail length: 4 Km.
- How to get to Po Toi Island: Board a kaito (small ferry) at Aberdeen Pier (on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays) or from Stanley Blake Pier (on Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays).
Wan Chai Green Trail (Wan Chai Gap Road)
Right into the heart of Hong Kong Island, you’ll find the Wan Chai Green Trail (Wan Chai Gap Road). You’ll have great city views while walking in the shade of the trees.
- Average hiking time: about 1,5 hours.
- Trail length: 3 Km.
- How to get to Wan Chai Gap Road: MTR Wan Chai Station Exit A3, then take the tram and get off at O’Brien Road. MTR Hong Kong Station Exit A then take buses 6, 6A, 15, or 66 from Central Bus Terminus to Amoy Street; or buses 75, 90, or 97 to Southorn Playground.
Sunset Peak is the third-highest peak in Hong Kong (869m). It is quite a difficult hike. It is better to avoid the hottest months and hike this trail in Winter. You’ll have a panoramic view of the Lantau coastline from the peak.
- Average hiking time: about 4,5 hours.
- Trail length: 9 Km.
- How to get to Sunset Peak: From MTR Tung Chung Station Exit B, take the bus 3M, 11, or 23 at Tung Chung Bus Terminus and get off at Pak Kung Au.
Twin Peaks and Violet Hill
Twin Peaks and Violet Hill are beautiful mountain peaks offering a splendid view of Stanley Village, D’Aguilar Peninsula, and the ocean beyond.
- Average hiking time: about 3 hours.
- Trail length: 4,8 Km.
- How to get to Twin Peaks and Violet Hill: From MTR Causeway Bay Station Exit D, take green minibus 5 at the Jaffe Road and Cannon Street crossroad to Wong Nai Chung Reservoir. You can also take bus 76 on Pennington Street.
From MTR Hong Kong Station Exit D, take bus 6 at the Exchange Square Bus Terminus. At the Wong Nai Chung Reservoir Park bus stop, you will see a petrol station. From there, cross the road and head up Tai Tam Reservoir Road to walk for about 10 minutes to Hong Kong Parkview. Wong Nai Chung Reservoir will be on your right.
Other things to do and to see in Hong Kong
Star Ferry is the most famous and best way to enjoy the view of the Victoria Harbour skyline. Since 1888, Star Ferry has carried passengers from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon and back. Star Ferry connects the Tsim Sha Tsui Ferry Pier on the Kowloon Peninsula, the Central Star Ferry Pier, and the Wan Chai Star Ferry Pier on Hong Kong Island. The price of the ticket is only about US$0.25!
Ding Ding (Ride the Tram)
Ding-Ding (叮叮) is a narrow-gauge heritage tram system on Hong Kong Island between Kennedy Town and Shau Kei Wan, with a branch circulating through Happy Valley. It opened in 1904 when Hong Kong was under British rule, and it’s one of the public transport in the city.
Temple Street Night Market
Temple Street is one of the most famous night markets in Hong Kong. You’ll find pretty much everything from jade to fortune-tellers and antiques to street food (just like in Taiwan). This market is named after the Tin Hau temple. Get there after sunset.
Hong Kong Disneyland
Opened in 2005, Hong Kong Disneyland is a huge theme park located on reclaimed land in Penny’s Bay, Lantau Island. Between 6 to 7 million people visit the park annually. The cheapest ticket starts at about 80 USD, but you can save money if you buy it online.
Hong Kong Ocean Park
Ocean Park is the second largest theme park in Hong Kong. Ocean Park is an amusement park a marine mammal park, and an oceanarium that aims at educating people regarding the conservation of endangered marine species. The ticket price is about 65 USD.
Wong Tai Sin Temple
Wong Tai Sin Temple is one of the most interesting and newest temples in Hong Kong. It’s located in Kowloon and is made up of several buildings. The original temple was built in 1920 and was later replaced with a new building in 1968.
Peak Tram for Climb up The Peak
Peak Tram is the most convenient way to get to Victoria Peak, where you’ll have the best view of Hong Kong. With its 552m, the peak is the highest on Hong Kong island. The tram runs from 7 am until midnight. If you want to take some pictures with the tripod, be prepared well in advance. You’ll probably have to queue for at least one hour to get to the tram.
Meet the Big Buddha
Tian Tan Buddha is the world’s largest outdoor seated Buddha. To reach the statue, you’ll have to climb 268 steps. It was built in 1993.
The Ngong Ping 360 Skyrail will give you stunning views of Lantau Island’s natural beauty and some great Big Buddha views.
Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery
Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is the most colorful and attractive Buddhist temple in Hong Kong. Interestingly, no monks reside at the complex, managed solely by laypersons. Despite its name’s translation, the monastery contains nearly 13,000 Buddha statues. The Monastery was founded in 1951 by the Venerable Yuet Kai. The statues are modeled after those at a temple in Kunming (Yunnan’s capital), the hometown of founder Yuet Kai. The monastery is located on a hillside in Pai Tau Village.
Tai O Stilt Houses
Tai O is one of the few small fishing villages in Hong Kong where you can find the traditional bamboo house supported by stone columns in water (stilt houses). For more than 200 years, the Tanka, also known as ‘boat-people,’ lived in this village. If you visit the Tao O fishing village, don’t forget to taste the local dried seafood.
To get to Tai O, take the MTR to Tung Chung Station Exit B. Then take the Ngong Ping Cable Car to Ngong Ping Village. Take bus 21 to Tai O terminus.
Central–Mid-Levels escalator, with its 800 meters, is the most extended outdoor covered escalator system in the world. It opened in 1993 to better connect the Central and Mid-Levels districts on Hong Kong Island.
Goldfish are very important in Feng Shui since it’s believed that they attract wealth, and that’s why the Goldfish Market (Tung Choi Street North) is popular among Hongkongers. To enter the market, take the MTR to Prince Edward Station, Exit B2. Walk east along Prince Edward Road West until you reach the market.
Open every day from 7:00 am until 7:00 pm, the flower market is one of the world’s largest. This place is particularly popular during the Chinese New Year. The market is located on Flower Market Rd, Mong Kok.
Devour Dim Sum
A trip to Hong Kong is not complete unless you have tried the Dim Sum. It consists of small bite-sized food portions served in small steamer baskets or on a small plate. Here you can find the list of the best restaurants in Hong Kong according to Condé Nast.
Float on a traditional junk boat
Very few cities in the world can rival the beauty of the skyline of Hong Kong. One of the things that make this city unique is the junk boats. These iconic boats, with their graceful teak-wood hulls and curved sails, were once popular in China and primarily used for fishing, ocean exploration, and trade. Today, there are only very few left. But you can still enjoy this experience with this company. They offer several tours, and you can even enjoy the Symphony of Lights (one of the best light shows) while sailing on the boat.
Explore the Sai Kung Peninsula
While Hong Kong’s Mong Kok district is the most densely populated place on Earth, almost 40% of Hong Kong remains undeveloped. So even in this city, it’s possible to avoid the crowds, especially if you decide to hike some of the trails I suggested.
One of the best places to find some peace is Sai Kung. Often called Hong Kong’s “green lung”, this pristine peninsula is home to fishing villages, beautiful beaches, miles of hiking trails, and some cool lava formations in the Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark.
Best Cheap Accommodation in Hong Kong
Although the prices have decreased, Hong Kong is still a very expensive city to live in and travel to (here you can find the list of the cheapest and most expensive countries in the world). If you have a tight budget, you can expect to stay in some of the smaller hotel rooms in the world. I couldn’t believe how tiny my room was when I first visited Hong Kong. Here, you can find several options. If possible, avoid traveling to Hong Kong during the Chinese Holidays.
Best Transportation in Hong Kong
Getting around Hong Kong is very convenient. Recently, the new Hong Kong West Kowloon Station opened, now connecting Hong Kong to mainland China. You don’t even need to get off the train once crossing the border since part of the train stations belongs to China (Hongkongers aren’t happy about this), and you’ll get your Visa checked right there.
Hong Kong is a vibrant place that might be your starting point to explore China. Although I’m not a big fan of this city, I hope to have the chance to get back there again, this time without having to worry about my Visa and explore it a bit more.
If you have any other suggestions about some of the most exciting things to do in Hong Kong, feel free to share your suggestions with a comment.