There are approximately 50 beaches scattered over the Hong Kong, Kowloon and New Territories that are safe to swim from… so with summer upon us, what better excuse to get off the beaten track at the weekends and see a different side to this amazing country that we live in? Rather than visiting Repulse Bay or Stanley yet again, here are our top five beaches in Hong Kong, each picked with a different activity in mind. Some of them are popular choices that many of you will have visited before, but hopefully a couple will be new and take you to a new side of the 852!
The one for camping: Tai Long Wan
Starting with the best – this is one of my all time favourite beaches in Hong Kong! This beach takes some commitment to reach; there is an hour long hike on the Stage 2 of the MacLehose Trail before you get there, but if you make the effort you will be rewarded with a white sand beach and amazing views. There is a small restaurant on the beach where you can buy food and drinks as well as hire tents and camping gear (and surf boards – if the wind direction is right this is a great spot for beginner surfers, although there is no lifeguard here so only go in if you are a strong swimmer and always surf with a friend to spot for you). The beach can get quite busy at the weekends with scouts and local walking groups making the trip too but camping over night, watching the sun go down, seeing the phosphorescent in the surf, and waking to the sound of waves is a truly special experience… one that is guaranteed to make you feel 1,000 miles away from the crazy pace of the city, and brings you back to the office on Monday with a glow, as you feel like you have been in another world for the weekend!
How to get there: from Sai Kung take Bus 94 to Wong Shek Pier. From there it is a short boat ride ($20 per person) to the start of the trail.
The one for taking your dogs: Lamma Power Station Beach Beach
If you have a dog in Hong Kong, it can be hard to find new places to walk them at the weekends where they can run around off the lead without getting in harm’s way. Lamma Power Station Beach on Lamma Island is a dog-friendly sandy beach in the sight of the power station. It is a quiet beach and the island’s lack of any traffic makes a safe place for dogs to run around freely. It is a short walk from Yung Shue Wan village, which has many dog-friendly bars and restaurants for lunch after your walk – I recommend the Bookworm Café for their excellent juices and amazing salads.
How to get there: take the Lamma Island ferry, which leaves Central every half hour during the day, to Yung Shue Wan village. From there, follow the signs to the beach.
The one for getting away from the crowds: Upper Cheung Sha Beach
Imagine a white sand beach stretching for miles with no one on it. Now imagine that you don’t have to leave Hong Kong to find it. This beach is just a short ride away from Hong Kong Island on the Lantau ferry that leaves from Pier 6 and gets you to Mui Wo village in half an hour. From there, it is a short bus ride (15 minutes) or taxi ride (approximately $100) to get to the beach. There are two halves of the beach; the first has a few restaurants where you can buy drinks and lunch. This tends to be a bit busier with families at the weekend taking advantage of the safe swimming waters and lifeguard stations. If you really want to get away from the crowds, then walk up the beach for ten minutes where you will come to a second little cove. This beach is totally void of restaurants, but this also keeps the crowds away. The white sand is spotless and the swimming is safe here. A perfect place to relax and tan the day away.
How to get there: Mui Wo ferry from Pier 6 in Central will get you there in half an hour. From Mui Wo take the bus to Cheung Sha Beach (approx 15 minutes)
The one for fresh water swimming: Sai Wan Beach
Sai Wan Beach is located in Sai Kung Country Park and is a short hike (approximately 45 minutes) from Sai Wan Pavillion. The beach itself is relatively small, but has lovely clean white sand and a very gentle drop off in depth (ideal for those who want to paddle rather than dive straight in!). A short way up the hill from the beach there are two waterfalls and fresh water pools where you can swim and cool off away from the crowds. Sai Wan beach is flanked by two steep hills either side, forming a protected bay, but this also means that you are totally cut off from any signs of town or village life, and you can relax in peace far away from the sounds of traffic and people that are our normal soundtrack in Hong Kong.
How to get there: take the 29R bus from Sai Kung which will drop you at Sai Wan Pavillion (approx 25 minutes). To get to the waterfalls, walk to the end of Sai Wan beach and follow the trail left from the river. The path gets very narrow and quite rocky – I seriously suggest you don’t do this in flipflops! – but after about 10-15 minutes, it will become wider and clearer and you will see the waterfalls ahead of you.
The one for sun-downers and people-watching: Shek O Beach
A chilled-out vibe and relaxed community make Shek O Beach one of the nicest on Hong Kong Island. Long white sands and good facilities mean that it can get crowded quickly at the weekends, so get there early to claim your spot; however, if you are looking for a beach to people watch and make new friends then Shek O is the one for you. There are a number of great bars to choose from for food and drinks – I recommend Ben’s Bar on Shek O back beach for the excellent cocktails and extensive drinks list.
How to get there: Take Bus #9 from Shau Kei Wan MTR station and get off at the last stop.