When most of us think of Hong Kong we picture packed trains and reflective skyscrapers stacked against each other. And while that’s not wrong, there is so much more to this place than the hustle and bustle city life of Central. With more than 70% of the 852 taken up by nature and open spaces, it would be silly to forget the abundant opportunities to ‘get away’ and reconnect. So with rising temperatures (and 100% humidity) quickly returning, we’ve rounded up the best hikes to get you onto a beach this summer. Nothing quite like a dip in the sea to motivate those last few km’s, right?
Easily one of the more doable hikes in Hong Kong, Dragon’s Back has been voted the “world’s best urban walk” and it’s not hard to see why. Surrounded by sprawling greenery, ocean views and cityscapes; this hike is an Instagram goldmine (plus you shouldn’t be too gross to selfie as it’s a relatively easy one to conquer). Follow the trail all the way – get your knees ready for all those downhill stairs – and you’ll come out to a little village before Big Wave Bay beach. Grab yourself a fresh coconut and some ice cold beers and get ready to sprawl out for the day.
Getting there: Take the Island Line to Shau Kei Wan MTR station Exit A to Shau Kei Wan Bus Terminus. Take bus 9 or the minibus with the sign ‘Shek O’ next to the bus terminus. Alight at To Tei Wan, Shek O Road. You can’t really miss the starting point to the hike from the bus as almost everyone getting off/on the ground will be ready to go in their active wear. Shrouded in trees, the entrance way clears once you start ascending, leading the way to your first viewpoint after only 20 minutes – where you can already see the waters of Shek O beach. Follow the path left and you’ll find yourself scaling the back of the enigmatic dragon that protects the bay, through tree tunnels and stepping stones until you reach Shek O Peak. From here, it’s open skies and a fairly straightforward, clearly marked trail to the descending staircase to the beach but you can catch your breath at Pottinger Gap; a shady spot where various smaller trails overlap. Get ready for a longer-than-expected downward spiral through green canopies and rolling waters in the distance until you come out at the small village that begins Big Wave Bay. You should pass two small picnic sights before entering the village, keep right. Once you’re down follow the path towards the right where you’ll pass little shops and cafes before hitting the beach.
Duration: 2 hours
Getting home: From Big Wave Bay you can easily catch the Shek O minibus back to Shau Kei Wan and get onto the MTR or order a taxi on the taxi app or Uber back to Central.
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Sadly, this hike no longer results in you frolicking the afternoon away at much-loved surf bar, Maverick’s (#R.I.P); but it is still an absolutely beautiful hike and worth every minute to get you to Pui O beach. If you’re seeking a little adventure and a real break from the city, then hopping on the ferry is the perfect start to what is an incredibly scenic hike on the outlying island of Lantau. It’s a challenging hike with quite a lot of steps but certainly manageable (even on a hangover *cough cough*) and takes you along some breath-taking paths, with sweeping views and a few cattle friends on the way down. Make your recovery last a little longer with a swim or six at Pui O beach to ensure you really recharge before heading back to the city. You can also extend this coastal journey by starting the hike in Discovery Bay if you’re feeling up to it!
Getting there: From Central MTR, take Exit A and follow the signs and the footbridge for the Central Piers. Turn left on the piers for the Outlying Islands and head to Pier 6 for Mui Wo (Lantau Island). The normal ferry takes about an hour. Once you arrive at Mui Wo, the trail begins by following Mui Wo Ferry Pier Road which takes you to the entrance of the Lantau Trail on your right. The trail has unprecedented views and on a clear day you can almost see all the way back to Hong Kong Island! Once you hit the junction, keep right uphill to the path towards the pavilion. While a section of this trail is unpaved, it soon returns to the concrete road to the right. Keep left when you hit the signpost for the Lantau Trail (L133) to take you past Pak Fu Tin Campsite. After this you’ll meet some stairs to the top of Tai Ngau Wu Teng. This trail has sweeping scenes of the coast below; continue on it until you get down to Chi Ma Wan Road. This road will take you all the way to beautiful Pui O beach (one of the longest beaches in Hong Kong) where you can kick off your trainers and indulge in the beautiful blue waters.
Distance: Around 9km (there is a shorter route through the villages which is roughly 4.5km – have a look on Google Maps for directions)
Duration: 3 hours
Getting home: From the beach, follow the concrete path passing the pond and fields towards the bus terminus, where you can take bus 1, 2, 3M or 4 back to Mui Wo pier to catch the ferry back to Central. Be sure to check the ferry schedule to make sure you don’t end up waiting too long to get home. A cab ride from Pui O to the ferry is very short but cabs are not too common so keep that in mind for your journey back to reality.
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One of the biggest and most challenging of the main hiking trails in Hong Kong is the Wilson Trail. Covering a vast majority of land, the Wilson Trail is not for the faint-hearted and can be a strenuous endeavour for even experienced hikers. Breaking it up into more manageable areas is a definite recommendation and one of the best of those subsidiaries starts in Quarry Bay. Your legs will burn (did someone say 1,000 steps?) and your heart will race but there is the sweet, sweet satisfaction of making it just a short cab ride away from Stanley when you finish. Refuel on some seaside seafood along the plaza and make your way down to one of the beaches to heal your muscles. Make sure to pack enough water and any snacks you may need as there is nowhere to replenish along the trail. Remember, there are various alternatives on the Wilson Trail and you could start and end at a number of different points.
Getting there: Start this section of the Wilson Trail in Quarry Bay (take the Kings Road exit from the MTR). From here you want to get to the trail for Mount Parker which starts at Mt Parker Road. Follow the road past the red brick building (once Taikoo Sugar Refinery and now the Woodside Biodiversity Education Centre) and some wartime ruins until you get to Quarry Gap or Tai Fung Au. At this point you are about to embark on the beginning of the Wilson Trail so rehydrate and refuel if necessary. From this pit stop you’ll be heading towards Tai Tam Reservoirs. Get onto Tai Tam Reservoir Road for a few minutes where you’ll see the intersection with the Wilson Trail Section 1 or Stanley Section. Follow the steps up towards the lookout point – with panoramic views and beautiful animal life, as well as the eponymous violet coloured flowers dotting the hill. You’ll also be treated to scenes of Repulse Bay – just enough beachside temptation to motivate you over the oncoming steps. As you make your way down Violet Hill you’ll cross Tze Kong Bridge; with a sign for Stanley Gap Road presenting itself right after. Again, take this chance to stretch and ready your legs for The Twins. This is where the “Thousand Steps” trail begins and although it is an arduous undertaking, there are magnificent views throughout the challenge. The end of The Twins, after Ma Kong Shan View Compass, rewards you with uninterrupted views of Stanley for that final encouraging push for your beach treat on the way. Make your way down to Stanley Gap Road where you can either catch the bus to Stanley Plaza (bus 6, 6A, 73 or 260) or hop in a cab to take you straight there.
Distance: 5km (but with 1,000 steps)
Duration: 3.5 hours
Getting home: From Stanley Plaza you can easily catch a cab back to Central or you can get bus 6, 6A or 260 back to Exchange Square Bus Terminus in Central.
Read more: Hikes You Need To Do Before You Leave Hong Kong
Another one of the big trails, the Maclehose Trail can be divided into different sections and hikers can enter from various locations around Hong Kong. And while some avid hikers may do the whole thing in one stream, if you’re looking to wake up at 9am on a Sunday and make a spontaneous decision to go to Sai Kung and hike to the beach, then this is a beauty! There is no argument that any hike in Sai Kung grants you some of HK’s best views and if you’re lucky enough to have good weather, then this hike is one of the most magnificent around.
Tai Long Wan is divided into four beaches, with Ham Tin and Sai Wan being the most popular (and best facilitated).There are also the little villages dotted along the hike to replenish your food and water supplies and snap a couple IG stories, but it’s the scenic beaches (yes, plural) that will keep you motivated. Oh, and a small detour to a waterfall you say? Can do, can do, can do. Again, this hike has various amendments you can make and different routes you can choose or lose so make sure to keep your GPS handy if you’re opting to veer off from this particular trail.
Getting there: If you’re not feeling too lazy and cabbing directly (a not so inexpensive venture but worth it if you’re pressed for time and have a few wallets to share the price), you’ll need to get to Sai Kung Town (there are minibuses from Mong Kok, Choi Hung, Hang Hau and Causeway Bay or bus 92 from Diamond Hill Exit C2). From Sai Kung Bus Terminus you can take the 94 bus towards Wong Shek Pier to get you to Pak Tam Au – the starting point for the hike and Maclehose Trail Section 2 (the whole hike is pretty well signposted). Get onto the paved path to begin your hike – this section is mostly shaded – and follow the trail until you reach Chek Keng Pier and see the boats coming in from Wong Shek Pier. The path then starts to ascend and although it is a bit strenuous, you can totally manage it. This path, inclusive of some awesome views of the upcoming bay, leads you all the way to Ham Tin Beach. Here you can book your boat trip to return to Sai Kung Town and stock up on fresh coconuts or food before continuing along the hike. Of course you can also rest your feet on Ham Tin; a beautiful beach that’s famous for camping. If you follow the lush forest path and veer left you’ll be able to check out the waterfall! Otherwise, from Ham Tin you’ll want to continue along the Maclehose signed trail that takes you uphill again towards Sai Wan Beach. Expect a lot of foot traffic and people stopping for the ‘gram (#guilty) but do yourself a favour and take a moment to take in the natural beauty Hong Kong has to offer. Continue along the path until you reach Sai Wan beach. It’s now time to unwind (and undress) and settle in for a solid chill on the sand. But be warned that unless you want to hike back the way you came, you’ll need to either get a boat back from Sai Wan or make a quick return to Ham Tin for the boat trip back to Sai Kung Town.
Duration: 3.5 hours
Getting home: If the weather permits, you can catch a boat back to Sai Kung Town from Sai Wan or Ham Tin until roughly 5pm (always check on the day as the schedule changes and there are sometimes no boats at all, which means hiking back along the Maclehose Trail). From Sai Kung Town you can catch the bus back to Diamond Hill or minibuses to Mong Kok, Choi Hung, Hang Hau and Causeway Bay where you can get back onto the MTR or cab home.
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Do yourself, or visitors, a favour and head out of the city to one of the cutest outlying islands, Cheng Chau. A beautiful spot to show off and with some of the best snacks, Cheng Chau Island should definitely be higher up on your bucket list than it probably is. It also boasts an awesome hike that takes you to some less crowded beaches, with some culture and heritage dotted along the way. This is definitely a day trip worth planning, as there are temples and lookout pavilions as well as beautiful Tung Wan beach to take a rest at during your hike. And don’t forget to try the snacks!
Getting there: From Central MTR, take Exit A and follow the signs and the footbridge for the Central Piers. Turn left on the piers for the Outlying Islands. Go to Pier 5 for the ferry out to Cheung Chau. The ordinary ferry takes about 50 minutes but you can also opt for the fast ferry which is around 35 minutes. From the pier begin your trail by following San Hing Praya Street until a junction with Ping Chong Road to join up to Cheung Kwai Road on the right. This takes you along the scenic coast of Tai Kwai Wan until you turn right to follow Cheung Pak Road. Take the left steps up to a path known as ‘Lolex Path’ for some insane rock formations and panoramic views. Then head back down to the steps to Tung Wan Tsai. Keep following the path and you will make your way up to Lookout Pavilion (a great stop for Instagram snaps).
After the viewpoint, follow the trail to pass a playground and hit the left steps down to Tin Hau Temple and Pak Tai Temple. Here you will find Pak She Street that leads you to not one, but two pristine beaches: Tung Wan and just a little further on, Kwun Yam Wan Beach. Take your very well-deserved break and spend some time one some of the most beautiful beaches Hong Kong has to offer. If you want to continue the hike, get back onto the coastal path at the end of Kwun Yam Wan and go right to the uphill trail next to the communal showers. Then turn left onto Ming Fai road and left again to join the path to the Small Great Wall. The area is known for its peculiar rock formations but if you want to skip it then at the junction turn up the steps to Fa Peng. Follow the path left to Don Bosco Road, passing Salesian Retreat House. After this point there is a downward left path to Nam Tam Wan which takes you along the coast to Nam Tam Garden, in front of Tin Hau Temple. After a little breather, follow the steps to the right until you hit a concrete path. Go left and you will join up to Cheung Chau Peak Road where you can choose to end your hike by turning down any of the signed side paths back to the main town. If you want to continue, there are some awesome caves a bit further along once you pass Tin Fuk Pavilion. Keep left to get onto Cheung Chau Peak Road West and then left again for Pak Tso Wan. This is where you’ll see Reclining Rock and other incredible rocky shores of the Cheung Chau coastal path and will eventually lead you along the sea to Cheung Po Tsai Cave (you might need a torch for this part). After exploring the caves, follow the path right passing the public toilets and onto Cheung Chau Sai Tai Road back to the pier.
Duration: 5 hours
Getting home: After soaking up the sun on either Tung Wan or Kwun Yam Wan beach; start making your way back towards Cheung Chau town by following Tung Wan Road for about 10 minutes. From the pier get back on the ferry to Central (it berths at Pier 6) and follow the footbridge back to Central Station or, if you’re feeling lazy, hit the taxi stand at the piers and get home straight away.
Read more: Sassy’s Top Beginner Hikes in Hong Kong
Lamma is one of those parts of Hong Kong that makes you stop and marvel at the complexity and diversity of this magical place; with hours spent eating anything from curry to local seafood and home-brewed beers amongst the banana trees while overhearing accents from around the world. The village is adorable and a great day out, but if you’re after a little sweat sesh then the hike from Sok Kwu Wan is a great way to earn your time on the beach before tucking into that seafood fried iace before the ferry! It’s a scenic hike that isn’t too strenuous but will definitely get you ready to run into the water after (especially now that we’re back in 30 degree heat). Accompanied by views of traditional fishing villages and a 150 year old Tin Hau Temple; this hike connects the old and the new of the 852 with an end point beach that is family-friendly and filled with refreshment facilities so you can spend all day recovering on the sand. Who has their sunscreen ready?
Getting there: From Central MTR, take Exit A and follow the signs and the footbridge for the Central Piers. Turn left on the piers for the Outlying Islands. Head to Pier 4 for Lamma Island. There are two different ferries here so for the hike be sure to take the ferry to the right for Sok Kwu Wan. The ferry takes about 30 minutes. Once in Sok Kwu Wan, walk away from the pier until you reach a T-junction and turn right to go up. Follow the trail signs for the Lantau Island Family Walk and pass the newly renovated Tin Hau Temple. At the top of the trail on Ling Kok Shan is a beautiful lookout point with views that stretch across from Aberdeen to Ocean Park. From here it’s a pretty easy pathway down to Hung Shing Yeh beach. You can opt to go past the wind turbines after the beach (ascending Tai Ling hilltop) for a little extra work before settling in with an ice cold, locally-brewed beer on the beach.
Duration: 2.5 hours
Getting home: Take the ferry from Yung Shue Wan Pier back to Central where you can hop back on the MTR or grab a taxi from the pier taxi stand.
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