Most people think of Hong Kong as a bustling metropolis full of skyscrapers and crowded streets overlooking the harbour, but there is a lot more to this peninsula than meets the eye. So, let’s have a look at some of the things to do in Hong Kong.
For example, did you know that Hong Kong is also home to 263 islands which include deserted beaches, lush jungle and untamed wilderness? If you tire of the hustle and bustle of the city, you can soon be swimming in clear waters or hiking one of the challenging nature trails.
Below I list some of my top things to see and do in and around Hong Kong. You can also check out my Hong Kong Itinerary for a more detailed look at what to do in the city over one to four days.
Busy streets filled with markets, neon signs and street-food.
Location Kowloon: Tsim Sha Tsui (Hankow Road). Nearest MTR: Tsim Sha Tsui.
Victoria Harbour and the Star Ferry
This is by far the best (and cheapest) way to cross from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island and is worth it just for the harbour views. The famous green and white ferries depart every six or so minutes and the crossing takes less than ten; perfect for getting some great shots of the Hong Kong skyline and peaks in the distance.
Location: Star Ferry, Pier 7, Man Kwong Street.
Nearest MTR: Tsim Sha Tsui (Kowloon) and Hong Kong (Hong Kong Island)
Ticket: $2 one way. Purchase using the machines (change given) or use your Octopus Card.
Journey time: 8 – 10 minutes
Times: Every 6 – 8 minutes from 06:30 to 23:30.
The Peak Tram and Victoria Peak
Take the peak tram up for sweeping views across Hong Kong and Kowloon. Hike around the top of the peak for views out to the outlying islands and watch the sun set over the South China Sea.
It’s best to go up in the late afternoon to get great daytime views, the sunset and then the Hong Kong skyline at night; one of the best cityscape views in the world.
Tip: Avoid the pricey viewing platform at the top of the shopping complex as you can get the same views for free by once you hike around the peak.
Location: Peak Tram Lower Terminus, Cotton Tree Drive.
Bus: Take bus 15C from outside the Star Ferry Terminal (Pier 7) to the lower terminus. You can also take a bus to the top of the peak (bus 15, 40 minutes) or taxi (I took a taxi down and paid $70 to the Star Ferry Terminal).
Cost: A one way ticket on the tram is $45. If you want to visit the viewing platform on the 5th floor it will cost another $45.
Hong Kong Park
A pleasant place to escape the hustle of the city and a nice spot for a picnic. The man-made lake contains an assortment of fish and many turtles that can be seen sunning themselves in big groups on the rocks.
There is also a pleasant café/restaurant within the park (where I had the best sweet and sour pork I have ever tasted) towards Admiralty MTR. A great place to sip a glass of wine under the shade of the palm trees in the heat of the afternoon.
Location: Cotton Tree Drive. Nearest MTR is Admiralty.
Soho / Mid Levels
For the best nightlife, follow the overground walkway from Central to the street escalators at the Mid-levels. Cruise along the escalators until you spot a good bar or restaurant (there are plenty).
The New Territories
The home of Hong Kong International Airport and Disneyland, Lantau is also a great place to escape the city and get out for some sightseeing, hiking and swimming.
The Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery
The 34m tall Tian Tan (or ‘Big’) Buddha was built in 1993 and attracts visitors and pilgrims from all over Asia. The nearby Po Lin monastery is a pleasant and colourful sanctuary with lush gardens and wafts of incense carrying on the air.
How to get to The Big Buddha
Take the MTR to Tung Chung and then take the cable car across the mountains (25 minutes). If you don’t like heights then you can take bus 23 from Tung Chung to Ngong Pong(45 minutes).
Another option is to take the ferry from Pier 6 in Central to Mai Wo and then bus 2 to Ngong Pong. (40 minutes).
Silver Mine Bay
Silver Mine Bay boasts a small seaside village (Mui Wo) and a wonderful curved beach with a backdrop of jungle and mountains. A great place to cool off in summer, but the beach is unpatrolled during the cooler months and advises against swimming when unmanned (sharks have been spotted close to the nets). Ramshackle bars line the beach and make an excellent place to while away a couple of hours gazing out over the bay.
There is a hike up into the jungle you can do which includes a couple of impressive waterfalls, but beware of packs of wild dogs. My second trip hiking up to one of the waterfalls was ruined by these marauding canines and I had to take a considerable detour to avoid four fierce dogs that would not let me pass.
The cave entrance to the abandoned silver mine is not very impressive, but it is en route to the waterfalls so worth a momentary pit stop.
How to get to Mui Wo and Silver Mine Bay
The easiest way is to take a ferry from Central Pier 6 (next to the Star Ferry Pier). There are fast (30 minutes) and slow (60 minutes) boats and if you time the return journey right you will be in for an incredible sunset over the islands.
It’s also possible to take the MTR to Tung Chung and then a bus to Mai Wo, but although the bus ride is very scenic, it takes a lot longer than the ferry and won’t save you much money (but if you are already in Tung Chung after visiting the Big Buddha, it makes a nice round-trip to take the bus to Mui Wo and then a boat back to Central HK).
Ferry cost: Slow boat: $15 and fast boat $30.
Maclehose Trail/Sai Kung East Country Park
One of the most stunning areas of Hong Kong is the Sai Kung East Country Park. This mountainous area is home to some stunning hidden beaches (Sai Wan, Ham Tin Wan, Tai Wan and Tung Wan). Spectacular vistas of small islands, headlands and deserted beaches make this an excellent escape for some good hiking.
Getting to Sai Kung:
Sai Kung is a little off the beaten path and takes a bit more planning to get to, but is totally worth the extra effort.
Take the MTR to Diamond Hill and change then take bus 92 to Sai Kung bus station. Change to bus 94 to Pak Tam Chung Station and walk 5 minutes to the start of the trail (Signposted).
Dangers around Hong Kong
Beware! A two-meter shark was spotted in Silver Mine Bay in 2016 and although no fatalities have been recorded since 1995, sharks do frequent the waters around Hong Kong. Other dangerous sea-life including sea snakes, the blue ringed octopus and cone shells can also be found around Hong Kong. See this useful leaflet on dangerous marine life from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.
Snakes: Hong Kong is home to many species of deadly snake including the Chinese and king cobras, many banded krait and bamboo snake. Take care when walking off the path, and be especially aware at night of the bamboo snake that waits in trees to stalk its prey and has been known to bite passers by.
Hong Kong has over 25,000 wild dogs and some of these may carry rabies. Even animals without the disease are capable of inflicting fatal bites so be wary when passing through small villages off the beaten path.
Getting to Hong Kong:
Most visitors will arrive at Hong Kong International Airport on Lantau Island to the north east of central Hong Kong. The airport is a major international hub (in fact the world’s eighth busiest) and services many prominent worldwide destinations.
From Hong Kong International Airport
Train: The Airport Express is one of the easiest ways to get to Kowloon or Hong Kong taking under 30 minutes. An adult ticket costs $115 ($110 with an Octopus Card) and a child fare is $57.50 ($55.00 with Octopus). For full fare information and departure times, see the Hong Kong Airport website.
Bus: Over 20 public buses depart from Hong Kong International stopping all over the city. See the timetable for more information.
Taxi: Taxi fares from the airport are around $400 to central Hong Kong.
From mainland China (Shenzhen)
If travelling from mainland China, most people will arrive at Shenzhen North Rail Station as it is the high-speed rail link to the rest of the People’s Republic. Read everything you need to know about train travel in China.
MTR: By far the quickest and easiest way into Hong Kong is by using the MTR. Exit Shenzhen North and follow signs for the MTR (in English and Chinese). Take the red line to Futian Checkpoint where you will need to go through customs and immigration before boarding another train bound for Kowloon.
Star Ferry: From Kowloon it is an 8 minute ferry ride across Victoria Harbour to Central Hong Kong. Cost is $2.
MTR: Kowloon to Hong Kong is one stop on the orange or blue line.
**Looking for more great cities in Asia? Check out this great guide of 8 Cities to visit in the Far East!**
If you are spending any more than a couple of hours in Hong Kong it pays to get an Octopus card which can be used on the MTR, buses, Star Ferries, the peak tram, shops, kiosks and some attractions. As well as cheaper fares, it usually means avoiding queues at some of the top attractions like Victoria Peak. You can purchase the card at any MTR station.
See the Octopus website for more information.