It’s a rare and wonderful thing when one of the planet’s most exciting urban destinations also boasts immense natural beauty just a stone’s throw away.
One of Hong Kong’s unique attributes is the proximity of beautiful nature and the great outdoors. Pristine island beaches, lushly forested mountains and hillsides, crystal clear waterfalls, historic fishing villages and outdoor activities like kayaking, cycling and hiking are all within easy reach of even the city’s busiest neighborhoods via public transportation.
Long Ke Wan Beach
It’s a fact about Hong Kong that takes many first-time visitors by surprise.
“Hong Kong is such a great mix of urban and natural landscapes,” says Goway vice president Moira Smith. “Almost three-fourths of Hong Kong is made up of country parks and nature reserves. It offers some of the best hiking in Asia. And with 280 miles of coastline, it also offers great beaches.”
The diversity of Hong Kong’s three main territories and their many country parks and conservation areas gives rise to a rich array of experiences. You can cycle an easy bike trail from Yuen Long to Butterfly Beach; rent a paddleboard to explore the island coastlines and rural villages of the Sai Kung Peninsula in the Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark, or walk among chattering macaque monkeys in Kam Shan Country Park –– to name just a few.
One favorite outdoor experience is walking the short trail to Victoria Peak’s Lugard Road Lookout to take in spectacular views of Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong Island and Kowloon Peninsula.
Savoring Island Life, Hong Kong Style
Hong Kong encompasses more than 250 islands, most dotted with beautiful beaches and surrounded by sparkling waters that support abundant marine life and more coral species than the Caribbean.
Three islands that are especially popular for visitors and convenient for day trips are Lantau, Cheng Chau and Lamma islands.
On Lantau, a highlight is taking the cable car up the Ngong Ping 360 to see the huge bronze Big Buddha and visit the Buddhist Po Lin Monastery, which serves vegetarian meals to visitors. Make sure your clients leave time to visit Tai O, a charming fishing village where traditional stilt houses, busy street markets and terrific seafood restaurants line its narrow canals.
Ngong Ping 360
Lamma Island, just 30 minutes by ferry from Central Hong Kong, is a car-free island with beautiful scenery, a laid-back vibe and a multicultural community of free-spirited artists, musicians and ex-pats.
Lamma’s two main coastal villages are home to shops selling local arts and crafts and other souvenirs, seafood restaurants, bars and cafes. The easy three-mile walk between the villages takes you along the coast and into the hills, then ends at a spectacular seafood village overlooking the bay, where your clients can enjoy their reward.
View from Lamma Island
Another favorite island destination is Cheung Chau. The island’s diverse charms include a waterfront full of fishing boats and seafood restaurants, small shops, trendy cafes that cater to the island’s growing youth population and beautiful beaches where canoes, surfboards and windsurfing equipment are available to rent. There’s also an 18th century temple honoring the Taoist God of the Sea and Bronze Age rock carvings. Just 1.2 square miles in size, Cheung Chau is easy to explore by foot or bicycle.
Other island destinations include Kau Sai Chau, where you can hire a sampan to see a rarely visited fishing village; Peng Chau, which boasts an intriguing arts scene; Po Toi Island, a scenic 1.4-square-mile-island whose coastal outcrops and views are easily explored by its network of trails, as well as the islands that are part of UNESCO Global Geo Park.
One of a Kind: Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geo Park
One extraordinary natural attraction in Hong Kong is the UNESCO Global Geo Park in the New Territories. The 58-square-mile Geo Park encompasses islands and peninsulas whose significant geological features were formed by violent volcanic eruptions 140 million years ago.
UNESCO Global GeoPark
Among the park’s many wonders are towering hexagonal columns and weird rock formations, plus sea caves, sea stacks, sea arches and steep cliffs. There’s beautiful island scenery, aquamarine waters and cultural attractions like temples, fishing villages, Hakka walled villages and old-growth Feng Shui forests.
Visitors can take a half-day boat tour of the park’s Sai Kung Volcanic Rock Region or opt for a guided or self-guided kayaking trip. There are also well-maintained hiking trails for explorations by foot.
Take to the Hills
Wherever you are in Hong Kong, spectacular mountains and verdant hillsides provide a stunning backdrop. You can ascend those heights via an extensive network of hiking and walking trails that range from family-friendly walks to serious treks like the 62-mile-long MacLehose Trail.
The rewards include gorgeous vistas, beautiful mountain streams, waterfalls and rock pools, dense subtropical forests, plentiful birds, butterflies and chattering monkeys, craggy cliff faces and caves, intriguing cultural landmarks and access to secluded beaches.
There are heritage hikes that take you to historic fishing villages. A hike in the Plover Cove Country Park leads to the 300-year-old walled Hakka village of Lai Chi Wo, where a Feng Shui woods was planted hundreds of years ago in accord with ancient principles.
Hikes for waterfall lovers range from the easy Bride’s Pool Nature Trail to see two beautiful cascades to the challenging hike to the Ng Tung Chai Waterfalls in the foothills of Hong Kong’s tallest mountain.
In the northeast New Territories, a three-hour woodland hike in Pat Sin Leng Country Park traverses a nature reserve that’s home to rare butterflies and a hidden valley whose wetlands are fed by mountain streams, ending at the “mirror of the sky” Lau Shui Heung Reservoir.
One especially popular trail is Dragon’s Back, a moderately difficult trail on Hong Kong Island that climbs through lush vegetation to a ridgeline that yields sweeping views of island beaches and the South China Sea. The hike, considered one of the world’s best, continues on to two beautiful beaches, Big Wave and Shek O, where hikers can end the day with a swim and a fresh seafood meal and go paddle boarding or surfing.
Nature lovers who prefer to remain at sea level may want to visit Mai Po Nature Reserve, an ecologically diverse sanctuary where more than 90,000 birds feed during winter migrations. Other destinations for wildlife lovers include Hoi Ha Wan Marine Park, Hong Kong Wetland Park, and, for a horticultural experience, the Kadoorie Farm & Botanical Gardens.