May 24, 2012|
This idyll isn’t hard to get to but it feels worlds away. Tucked into an inlet just east of the High Island Reservoir in Sai Kung East Country Park, it feels remote without being inaccessible.
The Crowd: You’ve got your hikers, your campers and your day-trip junkers, plus their canine friends. Fear not, though, it makes for a nice mix, and this beach never gets too full.
The Environment: It’s a quintessential Sai Kung beach: a long stretch of white (okay, light and clean) sand; clear waters; and rolling green hills rising on three sides. Accoutrements are basic: benches, tables and barbecue pits. The bathrooms are even more basic—so enjoy answering nature’s call surrounded BY nature as you try to shield yourself from view.
Stuff to Do: Chill. Kick a soccer ball around. Roast marshmallows. Imagine you’re in Thailand. We’ve seen people paragliding off the nearby cliffs and kayaking, but you’ve got to either come on a well-equipped junk or bring your own gear and make the proper arrangements.
Food: BYO for the BBQ pits. Or hope that your junk has decent catering.
In the Area: Well, there’s a Christian drug rehabilitation center set back from the water. But by all accounts its residents and staff are barely noticeable.
How to Get There: You could take a three-hour hike from Pak Tam Chung to the East Dam… or take a taxi from Sai Kung town to the Man Yi Reservoir East Dam, and then embark on the 1.5-mile walk to the beach (which'll take you over a hill). Heading back up after a long day in the sun is a little taxing, but there are usually a few taxis waiting on the road to take you back to Sai Kung.
Far easier to access than Sai Kung’s beaches, Clearwater Bay has always been a popular destination for Kowloon-based families, thanks to its crystal waters and thoroughly chilled environment. It's also a relatively easy escape from the city and a popular docking place for junks.
The Crowd: The junk boat set on the seas, and Hang Hau families on the sand.
The Environment: Most people descend en masse to Clearwater Bay Second Beach, where access is easier. It’s bigger, louder and has more facilities, including a BBQ pit. The First beach isn’t as busy because there’s a long, winding staircase to get to it. If you fancy braving the walk, then it’s definitely worthwhile to find yourself some space, because that stretch of sand is relatively deserted. The water is beautifully clear, as you might expect. Sadly, the tranquility is shattered on the weekends when automated lifeguard announcements combine with the obnoxious music blaring from the many junks out in the water to jangle your nerves.
In the Area: Model plane enthusiasts gather on the hills behind the beach on weekends to fly their craft. A stone’s throw away is the Po Toi O fishing village and its seafood restaurants, where you can wander through the village, buy some salted fish (or cheap golf balls that strayed from the nearby golf course) and get a top-notch Lamma-esque seafood meal at a fraction of the cost.
How to Get There: Take bus 91 from the Diamond Hill MTR or alternatively the 103M green minibus from the Tseung Kwan O MTR. There’s also a 16 green minibus from Po Lam MTR station to Po Toi O, a small fishing village not far from the beach.
This is another one of those less-populated gems along Lantau’s southern shore, but Cheung Sha is farther west than Mui Wo’s Silvermine Bay and even Pui O.
The Crowd: You’ve got Lantau’s indie residents (along with their kids, dogs and sundry other companions) as well as those chill Hong Kong Island weekenders who inhabit the low-rise buildings lining the back of the beach when they’re off the clock. There’s the occasional junk boat docked offshore with its inevitable drunken revelers, but those are few and far between. Oh yeah, and don’t forget the hordes of water buffalo—they’re company, too.
The Environment: The sand is clean and plentiful, the hills of Lantau rise up at the back and it’s never too crowded—especially when you leave the more populated area by the restaurants and walk towards the big rocks that line the western edge of the beach. Expert tip: next to the rocks, follow the short path that runs over a small foliage-covered hill (with a pagoda at the top if you want to stop at the lookout) to find a more deserted, equally long stretch of beautiful beach on the other side. Overall, the water quality’s solid—not as filmy as Shek O or South Bay but not as clear as the Sai Kung beaches.
Stuff to Do: If laying out on the beach is too sedentary, check out Long Coast Sea Sports (8104-6222, www.longcoast.hk). It rents equipment (kayaks, bodyboards, skimboards) for all sorts of water sports, and also offers lessons. They’ve also got guest rooms and tents if you’re so hooked that you want to stay over. Or head to the other side of the beach to take up residence (okay, just for a night) in a teepee at Palm Beach (2980-4822, www.palmbeach.com.hk). Ideal for late-night powwows, they are permanently set up on a huge lawn—the biggest can sleep 20. Palm Beach also rents blankets, sleeping bags and water sports gear like stand-up paddleboards. Book ahead.
Food: The usual go-to along Cheung Sha is The Stoep, the much-adored South African restaurant that grills meat and bakes homemade bread with the best of them. But there’s also a Thai restaurant next door that serves up a mean green curry, along with a western-style joint beyond that with burgers and fries on the menu. There are also a couple of vendors selling beer and water if you’ve brought a picnic along.
In the Area: The beach itself, the restaurants along it and the water sports and camping facilities are the main draw here, but you could take a 20-minute bus ride to Tai O fishing village if you wanted a seafood dinner in a stilt house or a drink at the brand-new Tai O Heritage Hotel, a recently opened refurbished old police station.
How to Get There: It’s really only accessible by bus (alas, Lantau’s buses run all too infrequently) and taxi. Take the MTR to Tung Chung, and then at the terminus grab bus 11, 23 or A35. It’s about a 30-minute ride to Lower Cheung Sha Village. Alternatively, hop a ferry to Mui Wo and then it’s a 20-minute ride on buses 1, 2, A35 or 4 to the village. Then just walk down the paved path to the beach.
This South Side beach between Repulse Bay and Stanley recently caused a stir when the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) decided they were going to load in standard-issue outdoor metal chairs and tables, putting an end to afterhours music at the comfy, chic, pulsing South Bay Beach Club.
The Crowd: Mostly made up of stylish and sometimes flamboyant western folks looking to showcase their best resort attire after a late night out in Central... but there are also a few young families sprinkled around.
The Environment: People tend to come here in groups, order Corona buckets and enjoy a day of chat on the sand and in the water. Like its neighbor Middle Bay, there’s no direct way to get to this beach by public transportation, so as the sun sets, the crowds disappear. Incidentally, this is one of the best spots in Hong Kong to catch sunset.
Stuff to Do: Ogle guys in Speedos; watch the sun set behind Ocean Park.
How to Get There: No public transport keeps this stylish beach from getting overcrowded, yet it also means it’s a little difficult to get there. If you choose to take the bus along Repulse Bay Road to the stop closest to the beach, you have to trek downhill a bit as there is no direct path. Once you get to South Bay Road there are steps down to the beach that are not too steep. Or just hop in a taxi. When leaving, definitely arrange for a cab to come get you on South Bay Road.
This oft-neglected beach was popular in the 1970s, but seems to have fallen out of fashion in recent years. It’s probably one of the least crowded places on the South Side—you’re unlikely to bump into anyone you know here.
The Crowd: It’s never too busy here; most visitors seem to be those looking to escape South Bay’s crowds. So, families with young children and the occasional couple chilling out with a book or two.
The Environment: Pretty nice. While the water and sand quality obviously can’t compare to Sai Kung, the trees planted on the beach provide some welcome shade and lifeguard interference is at a minimum. Bathrooms are spookily immaculate and there’s a water fountain so you won’t go thirsty. Shame about the concrete BBQ pits and rather unnecessary railings everywhere (why fit a huge disabled ramp to the beach bathrooms if there’s no disabled access to the beach in the first place?), but as long as you’re looking out to the water and not back to the facilities, you’re A-OK.
Stuff to Do: Between the road and the beach there’s a really weird retro playground that the kiddies will enjoy running about in. There are also BBQ pits and a snack kiosk, but not much else by way of refreshments, so BYO food.
Food: See Stuff to Do.
How to Get There: Unlike many beaches, the steps down aren’t too steep or numerous, meaning that you’ll be just fine lugging down bulky beach toys and cooler boxes. To get to the beach itself however is kind of a pain—you’ll need to get a cab from Repulse Bay or walk down from the minibus stop. On the plus side, traffic wardens rarely come a’knocking so you should be good to drive. The buses to Stanley (Citybus 6X and 973) will drop you off close enough to walk there.
The funkier, younger beach on South Bay, Big Wave Bay is relatively free from the expat vibe of South Bay. High waves and strong currents make it less family-friendly, and the relative remoteness means that only the more hardened beachgoers make it out this way.
The Crowd: A mix of young triads out for the weekend and wetsuited surfers looking to catch some waves.
The Environment: With the laid-back snack kiosks and shops, chilled residents from the village out back and the surfers that regularly frequent the place, Big Wave definitely has a cooler vibe than most beaches on the Southside. Its rocky outcrops mean that thrill-seekers can scramble along the boulders, and later in the afternoon they’ll provide some shade as well.
Stuff to Do: With the best swells on Hong Kong Island, surfers flock here en mass to try and catch some waves. The surf is the best during the winter and on typhoon days (though we obviously don’t recommend hitting the water during a T8). On the far side of the beach, there’s a prehistoric rock carving located up a flight of stairs. Sadly, the LCSD has encased it behind bars so that you can’t get within four feet of it. Big Wave Bay is also the end point for the Dragon’s Back hike, so if you’ve been walking all day, reward yourself with a refreshing dip.
In the Area: Cheap and filling meals (and a couple of beers) can be bought at the cafes. If you want to rent or buy body boards, beach toys or even a bikini, it’s all available here.
How to Get There: Getting to the beach is an easy stroll from the carpark, but if you’re driving, be prepared for a fine unless you get there early and secure a parking spot. Shau Kei Wan MTR has a minibus on weekends and public holidays that’ll drop you right at the beach. Alternatively the No.9 bus (also from Shau Kei Wan) will drop you at the junction of Shek O and Big Wave Bay. From there it’s a 10-minute walk.
Repulse Bay, on the southern side of Hong Kong Island, is a tourist-friendly hotspot and also a favorite nesting place for the affluent.
The Crowd: Repulse Bay is a tourist-friendly spot and probably the most well-known of all the beaches in Hong Kong. So you’re likely to find sun-shy tourists in full-face visors toting umbrellas and snapping pictures, as well as newly arrived expats who don’t know where else to go. Also sharing the sand might be some slightly annoyed local millionaires who live in one of the luxury complexes around the area.
The Environment: If it does look a bit forced and artificial from certain angles—there’s a Chinese-style shrine on one end, aesthetically dubious skyscrapers at the back, lots of paved paths and replanted greens all ‘round—Repulse Bay is at least well-maintained and relatively clean. If you’re happy with Disney-esque environs and a man-made atmosphere, you’ll be right at home here. The facilities are world-class, as far as beaches go. Showers, bathrooms and shops selling beach gear are all available here.
Stuff to Do: High tea at The Verandah, a posh and grand establishment along Repulse Bay Road. Snicker at silly tourists who’re afraid to get near the water. Have a Hong Kong-style BBQ at one of the pits. You can also haul your dragon boat team over for a practice or a friendly race.
Food: Apart from the fancier and more unique Spices and The Verandah on Repulse Bay Road, big brands like Starbucks, Pacific Coffee and Pizza Hut also populate the region, giving beachgoers cookie-cutter dining choices that sadly reduce the appeal of the beach itself.
In the Area: McMansions, intrusive tourists, traffic jams, barbecue pits.
How to Get There: If traffic isn’t too bad, all it takes is a 20-minute taxi ride from Central to get to Repulse Bay. From Central’s Exchange Square, you can also catch bus 6, 6A, 6X or 260.
The four famed beaches in Sai Kung East Country Park, each one more beautiful than the last, are the ultimate destination for avid hikers.
The Crowd: Only serious hikers, surfers and those in decent shape (with a good attitude) ever make it out this far.
The Environment: The views are simply breathtaking: turquoise waters, majestic slopes—it’s like you’ve stepped out of the city altogether. Beaches like the ones in Tai Long Wan could and would easily draw in sun-seeking tourists—thank goodness that hasn’t happened. As it is, these stretches of sand are reserved for appreciative locals who want to experience what it’s like to be near unpolluted waters and just enjoy the scenery. There are four equally gorgeous beaches at Tai Long Wan, each successively more difficult to reach: first is Sai Wan, a long flat stretch of soft sand that is unfortunately also the dirtiest (read: easiest to get to) of the lot. A hill away is cozy and intimate Ham Tin, where overnight campers love to stay. After a bit of a trek down a jungly path, you'll end up on Tai Wan, where the surfers go to enjoy the big waves, and finally, there’s Tung Wan, the last and usually least populated of the lot.
Facilities: When you’re this far away from civilization, don’t expect to be pampered with things like showers or proper toilets. If you eat at one of the restaurants in Ham Tin or Sai Wan, they’ll let you use their facilities—but even those aren’t the cleanest or greatest. Be prepared to tough it out.
Stuff to Do: The restaurants at Ham Tin rent out equipment like surfboards and scuba diving for a day of watersports. And then there’s the overnight camping and the late-night bonfires if you’re keen to stay over. Again, the Ham Tin restaurants rent all the gear you need, including tents.
Food: Local fast food of the spam and egg instant noodle variety, dou fu fa… um, wild water buffalo? The details: On the way to Sai Wan, there are a handful of dou fu fa (sweet tofu dessert) shops if you’re in the mood for a refreshing sweet snack. In Ham Tin, there are two outdoor cha chaan teng beach restos offering tasty snacks, filling meals and beer. Other than that, BYO.
In the Area: Nature. And nothing else. And that’s the way we like it.
How to Get There: There’s a reason why Tai Long Wan has stayed as pristine as it is for as long as it has: it’s a pretty damn strenuous journey to get to. There is no public transportation that’ll lead you straight to the beaches (although there are boats from the beaches you can take to get back to Sai Kung), and a hike is the only way to reach here. Somehow get your ass to the Sai Kung Town bus and minibus terminus (there are minibuses from the Diamond Hill, Choi Hung and Hang Hau MTR stations on Kowloon side), then hop in a taxi to Sai Wan Pavillion ("sai wan ting" in Canto), which is where most hikers begin their trek towards the beaches. Once you reach the pavilion, follow the signs and take the beautiful hiking trail that will lead straight to the first beach, Sai Wan, in about 45 minutes. A word of warning: there is no reception at Sai Wan Pavilion, so make sure you’ve made all your calls and done all your Facebooking beforehand.
Great food, easy access, swimmable waters and a happening nightlife make Shek O one-of-a-kind.
The Crowd: This beach plays host to a good mix of locals, expats, teenyboppers, families out for a Hong Kong-style barbecue, sunbathers and night-time partiers.
The Environment: Depending when you go, things can get hectic here and it can be a battle for prime real estate on the sand—especially on the weekends. Generally speaking, it’s a pretty intense but cheerful experience in Shek O anytime of the week. The water’s not the best Hong Kong has to offer, but it’s much better than, say, the polluted stuff you’ll find in Stanley. The facilities here are relatively large and decent. There are outdoor showers and toilet paper in the bathrooms—so pretty much all the essentials are covered. The facilities do get crowded by late afternoon, when people have had a full day in the sun and are ready to head off for their next engagement.
Stuff to Do: Besides actually lying out on the sand, there’s plenty else to do here: you can rent a grill for a full day (or night) and barbecue on the side of the beach, hike up Shek O Road to catch some fantastic scenery and get a bit of a workout, shop at some local trinkets shops, hang out at Zanzibar Beach Club—complete with LED dance floor and cushy chairs—at night, and grab some fabulous grub at one of the many restaurants scattered around.
Food: There are plenty of local dai pai dongs, seafood shops and even western eateries to choose from in Shek O. Whether you want fishball noodles, ham and egg sandwiches, fries or steak and pasta, there’ll be a resto in Shek O to cater to your needs. Our personal favorite is Black Sheep, a funky and intimate western venue in Shek O Village.
In The Area: The popular Dragon’s Back hiking trail either ends or begins not far from the beach, depending on where you start. Shek O Village, where locals and wealthy people with multi-story houses dwell, is home to plenty of restaurants, and a nightclub to boot.
How to Get There: Shek O is relatively easy to get to either by taxi, or MTR then bus. It’s actually one of the more accessible beaches in Hong Kong: no hiking or ferries or extra sweat-inducing effort necessary. You should be able to get here from anywhere on Hong Kong Island for $200 or less. Alternatively, head to the Shau Kei Wan MTR station and get out at exit A3, then hop on bus 9. Get off at the terminus and the beach awaits.
Looking for a mini-getaway with your sweetie? Head on over to the peaceful Silvermine Bay in Mui Wo, on the eastern side of Lantau Island.
The Crowd: Honeymooners, laidback locals and families relax under umbrellas side-by-side on this serene and scenic spot far from the concrete jungle.
The Environment: It’s very tranquil and zen here—so if you’re not in the mood for babe-watching or showing off your beach bod, or generally doing any activity that requires intensive socializing, then Silvermine is THE beach to lay out your mat. It’s definitely an escape from the silliness of city life, but make sure to drag a friend or partner along or you’ll risk wallowing in hate and envy as you glance at the happy couples and children all around you. And with so many cutesy resorts, public facilities and proper restaurants around, there’s nothing to worry about at Silvermine, in terms of hygiene. Just have your bathing suit ready and you’re set to go!
Stuff to Do: You can have a proper staycation by booking in at a cute little local resort-motel in the area, and there are also plenty of food options around. Hiking, biking or romantic strolls are possible thanks to a beautifully paved path right by the water close to the beach. Board games more your thing? Head to Bahce, a resto on Ngan Wan Road that serves delish Turkish fare. They’ll have a couple of chess boards and decks of cards on hand.
Food: Pubs, cafes, cha chaan tengs and, of course, Bahce. There's also a row of excellent seafood restaurants not far from Mui Wo ferry pier.
In the Area: Restaurants, bike paths, public transport to other beaches on Lantau Island, beach resorts, locals who actually live here.
How to Get There: It’s a hassle or easy-breezy to get here, depending on where you live. There is no MTR station around, but ferries, buses and taxis are easily available. You can grab the Mui Wo ferry from Central Pier 6. Buses are also available from Tung Chung MTR station (3M) and the airport (A35).
Calm, flat and enclosed, quiet Pui O definitely isn’t a destination for thrill-seekers.
The Crowd: Lantau families from all walks of life, from villagers to pilots, plus a smattering of hikers and fledgling campers.
The Environment: This big stretch of black sand is rarely crowded. Gentle breaks make this beach a popular spot for surf camps run by Oohlala (more on them later). Families like it because it’s sheltered and you can see all the way down the beach—junior ain’t going to get lost here—but compared to more happenin' Cheung Sha, the scene is pretty sedate.
Facilities: The LCSD has a well-equipped—though rather sanitary—campsite, with showers, BBQ pits, lighting and even rows of pitches separated by fences. It’s probably better suited for families or boozy camping trips than for those seeking a taste of the wild.
In the Area: There are some decent Chinese restaurants in the village up on the road, and old-school snack kiosks if you’re craving an ice cream. Oohlala (www.oohlala-hk.com) is the best-known restaurant here, where you can get a cold beer and some easy Mediterranean grub. The restaurant also offers tents, bodyboards and sporting equipment for hire if you fancy a game of beach volleyball, rugby or the like. If you really want to make it a proper party, they also organize private events.
How to Get There: Take the MTR to Tung Chung or the ferry to Mui Wo. From there, hop on a bus (3M or A35 if you’re coming from Tung Chung, 1 or 4 if you’re at Mui Wo) and then get off when you see Pui O School. From there, it’s an easy stroll down to the beach.