Discover natural wonders on the island-metropolis.
Lofty skyscrapers, glassy and steeled, as far as the eye can see—this might be what most folks think of Hong Kong. It’s a true urban jungle, after all, reverent in the construction of its modern ziggurats. Towering, each one taller than the last.
Yet if you look closely, patches of verdant land break the monotony of the concrete gray. Unbeknownst to many travelers who come to the islands only to shop and indulge, Hong Kong has, in fact, its share of fog-covered rolling mountains, sea-cave riddled islands, and country parks dotted with waterfalls. And they’re exactly the venues every urbanite needs for adventures and much-needed breaks from the city life.
Top Picks for You
The High Island
With Sai Kung as your jumping off point, hire a taxi to take you into the verdant Sai Kung East Country Park. The High Island Reservoir East Dam in its southeastern section boasts a paved trail that takes you to one of the most tourist-friendly parts of the Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark’s otherworldly hexagonal rock pillars.
Take your time and learn about how these enigmatic formations were created. Later, visit the nearby sea cave carved by the waves and admire the ingenious design of the dam, with its massive dolosse blocks and blowholes created to thwart fierce waves and flooding.
Sai Kung East Country Park
For a more challenging hike, follow the MacLehose Trail Section 2 from the East Dam shed, which leads you on a wilderness hike to the secluded beaches of Long Ke, Sai Wan, and Ham Tin beaches. Spectacular panoramas of the sparkling coast abound, as do chill surfing vibes and lovely sunrises.
Better yet, pack your camping gear and make it a two-day packing trip. Ham Tin is a great place to set up camp for the night, and you could climb to the top of Sharp Peak, hike to the Tai Long (easternmost point), and take on a bit of coasteering the next day.
Ung Kong Group
Though if you want to see more of Hong Kong’s answer to the Giant’s Causeway, a visit to the Ung Kong Group of islands is in order. The island chain made up of Bluff Island, Basalt Island, and Wang Chau are only a quick boat ride away from Sai Kung, and boasts the hexagonal wonders as well as sea caves and 30- to 40-meter sea arches to boot.
Many take to the underwater world here as it’s a favorite spot among divers, while others happily stay above water admiring the epic views from their boat or exploring the sea caves on a kayak.
Hoi Ha Wan Marine Park
Sai Kung Country Park’s western section has its share of outdoor offerings as well, the most notable of which might just be Hoi Ha Wan Marine Park, a lovely sheltered bay and one of Hong Kong’s five marine parks.
With 60 different types of coral, a small mangrove forest, and around 120 species of fish, Hoi Ha is home to a diverse marine ecosystem. If you’re looking to squeeze in a bit of snorkeling or SCUBA diving during your Hong Kong visit, it’s one of the prime spots.
The shutter-happy crowd will get a kick out of Sharp Island, nestled in Port Shelter a hop, skip, and a jump away from Sai Kung. It’s certainly one of the area’s most social media worthy spots, what with its rocks that look like Hong Kong’s yummy pineapple buns and its tombolo that disappears with the tide.
However, selfies aren’t its main draw. The island offers swimming, kayaking, diving and snorkeling opportunities, as well as a couple of hiking trails that lead to vantage points with gorgeous views. A picnic on the rocky beach might be in order as well.
Ma On Shan Country Park
Just a stone’s throw away from the residential high rises in Ma On Shan, the neighboring Ma On Shan Country Park is an easily accessible venue for elevating as well as daring adventures. Take the Ma On Shan MRT line and get off at the Tai Shui Hang or the Heng On stations where the trailheads to natural pools, waterfalls, Herculean boulders, and abandoned mines are a quick walk away.
Some of the best sights to hike to are the Ma On Shan mine, which you’ll need proper gear for, the Ma Dai stream and its clear natural pools, and the Ngau Ngak Shan or the Hunchbacks.
Though known as home to two of Hong Kong’s most popular attractions—Hong Kong Disneyland and the traditional village of Tai-O, Lantau is a destination in its own right, especially for the outdoorsy set. This incredibly lush, morning fog-swathed island is filled with some of the city’s best and most serene beaches (Cheung Sha Beach, for one). It’s also home to excellent trekking trails and lovely campgrounds.
The ticket here is to do the very early morning hike to the Giant Buddha that sits atop the island’s tallest peak for unforgettable views of the rising sun or paraglide over the mountains on a beautiful summer day.
Shek O Country Park
No Hong Kong adventure list is complete without Shek O Country Park, a land and marine park that sits on the eastern coast of Hong Kong Island. It’s best known for its Dragon’s Back Trail, a remote ridge trail that’s rose to fame as one of Asia’s best hikes. Hiking it, therefore, is an essential part of the experience.
However, there are other land and coasteering trails as well as beaches to laze around on. A good mix of activities might just be key here: take on a trail, visit a waterfall, catch the waves, and then relax at one of the beaches.
Tung Lung Island
Though Hong Kong has its share of craggy coasts, none are more rugged and wild it seems than Tung Lung Chau, an uninhabited island off the southern tip of the Clear Water Bay Peninsula. The island has its share of attractions including the abandoned Tung Lung Fort, the Hung Shing Temple, and a campsite.
However, it’s still its steep cliffs that attract the dauntless to its shores. It is the venue, after all, for the city’s best rock climbing experiences, with its plethora of routes that differ in skill levels. Among the best that many want to tick off their list are the Technical Wall and the Sea Gully Wall.
Tai Tam Country Park
Out of Hong Kong Island’s country parks, Tai Tam is the biggest. It’s also home to many attractions worth visiting including Mount Parker, the island’s second highest peak; Jardine’s Lookout, which boasts great views of the city skyline; and the Tai Tam Reservoirs; and multi-level Japanese tunnels from the World War II.
Hiking is definitely the thing to do here, whether you’re trekking to the WWII tunnels, walking along one of the reservoirs, or hiking to one of the several waterfalls that pepper the area.
Lamma Island’s laid-back, go-slow lifestyle and fishing villages paved with coffee shops, craft and boutique stores, and seafood restaurants attract bohemians, artists, and active and healthy living gurus. But it also attracts intrepid adventurers thanks to its network of hiking trails, the Kamikaze Cave, and lovely beaches like the Lo So Shing Beach.
Take a languid pace then hike a two and a half mile Family Trail or the Ling Kok Shan Hiking Trail, visit the WWII cave, lounge and have a picnic at the Hung Shing Yeh Beach, and walk around the small fishing villages.
Tai Mo Shan
Hong Kong’s highest peak is neither easily dismissed nor simply conquered. It’s a tough six-mile climb along the ridge to the very top, which hovers at around 3,140 feet. The panoramas, however, of the cloud-swaddled landscape, the glorious sunrises and sunsets, and even the Hong Kong skyline on a very clear day are more than worth the effort.
Several lovely waterfalls are on hand as well, including Long Falls, the highest in Hong Kong, and the cascading Tai Shing.
If you have barely enough time for a full day trek, best make your way to Victoria Peak (or “The Peak”), which is perhaps Hong Kong’s most accessible mountain. It’s famous with tourists as well as locals for offering sweeping views of the city sans all the effort you have to put into climbing, thanks to the Peak Tram.
Though many still try and make that hike up along Old Peak Road and even continue on east along the Hong Kong Trail once they’ve had their fill of the view.
Sha Chau and Lung Kwu Chau Marine Park
A boat excursion out to sea is needed if you’d like to see Hong Kong’s very rare Chinese white dolphin, more famously called the pink dolphins because of their pinkish hue. And the Sha Chau and Lung Kwu Chau Marine Park, located just north of Lantau Island, is famed for them. This 3,000-acre, fish-rich marine park is essentially a sanctuary and feeding grounds for them.
Carve out a day for dolphin watching, as a luxury cruiser offers tours a few times a week off of Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon to take you around Lantau Island and offer plenty of opportunities for dolphin spotting.
Plover Cove Country Park
Wildlife spotting is one of the main pastimes in Plover Cove Country Park, nestled in Mirs Bay just north of Sai Kung a stone’s throw away from the Shenzhen border. Besides Bride’s Pool and geological formations that are Hong Kong’s oldest, it is also home to many woodland and bird species including the Malayan porcupine, Chinese pangolin, and cuckoos.
Hiking along its network of trails means plenty of wildlife sightings. However, for a more unique experience, follow these trails to small empty villages that pepper the area, left derelict by its inhabitants who have moved to the city. Abandoned villages like So Lo Pun, Yung Shue Au, and Sam a Tsuen certainly offer a mysterious, storybook flair to your hike.