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A trip to Hong Kong means perfectly blending an experience that includes both dense urbanity and remote natural escapes. Despite it being one of the world’s great metropolises and often ranking in top population statistics, it may surprise you to know that in reality, only about 25% of this Asiatic island is developed land.
After spending some time in the central areas of Hong Kong, you may start to itch for a different perspective or aesthetic! Here are some of our favorite Hong Kong daytrip getaways.
You’ve gotten your feel of English-Chinese heritage in Hong Kong, but what about the Portuguese influence in the region?
Macau, just a short 1 hour fast ferry away, makes for an ideal change of pace. For risk-takers, this Chinese territory (also a Special Administrative Region just like Hong Kong) is a mecca for gambling at the numerous grand casinos filling the Cotai Strip. The casinos each have their own elaborate themes and are great destinations for world-class entertainment, gastronomy, and high-stakes play!
For culture-seekers, a mix of narrow vintage alleyways, duty-free shops, street bites, and temples and museums of the Old Town and Old Taipa Village will surely keep you plenty amused.
Of course, no one can miss the famous Ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral dramatically found at the end of always-busy Rua de Sao Paulo.
For a wonderful panoramic view, walk up the hill to the 17th century Monte Fort and venture into the Macau Museum for a comprehensive review of the island’s rich history.
Furthermore, the tradition cuisine of Macau is distinct from that of other Canton areas in that the Portuguese certainly left a strong Western mark; be sure to try the unique “po tarts,” or custard tarts!
As an island, Hong Kong has a lot of rugged waterfront perimeter but few so stunning as in the Sai Kung district.
This was once a quiet fishing village that has since become a tourist getaway for both locals and internationals, but the residents have taken great strides to preserve Sai Kung’s tradition touches.
Here, you will find waterfront seafood restaurants with impressive displays of large and unusual creatures to choose for your menu, fishermen selling freshly caught seafood along the pier directly from their floating boats, and beautiful views of the distant geographies that wind in and out of the Sai Kung line of vision.
At the piers, you can sign up for shared boat rides ranging from a few hours to a full day to the different islands and beaches; if you have a large group, you can also negotiate to book your own private day charter!
A few blocks from the waterfront is the neighborhood where you will find an interesting network of interwoven side streets lined with boutiques, mom-and-pop restaurants, local homes, markets, small spas and salons, dessert huts, temples and altars, and more.
Are you a hiker? The famed 100-kilometer Maclehose Trail cuts through Sai Kung meaning you can literally get off the beaten path!
Although from the centers of the city there is no MTR subway line that connects, it is easy to take a minibus (often direct lines) to the main village.
Very likely, your first point of contact with Hong Kong is Lantau Island because that is where the international airport is located! Aside from being a major transit point, however, Lantau has a slew of fascinating attractions that make it an ideal daytrip.
Tian Tan Buddha, aka Big Buddha, which sits on top of a mountain peak is an iconic postcard-perfect image of Hong Kong. This is a great place to learn more about Buddhism and how it relates to the locals, not to mention a naturally serene destination for photography and generally admiring overhead views of the island, ridges, beaches, and waters.
A short bus ride will also take you to the photogenic Tai O village, a tradition fishing village now popular with daytrippers where homes and businesses are set atop stilts and a wide array of seafood delicacies such as squid jerky and preserved abalone line the walkways, an exciting cultural place to try street foods and see a different way of life within the Hong Kong region.
Discovery Bay, meanwhile, is a beach area close to an urban hub where you can take in some sun and waves.
If you stay late enough into the late afternoon, you can take advantage to watch the distant fireworks set off nightly at Hong Kong Disneyland! No matter what your interests or mood is, Lantau Island has it all.
Oftentimes this little island doesn't get the same attention as its larger counterparts, but Lamma Island packs a punch.
The 7-kilometer Family Walk is a fantastic trail for all ages which incorporates beaches, sights, and food and drinks, perfect for the traveler who wants to get away but not too far from city life. The views are wonderful from different viewpoints, and the road is mainly paved with some steps.
Since the island is so closely tied to the sea, this is a great place to stop by the Tin Hau (Goddess of the Sea) Temple at Yung Shue Wan and see the Western-style lion statues protecting the main door.
And of course, the island is rich with seafood ingredients so aficionados will surely enjoy a tasty meal here after an active day on Lamma.
Popular with locals and visitors alike since its opening in 2005, Hong Kong Disneyland is fun for adults as well as children.
As a unique point, this is the smallest of all Disney theme parks in the world. But don’t let that discourage you because there are 7 detailed themed parks within the complex including a replica of California’s iconic Sleeping Beauty Castle!
If you are a pop culture foodie, Hong Kong Disneyland is a mecca for photo-attractive snacking due to the Disney-themed bites at the different eateries throughout the park. For example, traditional style dim sum are styled as various Disney characters, burger buns are stamped with character images, pastries such as waffles and pancakes are shaped as your favorite movie personality, and more!
And as mentioned, the nightly fireworks are beautiful and can also be seen from as far as Discovery Bay across the waters on the same Lamma Island.
Our 1-day Disneyland package is a great way to manage a hassle-free trip with your whole group.
The scenic route to take would be walking the Dragon’s Back trail, often hailed as one of the best urban hikes in the world by countless sources, which leads you up and across a handful of peaks and past green foliage until arriving at the oasis known as Big Wave Bay beach.
On the trail, you will actually walk past Shek O beach from above, although it is logistically a better destination following Big Wave Bay first, then arriving at Shek O by a very short minibus ride. Both places are also well accessible by transportation due to being popular getaways for locals especially on hot summer weekends for barbecues and swimming with loved ones, and at both locations, a small beach village will welcome you with cold drinks, small traditional Hong Kong diners, and restrooms.
A getaway from central Hong Kong doesn’t necessarily require a long travel day! Cape D'Aguilar is unfairly an often overlooked destination on Hong Kong Island itself, perhaps because it is not easily accessible by public transportation such as the MTR subway. This means that those who venture by private arrangements or the occasional bus service will find an off-the-beaten-path place of discovery.
The southeastern cape brings dramatic views of cliff-side waterfronts, caves, and even a waterfall! Adrenaline lovers will enjoy hopping along the rocks fending off crashing waves, otherwise is it also an amazing view from a distance.
There is also a lighthouse which is a popular photography point, and on a clear day, Cape D'Aguilar is an especially exceptional location in Hong Kong from which to view a vibrant sunset.
Because of it is rather remoteness as far as urban resources are concerned, a visit to this far-off highlight is also a good excuse to pack a delicious picnic for the day!
The Cape may also be a good extension to your daytrip to the Shek O and Big Wave Bay beaches mentioned above.
Cheung Chau is almost like the little sister of Lantau Island, with just as many cultural highlights and vistas to enjoy but on a somewhat smaller scale. About 1 hour by slow ferry from Hong Kong Island, this nearby escape is a great place to immerse yourself in a non-urban environment for a breath of fresh air.
As with many of the outlying islands, Cheung Chau was and is a fishing village now that also now happily serves curious visitors.
A comprehensive way to see the small destination is to walk along the Mini Great Wall path which is part of the greater Cheung Chau Family Trail. As the name suggests, it is a small replica of the northern China construction and a wonderful track for photos and views of the blue sea and traditional fishing vessels in the harbors.
Depending on your exact interests, caves, beaches, small temples, and seafood markets with plenty to try are all within a small radius from the main pier.
Bicycles can be rented from local vendors, which is very fun for the whole family.
And if you have the chance to visit Hong Kong in April or May (dates vary per year), then you definitely must visit Cheung Chau Island to witness the special Cheung Chau Bun Festival which incorporates religious ceremony with a more modern bun snatching competition involving multiple-story towers, an experience you surely won't forget!
To call it a city is a bit unrepresentative; perhaps metropolis would be a better suited term for this immense hub that is the third largest in China only behind Beijing and Shanghai. Guangzhou will feel somewhat familiar if coming from Hong Kong since it is still in the Canton province and most locals speak Cantonese and dishes are also Cantonese style.
However, the infrastructure and inner workings of daily life are certainly more Chinese-mainland in both style and rhythm, making Guangzhou an exciting change from its neighbor to the south!
About 51 countries may take advantage of a 72-hour visa-free stopover, although USA passport holders are not eligible and must apply for a Chinese visa.
While there are many sights to enjoy, history lovers will enjoy a visit to the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall, photography enthusiasts will love the views from atop Canton Tower, Huaisheng Mosque dates to the year 627 and is curiously one of the oldest Muslim centers in China, and a seemingly limitless number and variety of shopping and dining areas will satisfy even the most discerning consumers.
Yuexiu Park is a wonderful city park within the city, and those who want a fuller natural environment should head to Baiyun Mountain (White Cloud Mountain) which is sublime for the views and for observing locals also enjoying the day.
With so much to do, our 3-day Essence of Guangzhou and Shenzhen Tour may best help you coordinate all that you want to see and do in the region.
Shenzhen sits between Guangzhou and Hong Kong, designated only in 1979 as a Chinese Special Economic Zone due to its strong connections and influences with Hong Kong. Since then, the area has absolutely blossomed into a destination of its own with over 14 million residents calling it home.
Many countries can enjoy a 5-day visa-free period to Shenzhen, although USA passport holders must apply for a Chinese visa.
Luckily for you, from Hong Kong, Shenzhen is just a simple MTR subway ride and border crossing away.
Although the city is not as popular with international travelers as a tourist site on its own unlike some other metropolises, for this very reason it is a fantastic stop because it allows for an authentic experience in a working Chinese city. Once there, you will find that Shenzhen has a distinct personality that stems from its heavy working class population.
Window of The World is a delightful theme park with miniature replicas of famous icons from around the world such as the Eiffel Tower, Pyramids of Egypt, Taj Majal, Grand Canyon, and more; this is generally great fun for all ages! Similarly, Splendid China & Chinese Folk Culture Village is another mini theme park but with focus on the most memorable Chinese sites such as the Forbidden City of Beijing and the Terracotta Soldiers of Central China.
Shenzhen is a large city, with a bespoke tour catered especially to your tastes and interests could be a great way to make the best of your time here.