For years I had wanted to get to the famous beaches of Tai Long Wan bay in Sai Kung, but I had thought there were only three ways in: helicopter, boat from Sai Kung at $200 per person, or by hauling myself along Stage 1 and part of Stage 2 of the Maclehose trail – an estimated 17km hike. Then someone told me there was an easier way: do Stage 2 in reverse and then you’ll hit the beaches after only 1.5 hours of a relatively easy 6km hike.
Unfortunately, the company I was keeping thought the goal of the hike was a test of endurance in the 30 degree heat, so after the easy hike to one of the Tai Long Wan beaches, Ham Tin Wan, and grabbing a hasty bowl of noodles, we trekked along for another 3.5km, climbing a 246m peak (with amazing views), to finish our hike at Sai Wan pavilion where we gladly grabbed a taxi back to Sai Kung town. Clearly I will have to go back again with people who enjoy beaches, but at least I now know how easy it is to get there.
Tip for parents: I did bump into an old friend who was there with his kids; he said he came every weekend walking them in and out from Pak Tam Au. Kids not walking yet? The path is paved and generally pushchair friendly, suitable for fit parents with toddlers or babies.
Tai Long Wan is a large bay in the Sai Kung East Country Park, and comprises of four beaches: Tung Wan, Tai Wan, Ham Tin, and Sai Wan (from north to south). The beaches are amazing and a great spot to snap some photographs. There is a surfing scene, and also the opportunity to camp on both Ham Tin and Sai Wan beaches, although you could probably camp anywhere. Sai Wan is also the location of the famous ‘secret’ rock pools – definitely worth a visit!
Distances & Times
- Pak Tam Au (148m) to Ham Tin, Tai Long Wan bay (sea level) – about 6km (approx 1.5 hours)
- Ham Tin (sea level) to Sai Wan Pavilion (143m) via Lo Tei Tun (246m) – about 3km (approx 1.5 hours)
- Highest Point – 246m
- Total height gain – 377m (including the bits where you go down and then go up again)
Pak Tam Au is located inside the Sai Kung Country Park so is not accessible by private car unless you have a permit. You could park at Pak Tam Chung Visitor Centre, located at the park gates, but the car park gets full very early at the weekend. Public transport generally makes the most sense, picking up either KMB 94, destination Wong Shek Pier, or the No. 7 Green Mini Bus, destination Hoi Ha, from Sai Kung town. On Sundays and public holidays there is the 96R from Diamond Hill MTR, which takes about an hour. The final option is to get a green taxi from Sai Kung town or, if parking at Pak Tam Chung, from there. This costs around $100 (from memory).
The hike finishes at the village of Sai Wan Pavilion in the middle of nowhere, where you can either get a green taxi as we did, or catch the occasional 29R mini bus.
- If coming by public transport, you’ll have a good idea that you are at Pak Tam Au because a large number of your fellow passengers will also alight here. The spot is not remarkable, except that it’s at the crest of a hill, there are some public toilets, and it’s the point that the Maclehose trail crosses the Pak Tam Road. Take the concrete path heading gently downhill, indicated by a wooden sign for Maclehose Trail, Stage 2. The path on the other side of the road takes you up steps and forms the start of Stage 3 – most definitely another story.
- The paved path heads gently downhill and is shaded by trees and bushes. You’ll catch stunning views of Long Harbour through gaps in the trees.
- After half an hour you’ll pass by Chek Keng Pier, a landing spot for those catching the boat from Wong Shek Pier. Take a peek in the abandoned houses and wonder at where these families are now.
- Uphill again, but it’s not too bad with only a 139m hill to summit.
- Still shaded, you’ll now catch glimpses of Sharp Peak, one of Hong Kong’s most challenging mountains, and also Tai Long Wan in the distance. If you feel like adding a bit more of a challenge, there is an option to take Sharp Peak path and summit Sharp Peak before heading down to the beach.
- And then, before you know it, you have reached the ‘civilisation’ of Ham Tin where you’ll find shack-cum-restaurants, and a path which cuts around the back of the beach and heads directly south to Sai Wan.
- For beach lovers, head down to Ham Tin beach where you’ll find a popular restaurant – a perfect place to grab some food and enjoy the view. If you’ve had enough of the hike, or just want to spend the day on one of the Tai Long Wan beaches, arrange for a speed boat back to Sai Kung at the Hoi Fung Store. Or hike back out the way you came.
- This hike takes us southwards along Ham Tin beach to join the paved path that heads over the headland to Sai Wan beach. There are lots of steps, but it’s not too arduous, except for the task of sidestepping other hikers also taking selfies and group shots against the fantastic backdrop of Ham Tin beach.
- As you approach Sai Wan beach, you’ll probably hear shrieks and shouts coming from the rock pools which are inland a little. A nice little diversion.
- The paved path, which is still Stage 2 of the Maclehose, continues along Sai Wan beach, past a building with beautifully manicured lawns and a pond, the campsite, and a selection of restaurants. This is the long way back to civilisation, but it is more gentle than the route over Lo Tei Tun, which is the best route for people who like views from the tops of hills.
- Just as the paved path reaches Sai Wan beach, take the unpaved path to your right, which should be signposted ‘Sai Wan Road Via Lo Tei Tun’. This takes you up a steep hill which seems to go on forever on a hot day. But it’s only 246m, and the views are worth it when you reach the top.
- Once you’ve had enough of the breathtaking 360 degree views (tip: go on a clear day), take the path down from the opposite side of the summit towards Sai Wan Road. This is a short 20-minute downhill trot where, with any luck, you’ll quickly pick up a taxi or minibus to whisk you back to enjoy well-deserved drinks and food in Sai Kung town. You could of course start the hike at Sai Wan road, and even take the route around Lo Tei Tun, but you’d miss the views!