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Your guide to Hong Kong’s cleanest beaches and water spots

By Amy Poulton 21 April 2016 | Last Updated 21 June 2023

Header image courtesy of Clars Puk (via Unsplash)

There’s nothing worse than waking up early for your junk or beach day, sweating buckets on your quest to get out of the city, only to find that the refreshing oasis you had your heart set on is more like a lukewarm breeding ground for trash and algae.

With high anticipation for bikini season, I donned my best sunnies, slapped on SPF 50, and shoved a trashy novel in my beach bag. I trekked all the way to the Southside on a sunny Sunday wearing a new swimsuit ready and raring to lose its saltwater virginity. 

As I rounded a corner, the glistening turquoise of the China Sea appeared, bordered by hot white sands. I discarded my flip-flops and ran barefoot into the ocean—only to be confronted with bottles-a-plenty, a flock of plastic-bag jellyfish, and food scraps washed ashore from junk boat parties. Thanks a lot, guys!

So, for anyone who’s suffered the same plight as I have, and doesn’t like sharing the shallows with shoals of candy wrappers, check out my pick of Hong Kong’s cleanest beaches, in ascending order. Click here to check out the latest official Beach Water Quality ratings.

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Photo: Mingling (via Unsplash)

Big Wave Bay, Hong Kong Island

Your best bet, if you want to take the easy route and stick to the Southside, is Big Wave Bay. Thanks to the occasional big waves (duh!) and the fact that it’s an extra few minutes’ journey from Deep Water Bay, Repulse Bay, and Stanley, there are fewer crowds and less crap. It’s definitely not perfect, but these shores are markedly less murky and more convenient for those who don’t want to get trapped somewhere in Sai Kung’s UNESCO Global Geopark at sunset on a Sunday.

Clear water rating: 3 out of 5 for the more favourable rubbish to ocean ratio.

How to get there:

  1. Take the MTR to Shau Kei Wan Station.
  2. From Exit A3, take bus 9 to Big Wave Bay Beach and Shek O.
Photo: Exploringlife (via Wikimedia Commons)

Lo So Shing Beach, Lamma Island

Who knew Lamma Island had so much more to offer than an expat Sunday brunch and cheap seafood? And no, I’m not referring to the picturesque stretch of sand opposite the power station. There are showers, changing facilities, and barbecue pits at this hidden cove, but Lo So Shing is less frequented than its Yung Shue Wan neighbour—the dreaded sands of Hung Shing Yeh.

Clear water rating: 4 out of 5. It’s the perfect pirate hideaway.

How to get there:

  1. Lo So Shing is closest to the Sok Kwu Wan ferry pier.
  2. Hop on for a 30-minute journey to Sok Kwu Wan from Central.
  3. It’s a short walk past the Kamikaze Caves (worth a look in themselves).
Photo: Minghong (via Wikimedia Commons)

Pui O Beach, Lantau

This west-facing strip of sand is home to a gorgeous sunset vista. Definitely a cut above the usual towel-strewn rubbish tips we find in Hong Kong, Pui O is practically litter- and crowd-free (possibly due to its incredible length). 

There are also some nice eateries nearby, including Treasure Island’s Beach Club restaurant, popular among beach bums who prefer their water in a tall glass with a cocktail umbrella—and replaced with a margarita!

Clear water rating: 4 out of 5. Also, the average number of cocktails consumed per visit.

How to get there:

  1. Get the ferry to Mui Wo.
  2. Hop on bus 1 for a 15-minute bustle to one of Hong Kong’s longest beaches.
  3. Alternatively, you can hike over from the Mui Wo ferry pier, turning left out of the exit. 
  4. Not only will you feast your eyes on some breathtaking views, but you’ll also appreciate lying on the sand a whole lot more after three hours of tackling inclines.

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Photo: 張元柏 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Cheung Sha Beach, Lantau

Not everyone is a happy (beach) camper, so this tipi campsite caters to city ‘gallopers’ looking for a weekend of beach and watersport action. Alternatively, you can skip the camping and kayaking altogether and just float out into the clear, sparkling waves—there is plenty of beach to go around. Worked up an appetite? Not a problem! There are plenty of restaurants dotted along the shore which offer Asian and Western treats.

Clear water rating: 4 out of 5. Also, the number of bruises that will be incurred from body-boarding.

How to get there:

  1. Take the same route as Pui O.
  2. Catch a ferry to Mui Wo. 
  3. Take buses 1 or 2 for 25 minutes to reach Palm Beach.
Photo: Jhhurren (via Wikimedia Commons)

Tai Long Wan, Sai Kung Country Park

It’s a mission to be sure, but it’s worth the walk and you can camp overnight at Ham Tin or Sai Wan once you’re there. If you can’t manage the final push to the triplet beaches of Tai Long Wan in the high summer heat, then the shores of Sai Wan Village also boast a surf school with equipment rental, and fairytale waterfalls and pools for cliff-jumping are only a short walk away. Be sure to pick up your rubbish after you leave, as the locals often get stuck with the clean-up mission following an influx of thoughtless sun-worshippers.

Clear water rating: 5 out of 5. School’s out, surf’s up.

How to get there:

  1. Get yourself to Sai Kung. 
  2. Take minibus 29R to the end of Reservoir Road.
  3. Follow the signposts and walk for 30 minutes downhill to reach Sai Wan Village.
  4. Hike for another hour or so to Tai Long Wan’s Ham Tin beach.
Photo: rheins (via Wikimedia Commons)

Long Ke Wan, Sai Kung

So you’ve done Tai Long Wan a million times, why not try Long Ke Wan, found on Stage Two of the MacLehose Trail? This hidden jewel is sheer bliss when the sun is out. Dig your toes in the soft, white sand or cool down with a dip in the crystal waters. 

Long Ke has such a relaxing atmosphere, making it hard to believe you were in one of the world’s most densely populated cities just that morning. In fact, you will feel a million miles away from city life in this tranquil location.

Clear water rating: 5 out of 5. I have decided to trade in city life altogether.

How to get there:

  1. You can hike Stage 1 and 2 of old Mac’s trail if you’re brave.
  2. Otherwise, take a taxi from Sai Kung or University MTR Station to the East Dam of the High Island Reservoir.
  3. Upon arrival, follow the signposts; it’s a 20-minute hilly walk to Long Ke Wan.

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Sham Wan, Lamma Island

Surely Lamma’s best-kept secret, the water at Sham Wan is so invitingly clear that even marine life has moved in—the beach is a nesting ground for broody green turtles! Unfortunately, this means it’s restricted from 1 April to 31 October, but it’s turtle-y gorgeous and well worth the wait.

Clear water rating: 5 out of 5. I recently went with my friend. It really helped him come out of his shell (sorry, couldn’t resist!).

How to get there:

  1. Get to Mo Tat Wan on Lamma Island via ferry from Aberdeen.
  2. The path starts up the steps behind the restaurant’s kitchen.
  3. Go on a scenic stroll around Tung O village to the beach.
Photo: Underwaterbuffalo (via Wikimedia Commons)

Pak Lap Wan, Sai Kung

Paradise comes at the price of another taxi and hike combo from Sai Kung, but you’ll thank me for it! The shore is so shallow that you can just float on your back above the fine white sand to enjoy the gentle lapping of the waves. Don’t forget to marvel at the perfect transparency of the water; you can see your toenails in perfect definition, even when you’re up to your neck in the ocean! 

Why not make a weekend of it and camp at the nearby Pak Lap Campsite, where you can find BBQ pits, tables, and benches, and a breathtaking spot on the East dam to watch the sunrise. The only problem is being convinced to go back home!

Clear water rating: 6 out of 5. Am I in Thailand?

How to get there:

  1. Once you reach Sai Kung, take a cab to Pak Lap.
  2. Find the signpost for the beach.
  3. Follow the paved footpath downhill for 20 minutes.

What about the others?

This list would be way more extensive if everyone chipped in and did their part to keep the beaches they visit clean. It sounds obvious, but the existing problem means that it isn’t obvious enough—take your litter with you when you leave! Yes, pollution from other places has spoiled much of Hong Kong’s coastline, but that doesn’t mean we should contribute to the problem. Do you know another spot of Hong Kong paradise not included in this list? Share them with us via email or on our social media channels!

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Amy Poulton


British sea snob Amy Poulton is a bookish backpacker—a book-packer!—who has called Hong Kong, Italy, Mexico, and now Thailand home. She is on a mission to explore the best bookshops around the world and can often be found in a local café with her nose buried in a good travel story, cappuccino in hand. Read more of her writing here.