Header image courtesy of @kinfungfong (via Instagram)
Don’t let the skyscrapers piercing skywards and the restless urban sprawl tell you otherwise—Hong Kong owes three-quarters of its land to the countryside, including waterfalls, wetlands, beaches, and countless outlying islands. It’s easy to find yourself happily lost in the wilderness, hopping on a brief respite from the city hubbub.
Ranked by CNN as an “overlooked attraction” in Asia, Sharp Island awaits nature lovers with its geological and ecological attractions, and appeals to swimmers for the clean, serene water. For the adventurous readers amongst you, here’s our guide to Sharp Island.
Situated in Inner Port Shelter—a stone's throw from Sai Kung Public Pier—Sharp Island is the smallest island country park and the most accessible geopark attraction in Hong Kong. It is believed that the island was formed 140 million years ago around a central caldera in Sai Kung—this theory also explains the high concentration of igneous rocks on the island, including the interesting-looking “pineapple bun stones” and other unique rock formations.
Due to the clean, clear water, Sharp Island boasts a vibrant marine ecosystem, encircled by abundant coral communities. Since no-anchoring areas were designated in Sharp Island West and Sharp Island East, the regional coral reefs have been protected from vessel damage, with Sharp Island North reaching the highest coral coverage (82.9 percent). Its ecosystem is diverse, featuring with special species such as the endangered Tetrathyrium subcordatum, the rare Platygyra, and Pavona, Hong Kong’s flagship species.
For your trip to Sharp Island, first take bus 92, 299X, or minibus 12 to Sai Kung Bus Terminus. Once there, head towards the sea and locate Sai Kung Ferry Pier. Hop on a sampan or kaito boat to Sharp Island Pier or Hap Mun Bay Public Pier. Each ticket costs about $20 to $40, depending on the destination you choose.
Known as a geological landmark, this famous tombolo sits on the northern edge. Coastal currents banked the sand up onto the shoreline, resulting in a narrow ridge that is lifted up from the water, forming what we see now as the tombolo. Connecting to Kiu Tau Country Park on one end, this 200-metre segment ropes through a stream of rainbow-coloured mussel shells. Do note that the tombolo will be submerged underwater at high tide, so check the tide times before crossing to the islet and prevent yourself from getting stranded.
Also sprinkled along the tombolo are bun-shaped, crackled rocks, lovingly nicknamed “pineapple bun stones.” Despite their resemblance to the luscious, crispy sweet buns, these boulders are actually made of quartz monzonite, and their sharp edges have been worn smooth by sand and waves. An exfoliation process caused the rock surface to develop cracks in a delicate fashion that is similar to the crusty topping of a pineapple bun.
Hidden away beyond Hap Mun Bay, this secluded site may require a little work to get to, but the rewards are well worth it. Inaccessible by walking or swimming, the rock pool has to be reached by kayaking or coasteering with a qualified guide, but the hard work pays off as the glittery rock pool, hammered out of rocks at the ocean’s edge, offers a unique swimming experience with the clear, turquoise saltwater, and a bar to touch at the end.
Befitting its status as a geopark, the unique rock formations are one of many defining characteristics of Sharp Island. As with the “pineapple bun stones,” these geological works of nature bear a stunning resemblance to recognisable things and animals found on Earth.
Among them, represented by their metaphorical shapes, are a number of cliffside sea caves, one of which arches like an elephant’s trunk, and another with a candle-like rock hanging from the ceiling. Since there is no direct pathway to these hidden gems, it is highly recommended to make your visits by kayaking, coasteering, or through guided boat tours.
Covered in thick bushes and flowers, this nearly three-kilometre hike starts in Hap Mun Bay Beach and ends at Sharp Island Pier. Its uphill sections are well paved, with steel railings that lead to the summit—Hak Shan Teng—for a great panorama of the sea and surrounding islets. It also offers pockets of solitude in the woodlands, with tall plants for shade.
Plus, this path provides access to the island’s geological landmarks —the tombolo, the iconic pineapple buns, and Kiu Tau Country Park. After making your way through the preserved geological beauty in Sharp Island, you can continue along the hiking trail and end up at Sharp Island Pier, where you can hop on a boat ride back to Sai Kung Pier.
On top of spectacular geological features, Sharp Island is well worth a visit for its picturesque strips of sand and pristine water. Ranked Grade 1 on the EPD’s Beach Grade, Hap Mun Bay Beach scored the lowest E. coli count amongst all Hong Kong beaches.
During bathing season, the water quality reached 93 percent out of 100. Also, the beach is well-supplied with public facilities such as barbecue pits, shower rooms, changing rooms, lockers, lifeguards, and food kiosks, making Hap Mun Bay Beach one of the most coveted destinations for Hongkongers, who come to enjoy idyllic views and clear, turquoise water.
If Hap Mun Bay Beach’s popularity results in packed crowds, you may as well consider Kiu Tsui Beach as a feasible alternative. With primarily good water quality, the shoreline curves inward and looks out to the tombolo in the distance. Some people pitch their tents here.
Surrounded by turquoise, tranquil water, Sharp Island overflows with different reefs and fish swimming around the coast, making it one of the best places to dive or snorkel in. As you jump underwater, admire the colourful corals with their lovely, quirky inhabitants. As Hong Kong’s most concentrated coral area, Sharp Island North offers exquisite marine beauty.
Although these coral reefs seem like beautiful stones, please do not touch them. Doing so will expose the tissues to disease or kill the corals. Keep a safe distance by controlling the buoyancy so that the local coral colonies can be sustainably maintained.
As with swimming and snorkelling, kayaking is a memorable activity on Sharp Island, as the water around the island is mostly calm and clear. Don’t miss out on the sea caves and other geological features hardly found elsewhere in Hong Kong as you paddle around.
Full kayak gear is rentable from the local shops or outfitters in Sai Kung, such as Sea Kayak Hong Kong ($300 for a full day) or Ah Kwok Watersport Centre ($200 for a full day). Do remember to ask for a few basic tips before you head out to sea.