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#852Basics: 5 hiking trails on the Outlying Islands under three hours

By Catharina Cheung 17 April 2020

Header image courtesy of @claaaaaaaara_mu and @tvovers

It’s a damn shame to stay cooped up indoors when we can see the weather gradually getting nicer. While the COVID-19 pandemic has put a stopper in a lot of social plans, there’s nothing stopping you from nipping out for a brisk walk and some fresh air—as long as you’re being responsible about it.

We’ve already recommended quick hikes on Hong Kong IslandKowloon sidenorthern and western New Territories, and eastern New Territories that you can complete in roughly two to three hours. The last part of this series is a list of quick hikes on Hong Kong’s various outlying islands. Which short island hike will you be doing over the coming weekend?

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Sok Kwu Wan

An outing to Lamma Island on a nice day is always a good idea. The Sok Kwu Wan trail is a circular route that brings you past Mo Tat Wan, Yung Shue Ha, and Tung O, before looping back to Sok Kwu Wan—convenient because you don’t have to worry about making your way home while knackered from an unknown location.

Get to Sok Kwu Wan by hopping onto a ferry from Central Pier 4 (make sure it’s not the service going to Yung Shue Wan instead!), or take a small kaito ferry from Aberdeen Pier. The kaito will make a stop at Mo Tat Wan first—you can also choose to shorten your hike by starting here instead.

Turn left as you exit the Sok Kwu Wan Pier and stroll along until you reach Mo Tat Wan, which is where you can also choose to start the hike if you get off the kaito early. Along the way between Mo Tat Wan and Yung Shue Ha, you’ll come across some abandoned houses where a clan called the Chows used to live. One of Lamma’s most secluded beaches, Shek Pai Wan, is also nearby and stretches from Yung Shue Ha to Tung O village.

Take your shoes off and enjoy the feeling of the soft sand between your toes as you cross Shek Pai Wan to the path next to the pier, which will take you through Tung O village and up the Ling Kok Shan hill. You’ll come to an intersection that links to the Ling Kok Shan Hiking Trail; it’s worth going along this trail for a while to see some naturally formed rocks that look very precariously balanced. The top of Ling Kok Shan is a plateau where you’ll be able to look down on the rest of Lamma Island and across to southside on Hong Kong Island.

Simply keep on the circular route to eventually end up back in Mo Tat Wan and then Sok Kwu Wan, where you can catch the ferry back to Central. Depending on how long you spend at the locations you pass through, this hike should take approximately two and a half hours.

Shek Pik Country Trail

This hike is an easy alternative to the Ngong Ping 360 Rescue Trail running along the cable car route to the Big Buddha, which consists of climbing 10 kilometres of stairs (we shudder!).

From Tung Chung MTR station, take buses 1, 2, 23, or 11A to Shek Pik Police Post, which will put you at the east side of the Shek Pik Reservoir. Once you’re off the main road and in the country park, take the trail to the left. As with most hikes in Hong Kong, there is a section of stair-climbing at the beginning, but once you conquer this, the rest is easy going. There’ll also be a lookout point where you’re greeted with amazing views of the reservoir catchment area. Gazing out onto the expanse of water cradled by green hills, it truly doesn’t even feel like Hong Kong.

Follow the gentle incline and you’ll soon see the back of the Big Buddha. The Shek Pik trail will eventually spit you out next to The Wisdom Path, an attraction well worth exploring as well. A bit of a hidden gem often overshadowed by the Big Buddha, the Wisdom Path is a monument consisting of 38 wooden beams arranged in the shape of an infinity loop, each inscribed with the Buddhist Heart Sutra prayer.

The Big Buddha itself is only about a ten-minute walk away, but do note that the attraction closes around 5 pm, so start your hike early if you plan to also visit the statue. There’s a bus terminus at Ngong Ping, or you can even take the cable car down to leave. This hike will take approximately two hours to finish.

Discovery Bay to Mui Wo

Instead of lazing the day away at D’Deck, why not take a hike to Mui Wo from DB? Do note that there’s not that many overhanging trees along this trail though, which means more sun exposure and a higher risk of heat exhaustion. Make sure you’re slathered in sunblock and sufficiently hydrated!

Central Pier 3 will take you to Discovery Bay, and once you’re on the walkway along the beach, take the first left that will take you between housing complexes. Turn right at the intersection and keep walking until you see a green and white sign on your left, across the street. These are the stairs that start the hike. Going up steps can be arduous, but you’ll be rewarded with fantastic views at the top. Follow the path down and then take the dirt trail right to get to Tiger’s Head (Lo Fu Tau Country Trail).

Once you’ve indulged in the photo ops from the summit, the rest of the hike is all flat or downhill. Simply follow signs for Mui Wo, which you’ll soon be able to see in the distance. Within the boundaries of Mui Wo, you’ll go past a few temples, a small waterfall, and the Silvermine Cave. After the cave, you’ll come to a point where the path continues forward with stairs going down the side (look out for a tree with lots of signposts on it). Take these stairs, which will bring you to Silvermine Bay Beach and the ferry pier. Depending on how quickly it takes you to tackle stairs, the hike should take roughly three hours to complete.

Keep scrolling for the rest of the list 👇

Cheung Chau

Though small, Cheung Chau is Hong Kong’s oldest inhabited island and makes for a nice day trip. There is even an alleged pirate cave you can explore!

Take the ferry from Central Pier 5 to get to Cheung Chau, then turn right and follow the waterfront to Sai Wan Village. At the end of the village, continue up the hill on the right and follow signs for a detour to the Cheung Po Tsai Cave and the Reclining Rock.

Supposedly, this cave was where the infamous pirate Cheung Po Tsai stashed his booty. It’s dark so bring a light if you really want to squeeze in for a look. Make your way back to the end of the waterfront of Sai Wan Village, then go up Peak Road West.

You’ll pass by Pak Tso Wan, a little beach accessed by steps that’s usually deserted. Follow signs for Peak Road and Nam Shan Wan, then when you see a red fire hydrant along Don Bosco Road, take the left fork. This will bring you along a coastal path offering nice views across to Lamma Island on a clear day. Follow the sign signalling a left turn onto Kwun Yam Wan Road, then carry on until you get down to the beach, which will lead you back into the Cheung Chau central town area.

Reward yourself with a meal in one of the local restaurants before catching the ferry back to Central. Since you’ll mainly be on paved paths and the inclines are nothing serious, this is also a kid-friendly hike that will take approximately two and a half hours to finish.

Po Toi Island

The island of Po Toi is the southernmost tip of Hong Kong, often jokingly referred to as Hong Kong’s South Pole. We’ve heard that some people’s phones even go into international roaming here—you’re truly on an adventure! The island is small, but famous for its seaweed and some unusual rock formations.

Take the ferry from Blake Pier in Stanley or from Aberdeen, but bear in mind that these services run very infrequently, though on Sundays it’s a little better, so plan your trip ahead of time. Head left after leaving Po Toi Pier and go up the steps, where the trail will lead you to Mo’s Old House and Coffin Rock. As legend has it, Mo was an inhabitant who suffered a string of bad luck, presumably due to the coffin-shaped rock located behind it—an obviously inauspicious symbol.

Once you’re up on the smooth path of the hill’s ridge, visit the Ngau Wu Teng pavilion where you’ll have unobstructed views out to Tai Wan and the headland stretching out to the expanse of sea. Dipping down to the junction of Ngong Chong and back up to the ridge, you’ll be able to see some of the aforementioned unusual rocks: namely Monk Rock (which resembles a human) and Tortoise Rock (which looks like it’s climbing up the hill).

If you go back down to the Ngong Chong junction and take a right, it’ll lead you back to the pier in half an hour; otherwise, head left to see Palm Cliff as well, which is shaped like a giant Buddha’s hand—our favourite among the rock formations of Po Toi.

Continuing back along the junction, a flight of stairs will lead you down to some ancient rock carvings by the coast. These are very weathered and are protected by a plane of glass. Follow the main trail along the coastline until you return to the pier. This hike will take approximately three hours, possibly a little longer if you make all the detours and spend time looking at the rock formations.

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Catharina Cheung

Senior editor

Catharina has recently returned to her hometown of Hong Kong after spending her formative years in Singapore and the UK. She enjoys scouring the city for under-the-radar things to do, see, and eat, and is committed to finding the perfect foundation that will withstand Hong Kong’s heat. She is also an aspiring polyglot, a firm advocate for feminist and LGBTQIA+ issues, and a huge lover of animals. You can find her belting out show-tunes in karaoke, or in bookstores adding new tomes to her ever-growing collection.

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