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The Island-Hopping Series: Lamma Island

By Sophie Pettit 2 June 2018 | Last Updated 18 March 2020

Header image courtesy of @_raymond_ling

Originally published by Sophie Petitt. Last updated by Inés Fung.

If you’re looking for a weekend escape from the beeping cabs, heaving pavements, and built-up streets, then grab a pal and explore Hong Kong’s outlying islands. In another instalment of our Island Guide series, we give you the lowdown on Lamma Island, a picturesque, undulating island off the southwest coast of Hong Kong. It boasts sandy beaches, hiking trails, fresh seafood, and quaint cafés... but sadly, no llamas.

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Photo credit: @xu1jia

How to get there

Ferries to Lamma Island run from both Central Pier 4 and Aberdeen. Ferries from Central Pier 4 will get you to Yung Shue Wan (about 30 minutes) or Sok Kwu Wan (about 40 minutes), with ferries running about every half hour to Yung Shue Wan and less frequently to Sok Kwu Wan. Take the scenic route to Sok Kwu Wan via Mo Tat Wan on the Aberdeen ferry, which takes the same amount of time, but will get you some awesome pictures as the ferries are open-air. Your fur-ever friends are welcome to board all ferries, as long as they are on a leash and seated at the front of the ferry!

Mo Tat Wan Beach. Photo credit: @hannahdormido

Beaches

Lamma Island has no shortage of beaches, accessible from both Yung Shue Wan and Sok Kwu Wan. Fire up the BBQ and grab the sausages—there’s no better place for a sundown feast than the barbecue pits at Hung Shing Yeh Beach. There are simple showers on-site if you’re warring with the sand, and the Concerto Inn is just behind if you decide to extend your Lamma Island staycation by one more day.

If you are dreaming of a quiet stretch of golden sand, bordered by luscious green forest, then Lo So Shing Beach on the west coast of the island is the spot for you. Clean sand, clear water, and not a crowd in sight, this oasis is ideal for a relaxing weekend escape. On the other hand, popular with junk boat parties and island paddlers, Mo Tat Wan Beach is yet another picturesque spot to add to Lamma Island’s collection. Bordered by private houses and popular Mediterranean restaurant, The Bay, it’s well worth the extra effort to reach this out-of-the-way spot.

Sham Wan Beach. Photo credit: @hugo.deluchey

If your ideal beach date has a furry body and four legs (oh come on, we’ve all eschewed the Hong Kong dating scene at some point), then trot down to Power Station Beach. As a non-government managed beach, canine pals can frolic to their hearts’ content. There’s usually a volleyball flying around on the weekends, and if you keep your eyes peeled, you might catch the Lamma Outrigger Canoe Club paddling by. Plus, listen out for news of the annual Lamma Fun Day, held in November, when stalls, activities, and live music pop up on the beach in aid of charity.

One of Hong Kong’s cleanest and clearest swimming spots, Sham Wan Beach (a.k.a. Turtle Beach) on the south coast boasts water so clear, it’s near impossible to resist going for a cheeky dip. It’s strictly off-limits from 1 June 1 to 31 October, however, as the beach is a habitat and breeding ground for precious sea turtles. And finally, if embarking on the Circular Lamma Island Family Walk, swing by Yung Shue Ha Beach en route. This rather desolate beach has a few shops selling noodles on the weekends, and the occasional scattering of tents courtesy of ad hoc campers.

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Hikes

If a pleasant, family-friendly tour of Lamma Island is what your feet desire, then grab your trainers and hop on the ferry to Sok Kwu Wan for the six-kilometre Circular Lamma Island Family Walk. Once you’re hiking, the half-way point treat is a sandy stop off at Yung Shue Ha Beach, which is uninhabited bar a couple of ad hoc campers and noodle stalls. As a family walk, it’s no surprise this trail is relatively buggy-friendly, apart from one set of stairs. Make sure you head around the circuit clockwise so that you can carry any accompanying buggies down these stairs, rather than tackling an upward struggle. Then it’s back to Sok Kwu Wan for a celebratory seafood banquet. However, if you’re still full of beans and fancy tackling another four kilometres, hop onto the Family Trail and head over to Yung Shue Wan.

Photo credit: @_raymond_ling

By far the most well-worn hike on the island, the four-kilometre Family Trail encompasses many of our recommended sights and activities, including Power Station Beach, Herboland, and Kamikaze Cave. Most people kick off their day in Yung Shue Wan and hike over the island to Sok Kwu Wan, however in our experience, you are much better doing the whole thing in reverse. By getting your timings right and catching the less regular outbound ferry to Sok Kwu Wan, you will finish your day in Lamma’s most bustling neighbourhood with the biggest variety of restaurants (because post-hike feeds are both deserved and necessary). If you get peckish mid-hike, there are a couple of food stalls en route selling pineapple and beancurd, among other things. And let us tell you, there is nothing more satisfying in this world than a ring of frozen pineapple on a summer’s day.

If an experienced, knowledgeable tour guide would make a welcome addition to your island experience, sign up to the Lamma Island Hike with established tour guide company Walk Hong Kong. Catching a scenic boat from Aberdeen to the small village of Mo Tat Wan, this full-day excursion encompasses most, if not all, of Lamma’s historical sites. From the feng shui woods to the unspoilt south, you’ll experience the secret areas most people fail to find. Checking in at $800 per person, you’ll know the island like the back of your hand after this in-depth exploration.

Photo credit: Lamma 500

Festivals

Lamma is well-known as a hub of traditional celebration when the Tin Hau Festival rolls around every third lunar month. Colourful decorations, lion dances, and Cantonese opera appear in honour of the sea Goddess, Tin Hau, who has three colourful temples dedicated to her on this one island alone. Keep your eye out for fishing boats adorned with colourful ribbons thanking Tin Hau for past fortune on the high seas, and to welcome luck in the future.

In addition to an exciting schedule of competitive racing for the Lamma 500 International Dragon Boat Festival, there’s always an after-party at Tai Wan To Beach. Expect celebrations, festive drinks, and delicious food, and a chance to mingle with your favourite dragon boaters (or, if you’ve just competed in the race, a chance to unwind).

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Photo credit: Bookworm Café

Restaurants

You’re really spoilt for choice in Yung Shue Wan. From vegetarian cafés to Indian curry-galore, and mouth-watering Spanish tapas to good old American grill comfort food, you won’t be going hungry in this neighbourhood. Over in Sok Kwu Wan, seafood is king. Wander down the pier and see which restaurant takes your fancy. If winging it isn’t your idea of fun, however, pay a visit to one of our favourites, detailed below.

For a more local experience, scout out Andy’s Seafood, a less visible and less expensive alternative to the restaurants directly in front of the ferry pier. It may not look like much from the street entrance, but walk past the tanks to the outdoor terrace, overlooking the bay, and you’ll stumble upon the perfect setting for a seafood feast. The garlic broccoli is a must (except on date night) as is the Red Grouper.

If a delicious, nutritious vegetarian meal is what you’re after, then the colourful, friendly Bookworm Café is the place for you. We love nothing more than grabbing a book from the shelves and whiling away the hours with a plate of Green Goddess Lasagne. With such glowing reviews, it’s no surprise that this place is bustling on weekends and holidays. During these busy periods, we recommend picking up the phone and reserving your spot.

Photo credit: Lala Mama’s

Formerly known as Carlos Tapas, Candela boasts an intimate atmosphere, a friendly host, and delicious Spanish food. Borne from a humble takeaway, this restaurant boasts authentic tapas on an ever-changing menu. Although this rather mysterious tapas joint has no website or Facebook page, it’s an absolute gem. Olé!

Fresh juice on a summer’s day is one of life’s greatest pleasures, so it's no surprise LaLa Mama’s has made it onto our must-visit list of Lamma restaurants. Swing by and try out The Refresher, our ultimate favourite juice, with its orange, apple, and lemon flavours. In addition to great juice (can you tell we like it?), LaLa Mama’s hosts cooking classes. There’s no set schedule, so give them a call, sign up, and they’ll let you know what date to pop in your diary.

From burgers to hot dogs, and BBQ ribs to buffalo wings, Lamma Grill is the island’s authentic American restaurant serving up hearty meals every day of the week. The seasonal specials ensure that there’s always something new and exciting to try, even if you’re a regular. If you fancy a side portion of bingo, clothes swapping, and bookstalls, then get down there on Wednesdays when exciting activities are planned.

Just the thought of an al fresco, Middle Eastern banquet makes our senses tingle with excitement. As a result, Olive Leaf is a winner in our books. When the weather is fine, fragrant, vegetarian dishes such as shakshouka and eggplant adorned with pomegranate seeds, collect as you admire the surrounding leaves and vines. Brunches and cooking classes pop up every so often, so keep an eye on the Facebook page for news of the latest additions to the schedule. Please note that, as a private kitchen, Olive Kitchen requires forward planning and a reservation.

Just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the ferry pier, The Island Bar is a firm Localiiz favourite, with seafront seating making it both family and dog-friendly. Quiz night falls on the last Thursday of every month, and live music fills the cosy venue on Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons. Plus, on $20 Tuesdays all beers, house spirits, and mixers will set you back just one 20 dollar note! Of course, it’s always Happy Hour at this Lamma local anyway, with beer, wine, and Prosecco checking in at under $40 per glass all day, every day.

Relatively new to the Lamma scene, The Blue Goose Tavern is another restaurant with an unassuming shop front and beautiful terrace. Whether you’re on the hunt for a Full English Breakfast on the seafront or a stacked, meaty burger, this ex-Wan Chai establishment will fill you up, no problem.

Photo credit: Devasahayam Chandra Dhas (iStock)

Feeling spicy? Rustling up some of the best curries in Hong Kong, The Waterfront serves an eclectic mix of Asian and Western dishes with a strong Indian influence. With a cold beer in hand and the sun setting over the South China Sea, The Waterfront’s terrace is the ideal place to round off your Lamma adventure. After taking a peek at the kid’s menu, which includes Silly Sausages, Chish and Fips, and Rita Margarita Pizza, we reckon youngsters will be big fans of The Waterfront too.

A well-established Sok Kwu Wan favourite, Lamma Hilton serves delicious food at deliciously low prices. From deep-fried squid to steamed scallops, and baked lobster to fried crab, this is absolute heaven for large groups of seafood lovers. If you fancy a tipple, you’ve got free rein to pick up your favourite drink en route to this BYOB establishment. Cheers!

With a multitude of culinary awards tucked under its belt, Lamma Rainbow is sure to satisfy your hunger pangs. Specialities include Rainbow Fish, Fried Squilla, and Sweet and Sour Prawns. Why not take your Lamma Rainbow experience to the next level and hop aboard the Rainbow Boat? This ferry service takes satisfied guests back home to Central Pier 9 or Tsim Sha Tsui Pier 5 free of charge (click here to see the timetable).

If you need to get away but can’t get the time off work, then The Bay can offer you the next best thing. Popular with junk boat parties, this Mediterranean restaurant is well worth the half-hour walk from Sok Kwu Wan. Alternatively, you can catch the ferry from Aberdeen Fish Market to Mo Tat Wan and cut out the walk altogether (click here to see the ferry timetable). It’s easy to forget you’re in one of the world’s most densely populated cities when feasting on Mediterranean dishes with the ocean stretching out before you. Expect fresh veggies, hummus-galore, and olives-a-plenty.

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Other things to do

If embarking on the Family Trail, make sure to swing by the lusciously green oasis that is Herboland. This charming organic farm and teahouse is the place to pick up your organic bathroom essentials and rustic gifts. Mint soap and herbal tea? Yes, please. Just make sure you check out the Facebook page before you set off, as Herboland only opens on weekends and public holidays, and even this can be subject to change.

Lamma Island local Ming Ho runs Lamma Vinyl, a hidden treasure trove open on weekends and public holidays for music lovers and audiophiles to find their musical white whales. You’ll lose track of time at this independent record store digging through their wide selection of music encompassing genres and eras. Take a look through the vintage bin for an enlightening glimpse of old Hong Kong, as they’re stuffed with Cantopop and local jazz records.

Photo credit: eWilding (Shutterstock)

A celebration of the continuing importance of fishing to Lamma Island’s economy, Fisherfolk Village combines local history with hands-on activities. Hop on a shuttle boat from Sok Kwu Wan Public Pier, and in just over a minute you’ll be on the Sok Kwu Wan fish raft. Forget fancy gadgets—a hookless fishing rod is all you need to keep little hands happy throughout the afternoon. Plus, whilst the youngsters fish around in the water, you can relax with a cup of freshly brewed tea.

The Lamma Island folks know how to party, as there are plenty of hidden spots around the island to host some of the best raves. Keep an eye out on the Lamma Book Club’s Facebook page, a group of dedicated partiers who regularly host secret all-nighters featuring underground local and international DJs. Another awesome host is Kiosky, which takes over the upper deck of the Lo So Shing Beach kiosk to throw events for special occasions. Janet, a Lamma local and certified yoga instructor, also utilises Kiosky’s rooftop space to host her peaceful yoga classes.

Photo credit: Getty Images

Sights

Kamikaze Cave may not seem so exciting upon first glance, but once you learn the history behind it, we guarantee you’ll want to take a second look. It’s believed that Japanese soldiers occupying the island during the Second World War dug out the cave to hide their boats and ammunition from the Allies who were occupying Hong Kong Island. The cave is signposted along the Family Trail, close to Sok Kwu Wan, so check it out if you’re passing by.

Feeling green? No, not with envy—with environmentally-friendly energy! The Lamma Winds turbines are an iconic sight both on and off the island, and it will come as no surprise that this tester-turbine is located in one of Hong Kong’s breeziest spots, which can provide light relief following the 30-minute uphill, signposted walk from Yung Shue Wan.

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Sophie is always on the lookout for a great story and her next big adventure and loves nothing more than discovering the city’s hidden gems—and most delicious cocktails. When she’s not exploring new places, she’s off travelling and ticking countries off her bucket list.

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