Header image courtesy of @surrphoto (via Shutterstock)
Originally published by Sophie Pettit. Last updated by Jen Paolini.
In this week’s instalment of our Island-Hopping Series, we take on the biggest island of them all. With sandy beaches and mountainous trails, a big bronze Buddha, and houses on stilts, (not to mention a sizeable water buffalo population), you’ll need to reserve more than just one day in your diary to tackle this getaway. Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to Lantau.
Editor’s note: Due to the ever-evolving restrictions implemented to combat COVID-19, many businesses are taking extra precautions and reducing their hours and capacity—or are temporarily closed. While all information published was correct at the time of publication, it is best to call ahead and check opening times as recommended by the businesses themselves before heading out to avoid disappointment.
Taking the Tung Chung line is the fastest and most convenient option for those heading to the Big Buddha, clocking in at just 30 minutes from Hong Kong Station. Head out of Exit B, follow the signs, and you’ll come to the cable car and bus stations. If you love a bargain and have time to spare, you could swing by Citygate Outlets and root around for a gem or two. Well, sale shopping is practically money-saving, isn’t it?
Ferries to Mui Wo run every 30 to 40 minutes from Central Pier 6, with fast ferries taking 30 minutes and standard ferries trailing slightly behind at 50 minutes. Pooches are welcome to join you on your Lantau adventure, provided they ride the slow ferry with you and are muzzled and leashed. Click here to check out the ferry schedule.
Those heading straight to Discovery Bay are in for a real treat, with ferries running around the clock from Central Pier 3, a shack outside the pier serving sizeable beverages for deliciously low prices, and complimentary WiFi on board to keep you entertained during the 25-minute journey. Click here to check out the ferry schedule.
Once you’re on Lantau, you’ll realise that taxis are rather few and far between. If you’re in dire need of a cab, take the time to pre-book one by calling (+852) 2984 1328 or (+852) 2984 1368. Both will direct you to the Lantau Taxi Association.
Yes, yes, it’s a tourist attraction. However, the Tian Tan Buddha is quite a sight to behold and deserving of at least one visit during your time on Lantau. You can hike, ride the cable car, or catch the bus if your nerves aren’t quite up to an airborne journey. Buses 23 from Tung Chung and 2 from Mui Wo may hurtle around corners at a slightly unnerving pace, but the 50-minute journey is a cheap and favourable alternative to anything involving heights in the opinion of our scaredy-cat Localiizer (no names).
When you reach the summit you can gaze up at the Big Buddha, go wild with your camera, wander around the nearby Po Lin Monastery, tuck into some tasty treats at the popular Vegetarian Café, and coo over the fluffy temple dogs which recline in the middle of the walkways. If you want to explore some other Hong Kong tourist attractions, such as the Grand Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas and Dongashan Famen, then check out the 360 Buddhist Walk ($290 for adults; $180 for kids), organised by Ngong Ping 360, which tours all of these sights in one fell, three-hour swoop.
Plus, the Wisdom Path is just a 15-minute walk from the Ngong Ping Plaza. This hillside arrangement of 38 towering, engraved steles, arranged in an infinity shape, is well worth a trip. Weary sightseers can call it a day at this point and return to Tung Chung or catch bus 21 for a one-hour ride to Tai O and explore Hong Kong’s last remaining village on stilts.
If you’re looking for somewhere to pitch your tent, you won’t have to look far, because there are campsites scattered across the island. However, if winging it isn’t your idea of fun, why not check out our favourites? Pui O Campsite is nestled just behind the beachfront, which means you are in prime position for a morning dip. With zero fees, BBQ pits, and basic facilities, it’s well worth taking the time to fill out the online application form. Don’t hold your breath for a last-minute spot during public holidays, however, as places are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.
More in the mood for an all-inclusive glamping weekend? Don’t panic if your camping experiences involve tent pole-related breakdowns, as Long Coast Seasports has a collection of safari tents and caravans available for hire. Pitched just behind lower Cheung Sha Beach, you can also hire your watersports equipment here. Two birds, one stone.
Note: Pui O Campsite and Long Coast Seasports may be temporarily closed because of COVID-19. Please check their opening times.
You just can't beat the look of wonder on your little ones’ faces when they meet Mickey Mouse and all his friends. With the added bonus of a Disney MTR train connection, complete with Mickey Mouse-shaped windows and the trill of his voice wishing you a “magical day” as you disembark, you don’t have to be a child to get excited about a trip to this fantasy land. The ice cream parlour outside It’s A Small Small World is a must, as is the Lion King show, and be sure to brace yourself for the adrenaline rush on Space Mountain. Leave your selfie stick at home, however, as in an act of pure genius, Disneyland has banned them from entering the gates. Now we can all rest safe in the knowledge that we will return home with both eyeballs intact. Day tickets start from $639 for adults and $475 for children.
Note: Disneyland may be temporarily closed because of COVID-19. Please check their opening times.
If you want to catch a glimpse of the rare pink dolphins that inhabit the waters of Lantau, it’s crucial that you do so without endangering them. For over 20 years, Hong Kong Dolphinwatch has been treating passengers to a sneak peek at these magical creatures. Tours run three times a week from Tung Chung New Development Pier, with around four hours spent at sea searching for the pink pod, and a success rate of 97 percent. With a passionate tour guide on board to answer all your questions, inform guests about the environmental situation, and give advice on how they can help the dolphins, Hong Kong Dolphinwatch clearly has the best interests of the animals at heart. Tours cost $460 for adults and $230 for kids.
Hiking boots at the ready, Hong Kong! Owing to its multiple peaks and picturesque views, Lantau is a popular choice for hiking trails and running races. Whether you’re chasing sunsets on Sunset Peak, making your way up to the Big Buddha via the Ngong Ping 360 Rescue Trail, hitting the beach from Mui Wo to Pui O, or checking out interesting rock formations on Fa Ping Teng, there’s something for everyone’s active tastes. Here are some of the best hikes on Lantau Island for you to tackle.
One of the more interesting things to do on Lantau island is to join Ngong Ping for a tour of Tai O Fishing Village—one of the last remaining villages of its kind in Hong Kong. Tai O, with its quaint collection of houses on stilts, is full of charm, and browsing rows upon rows of traditional, dried seafood shops can bring surprising results—hanging sharks or pufferfish anyone? If you're keen to extend your visit, then why not check into the picturesque, colonial-style Tai O Heritage Hotel and treat yourself to a staycation? Click here to check out our in-depth guide to Tai O and the things to do there.
If you’re an active beach bum who shuns reclining on a towel in favour of catching some waves, then Lantau is the place for you. Treasure Island, based on Pui O Beach, has surfboards, SUP boards, and kayaks available for hourly or daily rental, starting at just $80. Note that only cash is accepted for equipment rentals, so come prepared. Perhaps your little one is something of a surfer kid? Enrol them in the Treasure Island Surf Camp and watch with pride as they get to grips with the waves on Pui O Beach.
Alternatively, head over to Long Coast Seasports on Cheung Sha Beach and browse their selection of windsurfs, body-boards, kayaks, surfboards... the list goes on. Rentals start at just $40 for bodyboards, and umbrellas and deck chairs are also available for those who prefer to kick back and watch others splash about in the waves.
Claiming a spot in our round-up of Hong Kong’s cleanest beaches, Cheung Sha Beach is a firm favourite for those who enjoy a quiet dip in the ocean and a relaxing day on the sand. The upper beach is deserted most of the time, while the lower stretch is lined with eateries and shops, including our usual go-to—Bathers.
Thanks to the Treasure Island Beach Club, a free campsite, and a scattering of shops and bars nearby, Pui O Beach’s popularity remains unwavering. Plus, you’ll probably encounter some water buffalo on the short walk there which makes you feel like you’ve achieved some one on one time with nature during your escape from the city.
As the mainstay of Discovery Bay residents, Tai Pak Beach is the perfect place for a family day out. With restaurants lining the sand, basic facilities on site, and a playground at the far end, you’ll have no problem keeping everyone entertained.
We’re all for alfresco dining with a great view over the water, especially when tasty seafood is thrown into the mix. Feeling jazzy? Well, Thursday is your night, with musicians from around the world entertaining diners at 22° North in Discovery Bay as they tuck into a candlelit dinner beneath the palm trees. Similarly, with spectacular live music and comforting plant-based fare aplenty, Hemingway’s DB is another seafront hang out on the D’Deck which we can’t resist. Following a complete menu revamp where the entire restaurant has committed to meat-free dishes, well, why would you go anywhere else?
Discovery Bay staple Solera Spanish Restaurant offers a splash of colour and charm to an otherwise soulless dining scene. The menu offers both traditional and contemporary Spanish cuisine, with an impressive range of salads, soups, pasta, and paella dishes, as well as six tantalising desserts that aim to satisfy all taste buds.
In addition to a tempting selection of tapas classics, Tap Tap in Pui O also serves up a hearty breakfast menu throughout the day, for those who are not so sharing and caring with their food. With a warm, friendly atmosphere and a keen interest in sourcing local produce to support the community, Tap Tap has made it onto our editor’s picks.
For a slightly more sophisticated menu whilst retaining the ocean view, head over to Bathers on Lower Cheung Sha Beach. With blackboard specials keeping the menu fresh and exciting, seafood is definitely the order of the day at this tasty oasis. And finally, last but not least, if you’re feeling peckish while exploring Mui Wo, check out our in-depth guide for what to eat there.