Header image courtesy of @oleg.manzhura (via Instagram)
Originally published by Catharina Cheung. Last updated by Alison Fung.
Summer is beautiful, but arguably, it is also the season that’s most difficult to get through because of how hot Hong Kong can get. Instead of cowering at home or in shopping malls where the air conditioning is strong enough to give you constant goosebumps, here are some things that every Hongkonger should tick off their summer bucket list. How many of these activities have you already done this summer?
We love ferry rides. The smell of the salty sea spray, the wind blowing into your hair, the sun on your face, all without being too hot as the boat moves fast enough to create a breeze. While everyone knows that the Star Ferry is the quintessential Hong Kong ferry ride, there are also plenty of lesser-known and forgotten boat routes that are just as scenic. Go from North Point Ferry Pier to Kai Tak—which in itself is interesting for being our old airport—and Kwun Tong, or hop on a ferry from Tuen Mun to Tai O, where you can spend the day exploring the laid-back fishing village.
Summer season in Hong Kong is synonymous with junks. Everyone you know will already have been on at least one junk by now, so if you haven’t yet, it’s time to hop on board. Here are some junk boat companies that will sort you out for a party on the sea, as well as some junk catering companies that will keep you and your friends fed.
True to its title of an urban jungle, Hong Kong has a variety of wild animals living right in the heart of the city. The history of the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens can be traced back as far as 1876. Today, approximately 70 mammals, 160 birds, and 30 reptiles are housed in the gardens. Some of our favourite animals to visit include the orangutans, tamarins, meerkats, and owls. Best of all, there’s no admission fee to the park, making this the perfect place to spend an afternoon on a budget. Alternatively, you can check out the animal encounters at Kadoorie Farm.
With a cityscape like ours, we have more than enough excuses to indulge in Hong Kong’s persisting obsession with rooftop locations. Work on your tan and bask in the feeling of being above it all during the day, and soak in the glimmer of the city at night. Depending on which bar you go to, you’ll also be able to enjoy sweeping views of the harbour and, if you time it right, the nightly Symphony of Lights laser and music show staged at 8 pm. Some of the Localiiz team’s favourite rooftop bars include Sevva, Picniq, Wooloomooloo Steakhouse, and Popinjays.
Why not go cycling for a day and enjoy some greenery, some water, and some exercise? Going from Tai Wai to Tai Mei Tuk is the most popular cycling route, which follows Tolo Harbour, wending its way along the scenic coastline and peaceful villages, and into the innermost part of the eastern New Territories. Mostly flat with some occasional inclines, this route doesn’t put up anything too strenuous, which is great for families with small children. If you pack some food, you can even reward yourself with a grill at Tai Mei Tuk’s public barbecue sites. Here is a detailed guide to doing the trip.
Ice creams and gelatos are fantastic treats year-round, but of course, they are more welcome than ever during Hong Kong’s sweltering summers. Whether it’s the cereal-studded cones at Emack & Bolio’s, the branch-exclusive ice cream sandwiches at Elephant Grounds, or the dairy- and gluten-free plant-based vegan offerings at Happy Cow, Hong Kong has a range of delectable frozen confectionaries to suit your palate. As much as new brands are exciting to try, part of us will always veer back to our OG soft-serve—Mister Softee ice cream sold from mobile vans playing the “Blue Danube” tune.
If you don’t want to consume frozen sweets, how about cooling off on top of some ice? For such a small city, Hong Kong has several ice skating rinks dotted around, which are mostly housed conveniently inside shopping malls. After you’ve worked up an appetite, you can easily ditch the blades and grab a bite; bonus points if you snag a seat at a restaurant that overlooks the rink itself. If you’re on Hong Kong Island, head to Cityplaza in Taikoo Shing; on Kowloon side, go for Festival Walk or MegaBox. Looking for a full day itinerary away from the city? Head to Discovery Bay's newly-opened skating rink and end your night with a romantic dinner on the promenade.
Sun’s out, clothes off! It’s time to lounge around the poolside on a balmy day, dip in when it gets too hot, and hop back out to a good read and a cold drink. Public pools may not sound terribly appealing, but Hong Kong actually has a great selection of public pools, many of which are equipped with water slides, spray cannons, and animal floaties.
Tseung Kwan O, Sai Kung, Ma On Shan, Tsing Yi, and Tai Po Public Swimming Pools all have waterpark features that the little ones will love—in particular, the latter has Hong Kong’s longest water slides measuring three storeys tall. If you would (understandably) prefer more calming surroundings, our top picks for hotel pools would be the Grand Hyatt and the InterContinental, both of which offer great views.
Of course, how could we miss every Hongkonger’s favourite outdoor activity? Our one additional caveat for summer hiking is doing shaded trails that will take you past rock pools and waterfalls. When you get overheated from the exertion, simply dive in and bob around in the cool waters for a bit before moving on.
We recommend the Sheung Luk Stream hike because of how picturesque it is, and the Discovery Bay rock pools for how easily accessible it is from central DB. Here is a more comprehensive list of hikes with waterfalls.
Lastly, the Hong Kong institution that we all have fond memories of: Ocean Park! Run around the expansive grounds, visit your favourite marine wildlife, hop on some rides, and don’t forget to get on the famously knee-weakening cable car. The hearts of Hongkongers collectively dropped when Ocean Park was rumoured to bust and close down, but they have since reopened with new installations and exciting itineraries this summer. See you all out there!