Header image courtesy of Hong Kong Youth Hostels Association
International travel might be a no-go right now, but one silver lining in this giant cloud of a year is that we’ve had the opportunity to really re-discover all that Hong Kong has to offer, from beautiful hiking trails to quirky upstairs cafés, creative activities, and more. No shade if flying is what you miss most about travelling—there must be demand if people are taking “flights to nowhere,” right?—but being able to explore new things without having to decant all our toiletries into mini bottles sounds pretty good to us. Read on for some of the most unique getaways in Hong Kong, from heritage hostels to glamping and straight-up camping.
Always fancied the idea of stargazing but dismissed the possibility because of Hong Kong’s light pollution? You don’t have to go abroad to make your astronomical dreams a reality—head out to Cheung Chau, where the good folks at the Sai Yuen Adventure Camp have set up a series of transparent geodesic domes on the highest point of their property.
The domes, which are also positioned to overlook the ocean and Lantau shoreline, come equipped with glamping essentials like air-con, complimentary toiletries, and a private shower. At night, far away from the city lights, you can see the stars twinkling from above through the clear ceiling panels while cuddled up on the spacious double beds. While you’re there, you may as well make use of Sai Yuen’s ample activities—whether you choose to learn archery, hang out with goats, or take a walk in a tree-top canopy is up to you.
Hong Kong might be made up of over 200 islands, but most of us who live in skyrises or heavily built-up areas don’t often get to experience coastal living. Rectify that with a seaside holiday that delivers on all the luxury of a five-star island getaway without any of the hassles of air travel—this massive, design-led mansion in Cheung Chau is a great option for family staycations. For contemporary urban jungle-esque lodgings, look no further than this Shek O village house, which pulls off its minimalist-chic-meets-beach-house vibe with aplomb.
While caravan living might have less-than-desirable connotations abroad, living in a sub-300-square-foot space is par for the course here, while owning a car is a luxury. All of which is to say, facilities which offer private camper vans to weekend holidaymakers are considered to be fun, rather than trashy. One such facility is Welcome Beach in Lantau Island, which offers a variety of different camper vans that can accommodate up to two adults and two kids. Don’t worry too much about food—the on-site facilities include a barbecue venue and restaurants are nearby, as Welcome Beach is perched between Upper and Lower Cheung Sha Beach.
Look, junk parties are fun and all, but anyone who’s organised one knows it’s a logistical nightmare—and that’s before you even factor in the dropping temperatures, as well as the whole group gathering cap. Give your liver (and whatever part of the brain used to corral 20-plus drunk people into taking a group photo) a rest and opt for a chilled-out houseboat experience instead.
Take your pick from this family-friendly houseboat in the Aberdeen Marina, which comes with beanbags, shuffleboard, and games aplenty, or these two similarly well-equipped houseboats in Sai Wan Ho, which are in close proximity to a number of easy nature trails.
If you only plan to stay for one night, you can also consider any of the three themed boats offered by Aberdeen Flair, a local houseboat rental company that caps stays at 20 hours. Your options include Cipango, a rustic rattan- and wood-furnished Japanese-style houseboat, Tangaroa, a Scandi-influenced boat brimming with hygge, and Vintage, a British-inspired houseboat.
One of the best things about Hong Kong is its abundance of sights that can be visited as part of a day trip. But while you can make a day trip out of a visit to the Big Buddha or Sai Kung Town, tying up the excursion in a tidy 10 hours can sometimes feel a little rushed. Instead of putting yourself under pressure to do everything in one go, why not just take your time with an overnight stay at a nearby hostel?
The Hong Kong Youth Hostels Association has a number of facilities outside the city, including two in Sai Kung and one on Lantau, which offer beautiful bell tents among other accommodations. All three are conveniently located near local attractions like Hoi Ha Wan Marine Park, Stage 2 of the MacLehose Trail, and the Big Buddha.
Jao Tsung-I Academy—a sprawling red-brick compound in Lai Chi Kok—has worn many different hats in its 130-plus years of history, from a customs station to labourers’ quarters, a prison, a psychiatric rehabilitation centre, and, most notably, Lai Chi Kok Hospital. The site has since been revitalised and repurposed as a heritage site, hosting historical exhibitions, cultural events, and—in an on-site heritage lodge—overnight guests.
The five-block lodge comprises three room types (standard, feature, and suite) split across 89 accommodations. If you’re thinking, “That sounds nice, but I can’t justify getting a pet-sitter for a two-night staycation,” then don’t fret—the lodge also offers pet-friendly accommodations. Just make sure to mention it when you’re booking your room and the staff will be happy to accommodate.