In this week’s instalment of the Island 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.
How To Get There …
The orange MTR line to Tung Chung 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.
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 free wifi on board to keep you entertained during the 25-minute journey.
Click on the links above to view the ferry timetables
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 using the following numbers. Both will direct you to the Lantau Taxi Association.
Lantau Taxi Association, (+852) 2984 1328/ (+852) 2984 1368
Read more! Check out the rest of our Island Series.
Yes yes, it’s a tourist attraction. However, the Tian Tan Buddha (pictured above) 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 it’s 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 Monastry, tuck into some tasty treats at the popular Vegetarian Cafe, 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, 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 sightsee-ers can call it a day at this point and return to Tung Chung, or catch Bus 21 to Tai O and explore Hong Kong’s last remaining village on stilts.
Ngong Ping 360 cable car takes around 25 minutes
360 Buddhist Walk costs $290 for adults and $180 for kids
Bus 23 takes around 50 minutes
Bus 21 to Tai O takes around 1 hour
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 beach front, 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.
The longstanding favourite of teepee-enthusiasts, Palm Beach, has unfortunately closed, but fear not as the relocated site opened at Sai Yuen Farm in Cheung Chau last September. Don’t panic if your camping experiences involve tent pole-related breakdowns, as Long Coast Seasports has a collection of Safari tents available for hire. Pitched just behind lower Cheung Sha Beach, you can also hire your watersports equipment here. Two birds, one stone.
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 cost $619 for adults and $458 for children
Around 30 minutes from Hong Kong MTR Station
Pink Dolphin Tour
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.
Hong Kong Dolphinwatch, (+852) 2984 1414
Tours cost $460 for adults and $230 for kids
Hikes and Races
Running shoes 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 pushing your physical limits with the Lantau Trail 70, raising money in the UNICEF Charity Run, or uniting your love of beer and exercise with the Lantau International Beer Dash, this wonderful island has races to suit every runner. To find out more, check out our Guide to Hiking and Running Races in Hong Kong.
Tai O Fishing Village
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 Heritage Hotel, and treat yourself to a staycation?
Tai O Heritage Hotel, Shek Tsai Po Street, Tai O, Lantau, (+852) 2985 8383
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 be prepared! Perhaps your little one is something of a surfer kid? Enroll 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 body boards, and umbrellas and deck chairs are also available for those who prefer to kick back and watch.
Read more! Discover ‘The Charm of Tai O’ in our interview with photographer Irene Flanhardt.
Cheung Sha Beach
Claiming a spot in our roundup of Hong Kong’s cleanest beaches, Cheung Sha Beach (pictured above) 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 favourite – Bathers.
Around 25 minutes, by bus, from Mui Wo
Though Mavericks has recently shut shop, thanks to 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.
Around 15 minutes, by bus, from Mui Wo
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. Listen out for news of the hugely popular, annual Easter Egg hunt which sees junior hunters digging for thousands of eggs hidden in the sand.
Read more! Take a dip at Hong Kong’s Cleanest Water Spots.
Lantau Trail Stage 12: Mui Wo to Pui O
If you’re in the mood for a relatively easy, scenic hike with the promise of a cocktail at the finish line, then we recommend Stage 12 of the Lantau trail in reverse – aka. start walking in Mui Wo. Turn left out of Mui Wo Ferry Pier, walk along the sea front, and catch the trail once you hit the road curving up the hill (behind the petrol station). Bar the occasional stretch of steps, which become quite challenging as the humidity creeps up, this is a great way to get active on the weekend and catch up with friends. It’s also something of a nature trail with butterflies everywhere you turn, and the occasional cow sharing your path once you reach the roads.
Time: Approximately 2.5 hours
Tung Chung to Tai O
With glowing reviews in the Localiiz office, the relaxing wander from Tung Chung to Tai O (pictured above) is quite a pushchair friendly option, with a relatively flat, paved route bar the final hill. During the course of your three hour wander, you’ll gaze upon coastal views, walk under the Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car, catch a glimpse of the new Macau bridge, and happen upon a number of local villages. If you’re feeling peckish, or have little mouths to feed, pick up some noodles in Sham Wat, one such little village, and sit by the pier as a we’re-over-half-way-there treat.
Distance: 13.5 km
Time: Approximately 3 hours
Mui Wo to Discovery Bay
The path to Discovery Bay is well worn, and for good reason. Family friendly? Check–- the entire route is paved. Picturesque views? You bet – on a clear day, you’ll be feasting your eyes on views of Central, Mui Wo, and Peng Chau. Plus, you can take a dip in the ocean at Pai Tak Beach in Discovery Bay when you’ve crossed the finish line.
Time: Just over 2 hours
For a real sense of weekend achievement, why not take on the second highest peak in Hong Kong? Lantau Peak is definitely a more challenging trail (don’t be fooled by the shorter distance), however, the panoramic views are worth the effort – ten times over. For a more in-depth guide to Lantau Peak, check out Take a Hike! Lantau Peak to Big Buddha.
Starting Point: Tung Chung Road
Finish Point: Ngong Ping (Big Buddha)
Said to be a romantic spot, Sunset Peak forms the second stage of the Lantau Trail. Unfortunately, we would have to disagree with the romantic claims, having arrived breathless and bedraggled ourselves. In addition to the spectacular views over Tung Chung, the airport, and the surrounding islands, you’ll come across a collection of cottages when you reach a plateau. These buildings are rather perplexing, as no one is quite sure how they came to be. How mysterious …
Start Point: Tung Chung Road
Finish Point: Nam Shan
WILDCARD: Fan Lau and Yellow Dragon Gorge
If you fancy veering off the well-beaten path and taking a walk on Lantau’s wild side, check out Rory Mackay’s Top 5 Wildest Hikes. Untouched landscapes, deserted beaches, and cascading waterfalls – aka. paradise.
Read more! Get active with 5 Steps to Happy Hiking.
Restaurants: Discovery Bay
We’re all for al fresco 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 (pictured above) as they tuck into a candlelit dinner beneath the palm trees.
22° North, Shop G08B, G/F, D Deck, Discovery Bay Plaza, Lantau, (+852) 2987 2298
Hemingways by the Bay
With Caribbean vibes and cushions-a-plenty, Hemmingways by the Bay is another seafront hang out on the D’Deck which we can’t resist. When the BBQ grill gets fired up and the $30 happy hour Mojitos start flowing – well, why would you go anywhere else?
Hemingways by the Bay, Shop G09, G/F, D’Deck, Discovery Bay, Lantau, (+852) 2987 8855
Restaurants: Pui O and Cheung Sha
In addition to a tempting selection of tapas classics, including Spanish Style Meatballs and Patatas Bravas, Tap Tap 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.
Tap Tap, 15 Lo Wai, South Lantau Road, Pui O, Lantau, (+852) 2984 9091
For a slightly more sophisticated menu whilst retaining the ocean view, head over to Bathers (pictured above) 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.
Bathers, 32 Lower Cheung Sha Village, Lantau, (+852) 2504 4788
Restaurants: Mui Wo
Tuck into classic Turkish favourites, including baba ghanoush and shish kebabs, at this intimate dining spot. A firm favourite of our editor, the friendly staff and casual atmosphere will ensure you feel at home. Try to swing by on a Friday night for acoustic entertainment courtesy of Maryjane and Graeme.
Bahce Turkish, 3 Ngan Road, Mui Wo, Lantau, (+852) 2984 0221
If you’re looking for a laid-back drink by the ocean and a hearty plate of Western cuisine, then China Bear (pictured above) is the place for you. Turn left out of Mui Wo ferry pier, and within a matter of minutes, you’ll be kicking back in a friendly atmosphere. Keen to test your general knowledge? Well, you’ll be pleased to know that quiz nights are held on the final Thursday of each month.
China Bear, G/F Mui Wo Centre, 3 Ngan Wan Road, Mui Wo, Lantau, (+852) 2984 9720
Cooked Food Market
Merely a few paces away from the Ferry Pier, a plateful of seafood in Mui Wo’s Cooked Food Market is the perfect way to get fired up for a day of exploring, or alternatively a deserved reward after a day on your feet. Open from 10am to 10pm daily, expect classic dishes such as salt and pepper squid, fried noodles, and fresh fish. It may not be glamorous, but it’s definitely delicious.
Cooked Food Market, Mui Wo Ferry Pier Road, Mui Wo, Lantau, (+852) 2984 2240