The Big Buddha, Stanley Market, Man Mo Temple, Avenue of Stars, Temple Street… These are the things that appear in most Hong Kong travel guides. There’s a good reason why these places are so popular but just like everywhere else, places that are so popular, oftentimes lose a part of their authenticity. And if you’re looking for authenticity and like to get off the beaten track, there are still some places on the island that will make you discover a new, not-so-known side of Hong Kong. Here are the best hidden gems in Hong Kong that will show you that Hong Kong is a lot more than just tall skyscrapers, famous temples, and busy street markets.
Most visitors head to Lantau or Lamma Island on a day trip, leaving the often-overlooked and sleepy island of Peng Chau relatively unfrequented. The island feels like a whole different world compared to the bustling streets of Hong Kong; there are a lot of pristine beaches on this island, great seafood restaurants, and a lot of trekking opportunities. The most famous trail is Finger Hill, a scenic, moderately-strenuous trek that rewards all visitors with spectacular views of Hong Kong and the neighboring islands.
If you want to get to Peng Chau, the island is only a short ferry ride away from the central pier.
Hong Kong’s Giant’s Causeway
You probably heard about the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, a tourist attraction that attracts millions of visitors every year. But did you know that there’s one very similar UNESCO site in Hong Kong? The geopark in Sai Kung includes two geographical regions; a volcanic rock region that features volcanic rocks merged in prismatic columnar jointing and a Sedimentary Rock Region that features spectacular hexagonal columns that look very similar to the ones at the Giant Causeway.
If you want to visit, you need to take bus number 92 and get down at Sai Kung. If you’re considering taking a tour, don’t. It’s a waste of time and money and you’ll be much better of exploring on your own.
Hap Mun Bay Beach
It’s very surprising that such a beautiful beach that’s only a short ferry ride away from Sai Kung gets only a handful of visitors. Most people head to Sharp Island or Hap Bun Bay for the weekends, while this equally beautiful beach remains blissfully unfrequented. It might not be one of the world’s prettiest beaches but the green, lonely waters of Hap Mun Bay are certainly one of the nicest sights in Hong Kong.
See white dolphins in Tai O
Tai O is a charming fishing town located on an island that shares its name. It’s one of only few places on Earth where you can see the endangered Chinese White Dolphin but even though appealing, this isn’t the only reason to visit. The village is also home to numerous wooden houses lying on the water, Yeung Hau Temple, one of the oldest temples in Hong Kong, and several archaeological sites that date back to the Stone Age.
If you want to visit Tai O, the best way to get there is to take the MTR to Tung Chiung Station, and from here, get on the bus number 11. The journey takes between 1.5 and 2 hours.
Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery
If you’re looking for some peace and quiet away from the busy streets of Hong Kong, this is one place you have to visit. The beautiful gardens and the peaceful monastery are located right next to Diamond Hill and offer a beautiful view of Hong Kong’s highest skyscrapers with a lot of greenery in the background. It’s one of the most contrasting views in the Fragrant Harbour and proof that Hong Kong is not just a stunning skyline but a city has something in store for everyone. If you’re planning to visit, try to do so before 4:30 PM because sometimes, the nunnery closes early.
Nam Sang Wai
The pristine nature and endless stretches of greenery make Nam Sang Wai a must-visit place for nature lovers. Unlike the famous Hong Kong Wetland Park, most people aren’t aware of this place and its rough charm. However, despite everything, Nam Sang Wai is an important ecological reserve and home to hundreds of migratory birds, which makes it one of the best and most pristine bird-watching destinations in Hong Kong. While you’re here, also hop on the Nam Shan Wai ferry, the only river ferry in Hong Kong. The experience and the views of the surrounding mountains are absolutely stunning.
Walk the Dragon’s Back
If you’re a mountain enthusiast, the divine scenery of the Dragon’s Back hike will take your breath away. The hike leads towards the Shek O Peak, one of the most scenic places in Asia. The views from here are absolutely breath-taking and it’s not surprising that even CNN mentions the Dragon’s Back as one of the world’s 23 most scenic trekking routes. As you approach the peak, it feels like the sky is opening up on the horizon, as the South China Sea and the southern islands’ coastline fade away in the background. If possible, try to visit for sunset or sunrise. There will be fewer people around and the view is even more spectacular. Aside from trekking, the peak is also a great destination for kite flying and paragliding.
Yick Fat Building
Talking about hidden gems in Hong Kong, we just can’t forget about Yick Fat; a large residential complex so colorful that it looks like it came out of a Disney fairy tale. The complex consists of three towers filled with apartments and a lot of small shops and massage parlors. Yick Fat was once the most densely populated structure in the world but even though it lost its status throughout the years, in recent years, the complex has “rebranded itself” as one of Hong Kong’s most Instagrammable spots.
Fun fact: The building did appear in Transformers but during the shoot, some of the locals were arguing with Michael Bay demanding to get their payments.
See Hong Kong’s Ghost Town
Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated places in Asia but you can still find several abandoned places around the city and its islands. One of these places is Ma Wan, a.k.a. Ghost Town. This was once one of Hong Kong’s most prosperous fishing towns, but all of its neighbors had to relocate because of the construction of a luxury apartment complex. The project eventually fell apart and today, the only things you can see around are the abandoned residencies and old houses that slowly fall apart into the ocean. If you want to visit this place and experience its spooky atmosphere, the easiest way to get there is by taking a direct boat from Central Ferry (Pier 2).
If you like visiting such places, check out my list of haunted places in Europe.
If you’re having a hard time adjusting to the crowded streets of Tsim Sha Tsui, there are a few quiet corners of Hong Kong where you won’t find a lot of other people. One such place is Yim Tin Tsai. This abandoned island is located off the Sai Kung coast and in the past, it was a famous fishing island populated by the local Hakka community. However, throughout the years, most of the people who lived here left to pursue better opportunities abroad, abandoning the island. The only things you can see on the island today are wild landscapes, abandoned houses, a couple of museums, and the old St. Joseph’s Chapel, that’s actually a UNESCO Heritage site.
The World’s oldest teapot
Built in the 1840s, the Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware is one of the best hidden gems in Hong Kong. The name might not sound like anything exciting but that’s because you don’t know that this place features the oldest surviving teapot in the world. The ceramic-kettle teapot is one of the most impressive exhibits of this museum and according to them, it dates back to 1513.
Shek Kwu Chau
Technically, this might be considered cheating because this place is not open to the public, except for one day every year but, in our opinion, this is good enough to make it to this list of hidden gems in Hong Kong. Shek Kwu Chao is probably Hong Kong’s least visited island, mainly because it’s home to a rehab clinic. What makes the island special are the fascinating Roman baths that were built for the patients, the untouched nature, and the endless stretch of greenery on the island.
If you happen to be in Hong Kong in November, keep your eyes open; you might be one of the few lucky visitors that get the chance to see this pristine island.
Wong Nai Chung Reservoir
The Wong Nai Chung Reservoir is a real oasis amidst the busy streets of Hong Kong. If you’re looking for a great place for rest and relaxation, consider spending an afternoon at this artificial lake, feeding the ducks, pedal boating, or just enjoying the peaceful atmosphere. If you want to get here, you need to take bus number 6 or 66 from the Central Station and get off at the Wong Nai Chung Reservoir Park stop.
You might not expect to find a gorgeous gothic church in Hong Kong but this is just another proof that Hong Kong is full of surprises. “The Bethanie” was built in 1875 by the Paris Foreign Missions Society as the first sanatorium for missionaries recovering from tropical diseases. During its glory days, The Bethanie was home to more than 6,000 recovering missionaries and it quickly became the most important base of the French Catholic Church in East Asia. After Hong Kong’s independence, the building was temporarily used by the University of Hong Kong and in 2002, the building was restored and leased to the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.
The colors of Choi Hung Estate
Choi Hung is a picturesque neighborhood with a very descriptive name. Choi Hung means rainbow in Cantonese and this district is famous for its symmetrical, colorful housing blocks. This is actually one of the oldest public housing estates in Hong Kong (1964) which means that Choi Hung is a lot more than just an Instagrammable spot. At the time, it was one of the largest public housing estates in the world with more than 43,000 residents. This attracted a lot of interest in the public and the estate was even visited by people like Princess Margaret and President Richard Nixon.
Museum of Coastal Defence
Located on the far eastern side of Hong Kong, just getting to the Museum of Coastal Defence is an adventure. If you want to get to the museum, you have to walk a winding trail that goes through thick forests and displays numerous interesting military relics on the way before finally getting to the picturesque riverfront. The museum is built on the grounds of Lei Yue Mun Fortress and features numerous exhibitions related to the last 600 years of Hong Kong’s coastal defense.
If you plan to visit, try to do so on Wednesday, Saturday, or Sunday; these are the days when all visitors get a free tour.
Ng Tung Chai Waterfall
Waterfalls probably don’t come to mind when thinking of Hong Kong but the Ng Tung Chai Falls are one of the most wonderful sights in the city. Located in the New Territories, the falls consist of four separate waterfalls, with the tallest one being 30 meters high. If you want to get to the falls, you need to take a 30-minute trek that starts at the Ng Tung Chai bus stop and passes through a thick bamboo forest and the picturesque Man Tak Monastery.
Un Chau Estate Flower Tunnel
Finally, we can’t complete this list of hidden gems in Hong Kong without mentioning this colorful flower tunnel that looks like it came out of a fairy tale, especially during the spring. The place is the ultimate definition of a hidden gem because it’s concealed by the surrounding towering buildings and remains unnoticed by most tourists who visit the city. If you want to visit this tunnel, get off at Cheung Sha Wan station, take the C2 exit, and you’ll get to the Un Chau Estate. The flower tunnel is right at the entrance.
When to visit
Hong Kong has a mild climate and is a year-round destination. However, the best time to visit is between the months of October and February. Around this time of the year, the weather is not too hot and not as humid as between May and September.
Helpful resources for visiting Hong Kong
Are you traveling from the US to Hong Kong? Cathay Pacific has a lot of affordable flights from multiple destinations in the US, but from my experience, you can get the best deals when flying out of Chicago. Just don’t forget to check the Chicago to Hong Kong flight time before you book.
If you’re looking for a good travel insurance deal, you can never go wrong with World Nomads.
For some amazing cultural and budget-friendly tours in Hong Kong, consider Intrepid. With this offer, you can get 15% off on all tours in Asia.
And last but not least, to save on accommodation in Hong Kong, use this Booking.com discount and get up to 20% on all accommodation bookings.
Did you ever visit Hong Kon? Do you know about some of these places? Do you think there are some more places we could, but didn’t mention in this list? Let us know in the comments!
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