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Local beaches have been getting bad press lately, with complaints about the water quality and talk of a lifeguard strike. But we decided to look on the bright side and asked SYP readers about their favourite beaches.
Clearwater Bay First and Second Beaches
The water is among the cleanest. Both beaches recently received a Grade 1 rating by the Environmental Protection Department (EPD). First Beach is less crowded and sometimes has better water quality than Second Beach. The water is salty but clean and cool, making it one of the best beaches for chilling out. (Take bus No91 from Diamond Hill MTR)
Shek O Beach
Due to its beautiful surroundings, it's one of the most scenic, although its water quality was recently given only a Grade 2 rating by the EPD. It's surrounded by hillsides and crags, making it perfect for rock climbing.
'If you're not into swimming, you can go sightseeing. I've climbed on the rocks nearby and saw Bronze Age rock carvings,' said Elizabeth Cheung, 15. (Take bus No9 from Shek Kei Wan MTR. On Sundays and public holidays, bus No 309 runs from Exchange Square in Central to Shek O)
It's Hong Kong's most popular beach, which unfortunately results in overcrowding at the weekends. There are plenty of open-air restaurants serving barbecued food and seafood, as well as ice cream and snack vendors. Towering statues of Kwun Yum and Tin Hau help to pull in tourists. 'When it's not crowded, it's very peaceful and has a fantastic view. The water is clean too,' said Jonathan Chu, 14. Jeff Hahn, 16, suggested that visitors bring flip-flops because the sand is quite pebbly. (Take bus No 6, 6A, 6X, 66 or 260 from Exchange Square)
South Bay Beach
Near Repulse Bay, South Bay Beach is relatively quiet and the water is clean. It's one of the best places for snorkeling. 'It has a nice view, is protected from the wind, and isn't crowded, even over the weekends,' said Libby Pei, 14. 'You can do a bit of snorkelling in a small outcrop of coral at the far southern end of the beach, although it's outside the shark nets.' (Take a bus from Exchange Square to Repulse Bay, then walk for 30 minutes or take a taxi)
Upper and Lower Cheung Sha, Lantau
If you don't mind a bit of travel, these are possibly the quietest beaches in Hong Kong for a laidback afternoon. They're long, scenic and good for swimming. There are also open-air restaurants. 'These beaches are usually not very crowded, but they face south, so beware of strong winds that can cause the water to get a bit rough,' said Pei. (Take a ferry from Central to Mui Wo, then bus No 1 or 4)
Hung Shing Yeh Beach, Lamma Island
It's clean and also safe for people who are not strong swimmers as there are many lifeguards on duty. If you get tired from swimming, you can recuperate with fresh herbal teas at cosy organic farm Herboland. (Take ferry from Central to Yung Shue Wan, then walk for 20 minutes)
According to the EPD, beaches are more polluted during and after periods of heavy rain, so avoid swimming at beaches for up to three days after a storm or heavy rainfall.
Additional reporting by Jolene Otremba
Before heading to the beach . . .
Beach grades are updated before the weekend. Information can be obtained from www.epd.gov.hk or the beach hotline at 2511 6666.
Check the weather forecast at www.weather.gov.hk
It's safer to swim at beaches with lifeguards. Check the lifeguard service hours, locations and telephone numbers for beaches managed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department at www.lcsd.gov.hk/beach
Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before sunbathing and reapply after swimming