Hong Kong's Lantau Island Paradise: 32 Things to Do
Jaded by the city? Explored every nook and cranny of the island? Lantau offers a whole new world of eating, drinking, exploring and excitement.
What to Do
1) Clam Up
Hit almost any of Lantau’s beaches at low tide and you’ll see people digging in the sand. They’re treasure hunters, of a sort—they’re looking for the juicy and plentiful clams which flood our balmy waters in the summer months. Wok them up with black beans and garlic: sometimes the guys who rent bags and spades near the beach will do it for you.
2) Add Pedal Power
There’s plenty of biking fun to be had on Lantau: it’s a great way to improve your local knowledge and firm up your thighs at the same time. Several shops will rent you a bicycle for the day—the Friendly Bicycle Shop behind McDonald’s at the Mui Wo ferry pier is well established (2984-2278) while a new place has just opened next to the Silvermine Beach Resort (weekends only).
3) Go Fishing for History
The historic fishing village of Tai O is famous for its dried seafood, pungent purple shrimp paste and houses on stilts. It’s great for long ambling walks, cheap boat tours and some decent restaurants. Try the delicious charcoal-grilled egg puffs on the street: the outside should be crisp and smoky, and the inside light and fluffy. Buses run from Tung Chung, Mui Wo and Ngong Ping.
4) Think Pink
Hong Kong seems an unlikely place for our super intelligent aquatic dolphin cousins to call home, but we’re lucky enough to have the (increasingly) rare pink variety. Hong Kong Dolphinwatch runs boat trips every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday to see them; It’s $420 for adults and $210 for children under 12, including return-trip transport, a luxury cruiser, information sheets, a detailed presentation from experienced guides as well as light refreshments on board. www.hkdolphinwatch.com
5) Hang with Bovine Buddies
The subject of a raised concern since a driver plowed through a herd of them a couple of years ago, Lantau’s assorted buffalo and cows are a startling yet welcome sight. Usually completely placid—unless you drunkenly try to ride them and get gored for your efforts—they’re popular with local denizens, as long you’re not a driver who comes across them sitting in the middle of the road.
6) Live the Life Aquatic
If you’re suffering from Disney fatigue, or just want a few moments of tranquility, a boating trip on the calm waters of Inspiration Lake—a 15-minute walk from the theme park itself—is a no-brainer. Part of the extended Disney site, the recreation center has a total area of around 30 hectares, and consists of an artificial lake—the largest in Hong Kong—a boat center, arboretum and jogging trail. Pedal boats and bikes are available to rent from 10am-5pm.
7) Find Your Own Desert Island
Want your own island but don’t have the jetsetter budget? Island Club delivers that secluded island sensation by taking you to a remote corner of Lantau via private ferry from Cheung Chau, where you’ll find an isolated beach perfect for birthday parties, outdoor weddings and even pet gatherings. It offers kayaking, windsurfing, banana boating and more. Overnighting is also possible.23 Tai Long Village, 2989-2315, www.islandclub.hk
8) Perfect your Drive
Discovery Bay Golf Club has practice facilities including a large putting green, chipping green and a 24-bay driving range. It’s open to the public and doesn’t close until 10pm, so after-work golfers can swing away late into the night.Discovery Bay Golf Club, Valley Road, Discovery Bay, 2987-7273.
9) Hit the Surf
Surf center Long Coast Seasports offers free rooms on the purchase of an “activity voucher,” which gets you use of most of the equipment. Camping space is also available, plus deluxe safari tents. Vouchers are $540-830 per room while deluxe camp vouchers are $200-470 per person. 29 Lower Cheung Sha Beach, Lantau, 8104-6222, www.longcoast.hk
10) Rock(pool) Your Resources
There are several rock pools dotted across Lantau, but the ones in Discovery Bay are secluded, beautiful, safe and free. They’re a 10-minute walk from the Discovery Bay ferry pier, en route to the Golf Club, about halfway up the hill.
11) Visit Treasure Island
Treasure Island runs a wide range of surf camps and other activities from its “eco-Adventure Center” near Pui O beach. Also up for grabs: surfboard, SUP and kayak rental, plus campsite and cabana rooms. Hang five, dude. Pui O, 2546-3543, www.treasureislandhk.com
12) Do the Jailhouse Rock
Alcatraz it isn’t, but Lantau is home to six prisons, including the max-security Shek Pik Prison which is home to one of Hong Kong’s most notorious criminals: “The Jars Murderer” or “Rainy Night Butcher,” Lam Kor-wan. Want to rubberneck? Buses 1 or 2 from Mui Wo will take you there, as will the 11 or 23 from Tung Chung.
What to Eat
13) Make it a Mezze
Bahce Turkish Restaurant has been a Mui Wo favorite for years. Expect authentic Middle Eastern and Mediterranean classics: hot and cold mezze, generous skewers, baba ganoush, hummus and more. Friday nights feature live music: guests are encouraged to pluck an instrument from the wall and join in. G/F, Mui Wo Centre, 3 Ngan Wan Rd., Mui Wo, 2984-0222
14) BBQ Bliss
Relocated down the beach from its old spot, Lantau mainstay The Stoep offers South African and Mediterranean barbecue fare. With a laid-back, colorful vibe, you could be in Cape Town itself. Sample some of their bread ‘n’ spreads before jumping into the grilled meat platters and whole spring chicken. Take bus 1, 2 or 4 from Mui Wo and walk down to lower Cheung Sha. 50 Lower Cheung Sha Village, 2980-2699
15) Seek Out Pizza Perfection
Opening to mixed reviews a few years ago, The Kitchen is a small, organic-feeling resto a stone’s throw from Mui Wo’s main drag. It’s recently found a winning formula based around delicious pizza, salads and pasta. Shop 1, G/F, Scenic Crest, 18A Mui Wo Ferry Pier Rd., 5991-6292
16) Seafood on a Stick
For fresh barbecued seafood snacks, head to Fei Mui BBQ (肥妹燒烤小食) in Tai O. Does $30 a pop for abalone, cheesy oysters, tiger prawns and scallops sound too good to be true? Don’t bring a marine taxonomy expert with you just in case. 21 Market St., Tai O. 2985-7233
17) Head for the Love Shack
With cool music and a surf shack ambience, good food and craft beers, Mavericks has become the best worst-kept secret on the island. Right on the beach, it’s a joint venture between chef Neil Tomes (who is also exec chef at Beef & Liberty) and brand designer and art director Jay FC. Much of the art and furniture is by local artists. Take the 1, 3M or 4 bus from Mui Wo and get off at Pui O school: The beach is a signposted five-minute walk from there. Pui O Beach, South Lantau Road, 5662-8552
18) Discover a Hidden Oasis of Kimchi
Hidden in the Tung Chung wet market, Miss Kim of DongDaeMun Korean Food sells homemade traditional Korean delicacies including kimchi, spicy potatoes and pickled octopus. Shop F34, Tung Chung Wet Market, Tung Chung, 2109-1011
19) Grab Fists of Fishballs
You’ll find a few nice snack shops on Tai O Market Street, with Fuk Hing Hong, near the pier and the bus stop, offering enormous, bouncy fishballs. Shop D, Wing On Street, Tai O, 2874-1010
20) Be Tempted by Tapas
Starting its life as a tapas joint, Pui O’s Tap Tap now serves a wider range of food, including burgers, steaks, pizza, breakfast and more, much of which it endeavors to source locally. With reasonably priced drinks, it’s a chill place to soak up the area’s village vibe.15 Lo Wai, Pui O, South Lantau Road, 2984-9091
Discovery Bay boasts loads of pilots and swingers great restaurants and drinkeries, but the $40 ferry ride can be a pain. Spend $120 at any of the 14 D’Deck restaurants in DB Plaza and the “Dine ’N’ Ride” promotion kicks in: one free ride for each $120 spent. It’s a dine-in only deal, even if you did just get $1,000 of takeaway kebabs from Ebeneezer’s. Mon-Fri 6pm-11:45pm; Sat-Sun noon-11:45pm, www.ddeck.com.hk.
Lower Cheung Sha beach welcomes a new foodie friend when The Beach House opens next month in the Stoep’s old location. The international restaurant will make use of local and organic produce, with an emphasis on sustainability. The owners promise a “fresh and vibrant” wine list which will change regularly. Just passing by? There’ll be a takeaway counter at No. 34. 32 Lower Cheung Sha Village.
Live the Beach Life
21) Beware of Pirates
Five minutes’ walk from the pier and bus terminus, Silvermine Bay Beach was once a local base for pirates—some of whom are still there, selling overpriced drinks at the various kiosks. Otherwise it’s a charming spot, with a nice promenade and walks along the coast from the far end. If you want to barbecue you’ll need to arrive early to grab a place, as they fill up quick.
22) Spend an Endless Summer
Stretching across 3km, Cheung Sha Beach is one of the longest beaches in Hong Kong. It comprises lower and upper sections divided by a headland. The lower part is where the action is—surf shops and restaurants give it a funky west coast vibe. Head for the upper section to escape the crowds. Bonus: it’s an unofficial nudist beach of sorts. Allegedly. From Tung Chung buses 11 and 21 pass all the beaches on South Lantau Road, or from Mui Wo take bus 1 or 2.
23) Seek out a Hidden Gem
With clear water and soft sand, Pui O is a less-frequented beach and something of a local secret, so don’t tell them we told you. It also boasts a few restaurants, barbecue pits and a campsite with spaces available on a first-come, first-served basis. Take bus 1 from Mui Wo to Pui O Beach.
Take a Hike
24) Take the Ultimate Shower
While the Silvermine waterfalls at Mui Wo aren’t going to threaten Niagara’s ranking any time soon, it’s a charming spot for either frolicking in the pools or barbecuing, reached via a picturesque uphill stroll. If all that splashing around hasn’t tired you out, head up another few minutes and you’ll find the now-abandoned Silvermine Cave. It’s the reason the bay got its name and still retains a certain tingly atmosphere.
25) Climb the Phoenix, Grasshopper
Standing tall at 934 meters, Lantau Peak, or in Cantonese Fung Wong Shan (Phoenix Mountain), is the second-highest in the SAR. It’s particularly renowned as a spot to admire the sunrise, but as it takes about 2.5 hours to cover the 4.5km route you’ll need to start the ascent when it’s still dark. From Mui Wo ferry pier, take the 4 or 7P bus and hop out just before the top of the hill, at either Sam Uk Tsuen or Nam Shan stops.
26) Hike Into the Sunset
Challenging but worth it for the (as the name suggests) awesome sunsets, Sunset Peak will take around three hours of hard hiking. Bring food, drink, and gritty determination. From Mui Wo, jump on to any bus—they all go along South Lantau Road past Lantau South Country Park. From Tung Chung MTR station take bus 3M. Turn left at the pavilion, and then left again onto the Lantau Trail, which leads to Sunset Peak.
27) Take the Stairway to Heaven
For a medium-demanding hike, Mui Wo to Discovery Bay is perfect. Head for the end of Silvermine Bay Beach; around 1,100 steps takes you to the top, but from then it’s all downhill, via fabulous views over the sea toward Cheng Chau and Peng Chau, past the Trappist monastery Our Lady of Joy Abbey and the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance. Keep going and you’ll hit DB where refreshment and a fast ferry back to Central awaits.
Where to Stay
28) Go Caravanning
If the idea of outdoor living appeals but mosquito bites don’t, Tong Fuk Caravans may be the ideal compromise. Housed in a green field just a few minutes from Tong Fuk Beach on south Lantau that’s perfect for family games, picnics and barbecues, the caravans are equipped with beds and sofas, televisions, and even AC and hot water. Prices range from about $1,000 per night for a caravan for two or three, to $2,300 for one big enough for six or seven. 6296-8220, caravans.com.hk
29) Who Needs Toilets, Anyway?
For the purists who live to pitch their canvas, Tai Long Wan campsite in Lantau South Country Park should tick all the boxes. Near the picturesque Tai Long Wan village and Shek Pik reservoir, the site has basic toilet, barbecue and table facilities. Take bus 11 from Tung Chung or bus 1 from Mui Wo towards Tai O. Get off at Shek Pik Reservoir’s western end and head backwards up Stage 8 of the Lantau trail towards Tai O for about 30 minutes.
30) Head Back in Time
A rather dated property about 10 minutes from Mui Wo ferry pier, Silvermine Beach Resort has reasonable room rates (from $1,180) and long-staying packages. Right on the beach, it also has an outdoor swimming pool, gym, sauna, tennis courts and a nice terrace serving drinks and snacks. 2984-6800, www.silvermineresort.com
31) Welcome to Wonderland
For one of Lantau’s most surreal experiences, the Mui Wo Inn is hard to beat. While the property itself is pretty average, aside from having an enviable beachside location, the large garden at the front is truly trippy, festooned with incongruous and kitschy statues of frolicking nymphs and cherubs, all to a crackly soundtrack of 1970s disco. Rooms from $400 (weekdays), $500 (weekends).14 Tung Wan Tau Rd., Mui Wo, 2984-7225
32) Hunt Out Some Crude Beauty
A B&B/boutique hotel, art gallery and cafe whose mission is to help sustain Tai O’s “crude beauty” by offering guests a base from which to time to explore and appreciate the traditional fishing village, Espace Elastique offers four rooms of various sizes. Prices range from $500-890 (Sun-Thu), and $520-1,040 on Saturdays. The roof boasts a hot tub and sun loungers. 57 Kat Hing St., Tai O, Lantau, 2985-7002, espaceelastique.com.hk