ESCAPING Hongkong's hustle and bustle usually involves an outbound flight, not an outlying island ferry. But there is far more to the territory's skyline than scaffolds and soaring rooftops. The peaks rising from behind the tenements and the islands looming across the crowded harbour can offer a range of options for the weekend traveller with an adventurous spirit. These retreats must be sought out with persistence and sometimes a bead or two of sweat. The majority of these getaways are on islands. Hongkong has more than 230, a fact many forget. It should come as no surprise that they offer a selection of simple, austere dwellings. The islands may range in size from Lantau to those barely larger than a bed of rocks. For those who cannot do without their creature comforts, one or two of the islands offer hotels catering to your lifestyle. The Cheung Chau Warwick, on East Bay, is an easy walk from the pier and offers rooms, starting at $920 during weekends in the summer months. On Lantau, the largest island, the Silvermine Beach Hotel is among the more expensive and accessible. Prices start at about $780. But for the more ascetic, the Trappist Monastery and the Po Lin Monastery offer rooms and a light supper in a tranquil, albeit reclusive, setting. The Trappist Monastery will even ask you to speak in hushed voices and standing by the chapel overlooking Peng Chau only the passing ships can be heard. Lantau Tea Gardens and Mui Wo Inn also have rooms for guests. For the vertically inclined, Lantau Mountain Camp sits at 775 metres, just below Sunset Peak. The camp consists of 20 small stone houses, built before World War II, to accommodate Christians and Christian missionaries. Anyone can rent the cabins. For rugged walking types, the Jockey Club Mong Tong Wan Hostel stands isolated on Lantau. Forty-five minutes from the bus stop at Pui O, past an old temple and off a path running along the sea's edge, the hostel has eight beds and room for 25 tents. Lamma Island also has a few treasures. First among them is the Concerto Inn on the beach called Hung Shing Ye. With deluxe rooms at $880 a night at weekends, the hotel is not cheap. But the unspoiled view is worth the 15-minute hike from the more denselypopulated Yung Shue Wan where the Central ferries dock. Pak Kok Old Village on north Lamma, is worth the walk. While the beach may be littered with flotsam from picnics, the area has an island-paced charm. Unfortunately Pak Kok's Lung Shing Shop and Holiday House is booked throughout August. It costs about $450 a night for a double room at weekends. A number of less remote Lamma accommodations, like the Man Lai Wah Hotel and Villa and the Lamma Vacation House, are more likely to have a free room. They are along the main street of Yung Shue Wan, overlooking the bay. Many of the other islands have relatively untapped charms. Tung Ping Chau is a popular weekend getaway, but reaching it is not easy. No one likes to reveal the names of the most coveted accommodation which makes the trip a bit of a gamble as a room must be found on arrival. The Hongkong Ferry Company has stopped services so you must take a ferry from a pier close to the Chinese University. This ferry only operates on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays - and be warned, there is little air-conditioning on the island. A number of hostels in the scenic country parks can also offer a bed. The rustic Pak Sha O and Chek Keng's Bradbury Hall, on Sai Kung East, require a 45-minute walk, so pack lightly for this retreat. But if you crave comfort, the Beach Resort Hotel in Sai Kung and the Gold Coast Hotel Resort and Conference Centre in the New Territories are set away from the crowds but still afford the luxury of a first-class resort. Weekend rates for a standard room at the Beach Resort Hotel are about $920. At the Gold Coast Hotel Resort, prices range from $1,300 to $2,800. But compare that cost to a flight and accommodation outside Hongkong, and you are still smiling.