Restrictions stemming from the coronavirus pandemic have put everyone’s travel plans on hold this summer. In a city like Hong Kong, where residents travel regularly, especially in the hot and sticky months, that can feel like a big blow. But it doesn’t have to mean going without a summer holiday. Plenty of Hongkongers are getting creative and making the most of this summer close to home. Priscilla Dondi, a confessed “crazy travel junkie”, has explored much of the Asia region in the five years she has lived in Hong Kong. Though she initially felt trapped by the travel restrictions in place, some smart research by her husband, Nicola, has led to exciting local adventures for the family of four. “I’ve discovered more of Hong Kong. It’s a blessing to be here when I think of our families in Europe and New York; we can go hiking, there’s so much to do here,” says Dondi, a management consultant. The Dondi family – including Olivia, four, and Sebastiano, two – hired a boat to drop them off at Millionaire’s Beach (Nam Fung Wan) in Sai Kung, where they camped on the foreshore. Another time they pitched their tents on Grass Island (Tap Mun) with friends who have children the same age as theirs. It was Priscilla Dondi’s first experience of camping, and although she admits to loving her creature comforts, she enjoyed the trips. “Wild boars ate our breakfast while we were sleeping,” she says. “The kids were so excited about it, they still talk about it now.” Hong Kong junk trips: where to sail, what to eat, who to avoid This summer, they’ve booked a couple of properties listed on Airbnb – a two-bedroom house in Sai Kung, which they stayed at last month (“an oasis of amazing plants and trees with a beautiful terrace overlooking Sai Kung bay”) and a four-bedroom property on the outlying island of Cheung Chau that they plan to share with friends. Mid-Levels, where the family lives on Hong Kong Island, “is a concrete jungle and the construction noise is a constant backdrop. It was so peaceful to be in Sai Kung and enjoy nature; we’re looking forward to going back in July”, says Dondi. When the coronavirus pandemic hit Hong Kong, Grant Ross, a 32-year-old general practitioner at a medical practice in Central, quickly saw the probable implications and realised travel would be severely restricted until the end of the year and possibly longer. “This is a high-pressure place. Getting out and taking holidays is a huge part of expat life. When it became apparent that international travel would be subject to quarantine, I knew I had to do something,” Ross says. His solution has been to take out a long-term let on a village house in Mui Wo, on Lantau Island. He and his girlfriend are in the process of fixing it up and plan to spend weekends there over the summer, while also letting friends with children use it to get a break from the city. “I’ve got two kayaks that I keep on the beach. We can go snorkelling, stand-up paddle boarding, fishing and have friends over for barbecues. Or you can just wander around and see what the cows are up to – it’s a great break from the city,” Ross says. Teacher Josh Armstrong usually spends the long summer holiday back home in Sydney. Since he can’t get away from Hong Kong this year, he’s decided to take the opportunity to renovate the Mid-Levels flat that’s been home for the past 18 years. He plans to stick around for the first couple of weeks, to get the renovation under way, and then escape from the city for a well-earned break. “I’m really tired. This year has been really tough, and the online teaching was hard. I want to rent a place on Lantau for a couple of months, some place I can take my dogs and relax while the renovation is going on,” Armstrong says. Shayaan Aga’s summer holiday plans centred on two family weddings – one in Italy and one in the US state of Connecticut. Now that the nuptials have been postponed, she plans to spend the money the family would have splashed out overseas on having the best possible time in Hong Kong. Aga has enrolled her children in an Asia Pacific Adventure camp, a five-day break for her 11-year-old son and a three-day trip for her eight-year-old daughter. “It’s in Sai Kung and they’ll do lots of water activities – kayaking, paddle boarding – and abseiling and gorge climbing. It’s a good outfit – they run the school camps – and it must be popular this year because the slots I originally wanted weren’t available,” she says. While the young ones are in summer camp, she and her husband plan to enjoy a staycation at a five-star hotel. And for the rest of the summer, they hope to go to Macau with friends, and sign the children up for cooking classes at the Mixing Bowl and football camp. This is a high-pressure place. Getting out and taking holidays is a huge part of expat life. When it became apparent that international travel would be subject to quarantine, I knew I had to do something Grant Ross, who took a long lease on a village house on an island to use at weekends Aga says companies are encouraging staff to take their holidays and not to try and bank the days for later in the year. “You are expected to take holiday time. Everyone needs a break even if you just go to the beach. They are telling us take it or lose it,” she explains. Teacher Andy Thums usually spends the long summer holiday travelling, and this year he will be focusing his attention on exploring Hong Kong’s outlying islands. One of his favourites is Cheung Chau. “You can hire bikes and go around the island. There’s plenty of hiking and you can swim on one of the best beaches in Hong Kong. There are lots of happy hour places and great Indian restaurants. Everything is cheaper over there and there are plenty of nooks and crannies to discover,” Thums says. When the coronavirus pandemic first hit, he took a weekend break at the Lychee Sunset Hotel, a three-storey, 19-room hotel just above Tung Wan Road on Cheung Chau, three minutes’ walk from the ferry pier and three minutes from the beach. “It’s a very good three-star hotel overlooking the sea. The management is nice and they do a very good Western breakfast. This time I think I’ll book a balcony room,” Thums says. District councillor Paul Zimmerman loves being outdoors, and while he’s asked friends to keep an eye out for a flat to rent in Sai Kung over the summer, he’s also planning to go camping. “The summer weather isn’t very compliant, it can get a bit sticky, so it’s best if you get a small, light tent and camp late at night and continue walking early in the morning,” Zimmerman says. One of his favourite spots is the campground at Tai Long Wan in Sai Kung East Country Park. The site on the hill, overlooking the beach, is secluded and enjoys a welcome breeze. Rather than take cooking gear, he usually eats at the surf shack by the shoreline or walks to one of the restaurants at Sai Wan beach. “The last time I did it, it was almost full moon. It was so fantastic to walk at night and enjoy the view of the moon on the sea,” Zimmerman says. A summer holiday isn’t just a chance for some frivolous fun; the break is central to helping maintain mental health and well-being. And if ever there was a year when we could really do with a break from work, from the city, and from everything that’s going on in Hong Kong, it’s now. There’s a lot to be said for a five-star hotel staycation, but there’s plenty of fun to be had if you get creative and look for options outside the city that take you close to nature. But don’t wait too long to make your reservations. “The best properties on Airbnb are almost entirely booked out. It’s supply and demand in action,” Dondi says.