Coloane: Where to go to take a break from Macau
The island offers a reprieve from the city's prevailing hedonistic vibe - for now, at least. The development that has transformed the rest of the city is already encroaching
Pedro Evaristo doesn't need more than a moment to explain what has drawn him to Coloane. "It's the peace," he says, "and the quiet." But just how long things will remain the same is anyone's guess.
The drive across to Coloane along the Cotai Strip reveals in no uncertain terms the way Macau will continue to develop, and the soaring tower blocks being completed on what was once the foreshore of the enclave's outer island hint at its future, too. The vista of Hengqin's Chimelong International Ocean Resort can be seen rising off in the distance from the Pousada de Coloane where Evaristo works as hotel manager.
"Everything in Macau is getting bigger, but we will stay the same," says Evaristo, and his Pousada - like most of what Coloane has to offer - is for the meantime still very much targeted towards families and couples wanting to escape the more frantic offerings situated a few kilometres away.
Hikes and beaches
The local government has at least ensured Coloane's hills will always allow visitors some breathing space, with 11 trails of varying difficulty established in the lush greenery around the south side of Macau. The Hac Sa Reservoir Family Walk offers exactly what its name suggests - a leisurely stroll from start to finish for all ages, past barbecue pits, around the reservoir's blue waters and up to more elevated areas which offer views down across Hac Sa Bay. Canoes and paddle boats are available for hire, and fitness machines to burn up a little more energy.
And if you fancy a more rigorous test, continue from the family trail and on into the Ka-Ho Height Family Trails that sets you off from nearby reservoir - and coming in at around an extra 1km of incline will set your pulse racing in the summer months.
Like most hikes in Macau, there are plenty of signs to keep you headed in the right direction and to let you know exactly what it is you are passing, or in this case, looking down at. You begin heading up stone steps from a barbecue area and can catch a great view of the golf course before winding your way around the hill and back down on to Hac Sa.
Whether or not you'll be game to dip your toe in the waters is a matter no doubt for discussion among your party - Hac Sa translates as "black sand" and the waters are never less than murky - but both destinations also feature clean and rarely crowded public swimming pools, offering small cafes and shaded tables and entry charges of just 15 patacas for adults and 5 patacas for children under the age of 12.
Most visitors from Hong Kong, of course, at some stage or another will find themselves at the Hac Sa dining institution, Fernando's (tel: +853 2888 2531) but there are a few lesser known eateries on Coloane that are well worth the extra effort.
A walk through Coloane Village, past the ever-increasing range of Lord Stow's Bakery outlets, can lead you down to the waterfront looking across and into the mainland. Those looking to shoot photos must stop by the Biblioteca, along the way.
Much of the fanfare for feasting here surrounds the fresh seafood on offer at the Nga Tim Cafe (tel: +853 2888 2086), but if you want to avoid any waiting, the Chan Seng Kei Restaurant (tel: +853 2888 2021) on the opposite side of the Largo Eduardo Marques is a lot more low key - a place favoured by the locals looking to escape the crowds and sit down to a massive plate of the local clams with chilli and black bean sauce.
Couples also wishing to escape the crowds who gather at Fernando's are better off tucking themselves away at the Miramar (tel: +853 2888 2623) - nearby and with a cosy (and far more quiet) atmosphere. Summer evenings here are perfect for picking up breezes off the beach as you tuck into their Bacalhau Assado no Carvao and there's an outdoor area for children.
This same ambiance draws locals and those in the know to the very far reaches of the much smaller Cheoc Van beach and to the La Gondola Italian restaurant. It sits up high over the beach and the public pool, and offers simple pizzas and pastas under shaded tables for when the temperatures during the day are bearable.
The tiled patio at the Pousada de Coloane has long been a favourite spot for hikers to watch the sunset and slip down a glass or two of Vinho Verde after a day exploring the hills that surround the hotel.
Its commanding views are also a delight - even since the encroachment of the castle-like spires of Hengqin off to the right. "We think we offer an alternative to the way Macau has been developing over the past two decades," says Evaristo, who moved east with his family from Portugal in the 1970s.
"Coloane has always been a place locals have come to relax, even back when it was much harder to get here. It's one of the few places in Macau that have not really changed all that much and there are still people here who hope to keep things that way - for as long as possible."