Kayaking in Hong Kong: where to go and everything you need to know
Whether playing in the shallows or surfing in the waves, camping out on remote beaches or exploring traditional villages, there are easily accessible kayaking spots for all types in Hong Kong
There’s a kayaking destination with exposed shores of rare and beautiful geology riddled with sea caves. It has white sand beaches and small uninhabited islands that are as fun to circumnavigate as they are to camp on. The weather is suitable for kayaking year-round, and there’s something for everyone, from beginners to expert paddlers.
New Zealand? Some part of the Mediterranean coastline? Actually, it’s Hong Kong, where ideal conditions make kayaking one of the best ways to enjoy the city’s natural attractions.
World Oceans Day on June 8 is the perfect excuse to celebrate kayaking and the connection it creates with Hong Kong’s coastline.
Getting out on the water and exploring Hong Kong’s coastline has a unique effect on people – everyone is shocked and dismayed to see how much rubbish washes up on the beaches. Many of Hong Kong’s most passionate advocates for clean beaches and plastic-free seas are also avid water sport enthusiasts, and that’s no coincidence. Exploring our natural resources and seeing the damage already done awakens the environmental protectionist in all of us.
But there is reason to be optimistic. Since the trawling fishing ban in 2013 the amount of life in the sea has risen drastically. Today, it’s not uncommon to have fish jump right into your open cockpit.
Sea kayaking uses four- to six-metre boats with hatches. You need to be comfortable swimming in deep water in order to kayak safely.
Hong Kong’s best kayaking destinations
The Hong Kong Geo Park is perhaps the grandest of Hong Kong’s natural wonders. The sea pounds at the base of soaring cliffs made from intricate rock formations that turn blood-red at sunset. It encompasses many islands across Hong Kong but the best suited for kayaking include High Island, Port Island and the Ung Kong Group, which have exciting caves and paddle-throughs. These islands are the pinnacle of Hong Kong kayaking.
Several of Sai Kung’s beaches have become popular kayak spots. Sai Wan beach is a great place to practise surf kayaking and place to hang out for the weekend. Catch a few low, steady rollers on a kayak and then pitch your tent on the beach for the night. Pak Lap is perfectly located for access to parts of the Geo Park, with camping, kayak rentals, and a good restaurant.
Paddling through the old fishing village of Tai O on Lantau Island is a real experience. From here you can paddle out to sea to look for Chinese white dolphins, also known as pink dolphins, which are seriously threatened by airport and bridge development in the area.
Yim Tin Tsai, an old village in Sai Kung, is a popular day trip from Sha Ha Beach and is perhaps the closest thing to a gathering point for Hong Kong’s kayaking community. The village is famous for its old salt quarries and church, which are an easy hike away, even in paddling shoes. This also puts you close to the Sharp Island beaches. Beware, the landing area gets crowded with kayaks on weekends.
Where to rent and learn
Sha Ha Beach in Sai Kung town has several independent rental companies that offer kayaks for day use. Their equipment is not all of a high standard and they offer little safety training or gear. Still, if you want to go for a quick paddle in Sai Kung, this is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to do it – but you do so at your own risk.
At the other end of the spectrum is A-Team Adventures, which offers bespoke, guided trips around Hong Kong, with kayak training if you want a more private and exclusive experience. ateamedventures.com
Meet-up.com groups are one of the best ways to get into the kayaking community.
Hong Kong also has great public water sport facilities run by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. They offer introductory courses to a variety of sports, including kayaking. You must show a proficiency certificate earned through their course programme in order to rent a kayak.
Is it a PFD or a life jacket?
They’re similar, but not the same. Life jackets are bulky and designed to turn an unconscious person face up in the water, allowing them to breathe. A PFD (personal flotation device) has less buoyancy and is designed to be comfortably worn while doing water sports, and will not always turn an unconscious person face up.
Before you go
Check the weather. Avoid lightning, high winds and waves.
Wear closed-toe shoes, such as a pair of old trainers. Wild beaches and shores have sea urchins and sharp rocks.
Wear a PFD. The open sea has currents and conditions that can surprise you.
Wear a hat and sun protection, the sun reflects off the water and burns you.
Bring a reusable water bottle – no need to add to the rubbish.
Tell someone where you’re going and when to expect you back.
Use Hong Kong’s plasticised Countryside Series maps to plan your adventure.