The other side of Macau: Fun for all the family in Coloane
Coloane might be just a hop, skip and a jump from the mega resorts, massive shopping malls, and glitzy casinos of Cotai, but it is an entirely different world, where high-rises are the exception rather than the rule.
Before it was linked to Taipa through the land reclamation that created Cotai, Coloane constituted the former Portuguese enclave's largest land mass. Even today, it is Macau's green lung, with beaches, rolling hills, and sylvan forests – the perfect spot to escape the maddening crowds.
The Hac Sa Reservoir Park is the jewel in Coloane's eco-tourism crown. Facilities include paddle boats and canoes. There is a plant maze, a grassy slope that children can slide down, picnic areas, and camping grounds. Several well-maintained hiking trails – with varying degrees of difficulty – criss-cross the park and other parts of Coloane.
One of the most challenging trails leads hikers from the reservoir up Mount Dek Sep Tong to the Tam Sing Temple, a sprawling complex of buildings with glazed tile roofs, surrounding a large courtyard. While completed less than 20 years ago, the complex has the look and feel of a monastery from the imperial era. A giant statue of A-Mah, the Chinese goddess of seafarers and fishermen, is located further up the hill. Dramatically lit at night, it can be viewed from several spots around the island.
For those not wanting to hike up to the temple, it can also be reached by a free shuttle service, departing from Seac Pai Van Road and the Estrada Alto de Coloane every 30 minutes. You can’t miss it since an imposing stone gateway marks the spot. A tip is to take the shuttle up to the temple and then return to sea level along the well-maintained trails.
Located a short walk from the stone gateway, Seac Pai Van Park has a large panda pavilion, a small zoo with several species of monkeys, a walk-in aviary, a tiny museum, and gardens of exotic and medicinal plants. The Sagres, a small plane that was flown from Portugal to Macau by way of the Middle East, South Asia and Hong Kong in 1987, is also parked in the park. Seac Pai Van Park is the starting point for walks along two of Coloane's more scenic trails: the Seac Pai Van Nature Walk and the Seac Pai Van River Ecological Trial. Entry to the park is free, but there is a modest 10-pataca charge to enter the Giant Panda Pavillion. Visitors under 12 and over 65 are admitted free.
Coloane has two beaches: Hac Sa Beach and Chec Van Beach. If Hac Sa is Cantonese for black sand, the colour of the sand is actually beige. But it occasionally turns black in the winter, according to locals. It is reputedly safe for swimming and both beaches have changing rooms and showers, and picnic areas. If you don't want to swim in the sea, public swimming pools are located within the vicinity of both beaches. Hac Sa Beach also has vendors selling street food and barbecue facilities.
Biking enthusiasts can rent bikes at Island Bicycle in Coloane Village, located along the waterfront on the Avenida de Cinco de Octubro. Rentals range from 20 patacas per hour for a child’s bike to 20 patacas per hour for a family bike. Better quality mountain bikes can be rented for 100 patacas per hour at The Club Grand Coloane at the Grand Coloane Resort. The club also offers scheduled guided trail walks to the Hac Sa Reservoir Country Park on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays (at least three people must sign up for the walks to take place). These walks are complimentary for hotel guests and club members. The general public is charged a modest fee of 200 patacas. Walks can be scheduled at other times if at least five people sign up. The club also offers day passes to the general public, which includes access to a well-equipped fitness centre and the hotel's beautiful swimming pool. Day-pass holders can also take part in regularly scheduled classes – pilates, yoga, and zumba – and guided walks.
Visitors wanting to spend the night on Coloane have four basic options. The Hac Sa Reservoir Park has camp grounds. The Grand Coloane Resort, formerly known as the Westin, is a full service resort overlooking Hac Sa Beach. The Pousada de Coloane is a three star boutique hotel overlooking Cheoc Van Beach. The Pousada de Juventude de Hac Sa is a youth hostel located near Hac Sa Beach (it is temporarily closed to the public).
Photo credit: Michael Taylor of Accidental Travel Writer