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Hong Kong is a hiker's dream: hilly, scenic, temperate, and highly accessible by public transport. Few tourists take advantage of the tropical paradise outlying the city center, but those who do are richly rewarded with green mountains, turquoise seas, and gorgeous beaches that can't be reached any other way (except by yacht, of course). Go on...take a hike.
Dragon's Back: This is the classic Hong Kong beginner's hike, and it hits all the marks: scenic, accessible, and ends in a beach. True to its name, the hike runs up and down the humps of a hill range overlooking Stanley Bay. The hike is relatively unstrenuous, and you'll be rewarded at the end by Shek O beach, where you can swim, tan, and eat at the delicious Thai restaurant, Happy Garden. Accessible from the number 9 bus from Shau Kei Wan.
MacLehose trail: This New Territories trail is considerably harder than Dragon's Back, with considerably better rewards--which only increase as you push onwards. The entire trail is 100km long, but you can choose a section and go from there. Start at the Pavilion in Sai Kung Country Park (accessible by mini bus or taxi from Kowloon), and hike downwards until you reach Sai Wan beach. Sai Wan is nice enough, and there's a freshwater rock pool with a waterfall about ten minutes walk away. But push onwards, over a steep hill, to the next bay, Ham Tin, which is even more beautiful and serene. Get lunch at one of the cute eateries here, and then, if you're not too exhausted, climb over the next hill to Tai Wan-- Hong Kong's most beautiful beach.
The Peak: Less of a hike and more of a walk, Victoria Peak is a great place to experience the nature of Hong Kong without leaving the city. You can either hike all the way up from Central, past elegant apartment compexes and mansions, or take the tram up, and then circle the Peak on Lugard and Harlech roads. The scenery is lovely, and the whole walk takes only about an hour. Then reward yourself with lunch or walk back down.
When you think of Hong Kong you don’t immediately conjure up an image of green hills, turquoise blue ocean, deep green reservoirs and rocky trails. However, there are hundreds of trails upon which to get away from the window-shopping crowds content to spend their weekends in the concrete jungle. Take plenty of water, sunscreen and a hat, and feast your eyes on flourishing landscapes and distant vistas, eagles and turtles. Here are some of the easiest, and they all end up somewhere you can refuel.
Park View to Stanley, Hong Kong Island
A no-brainer of a hike, hop in a taxi to Park View and start the climb up the concrete stairs that take you into the hills. Don’t worry there’s plenty of natural path on the way. Views from the top of Violet Hill make you glad to be in Hong Kong, and as the path climbs and swoops there are plenty of times you can’t see anything manmade at all. Glimpse Repulse Bay on the right as the path dips down and choose whether to climb The Twins (aka ‘thousand steps’) or take the scenic route skirting around the reservoir for some turtle watching. It’s an easy taxi or bus journey to nearby Stanley and its waterfront of restaurants from either of the routes' ends.
Dragon’s Back to Shek O, Hong Kong Island
The first hike I ever did in Hong Kong, this trail follows the ‘humps’ of the dragon’s back along the peninsula that looks out over Stanley Bay on one side and towards Clearwater Bay and Tung Lung island the other. You might be lucky and time it to watch paragliders setting up and taking off from the lofty heights of the hills, or alternatively the remote control crew with their planes and helicopters. You can start this hike further along the peninsula by the Shek O Road bus stop and walk back, ending up in Big Wave Bay, or start from just past the Stanley/Shek O roundabout and end up at the bus stop. A taxi or bus will take you to Shek O and it’s many Thai restaurants.
Discovery Bay to Mui Wo, Lantau
DB is the Stepford town of Hong Kong where everyone looks happy and healthy. No wonder, as on their doorstep are trails that lead right up into the hills (not to mention a calm and swimmable beach). This easy hike takes you away from The Plaza, past Nim Shue Wan ferry pier and up and down, around and about through villages and local landscapes. When you find yourself skirting around the Trappist Monastery you know you’re almost there. You’ll arrive at Mui Wo’s beach in time to have a slap up lunch at the China Beach Club, set just back from the beach, or the Bahce Turkish restaurant in Mui Wo town.
Sunset Peak, Lantau
Choose to hike either from Nam Shan picnic area or Tung Chung Road, depending on whether you’d prefer to end up at The Stoep on Cheung Sha Beach or Bahce Turkish Restaurant in Mui Wo. Starting at Mui Wo, take a taxi to Nam Shan, then climb the steps into the hills until the waterfall where you can cool off, knowing the rest is going to be much easier going. You’ll pass some stone bothies, and then follow the path to the Tung Chung Road bus stop. The views over to Chek Lap Kok, Hong Kong’s international airport, are mesmerizing, in fact just as much as the more natural views of Cheung Sha Beach, your lunch destination, the other.
Sai Kung Country Park to Tai Long Wan
Tai Long Wan is one of Hong Kong’s great more-or-less-kept secrets. It’s where Hong Kongers go to indulge their inner weekend warriors for a weekend’s camping. Once you’ve made it by MTR, mini bus and taxi to Sai Kung Country Park’s Sai Wan Pavilion then it’s a mere 90 minutes over the hills and past a few bays to Ham Tin Beach. Apart from the cows, there are two noodle shacks here, one of which hires out tents and other camping equipment. For the best views climb up the path that leads over to spectacular Tai Long Wan Beach, the next beach over, and find a grassy patch with a spectacular bird's eye view.