While Disneyland, Stanley Market and Hong Kong’s other go-to attractions may definitely be plenty of fun, there is so much more to this subtropical archipelago that most tourists don’t get to see. To take a peek into Hong Kong’s wilder, deeper and darker side, here are 10 secret spots you need to visit.
1) Peng Chau Island
Hong Kong is usually associated with its high-rise skyline, with many people not realizing that Hong Kong is home to an abundance of natural beauty too.
To see this, you will need to travel a little further afield…
Peng Chau Island is located just 8km to the west of Hong Kong Island, with regular ferries available to take you between the two.
What should you do once you get there?
The best way to explore the island is by taking its walking trail, which offers up a tour of the following highlights:
- The busy fishing activity in the surrounding waters
- Old Fisherman’s Rock with its views of Hong Kong Disneyland as well as Kowloon (visit during the evening to catch the park’s fireworks display from a unique perspective)
- The most exquisite sandy beaches, which are perfect for a picnic
- The island’s unique ecosystem, especially if you branch off onto the Peng Yu Path
- Finger Hill, which is the highest point on the island. While you may think that it offers 360 degree views, the overgrown vegetation here can sometimes get in the way of that
Although Peng Chau Island is small, there is plenty to see. There are also several shops, cafes and restaurants, so you could easily spend the entire day exploring the island.
2) The Un Chau Estate Flower Tunnel
If you’re looking for a vacation photo like no other…
Head to the Un Chau Public Housing Estate.
Because here you will find the seemingly-magical flower tunnel. The tunnel is only in flower in the spring months, so, if you are visiting Hong Kong in March or April, this is a sight you should definitely see.
The tunnel is covered in bougainvillea, a plant with fairytale-like flowers that make it seem as though you are a million miles away from the city.
While the majority of tourists don’t know about this spot, it is a place that is pretty popular with local photographers. If you want the tunnel to yourself, try to time your visit for early in the morning.
3) The Kowloon Walled City Park
Built in the early 1990s by the British, the Kowloon Walled City Park has a disturbing past…
Nicknamed the City of Darkness, it is infamous for being a claustrophobic residential disaster, with more than 40,000 Chinese living in cramped shanty quarters, with each tower around 15 floors high. The dark passageways that wound themselves between these towers never received any sunlight, hence the city’s nickname. As you can imagine, this was a city where crime, drugs, brothels and more were running rife, which is why the British eventually tore it down.
The park that sits at the site now is what remains of the City of Darkness, and a few parts of the city have been rebuilt for educational purposes. There is also a small exhibit to check out, along with a Jiangnan-style garden that showcases some beautiful natural beauty.
PMQ is a historic area of central Hong Kong that has been the focus of one of the city’s biggest conservation projects in recent years.
Wondering what PMQ stands for?
It stands for Police Married Quarters, as it used to be a dormitory for Chinese officers when Hong Kong’s population was rapidly on the rise.
Today, this site, including its grade III listed building, has been completely transformed into a mixed-use creative venue, with an emphasis on arts and design.
Here are just a few of the establishments that you will find here:
- Taste Kitchen – transformed into a new restaurant each month, featuring a different up-and-coming chef
- Sake Central – offers up an educational sake tasting experience
- Taste Library – home to more than 3000 food-related books from all over the world
- Fashion stores – from the exclusive couture pieces from Chailie Ho to the minimal, unisex silhouettes of Modement, there are so many cutting edge fashion brands to be found at PMQ
- Home design – try Found Muji for that authentic Japanese aesthetic, or Bamboa Home for pieces that have been crafted from locally-sourced bamboo
5) Sai Wan
Did you know that Hong Kong is home to a stunning waterfall that is around 100 feet tall? There are also several others around it that are just as worth seeing.
It is a bit of a trek to get there, with the total round-trip journey, including hiking time, being about five hours. However, if you have some time to spare and want to check out some of Hong Kong’s natural offerings, this is a trip worth taking.
The first trail head is by the Sai Wan Pavilion. You can either take public transport or a taxi to get here.
Once you get started on your journey, here are just a few of the things that you will see:
- Sai Wan Village with its quaint cafes and shops
- Wide, white sandy beaches
- Natural deep pools that are so refreshing on a hot day
- The Thousand Silk Falls, which you will climb up
- The 30ft Ming Yau Falls
- The 100ft Chong Yau Falls
- The 45ft Black Deer Pool Falls
- The 60ft Well Bottom Pool Falls
- The Ben Cho Falls
Not bad for a day’s hike! As you can probably guess, this is a pretty strenuous walk. Make sure that you are physically fit enough to handle it before setting off.
6) The Rainbow Organic Strawberry Farm
The amount of countryside in Hong Kong would surprise you, but there are now more and more small farms popping up around the city outskirts that are making the most of this.
While many of Hong Kong’s farms may be relatively new, the Rainbow Organic Strawberry Farm is actually one of Hong Kong’s oldest organic farms.
Where is it?
It’s in Fanling, which is about an hour’s drive from Hong Kong Island.
Once you get to the farm, you pay a small entry fee and are given a basket and a pair of scissors. You can then wander the grounds at your own leisure, picking their super-sweet organic strawberries to fill your basket.
Keep in mind that this is a seasonal activity. Strawberry-picking is only available in Hong Kong between mid-December to April. If you are visiting just outside of these months, it is still worth contacting some of the local farms to see if they have any early or late fruit growing.
Wondering if there are any other local farms you can visit?
Yes, there are actually quite a few:
- The Living Farm in Tai Po, where you can try your hand at urban farming
- Erickson Organic Farm in Yuen Long, where you will find numerous fruits and vegetables waiting to be picked
- Kam Tin Country Club Hong Kong in Yuen Long – they specialize in strawberries from all over the world, from France to Korea, and charge by the pound
- Grandpa’s Garden on Lantau Island, where you can buy seasonal fresh organic fruits, vegetables and herbs
- Dragontail Farm on Mui Wo, which not only offers daily tours and activities for kids, but also delivers their fresh produce to homes all over Hong Kong
7) Shek Kwu Chau
Here’s a spot that’s so secret, it’s only open for one day a year, or to those who have a special permit.
Shek Kwu Chau is an outlying island just south of Lantau Island.
Although there aren’t many permanent residents on this pristine island, there is a voluntary substance abuse center here that helps to rehabilitate people. While this may be what the island is most famous for, there is a piece of architecture here definitely worth seeing…
The island is home to a Roman bath that took 15 years to build. Although it was originally built as a way for those seeking substance abuse treatment to relax, it is now being used as a reservoir, due to a lack of fresh water on the island.
In addition to the Roman bath, you will also find numerous sculptures and pieces of artwork here, along with traditional Chinese temples.
This might not be an easy place to visit, but it really is worth trying!
8) Tai O
Have you ever heard of Tai O?
It’s a small, quaint fishing village that sits on the western edge of Lantau Island. This is a spot with such a rich history, having seen, over the years, everything from gun smuggling and illegal immigration to salt production and a growing fishing industry.
Of course, word about how interesting Tai O is has spread in recent years, meaning that this charming village is now attracting more and more tourists each year. However, most of those tourists head to Tai O to check out the traditional stilt houses and to sample some of the village’s fresh seafood.
What the majority of the tourists don’t realize is that Tai O has another very special feature to offer…
Tai O is the perfect spot from where you can catch a glimpse of the endangered Chinese white dolphin. In fact, it is the only spot from where these incredibly rare creatures can be seen.
You will need to take a boat excursion out into deeper waters, and a white dolphin sighting is never guaranteed, especially with their population declining in recent years. Still, that’s all the more reason to visit Tai O and catch these majestic beauties while you still can!
This wouldn’t be a complete list without a mention of a secret speakeasy, and that is exactly what Foxglove is.
In order to get to this restaurant, you need to enter an umbrella shop, and then make your way through a secret doorway at the back.
Wondering what you will find inside?
A very dramatic interior inspired by vintage cars and trains, as well as first class planes. There are four different rooms here, and even a hidden library.
Foxglove serves up a Cantonese-inspired lunch and dinner menu, and has an extensive cocktail list. Table service is taken to the next level here with vintage push carts visiting each table to create custom martinis for each diner.
Those of you who are jazz fans will appreciate the music here, with some popular live acts gracing the stage. Try to visit in the evening if you want to catch this place at its very best.
While you’re there, take a stroll around Central, which is especially enchanting during the evenings. The OROGOLD store here is open until late, giving you the chance to take some time out to pamper your skin.
10) The Cheung Po Tsai Cave
Often referred to as China’s version of Robin Hood, Cheung Po Tsai was a notorious pirate who was in charge of a 600-ship fleet.
The pirate had many stash houses around the islands, one of which is now known as the Cheung Po Tsai Cave on Cheung Chau Island.
The cave may be small but there are several winding passageways around it, making it plenty of fun to explore. If you have children, this is an activity that they will definitely enjoy.
Don’t forget to bring a torch!
While you may hear about the same Hong Kong attractions over and over again, there are so many more parts to Hong Kong that are worth visiting. From secret caves and secret restaurants to cascading waterfalls and natural swimming pools, this list will keep you pretty busy the next time you visit Hong Kong!