Looming below the clusters of skyscrapers shadowed by mountains and peaks is the heart of Hong Kong: beaches, small villages, marketplaces, and eateries of every form. If you’re more comfortable close to the ground, or by the water, stay low in Hong Kong and you’re not missing out — fantastic food, outdoor activities, and scenic landscapes await.Read More
How to experience Hong Kong from the ground up
1. Tai O Fishing Village
This historic fishing village recognizable by its colorful stretches of stilted houses, waterside restaurants, and dried fish shops appeared on Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown for good reason — there are many little bites and small dishes to taste around this town that supports itself through aquaculture. Dried shrimp paste is a Tai O specialty, and noodles in hot broth with shrimp roe, freshly caught seafood, and a plethora of dehydrated sea creatures can be enjoyed (and smelled) throughout the narrow streets.
2. Temple Street
Yau Ma Tei, Hong Kong
A tall red gate welcomes visitors to the official entry point of Temple Street Market, where tourists and locals foray down Temple Street and its bustling side streets to browse tables strewn with goods (everything from backup phone chargers to knockoff handbags to Hong Kong souvenirs) and to eat at outdoor stands vending portable treats, like Hong Kong egg waffles filled with ice cream from Mammy Pancake, or have a sit-down dinner at outdoor tables. Just above the street, Kam Shan Seafood Restaurant boasts a decades-long reputation of serving affordable seafood and Chinese dishes in a no-frills, (but air-conditioned!) dining room.
3. Repulse Bay
Shark nets keep swimmers safe at this idyllic public beach where warm turquoise waters sop up the glimmering white sand, partially shaded by trees lining the beach. Views of the city and its surrounding islands make for a scenic day trip, and a handful of restaurants facing the water help fuel beachgoers for their return trip after a day in the sun.
4. Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark
Part of a larger network of protected natural lands across the globe, this expanse of land and water in Hong Kong’s East and Northeast New Territories includes Sai Kung Volcanic Rock Region as well as the Northeast New Territories Sedimentary Rock Region, meaning a plethora of outdoor recreational activities await. Blue Sky Sports Club offers kayaking and paddling adventures, and the less athletically inclined can also book speed boat or yacht tours.
5. Haiphong Road Temporary Market
Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Passersby shopping their way through the glitzy European and American imported luxury boutiques in Kowloon’s Tsim Sha Tsui district may miss this local market, which, despite the name, is a permanent fixture in Hong Kong’s culinary scene. Half of the covered market offers produce and fresh goods, while the other half is a maze of hawker stalls vending brothy noodles, char siu pork, and hearty, inexpensive breakfasts.
6. Chi Lin Nunnery
Hong Kong is known for its melding of Eastern and Western cultures and mix of historic and contemporary sites, and perhaps no better example visually exists than the Chi Lin Nunnery, a colorful urban retreat flanked by skyscrapers. Just minutes from the MTR subway, Chi Lin and its adjoining Nan Lian Garden offer a tranquil escape from the bustling city, which glimmers behind the Tang Dynasty-style architecture of this nunnery that was renovated in 1990.
7. Golden Beach
At 545 meters long, Golden Beach is Hong Kong’s largest public beach, and its proximity to the city center makes it a popular urban retreat on weekends — arrive early to secure a spot near a palm tree, or at least one that’s not overlapping with another group’s beach towels. A promenade, revered dolphin statue, beach volleyball court showers, and plenty of vendors (snacks and otherwise) can make a day at Golden Beach feel like time spent on a tropical island.
8. Kung Wo Dou Bun Chong
Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong
Americans accustomed to chewy, packaged tofu will be wowed at the creamy, almost pudding-like consistency of Kung Wo’s bean curd, freshly made throughout the day in the back of this restaurant and tofu vendor in Sham Shui Po. Pass by the grocery shoppers loading up on flimsy blocks of freshly cut tofu and grab a seat to indulge in made-to-order variations of deep fried tofu, soy milk, tofu cakes and puffs, and a sweet tofu pudding sprinkled with golden sugar.
9. Shun Kee Typhoon Shelter Seafood
Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
Surrounded by water, Hong Kong is a city that often leaves visitors wanting to get on the water, and this floating restaurant on a basic boat lets diners enjoy a meal prepared on the water. The menu is, you guessed it, seafood-focused, with fried fish, spicy crab, soups, noodles and more to slurp up on deck.
10. A Symphony of Lights Harbor Cruise
Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Hong Kong holds the Guinness World Record for the largest permanent light and sound show, A Symphony of Lights, a nightly production put on by the city’s surrounding skyscrapers. Each night, various ships and ferries cruise the harbor for the best views, but the casual Aqua Luna cruise, where a glass of wine or beer is served on the open-air sailboat, offers a relaxing 45-minute ride through the waters, complete with yacht rock and a soundtrack timed to the light show.
11. Big Wave Bay Beach
In Hong Kong’s fast-expanding surfing scene, which has now become a thriving and expanding industry for the city, locals agree that Big Wave Bay has some of the best surfing on the island. Hit the beach after hiking the nearby Dragon’s Back Trail, and rent a surfboard to hit the waves.
12. Lamma Island
Down from the mountains to the beach, you’ll find the Lamma Dragons, a dragon boat racing team with a special place in the history of the sport in Hong Kong. In the mid-1980s, the ladies of the Lamma Dragons became the first team of Eastern and Western women to compete against the local Hong Kong teams. On shore, Hong Kong’s third-largest island is a laidback mix of Western and Chinese cultural influences: traditional fishing villages, lots of hiking trails, and boutique stores and surfer eats along the Yung Shue Wan Main Street.
13. Kamikaze Caves
There’s much to see and do on Lamma Island, but perhaps the most well-known sight are the Kamikaze caves. Hidden in the island’s mountains, these World War II-era caves were dug to hold speedboats to disrupt Allied shipboats. They were never used, but are a quiet and secluded reminder of the mainland’s rich history.