Last Updated on November 27, 2020 by Queenie Mak
Hong Kong is a metropolitan city known for its beautiful skyline, exciting nightlife and excellent shopping. But there are many off the beaten path places that are worth seeing. Some include visiting a fishing village, surfing, coasteering, swimming in a tide pool, trying local craft beer, visiting an up-and-coming neighbourhood and going to a horse racing event!
Want to learn more? Keep reading and I’ll show you my top 11 Hong Kong off the beaten path places that you must see!
Related Post – Take a trip from Hong Kong and spend 2 days in Macau
What you need to know before visiting Hong Kong
Before you visit Hong Kong, take a look at my solo travel guide to Hong Kong and get an overview of the city. And here are some additional travel tips:
- Most visitors can visit Hong Kong without a visa for up to 180 days. Check the Hong Kong immigration Department to see if you require a visa for HK
- Get an Octopus Card, a rechargeable smartcard for taking public transportation (MTR, bus, minibus, ferry and tram) and make purchases at participating retailers and restaurants. Purchase one at any MTR station or convenience store. It costs $100HKD but you can use $50 stored value and get your $50HKD refundable deposit when you leave
- Hong Kong is a safe city for solo female travellers
- The local language is Cantonese but most people have a knowledge of English.
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My favourite Hong Kong off the beaten path activities
Here is a quick summary of all my favourite off the beaten path activities in Hong Kong:
- See pink dolphins at Tai O Village
- Get your fortune at Wong Tai Sin Temple
- Go coasteering at Shek O Beach
- Go surfing at Big Wave Bay Beach
- See 13,000 Buddha statues at Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery
- Hike Yuk Kwai Shan (Mount Johnson) and swim in a tide pool
- Take photos at Hong Kong’s most iconic Instagram spot, the Monster Mansion
- Attend Happy Wednesday at Happy Valley Racecourse
- Try local craft beer at Moonzen Brewery
- Learn about the textile culture at The Mills
- Visit Sham Shui Po, an up-and-coming neighbourhood
1. See pink dolphins at Tai O Village
How to get there: Take MTR to Tung Chung Station, hop on New Lantau Bus (NLB) Bus #11 (1 hour, $11.8HKD pay with Octopus) at the bus terminal and get off at the last stop. (see map)
Tai O is a fishing village on the western side of Lantau Island in HK. Known as the “Venice of Hong Kong”, the village is a large inlet with two waterways going through the charming town where you can meander through the streets to see the stilt houses or take a small boat tour to see the town through from another perspective.
The perfect day trip to Tai O includes walking around the village to see the stilt houses built over the waterways, visit heritage buildings and temples, and have a coffee overlooking the river at Solo Cafe or Triple Lanterns Cafe.
And the highlight of the day trip would have to include a boat tour to see pink dolphins. The 20-minute boat tour zooms around the waterways so you can see the stilt houses from the water level. And the tour continues out to the sea and hopefully, you can see pink dolphins, also known as Chinese White Dolphins.
As much fun as it sounds, the tour company (or person rather), will not guarantee that you can see dolphins during your boat excursion. So hopefully, you are lucky and can see these lovely animals.
2. Get your fortune at Wong Tai Sin Temple
Hours of Operation: 7:00 am to 5:00 pm
How to get there: Take MRT to Wong Tai Sin Station, Exit B2. You will see the temple right away.
In 1921, Wong Tai Sin Temple was built in Kowloon and it was built to commemorate the great immortal, Wong Tai Sin, who is highly regarded in Guangdong Province and Hong Kong. And it is said that whatever you pray to Wong Tai Sin, he will grant you the wish.
The Taoist Temple welcomes visitors all year round but it is especially busy during Chinese New Year and on Wong Tai Sin’s birthday (23rd of 8th lunar month). People believe that the sooner they offer incense, the better luck they will have.
And the temple is also known for fortune-telling. Many locals visit the temple and pray to Wong Tai Sin and kau chim (means praying for good luck) with Chinese Fortune Sticks.
First, you kneel in front of the temple and hold a cylindrical bamboo tube with many sticks with numbers. Then think of a question or something you are wishing for, and shake the bamboo tube back-and-forth with both hands. The sticks will start to move due to the constant movement. When one falls on the ground, exchange the stick for a piece of paper that will tell you your answer or your fortune.
If you want to speak to a real fortune teller, there are plenty next to the temple. Most of them speak Cantonese and few can speak English.
Are you a coffee lover? Check out all my favourite coffee shops in Hong Kong
3. Go coasteering at Shek O Headland
How to get there: Take MTR to Shau Kei Wan Station, Exit A3. Find Bus #9 at the bus terminal and take it all the way to the end. The bus journey takes about 34 minutes and costs $7.2HKD. (see map)
First of all, coasteering is a combination of rock climbing, swimming and if you dare, jumping off cliffs as well. The idea is to navigate along the coast as close to the water as possible.
And Shek O is a perfect spot in Hong Kong for beginners to try coasteering. Located on the D’Aguilar Peninsula on the southeastern part of Hong Kong Island, the rugged coastline along the Shek O Headland is easily accessible and has amazing views. The path starts from Shek O Headland and goes all the way north to Big Wave Bay Beach (which is another spot off the beaten path in Hong Kong)
If you do go coasteering in Shek O, make sure to wear grippy shoes, waterproof backpack, gloves and knee guards.
But if you prefer a more relaxing afternoon, hang out at Shek O Beach. The beach has golden sand, clear water and not very busy. You can still see some amazing views when you explore on foot along the rocky coastline just north of the beach.
4. Go surfing at Big Wave Bay Beach
How to get there: Take MTR to Shau Kei Wan Station, Exit A1, turn right. Find a red minibus going to Big Wave Bay Beach. The bus journey takes about 30 minutes and costs $10HKD ($12HKD on weekends and public holidays) in cash. (see map)
Like I mentioned already, Big Wave Bay Beach is another off the beaten track destination in Hong Kong. As the name suggests, the waves at this beach are big! Big enough for surfing!
Many local surfers go to Big Wave Bay Beach because of its accessibility. It is easily accessible by public transportation and is not too far from the city centre. Plus, there are good facilities like change rooms, showers, and toilets.
And if you travelling, you probably don’t have your surfboard with you. You can rent one at Ho Lok Shop, a local shop by the beach where you can rent surfboards, SUPs and wetsuits.
And if you want to hit a hiking trail nearby, there are two to choose from. One path will take you to Hong Kong Trail Section 8, which is a long loop to Dragon’s Back trail through Mount Collison. The other trail will take you to Siu Sai Wan via Pottinger Peak Country Trail.
5. See 13,000 Buddha statues at the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery
Address: 221 Pai Tau Village, Sha Tin, New Territories
Hours of Operation: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm
How to get there: Take the train from Kowloon Tong Station to Sha Tin Station, Exit B. Then walk 7 minutes along Lai Tau Street, then turn right on Sheung Wo Che Road. The entrance starts as soon as you pass Sha Tin Central Post Office building. (see map)
Founded by Reverend Yuet Kai in 1949, the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is built on the hillside village in Sha Tin in the New Territories. When you walk up the 431 steps, 500 life-size gilded Buddhist statues line both sides of the path. What is interesting is that each statue has a different expression and pose.
Then you’ll find the nine-storey pavilion and the main temple called Ten Thousand Buddhas Hall, on the lower level of the monastery. Look closely inside the main temple – there are many ceramic Buddha statues on the shelves. And as you walk around the lower level, there are many more Buddha statues.
For a good view of Sha Tin, follow the path and continue to the upper level of the monastery. And guess what you will find? More Buddha statues!
There are actually more than 10,000 Buddha statues at the Buddhist monastery. In Chinese, the phrase “ten thousand” can be used to generalize a large number or amount. So in this case, the name of the monastery puts an emphasis on the fact that there are a lot of Buddha statues but not the actual number. It’s a good thing I found this information online because I already lost count halfway up the hill! Ha!
6. Hike Yuk Kwai Shan (Mount Johnston) and swim in a tide pool
How to get there: Take MTR to Lei Tung Station, Exit B. Walk south on Lei Tung Estate Road, find two yellow booths, walk through the structures and stay on the left. and the trail immediately starts uphill. (see map)
Exploring nature and hitting the hiking trails are always part of any Hong Kong itinerary. Notably, the most popular ones are Victoria Peak Trail, Dragon’s Back and the Twins.
However, many people don’t know about Yuk Kwai Shan aka Mount Johnston in Ap Lei Chau. It is one of the most scenic hikes where you can see gorgeous coastal views of Hong Kong and several neighbouring islands. The trail takes you from Ap Lei Chau to Ap Lei Pai, the small island connected by a sandbar. And at the tip of the small island is Mount Johnston Lighthouse.
When you reach the lighthouse, you can continue right and find the tide pool. The natural rock pool is the perfect spot to cool off and relax a bit before you continue onwards.
Then you have two choices: either backtracking the way you came or catch a small sampan boat near the sandbar between Ap Lei Chau and Ap Lei Pei. And it will take you to Ap Lei Chau for $40HKD.
However, it is not as easy as other popular hikes. Several parts of the mountain are quite steep and slippery but there are ropes to help you.
So if you are an advanced hiker and want to spend the afternoon hiking and swimming in a rock pool, this is your answer! And remember to bring sun protection like sunscreen, hat and sunglasses.
7. Take photos at Hong Kong’s most iconic Instagram spot – the Monster Mansion
How to get there: Take MTR to Quarry Bay Station, Exit A and walk 6 minutes along King’s Road until you find the entrance to Montane Mansion and Oceanic Mansion. (see map)
The Monster Mansion is the nickname for a set of five residential building that is famous for being the most photographed spot in Hong Kong. Located in Quarry Bay on Hong Kong Island, the housing estate was built in the ’60s to create affordable housing for low-income families.
And in recent years, the Monster Mansion became a famous Instagram spot. People are fascinated with the extremely high density and colourful block facade. It looks like vertical concrete boxes piled up to the sky.
And when you stand in the middle of the courtyard and look straight up, the buildings create this optical illusion where it feels like you are being closed in and there is only a sliver of sky above you. The high density and (a)symmetry of the building exterior create a very interesting narrative.
I’m quite fascinated with the architecture of the buildings. I can only describe it being closest to Brutalist architecture since the building is massive, “blocky”, has geometric properties and is made by poured concrete.
So if you have a spare hour or two in Hong Kong, hop on the MTR and see the Monster Mansion yourself. It is a residential neighbourhood so please do be respectful if you do go.
8. Attend Happy Wednesday at Happy Valley Racecourse
How to get there: Take MTR to Causeway Bay Station, Exit A and walk 12 minutes. The public entrance to the racecourse is at the southwest end of the premise. Use your Octopus Card to pay the $10HKD entrance fee by going through the turnstile. Gate opens at 5:15 pm and races start at 7:15 pm. (see map)
Horse racing is a serious business in Hong Kong. No joke! People who are into the “sport” would study ahead of time and place strategic weekly. And they may even attend the races that occur twice a week: Wednesday at Happy Valley and Sunday in Sha Tin.
The tradition brought in by the British in 1841 continues to flourish today. And the event continues to be social and lively that even non-gamblers want to be part of it.
Enters Happy Wednesday. Occasionally there are themed events at Happy Valley Racecourse that involves music, live performances, and food tents.
Last year I went to the racetrack a week before Christmas and it was so lively and fun! There were many beer tents, delicious Japanese food (it was a cherry blossom themed Happy Wednesday) and many travellers, visitors and ex-pats attending the event.
And even if you don’t know anything about horse racing, it is quite exhilarating to be in the same space as die-hard gamblers and fans. People really get into it and they scream and shout! And the atmosphere is energetic and fun!
9. Try local craft beer at Moonzen Brewery
Address: 2A, 2/F, New East Sun Industrial Building, 18 Shing Yip Street, Kwun Tong, Kowloon
How to get there: Take MTR to Kwun Tong Station, Exit B2 and walk 5 minutes. (see map)
Hong Kong is not known for its beers but many local breweries popped up in the last few years, including Moonzen Brewery, a microbrewery run by a husband-and-wife duo. They brew craft beers inspired by Chinese mythology in their 6,000 sqft brewery.
You can enjoy a Moonzen Experience on Friday (6:00 pm to 10:00 pm) or Saturday (1:00 pm to 5:00 pm and 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm). It includes a brewery tour and free flow of all the Moonzen beers on tap. Yup, you can try all eight flavours which include the core range of beers and seasonal brews for just $250HKD.
And you can even bring your own snacks to go with the craft beers.
As an ex-interior designer, I really like the space because of the eclectic mix of old Chinese furniture and neon displays in an old industrial building.
And if you can’t make it to the microbrewery in Kwun Tong, you can visit their bar in Mongkok called Moonkok on 88 Shan Tung Street.
Want to learn about local HK food culture? This is what you must eat while in HK
10. Learn about the textile culture at The Mills
Address: 45 Pak Tin Par Street, Tsuen Wan, Kowloon
Hours of Operation: 10:00 am to 10:00 pm
How to get there: Take MTR to Tsuen Wan Station, Exit D and walk 15 minutes. (see map)
Founded in 1954, Nan Fung Textiles opened a textile mill in the suburbs of Hong Kong. The textile manufacturer became a textile giant in the city and the company thrived for many years and created many jobs. But in the early 1980s, the manufacturing process ceased because many opportunities were moved across the border to China. Reluctantly, the company closed its doors in 2008.
However, in 2014, Nang Fung Group revitalized the textile mill and launched The Mills, an art centre with retailers, business incubators, and exhibition spaces. The main focus is to celebrate the textile heritage, foster creativity and provide a place for people to learn about the culture.
Moreover, there are many special textile exhibits in the Centre for Heritage Arts & Textile (CHAT). When I visited The Mills, I saw textile designs by Sudo Reiko, a Japanese textile artist who created textiles with washi, a traditional Japanese paper.
The Mills has several floors of retailers that focus on design and sustainability, a few cafes and restaurants and large rooftop.
I love anything that has to do with creativity, art and design and adaptive reuse of space. And if you do too, then make your way to Tsuen Wan and visit the old textie mill. Best of all, it’s free to visit The Mills!
11. Visit an up-and-coming neighbourhood, Sham Shui Po
How to get there: Take MTR to Sham Shui Po, Exit A2
Sham Shui Po is an older neighbourhood on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong. The area has many immigrants and working-class families. It is very high in density and poor.
But Sham Shui Po is so much more than that. In recent years, young entrepreneurs discover the charm of the old neighbourhood and opened shops that promote creativity and sustainability.
Today, there are many things to see in Sham Shui Po including markets, fabric stores, a toy street, a building selling only the latest electronics, leather goods stores, and many coffee shops.
One of my favourite coffee shops in Sham Shui Po is Colour Brown x PHVLO HATCH. Colour Brown is a popular coffee chain in HK and has several locations around town. But this one is located at PHVLO HATCH, an organization dedicated to giving back to the community by promoting sustainability through fashion, film, and art and design.
While you are in Sham Shui Po, look for Tai Nan Street and Ki Lung Street. There many countless number of fabric stores and leather goods stores.
And on Apliu Street, you can find stores and street vendors selling electronic gadgets. And if you are looking for the latest games and other electronics, visit Golden Computer Arcade. The shopping centre has been around for as long as I remember. I used to buy Nintendo games there when I was 9. Ha!
Personally, I think Sham Shui Po is one of the coolest areas in Hong Kong. While it is not your typical tourist spot, I think it is a must-see attraction!
Want to explore Hong Kong with a tour? Check out one of these exciting tours:
Are you including any of these activities in your Hong Kong itinerary?
I hope you enjoyed reading this post. I tried to think out-of-the-box and brainstorm on all the things I normally do not recommend visitors to do, especially if you only have one or two days in Hong Kong.
But if you have more time in HK, definitely try one or a few of these activities. I really enjoy all of them and hope you will too.
Any suggestion or comments? Leave me a comment below!