Hiking in Hong Kong
Explore this place if:
you're after family-friendly hikes of a variety of distances
coastal views are a requirement on your hike
Avoid this place if:
you're after more off-road terrain
your elevation gain/loss needs to be off the charts
Cheung Chau, a short ferry ride from Central, is a popular day out for thousands of people every weekend. Whether you're checking out the local food scene, hunting a beach escape, or after that chilled out island life vibe, Cheung Chau can deliver. For us, though, there was only reason we made the journey over here: hiking.
Cheung Chau's dumbbell shape conveniently lends itself to exploring the island in two loops - north and south. Both can easily be undertaken in half a day, or longer if you're going to stop frequently. The main town sits on a slender tombolo between the two halves, providing a welcome place to refresh. The great part about hiking here is that you can choose a route as short as 1 km or as long as 15 km, and is suitable for all fitness levels.
Pro tip: don't plan your hike for the middle of summer, when the heat index reaches the mid-40s. Rookie error on our behalf.
From the ferry pier we set out anti-clockwise on the southern loop. Following the boat-filled bays out of town, we headed straight for Cheung Po Chai Cave. Although it was possible to traverse through the cave to an alternative access point, the narrow, pitch-black entrance lined with large ankle-twisting rocks put us off venturing inside. Instead, we walked around the coast towards Reclining Rock, but the water prevented us from getting a close up view (it was possible to reach the rock via another route, but it involved backtracking further than we felt the rock deserved). Next it was over to the south-east side of the island, via a secluded road, where the biggest attraction seemed to be the Mini Great Wall. It was definitely mini yet there wasn't anything particularly great about the wall. However, the views along the coast were pretty spectacular, making it worth the effort. Every now and then a sign pointed out to a rock that was supposed to resemble a common object. In our books, they just looked like ordinary rocks. What was cool, though, was that we could climb over and through one of pile of rocks (Fa Peng), the tapered rock surfaces framing our photos in unique ways. From here, there was one final staircase down to a lookout over the main beaches (Kwun Yam Beach and Tung Wan Beach), dotted with swimmers, kayakers and windsurfers, before climbing back up again to make our way into town.
After zooming through the bustling town, we soon hit a never-ending set of stairs that eventually carried us up to the Northern Pavilion. The views from here over the island were incredible, clearly showing just how narrow the tombolo is. It appeared as though the entire town could be washed away with one sizeable wave. Once we had our fill of photos, we trekked all the way down another million stairs to the almost deserted Coral Beach (Tung Wan Tsai Beach). The setting was stereotypically idyllic, but there was no time to rest. Of course there was only one direction to go from here: up. Forever ascending, the relentless steps burning our quads while the searing sun burnt our backs. Surprisingly, at the top we found a section of unpaved trail (everywhere else had been concrete or road) that carried us out to the northeast tip of Cheung Chau. Other than a couple of views glimpsed through the trees along the way, there wasn't a whole lot to see along here. We returned the way we came, eventually hitting a road that carried us down to coast on the western side. A flat, easy walk ensued, delivering us back to town.
In total we hiked about 14.5 km, with roughly 450 metres of elevation gain/loss. I was expecting an easy day out on mostly flat roads, but Cheung Chau happily surprised me with its frequently undulating terrain and its coastal outlooks from lofty vantage points. Another unexpected positive was the relative lack of other people hiking around the island. We often went long stretches without seeing another person - it was as though we had the entire island to ourselves at times. Maybe everyone else wasn't stupid enough to hike on a swelteringly hot and humid day.