Hong Kong Beaches

shek o beach

Hong Kong's summer is a tough time for hiking and so forth, but can be great for heading to a beach.

 Hong Kong is dotted with beaches, some grotty, some wonderful. With locals fond of heading to the seaside - especially during weekends and holidays - many of these beaches have facilities for swimmers, including changing rooms with showers, lifeguards, and shark nets (thanks to over-exploitation, sharks are rare in Hong Kong waters, but during the 1990s, there were several shark attacks, some fatal).

The Environmental Protection Department measures water quality at Hong Kong beaches (reports for previous years). During summer, there are frequent reports on their findings in the local media.

Essentially, the worst of Hong Kong's beaches are along the west coast of Kowloon - where it seems the water channel, which is partly an outlet of the Pearl River, is almost an open sewer. Other beaches in the Pearl River's influence may also be rather dirty; those further away are cleaner, with water quality generally rating medium to good.

I've seen item in the South China Morning Post, about rubbish like plastic bags and polystyrene floating in to beaches on southern HK Island. This mentioned that the problem is worse after heavy rain, which washes rubbish to sea. I think it's also worse with onshore winds - on eastern Cheung Chau, get more such lap sap arriving in autumn northeasterlies (yet the water might then be cleaner than for much of the summer, I think because the Pearl River doesn't flow as strongly [kind of perverse, really: dirtier sea and cleaner air in summer; vice versa by winter]).

For cleaner, better beaches, try Hong Kong's islands

On Cheung Chau, where I live (and often swim), I've found the water tends to be cleanest at high tide; can be murky when the water is low - if I swim, I try to keep my head clear of the water! If you want to try aiming for high tide when you visit a beach, you can check the Hong Kong Observatory's Predicted tides at selected locations in Hong Kong (if it's only hours before your trip, check the real time tides).

So, which Hong Kong beaches do I reckon are worthwhile?

Cheung Chau

Rather obviously, I like Cheung Chau: the two beaches on the east coast are good. Tung Wan is the larger, and more popular; smaller Kwun Yam Wan (Afternoon Bay; photo above and at right), just south of the Windsurfing Centre, is generally a little quieter and is especially good for a swim late on a fine afternoon.

Kwun Yam boasts a small hut that serves drinks, with a smaller crowd of regulars on many summer afternoons (sometimes, I'm amongst them). The hut also offers kayak rentals; but when my wife and I rented one, it sank thanks to a couple of holes that had been crudely patched with duct tape (!) - I've since rented from the Windsurfing Centre, without mishap.

The small "Italian Beach" (Po Yue Wan), tucked away in the southwest of the island, is far quieter; lacks facilities, but pleasant if you want somewhere more peaceful.

You can reach Cheung Chau by First Ferry, chiefly from the Outlying Islands piers in Central, Hong Kong Island. To find the beaches: walk ahead and slightly right from the ferry pier, then follow the small road across the island (narrow here), and you'll arrive at Tung Wan. Turn right here if you want to try Kwun Yam Wan.

Lantau Island beaches

Cheung Sha on southern Lantau boasts two long, beautiful beaches: Upper Cheung Sha to the west, Lower Cheung Sha to the east. Looks exposed to southerly winds, so unless you're a surfer it's perhaps best avoided during southwest monsoons. There are open air restaurants, including the Stoep, just above the tideline of the Lower Cheung Sha.

There are stretches of beach w lifeguard services, plus facilities including changing rooms and showers, at Lower Cheung Sha, and western end of Upper Cheung Sha. Sand perhaps rather better at Lower Cheung Sha: v fine sand; at Upper Cheung Sha, there are some stones and rocks, but great views of Lantau as you swim.

Buses from Mui Wo to places including Tai O pass Cheung Sha; there are stops right above the beach.

tong fuk beach

Nearby Tong Fuk has a smaller beach, but also seems wonderfully secluded, even though just metres from the main south Lantau road.

Hong Kong Island beaches

Repulse Bay on southwest Hong Kong Island has one of the most popular beaches in Hong Kong. It isn't splendidly scenic, thanks to all the high-rises on the hillsides, and the sand is a tad coarse, but is easily reached and has plenty of facilities. At the southern end is a big statue of Kwun Yam, Goddess of Mercy, as well as a longevity bridge (cross to supposedly extend your life. Hmm).

Nearby Deepwater Bay is generally rather less crowded, but with a road close by it's no tranquil haven.

Buses from places including Central run right by both these beaches.

ShekOBeach,HongKongShek O, on Hong Kong Island's east coast, is a village with a great looking beach to its south. This beach looks wonderful when there's some surf rolling in. I've seen it packed during summer weekends, but as it's relatively far from the city and few people live here it should be fairly quiet on weekdays (pictured top right, and right).

BigWaveBay,HongKongIsland

A little to the north is Big Wave Bay, which is in a more rural setting, and is Hong Kong's only designated surfing beach. (The "big" waves would disgrace Hawaii or other real places for surf dudes; surf's only really up during strong winds, such as with tropical storms or typhoons.)

There are buses (9) to Shek O from Shau Kei Wan (MTR station), also a public light bus service that stops at Big Wave Bay; and on Sundays and public holidays there's a bus service (309) from Central to Shek O.

Eastern New Territories beaches

The two Clearwater Bay beaches are in fine settings, on the east coast of the Clearwater Bay peninsula (east of Kowloon). I've only tried once for swimming - and was surprised how murky the water was; maybe I was unlucky, as both ranked Good last year.

Bus 91 from Diamond Hill MTR station serves both these beaches.

Tai Long Wan, on the Sai Kung Peninsula, boasts fabulous beaches - but with no lifeguard service and some dangerous currents, they're not ideal for swimming.

Kiu Tsui (Sharp Island), reached by a short sampan ride from Sai Kung, has two small beaches with lifeguard services and barbecue facilities; also a chance to snorkel - just south of a tombolo (sand spit to an islet) there's an area of coral.

Tung Ping Chau, east of most of Hong Kong, has a pleasant beach that's easily overlooked when thinking about beaches in Hong Kong. It's especially noteworthy for the coral offshore; a good place for snorkelling, or for heading off in scuba gear. I've covered Tung Ping Chau elsewhere on this site.

DocMartin

Comments

next time put more about rubbish.
Martin Williams's picture

Rubbish - lap sap - indeed a problem at beaches; chiefly when winds blowing inshore. Get polystyrene items, bottles and so on and so on. Some of this local in origin - inc washed down storm drains after downpours, some from boats, and Pearl River.
With prevailing winds of summer from southwest, rubbish not such an issue for various beaches during this season, such as Tung Wan on Cheung Chau.
But beaches sheltered in summer can be exposed to northeasterlies that are common from autumn and throughout winter. (Also w tropical storms inc typhoons: Typhoon Hagupit's winds and storm surge deposited loads of rubbish along various stretches of coast: one of worst places I saw being small gully on Tung Ping Chau, where a big tyre and small boat among debris.)

Government cleaning teams gather rubbish from various coastal areas. Also get some volunteer coastal clean up teams.
Yet some beaches don't get cleaned ("Coral Beach" of northeast Cheung Chau an example I saw lately).
And, the rubbish just keeps on coming...

Hi Martin, would you happen to know who speak about the government -organised cleanups? I'm guessing the FEHD? I'd like to find out which beaches they clean and how often. I'm doing some research into small plastics (fragments and pellets) accumulating on them, and though the cleanup wouldn't take any of that with it, the presence of a lot of junk on the beach might concentrate the small stuff to one area. So comparing cleaned beaches and non-cleaned ones mightn't be representative. Also if you knew any specific beaches like Coral Beach on Cheung Chau that never get touched, that could be really useful. Much appreciated, Nico (up at HKU, doing an MSc in Environmental Management)
Martin Williams's picture

Hi Nico:

I don't know who you'd talk to in govt.

Lo Kei Wan, south of Shui Hau on Lantau, is one where lap sap can accumulate; but maybe gets some cleaning at times.

Seen loads of rubbish on beach or two on Soko Islands, tho tough to reach.

Martin

may i know is there any facility in hong kong beaches for night stay in the beach
like rent tents or any else just for night stay in the beach

Martin Williams's picture

See the article on accommodation in Hong Kong's wilder side

For camping; I believe restaurant(s) at Ham Tin, Tai Long Wan, Sai Kung, rent tents

I've noticed that Sai Kung has nice, isolated beaches- is it possible to go there for an afternoon without having to rent a big junk? For example, if two people wanted to go- how would they get there?

Recent nasty experience when walking between the two areas, out of sight (and help) of the two patrolled beach areas. Having been advised by a lifeguard that it was perfectly safe to walk down that stretch of beach, we encountered a section of 'sinking sands' or at least where the sands were undermined, leaving us thigh deep and struggling to get out. Our comments on arrival at the Upper area were met with a non-commital response by officials.Honestly say that anyone less able would not have extricated themselves with possibly fatal results. Have not seen any reference to this elsewhere, although a local in the South African restaurant thought it was due to the digging that the authorities were undertaking along that stretch.... BEWARE!!

Martin Williams's picture

Seems very bad; maybe recent storm shifted sand about? Tho I've heard of sand digging as being maybe a reason Tong Fuk lost a lot of sand during passage of Typhoon Hagupit.

Perhaps worth reporting to govt, Leisure and Cultural Services Dept.

I have been to many beaches around the world; some spotless, some filthy. I thought India had some of the filthiest beaches in the world until I came to Hong Kong. You can't blame India in many ways as it is a developing country with the second highest population in the world, plus the environment isn't really included in their education. But when I visited Ping Chau I was amazed at the filthiness of the place! It has to be the dirtiest beach I have ever been to. Polystyrene, loads of broken glass, litter, you name it, and people were swimming and snorkeling in it!! My god what are you going to see? "Oh look at that coke can, isn't it pretty". For such a rich economy that cleans its streets very well, Hong Kong's beaches are a disgrace.

Martin Williams's picture

One thing here is that Hong Kong might be First World in some ways, but surrounded by China, which distincltly developing; and plenty of laissez faire attitudes re rubbish here, maybe more so at sea, and along coasts: water a traditional place for throwing stuff away. Lots of rubbish goes into sea, inc via rivers, and especially after washed down by heavy rains.

I've seen Ping Chau beaches looking real nice; you clearly visited after time when winds/currents right for washing floating rubbish onto the beach. Last year, storm surge from Typhoon Hagupit sent a lot of floating refuse onto coastlines, above normal high tideline - including at Tung Ping Chau

is it too cold to go in the water in hong kong beaches the first week of april? I'm looking to go there for holiday, but want to go to the beach, sunbath, and swim, willl that be possible then?

Martin Williams's picture

I think the first week of April is just a bit early for beaches.

You might have a spell of warm or fairly hot weather - indeed, the coming Monday (15 March), it's forecast to reach 27C. Yet can be chilly at times; I've even worn gloves when birdwatching on a day or two at the beginning of April! Even if air warm/hot, water is a little on the cool side.

That said, some people swim then; tho have some people who swim year round.

I visited Chung Hom Kok Beach yesteday after reading, among other things, that it had been graded 1 (good) in terms of water quality. Now I know that "beach gradings are assessed according to the bacterial counts of the five most recent sampling occasions" but surely rubbish needs to be factored in? For the amount of that (bits of plastic, etc.) in the water was amazingly high.

It's such a pity because the beach is in a scenic location and its sand quite fine and nice -- and minus the copious bits of glass shards I saw at Kwun Yam Beach in Cheung Chau when visiting there some weeks back.

Later today, am hoping to head to Cheung Sha Beach. Hope it won't be a case of problems with paradise once more as the weather really is of the sort that makes one want to head to the beach!

Hey, thanks for the beach list!
May I ask where is the 1st pic on the top of the page taken from? it looks very nice.

also, I've seen some pics of a beach where there are some kind of trees every now and then, looking lovely and more natural. Do you what is this beach?

Thank you, have a good summer!

Martin Williams's picture

The top pic is at Shek O Beach

Various beaches have trees above tideline; Cheung Sha among them

Martin Williams's picture

Yes, rubbish is important

Yet maybe tougher to give updates on than bacteria - depends a lot on onshore winds, and not really so dangerous, albeit unsightly.

I live on Cheung Chau; complained to district council, and HK govt, re the glass shards on Kwun Yam Wan Beach: led to no real action, as main source is on site that is maybe private.

Doc Martin,

National Day Greetings!

Wondering whether you would you be able to recommend a quiet / out of the way beach on Lamma at all?

Many thanks,

Ben

Hello,

does anyone now about this volunteer group that makes a party from cleaning the beaches ?

It sounds good, and seems that have many local Hong Kong folks (only one foreigner in the picture).

http://www.buyerisland.000a.biz/hk-clean-beach.html

Have a great Summer !

Stacey

Yes Pui O beach in lantau has camping facilities and palm beach at upper cheung sha has luxury teepees

thanks! great info on Hong Kong attractions!

Hong Kong Beach Memory Lane for Vancouver Wedding Photographer

Thank you for the information as I have swam in Shek O in the 70's as a kid and looking forward for a trip to Big Wave Bay for BBQ tomorrow! Came across your site and all the great tips. Thank you for the great review!

Wayne Lam Creative Media Director 'Art of Storytelling' Vancouver Wedding Photographer + Cinematic Videographer Waynes World Studio

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