Hong Kong is far more than simply a metropolis. Some 40 percent of the land area is country park; there are rugged hills, a dramatic coastline with coral in the east, pink dolphins to the west, mangrove-fringed wetlands, old villages and temples, cliffs to challenge climbers and undeveloped beaches where you can simply relax and enjoy the tranquillity.
Because Hong Kong is small, and public transport abounds, it’s easy to reach these “wild” areas. And there are signposted trails, campsites, stores, simple restaurants and other facilities to help make your visit enjoyable and safe.
The Hong Kong’s Great Outdoors map has been created by the Coalition on Sustainable Tourism to promote some of the best places in Hong Kong beyond the city – helping you to head out and explore.
There’s a wide variety of public transport to choose from. You’ll probably find it best to use trains or ferries for longer journeys, perhaps followed by a bus, minibus or taxi ride to your destination.
The Mass Transit Railway Corporation operates several lines that are very useful for reaching the wilder parts of Hong Kong (often, travelling to stations, then changing to bus, minibus or taxi). Other than the Airport Express from Central to the airport, ssystem includes subway routes serving Kowloon and north Hong Kong Island, four main lines – West Rail, from Kowloon to the northwest New Territories, East Rail, from Kowloon through the central New Territories, Ma On Shan Rail, from Ma On Shan to Tai Wai – and Light Rail, which crisscrosses northwest New Territories.
Two main ferry companies operate routes serving island destinations that are important for escaping the city: Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry, with services to Lamma, and New World First Ferry, serving Lantau Island and Cheung Chau. Smaller ferry companies serve islands such as Po Toi and Tung Ping Chau.
Bus and minibus routes crisscross the territory. Buses can only pick up/drop off passengers at designated stops; minibuses are far more flexible in where they halt.
There are three types of taxis. Red taxis operate in the main downtown areas; blue and green taxis are cheaper, and restricted to rural areas: blue taxis serve Lantau Island, green taxis most of the mainland New Territories.
If you plan to travel by public transport, consider buying an Octopus Card. These stored value cards are a boon for taking trains, ferries, and especially buses and minibuses (no need to worry about needing change); you can also use them in outlets such as convenience stores.
Hong Kong boasts a marvellous array of well-maintained trails, including four long-distance trails – on Hong Kong and Lantau islands, even across Hong Kong, and in the New Territories, sections of which make for fine hiking through some of Hong Kong’s prime scenery. There are also country trails, nature trails, gentle tree walks and family walks.
Weather and Clothing
Hong Kong is sub-tropical, with a steamy summer from May to early October (26-33C), giving way to a warm dry autumn (18-28C), winter can be marked by occasionally chill, dank periods (14-20C), followed by a swiftly warming, sometimes wet spring (18-27C).
The most comfortable period for exploring the countryside is from around mid-October to late December – but, unfortunately, the predominantly northerly winds can often bring smog that can shroud scenery. Fine summer days with breezes from the South China Sea are best for crystal clear views; the downside is energy sapping heat. Late spring and summer are also marked by occasional spells of heavy rainstorms; tropical storms and typhoons are possible, but scarce.
In all months, lightweight clothing is usually sufficient. Trainers (sneakers) or hiking sandals are fine for trail walking. Depending on the forecast, you should also take a sun hat (and sunscreen) and/or rain gear – it旧 often too hot for a raincoat, so perhaps carry an umbrella or light poncho.
Health and Safety
Hong Kong is, overall, a safe place for enjoying hiking and other outdoor activities. But before heading out, inform someone of your plans; if possible, carry a mobile phone.
The main potential problem is the summer heat. High temperatures and humidity combine to make even short hikes relatively hard going; care is needed to avoid dehydration, or even heatstroke. If it’s hot, take it easy, drink plenty of water, and maintain salt balance – perhaps through salty food, and sports drinks. You may be surprised how much you need to drink: perhaps a litre for every hour you’re out. Carry enough, or know there are stores en route.
Hong Kong is home to a variety of venomous snakes, including cobras. But these are mostly shy, and rarely seen during daytime. Mosquitoes are common, however, especially in the warmer, wetter months, and in woodland. There have been cases of dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis, but these diseases are still rare here, and malaria is absent, so mosquitoes are chiefly a nuisance, deterred by decent repellent.
Numbered posts along some of the major trails can determine your location should you need to contact emergency services.
Countryside Maps published by the Lands Department of Hong Kong SAR are very useful; they’re available from outlets including the Central Post Office. There are also guidebooks, and field guides to plants and animals. See also my book on The 25 Best Day Walks in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) outlets carry a wide range of leaflets, with an emphasis on city tours and amenities. The telephone hotline number is 25081234.