How cool is that?! Located right in the middle of Hong Kong harbor, this man-made island is close to the city and and exceptionally connected to public transit (~30 minutes to downtown Hong Kong via subway). It was constructed in 1998 and voted one of the “Top 10 Construction Achievements of the 20th Century”.
2. Buy an Octopus card
When you land in Hong Kong, get cash from the ATM and buy an Octopus card from the transit center ($150 HKD, you must pay in cash). This let’s you ride all the public transit (bus, subway, ferry, tram) and pay for basic items at convenience stores with a tap of the card. When you leave Hong Kong, you trade in your card and get the remaining balance back.
3. Visit The Big Buddha
Visit the Big Buddha on your way to/from the airport (or if you have at least a 4-hour layover). The Big Buddha is located on Lantau island, so close you can even see planes taking off and landing while you ride the cable car up. Take the S1 bus (right outside the airport) to Tung Chung station and follow the signs for “Ngong Ping 360”. Best to buy your ticket online to skip the line. They have luggage storage on the ground level ($40HKD) since they are used to so many people coming to/from the airport. The crystal cable car over the harbor was scary, awesome and beautiful.
4. Stay in Kowloon for a Local Vibe
Downtown Hong Kong is primarily a business center, like the financial district in New York. The “Brooklyn of Hong Kong” (if you will) is on the other side of Victoria Harbor on Kowloon Island. This is a densely populated area but you’ll find more markets, laundry handing from windows and great street food.
5. Sail the Harbor on a Junk Boat Cruise
The iconic image of the red sailboat in Hong Kong harbor is called a “Junk boat” (adapted from the Portuguese “junco”) and yes, you can take one! Aqua Luna and Dunking operate hour-long cruises that include a drink. This reminded me most of New York City, as similar to Manhattan the densely-packed skyscrapers on the water come to life at night. I preferred this to riding the Star Ferry, which is a very quick A-to-B ride versus a leisurely harbor cruise. Cheers to watching the sunset or light show from the water!
6. Visit Victoria Peak
If you go early in the morning (7am) you virtually have the place to yourself. More popular view times are the evening, when the city is illuminated. Whatever suits your preference! You can easily get to Victoria Peak by the S15 bus or by the old-fashioned tram. Once you’re up there, hike the midlevels to more lookout points. Luggard Road is a flat and serene walk offering more views, Mount High West is a harder hike but allows you to see both sides of Hong Kong Island.
7. Enjoy the Skyline from Kowloon
You have to get out of Downtown Hong Kong to appreciate the views, and the best city scapes are at Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront or at bars like Aqua Spirit. This has to be the fanciest coffee I’ve ever had, complete with a bread basket and spice rack.
8. Have Michelin-Star Dim Sum in Hong Kong Station
Near the airport express train is a no-frills, cash only place with award-winning Dim-Sum and a line out the door. It is near the airport express train, which makes it easy for your first or last bite in Hong Kong. Mmmmm.... those steamed pork buns.
9. Try “Yin Yang” instead of Coffee
A Hong Kong invention, it is the “perfect mix” of milk tea and coffee... hence the name Yin Yang. 2 types of caffeine to help with that jet lag!
10. Ferry to Macau
Got extra time? Go out in Macau! Macau is a 50-minute ferry ride which makes it ideal for a day-trip or overnight. The “Vegas of Asia” it is a playground of food, drink and gambling... and culturally feels more like mainland China than Hong Kong. There is a ferry terminal on Hong Kong island as well as Kowloon, best to buy your tickets online.
Did you know... “Hong Kong” literally means “Fragrant Harbor” and “Kowloon” means “nine dragons?”