Hong Kong main Island may be the most densely populated place on earth, but that doesn’t mean that all of Hong Kong has been urbanised. The New Territories, originally part of the Chinese mainland that is now under Hong Kong jurisdiction, is home to some truly amazing, largely untouched beaches. Just try to avoid visiting on public holidays and weekends!
Tai Long Wan is the name of one of the major bays, featuring four beaches with my favourite being Ham Tin Wan (鹹田灣). Getting there is relatively simple, check it out on Google maps here to get your bearings. Catch the 1A mini bus from exit C of the Choi Hung (green line) MTR stop. Stay on the mini bus to the end of the line which is located at the Sai Kung bus terminal. The bus fare is around 8HK.
From there you want to grab a taxi to the Sai Wan Pavilion (西灣亭). Most taxi drivers in the area will know where you want to go if you ask for Sai Wan Ting- if in doubt show them the Chinese characters. From the pavilion it is a about a 50 minute walk down hill (mostly) to the beach. The track you walk on is part of the MacLehose Trail and you can continue along it for two or three nights if you are looking for a longer hike. When I was last there in July 2016 the road up to the pavilion had been washed away in areas by a land slide. This meant the taxi could only take us part way to the pavilion adding an extra 2 hours of walking to our day! Work was being done to repair the road, but it is probably worth checking with a local if it fixed before heading up if you’re not keen for the extra hike. The walk borders the large High Island reservoir which makes for some spectacular views.
The first village/beach you come to is Sai Wan, it’s a lovely sheltered beach and a swim in the water is a great way to cool off after a hike. There are a couple of restaurant selling snacks and meals as well as camping gear. All are overpriced so I would recommend bringing as many of your own supplies as you are willing to carry.
Continuing along the path from the beach to the North West and you’ll find a concrete bridge spanning a small creek. Follow the creek upstream to find a super relaxing water hole complete with stunning waterfalls (the walk is about ten minutes of rocky terrain). The water is deep enough to jump from the cliffs, but always check for submerged obstacles before taking the plunge.
To get to Ham Tim Wan head back to the concrete bridge and continue along the path away from Sai Wan. It’s a pretty step uphill climb to make it around the bluff, about another 40 minutes of walking. The view of Ham Tim from the top of the bluff is pretty great, and worth the effort.
We set up our tent right on the beach, though forgot to bring a fly for shade. During the day there is almost no shelter from the sun so definitely bring your own shade to set up. The is another restaurant at Ham Tin again selling meals and camping supplies. Once our little camp was set up there wasn’t much to do except swim and relax on the beach. There isn’t a public shower, but if you bring a portable shower hose there are a bunch of taps you can use to wash the sand off. The public bathrooms are located just back from the beach and there are also toilets at the restaurant.
The bridge from the main beach to the restaurant is cobbled together from driftwood so if you aren’t feeling up to crossing it you can just wade through the little estuary. We had a tasty dinner of sweat and sour chicken on fried rice with red tea. We also booked boat tickets to head back to Sai Kung for the following evening. The boat leaves Ham Tin every evening at 5pm and tickets set us back 150 HK per person. This is definitely the more expensive option but the views from the boat are neat. In summer I would say the boat is by far the best option; no one wants to finish a day at the beach with an uphill hike in sweltering heat.
The water around Ham Tin is beautiful for swimming, still a little rubbish but nothing in comparison with other beaches in Hong Kong. The temperature is fantastic and being a bay the water is calm. All in all this is one of my favourite spots in Hong Kong, and well worth the visit.
Getting there: Green Line MTR to Choi Hung Station -> A1 mini bus to Sai Kung -> taxi to Sai Wan Pavilion -> hike to beach
Cost: I would allow 300 HK per person to cover all meals and transport to and from Ham Tin Beach.
What to bring: Camping equipment, shade, sunscreen, swim wear, portable shower hose, bug spray.