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Exploring Hong Kong’s Local Gems

Hong Kong, the most cosmopolitan of cities with an iconic skyline, eclectic food scene, and captivating culture, is also a nature lover's playground.

With its mass of cloud-tickling skyscrapers, global transportation system, and sophisticated cultural scene, it’s almost inconceivable Hong Kong was no more than a sleepy fishing village a little over a century ago. The city’s Chinese heritage, British colonial roots, and multitude of international expats have given rise to a metropolis where travelers from all over the world come to eat, stay, and play. Choose from a portfolio of high-end accommodations in Exclusive Resort’s global vacation club to find the perfect home base to explore this legendary harbor.

“Hong Kong is a fusion of old and new and east meets west,” says Kathryn Davies, a Hong-Kong based travel specialist who specializes in exclusive vacations. “The overlap of these contrasts is a defining characteristic that makes this city so unique.”

The Tian Tan "Big Buddha" is over 112 feet high
Hong Kong has 450 miles of coastline and 260 islands for beach lovers

Known more for its densely packed skyline, Hong Kong is surprisingly lush. Roughly 70% of its territory is covered in forested mountains, verdant parkland and sandy beaches. Nature lovers will be slow to bore exploring the city’s 260-plus outlying islands, UNESCO-listed Global Geopark and more than 250 hiking trails.

A vibrant destination that is constantly changing, growing, and refining, Hong Kong’s list of things to do and see is interminable. In addition to classic sights like Victoria Peak, Tian Tan Buddha, Tia O fishing village, and the Temple Street night market, here are a few other bucket list travel adventures not to miss.

Stop and smell the flower market
Dim sum and dumplings are a staple

Flower Market and Dumplings

Head to the flower market in Mong Kok around 10:30 am when vendors have stocked the many rows of stalls with a kaleidoscopic bounty of orchids, birds of paradise, bonsai trees, and other eye-catching flora. Take a wander, wafting the fragrant blooms before ducking into Cafe Hayfever to sip its trademark ice-drip coffee amid exotic botanicals.

Hong Kong is one of the world’s best foodie destinations. When you start feeling peckish, go to Tim Ho Wan to sample chef Mak Pui Gor’s Michelin-rated dim sum, a local specialty of the city’s renowned Cantonese cuisine. Order the steamed shrimp dumplings and baked barbecue pork buns. They’re a bang for your buck.

Aqua Luna Junk Boat Trip

Cruising Victoria Harbour on a traditional Chinese junk boat is a unique way to explore the city. Aqua Luna’s giant red sails pay homage to the historic merchant ships that have sailed Hong Kong’s waterways for more 10 centuries. Its daily hop-on, hop-off service ports in four neighborhoods across the city including Central, Wan Chai, Hung Hom and Tsim Sha Tsui. For a leisurely affair, book a dim sum day cruise to the old fishing port of Aberdeen; a sunset sail to watch the iconic skyline sparkle at dusk; or a nighttime cocktail cruise to enjoy the Symphony of Lights laser show, which illuminates the city and harbor in spectacular fashion.

Serenity at Chi Lin Nunnery

For a break from the high-rises that dominate the city, pay a visit to the Chi Lin Nunnery, an elaborate Buddhist temple complex tucked away in east Kowloon’s Diamond Hill area. The cypress wood pavilions, built in the 1930s and updated in the late 90s, echo traditional Tang Dynasty architecture. A construction method of interlocking wood joints (rather than nails) symbolizes humanity’s harmony with nature. Wind your way through the sprawling facility scattered with lotus ponds, bonsai tea plants, and bougainvillea. Keep your eyes peeled for robed nuns laying offerings of fruit and orchids at the feet of the various Buddha and Boddhisattva statues sprinkling the property. The nunnery and neighboring square-mile Nan Lian garden are open daily to visitors, free-of-charge. 

Art and Shopping at PMQ

Take advantage of Hong Kong’s nonexistent sales tax in Aberdeen at PMQ, a multistory creative hub brimming with funky wares from more than a hundred local designers. The 1950’s heritage building and former “Police Married Quarters” was transformed into a lively art and lifestyle venue with hip boutiques vending apparel, jewelry and home goods. Its main courtyard features Insta-worthy street art and a dynamic roster of pop-ups, while free rotating exhibits take place on the top floor. For a break from the hustle and bustle, duck into a bakery, café or sake bar located throughout the complex.  

Hike Ng Tung Chai Waterfalls

It surprises many that Hong Kong offers luxury nature vacations. The list of scenic beaches, tropical hiking trails, and majestic waterfalls found across the islands is a long one. For a jungle mountain trek that’s handsomely rewarded with a series of impressive cascades, head to Tai Mo Shan Country Park in the Lam Tsuen Valley. Climb past rural villages and temples and ascend into a dense thicket of emerald moss and foliage to discover a quartet of grand waterfalls. The imposing 115-foot Main Fall is Hong Kong’s tallest and its swimming hole is perfect for cooling off in during the hike.

Pink Dolphin Spotting

There are few places on earth where you get to witness bubble-gum pink dolphins frolicking in the sea—Hong Kong is one of them. Pods of Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins, whose existence has been under threat as a result of the area’s environmental pollution, inhabit the island’s coastal waters. The responsible tourism outfitter Hong Kong Dolphinwatch was founded in 1995 to help raise awareness of the species’ plight and support research and fundraising campaigns. Half-day trips take guests cruising the surrounding waterways for unforgettable sightings of the rare pink creatures.

Where You'll Stay

With Exclusive Resorts, get unparalleled access to the grandeur of the five-star Peninsula Hotel Hong Kong. Revel in unobstructed views of Victoria Harbor or the city lights while staying in a prime location, relaxing in spacious luxury suites complete with superb service. With multiple dining options (including Michelin-starred French cuisine at Gaddi's), a stunning pool, award-winning wellness spa, you may never want to leave—through the excitement and beauty of Hong Kong is right outside the door.