The 10 Most Overrated Things in Hong Kong… And Their Underrated Alternatives
You can never run out of things to do in Hong Kong. But if you only had a limited time here, you want to make it count, and your trip here shouldn’t just be about checking things off a list. We’ve highlighted some of the most overrated sites and activities in the city, and provided underrated alternatives to them. Get ready to skip the crowds and discovered some under-the-radar gems.
Overrated: Dragon’s Back
Underrated: The Twins and Violet Hill
Dragon’s Back is one of those hiking trails that you think is a grand ol’ idea on a Sunday… until you show up at the bottom of the hill in Shek O and realise that about a million others had the exact same thought. Do you really want to hike up a trail where queues are involved? Skip this and tackle the (admittedly much more challenging) Twins and Violet Hill instead. This 4.8km walk, also known as section one of the Wilson Trail, takes you from Stanley Gap Road all the way to picturesque Wong Nai Chung Gap in Tai Tam. It’s pretty steep, but you’re rewarded with extensive views of the Southside.
Overrated: Repulse Bay
Underrated: Turtle Cove
Repulse Bay was a majestic beach in the heart of Southside with white sands and sparkling waters – until pollution got in the way. On a sunny day, you can’t get a spot for love or money. Worst still, it’s surrounded by overpriced shops and restaurants. For a beach with a secret paradise kind of vibe, head to Turtle Cove. Located west of Stanley, it’s a tiny beach with limited facilities accessible through a cliff-side entrance.
Overrated: Sai Ying Pun
Underrated: Wong Chuk Hang
People have been calling Sai Ying Pun up-and-coming for, like, four years now, and it’s about time we move on to another rapidly developing neighbourhood. As we ready for the opening of the MTR South Island Line, look to the super-hip Wong Chuk Hang. Ocean Park is in the heart of it all, while hip cafes and restaurants keep opening up in cool warehouse spaces. Best of all, you’ll find Ovolo Southside here, with an awesome rooftop bar, Above, to boot. Don’t say we never help you with anything!
Dim Sum Restaurant
Overrated: Maxim’s Palace City Hall
Underrated: Saam Hui Yaat
Iconic dim sum restaurant Maxim’s Palace City Hall offers piping hot dim sum on trolleys, the old-school way. The huge crowds, loud decor, and long lines, however, are just a little bit too much for some. For a low-key dim sum experience, head to Saam Hui Yaat. An unassuming spot located on the edge of Pok Fu Lam, this eatery is still decked out with features from the 1980s: think a no-frills decor complete with tiled flooring, and menus where prices are indicated with a traditional Chinese writing system of numbers. Here you’ll find all the crowd favourites from a good dim sum meal: har gow, siu mai, and thousand-layer cake. Everything is in Chinese, so bring a Canto-speaking friend.
View of the Skyline
Overrated: View from TST waterfront
Underrated: View from Lion Rock
The TST waterfront is what postcards and Instagram are made for: a million-dollar view with glitzy high-rises and flickering lights. The only problem? You’re fighting with hundreds of other people in trying to get a decent snap of the place. The Avenue of Stars, based on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, isn’t much to write home about either. Skip the crowds and head up to Lion Rock, where you’ll get an incredible view of Kowloon, Hong Kong Island and beyond. It’s a four-hour hike from Wong Tai Sin, and not for the faint of heart – although you can always go up there in a car.
Overrated: The Big Buddha
Underrated: Tai Tong Organic Ecopark
Tai Long Organic Farm. Courtesy of BlogspotThe Big Buddha on Lantau Island is the biggest outdoor seated bronze statue in the world, and while it’s a pretty sight – that’s really all there is to it. To experience a unique side of Hong Kong, check out Tai Tong Organic Ecopark, a picturesque 30-acre farm in the New Territories that offers fruit- and vegetable-picking, as well as an abundance of activities like horse-riding and fishing.
Underrated: Peng Chau
Hippie haven Lamma has a ton of seafood restaurants and a relaxed vibe that you won’t find in the city – despite being just a 25-minute ferry ride away from Central. In reality, the seafood restaurants are overpriced, the hippies hang out in cool places they don’t tell outsiders about, and the three power stations stick out in Lamma’s backdrop like sore thumbs – you can see it just about everywhere you are on the island. For (relatively) unspoilt chilled-out island vibes, head to Peng Chau. Located just off Lantau Island, it’s a tiny isle that has a devil-may-care attitude and some pretty good eateries. Head to French restaurant Les Copains d’Abord for a glass of vino or two.
Underrated: Upstairs boutiques
Head into any mall in Hong Kong and it feels like the city’s shopping scene only comes in two extremes: designer stores that break the bank, and high street brands that you’d find in just about major city in the world. Extortionate rent is partly to blame, of course. But for savvy shoppers looking for great pieces at bargain prices, Hong Kong’s boutiques located on upper floors can be found all over shopping districts like Causeway Bay and Mong Kok. So look up, instead of down at your phone – you never know what you might find.
Revived Heritage Site
Underrated: Tai Kwun, old Central Police Station (coming soon)
PMQ, which used to house the Police Married Quarters for married officers (hence its name), underwent a major revival to become a creative hub for independent designers in 2014. Two years on, the site has a number of design talents and restaurants setting up shop. Unfortunately, prices for goods sold are pretty staggering, while the F&B concepts are simply not that exciting. We have a new revived heritage site to look forward to, though: soon-to-be-opened Tai Kwun, which takes up what were formerly the Central Police Station, the Central Magistracy and the Victoria Prison at the heart of the city’s entertainment district, will feature heritage tours, art exhibitions and workshops, as well as shops and restaurants.
Underrated: Tai O
Macau, the “Las Vegas of the East”, is the gaming capital of the world and a unique city where Portuguese colonial influences of yesteryear blend in with glitzy hotel resorts that seem to rise up in lightning speed on the Cotai Strip. Once you’ve had your fill of Macanese egg tarts and lost money on the casino floor and, though, Macau starts to get a little old. For time-poor tourists looking for a good day trip option, look to the village of Tai O on Lantau Island. The “Venice of Hong Kong” is a fishing town on the southwest of Lantau that has pretty much stood still in time: here you’ll find homes on stilts occupied by fisherman families and plenty of graded buildings. This is also where you’re able to hire a boat out to spot Chinese white dolphins, the critically endangered species found in our waters that also serve as Hong Kong’s mascot.
Andrea Lo is a freelance journalist and translator based in Hong Kong. After cutting her teeth in the industry as a staff writer at a lifestyle magazine, she embraced the freelance life in 2015 and hasn’t looked back. She spends her time exploring the best of Hong Kong’s dining and nightlife scene, trialling new fitness trends, and travelling to exotic locales – all in the name of “research”.