Your Top 10 Water Activities in Hong Kong
Let us inspire you with some watery ways to beat that sticky, city heat.
You’re feeling it, aren’t you? Your shirt is starting to stick to your back, your hair is doing weird things, and the flip flops are coming out of the wardrobe again. Most of our living situations don’t exactly allow for running around on the front lawn through a sprinkler to keep cool, but that’s okay, as we’ve found plenty of ways for you to beat the heat and stay entertained, with all sorts of fun things to do in the water.
Straddle a board on the sea, rip down a water slide or soak and sigh in a fancy spa jacuzzi. Whatever you decide to do, grab your best swimsuit (if you don’t have one we have some shopping tips too!) and head out for some water fun in the city.
Wet and wild
Go for a swim in style high atop one of Hong Kong’s famed skyscraper hotels, or keep it low key at a public pool. Either way, there’s many to choose from for a quick dip or a night of partying. Yes, some parties in Hong Kong call for bikinis and swim trunks, like the Crowne Plaza’s rooftop pool party. Bring up to 30 friends for three hours’ worth of access to the glass-edged rooftop pool (from 9:00pm-midnight), a BBQ dinner, unlimited house red and white wine, house beer and soft drinks, complimentary use of pool towels and your own DJ. Packages start at $22,500 from Sunday to Thursday only.
For weekend fun, head to the W Hong Kong’s ‘Wet Weekends’, where you can show up and get use of the famed rooftop swimming pool (the highest outdoor pool in Hong Kong), plus access to the 73rd floor gym facilities, and they’ll throw in two glasses of Veuve Cliquot Yellow Label Champagne for $998 per person (Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays from 12:00pm-10:00pm). Look out for their annual much-talked about summer pool parties where they rev it up a notch with DJs, dancers and light visuals.
Several other hotels in the city offer day passes for their equally stunning pools, where you can wade among the skyscrapers, like the 118th floor swimming pool atop the Ritz-Carlton, considered the highest indoor pool in the world. Cordis at Langham Place has a 20-metre outdoor heated swimming pool featuring an underwater audio system and fibre optic lights for something a bit different, and the Grand Hyatt lets you stretch out even more with a 50-metre outdoor heated pool surrounded by tropical greenery and a 400-metre jogging path, if you like to really work for your swim.
Alternatively, forgo the plush settings and head to one of the local swim facilities in your area. The Leisure and Cultural Services Department keeps an updated list of pool hours and amenities across Hong Kong, from the mammoth Pao Yue Kong complex with eight pools, to the smaller environs in Kennedy Town, with one big outdoor pool for adults and a decent-sized children’s pool. Not to be forgotten are the city’s gorgeous natural pools, where you can take a dip in water from nearby falls like the Nu Tung Chai waterfall, the biggest flow of cascading water in Hong Kong, in Tai Mo Shan. Thrill seekers can try cliff jumping in Sai Kung at the tranquil Sheung Luk stream. Both jaunts require a bit of a hike but are well worth it in the end for a day of chlorine-free swimming in the fresh air.
You know Disneyland is a safe bet for fun, but it’s not just for roller coasters and spinning tea cups. The Inspiration Lake Recreation Centre, about 1 km from the theme park, boasts an arboretum for strolls or picnics by the man-made lake, a dazzling fountain with mountain views in the background, and pedal boats to take it all in – remember how fun those were when you were a kid?
For fun on an even bigger scale, take the ferry across the water to the Galaxy Macau and prepare for your eyes to pop at what’s on offer at the 75,00-square metre Grand Resort Deck: the world’s longest ‘Skytop Aquatic Adventure River Ride’ and ‘Skytop Wave Pool’, water slides, white water rapids, geysers, waterfalls and a huge kids’ aquatic zone. There’s also a white sand beach, lagoons and pool side eating options.
Tai Po Swimming Pool has the longest water slides in Hong Kong and is worth the queues for braver older folk (don’t forget the sunscreen and hat when waiting in line!), while the Hammer Hill Road Swimming Pool near Diamond Hill has wee slides for youngsters and assorted aquatic treats for cavorting in the sun like water cannons and playful fountains. You can head indoors for soggy fun under cover in the pirate ship, complete with two slides and the neighbouring playground to climb and splash about in.
Sport on the water
Feel the cool water beading off your skin and attain your fitness goals at the same time with some sporty fun. Keep it mellow with some kayaking and enjoy the scenery as you float by. Sea Kayak Hong Kong offers kayak tours and training courses around Lamma Island, while Kayak and Hike does kayaking, snorkelling and other aquatic activities throughout Hong Kong.
Check off a couple from the bucket list and learn to dive and surf. You can get up close and personal with exotic sea critters with Splash Hong Kong, whose team of instructors will teach you how to scuba dive. The folk at Surf Hong Kong provide daily lessons in Sai Kung to have you riding the waves in no time.
You could also take it up a notch and tune into your adventurous side with some windsurfing, wakeboarding or kiteboarding. There’s no shortage of places offering up their services to novices and pros alike, and most offer gear for hire if it’s your first time. And don’t worry about that part – there’s guided lessons available to have you boarding with the best of them.
Get wet in style
Looking for a comfortable one-piece for doing the breaststroke or a sexy bikini for wild poolside frolics? The world-famous Roxy and Quicksilver brands have colourful, playful prints for sale in shops dotted across Hong Kong. Central-based Ozzie Cozzie make swim and resort wear for all the family, no matter what age, shape or size, and Australian brand Sunseeker has been outfitting beach bodies since 1970, so they must know a thing or two about what works in the water.
Support local designers and bathe your bod with swimwear from Sabina Swims, from Hong Kong-based Sabina Wong–Sutch. The women behind StarBlu set up shop in HK in 2004 to deliver luxury, quality beachwear at affordable prices, with stylish accessories so you can be fashionably suited for the beach from head to toe.
There’s always the high street favourites like H&M, Topshop and Cotton On for budget swimsuits, or Lane Crawford and Marie France Van Damme for chic styles when money’s no object – even when it comes to a skimpy two-piece.
Break out the water wings
A day of water-related enjoyment needs proper equipment, from pool toys to aqua shoes. Decathlon and Escapade have an excellent range of accessories, clothing and water sports equipment, Island Wake has everything for boarders, and the little ones are taken care of at Toys “R” Us in the form of wee swim rings and amusing inflatables.
Skip the sky-high dining and stay closer to the sea with some quintessentially Hong Kong eating options on the water. Aberdeen is well known for its floating village and seafood restaurants in the harbour, and none more so than Jumbo Kingdom. Like a floating palace, it brightens up the harbour with its shimmering lights and brings many a tourist over just to catch a view. But instead of gawking at the popular bobbing behemoth (the Queen has even stopped by), do go in for some Chinese seafood dishes (the restaurant can be accessed via free shuttle boat from Aberdeen Promenade) and savour the quirky dining experience.
Lamma Rainbow (formerly Rainbow Seafood Restaurant) is a laid-back open-air affair on the Sok Kwu Wan waterfront on Lamma Island. You’ll get picked up on a free ferry from either Central or Tsim Sha Tsui piers and then plop yourself down at the nondescript table and chairs for a seafood feast. There’s also non-fish dishes like their award-winning sweet and sour pork served in a juicy carved-out pineapple.
Needing something even more easy-going to float your boat? Dine smack on the water on your own swaying sampan at Shun Kee Typhoon Shelter seafood restaurant in Causeway Bay. There’s nothing fancy here – the boats are pretty run-down, the service is loud and chaotic at times, and it’s not a place to go in hot or wet weather. But it’s a culinary experience that everyone should try before leaving Hong Kong, for the food is tasty and fresh (ordering the signature crab adorned with a mountain of chilli and fried garlic is a must) and the setting is like no other.
You’ve seen the iconic red-sailed junk tour the harbour many a time, so why not actually have a go on it? One of the last remaining Chinese junk boats, Aqualuna sails Victoria Harbour day and night, and has recently been joined by the beautiful Aqualuna II (pictured), this is the perfect way to take in the glittering water and skyline of the city. Island Junks has a fleet of Chinese teak junks equipped to carry up to 50 passengers around various parts of Hong Kong through charter packages and tours.
While that sounds relaxing and pleasant, the whole idea was to get wet and have some fun, right? That’s where Zoom RIBs comes in. The RIBs – ‘4x4s of the seas’, are a thrilling way to see Hong Kong from a completely different angle, with daily trips departing from Aberdeen.
If you fancy taking the reins yourself, sign up for a sailing course at Aberdeen Boat Club. Lessons are generally held on weekends and are open to non-members.
Dig your feet in the sand
If public showers and chlorinated water don’t sound appealing, Hong Kong has gifted us with many beaches to sneak away to, where you can do all of the above. A couple favourites are Repulse Bay and Shek O beaches, for their size and good public facilities. Yes, they can get crowded, but the amenities and location trump the crowds, especially when you can pop in for fab food and drinks afterwards at beachside eateries like Cococabana and Limewood.
To avoid getting sand kicked in your face, or having to put up with that guy playing guitar beside you all afternoon, head off the beaten track to sandy locales at Cheung Sha beach (one of HK’s longest) in Lantau or Lamma Island’s gem, Lo So Shing beach.
Your own private water bed
Imagine spending a night under the sea. Well, now you kind of can at a sleepover in Ocean Park’s Grand Aquarium. The ‘Nighttime in the Ocean’s Depths’ package has dates scheduled throughout the year and includes dinner and breakfast the next morning, after a tranquil night of observing and sleeping beside more than 5,000 fish and sea creatures.
Wake up to the sounds of waves and birds of the sea by booking a luxury boat. Saffron Cruises takes you overnight for a relaxing cruise to North Sai Kung or the Soko Islands, on motor cruisers with sumptuous beds and ensuite facilities, or junks with camp beds for a convivial night.
Have an entertaining staycation with the family and check into a theme room at the Gold Coast Hotel. Every room at the hotel delivers a lovely sea or marina view, and the hotel’s six specially designed theme rooms let youngsters escape with their imaginations for the night, like in the pirate room with a seaview balcony, jellyfish-shaped beds, and carpet mimicking the ocean. Find more great staycation destinations in this post.
Jump in and say aah
Spend the day getting wet but relaxing at the same time with a steam and sauna moment at a lavish spa. The Spa at Mandarin Oriental takes the cake with a range of water-based therapies and facilities. The beautifully-designed spa contains special treatment rooms including a couple’s suite with a private vitality pool, and other extravagant touches like an indoor swimming pool with a current jet system, video wall, mood lighting and underwater sound system, a Chinese herbal steam room and a Kneipp hydrotherapy pool with ice fountain.
The newly opened Chaun Body + Soul at The Langham is the perfect place to retreat from the city and refresh your body and soul. Take a dip in the rooftop swimming pool and indulge in one of the signature Chaun Balancing massages, which incorporate accupressure techniques to rebalance your Qi.
MiraSpa at the Mira hotel has its own ‘Wet Zone’ where you can ‘steam and splash your cares away’ in an ambient wet area kitted out with a hydro pool, sauna, steam room, ‘experience showers’ and waterbeds to rest on, as if that wasn’t all relaxing enough.
Babies like water fun at the spa too, and there’s nothing more delightful than seeing your little one bobbing up and down with a contented expression in a warm baby pool. Baby spas incorporating water play and infant massage are gaining popularity, like Baby Spa Luxe, giving both parents and tots a calming and therapeutic getaway.
Nancy Matos is a lifestyle and culture writer from Vancouver, Canada currently based in Hong Kong and London, so she knows a thing or two about wet cities.