After a very long journey and a very brief nap, you emerge into your brand-new Hong Kong surroundings. Though your body has yet to calibrate where you’ve landed, your senses instantly pick up on the many cues – humidity, jungle-like lushness, flitting butterflies, buzzing red taxicabs – that you are indeed clear on the other side of the globe.
Before bearings have been established or a map even studied, you wander disoriented yet curious, following the mysterious pull of newfound magic in your midst. Hong Kong is a land of omnipresent peaks and vibrant pockets of urban electricity. You’ll find expats and languages from nearly every corner of the globe, and the adage of “east meets west” reveals itself on every corner you turn.
Tai Mo Shan is the highest peak in Hong Kong – and also the tallest coastal peak in Southern China — Photo courtesy of Elvis Mo/Hong Kong Tourism Board
Situated on the southeastern coast of China and covering an area of 427 square miles, Hong Kong is made up of Hong Kong Island, the Kowloon Peninsula and the New Territories, which include 262 outlying islands. Amazingly, three-quarters of the land is countryside, meaning nature lovers enjoy the small territory’s stunning array of beaches, woodlands and mountain ranges, too.
From the States, enjoy top-notch service on flights with EVA Air and Cathay Pacific, which offers direct routes to Hong Kong, like this one from Seattle. Once you’ve arrived, getting around is simple, thanks to one of the world’s most efficient and frequent public transport systems (easily accessed by purchasing an Octopus Card), as well as ubiquitous taxis and Uber rides.
When it comes to navigating the city’s hilly landscape – not to mention subtropical temperatures mixed with humidity –you’ll appreciate the Central-Mid-Levels escalator, deemed the world’s longest outdoor escalator system.
Where to stay
The Hong Kong Ocean Park Marriott Hotel features a beautiful lagoon, perfect for travelers of all ages — Photo courtesy of Hong Kong Ocean Park Marriott Hotel
While more than seven million residents call Hong Kong home, tranquil oases can be found – even close to the swirling action. At Hong Kong Ocean Park Marriott Hotel, for example, you’ll find yourself on the southern coast of Hong Kong Island, a few steps from the Ocean Park MTR station. And thanks to Marriott Bonvoy, Marriott International’s free-to-join loyalty program, stays at this hotel earn members points that can later be redeemed for sweet perks.
While neighboring Ocean Park, the second largest theme park in Hong Kong after Disneyland, the hotel proves a tranquil home base with features like a massive lobby aquarium, nature-inspired guest rooms, a variety of on-site restaurants, an outdoor lagoon-pool area and a decadent spa. (Don’t miss the 60-minute Oriental Acupressure Massage that begins with a decadent foot ritual.)
What to see and do
Experience old Hong Kong along Pottinger Street — Photo courtesy of Hong Kong Tourism Board
Building a Hong Kong itinerary may initially feel intimidating, thanks to the exhilarating bounty of options. Activities range from popular hikes (like up to Victoria Peak, the highest point on Hong Kong Island) to ferry adventures and explorations of colorful markets and street food vendors. It’s also very easy to take a train to mainland China or to enjoy the hour-long ferry ride to nearby Macau.
Hiking trails abound, showing off views of the city from many angles — Photo courtesy of Hong Kong Tourism Board
To get to know Hong Kong and experience its mesmerizing melange of cultures, try strolling an area like Wan Chai. Walking along the colorful streets here gives a visual representation of how western and eastern influences have been woven into the fabric of the city.
Also dedicate an afternoon to exploring Tai Kwun – Centre for Heritage and Arts, located in Central at the eastern end of Hollywood Road. This fascinating redevelopment project, situated in the former Central Police Station Compound, has become a trendy cultural, shopping and dining hub that’s prime for people-watching and art gazing.
Where to eat
Enjoy a casual breakfast among locals at a cha chaan teng — Photo courtesy of Marriott International
For an authentic culinary experience, begin the day at a tea restaurant (or cha chaan teng). In a no-nonsense, diner-like setting, where brusque servers expect you to know your order the moment they arrive, try local staples. This includes items such as milk tea (dating back to British Colonial times), surprisingly tasty scrambled egg and corn beef sandwiches, pork chop buns, satay beef instant noodles and treats like sai doh si, a twist on French toast that’s been stuffed with peanut butter and deep-fried to perfection.
Meander to the Blue House, an iconic and vibrantly painted four-story tenement building built in the 1920s, and grab a coffee and sweet treat from Bakehouse, a hot spot that’s wildly well-known for its sourdough egg tarts baked by chef Grégoire Michaud.
Wander the boutiques and cafes of Star, Moon and Sun streets, soaking in the tranquil vibes of a neighborhood marked by rainbows hues, rows of parked motorcycles and an abundance of palms and greenery. Shop around friendly spaces like Monocle, Kapok, la petite maison xxii and Basao Tea, a sleek space in which to enjoy unusual delicacies like cold brew tea and green tea ice cream.
Don’t miss the cuisine – and delightful, sustainability-driven decor – of hip dining destination John Anthony. Here the progressive Cantonese fare features charcoal grill-roasted meats and handmade dim sum paired with bold cocktails, often anchored by the eatery’s extensive gin collection. Standout dishes include the smoked (cage-free) duck eggs, beetroot dumplings, Wagyu short ribs and signature salt-baked, free-range whole chicken.
Back at Tai Kwun, at the Old Bailey, enjoy spectacular elevated views and Jiangnan cuisine (a geographic area in China to the south of the Yangtze River).
Afterward, close your night with a nightcap amid the pure beauty of Dragonfly – a cocktail bar where dim lighting and an overhead sea of turquoise chandeliers solidify your love for this enchanting city.