Despite the metropolis of glass and steel at its heart, Hong Kong is an outdoorsy city offering countless ways to enjoy the water and the outlandish natural environment that pushes against the city's urban spaces. Hiking trails abound, there's a thriving keep-fit culture and dozens of spas and massage centres cater for relaxation-seekers.
Hong Kong is peppered with excellent granite faces and volcanic rocks in some striking wilderness areas. The best place to climb is on Tung Lung Chau, which has a technical wall, a big wall and a sea gully. Shek O beach has some excellent bouldering as well.
The Hong Kong Climbing website (www.hongkongclimbing.com) is a handy resource for climbers.
Hong Kong’s natural terrain makes for some fabulous cycling.
The longest bicycle track runs from Sha Tin through Tai Po to Tai Mei Tuk, taking you through parks, and past temples and the waterfront. The Hong Kong Cycling Alliance (http://hkcyclingalliance.org) has information on road rules and safety for cyclists.
You need a (free) permit for mountain biking. Check with the Mountain Biking Association (www.hkmba.org) for permit details.
Dragon Boat Racing
Hong Kong is possibly the best place in the world to watch dragon boat racing because the traditions underlying the practice are still very much alive. The city has more than 20 races a year with most taking place from May to July. The Hong Kong Tourism Board (www.discoverhongkong.com) has information on the main events.
Hong Kong has a fairly lively amateur football league. Games are played at the Happy Valley Sports Ground, a group of pitches inside the Happy Valley Racecourse, and at Mong Kok Stadium. For match schedules and venues, check the sports sections of the English-language newspapers or check the Hong Kong Football Association website (www.hkfa.com). For information on casual football matches, visit http://casualfootball.net.
Hong Kong has only one public golf course, but some private clubs open their doors on weekdays for a green fee.
The Hong Kong Golf Association (www.hkga.com) has a list of driving ranges and tournaments held in the territory, including the Hong Kong Open Championships, one of Asia’s leading professional golf tournaments (usually played in November or December).
Gyms, Yoga and Medidation
Yoga and fitness are big business here, with the largest slices of the pie shared out among a few big names. Pure Fitness has comprehensive gym facilities (including yoga classes) and several branches, with day rates for drop-ins. If sightseeing is leaving you frazzled, you can also meditate (with or without sound therapy) at the Samadhi Training Centre for the Soul in trendy Sheung Wan.
Many visitors are surprised to learn that Hong Kong is an excellent place for hiking. Lengthy wilderness trails criss-cross the territory and its islands through striking mountain, coast and jungle terrain. The four main ones are the MacLehose Trail, at 100km the longest in the territory; the 78km-long Wilson Trail, which runs on both sides of Victoria Harbour; the 70km-long Lantau Trail; and the Hong Kong Trail, which is 50km long. Hong Kong’s excellent public-transport network makes it feasible to tackle these trails a section at a time.
Local hiking guidebooks with suggested itineraries are widely available in Hong Kong bookshops. Or consult Enjoy Hiking (www.hiking.gov.hk), a government-affiliated website and mobile app with maps of many of Hong Kong's walking trails, plus information on route closures and facilities in country parks. It is always a good idea to check for updates on weather and the condition of the trails (landslides can sometimes mean route closures or diversions) before setting out.
Take care when bushwalking in the New Territories, particularly on Lamma and Lantau Islands. Poisonous snakes, the most common being the bamboo pit viper, are a hazard, although they will not attack unless surprised or provoked. Go straight to a public hospital if bitten; private doctors do not stock antivenene.
The Hong Kong Trail
If you want to hike without exerting yourself too much, the Hong Kong Trail (港島徑) on Hong Kong Island is a great choice. The 50km route comprises eight sections of varying difficulty, beginning on the Peak (take the tram up to the Peak and follow the signs) and ending near Shek O, in the south of Hong Kong Island.
One of the easiest and most scenic sections runs for about two hours along a mountain ridge called Dragon’s Back. It takes you past woods, then up to the windy spine of the dragon where there are views of sun-drenched beaches and billowing hills streaked with cloud shadow. Then it’s all the way down to Shek O Rd, where you can hoof it or bus it to Shek O’s beach for a rewarding meal, a swim or a game of frisbee.
Horse racing is Hong Kong’s biggest spectator sport. There are two racecourses: one in Happy Valley and one at Sha Tin. Attending one of the Wednesday race meetings (7pm, HK$10) at Happy Valley during the racing season (September to June) is a great way to experience horse racing in Hong Kong.
If you're a solo budget traveller eager to see what all the fuss is about, Hong Kong Pub Crawl offers a Wednesday evening crawl (per person HK$10) on race days that includes a couple of hours at Happy Valley, a beer voucher and a quick how-to on betting.
For a blowout experience, join the Come Horseracing Tour (per person from HK$1390) offered by Gray Line Tours. The package includes transport, meals, all-you-can-drink wine or beer, and admission to the members' area; packages are available on race days for both courses.
Hong Kong has a glut of martial-arts programs, but only a few have special arrangements for English-speaking visitors.
Hong Kong Shaolin Wushu Culture Centre on Lantau offers overnight stays.
Wan Kei Ho International Martial Arts Association has a local and foreign following, and open classes twice a week in Sheung Wan.
The World Rugby Sevens sees teams from all over the world come together in Hong Kong for three days of lightning-fast 15-minute matches at the 40,000-seat Hong Kong Stadium in So Kon Po. Even those who are not rugby fans scramble to get tickets, because the Sevens is a giant, international, three-day party, complete with costumes and Mardi Gras levels of drunkenness.
The best places to run on Hong Kong Island include Harlech and Lugard Rds on the Peak; Bowen Rd above Wan Chai; the waterfront promenade running west from the Hong Kong–Macau Ferry Terminal in Sheung Wan; the track in Victoria Park; and the Happy Valley racecourse – as long as there aren’t any horse races! In Kowloon, a popular place to run is the Tsim Sha Tsui East Promenade. Lamma makes an ideal place for trail runners, with plenty of paths and dirt trails, great views and, best of all, no cars.
Hong Kong has some surprisingly worthwhile diving spots, particularly in the far northeast, and there is certainly no shortage of courses. Sai Kung–based Splash Hong Kong in the New Territories is a five-star PADI operator offering courses (from HK$1200) and fun dives (from HK$500).
Spa Treatments & Therapies
Whether you want to be spoilt rotten with thousand-dollar caviar facials or have a simple foot rub, Hong Kong’s extensive pampering sector can assist. Most of the luxury hotels operate their own spas. For less elaborate routines, you’ll find plenty of places in Central and Kowloon offering spa treatments, massages and reflexology. Be aware that some massage venues, especially in Wan Chai, may be 'happy ending' establishments.
Most operators of this popular sport are based in Sai Kung (New Territories) and Tai Tam (Hong Kong Island). Rates are about HK$850 per hour. Try Hong Kong Wakeboard.
Windsurfing, Kayaking & Canoeing
The best time for windsurfing is October to December. Check the Leisure and Cultural Services Department website (www.lcsd.gov.hk) for government-run water-sports centres providing canoes, windsurfing boards, kayaks and other equipment for hire, some only to holders of the relevant certificates. Kayak and Hike and Sea Kayak Hong Kong both offer excursions to the Hong Kong Global Geopark.
Need to Know
The Map Publications Centre sells excellent maps detailing hiking and cycling trails; buy online (www.landsd.gov.hk/mapping/en/pro&ser/products.htm) or at one of its many retail outlets.
Information & Facilities
Enjoy Hiking (www.hiking.gov.hk) A government site with comprehensive information; select trails by area, level of difficulty, duration etc.
Environmental Protection Department (www.epd.gov.hk) Lists of country and marine parks.
Hong Kong Birdwatching Society (www.hkbws.org.hk) In the process of building an English-language website.
Hong Kong Tourism Board (www.discoverhongkong.com) Has a full list of sporting events.
Leisure and Cultural Services Department (www.lcsd.gov.hk) Lists of fields, stadiums, beaches, swimming pools, water-sports centres etc, including equipment for hire.
South China Athletic Association Has sports facilities for hire.