What it is:
Set around a rocky headland between two beaches, Shek O is an eccentric, laid-back seaside destination about as far from the city madness as it is possible to get on Hong Kong Island. It’s a great place, with beautiful scenery, good food and a chilled-out vibe. If it looks familiar, that’s possibly because it has served as the backdrop to a multitude of Canto-pop videos and movies, including the King of Comedy and 1980s TV series Noble House.
The location scouts are drawn by vibrantly painted houses surrounded by shrubs and vines, sunkissed locals walking barefoot with surfboards tucked under their arms, hidden rasta bars and simple alfresco restaurants.
How to get there:
Take bus no.9 from Shau Kei Wan MTR. To get to the lighthouse, alight from bus no.9 at Cape D’Aguilar Road and walk to The Swire Institute of Marine Science of HKU.
Where to eat:
The legendary Shek O Chinese and Thai (303 Shek O Village, 2809 4426) is an all-time favourite; ignore the plastic chairs, cheap tables and toilet-paper napkins and focus on delicious dishes and fresh seafood at reasonable prices. Keep the Tsingtao flowing while the kids play mini golf two doors down or run amok at the beach less than a minute away.
A relatively new addition to the Shek O dining scene, Cococabana (G/F LCSD Building, Shek O Beach, 2812 2226) serves delicious Mediterranean food right on the beach. Sit under the umbrellas on the large terrace or chill in the easy, breezy, seaside-themed dining room. Appropriately, given the beach setting, fresh seafood features prominently, including bouillabaisse, scallops St Jacques, sea bass with clams and standout piri-piri king prawns.
But our favourite Shek O “secret” is Ben’s Back Beach Bar (273 Shek O Village, 2809 2268) on the far side of the village, overlooking a little beach used by the Shek O sailing club. The casual bar is not much more than a brick-lined hole in the wall, with a few stools and pictures of movie stars taking a break from all that filming. Ben’s is a chilled- out spot for a cold beer, some reggae and a chat with the locals away from the weekend madness of the main beach. We hear the Brooklyn Lager goes down particularly well.
For something a little more active, hike to the lighthouse at Cape D’Aguilar. The lighthouse is oldest in Hong Kong, entering service on April 16, 1875, following the opening of the Suez Canal and the subsequent growth of trade in Hong Kong. Its location on the southeastern tip of the island helped guide shipping into the eastern approaches to Victoria Harbour. Positioned 200 feet above sea level, the lamp could be seen from 23 miles away. Since then, it has been off and on. In 1896, three years after the construction of a lighthouse on the more usefully located Waglan Island, Cape D’Aguilar lighthouse was switched off and stood disused until 1975, when a new automated lantern was installed. Today, it still shines bright.