Sun, sand, hippies, vegans, Blue Girl, seafood, power stations and dogs… so many dogs. Welcome to Lamma Island.
Only a speedy 25-minute jaunt from Central, Lamma’s the third biggest island in the territory, with a population of roughly 6,000 people representing over 70 different nationalities and cultures. Now that’s bang for your buck. With the help of a true blue Lamma local, we’re going to try and show you the ins and outs of this little slice of paradise.
What to do
Yung Shue Wan – a.k.a. “The Town”
Located by Lamma’s main ferry pier, this is probably the most well-known place on the island. This small but lively community is the closest Lamma has to a true urban centre and mostly consists of the imaginatively named Main Street, which is lined with some great spots to grab a snack, quench that thirst or simply people-watch. You’ll meander past a few large seafood restaurants with alfresco dining areas which do very good dim sum until around 12pm, but you’ll have to compete with the chilling grandmas of Lamma for a seat.
Grab the ferry to Yung Shue Wan from Pier 4 in Central. It’s about a 25-minute journey, during which time you can take in some great views along the way. It costs HKD14 one way on weekdays for adults, and is slightly more on a Sunday or public holiday.
Pier 4, Man Kwong Street, Central (Google Maps)
Lamma has more beaches than you can shake a stick at, you just have to find them. There is of course the pleasantly sandy Main Beach at Hung Shing Ye which is well provided for with facilities, shops and shark nets, but we’re warning you: it can get very crowded on public holidays and weekends. Hung Shing Ye is easy to find, just follow the main street from Yung Shue Wan and after a gentle twenty minute walk you’ll end up there.
For those willing to work for their beach time you can head across the island on the scenic Lamma Island Family Trail, or get the other ferry from Central to Sok Kwu Wan, where you’ll find the wonderful and often deserted Lo So Shing Beach, which has a floating pontoon to dive off and proper changing facilities.
Power Station Beach, a.k.a “dog beach”
If going off the (metaphorical) grid is more your scene then head over to the looming Lamma Power Station, where you’ll find the aptly named Power Station Beach, a.k.a. “dog beach”. The scene of numerous (should I say “infamous”) Lamma events such as the New Year’s beach party, outdoor cinema and reggae festival, amongst others. Once it gets dark, people like to come down and have a bonfire and a beer or two, which is a good experience if you’re staying late.
Lamma has a good variety of hikes for all experience levels. The main draw is the Lamma Family Walk Trail which runs from Yung Shue Wan to Sok Kwu Wan and, for a relatively fit person, will take around 40 minutes. Be warned if you go on a Sunday you will start cursing yourself as a slow trail of meandering old people and children form, seemingly specifically to block your way.
There are several other clearly marked trails running around the island, leading to destinations like the scenic village of Pak Kok or Lamma Winds power station. All paths are clearly marked and paved and (for the most part) only mildly hilly, so put those boots on and get out there.
For the more adventurous there are numerous unmarked dirt trails running over the island, a favourite for mountain bikers, but keep in mind that there are snakes.
Lo So Shing Beach
Finally at the Sok Kwu Wan end of the island lies mighty Mount Stenhouse, the highest point on Lamma at 353 metres. You can make the trek from the Tin Hau Temple, keeping to the left up the steps and will eventually be able to follow a ribbon-marked path to the top of the mountain. This is a relatively hard hike and can take between one to two hours. The way down however can be made swiftly and you can finish quite nicely at Lo So Shing Beach.
Although not as temple-heavy as some other places in Hong Kong, Lamma has a couple notable temples. The Tin Hau temple in Sok Kwu Wan, dedicated to the goddess of the sea, has a preserved two-metre-long oarfish which you can look at for good luck. If you’re squeamish, you can say hi to the turtles next door.
Tin Hau temple in Sok Ku Wan
Yung Shue Wan also has a small temple dedicated to the goddess Tin Hau at the end of Main Street, which can be a nice place to catch your breath once you’ve battled through the Sunday crowds.
Photo: Yardley Brothers via Facebook
Much like the rest of Hong Kong, Lamma has seen a bit of craft brewing action on its own shores. Most notably from the Yardley brothers, who sell their unique beers from their “beer shack” near the main beach on weekends, and have since opened a new brewery in Kwai Hing. You can grab the beer-loving brothers’ signature Lamma IPA on tap at many locations around Lamma and the pierside Beer Bay in Central, to name a few. Lamma also has a wide selection of mainstream and craft beer available, most notably at Lamma Grill on Main Street.
Where to eat
From seafood to dim sum, vegetarian to pub-grub, Lamma has it all. For such a small island Lamma has a great variety of food, especially if you are healthily inclined.
For carnivorous expats, there are a couple of great British-style pubs on the island such as the former Wan Chai mainstay Blue Goose Tavern, which also serves up some of the biggest burgers that this writer has seen in Hong Kong. There is nothing better than sitting in their ample seaview patio, listening to the waves and tucking into a Nacho Burger slathered in guacamole, salsa and sour cream, all for a pretty decent price (not to mention fantastic hospitality from the proprietors, Colin and Jessie Clarke).
Blue Goose is divided into a lively bar facing the street and an expansive seaview eating area which you have to walk past the kitchen to get to. If you’re looking to go big, alcohol-wise, check out the lethal “teapot” menu (we recommend the Staten Island Ice Tea).
Opening hours: 5pm to 2am, Monday to Friday, 5am to 12pm on Sundays (and yes, they do sell coffee in the mornings)
Where: 47 Main Street, Yung Shue Wan, Lamma Island (Google Maps)
Price: HKD70 to HKD100 for a main meal
This fairly new arrival to Lamma is worth a shout out for several reasons. Firstly, it is delicious: piping hot patas bravas, silky cheesy cauliflower, savoury paella and juicy roast pork all compete in being my favorite dishes there. Secondly, I don’t know about you but have you tried eating tapas in Central without going bankrupt? This place manages to keep prices reasonable… which means you’ll probably end up spending more, as you’ll want a piece of everything.
There are a few tables scattered outside the street-front kitchen from which you can point out what you want, but takeaway is also a perfectly viable option. Now and then, the tapas is swapped out for vegan Sri Lankan curries by Tai Peng Spice which are also incredibly flavourful and well worth it.
Opening hours: Somewhat irregular but open from 6 till late on most evenings
Where: 54 Main Street, Yung Shue Wan, Lamma Island (Google Maps)
Price: HKD30 to HKD40 per dish
Sampan Seafood Restaurant
Just a stone’s throw from the ferry pier is the old-school Sampan Seafood Restaurant. It makes a nice stop for either freshly made dim sum in the morning or a seafood feast in the evening, all for some very reasonable prices. I highly recommend the sweet and sour pork and spicy garlic tofu, as well as the usual selection of crabs piled high with garlic and chilli.
Opening hours: 6am to 10:30pm
Where: 16 Main Street, Yung Shue Wan (Google Maps)
Price: HKD100 to HKD150 per head for a large seafood meal
Photo: Lala Mama’s via Facebook
For those in a brunch mood (as I always am), Lamma has some great options ranging from healthy to an authentic full English at the Banyan Bay or Lala Mama’s. For those in a more experimental mood, I’d recommend Hideout, which despite only having a small sign to advertise its presence does some fantastic breakfasts, including scrambled eggs and avocado on a waffle with bacon, which is a personal favorite.
Lamma also has some pretty decent Indian food options for those craving some spice in their life. Bombay and Water Front do a decent variety of curries and other Indian dishes, including the decadently fantastic Aloo Paratha, a flatbread stuffed with spicy potato and served with a cooling raita dip that makes a fantastic breakfast.
At the other end of the island famous seafood restaurants such as the Rainbow Seafood Restaurant reign supreme. Be prepared to pay tourist prices but take solace in the knowledge that it’s totally worth it, especially after a solid hike across the island and a dip in the sea.
Banyan Bay, 67A Main Street, Yung Shue Wan, Lamma Island (Google Maps)
Lala Mama’s, 27 Sha Po Old Village, Yung Shue Wan, Lamma Island (Google Maps)
Hideout, 77 Main Street, Yung Shue Wan, Lamma Island (Google Maps)
Bombay, 6 Back Street, Yung Shue Wan, Lamma Island (Google Maps)
Water Front, 58 Main Street, Yung Shue Wan, Lamma Island (Google Maps)
Rainbow Seafood Restaurant, 23-25 First Street, Sok Kwu Wan, Lamma Island (Google Maps)
Where to stay
Photo: Bali Holiday Resort
Lamma has a couple of established hotels such as the Bali Holiday Resort and Sunrise Holiday Resort which tend to be on the more cheap and cheerful side of things, Lamma’s easy reach tends to make it a day trip destination with most people preferring to return home at night. However Lamma has been seeing an increase in Airbnb offerings lately, so if you’re in the mood for a weekend spent chilling on your own private rooftop overlooking the sea, that might be the way to go.
Where to party
Seeing as the last ferry back to Central is before 12am, nightlife on Lamma is a little limited, but that’s not to say there isn’t any. Most of the bars host great live music nights and Lamma Grill regularly puts on events such as pub quizzes or themed events. Island Bar on the way to and from the ferry is always buzzing with music and people spilling out of the door. The Lamma Book Club puts on events now and then that tend to last the night, such as the New Year’s Eve Beachfest or reggae festival on the Power Station Beach.
What are you waiting for? Hop on that ferry and come over, we don’t bite (but the snakes might).
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