So, in the continued quest for the perfect Hong Kong beach for kids, we found a contender this week, but not until after a run in with “the oil slick that ate Tokyo”. As this was the holiday weekend, we decided to meet up with some friends and head over to Discovery Bay on Lantau. Our friend informed us that Discovery Bay or “DB” started out as a resort that failed and ended up a residential community with a very “resort” feel to it. I have to agree with that latter statement, as the ambience in the main square really feels like you are on a beach vacation. Overall, the food was great. The little area on the beach was serviceable. The beach, however, was not. The kids emerged from the water with something that vaguely resembled a BP petrol spill clinging to their skin. I hate to keep making Stephen King references, but don’t read “The Raft” if you are planning a visit here. Or maybe you should, as it would probably keep you out of the water, which may be a healthier option here. To be fair, I should have suspected this, as any beach that is too close to the ferry route is destined to be less than pristine. I should also admit that this might have been a onetime incident, but as our friends had warned us ahead of time that the beach was supposed to be polluted, it seems unlikely.
So, the following day I was bound and determined to find a beach with at least a smaller likelihood that my kids will ingest enough foreign matter to qualify as walking science experiments. The fact that we had trekked over to Lantau the day before meant that our beach destination was pre-determined. It had to be on Hong Kong Island. Why? In addition to the maternal laziness factor, our youngest was also in the throes of a nasty head cold and I didn’t want to risk encountering the “I am going to melt down over the tiniest possible flaw in my environment” syndrome. So, I began the internet research the night before to look for the best options. You may find it silly, or find me geeky, but website of Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Department is an incredible planning too. First, it gives you the water current and annual quality rating for all the beaches. They are rated on a 1 to 4 scale, with 1 being good and 4 being poor. Admittedly, this seems to be based on levels of bacteria and not obvious trash, but it is a good indicator…and probably actually more pertinent information than info on trash. It also gives you the average daily attendance rates, on both weekends/ holidays and weekdays. This is incredibly useful if you have any tendency towards misanthropy. So, given that we were heading out on a MAJOR public holiday, I was acutely interested in attendance numbers. Based on research, we decided to go to Chung Hom Kok Beach. This turned out to be a fantastic decision and proof positive that research pays.
What’s Cool About This Beach:
First, it meets the basic criteria. It seems fairly clean….and it was rated a “1” by HKEPD. It is not horrifically difficult to reach. There is a roped off area for swimming. There are life guards on duty. And there is a kiosk that sells drinks and snacks, so you can be sure that your children will be fed and watered, even if you forget the bag you packed containing said items (Who? Me?). But it is the other, above and beyond, things that make this beach a great choice for families with young children. First, the aforementioned kiosk sells sand toys, water floatation devices / toys, and mats. You can also rent beach umbrellas there, which makes everyone’s day much more pleasant. The sand is soft and white, both in and out of the water. There are even a few naturally shaded areas if you don’t feel inclined to rent and umbrella.
But one thing that makes this beach is that there is an actual shaded PLAY AREA here. A real one…with SLIDES. This last thing being of such penultimate importance to our 3 year old that I felt I had to put it in all caps. There also climbing structures and swings. Plus, all of this is situated on those little rubber square thingy’s that they put in play areas to prevent injury. Plus plus, there are shaded places for Mom and Dad to sit. Our boys loved this so much, that we stopped for 15 minutes on the way in, and 30 minutes on the way out. And finally, the attendance rates on public holidays and weekends are only 937. If that sounds like a lot, compare it with the 12,336 people you will have to be sharing your space with on an average weekend at Repulse Bay and you see why this is like a little slice of heaven.
What’s Not So Cool about this Beach:
There wasn’t a lot to complain about here. In fact, there are only three things that I can come up with if I stretch a bit. The first is that the adults at this beach seemed UNUSUALLY loud. On the one hand, this might be simply due to the fact that it was a holiday. On the other hand, they kept playing pre-recorded public service announcements, in several languages, asking people not to play games or do things that will disturb other people’s enjoyment of the beach. This makes it seem like this is a common problem. It isn’t enough to keep us from going back, but the shrieking that went along with a fake bikini contest got old fairly quickly. The second thing is that it is a bit of a hike up and down stairs to get here. But this shouldn’t be a detraction unless you have a stroller or are with someone who is disabled. The third issue is the only one that I consider the biggest one for most people, which is that it is hard to catch a taxi on the way back. As it is a bit out of the way, you will likely encounter the “no taxi..call back” response multiple times if you try to call for one. On this trip, we got lucky and found at taxi as it was dropping someone else off.
Getting To Chung Hom Kok: Once again, theoretically, you can go by bus. You can take the 6X or 66 from the Central Exchange Square bus terminal. But it’s quite easy to get to by taxi, and with taxi’s being as cheap as they are, it usually seems the most logical option for us. The time it may come in handy to know the bus routes is for the way BACK…when you may not be able to find a taxi.
Ease of Travel To and From Beach: **
Beauty / Cleanliness of Beach and Environment:****
Availability of Food / Sundries: *****
Infant / Stroller Friendliness: *
Lack of Lemming Like Hoards:****