If you’re hungry for adventure and outstanding natural beauty, you might be thinking of discovering Po Toi Island, Hong Kong’s most southern point.
As well as being a unique island full of history and everlasting traditions, visitors flock to Hong Kong’s South Pole every weekend to admire the incredible rock formations that appear all over the island. If you love the iconic Lion Rock in Hong Kong, you will surely fall in love with Po Toi.
Whether you’re looking for somewhere to relax and enjoy some fresh seafood, embark on a not too challenging 8 km hike, soak up some history, or admire some impressive natural rock formations, there is plenty to see and do on Po Toi Island.
And because there is still lots to see and explore on Po Toi Island, we have written this guide to inform you of all the top things to do on Po Toi Island.
So, let’s get straight to it!
What Are the Po Toi Islands?
Po Toi Island is the main island in the group of islands known as Po Toi Islands. While many people don’t know that, there are a total of 10 islands in the group, with three of the biggest being Po Toi Island itself, Beaufort Island, and Sung Kung Island.
Po Toi Island is the only island in the group that is connected by a ferry. All the other islands are uninhabited and there isn’t any reason to visit them.
Legend has it that humans settled on Po Toi Islands more than 3,500 years ago, according to prehistoric rock carvings located at the foot of the jaw-dropping cliffs.
Po Toi was once a thriving island where residents made a living by fishing and harvesting seaweed. By the 1950s, only 500 residents remained on the island and two schools were still in operation.
By the 1980s, the schools closed due to a lack of students and the majority of villagers moved to the city.
Today, it remains mostly uninhabited and the buildings that remain still don’t have access to freshwater or electricity.
From the village, there are a few restaurants where fresh seafood and seaweed take center stage on the menu.
Some remaining villagers can be seen outside their homes selling seaweed and cutting up dried fish, a tradition that has lasted over 3 millennia.
The rest of the houses have succumbed to the environment and remain a derelict ruin. The most famous one of all is Mo’s Mansion. Mo was once a simple merchant who made his fortune selling bean curd sheets over a hundred years ago.
While Po Toi Island is now short of residents and buildings alike, it still celebrates the Tin Hau Festival every year.
How to Get to Po Toi Island?
Getting to Po Toi Island is quite simple, but it does involve some forward-planning due to the limited number of ferries that travel there.
There are two points on Hong Kong Island that offer ferries to Po Toi – Aberdeen and Stanley.
Both piers offer a kaito ferry that goes directly to Po Toi Island on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays.
You should arrive 15-20 minutes early to catch the ferry as boarding starts approximately 15 minutes before departure. From our experience, the ferry leaves exactly on time and won’t wait for you even if you run down the pier after it!
Po Toi Island Ferry From Aberdeen Pier
If you are staying closer to Aberdeen, you might want to catch the Po Toi Island ferry from Aberdeen Ferry Pier. Ferry times are infrequent and often return via Stanley. The ferry also takes longer from Aberdeen, but costs the same.
Non-residents of Po Toi Island are expected to pay $50HKD for a return ticket, or if you’re camping, $25HKD each way. You can pay by cash or Octopus from the ferry pier as your board the ferry.
The ferry takes approximately 30 minutes from Aberdeen to Po Toi. There are no ferries on Mondays, Wednesdays, or Fridays.
Po Toi Island Ferry Timetable from Aberdeen
|Tuesdays & Thursdays||Saturdays||Sundays & Public Holidays|
|Departure||10 AM||10 AM & 3:30 PM||8:15 AM|
|Return||3:30 PM||2 PM,4 PM (Via Stanley)|
12:40 PM (To Stanley)
| 9:15 AM, 10:45 AM, 3 PM, 4 PM|
6 PM (Via Stanley)
Po Toi Ferry From From Stanley’s Blake Pier
Ferries leaving from Stanley are still few, but a little more convenient if you decide to visit on a Sunday, which is the favorite hiking day in Hong Kong. For that reason, we decided to catch the Po Toi ferry from Stanley.
The cost of a ferry from Stanley is the same as Aberdeen at $50 HKD for a non-resident return ticket, or $25 HKD each way for campers. You can pay by cash or Octopus from the ferry pier as your board the ferry.
The ferry departs from the Blake Pier in Stanley takes only 25 minutes to get to Po Toi Island. There are no ferries to Po Toi island from Stanley on the weekdays.
Po Toi Island Ferry Timetable from Stanley
|Saturdays||Sundays & Public Holidays|
|Departure||1:20 PM||10 AM, 11:30 AM, 3:30 PM and 5 PM.|
|Return|| 12:40 PM|
2 PM or 4 PM (Also goes to Aberdeen)
| 9:15 AM, 10:45 AM, 3 PM, 4 PM|
6 PM (Also goes to Aberdeen)
As you can see, the ferry schedule is very sporadic. If you miss the last ferry of the day, you are very screwed (and need to order a water taxi via the locals).
Po Toi Island Hike
Po Toi Island Hike Summary
Not sure if the hiking Po Toi Island in Hong Kong is right for you? Here is a quick summary:
- Hiking Routes On Po Toi Island: Before we get into our hike, you should know that there are a total of three routes on Po Toi Island: Route No.1, Route No.2, and Route No.3. These three routes make up the Poi To Country Trail.
Hiking all three routes are totally doable on a day trip to Po Toi Island, and it is the only way you will fully experience this island. With that said, we were only able to do Route No. 3 and Route No. 2 because we didn’t know about Route No.1 when we visited.
To summarize the routes, Route No.1 takes you from the ferry pier to Mo’s Mansion and up towards the mountains where you will eventually intersect with Route No. 3.
Route No. 3 is the longest hiking route on Po Toi Island, taking you to places like the Tin Hau Temple, Kwoon Yat Pagoda, and some of the highest peaks on Po Toi.
Route No. 2 is strictly a loop on the southern peninsula of Po Toi Island. Here, you will find some of the coolest rock formations on Po Toi, such as the Palm’s Cliff, Tortoise Rock, and Monk Supine Rock. It is a short route that offers plenty of things to see on the way.
- Duration Of Hike: We spent around 4 hours in total for Route No.2 & Route No.3.
Out of this time, we spent nearly 3 hours hiking, the rest of the time was used for taking breaks, admiring the rock formations and sites, and taking photos.
We also did not go to Mo’s Mansion (because we spent too much time admiring the rock formations!), so allocate an extra 30 to 45 minutes if you plan on taking a detour to check out the mansion.
- Po Toi Island Hike Difficulty: 4/10 for technicality, 4/10 for physically demanding.
It is not a physically difficult hike and does not have a very high incline, but the trail is very rocky and can be treacherous if you are not careful.
At no point on this hike did we feel the trail was unsafe or dangerous, but proper care should be taken as the rocks can be slippery in places.
However, if you are visiting in the summer, the barren landscapes and the fiery sun will increase the difficulty by tons.
- Elevation Gained On Hike: 261 meters (856 feet) for the entire loop (Route No.2 & Route No.3).
- Total Distance Of Hike: 7 Kilometers (4.34 miles) for Route No. 2 & 3 (allow another 1km if you want to visit Mo’s Mansion).
- Why Hike Po Toi Island? Doing the various hiking trails on Po Toi Island is the best way to experience what this unique island has to offer. From the top of the Shan Liu on Route No.3, you can see some insane 360-degree views spanning across the South China Sea and back at Stanley & Cape D’Aguilar.
Though it is possible to see the cool rock formations just by doing the short Route No.2, you miss out on some of the views and sense of scale at the top.
Our Experience Hiking Po Toi Island
We decided to get the ferry from Stanley’s Blake Pier at 11:30 AM, and the ferry ride took 25 minutes to reach Po Toi Island. At first, we feared that we might not get on the ferry because of how big the queue was, but there are plenty of seats on the ferry.
Once we arrived at Po Toi, we didn’t hang about and went straight into our hike at 12 PM. Many visitors did stop by the small restaurant at the ferry pier, but we packed our own lunch!
From the pier, we decided to turn west and head towards the Tin Hau Temple first, before tackling the mountain and the area known as Cheung Shek Pai.
The family-friendly trail winds through the village where we could see the few residents sitting outside their houses drying fish or selling seaweed. We stopped to take some photos before continuing on.
The walk took us no more than 10 minutes to reach the Tin Hau Temple from the pier, also passing a quiet beach and the delicious aroma of seafood from the restaurants along the way.
The temple is a modest size overlooking the bay of Po Toi Island. We could see fishermen waiting patiently for their catch of the day underneath the cliff.
Inside the temple, the small interior harbors a huge cloud of incense. We only put our heads through the door because the smoke was too strong, but visitors can step all the way inside.
We continued along the path past the temple for 2 more minutes where we caught a glimpse of our first rock formation, conch rock.
After taking some photos, we decided it was time to make the ascent up the mountain. Just 100 meters away from the temple, the paved path clears and you can see a wild, rocky and dusty path appear through the bushes…we knew this was the right path up the mountain.
After a few minutes of hiking through the bushes, the path opens out into a clear and open desert surrounded by rocks and dead trees. If you’ve ever wondered what Mars looked like, I could imagine it would look something like Po Toi Island’s landscape.
The path becomes a little less visible from here, but don’t worry, there are some blank signs pointing you in the right direction.
We followed the blank sign through some short bushes and up a steady slope. Within five minutes we had nearly reached the top.
From here, you can see the path wind steadily around the ridge of the mountain. You can also see the immense and impressive views of Tai Wan underneath, and from the other side back towards Stanley.
Having done most of the incline by now, the rest of the hike is pretty easy. We followed the blank signs and other hikers along the winding and rocky trail.
A small fraction of this trail requires you to clamber up rocks where a rope might be needed, but at no point did we feel it was dangerous or unsafe. In fact, we didn’t really need to use the rope, it’s just there for safety.
In about 20 mins of hiking, we reached an area near the top of the mountains known as Shan Liu. We spent 30 minutes or so enjoying a picnic and admiring the views. There are plenty of places to stop and rest on a flat rock without being disturbed by other hikers.
Considering the number of people on the boat, we found it rather peaceful at the top of Shan Liu, eating sandwiches and taking in the beautiful views. However, we did get followed by an eager wasp, lucky us!
After chasing off the wasp, we continued on. From Shan Liu you can take a short detour to the peak, Tai Pai Tong Den. The path to the peak is quite hidden amongst the bushes, so if you want to check out the peak then keep your eyes open for a small break between two bushes to the left.
The detour to the peak is only 1 km (there and back) so allow yourself another 45 minutes if you want to add this to your hike.
We decided we were happy not visiting the peak as we were conscious of time, so we continued on.
Soon, the wild, rocky and desert terrain becomes and paved path once again. From here, you have two choices – continue on to the left and the path leads over the mountain and down towards the peninsula, or take a right down the mountain (Route No.1) to visit Mo’s Mansion.
We decided to keep going so we turned left up the steps and over the mountain.
The steps were not too challenging and ended as quickly as they started. They are quite shallow steps so they are easy underfoot.
At the top of the path, we could see the Kwoon Yat Pagoda on the right which made a nice rest stop before descending down the mountain.
After a five-minute break, we headed down the steep steps towards the peninsula. The path down the mountain was short but steep, and we are thankful we decided to hike Route No.3 counter-clockwise.
The path leads directly to the peninsula where most of the rock formations can be found. After 10 minutes of hiking, we made it to the peninsula and were officially on Route No.2!
At the end of the path, a sign tells us the circular route around the peninsula takes 30 minutes. We spent about 1 hour on the peninsula taking in the impressive formations in front of us and adventuring around the rocks.
The first rock you will see is Tortoise Rock, which you may need to look at from a few angles to see the turtle form that gave it its name. Directly opposite the Tortoise Rock is Supine Monk Rock. A huge rectangular structure with a square stone on the top, which looks almost humanlike.
After admiring Turtle Rock and Monk Rock, we continued on to the Po Toi Lighthouse. The lighthouse is small but made for some nice photos.
Then, we continued down the path behind the Lighthouse and decided to venture out on the rocks for some adventure time.
Here you can really see how vast and edgy the rocky landscape really is. The rocks seemed to go on for miles, though it was really only a few hundred meters.
We found it to be quite busy where the rock formations lay, with some people camping and lots of hikers…and some people had to queue for photos with the rocks! However, down here there was next to no one, just the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks.
After spending much too long adventuring around the southernmost tip of the peninsula, we started to head back. On the way back across the peninsula, we saw the most famous rock formation on Po Toi, the Buddha’s Hand, or Palm Cliff.
From the photos, it didn’t look too impressive. But up close, it really astonishes you! It really does look like a hand on the side of a cliff. Amazing!
After Palm Rock, we hiked back to the paved path that we hiked down earlier and continued west towards the pier.
After five minutes of hiking along the path, we reached the place of the Ancient Rock Carvings of Po Toi. The path to the carvings is a short 100-meter detour to the left, descending down a few steps and then along the bottom of the cliff.
It took us no more than 10 minutes to walk down, see the rock carvings and walk back up again. The carvings are small and faded in some places, but there was one that really stood out!
Personally, we thought the rock carvings on Tung Lung Chau were more impressive, but these were still cool to see, and unlike Tung Lung Chau, required very little effort to get to.
After taking some photos we continued along the paved path of the Po Toi Country Trail back to the pier. From the peninsula, it took us no more than 15 minutes to reach the pier.
It was 4 PM when we finished hiking so we aimed to catch the 4:30 PM ferry. The ferry arrived at 4:10 PM and was almost full of people, so we were lucky to have allowed plenty of time at the end of our hike to catch the ferry.
Attractions on Po Toi Island (Besides Hiking)
Po Toi has a really relaxed vibe about it. If you don’t want to hike and you just want somewhere to spend the day, there is still plenty to see and do on Po Toi Island.
Visiting the majority of the attractions on Po Toi Island is really easy and requires minimal hiking, which is why this island is perfect the perfect island to explore with kids in Hong Kong.
Ancient Rock Carvings On Po Toi
The ancient rock carvings on Po Toi Island date were discovered in the 1960s and became a declared monument of Hong Kong in 1979.
The exact age of these carvings is unknown, but experts have linked the designs of the carvings to similar designs on some Bronze Age pottery discovered in the territory, which suggests the carvings date back to around 3000 years ago.
There are two carvings adjacent to each other on Po Toi Island. The designs are mainly composed of spirals and curved lines, similar to the geometric shapes you can find in the rock formations on the island. Patterns consisting of lines resembling fish and animals can be seen.
The carvings are located at the base of the cliff, near the sea. It is said that the carvings were placed here to harness the power of the sea with the hope it will bring good luck to the fishermen of the island.
There are nine ancient rock carvings across Hong Kong’s coastline and outlying islands in places such as Tung Lung Chau and Cheng Chau. Rock carvings continue to be discovered in Hong Kong. Just in 2018, the rock carving in Cape Collinson was discovered!
Old Mansion of Family Mo
Though we did not see Old Mansion of Family Mo, we wish we had
Mo’s Mansion is an old dwelling built by a merchant (Mo, hence the name) in the 1930s. During the Japanese Occupation, a group of pirates attempted to kidnap him and blackmail his family
After this, Mo left the building to his housekeeper, who stayed at the mansion until she died in the 1950s. Today, the once beautiful retirement home is now an abandoned and derelict ruin. Its pictures reminded us of the abandoned Ma Wan Village on Park Island.
Mo’s Mansion has also earned the name “The Haunted House”, partly because of the Coffin Rock (a rock that looks like a coffin) in the rear of the house. There have been no real ghost sightings here.
To get to Mo’s Mansion, visitors can take the direct Route No.1 starting adjacent to where the ferry drops your off. It is the quickest way to get to Mo’s Mansion but you will miss Route No.3.
Alternatively, if you are hiking the full trail (Route No. 3), you can also join this part of Po Toi Country Trail from the top of the mountain from where the trail forks near Ngau Wu. Instead of continuing up the steps to the pagoda, simply turn right down the path and you will see the Mansion after 400 meters or so.
Signposts are everywhere on Po Toi Island, but they have no writing on them (helpful), so it’s best to check the map if you are unsure. We would recommend downloading the app, maps.me, which accurately displays all hiking routes in Hong Kong.
Po Toi Lighthouse (Nam Kok Tsui Lighthouse)
The Po Toi Lighthouse, also known as Nam Kok Tsui Lighthouse, is located on the Southside of the island on the peninsula near the rock formations.
The lighthouse was built in the 1970s and is still in operation today. It is the most southern man-made structure built in Hong Kong.
While you cannot enter the lighthouse, it boasts some of the most incredible views of Po Toi Island and the sea surrounding it.
Tin Hau Temple
Located on the southwestern side of Po Toi Island is the Tin Hau Temple, a temple dedicated to Tin Hau (Mazu), the Chinese sea goddess.
Though relatively small, inside the temple is an incense-filled room where visitors can see the typical decor of a Chinese temple.
Every year, visitors flock to Po Toi Island to celebrate the Tin Hau Festival; a festival to honor the birthday of the Goddess of the Sea. It is said to be one of the loudest and most colorful festivals in Hong Kong.
For the festival, a temporary bamboo theater is built close to a cliff where Chinese opera performances and the likes take place.
The bamboo structure is made by masters of their skill and has been adapted to fit around its environment.
Like most Tin Hau celebrations, dragon dances, the clashing of cymbals and drums, and the smell of hundreds of burning incense fill the air in Po Toi every year.
Tin Hau’s birthday is celebrated on the 23rd day of the 3rd month in the Lunar calendar. So if you’re traveling around that time, make sure to add Po Toi Island to your Hong Kong Itinerary!
Rock Formations: Buddha’s Hand (Palm Cliff), Turtle Rock, Monk Rock & More!
One of the biggest reasons to visit Po Toi Island is to admire the peculiar-looking rocks. These rock formations are completely natural and are made from granite stone, a soft rock that is easily shaped by weathering.
At the southern-most point of the island is a peninsula, where the most impressive formations are found.
There are many impressive and eye-catching rock formations on Po Toi, but the most famous of all is the Buddha’s Hand, also known as Palm Cliff. This formation takes the shape of a fist or palm, and it’s easy to see how it earned its name from up close.
Other notable rock formations are the Coffin Rock (near Mo’s Mansion), The Tortoise Rock, and the Supine Monk Rock. (Though all of them are cool, we still think Rhino Rock in Stanley is more impressive!)
All these formations can be found on the southern peninsula, so it is only about a fifteen-minute walk from the ferry pier.
Camping On Po Toi Island
Another fun thing to do on Po Toi Island is to camp next to the incredible rock formations. Being located a little further away, the campsite is often quiet and peaceful.
Though it is not officially a campsite, many visitors come here to camp in the cooler months. To access the ‘camping area’ simply head East on the Po Toi Country Trail from the Po Toi ferry pier towards the southern peninsula of Po Toi Island.
Those wanting to camp should be warned that there is no electricity or fresh running water on the island, so you will need to bring as much water and battery power as you will need.
There are also no toilet facilities…it says there is a toilet on the map, but what we saw was an overflowing porter-potty that had not been maintained for some time.
Therefore if you’re wanting to go camping on Po Toi Island, you will have to embrace the wilderness.
Dried Seafood and Seaweed
If you are visiting Po Toi Island, consider bringing home some souvenirs in the form of dried seafood or dried seaweed, the island’s most famous produce. Because fishing is so prominent on this island, visitors will find an abundance of top-notch dried seafood and seaweed for an affordable price.
Not only will purchasing them help support the local business, but it will also preserve the traditions of this unique little island. If you would like to cook Chinese cuisine, dried seafood and seaweed are essential ingredients for many various types of Chinese soups and dishes.
Sample The Best Seafood Restaurant On Po Toi Island
Though there are a few restaurants on Po Toi Island, none is as equipped and delicious as Ming Kee Seafood Restaurant. Situated on the soft sandy beach at Tai Wan Bay, diners can enjoy some freshly prepared seafood as they admire the beautiful sea.
When compared to the prices of seafood restaurants inland, Ming Kee Seafood Restaurant tends to run a little more expensive. However, the experience of dining next to a peaceful beach as you listen to the soothing waves makes the price worth it.
Don’t forget to try the salt and pepper squid!
Swim At The Po Toi Island Beach
If you are visiting Po Toi Island in the summer. consider cooling off in Tai Wan bay. This bay is located next to the only beach on Po Toi Island, and to the extent of our knowledge, does not have a name.
This Po Toi Island beach is sandwiched between Tai Wan and the small village where Ming Kee Restaurant is located, so visitors will inevitably encounter it within 10 minutes of hiking if they decided to head west from the pier.
Though we didn’t go for a swim, the sand looked relatively fine and soft (but still incomparable to beaches in Sai Kung such as Ham Tin or Sai Wan). The water looked very clean as well.
Best Time to Visit Poi Toi Island
One of the best times to do any hiking or exploring in Hong Kong is during the winter months (December to early March). This is because the weather is cooler and there’s less rainfall.
Because Po Toi Islands is very exposed and has minimal shade, we would recommend visiting during the winter months. Otherwise, catch the first ferry so you can hike early and miss the midday heat.
The last ferry leaves at 6 PM to Aberdeen Pier (via Stanley), so it is best to travel to Po Toi Islands earlier in the day to give you enough adventure time.
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This concludes our guide on Po Toi Islands, HK. We hope you will find our experience and information helpful for your Po Toi Island trip!
Any questions? Leave a comment!
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