Tai O is a picturesque, fishing village located on an islet by the same name on the south-west side of Lantau Island. The Tai O River splits and engulfs this tiny islet before flowing into the sea. The old fishing village is built on the banks of the river, and that’s how it gets its name – Tai O meaning large inlet.
Today, Tai O is a popular tourist destination in Hong Kong. Visitors come to spend a day to soak in the village’s idyllic life, admire the traditional stilt-houses, and savour local treats.
How To Get To Tai O
It’s easy to get to Tai O from almost any part of Hong Kong.
- Take the ferry from Central Pier No. 6 to Mui Wo. Then from the Mui Wo Pier, take bus number 1.
- Or take the MTR to Tung Chung, and at Tung Chung take bus number 11.
- Take the MTR to Tung Chung, and then bus number 11.
From Ngong Ping Village
- You can also make a trip from the Big Buddha to Tai O as both are in close proximity. Take bus number 21 from Ngong Ping Village.
- If you find the frequency of the bus to be too low, you can also take a short blue taxi ride to Tai O.
From Tuen Mun
- There’s a ferry that departs from Tuen Mun Ferry Pier to Tai O via Tung Chung and Sha Lo Wan. The ferry timetable can be found on the Fortune Ferry website.
What To Do In Tai O
Now that you know how to get to Tai O, let’s discover things to do and see in this fishing village. Here’s my list of things to do in that range from exploring the islet on foot, to discovering local delicacies.
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Try Local Street Food
The Tai O market is abuzz with vendors who sell delicious local delicacies. The village is particularly famous for its traditional egg waffles, and bakeries. Head to Tai O Egg Waffle Uncle who makes his waffles over a traditional charcoal stove. You’ll always find a line outside his shop.
Speaking of lines, you’ll find one outside the Tai O Bakery on Kat Hing Street where people are eager to grab a delicious Tai O Donut.
However, if you’re in the mood for something more meaty, try Tai O’s famous Husband! As confusing as the name sounds, it’s in fact a shrimp and pork pizza-roll.
Those are just some of my suggestions. But why not explore the Tai O Market on your own? You’ll see numerous other food vendors selling everything from barbecue seafood, frozen fruit popsicles, and freshly made juices. The variety of street food is simply amazing!
Explore Tai O Market
The Tai O Market is more than just food stalls. What it’s really famous for is dried seafood, especially the traditional salted fish. No wonder the whole market has a very strong fish smell!
As you walk around the village, you’ll see seafood drying in the sun and shops full of the final product. Villagers have been selling dried seafood in Tai O for over two generations.
Today, many villagers have expanded into selling other related products such like shrimp paste, and even pearl jewellery; all locally made of course.
Tai O Restaurants & Cafes
If you’re in Tai O around lunchtime, there are plenty of restaurants to pick from. Our favourites are the Tai O Crossing Boat Restaurant on Kat Hing Street, and 肥妹燒烤小食 – Shop no. 21 on Tai O Market Street (sorry, no English name). It’s hard to miss the latter as they always have delicious looking baked lobsters, prawns, or scallops on display.
If you’re in the mood to grab a cup of coffee, relax, and appreciate the beauty of Tai O, there’s no better place than Solo Cafe. Grab a seat on terrace that overlooks the river, and the Triple Lanterns Cafe (which is also a great cafe). From here you can wave to the visitors who pass below in the boats.
If you looking for something more classy, why not head down to the Tai O Heritage Hotel. Enjoy dining in the hotel’s Tai O Lookout Restaurant that has a beautiful glass roof. And then after that, you can stay back for the afternoon high tea.
Tai O Pink Dolphin Boat Ride
It’s hard to ignore the signs for pink dolphin (aka the Chinese White Dolphins) boat rides the moment you step into Tai O. Next to the signs are operators who try to coax you into paying them HK$ 25 with a promise to sea the elusive pink dolphins.
Unfortunately, you’re not going to see any pink dolphins on their boat tour. This 20 minute boat ride takes you on the river to get a close-up view to the stilt-houses. After that, it speeds away into the sea, takes a circles, and returns.
So, take this boat ride to appreciate the stilt-houses, and get a view of the village from the Tai O River. But not to see the pink dolphins.
If you’re serious about seeing the pink dolphins take the official tour organised by Hong Kong DolphinWatch. It obviously costs more than HK$ 25, but at least they guarantee that you spot a pink dolphin. And if you don’t, you’re allowed to go on the tour again. Read about our experience on the Hong Kong DolphinWatch Tour.
Plan A Staycation At The Tai O Heritage Hotel
The Tai O Heritage Hotel is a former police station situated on a small hill next to the Tai O Ferry Pier. The building converted into the hotel in 2012, and includes nine colonial-style rooms and suites with sea views and a roof-top restaurant.
It’s colonial charm, and solitude makes you want to run away from the city, and spend a relaxing weekend here. I guess that’s why it’s no surprise that the hotel is high in demand, and booking a room for the weekend can be a challenge. So, make sure to book well in advance.
Walk To Fu Shan Viewing Point
The western coastline behind Tai O village consists of a small hill. A short hiking path runs behind the village, and up the hill from where you get beautiful views of the South China Sea. From here you can see airplanes take off from the airport, and the beautifully hideous Hong Kong-Macau bridge (click here to open the hiking path in Google Maps).
There’s also a pink dolphin viewing point on top of the hill. Although the vantage point looks in the direction of the pink dolphins’ nesting spot, it’s might be difficult to spot them without a pair of binoculars.
From the Fu Shan Viewing Point, you can either choose to return from where you came, or continue on the trail back to the village.
Visit Local Temples
There are 3 temples on the islet of Tai O, all within walking distance. My favourite is the Yeung Hau Temple, located on the western end of Tai O village on Kat Hing Street. This 17th century temple is popular for its strong association with the Tai O Dragon Boat Water Parade.
Don’t forget to step down into the basin of the creek in front of the temple. This area is filled with fiddler crabs!
Guided Tour Of Tai O
Many visitors choose to combine a trip to Tai O along with a visit to the Big Buddha, and Po Lin Monastery. The Lantau Cultural and Heritage Insight Tour is a popular guided tour of these major landmarks in Hong Kong. If think you’ll be more comfortable taking a guided tour, I’d recommend this one.
With so much to do in such a small village, it’s no wonder that Tai O is such a popular destination for a day-trip. Whether you plan to go on your own, or with the guided tour, make sure you don’t miss seeing the “Venice of Hong Kong”.