Just a 20-minute ferry ride southwest of Central, Lamma Island has long been a favourite weekend spot for busy Hongkongers and curious travellers alike. The name is not particularly flattering – “lama” means “mud” in Portuguese – but it stuck when Scottish geographer Alexander Dalrymple mistook the word “lama” for the island’s name in the 1760s. With deep ties to the sea, the island was once a thriving fishing village, and while that trade has largely dried up, its famously relaxed vibe, hiking trails, organic cafés, seafood restaurants and indie shops make it a memorable day trip destination.
Lamma is often affectionately called Hong Kong’s hippie outpost, thanks in part to its community of creative residents and a great selection of local craft stores and galleries. Among them, Lamma Art Collective – an exciting multi-purpose art, design and lifestyle space – hosts exhibitions and lifestyle events that include meditation classes, clothing swaps, craft workshops and live music performances. If you’ve got a little one in tow, check out the family activities, which run from 9am to 12pm on weekdays. Kids can join hands-on classes while parents mingle over tea.
Reconnect with nature
The island is car-free, so all exploring has to be done on foot. Try the hour-long Family Trail that connects relatively modern Yung Shue Wan village with the old-school fishing village of Sok Kwu Wan (and its many seafood restaurants) on the eastern coast. Along the way, stop at Lamma Winds to pose under the larger-than- life wind turbine and visit the exhibition on renewable energy. In Sok Kwu Wan, Lamma Fisherfolk’s Village is where you can learn all about the fishing industry during its prime, tour a traditional junk and meet the remaining fishermen. To get the full experience, try your hand at weaving ropes and angling and hauling nets, and then dine on traditional seafood dishes.
Lamma is a paradise for vegetarians, vegans and all health-conscious foodies. For post-hike feasts, head to Green Cottage, a homely restaurant known for its hearty vegetarian lasagne and zesty green smoothies, or Bookworm Café Hong Kong, one of the first cafés in Hong Kong to serve organic vegetarian cuisine. Those looking for a laid-back afternoon could slide over to Lala Mama’s, a rustic Western café and grocery store. Or if you’re with a group, consider booking a Middle Eastern vegan cooking class at Olive Leaf.
Hit the beach
Another reason to visit Lamma: the beaches. With soft white sand and clear water, remote Sham Wan, a nesting site for endangered green turtles, is as pretty as they come. It’s open to the public from November to May each year, so now’s the time to go. If you’re visiting during turtle nesting season, when Sham Wan is closed, head for Lo So Shing beach instead. Sheltered by a ring of dense forest, this isolated crescent feels more like the Philippines than Hong Kong. And if you’re itching to explore farther afield, ask Sea Kayak Hong Kong at Lo So Shing beach to hook you up with rental kayaks, half-day tours or even a weekend camping trip.
Pick up hip souvenirs
What Lamma lacks in luxury stores it makes up for in unique shops along Yung Shue Wan Main Street. Visit Nick the Bookman, a non-profit, secondhand bookstore run by Lamma personality Nick Lovatt. With his unmistakable long white beard, Nick is quick to share his favourite books and fascinating backstory. Next, stop by Lamma Vinyl, which has one of Hong Kong’s largest collections of vinyl records. Finish your shopping trip with a visit to Mush SSS, and stock up on graphic T-shirts illustrated by designers from the island.