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Beaches

Dadaepo Beach -- On the western side of Busan is this beach where the Nakdong River joins the sea. Perfect for families with small children, the waters are quite shallow and safe. Like all beaches in Busan, Dadaepo is most popular during the summer vacation time of July and August. The beach becomes one big outdoor concert venue in August when the Busan International Rock Festival happens. Take bus no. 2 or 98 to Dadaepo from Busan Station. The beach is open 24 hours with shower booths and a cafeteria.

Gwangalli Beach -- Famous for its fine sand, Gwangalli Beach stretches 1.4km (almost a mile). When Japan colonized Korea in the last century, this beach was used to teach elementary and junior high school kids how to swim during summer vacation. You can rent water skis or jet skis, or even go windsurfing. The beach draws its share of crowds during the summer and sports an outdoor stage where the Busan Ocean Festival is held each year. The beach is open 24 hours and is most popular in July and August. Take subway line 2 to Gwangan Station (exit 3 or 5) and walk 5-10 min. to the beach. Buses to Gwangalli run frequently (bus no. 42, 139, 140, 239, or 240).

Haeundae Beach -- At Busan's (and perhaps South Korea's) most popular beach, you certainly won't be escaping the crowds if you come during the summer. From June to August this beach is packed, although the waters remain warm enough for swimming through September. The sand is rough, as it is made up of eroded rocks washed down by the Chuncheon stream and shells that have been naturally ground down by the wind and sea.

Besides all the other beachside sports you can enjoy, it is one of the few places in the country where you can windsurf. Take a break from your sunbathing and have a little stroll down to Dongbaek Island. There are many islands in the South Korean Sea called Dongbaek-do (all named for the dongbaek trees that thrive on them). This one in Busan (which is no longer even an island) has a small park and a tall statue of a mermaid. Take subway line 2 to Dongbaek Station or Haeundae Station (exit 3 or 5) or bus no. 139, 140, 240, or 302. For more info, contact the Haeundae Beach Department of Culture and Tourism at tel. 051/749-5700.

Songjeong Beach -- On the far eastern side of Busan, Songjeong Beach's shallow waters are also perfect for children. Not as popular as Haeundae or Gwangalli beaches, it still draws a crowd during the summer season. The white sand was created by erosion from the Songjeong River and from crushed seashells. The beach is open from 9am to 6pm. At the entrance to the beach is Jukdo and its thick evergreen groves. At the northeast end are rocky shores, popular for fishing. Take subway line 2 to Haeundae Station (exit 7), and then take bus no. 100, 100-1, 139, or 142. Bus nos. 140, 239, and 302 also go to Songjeong Beach.

Hiking

The mountains in Busan have some good hiking trails. On the west side of town, Geumjeongsan is the most popular place for residents to hike on weekends, so try to visit on a weekday to avoid the crowds. One of the more frequented routes starts from the South Gate (Nam mun) of Geumjeong Fortress. You can get there by taking a cable car from Geumgang Park (near Myeongnyun-dong Station) or by taking a bus from Oncheonjang Station to Sanseong Maeul, a small village hidden in the mountain valley. Walk down to the North Gate (Buk mun) and down to Beomeosa. The trail is about 8.8km (5.5 miles) and will take about 3 to 4 hours to complete.

Swimming

If you don't mind swimming in chilly waters, you can enter the Polar Bear Swimming Competition (tel. 051/749-4065 or 749-3986), which is included as one of Busan's many Lunar New Year festivities (a similar event is also held at Jeju-do's Seogwipo City). The dozens of other events include the Haeundae White Sand Races, Haeundae Ocean Swimming Contest, and the Ice Carving Competition (that should give you an idea of how cold the waters are during the winter!). It costs W40,000 and only 2,000 people are allowed to compete. So put your hat in the ring early for an icy dip, your free T-shirt, and a surprise souvenir. For more beach information.

All the luxury hotels in town have their own indoor pools, but if you're not lucky enough to stay in one of them, you can still pay a fee to just use their pool and/or spa facilities. The Busan Port Authority is currently building a multiuse megaplex by the port, which will include an indoor pool, a spa, a sauna, and a sports center. If you can't wait until the building is finished in 2020, the Busan Sports Complex has an Olympic-size pool, built for the 2002 Asian Games, available for public use.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.