Hong Kong offers lots of organized tours, so if you're pressed for time this may be the best way to go. The vast majority of hotels have a tour desk where you can make bookings for city tours. In addition, I heartily recommend participating in one or more of the Hong Kong Tourism Board's Meet the People cultural activities, which are free 1-hour tours, classes, or lectures given by local specialists covering everything from Chinese antiques to tai chi.
For general sightseeing, Gray Line offers a variety of tours, with bookings available through most Hong Kong hotels, by calling tel. 852/2368 7111, or searching www.grayline.com.hk. The Deluxe Hong Kong Island Tour is a daily 5-hour trip that includes stops at Man Mo Temple, Victoria Peak (including the Peak Tram rice), Aberdeen, and Stanley. It costs HK$350 for adults and HK$250 for children. There's also a 7-hour tour for HK$490 and HK$390, respectively, which covers the above attractions plus a dim sum lunch at Jumbo Kingdom floating restaurant in Aberdeen.
Other Gray Line tours take in the Po Lin Monastery, Giant Buddha, and cable-car ride from Ngong Ping Village on Lantau Island or the New Territories; sunset cruises are also available. Most useful, in my opinion, are Gray Line's tours to the New Territories, because they cover large areas that would be very difficult, if not impossible, to reach in 1 day on your own. The "Land Between Tour" is a 6 1/2-hour excursion that enables visitors to see how much this once-rural region has changed in the past couple decades, with traditional villages now overshadowed by huge government housing estates that house half of Hong Kong's population. Passing satellite towns with high-rise apartment buildings, farms, and villages, the bus stops at the Yuen Yuen Institute (a religious institute with Buddhist, Taoist, and Confucianist influences), a lookout point on Hong Kong's tallest mountain, and a fishing village to see how fisher folk breed fish in submerged cages, and a Cantonese restaurant for lunch. The price of this daily tour is HK$450 for adults and HK$400 for children and seniors.
Gray Line's "Heritage Tour" also takes in the New Territories but emphasizes Hong Kong's past rather than its present; the tour makes stops at historic Chinese sites that even Hong Kong residents seldom see. It's a must for those who are interested in local historic architecture; it also gives insight into clan life in the New Territories long before the region became part of colonial Hong Kong. Lasting approximately 5 hours, tours make stops at Tai Fu Tai, a Chinese-style ornate mansion built in 1865 by a high-ranking official, fascinating for its insight into how the rich lived; Tang Chung Ling, an ancestral hall belonging to one of the Five Great Clans; Lo Wai, a walled village built by the Tang clan; and the Man Mo Temple in Tai Po with its fascinating street market. Tours depart every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday (except some public holidays), and cost HK$350 for adults and HK$300 for children and seniors.
Splendid Tours & Travel (tel. 852/2316 2151; www.splendidtours.com) may be booked with the company directly or through your hotels. In addition to tours similar to those above, it also offers a "Sai Kung Coastal Treasures" tour, which takes in the natural beauty of this northeast area of the New Territories, including the new Hong Kong National Geopark, for HK$520 per person.
Walking & Hiking Tours
For those who prefer to see Hong Kong via their own two feet but under the guidance of an expert, Walk Hong Kong (tel. 852/9187 8641; www.walkhongkong.com) offers two 3-hour walking tours of city sights: The "Kowloon Markets" tour takes in the Flower Market, Yuen Po Street Bird Garden, Fa Yuen Street Market, Goldfish Market, Ladies' Market, and Jade Market, while the "Hong Kong Heritage" walk covers some of Central's historic buildings like St. John's Cathedral. Cost of either tour is HK$400. Personally, I think you can see the sights of these two tours easily on your own, but the company also offers treks in rural areas that come highly recommended, especially if you're traveling alone. These include two hikes on Hong Kong Island, from Victoria Peak to Aberdeen, and along the Dragon's Back trail, both of which cost HK$450. Hikes are also offered on Lantau Island and in the New Territories for HK$750, including those to deserted beaches in East Sai Kung Country Park, to the pristine Plover Cove Country Park, and to Sai Kung with its National Geopark.
Because so many of Hong Kong's attractions are on or near the water, a variety of boat tours are available, including those given by Gray Line . Although the cheapest way to see some of the harbor is on a ferry to an outlying island, one advantage of a boat tour is that it usually covers a different part of the harbor, toward Causeway Bay and beyond.
One of the most popular boat tours is the 1-hour Star Ferry's "Harbour Tour" (tel. 852/2118 6201; www.starferry.com.hk/tour), with boarding available at Tsim Sha Tsui, Central, Wan Chai, and Hung Hom ferry piers, with departures three to four times daily. Cost of these cruises, which have on-board commentary, is HK$55 for adults and HK$50 for children and seniors. One-hour Star Ferry evening cruises, which include refreshments, cost HK$110 and HK$99, respectively, while 2-hour cruises that include views of the nightly "Symphony of Lights" multimedia show cost HK$150 and HK$135.
Watertours (tel. 852/2926 3868; www.watertours.com.hk), Hong Kong's largest tour operator of boat cruises, offers a 2-hour cruise that includes a trip to a typhoon shelter and its junks and the firing of the Noon Day Gun in Causeway Bay (a traditional holdover from colonial days) by Jardine Matheson & Co., Hong Kong's oldest trading company. The cost of this tour, which departs at 10:15am from the Kowloon public pier and 10:30am from Central Ferry Pier no. 9 and includes refreshments, is HK$230 for adults and HK$140 for children. Watertours also offers evening cruises, including a cruise to Lei Yue Mun for a seafood dinner and cruises that take in the "Symphony of Lights." You can pick up a Watertours pamphlet at HKTB Visitor Centres and in many hotels.
Junk Cruises -- The most unique cruise in town is aboard the Duk Ling, an authentic Chinese junk built in Macau a half-century ago as a fishing boat. One-hour cruises, costing HK$50, are offered 2 afternoons a week (Thurs and Sat, though days are subject to change; call ahead). I find the cruise interesting not only because Duk Ling is powered by the wind, but also because it sails in the opposite direction from ferries to the outlying islands, providing different vistas of the Hong Kong skyline as it cruises toward North Point and Kai Tak. Preregistration is required beforehand at the Hong Kong Tourism Board Visitor Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui; visitors must show their passports and must be 3 to 75 years of age. For more information or the latest sailing schedule, contact HKTB at tel. 852/2508 1234 or go to www.discoverhongkong.com. Alternatively, aqualuna (tel. 852/2116 8821; www.aqualuna.com.hk), managed by the Aqua restaurant group, is a new junk, built using traditional designs and materials by an 80-year-old local craftsman. It offers 45-minute cruises departing from Tsim Sha Tsui and Central six to eight times daily, at a cost of HK$150 for adults and HK$120 for children for afternoon trips, HK$180 and HK$150, respectively, for evening sailings, and HK$220 and HK$180, respectively, for the cruise that takes in the "Symphony of Lights."
Special-Interest Tours & Classes
Several of the tour companies described above offer trips that will appeal especially to history or architectural buffs, including Gray Line's "Heritage Tour." In addition, Walk Hong Kong offers a couple of special-interest tours in addition to its hikes and walks, including a bird-watching hike and photography tours to Sai Kung. Check its website for details.
"Meet the People" -- Through this unique program of free 1-hour tours, lectures, classes, and seminars, visitors can meet local specialists and gain in-depth knowledge of Hong Kong's traditions. Programs are updated and revised annually; past offerings have covered such subjects as Chinese antiques, Cantonese opera, pearls, feng shui (geomancy), Chinese tea, Chinese medicine, guided museum tours, and tai chi, with something going on every day of the week. Reservations are not necessary (except for the junk cruise on the Duk Ling) but they're open only to bona fide visitors staying in Hong Kong no more than 90 days. For details on what, when, and where, pick up a Cultural Kaleidoscope brochure at an HKTB Visitor Centre or go to HKTB's website, www.discoverhongkong.com, and click on "Things to Do" and then "Cultural Kaleidoscope."
"Nature Kaleidoscope" -- During the cooler winter months (Oct-Mar), the HKTB arranges complimentary guided excursions for bona fide visitors (in Hong Kong no more than 90 days). The programs change annually, with past tours lasting approximately 3 hours and taking in the Mai Po Wetland bird refuge, the Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden, Tai O on Lantau Island, and Long Valley in the New Territories. For details on the current schedule, pick up a Hong Kong Nature Kaleidoscope brochure at an HKTB Visitor Centre or go to HKTB's website, www.discoverhongkong.com, and click on "Things to Do" and then "Nature Lovers."
"Come Horse Racing" Tour -- This tour, offered by Gray Line and Splendid Tours & Travel (see "Land Tours"), allows visitors to experience the excitement of the races, at either Happy Valley or Sha Tin (where the 2008 Summer Olympic Games dressage and jumping events were held), an excitement that grows proportionally according to how much you bet. Tours are naturally scheduled only during the horse-racing season -- September to mid-July -- usually on Wednesday evenings and on Saturday and/or Sunday afternoons. The tour includes transportation; a prerace international buffet; beer, wine, or soft drinks; personal entry badge to the Visitors' Box in the Hong Kong Jockey Club's Members' Enclosure; a HK$30 betting voucher; guide services; and even hints to help you place your bets. Tours cost HK$690, except during special races, when they cost more. Tours are limited to tourists 18 years of age and older (bring your passport with you when booking and participating in this tour) and the dress is smart casual (no shorts, blue jeans, flip-flops, or T-shirts).
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.