Watching the sunrise over a seaside pagoda. Retracing the steps of long-ago villagers through the jungle. Meeting the world’s rarest bear. These are not experiences most people associate with Macao.
And yet, the city is full of natural beauty, including more than a dozen lovely hiking trails that wend their way across the main peninsula, Taipa and Coloane. Macao’s trails give locals and visitors alike a chance to explore the city’s green side.
Don’t expect to find the jagged mountains of China (Macao’s highest peak is a mere 170 metres) or any pin-thin cliffs to shuffle across, but these hikes have a few unique calling cards. For starters, you can stop for chu pa bao (pork chop buns) – and there’s a decent chance you’ll see fireworks or pandas.
Another benefit of Macao’s relatively benign trails is that hikers do not need to invest in expensive equipment or worry about serious injuries. Simply throw on some sportswear, grab a water bottle and set off.
Eric Leong, who co-founded the local hiking club, Associação de Juventude San Ngai de Macau (San Ngai Macau, meaning “Mountain Will”) in 2017, works to promote hiking across the territory. The 36-year-old says being active in nature is good for your body and soul: hiking has been “a way of life” since he was a teenage boy scout. Eighteen well-travelled years later, Leong – a qualified mountaineer – still appreciates what Macao has to offer.
“Macao is known for its world heritage sites, intangible cultural heritage, festivals and grand events,” says Leong. “But out in nature, you can see an alternative, beautiful side of Macao. A small town with a different perspective.”
Here are three of Leong’s favourite hikes around the city:
1. Morning sun, evening fireworks: Hac Sá Long Chao Kok Coastal Trail
Fancy stunning sea views, coastal ecology and dramatic rock formations? A pleasant breeze and refreshing ocean spray? Coloane Island’s family-friendly Long Chao Kok (meaning “Dragon Claw Rock”) trail is for you.
Undulating between flat stretches and steep staircases, this trail is particularly popular among sunrise seekers. But it offers a nightly treat, too: On clear evenings at 7 pm, you can see an impressive fireworks display, courtesy of the aquatic theme park Chimelong Ocean Kingdom in Hengqin.
“Long Chao Kok is one of Macao’s ‘New Eight Scenic Spots’, named by the Chinese Cultural Exchange Association, [a non-profit organisation] with a goal to promote Macao’s culture,” Leong says. “And the fact that it is easy makes it a great relaxing morning walk.”
Taking about 30 minutes to complete, the walk starts from Hac Sá beach on the eastern coast of Coloane and finishes at Coloane Va Ian Cemetery to the south. Hac Sá, Macao’s biggest beach, has distinctive bi-coloured sand: part black, the beach’s natural hue, and part yellow, thanks to imported sand used to stop erosion. Along the way, many hikers stop to take photos from a picturesque wooden pagoda perched over the water.
A 10- to 15-minute walk from the trail’s finishing point will lead you to Cheoc Van beach, a palm-fringed cove with a golden, sandy coastline and public swimming pool. If you reach the beach at dinner time, dig into a homemade pizza and fruity sangria at waterfront La Gondola Restaurant.
2. From pond to peak: Hac Sá Reservoir Fitness Trail to the A-Ma Goddess Statue
This well-worn route traces Hac Sá Reservoir, a star-shaped body of water surrounded by trees in Coloane. It’s considered a “fitness trail” due to the nine training stations you’ll encounter along the journey.
Expect to meet local joggers and active families enjoying the fresh air and open spaces. You’ll also find a 60-metre-long swing bridge across the water and public barbecues should you fancy a picnic or cookout.
The Hac Sá Reservoir Fitness Trail itself is short, taking just 30 minutes to complete as a loop, but it’s common for Macao’s dedicated hikers to connect the fitness circuit with longer, more challenging treks around the city. “The best two words to describe this trail are: ‘beautiful landscape,’” Leong says.
To extend the trail, Leong recommends a climb up Coloane Peak to visit the immense A-Ma goddess statue, a sea goddess revered by fishermen and sailors. Standing exactly 19.99 metres tall, the gleaming white jade statue commemorates the year Macao returned to mainland China, 1999, and overlooks a glorious 360-degree view of the South China Sea, Cotai Strip and even parts of Hong Kong.
Starting point: Hac Sá Reservoir Country Park
Ending point: Hac Sá Reservoir Country Park (circular trail)
Distance: 3.2 kilometres
Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
3. History and animals: Coloane Seac Min Pun Ancient Path to Hac Sá beach
At Caminho Antigo de Seac Min Pun de Coloane on Estrada de Hac Sá, the trailhead begins on a rugged, relatively steep ancient path. For decades, villagers traversed this trail before paved roads reached Coloane in the 1960s. There are plenty of places to rest and soak up the views along the way, thanks to a series of charming gazebos.
“The connection with different historical cultures and characteristics from ancient times to the present makes this walk worthwhile. It’s what makes our trails unique,” Leong says.
Along the way, you can see several rare plants in the surrounding forest, including unusual fan-like furcate screw pine trees and the tropical uvaria shrub, known for its red, star-shaped flowers and yellow fruits.
While the path only takes around 35 minutes to complete, you can extend the adventure to A-Ma Cultural Village or Seac Pai Van Park – connected by the Coloane Trail – then continue to Hac Sá Beach to create a three- to four-hour hike.
A massive complex, the cultural village stretches across 7,000 square metres. You’ll discover the ornate Tin Hau Palace, an impressive entry arch and a bell tower, among other architectural draws. About a five-minute walk uphill from the Tin Hau Palace, you’ll find the aforementioned A-Ma goddess statue.
Seac Pai Van Park, meanwhile, is home to Macao’s giant pandas, Kin Kin and Hong Hong, as well as a menagerie of other animals. In this 20-hectare outdoor space, you can meet red pandas, monkeys, snakes and other animals. According to the park’s website, the animals were illegally smuggled into Macao, so the government rescued and re-homed them at Seac Pai Van.
A stroll along Hac Sá beach, with a view of the A-Ma Statue, offers a rewarding way to end the outing. Better yet, Hac Sá is home to several tiny food stalls selling chu pa bao (pork chop buns), barbecued eggplant and other delicacies – perfect for refuelling after a Macao hiking adventure.
Ready to hit Macao’s trails?
Leong shares his top tips for an optimal hiking experience:
Plan your route:
1. Understand your ability and choose an appropriate hike
2.Tell your family or friends where, when and with whom you’re hiking
3. Check the weather (and dress for it!)
4. Plan your route ahead of time (Leong suggests using the TrailWatch app)
5. Be prepared in an emergency (pack a portable First-Aid kit, and call 999 if you’re in trouble)
Pack your bag:
1. Full water bottle
2. Compass (just for fun)
3. Snacks (like energy bars)
4. Mobile phone
To enjoy a unique hiking experience and soak up Macao’s natural beauty, learn more about the city’s many hiking trails here.