Personally, I do not think it's necessary to follow a tour group. You can easily do some research online, plan your itinerary and explore Hong Kong all on your own without much problem. For first timers to Hong Kong, these are the top 5 places I recommend visiting.
1. Ocean Park
Located at the southern part of Hong Kong Island, Ocean Park is a marine park, amusement park and educational theme park all rolled into one! It's really huge and you need to spend at least a whole day here.
Ocean Park is divided into 2 areas - The Waterfront and The Summit, which are separated by a mountain. You need to either sit the cable car or the Ocean Express train to commute between these two areas.
At The Waterfront, you can see real giant pandas at The Giant Panda Habitat, enjoy underwater sea creatures at the Grand Aquarium, entertained by birds at the Amazing Bird Theatre, go up a hot air balloon at SkyFair and relive the olden days of Hong Kong at The Old Hong Kong.
If you are into adrenaline pumping rides, The Summit is the place for you! Besides the thrilling rides, you can also enjoy watching the beautiful sea jellies at the Sea Jelly Spectacular and explore the history and culture of China's Yangtze River at the Chinese Sturgeon Aquarium.
After a whole day of fun, don't forget to watch two dragons fight at the amazing 360 degrees water screen fountain show called The Symbio Water Screen Show scheduled at 7.30pm daily. I highly recommend Ocean Park and do not mind going there again in future!
Check out my experience at Ocean Park in a series of posts HERE.
2. The Peak
As the highest mountain at Hong Kong Island, The Peak is an ideal place to escape the heat and to catch the panoramic view of Hong Kong city. To reach the top, you will need to ride the Peak Tram, which is an experience in itself!
You can shop, dine and visit Madame Tussauds Wax Museum inside The Peak's unique building known as the Peak Tower. And on top of this tower is the Sky Terrace 428 which boasts the highest 360 degrees viewing platform in Hong Kong!
Do not miss the night views of Hong Kong city from the Sky Terrace - it's an amazingly beautiful sight from up there!
I would suggest half a day should be spent at The Peak probably going up there in the early afternoon, and time your itinerary well so that you end up at the Sky Terrace at night. Check out my activities at The Peak HERE.
3. Hong Kong Disneyland
Located at Lantau Island, Hong Kong Disneyland is the smallest Disneyland in the world.
I did not quite enjoy myself at Hong Kong Disneyland. But if you are a kid or you are an adult but a huge fan of Disney characters, then it might be a different experience for you. While you are there, do not miss the Flight Of Fantasy Parade, which is a scheduled daytime parade of Disney characters.
I did not fancy any of the rides there but then again, if you are a kid, you will most probably love all the rides! However, I highly recommend the 3D animated film at Mickey's PhilharMagic and the Festival Of The Lion King musical - they were pretty awesome!
And of course, you have not really visited Disneyland if you did not catch the nightly fireworks display with the Sleeping Beauty Castle as the backdrop.
If you have been to Disneyland in other parts of the world, I suggest you skip Hong Kong Disneyland. Unless you really have no other places to go. LOL! Read more about my visit to Hong Kong Disneyland HERE.
4. Avenue Of Stars
The Avenue Of Stars, located along the Victoria Harbour waterfront in Tsim Sha Tsui, is a tourist attraction that honors celebrities of the Hong Kong film industry.
Besides enjoying the stunning panoramic view of the Hong Kong Island skyline here, you can see plaques of Hong Kong celebrities complete with handprints and autographs, modeled after Hollywood Walk Of Fame. Below is a photo of Jackie Chan's plaque.
At night, you can catch the famous Symphony Of Lights from here. Performed nightly at 8pm for a duration of 14 minutes, this Symphony Of Lights is a synchronised multimedia light and sound show that should not be missed for a first timer to Hong Kong.
Read more about The Avenue Of Stars and The Symphony Of Lights HERE.
5. The Big Buddha
Also known as the Tian Tan Buddha, the Big Buddha is a popular tourist attraction in Hong Kong. Located at Ngong Ping on Lantau Island, the Big Buddha is just next to the Po Lin Monastery.
To go there, I highly recommend riding the cable car which will bring you across the picturesque South China Seas and the green verdant mountains of Lantau Island.
However, I do not really like the Ngong Ping Village which to me, is like a tourist trap. Still, it's just a short walk across the village to reach the Big Buddha.
The sight of the Big Buddha sitting on a lotus flower at the top will blow you away. After visiting the Big Buddha, do not miss the yummy vegetarian meal at Po Lin Monastery nearby.
Check out my trip to Big Buddha HERE.
Of course, there are many more places to visit in Hong Kong, but the above are my Top 5. If you have more time, do visit the Wong Tai Sin Temple as well. It's really quite interesting!
For shopping, I recommend the Ladies Market at Mongkok for cheap souvenirs and other products and the CityGate Outlets at Tung Chung for discounted high quality branded goods.
And if you are interested in the culture and heritage of Hong Kong, do check out the brochures provided by the Hong Kong Tourism Board.
In fact, for my next visit to Hong Kong, I will explore more non-touristy areas on foot guided by this Hong Kong Walks booklet.
If you are a first timer to Hong Kong, don't miss some of the yummiest food on this side of the planet! Check out the food I ate during my Hong Kong trip!