Jeju is South Korea’s answer to Hawaii, a once-volcanic island with white sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters, a subtropical climate and a swathe of romantic and family-friendly resorts. A one-hour flight south of Seoul, the country’s largest island also lures visitors with its cultural attractions and local delicacies like ultra-fresh seafood and Jeju black pig. From exploring the bustling capital, Jeju-si, to climbing South Korea’s highest mountain, here are the best things to do on Jeju Island.
The best things to do on Jeju Island
See the cherry blossoms in bloom
While Japan’s famed blooms may receive most of the attention, South Korea’s are just as impressive, with its cherry blossom season falling between March and mid-April. During the Jeju Cherry Blossom Festival, Jeju Island’s second-largest city, Seogwipo, comes alive in brilliant pink, while shops and restaurants sell blossom-themed treats such as spring-themed shaved ice.
Hit the beach
With gentle waist-high waves, casual eateries right on the beach and plenty of water sports on offer, it’s not surprising that Hyeopjae is one of the island’s busiest beaches. For something a little more low-key, head to Iho Tewoo, hidden away behind a pine forest near Jeju City.
Hike up Hallasan Mountain
One of the island’s most impressive drawcards is Hallasan Mountain, Jeju’s dormant volcano that also happens to be South Korea’s highest peak. The 17-kilometre, eight-hour summit loop is a challenging full-day adventure, while the less-demanding Yeongsil Trail takes about one hour and 40 minutes to complete.
Marvel at the Jeju Haenyeo Museum
Learn all about haenyeo, or “the women of the sea”, at a museum dedicated to Jeju’s rich history of female free divers. The tight-knit community – who are mostly over 60, with some in their 80s – has been harvesting shellfish, octopus and more by hand since the 17th century.
Tour the Osulloc Tea Museum
Tea lovers won’t want to miss the Osulloc Tea Museum, a striking glass-walled complex surrounded by a sprawling organic farm. Stroll the verdant fields, take part in a tea ceremony before hitting the gift shop to stock up on green tea-infused skincare products.
Where to eat on Jeju Island
From kimchi and Korean barbecue to bibimbap (a traditional rice dish) and bingsu (shaved ice), there’s no shortage of authentic dining options on the island. Jeju’s black pig is considered some of the most prized pork in the world; order thick slabs of the stuff at Donsadon, a Korean barbecue hotspot frequented by K-pop celebrities like G-Dragon. Another local specialty is galchi (largehead hairtail fish), often braised in a spicy sauce.
For a casual bite, don’t miss the trendy Mooger Burger. Grab a stool overlooking the water and order the wagyu patty on a house-baked carrot bun. Nearby, Magpie Brewing Co serves up excellent pizzas and over 20 craft beers; recent hits include the raspberry and lemon sour ale.
At Steak House on level 38 of the Grand Hyatt, epicureans can tuck into a seafood platter brimming with lobster, king crab and tiger prawns, Hanwoo ribeye and Jeju kiwi and pomegranate baked Alaska for dessert. It’s one of 14 eateries within the hotel and is outfitted with a marble bar, plush leather armchairs and gilded columns – a gorgeous spot to watch the sunset.
Where to stay on Jeju Island
Designed by renowned Japanese-Korean architect Jun Itami, Podo Hotel makes for a dreamy couples retreat. Decked out with vaulted ceilings and tatami furnishings, the eco-resort boasts 26 understated yet luxurious rooms (each with a private patio), a swanky restaurant, sweeping mountain views and easy access to one of Korea’s best golf courses.
Closer to the coast, the upscale Grand Josun Jeju is ideal for families. Expect ridiculously cute themed rooms and an action-packed kids’ club, plus a handy lending library stocked with strollers and baby monitors to minimise packing. If a serviced apartment is more your style, the luxurious two- and three-bedroom villas at Bayhill have comfortable living spaces, well-equipped kitchens and private pools.
SEE ALSO: A Beginner’s Guide to Busan, South Korea
Image credits: Korea Tourism Organization; Grand Hyatt; Podo Hotel; Grand Josun