Jeju Island is South Korea’s only tropical destination and makes a great destination for a quick getaway from Korea. It’s a hot spot for honeymooners, beach devotees or outdoor enthusiasts. Only a quick one hour flight from Seoul, Jeju Island should be on every Korean travelers’ bucket list. In 2011 Jeju Island was appointed as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature, and is also home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Here are our picks for the top 10 things to do on Jeju Island.
1. Watch the sunlight rise over a volcano
An early morning wake-up call is well worth savoring as you stand at the beach and watch the sunrise over Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak( also known as Sunrise Peak ). The beach is primarily made up of dark lava rock, which serves as a great viewing stage with so many reflecting pools mirroring the morning glow of the sun rising above the 5,000-year-old volcanic crater.
2. Climb a volcano
Since you’ve already have an early start on the day, you should make the best possible use of it. Just a few minutes drive from where you caught the sunrise you are able to scale the 182 meter tuff-coned Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak, which was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. The climb takes about 25 hours to hike on a smooth trail. Vistas of sheer cliffs command your attention as you navigate your course to the top of the tuff cone crater.
After taking in the panoramic views at the top, take the detour on the way down to the home of the women divers on the black sand beach. The diver’s act is at 1:30 pm and 3:00 pm daily. They don diving suits, take their nets and vanish for a few minutes below the surface. When they come back up they show off their catch of fresh seafood and then prepare it on the spot, offering tourists a chance to taste the freshest seafood around. Access to the park for a small fee which is used for the upkeep of the facilities.
3. Eat Spicy Seafood Stew( Live)
One thing you’ll notice while driving around Jeju is the number of fish tanks along nearly every street in the small cities. It took me a while to recognize they were all eateries and the tanks are all for the fresh seafood.
If you like seafood, then haemultang is must taste. I got a tip to check out the restaurant Samseonghyeol Haemultang and I knew right away I was in the right place. The place was jam packed and had a waiting list to get a table. The meal was well worth short wait.
The tables are traditional Korean style seating so you sit on the floor. I got a lot of attention since I appeared to be the only Westerner in there.
Haemultang is a spicy seafood stew that they cook right in front of you. I should mention that everything is alive when they start cooking it. That’s right: octopus, clams, mussels, scallops, abalone and crab all cooked tableside.
I love making lobster at home, but this stirred me wonder what I was get myself into as I watched the seafood twisting and moving around as it started cooking. The staff stop by the table every few minutes to tend to the cooking seafood, cutting up some of the seafood and letting you know what is ready.
Just when you think you’ve finished everything and there is nothing but broth left, they add noodles to make the best spicy seafood noodle soup you’ve ever had. I left very satisfied with a big smile on my face.
4. Checkout Asia’s only waterfall that flows directly into the sea
If you have time to visit just one waterfall on Jeju Island, it should be Jeongbang Falls the only waterfall in Asia that falls right into the sea. All the rocks beneath the fall create inviting pools and a wonderful area to cool off while the waterfall sprays a refreshing mist on you. The rocky beach is a welcome place to relax for a bit and watch the surf roll in.
5. Explore the underworld in a cave
When it’s sultry outside, the most refreshing activity you can enjoy is a explore a cave. The Manjanggul Cave is actually a lava passage that extends on for 13 kilometers (8 miles) and is also one of Jeju’s UNESCO sites. Most of the cave is closed to the public to protect it and the inhabitants ( bats) that call it home. However, 1 kilometer of the cave is open for public access and a tour takes about an hour.
6. Climb to the highest point in Korea
While Jeju Island may be known mostly for it’s emerald oceans and sandy beaches, it also has the tallest mountain in Korea at 1,950 meters( 6,398 feet ). Hallasan Mountain rises up in the center of Jeju Island and has over 350 volcano determined peaks.
Hallasan National Park is home to over 4,000 animal species throughout the vertical ecosystem. The park is home to a variety of hiking trails, everything from a few miles to a 12 mile round trip hike to the high point Dongneung Peak. Weather is constantly changing on Hallasan, so expect for high winds and rain no matter what the weather seems like when you start your hike.
7. Relax for a time at the beach
During my stay, I toured almost the entire coastline around Jeju Island. The seashore wanders from sheer cliffs, pitch-black sand beaches to sparkling golden sand like at Gimnyeong Beach visualized above. I like to choose quiet beaches and packing a lunch over busy beaches with lots of amenities. Whichever beach you prefer, the same cobalt-blue waters will greet you and invite you to stay. If you pay a visit to Gimnyeong Beach, consider an escape to nearby Manjanggul Cave for a brief respite from the heat.
8. Navigate your method through a human sized maze
Want to re-live your youth and recollect what the corn study mazes were like as a kid? At Gimnyeong Maze Park you can do merely that.
The maze itself is in the shape of Jeju Island and takes anywhere from 5 minutes to 50 minutes to finish. Viewing decks are set up along the labyrinth so you can communicate with your fellow travelers to try and navigate through it. Exploring the maze is fun for family or friends. A nearby concession stand serves snacks or ice cream to cool off on a very warm summertime day.
9. Eat the famous Barbequed Black Pork
Your trip to Jeju Island would not be complete without trying it’s most iconic dish: barbecued black pork. Find a picture of a pig anywhere on Jeju and you will find yourself a Korean BBQ restaurant.
The best part about Korean BBQ is that it’s cooked right in front of you on your very own grill built into the counter. You will get a full spread to try some other local specialties to complement your BBQ like kimchi, seasoned bean buds, radish and cucumber foods. I’ll be honest, most of the time I don’t have a clue what I’m about to try but more often than not it’s downright tasty.
10. Visit the waterfall park
Cheonjeyeon Falls, also called” The Pond of God ,” consists of three separate waterfalls. Each is unique in its own way, but my favorite was the second cataract shown above. If you’re a photography seed like me, you’ll find a way to spend an hour here snapping images from different angles. There is a clear path that goes between each of the three falls and takes less than an hour to explore all three.
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