Since moving to Korea in 2015 visiting Jeju Island has been on my bucket list. When I was speaking with the insurance representative at USAA before I left Texas, even he recommended that I visit the island that is called “the Hawaii of the Pacific”. Well, who doesn’t want to visit a smaller version of Hawaii!
Jeju Island – Bucket list item
With the long Labor Day weekend coming up I started looking for tickets to Jeju Island at the end of July. Flying to Jeju from the Seoul area takes about an hour…not a bad flight and it is fairly inexpensive-often running as low as $27 one way!! If you don’t want to drive you can also drive down and take a ferry across to the island. Booking again through KIWI. COM both flight and rental car!
This time for our trip I decided to rent a car, though the island has a great bus system that stops at all the main sights—and there are so many on the island it is amazing. Many UNESCO World Heritage sites…I realized shortly after we arrived that 3 full days was not going to be enough to see even half of all there is to see on the island—so I got the map out and tried to find some highlights that we could enjoy and do multiple things in a day. This ended up being a good decision- I learned from Japan!
We flew in late on Friday night, and by the time we got the rental car and found the hotel- the Jeju Oriental Hotel & Casino- read my review of the hotel here…. it was close to 10 pm. Being hungry we headed out and since we were only a block from the water front we headed that way.
Walking along the Ocean Boardwalk
The water front has a nice boardwalk along it and there were many people sitting along it eating picnic dinners and enjoying beverages…on the other side of the board walk is a huge area that has basketball courts and then a huge open area where people are biking, skateboarding, riding electric cars, or just running around playing. There were all ages of people and many families even though it was fairly late.
By the time we found a place labeled, Pub and Chicken it was 10:40 and when we walked in we were told that they closed at 11 and were not seating anyone anymore…well we were hungry and boy did I get hangry! I took a picture of the name of the place and had all intentions of slamming them in the blog…but we ended up eating there two other nights so I will be kind…and the pizza was awesome!
Ironically living in Korea we do not eat fish, so on this island, we were surrounded by fish restaurants-pretty typical of Korea. We walked around and were getting really hungry…and then we came around a corner and saw a McDonalds…and sadly we cried out in joy!!! Food at last!!!
Starting off the next day we went to the Samyang Black Sand Beach first-it was a nice beach- the sand is black in sections and then there is some nice white sand too. There was a group of people swimming and a couple of guys getting surfing lessons. We walked along it for a couple of minutes and then headed out. We stopped at a couple of other areas along the coast and Daryn flew his drone.
Manjanggul Lava Tube
Moving further East we came upon the Manjanggul Lava Tube, this is the longest lava tunnel in the world and is almost a mile long. We started down the steps of the tunnel and noticed immediately that the temperature started to drop, it is wet and cold in the tunnel- come prepared! This was a pretty cool tunnel and we walked and walked coming to the end and turning around and heading back. The stones are uneven and wet so if you are unsteady on your feet-walk with caution.
Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak
From there we headed to Seongsan Peak, this is on the tip of a piece of land attached by a small road to the island We were not sure what we were going to see and paying our fees, we followed the rest of the people and started up the path. The path is mostly wooden steps heading up the side of the lava mountain, thankfully it was not too crowded this time of year and being in the mid-70’s was the perfect temperature.
There are a couple of areas to stop on the way up and I was relieved to see younger people stopping to catch their breath- I hate to be the only one that feels out of shape on these excursions. Then again there were small children climbing this mountain too-maybe that is why it is easier for the population to do this -they start them young!
The views going up were spectacular and the grass was amazingly green and lush, for $5000 won they have horses at the base that you can ride around in a couple of circles.
Once at the top we gazed in awe at the crater- there is no water in the crater, just lush greenery. We sat at the top and caught our breath…had a sip of water and tried to figure out where would be a good place to launch the drone. Heading down by the steps that go back down the mountain Daryn got the drone out and launched it from the wooden platform.
It is funny when you launch the drone the people immediately around that see it watch it, but those that don’t watch it from the beginning have no idea it is out there. Daryn flew it out over the crater and then came back, as he was landing it an older lady came up and gave Daryn the crossed arms signal…stating “no drone”. Saying ok, as we were done anyway we packed up and headed back down.
This was an amazing site and I’d highly recommend it. Walking down we went down a different path where the women do diving shows we had missed the show but wandered down anyways.Daryn launched the drone from this beach and I saw—SEAGLASS!!!- and immediately grabbed a cup that had washed up and started picking up the glass. Now, this was nicely tumbled and mostly smaller pieces, but after all of our trips of looking, I had finally found it!
I could have picked up the glass for hours, but after about ½ hour Daryn finished flying and was ready to go. I left reluctantly and trying to figure out how much weight I had in Seaglass and if it would put me over on my luggage weight—it didn’t!
We made our way back to the pub, which was in the Regent Marine Hotel the pub was called Latif Restaurant & Pub. Our pizza and beer was so good!!
At the end of the previous day, I had looked at the map along the southern coast line. There were several waterfalls and a cliff area that looked interesting. So Day 2 we got up early and headed out around the volcano, MT Halla- it is right smack in the middle of the island so if you are traversing the island you will have to go around it. I wasn’t sure how long this would take and amazingly it took less than an hour.
This waterfall actually had a pleasant walk along a river at $2000 won a person the waterfalls are affordable and very pleasant. We walked along enjoying the morning and soon heard the sound of the waterfall ahead. The sight was breathtaking and we wandered amongst the other Koreans taking pictures of themselves in front of the waterfall. Taking our own selfie, we headed back to the parking lot and onto our next adventure.
When we pulled into the parking lot for the waterfall I noticed a sign for a submarine ride. This sounded interesting so we headed out of the parking lot and found the submarine site. Thankfully we timed it right and the next submarine left in ½ hour.
We paid -thankfully the Avis rental company had given me a booklet and it had a discount for the submarine. It was originally $55,000 won per person but I got 20% off. We took a boat out to a small land mass and then got on a floating dock. From there we got in the submarine, there were two options either on the left or the right…and I chose wrong.
As we descended on the opposite side of the sub was the side of the island, and suddenly a diver that had been on the top of the sub as it descended swam by that side of the submarine feeding the fish…this brought fish by every window and was great for those on that side. Our pictures were of the two people by the window taking pictures of the fish and divers.
The diver swam by several times, making the heart symbol with his hands and blowing air rings that come out and float to the windows…this is very cool and the people on the sub oohed and awed over it.
As we descended down to 45 meters, the sub moved and the reef was on our side…but the diver didn’t come down with us at this point so we saw a couple of small fish and a starfish. We hung there for awhile, and looked at the same spot on the reef side which was not really that exciting…then we began our accent and it was over…
So, there are several other submarine rides on the island I am not sure if they are all like this but if you are expecting an actual submarine ride around the ocean this is not it. They go to one area and go down the side of the mountain (reef) and then move to other side and go down further…in my head I realize this is the safe way to do it as the ocean is big and just taking a submarine out with a bunch of people has its own hazards…so manage your expectations on the submarine rides…
Leaving there we headed to another waterfall..
This water fall was just as amazing as the other one, but it was along a coastline- not tucked into the mountain so Daryn and I climbed over a multitude of large rocks to the other side of the beach and he got the drone out to fly it…we were pretty well hid from the main crowd of people by a huge rock so when the drone flew out to sea, most people were looking inland at the waterfall.
After we landed the drone and headed back to main area we noticed a guy standing at the top of the stairs we had come down to the waterfall…I figured he was going to tell us there was no drones allowed- even though there was no signs saying no drones so we meandered around on the rocks…feigning much interest in the coastline and I posed as though taking a gazillion selfies with the waterfall –all as a ruse watching the man as he watched us….this I learned from all the CIA novels I read…😊 No really, we hung around until he disappeared then climbed up rocks from a different direction…maybe he was just a guy waiting for his family and found us interesting…maybe he was with the park and gave up on us coming up his stairway and went back up when he realized we were not doing anything more with the drone…we will never know…
Leaving the waterfall we headed down towards the cliff…I got sidetracked with a place called Oedolgae. We drove by the sign and I made Daryn turn around, on Trip advisor this is a cool rock…and it was wayyyy off in the distance…this is the rock that the submarine was by….we were way on the coastline looking out at it. What Oedolgae did have was a steep staircase leading down to a swimming hole..there are floatation vests and snorkeling gear you can rent at the top…walking down the narrow stairs was a challenge and then we got to the bottom and the water was clear and beautiful – but it was not a place we could fly the drone and since we were not swimming we headed back up…if you are not going to swim..it is really not worth the stop.
Jungman Daepo Jusangjeolli Cliff
Heading back in the original direction of the cliffs, we saw no signs but ended up in an area called the Jungmon Tourist Complex…this is filled with many things for families to do. And a massive hotel called Lotte Hotel Jeju…this looked like Beverly Hills!! We drove around lost, passed the ICC center, turned around and went back the way we came…I told Daryn to look for the Museum of African Art, which he told me was back the way we were—so we turned around and went back…accidentally entering the parking lot for a Marine world- making crazy Korean U-turn -we finally found the Jusangjieolli Cliff.
Like most of the places we had been on Jeju Island, this had a nice walkway and promenade..with beautiful plants and a stairway down to the actual cliffs which are were formed when lave from Hallasan Mountain erupted into the sea of Jungmun. The cliff is formed in the shape of rock pillars that look like cubes or hexagons of various sizes and look as though they were carved out of the cliff wall.
That was our last tourist spot for the day and we headed back to the pub for hopefully some beer and food. Thankfully we arrived early enough and they have a pizza and beer combo which we thoroughly enjoyed.
We knew the day was going to be overcast and with a chance of rain but we went to Mt. Hallason in hopes of hiking at least the short hike, it didn’t go all the way to the top but we wanted to at least hike some of it. Arriving at the front of the Saryeoni Forest Path Entrance, the park ranger looked at us with something short of scorn, we were not decked out in the complete Korean Hiking attire to include, hiking boots, walking poles, pants, and a long sleeve shirt. This ended up fortunate because it had started raining and we were highly discouraged without outer gear to make the hike…we agreed at this point that we would not attempt to hike and with a show of going to the bathroom snuck back to our car and left.
Since it was a rainy day and we were in the middle of the island we decided to go to the Aquarium … this ended up being very cool. We got there just in time to see a show, similar to a Seaworld show but with more dancing/antics from the staff and less animals. An entire story was played out between diving and dancing. Unable to understand Korean we just enjoyed what was happening, not what the story was about. After the show we walked throughout the aquarium, there is a lot to see and it cumulates in a room with a massive aquarium. On the opposite side of the aquarium, you can actually walk through a tube that the aquarium flows over.
Love Land Museum
Leaving the aquarium we drove over to a nearby beach and Daryn flew the drone and I picked up some more seaglass. It was still sprinkling and we headed back to the northern end of the beach stopping at my must see last stop— Love land Museum. And yes this is just what it sounds like, filled with 140 statues of various people having sex, penis statues, and a penis fountain. There are a couple of museums to walk through as well, which are entertaining. Since this is G-rated I won’t add pictures, but suffice it to say it was an interesting place to visit!
Gwakji Gwamul Beach
We then headed back to the hotel I thought but made one last stop at a beach, this is West of the airport and was a very nice beach. I would say if you wanted a nice beach to hang out on with clear water and nice sand this is the place to go. There were several inflatable bounce house type water slides that were deflated by the time we got there but it seems like this would be a family friendly beach with a lot to do.
Jeju Island was amazing and we only scratched the surface on things to do, we didn’t even make it over to the West side of the island. There are museums galore and if you are really going to visit everything allow 7-10 days. We were very glad we rented a car, making your way around the island in a timely manner would be difficult without a car. The smallest car to rent depending on where you look was as low as $25 a day-well worth it unless you are spending an extended time there. Be warned, the International Drivers license is really scrutinized, we watched for 20 minutes while 2 travelers argued that the International license they had from Belgium was ok and the other had one from Malaysia. These were not acceptable and after much arguing, they were sent on their way by the rental clerk.
I hope you have enjoyed our travels,