Jeongbang waterfall is one of the best things to do on Jeju

Best Things To Do On Jeju | Korea’s Hawaiian Island

Jeju island, Korea’s Hawaii, is a volcanic island about 80 miles (130 km) off Korea’s southern coast. Created by volcanic activity over 2 million years ago, this gem is abundantly rich in natural beauty. It’s a great escape from bustling Seoul or Busan, full of scenic coastal views, beautiful waterfalls, excellent hiking, some of the world’s best volcanic lava tubes, and a ton of educational and quirky boutique museums, providing many things to see and do.

Need more convincing of Jeju’s beauty? How about this. It’s the first, and only recipient of UNESCO’s Triple Crown! UNESCO awarded it as a Biosphere Reserve in 2002, a World Natural Heritage site in 2007, and a World Geopark in 2011. Jeju was also voted one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature in 2011.

Best Things To Do On Jeju Island

Explore The Sights On Jeju’s Olle Trails

One of the amazing highlights of Jeju are its magnificent Olle trails, which are a series of more than 200 scenic paths, covering over 272 miles (437 km) on the island. Many cross over the top sites listed below, like Jeongbang waterfall, Oedolgae Rock, and Sunrise Peak, yet they thread throughout the island.

The Olle Trail system, founded by Jeju’s Suh Myung-suk, was inspired by a hike in Spain’s Camino De Santiago. After hiking there, she decided to create these trails so people could better experience Jeju’s beauty.

Olle trails are one of the best things to do on Jeju

Most of the trails follow the coast, however, there are also trails of scenic or historic interest inland. There’s even an annual festival for the trails where visitors from around the world can walk a different course each day via an Olle Trail Passport.

Olle trails are one of the best things to do on Jeju

The views are stunning, while the paths are either simple foot trails, or are made with natural materials, like lava slab, rocks, and wood, soothing the soul and enhancing the natural beauty. They are also subtly marked with ribbons, ganses, arrows, and signposts to keep everything as natural as possible.

See the visitor center for more details on the trails, visit Olle Trails for a description and details of each (they are always changing).

Visit Jeju Island’s Top Three Waterfalls

There are many waterfalls on Jeju, but the three most beautiful are in Seogwipo, which is a rocky coast on the southern part of the island (and a popular place to stay).

Jeongbang Waterfall

Jeongbang is 75’ (23 m) and falls from a rocky cliff into a cove by the ocean. It’s the only waterfall in Asia that falls directly into the sea. It’s mesmerizing!

Jeongbang waterfall is one of the best things to do on Jeju
The Jeongbang Waterfall

There is a legend that a holy dragon once lived beneath this waterfall. The dragon’s spirit remains in the water, and can cure disease and bring rain during drought. 

Seojeongbang waterfall is one of the best things to do on Jeju

The small park below is just east of Jeongbang waterfall.

Seojeongbang is a smaller waterfall less than 1/4 mile west (300m) of Jeongbang. It’s less crowded and you can get closer, so it feels a little more intimate.

Seojeongbang waterfall is one of the best things to do on Jeju
The Seojeongbang Waterfall

Olle trail #6 runs past both Jeongbang and Seojeongbang, following Jeju’s southern coast to the west. I recommend visiting the two falls late afternoon, before following the Olle Trail to the west. Just look for a small footpath, going through the trees and the orange and blue ribbons. The views of the coast and Moon Island, as the sun starts to set, are stunning.

Moon Island

There is a charming cafe/bakery with panoramic views here called Honeymoon House. I took the photo below from near there. My photos really do not do this area justice…

Old trails are one of the best things to do on Jeju
Moon Island

The pond and pagoda below are also from Olle Trail #6.

Olle Trail 6

Cheonjiyeon Waterfall

Cheonjiyeon is 72’ (22 m) high, located a little west of Jeongbang waterfall. The name Cheonjiyeon means ‘sky connected with land’. This one feels a bit more touristy, as it’s located in a park, but it is still lovely.

Cheonjiyeon Waterfall Is one of the best things to do on Jeju
The Cheonjiyeon Waterfall

Cheonjeyeon Waterfall

Cheonjeyeon, even further west, has 3 different waterfalls. The name Cheonjeyeon means ‘The pond of God’

The Cheonjeyeon Waterfall | Kevin Miller

Ogle Oedolgae Rock

Oedolgae Rock is a beautiful sea stack, formed by a volcano eons ago and eroded by water over time. As with many places on this island, there are several legends surrounding this rock.

Seeing Oedolgae Rock Is one of the best things to do on Jeju
Oedolgae Rock

The first legend is that it is Grandmother Rock, for a grandmother that turned to stone while waiting for ‘grandfather’ to return from fishing. Another legend is that it is called General Rock from a historical battle against Mongolian forces who once occupied the island. The sea stack was dressed as a giant General. Upon seeing the rock, the enemy killed themselves, thinking they were doomed.

Olle Trail 7

Olle Trail #7 starts just east of Oedolgae Rock and follows the coast to the east.

Sunset On Olle Trail 7

This is another trail I suggest walking near dusk for stunning views of the coast and sunset.

Olle Trail 7

Trek Mount Hallasan Volcano

Mount Hallasan is a volcanic mountain with over 360 satellite volcanos and excellent hiking. Technically, Hallasan and Jeju are one and the same, as this volcano takes up such a large portion of the island. This volcano, worshipped by locals, is also an UNESCO biosphere reserve.

There are multiple trails, but only Seongpanak and Gwaneumsa go to the peak. The best route for the peak is to take Seongpanak up (6 miles or 9.6 km) and Gwaneumsa down (5.4 miles or 8.7 km). The later is steeper, but more beautiful, making it the better of the two to descend. The two trails together are about 11.3 miles (18.3 km). There are many small rest stops along the way on both trails to rest and enjoy the beautiful hike.

Image credit: researchgate.com

When you get to the top, depending on the weather, you may find yourself walking above the clouds, which is spectacular.

Hiking Mount Hallasan is one of the best things to do in Jeju

Baengnokdam, or crater lake, is also at the peak of Hallasan, along with areas where you can picnic, enjoy the view, and rest, before heading back down. The lake did not have much water in it when I was here (below), but I have seen stunning photos of it when it’s full.

Hiking Mount Hallasan is one of the best things to do in Jeju
Baengnokdam

If you don’t want to walk all the way to the peak, there are shorter trails to explore on Mount Hallasan too.

The scenery all along the trail is beautiful. From the lush green forest at the base,

Hiking Mount Hallasan is one of the best things to do in Jeju
Mount Hallasan Base

to the open spaces midway,

Mount Hallasan

To walking above the clouds at its peak.

Hiking Mount Hallasan is one of the best things to do in Jeju
Mount Hallasan Near The Peak

Hallasan is also home to Temple, the oldest Buddhist temple in the island. This temple, built in the 11th century, was destroyed and rebuilt in the 20th century.

Visit Seongsan Ilchulbon, or Sunrise Peak 

Located on the easternmost part of Jeju, Sunrise Peak is a 295′ (90 m) high and 1,965′ wide (600 m) cone volcano. It rose out of the ocean over 5,000 years ago during a volcanic eruption. 

Hiking Seongsan Ilchulbon is one of the best things to do on Jeju
Seongsan Ilchulbon

It’s considered good luck to view a sunrise from here on New Year’s Day. Even the fishermen at sea are turn on their lights and blow whistles to ring in the New Year. There’s also a sunrise festival here annually. It starts at dawn on New Year’s Day and lasts through the night.

The top of Sunrise Peak is unique, as it’s concave and ringed with sharp rocks, giving it a slightly crowned appearance. Again, my photos do not really do it justice, sorry.

Hiking Seongsan Ilchulbon is one of the best things to do on Jeju

I’ve read that the area above is covered with yellow flowers in spring, which would be stunning. There are also excellent views of the area from the top.

Hiking Seongsan Ilchulbon is one of the best things to do on Jeju
View From Seongsan Ilchulbon

On the hike up, you’ll see rocks that look like giant lava splashes (below), but are actually piles of ash that have eroded over time.

Hiking Seongsan Ilchulbon is one of the best things to do on Jeju

You can get here by car or public bus. If you have time, consider getting off the bus, or parking, at Gwangchigi Beach and walking to Sunrise Peak along the Ocean.

Olle Trail 1

This walk is Olle Trail #1. It takes 20-30 minutes to walk to the cone, then another 20-30 to walk to its peak.

Olle Trail 1

Explore The Geomunoreum Lava Tubes

The Geomunoreum lava tube system, located in northeastern Jeju, is considered one of the finest lava tube systems in the world. Although this system has several lava tubes, Manjanggul is open to the public. It’s almost 5.5 miles (8.9 km) long, however, only a small portion of that is considered safe for visitors.

You can get here by both bus or car.

Get Lost In Gimnyeong Maze Park

The human sized maze of Gimnyeong Maze Park is close to the Manjanggul lava tube, so perfect to pair together. The maze is designed in the shape of Jeju island, with carefully pruned plants/shrubs.

This was Asia’s first maze park.

Visit Jeju Stone Park

Stone Park is a combination museum and ecological park, showcasing Jeju’s historical stone use. It’s near the middle of the island, making it an ideal stop between the airport and Seogwipo. This is an interesting stop to learn about some more legends of the island.

Dol Hareubang

The Dol Hareubang, or Grandfather stones in Stone Park are found throughout the island. Carved in lava stone, they’re considered gods and offer protection. They are also thought to promote fertility (because of their unique shape). As Jeju is popular with honeymooners, those that want to start a family are given miniatures of these statues for good luck.

Visiting Jeju Stone Park is one of the top things to do on Jeju
Dol Hareubang

Seoulmundae Halmang

Seoulmundae Halmang is the mythological grandmother of Jeju. Legend says that she was a giant and created the island by scooping up mud from the ocean. The sculpture below represents her.

Visiting Jeju Stone Park is one of the top things to do on Jeju
Mythological Grandmother of Jeju

Obaek Janggun Generals

Seoulmundae Halmang also created the 500 Obaek Janggun Generals, or 500 sons. One day, she decided to cook her 500 sons a giant pot of soup, as they were very hungry. Unfortunately, she fell into the pot when making it.

When her sons returned home, they found the soup and ate it. When they reached the bottom and found her bones, they realized, with horror, that they had eaten their mother and they all turned to stone.

Visiting Jeju Stone Park is one of the top things to do on Jeju
500 Obaek Janggun Generals

Visit Loveland Park

This is an erotic sculpture park with over 140 sculptures, designed to break down barriers around sex. I’m not getting into more detail here as some are quite explicit. You’ll just have to visit and see on your own.

Try A Mix Of Educational And Quirky, Boutique Museums

If you tire of the natural beauty of Jeju, or have a rainy day (which happens), there are a bunch of quirky, boutique museums on Jeju. In fact, there are 48 registered museum on Jeju! A lot for such a small island! 

Not only can you visit art, history, and science museums, you can also visit a teddy bear museum, a sex museum, a Hello Kitty museum, and many more unusual options.

How To Get To Jeju Island

To get to Jeju Island, you can fly or take a ferry from Seoul or Busan. Surprisingly, flights are relatively inexpensive. When I was here, I found a round trip flight from Seoul for less than $70! The ferry option would be interesting if you had the time, as it’s much longer than than the flight.

Once you get to the island, the local public bus system is very good and stops are noted in English, making it easy to navigate.

Just make sure you allow yourself enough time to see the sites as there are so many things to do on Jeju island.

Safe Travels!

Julie

Hello! I resigned from a corporate career in product development to explore the world. Although my goal was to travel for a year, 8 years later, I’ve been honored to have explored more than 60 gorgeous countries and met some unbelievably amazing people. Our world truly is a beautiful place! Follow me into the gorgeous unknown by subscribing below. You’ll receive details on fabulous destinations, comprehensive travel guides, travel tips and tidbits, and information on travel trends, like experiential, sustainable, and transformational travel. Where is your next gorgeous unknown? Julie

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