Macau is a great location for a trip away from Hong Kong – and it is easy to do with kids. All you need is a passport and some spare time!
1/ How to get there:
Macau is just 65km and an hour ferry ride away. It is easy to reach via the frequent ferries run by Turbojet and Cotai Water Jet. There are different departure points in Hong Kong (Hong Kong Airport, Sheung Wan, Kowloon, Tuen Mun) and arrival points in Macau (Outer Harbour and Taipa), so you can just pick your best combination, but we usually travel from Sheung Wan to Cotai, as that’s the most convenient for us.
There are two classes to choose from, Economy (between 160 and 220HKD one-way) and Super (between 330 and 390 HKD one-way). In Super, you can sit at the front/on the top (depending on the ship type) and you receive snacks and drinks, sit more comfortable and can leave the ferry earlier (and hence queue for immigration a lot faster than Economy).
You need to book a set departure time for each ferry – and this actually means that is the latest time for your journey. You can actually arrive earlier at the ferry terminals and just join the standby queue for an earlier ferry and nine times out of ten, you will be able to travel earlier than your booked time slot.
Just remember: anyone above one year of age is required to be in possession of a valid ticket. Unfortunately, child tickets are almost the same price than adult tickets.
2/ Where to stay:
You can easily do Macau in one day, but with little ones in tow, this is going to be difficult. So we always stay overnight, and so far we have stayed at:
The Grand Lapa Macau (956-1110 Avenida da Amizade Macau) used to be the Mandarin in the past. It is close to the ferry terminal, and while it is a bit older, it has spacious rooms, a nice colonial-style restaurant, no casino and a big outdoor pool.
Hotel Royal Macau (Estr. da Vitoria, 2-4) is very conveniently located, just a few minutes away from the old town of Macau and the UNESCO heritage sites. It only has an indoor pool.
Holiday Inn Macau Cotai Central (Sands Cotai Central Cotai Strip, Taipa) is probably one of the cheaper options if you want to stay in Taipa and have access to all the big hotels/shopping malls. It has family rooms and suites at good prices, offers several pools and is connected to the Sheraton, Sands, the St. Regis, Venetian Macao etc.
We’ve shared a room with our two kids, usually one sleeps in a cot or extra bed and the other one shares with us.
3/ What to do:
Most guide books will send you on the UNESCO trail, which includes the Ruins of St. Paul’s, the Senado Square, the A-Ma Temple etc. Those sites are all nice, but the problem is that they can be really crowded and not much fun if you are travelling with kids. So instead, I would recommend you take your children to:
Lou Lim Loc Garden and Sun Yat Sen Memorial House in Macau – the garden provides a lovely getaway from the busy city, with plenty of corners to play hide & seek as well as big carp fish to look at. Not far away from it is the Sun Yat Sen Memorial House, which provides a glimpse into how people used to live almost a century ago.
The Museum of Art in Macau is spacious and a great place for kids to explore. Not only is entrance free and there is plenty of room to roam around and discover new and old pieces of art, but there is often a corner set up for kids to paint/draw. Last time we went, there was a table for watercolouring, with templates, pencils, brushes and water – it kept us all busy for a great period of time, we all had fun. Just remember it is closed on Mondays!
The Museum of Science in Macau is next door, and while some exhibits are dated and might not work properly all the times, it is still fun to explore (and it has slides!). Open every day (in July and August) but closed on Thursdays throughout the rest of the year.
Also in Macau itself and part of the UNESCO trail is the House of the Mandarin. It is still my favourite part of the heritage trail, as it has such an interesting history and combines Eastern and Western architecture so gracefully. It usually is a quiet place to rest and recharge, so it is a good stop in between the visits of Macau.
You will probably need at least half a day (if not a full day) to visit the Giant Pandas in the beautiful Seac Pai Van Park and the A-Ma Cultural Village, that sits on top. Both locations are at Coloane, the southern part of Macau. It is much more quiet in these locations and hence so much more enjoyable with smaller kids. Especially as you can visit big and small pandas, see animals and monkeys and roam around the park and temple complex.
The old village of Taipa is more packed with tourists as the tourist buses stop there… unfortunately! But still, we found a quiet spot overlooking the lake and had picnic on a bench, before we explored the houses/villas next to us.
What is great about Taipa is that there are lots of cafes and restaurants, and while some are famous and busy like Antonio’s, we discovered a new gem. A Tasca do Luis is a lovely family-run restaurant, which is super kids friendly with high chairs and kids cutlery. Not only did Luis himself greet us and recommended dishes to us, he also brought our toys for our children and they were super happy. That alone was great, but more importantly, the food we had was very yummy and great value for money. We loved the baked duck rice and also enjoyed the roasted suckling pig.
While in Taipa we always go over to Cotai, the kids love the Eiffel tower lightshow at The Parisian (daily from 6:15pm to 12:00am, every 15 minutes) and had also fun at the ice skating in winter. There are plenty of other attractions in the hotels, but so far my kids are happy just to watch the water fountains inside the Sands complex and go to the free meet & greet in the mornings to meet the stars of the Big Little Club parade (i.e. Barney, Bob the Builder, Thomas the Tank Engine and many others) around 11am-12noon in the lobby next to the Holiday Inn Cotai.
What are your favourite family-friendly activities/sights in Macau? I’m curious to find out more!