I feel like every expat teacher in Korea needs to make at least one trip to Jeju Island. While some may complain that it’s not nearly as beautiful as -insert Southeast Asian country here-, I think that’s totally unwarranted. There are so many gorgeous places around the island, but you definitely need to get out of the main two cities of Jeju City and Seogwipo. I’ve been twice now, once after my last contract in October and just recently with Nicole and her friend, Jasmine. Here’s a quick guide to Jeju to get you started!
A Quick Guide to Jeju
Where is it?
Jeju is an island off the southern coast of South Korea. It’s about an hour flight from Seoul and 4 hours by ferry from the nearest port city, Mokpo.
What is it?
You’ll probably hear a lot of people refer to Jeju as the “Hawaii of Korea,” which is pretty true in a way. Koreans typically go on holiday the same way Americans will go to Hawaii, though the two islands are pretty different otherwise.
If you’re a Korean skincare fan, you’ve definitely heard of Innisfree, and in a way, it’s staked a claim in Jeju. Most of its beauty products come from or are inspired by Jeju’s nature, and you can even visit the Innisfree cafe on your trip. When most people think of Innisfree, they think of Jeju.
When should you go?
If you have the flexibility, I highly recommend going in early fall or mid-spring. I went in the middle of October, and I thought the weather was pretty perfect. Going in August, though, was humid. Korean summers are their own level of ridiculous, and every time we got out of the car for more than 5-minutes, we were dripping. I’ve heard winter is quite pretty, but, of course, most things will probably be dead!
How is the weather?
Jeju, like Korea, has all four seasons. Summer is more humid than more northern provinces, and winter is a bit milder.
How do you get there?
You can get to Jeju either by plane or ferry. I highly recommend flying.
One way to get to Jeju is by taking the ferry from one of the port cities. The most popular city is Mokpo, which takes about 4 hours depending. I took the ferry to Jeju on my first trip, and it’s okay. I get a little motion sickness sometimes, so it wasn’t the most pleasant.
There are plenty of places to sit with a few rooms if you want to lie down on the floor. I think there are fancier rooms if you want to pay for that. If you get hungry there’s a little cafeteria type setting and a mini Paris Baguette.
If you do want to book a ferry, here’s the website!
Honestly, unless you have a car you want to take, I would recommend taking a plane. I booked via Expedia from Jeju to Seoul during my first trip and booked on Kiwi roundtrip to Gwangju for my second. It’s been the same price or comparable to the ferry prices every time and only takes an hour or less. Most flights I’ve taken also allow you to check a bag up to 15kg, so you don’t have to worry about overpacking or anything.
How do you get around?
During my first trip, I was on my own, so I took a bus everywhere I went. It’s definitely doable, but it’s not the most convenient option. After driving during my second time, I don’t know that I could put myself through figuring out Jeju’s public transport again.
Most of the major tourist areas and cities have plenty of taxis nearby. Uber isn’t a thing here (pretty sure it’s still banned), but there is Kakaotaxi. Taxis started at around 2,800 KRW and can be a pretty expensive option.
Since Nicole has her Korean driver’s license, we decided to rent a car for this second trip. Busing would have been utter misery in the summer heat, so I’m really glad we drove. She found a really good deal with Sixt on an electric car for about $80/day. You do have to charge it pretty much every day, but it’s free to recharge (vs. paying for gas), and, of course, it’s much better for the environment. (Check out Sixt’s prices here)
Top 5 Things to Do in Jeju
I already have a post with all the top things to do in Jeju, but here are some of the top (family friendly) things to do for now:
Watch the sunrise or sunset from Seongsan Ilchulbong.
Ilchulbong is known as the sunrise peak. I’ve been a few times now, and while the sunrise is gorgeous, I do have to say I actually preferred the sunset. The first time I went, I hiked up to the top, but it’s much prettier to see from afar. I’d suggest walking away from the cliff along the coastline for the best views.
See a Waterfall
There are quite a few waterfalls to see, but the most popular two are Jeongbang and Cheonjiyeon. Both are near Seogwipo.
This is something I still have to do! Hallasan is the tallest mountain in Korea, and the hike is supposed to be incredible.
Lounge about in Hyeopjae
If you want to a day to relax and lounge on the beach, then head to Hyeopjae. Though, fair warning, what you’re imagining Korean beaches won’t be what you’re expecting.
Visit Innisfree + the O’sulloc Green Tea Fields
While I still prefer Boseong Green Tea Fields, if you’re in Jeju, definitely stop by the O’Sulloc Green Tea Fields! You can walk around them, and when you’re done, head to the museum and Innisfree café. Innisfree is by far my favorite beauty/skincare brand in Korea, so if you have room, go nuts!
Tours in Jeju Island
When I traveled Jeju alone, I did wind up taking a tour to see the east side of the island. After planning everything for the west side, it was pretty nice to just sit back and let someone else think through all the logistics for me. Here are some tour ideas if you’d like to do the same:
This tour will pick you up and drop you off in Jeju City, cover lunch, and transportation. You can pick either the West Course, East Course, or the South Course. The West Course includes Hallim Park, Suwolbong Peak trekking, Spirited Garden, Mt. Sanbang, and Cheonjeyeon Waterfall. The East Course includes horseback riding, Songeup Folk Village, Woman Diver Performance, Seongsan Sunrise Peak, and Manjanggul. The South Course includes the Mysterious Road, Mt. Halla, Jeongbang Waterfall, Yakcheon Temple, and Jusangjeolli Cliff. (Check here for tour prices)
This is a smaller group tour and has two courses starting in Jeju City. The East Course includes Mt. Halla, Jeolmul Forest, Seongeup Folk Village, Seongsan Sunrise Peak, Woljeongri Beach, and Manjanggul. The South & West Course includes the Mysterious Road, Camellia Hill, Jusangeolli Cliff, Teddy Bear Museum or Cheonjeyeon, Mt. Songak, and the O’Sulloc Green Tea Fields. You also get lunch with both.
I might actually consider doing this one if I go to Jeju on my own next time. I’d really like to experience some of Jeju’s Olle trail, but I don’t know that I just want to go solo. This is a great option if you’re looking to do something a little more eco-friendly. Depending on what trail you take, you’ll meet at either the Jeju City Bus Terminal or the Jungang Rotary in Seogwipo.
Keep in mind, these tours can be pretty long! I enjoyed my day tour with Funtastic Korea, but it’s definitely not how I’d prefer to do my whole trip. I’d see them as sort of introductions or conclusions to your Jeju itinerary.
Where should you stay?
There are two many city areas in Jeju: Jeju City and Seogwipo. Jeju City is in the north, and Seogwipo is in the south with Hallasan in the middle. I would personally stay somewhere to the east or west of Seogwipo in the south. However, if you’re planning on doing tours, you’ll probably want to stay in one of the cities. Here are some of the places I’ve stayed:
I was on a pretty strict budget when I first went to Jeju, and I was trying to make my way around the island. Hyeopjae was my first stop, and this guesthouse was the best option at its price. I personally wouldn’t stay here again, but I’m also at a point in my life where I don’t want to share a room with multiple people. If I was still in college, this would be a great hostel. And it’s right on the beach, so that was convenient for watching the sunset. (Check prices here)
There are two locations for this guesthouse, and I stayed in the newer one and wound up having a 4-female dorm to myself. It’s pretty close to O’Sulloc in the Southwest area. I actually wound up canceling my hostel in Seogwipo and staying here a second night since I had my own room and everything was closer than I thought. (Check prices here)
This is where I would have stayed in Seogwipo city. It looked pretty cute in all the pictures and was highly rated. (Check prices here)
How cool is the outside of this guest house?! I wish I had been able to relax more here, but I got in around dinner and left super early in the morning for Seoul. It’s still very much a hostel, so my 4-female dorm was tight. The host was super nice, though, and there’s a cafe to hang out in. (Check prices here)
Leslie Hotel $$
Since I was with two other girls on my second trip, we could afford slightly more expensive accommodations. I was actually surprised at how cheap Leslie Hotel was (less than $60/night for a queen and a single bed room). I imagine it’s only because it’s so new. We stayed here the night before we all flew out. (Check prices here)
I need to do a full review on this place because it’s definitely one of my favorite accommodations ever. I found it on Airbnb, and we were all thoroughly enchanted by the time we left. It’s a little tricky to get to, so it’s probably easier to get to if you drive. (If you haven’t signed up for Airbnb, use this code to get $40 off)
Money + Safety Matters
- Safety: Korea is quite a safe place, and I’d say Jeju is even safer. If you do plan on doing more of the adventure activities, I’d definitely recommend getting some travel insurance just in case.
- Money + Credit Cards: Most places in Korea have a credit card machine (and wifi!). If not, it’s pretty easy to find an ATM.
And that’s my quick guide to Jeju! Let me know if I missed anything.