Weekend in Jeju, Korea


Jeju, South Korea

Jejudo 제주도 (or Jeju island) is an island off of the southern coast of Korea. It’s a very popular destination for Koreans (Alex heard that the route between Seoul and Jeju-city is the most traveled flight route in the world, and indeed, there are flights to Jeju departing every 30 minutes on every domestic airline) as well as Chinese (currently, Chinese tourists don’t need a visa to visit Jeju, but do need one for visiting the rest of Korea).


Seongsan Sunrise Peak (before the rain)

Alex and I didn’t make much of an effort to visit Jeju in our three years in Korea, because 1). we heard there were better beaches in Southeast Asia, 2). every time we thought to go to Jeju, it was a Korean holiday/summer vacation/high season. Well, in continuing to check off our Korea bucket list, we finally decided to make a weekend trip to Jeju. Even in November, flight tickets were selling out quickly. After purchasing tickets, we rented a place on Airbnb (great deal, despite having to sleep on the floor, Korean style) and rented a car.


Yongmeori Coast — very beautiful

Even though Jeju island is only 45 miles long and 25 miles wide, we were surprised to learn how much there was to do! We skipped the beaches and tried to see a few places of interest, as well as do an easy hike up Mt. Halla (한라산). As always, it took more time (and patience) traveling with Baby M, so we had to cut out a few things. It was very enjoyable to just drive around the smaller roads of Jeju. Everywhere we looked, we saw orange groves. Jeju is famous for its oranges (there are several varieties, but most resemble a clementine — very easy to peel).

[Side note: We were told Jeju was also famous for three other things: 1). Pork: Jeju black pork — the pigs used to be black because of the poop they ate… though I’ve heard farmers have since stopped feeding their pigs poop. 2). Rocks: There are all kinds of cliffs and interesting rock formations, and lots of lava rock from volcanos in the area. 3). Women: Jeju women are rumored to be very beautiful — hard for us to judge, since we saw mostly tourists! Second side note: Not sure why, but we passed lots of sex museums. My chiropractor in Seoul even mentioned that we should check them out (we didn’t), as they are pretty interesting (!) and a tourist attraction.]


BBQ Jeju black pork

Some highlights:

{{ Oedolgae rock formation 외돌개 }}

The first thing we noticed were the baskets of bagged oranges, along with a sign indicating the price, and a basket for cash. This is something that can ONLY happen in Korea!


Only in Korea: Trusting the honor system — take a bag of oranges and leave a 1,000 KRW ($1 USD) note

[From my experience, your valuables are so safe in Korea that you can leave your laptop/wallet/keys/phone on top of a table at a Starbucks and go use the bathroom/step outside for a cigarette/etc. and come back 5/10/15/30 minutes later and everything will STILL be there. I see this happening everywhere! And I heard from a Korean friend that someone chased him down on the streets, not to rob him, but to return his wallet (that he had left somewhere) and nothing was missing from it! Koreans live in such a bubble, that Korean students who study abroad are warned that they cannot just leave their things in a public space because people will steal them!]

Oedolgae rock is a lonely rock jutting up from the sea. I wouldn’t make a special effort to see it, but it was easy because we had a car.


Testing out our selfie skills at Oedolgae rock

| Info | https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g297892-d1759602-Reviews-Oedolgae-Seogwipo_Jeju_Island.html

| Fees + Parking | The attraction itself was free, and there was free parking, but the lot was full, and instead of parking along the road (like other cars), we opted for the paid parking (which cost only 1,000 KRW ~ $1 USD).

| Address | 791, Seohong-dong, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do 제주특별자치도 서귀포시 서홍동 791

{{ Sanbangsan Mountain 산방산 }}

There are a couple temples immediately after the entrance. The view of the sea from here is already pretty good. We climbed up the many steps (it took us about 15-20 minutes to go up) to a small shrine in a cave. The viewing platform was protected by a wire mesh netting to catch any falling rock. Along our walk up, there were several plaques saying “stand here to pray for health for your entire family” and “stand here to pray for eternal love” etc.


Temples of Sanbangsan


View of the sea from one of Sanbangsan’s temples

After our walk down the mountain, we took the pathway down to the Yongmeori Coast. The walk along the coast was really beautiful. We walked on black lava rock, along the winding coast. There were several ajummas with makeshift restaurants (tiny stools), serving raw abalone and sea squirt with red gojujang (Korean pepper paste) and soju (the alcohol of choice in Korea).


Temple halfway up Sanbangsan


Beautiful buddhas at Sanbangsan


Walking along the Yongmeori Coast


Makeshift restaurants along Yongmeori Coast

| Info | http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=778953


| Fees + Parking | Individuals – Adults 1,000 KRW / Military & Youth 500 KRW / Babies & Toddlers Free. Free parking lot. We paid 2,500 KRW per adult for the combination ticket for Sanbangsan and Yongmeori Coast.

| Address | 218-10, Sanbang-ro, Andeok-myeon, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do 제주특별자치도 서귀포시 안덕면 산방로 218-10 (안덕면)


Barnacle along Yongmeori Coast

{{ Daepo Jusangjeolli Cliff 주상절리(대포동지삿개) }}

I was most excited to see this place, because I had read that it’s similar to Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. Well, it is and it isn’t. Yes, these hexagonal (and other geometric) shaped columns, from lava, do resemble the ones from Giant’s Causeway. Same phenomenon. But, the key difference is that we could walk on the columns when we visited Giant’s Causeway in 2012, and we couldn’t at Daepo Jusangjeolli. In fact, we could only walk along a boardwalk/viewing platform, along with hundreds of other tourists. So, that was kind of disappointing.


Family selfie at Daepo Jusangjeolli Cliff


Geometric rock columns at Daepo Jusangjeolli Cliff


Daepo Jusangjeolli Cliffs

| Info | http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264179

| Fees + Parking | Individuals – Adults 2,000 KRW / Youth 1,000 KRW / Children under 6 free / Seniors 65 and over free. Paid parking lot.

| Address | 216, Jungmungwangwang-ro, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do 제주특별자치도 서귀포시 중문관광로 216 (중문동)

{{ Jeju Mysterious Road 신비의도로 }}

This was on our way to Hallasan, so we decided to test out this “gravity-defying” optical illusion. At the “start,” Alex put our car in neutral, and our car moved (sometimes quite fast, up to 10 km/hr), seemingly uphill (but we were of course, going downhill). I guess the way the surrounding roads/trees were positioned made it look like the road was going higher in elevation. It was pretty fun. So fun that Alex decided to do it again. And again (because the second time, a driver who probably didn’t know what was going on and was upset about the slow line of cars, passed in front of us, thereby making Alex step on the brakes and ruin the flow).


At the start of Jeju Mysterious Road

| Info | If you type “Jeju Mysterious Road” in google maps, you’ll find the location. If you don’t have a car, you can still enjoy this phenomenon by rolling a bottle “up” hill.


{{ Hallasan 한라산 }}

Alex and I learned of Mount Halla during our first week of Korean class. In our textbook, someone sent a postcard from Jeju to his friend in Seoul, raving about how gorgeous Hallasan was.

Hallasan is indeed beautiful. Located in the middle of Jeju, it’s the tallest mountain in South Korea, and can be seen from (almost) anywhere on the island. We drove around the perimeter of Hallasan National Park on Saturday, before actually doing an easy hike on Sunday. We chose to do the Eoseungsaengak (어승생악) course, which is 1.3 km long each way. Unfortunately, access to the visitor’s center and parking lot was closed off Sunday morning, so we had to park along the road and then walk 30 minutes (mostly flat) to the start of the trail. And, it wasn’t an easy hike while wearing Baby M. But, after a few water breaks, we made it to the top. There were two ROK (Republic of Korea) soldiers (with guns) up at the top — not sure why (spying on North Korea?!). We ate some Jeju oranges while admiring the view (most of the trees were already bare), before hiking down.


At the top of Eoseungsaengak at Hallasan

| Info | http://www.hallasan.go.kr/english/

Two of the easiest trails:

Eoseungsaengak (어승생악) Trail — cone volcano

Seokgulam (석굴암) Trail — dense forest

{{ Seongsan Sunrise Peak 성산일출봉 }}

This volcanic tuff cone, with a huge crater at its peak, is South Korea’s first UNESCO World Natural Heritage site. It’s located at the far eastern tip of Jeju, making it a great spot for watching the sunrise. Jeju is also known for its female divers, called Haenyo 해녀. Up until a few centuries ago, diving was a male-dominated profession, but due to the men going off into war and because the men couldn’t handle the harsh conditions (hey, the plaque as good as said that men are wimps!), women stepped up and became the divers of Jeju. There’s a Haenyo performance every day at 1:30 pm and 3:00 pm. So, we timed our arrival to coincide with the 3:00 pm performance and the sunset.


Haenyo performance at Seongsan

Unfortunately, it started to rain when we got to Seongsan. At first the rain wasn’t too bad. We watched the ajummas chant and get into their wetsuits and then get into the frigid waters. Honestly, it was a little sad and hard to watch… these ladies were in their 60’s (at the very least) and it was a cold and rainy day. I get that they learned to dive from their mothers (and they from their mothers before that), and that it was their livelihood. But still. I’m sure their daughters won’t be divers… they’re probably working (or studying) in the big city (Jeju-city) or maybe even THE city (Seoul).


View from almost the top of Seongsan Sunrise Peak

So, clearly there wasn’t going to be a brilliant sunset to watch. Maybe it was because we were already there, or because my iPhone told me I had already climbed 50 flights of steps that day (all while wearing Baby M), but I was determined to climb up to the peak. And after being together this long, Alex knew better than to argue with me. Up we went. Luckily, a third of the way up, we were able to buy an (extremely overpriced, crappy) umbrella, because it was really starting to pour. (There are actual steps with anti-slip, so it wasn’t dangerous or anything.)

The view from the top was pretty nice, even though it was hard to see through the mist. The crater at the top would have been better if viewed from a helicopter.


After our hike to the top of Seongsan

| Info | Takes about 20 or so minutes to hike up to the top. There’s a bathroom about halfway up. There are bathrooms and LOTS of coffee shops/food vendors in the parking lot. Women diver performances are at 1:30 pm and 3:00 pm (not sure if it’s everyday).



| Fees + Parking | Individuals – Adults 2,000 KRW / Youth 1,000 KRW / Children under 7 free / Seniors 65 and over free. Free parking lot.

| Address | 284-12, Ilchul-ro, Seongsan-eup, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do 제주특별자치도 서귀포시 성산읍 일출로 284-12

Something to point out — we didn’t use our stroller at all while we were in Jeju. There were steps or uneven paths at most places, and it was just easier to carry Baby M in the Ergo (while Alex carried our backpack/diaper bag).


Love the palm trees!

If we had more time (and weren’t traveling with a baby):

We would have done a more challenging hike up Hallasan. Some of these take the whole day, so you have to reach a checkpoint before a certain time to ensure that you’ll have enough daylight to descend.

Jeju has over 20 designated walking routes (called olle trails), most of them along the coast. Olle trails 7 and 10 were recommended to us.

| Jeju walking routes | http://www.jejuolle.org/?mid=40


Jeju-city is full of high-end (and many budget) hotels, as is the other major city on the southern coast, Seogwipo. Since we wanted a 1-bedroom place, we turned to Airbnb. We found a great deal for 50,000 KRW (~$50 USD) a night (checkout Jeju Sha’s place on Airbnb). The place was small, and barebones (we slept on mats on the floor), but the location was good, and most importantly, the price was right!


We picked a random Jeju black pork restaurant for Sunday dinner. It was pretty good, and the prices were about half of what they are in Seoul (basically the price is the same but you get 200 grams of meat instead of the usual 100 grams).


Jeju black pork on the grill


Kimchi and sides

We ate at a really cheap but tasty spicy pork restaurant in Seogwipo, called Yong’s Restaurant. It’s a no-frills place, serving only one item (spicy pork), for 7,000 KRW (~$7 USD) per person.


Spicy pork at Yong’s


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4 responses to “Weekend in Jeju, Korea”

  1. Marcia says :

    Very interesting. Olivia, you’ve become a great travel writer. 🙂

  2. Shawna says :

    I enjoy all your posts about your travels. A very happy Thanksgiving to you, Alex, and Baby M. Maybe we can celebrate together next year!

    • OliviaM says :

      Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family! We will celebrate in spirit, as we don’t get this holiday off… we already celebrated Korean Thanksgiving in September 😉 And yes, hope to celebrate with you next year!

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