Even if you only have a few days to explore Jeju Island, maybe even just a weekend from Seoul or Busan, there’s no reason you can’t still make the most of it. Since I’ve been teaching English in South Korea, Jeju has by far become my favorite domestic getaway. It’s the perfect addition to any Korean itinerary. But no matter how many chances you have to visit, if you carefully choose what to do, what to eat, and where to stay in Jeju, then the memories will last a lifetime. So let’s plan your trip.
Since this is a truly massive guide, please click around using the table of contents to find what you need.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
Visiting Jeju Island In Winter
Does it snow on Jeju? How cold does Jeju get in the winter? When is low season on Jeju? So many people have asked about traveling to Jeju in winter, so here are a few quick tips. It’s totally possible, and Jeju is seriously one of the most underrated places to visit in Korea during winter. To answer the above questions: yes it snows, it can get as cold as -7C/20F, and winter is low season on Jeju.
But no worries, there are plenty of things to do on Jeju, even when the temps hit single digits. Just remember:
- Pack layers, including thin heat tech layers you can remove every time you go inside places. Wintertime on Jeju runs from November to March, though the end of March will see cherry blossoms and can have some very warm days (though still some cold nights).
- Jeju weather is fickle, just like mainland Korea, so in the winter it’s possible to have snow anytime, though it is rare outside of December and January. Jeju in December is also really pretty, especially if it’s just snowed on Hallasan. Be extra careful when driving.
- On that note, winter activities on Jeju include picking hallabong (Jeju oranges) and gyul (Jeju tangerines), without much other interference. Most things don’t close on Jeju in the winter, even Hallasan; you can still hike everywhere, though I wouldn’t recommend a beach day. Popular things to do on Jeju in winter include: Love Land, the Aquarium, wandering Camellia Hill, and visiting all of Jeju’s many museums!
- If you’re on Jeju from mid-December to mid-January, definitely check out the Jeju Winter Festival, if only for the street food.
So if you’re deciding between Jeju or Busan in winter, I’d suggest heading to Jeju. It’s quieter and the flights are more affordable, and so is the food & accommodation. Plus, unlike Busan the snow stays untouched and pristine for quite awhile!
Arrival & Getting Around in Jeju
Transportation in Jeju can be a bit of a mess, similar to traveling Taiwan. Since it’s an island, getting to Jeju is a relatively simple matter of taking a flight. Note that if you are flying out early from Gimpo Airport, the airport closes each night from 12am-4:30am. Though getting to Jeju could also involve finding, buying a ticket for, and boarding a ferry. Either way, once you arrive it’ll be on the north side of the island, basically inside Jeju City. Once you’re on the island is when things get a bit hairier.
It’s possible to get around Jeju by public bus or taxi, but not recommended; one costs a lot of time, and the other a lot of money. As for the infamous Jeju tour packages that most domestic visitors seem to favor, the jury is still out on that one. I’ve experienced some amazing tours in Korea, but it certainly limits what you see and how much time you spend there. So the best option is to rent a car, or bring your own over on the ferry from the mainland.
I’ve gotten around Jeju by tour bus, public bus lines, and driving a rental car. There’s no metro or train system on the island, though there are ferries. So if you choose not to or can’t rent a car on Jeju, you’re left basically with the public bus.
Traveling Jeju By Bus
As I said, this is not my favorite option, but it’s do-able. If you’re traveling Jeju by bus, choose your accommodation carefully. You should stay along the coast, so that you’re never more than 2 buses from where you want to go, or maybe even just a quick taxi. I’d recommend staying in Seogwipo, so that you can follow the itinerary below. Your favorite bus line on Jeju will be the 201, which takes you in a ring around the island. The scene along the coast is particularly gorgeous from April to June.
For your initial arrival, Jeju airport limousine bus 800 and 800-1 will take you from the airport to Seogwipo the most directly, with buses every 15 minutes between 6am-10pm daily. Most of the bus routes stop running just before 10pm. If you arrive after 10pm, I’d recommend staying in Jeju City for the first night; you can take the 3000’s lines to a few different places, but those also stop at 12am. Taxis will always be waiting to take you somewhere, but the lines are always long at night.
You can use your T-Money card to get all around the island, even in most taxis. If you didn’t buy a T-Money card before arrival, you can buy one at any convenience store, even inside the airport. Alternatively, you can pay cash for buses and taxis. Most fares will be ₩1250 (~$1USD) each way, and taxis depend on distance. Be sure to download Naver Maps onto your phone before arriving, so that you can get bus route info immediately.
Driving in Jeju
Driving in Jeju is quite safe, with lots of open roads and several paths across the island in addition to the loop around it. A self-drive in Jeju is also the best way to see the beauty of the island’s countryside vistas, stay flexible with plans in case of weather interruptions, and stay in cheaper hotels if budget is an issue. The only requirements to rent a car in Jeju is a license in your home country and an international licence (which is applied & paid for separately).
Koreans drive on the right hand side of the road, just as they do in the US and most of the rest of the world. Driving in Jeju City isn’t very challenging, though going into more rural parts can be challenging since the roads narrow quite a bit. Your Korean GPS will give you numerous speed warnings every time you’re approaching speed cameras (so you have no excuse for getting a ticket!), so don’t freak out when it chirps and beeps at you a lot.
For a car rental, Jeju Island is one of the easiest spots I’ve ever rented in. We just followed the signs in the airport, took the shuttle to Lotte Rental Cars, pulled a number for help in English, and we were in our car within 15 minutes. That was on a public holiday, too! Rental Car places are called “ren-ta-ca,” so try saying that if nobody seems to be able to help you in English. Having a car got us to about twice as many sites across the island, not to mentioned allows you to rent a scooter on Udo (if that’s your kind of thing).
Where to Stay in Jeju
Where you choose to rest your head will greatly affect your trip, especially if you’re traveling Jeju by bus. After years traveling around the world and an additional three years living in Korea, I can attest to the fact that every place is different and has a different vibe. Even if the descriptions and amenities seem eerily similar, pay close attention to the words that other guests use to describe a place. There’s tranquil Seogwipo, isolated Jungmun, connected Jeju City, and beautiful Udo.
Tips for Choosing Accommodation
- Some of Jeju’s best and most memorable attractions are just basking in her beautiful nature. If that’s what you want out of a trip, don’t stay within either of the cities.
- Don’t shy away from more secluded-looking places— the number of adorable guesthouses nestled in the woods is at an all-time high in Jeju, and they can unfortunately be easily overlooked.
- If you’re here for at least 3 days, split up your accommodation and stay in two different parts of the island. If you follow my sample itinerary below, then I’d recommend staying near Udo on the first night, and then in Seogwipo for the last 2 nights.
- For those undertaking a long day trip to hike Hallasan, make sure you’re staying near the trail head. It’s easy to underestimate the amount of time it will take to finish, and weather can be unpredictable, especially in the spring and summer.
- If you’re unsure of where to stay at all, or just have a short stay, then stick to Jeju City. It’s the transportation hub of the island, and will be the easiest place to get around from, especially if you don’t have a car.
Choosing where you rest your head is important. Jeju is a small enough place that you can spend one night in each area of the island, and still manage to see it all. But I realize that most people don’t want to change hotels every night, and budget is a big factor. So I’ve narrowed it down to the four best regions to base yourself in, and a different spot for every budget and comfort level.
Stay in Jeju City or Seogwipo?
This is a questions I’ve gotten dozens of times, so I’ll address it here. Jeju City is a better place to stay if you’re on Jeju Island for 2 days or less. Or for your first night if you arrive late or last night if you’re leaving early. Note that most buses stop running around 10pm, and all of them stop running at midnight. But Seogwipo is a better place to stay if you have at least 3 days on Jeju, and want to see more of the island’s nature-oriented attractions.
As mentioned above, I’d actually recommend spending your first night near Udo, so that you can visit that more rural area at your leisure. Then for the remaining nights, Seogwipo is a great place to base yourself. If you have more than the typical 3 days on Jeju and want to see more nature, I’d recommend spending the first 2 nights on Udo so that you can visit both Seokjikoji and Seongsan Ilchulbong early in the morning. Then you can also get in most of a day on Udo, which is much larger than it appears. But I’m also a sucker for a great sunrise (or sunset).
Where to Stay in Seogwipo (south)
By Korean standards, Seogwipo is basically the countryside, with a population of just 150,000. It’s definitely the more laid back of Jeju’s two cities, and you can actually walk across the entire town in about an hour. But it’s not within the seaside city limits that you’ll be exploring, it’s along the coast.
Seogwipo is the perfect base from which to explore the many natural attractions Jeju has to offer, from waterfalls and cliff side vistas to orange farms and diving areas. While technically the city’s limits have now expand to reach the entire southern half of Jeju-do, this section contains hotels within the limits of the city proper.
Luxury Mid-Range: J Raum (*located in the Daejeon neighborhood in the west*)
Situated on the eastern coast of the island, within the limits of Seogwipo City, J Raum offers immaculate, spacious suites on their large grounds, in addition to free parking. Just 100m from the coast, the hotel also houses a coffee bar and a restaurant, where guests can enjoy a meal just steps from their rooms. I’d especially recommend staying here if you have a car. With only 23 rooms available, this is a stay that gets booked up fast. Double rooms start at just $60USD.
See the Latest Prices // Read Jeju Hotel Reviews.
Mid-Range: Park Sunshine Hotel
Each of Park Sunshine’s spacious rooms is decorated in finished hardwood, and boasts floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the surrounding nature. And not only does every room include a shower and a bath (practically unheard of in Korea), but they also offer complementary breakfast in their on-site restaurant. 4-star accommodation at 2-star prices should be Park Sunshine Hotel’s motto. Rooms start at just $45USD.
See the Latest Prices // Read Reviews.
Budget: MIDO Hostel
This large hostel is about as central as you can get in Seogwipo, located in the downtown hub just a few minutes from a number of different restaurants (and bus stops). For those early mornings, the hostel has its own very long coffee bar and self-serve breakfast of eggs & toast. The mix of private rooms and dorm beds allows for the needs of all types of travelers, while keeping costs low for everyone. I found the bed to be quite hard, but there were so many amenities that I managed to overlook it: several USB charging ports, free towels, hangers & a lamp in each bed, and a very helpful English-speaking staff. Single beds start at just $13USD.
See the Latest Prices // Read Reviews.
Where to Stay in Jungmun (southwest)
Formerly its own village, but now upgraded to “town” status, Jungmun is a quiet area several kilometers from Seogwipo. The entire area was relatively recently remodeled into a resort area for tourists, and it’s now known for its quiet beaches and fancy hotels. Jungmun Tourist Area, as it’s known, is also quite close to several attractions, however, most notably the Olle Trekking Trails. If your idea of visiting Jeju Island consists mostly of beaches and leisurely walks, Jungmun is the area for you.
Luxury: Kensington Hotel Jeju
One of the highest-rated hotels in Jeju, the Kensington has all the opulence one would expect from a 5-star hotel, infinity pool included. If the layers of indoor & outdoor pools isn’t enough, however, consider the superb staff and various on-site restaurants; the breakfast buffet is included in your stay. Within walking distance of the hotel are a botanical garden and the teddy bear museum. Rooms start at $160USD a night.
See the Latest Prices // Read Reviews.
This ocean side hotel has been one of my favorite places to stay in Jeju so far, both for the view and the quality of the rooms. As with the rest of Jungmun, I’d only recommend staying here if you have a car; there’s free parking out front. But assuming you bring your own wheels, the deluxe double room has two huge double beds (hard, but comfortable), and the views of sunset are stunning. Breakfast isn’t included, but there’s a cafe downstairs and plenty of nearby spots to choose from otherwise. There are also a ton of restaurants just a 5-minute walk away, and a massive open-air market next to the parking lot each day, selling everything from fresh seafood and kimchi pancakes to discounts pants and trinkets. Spacious double rooms start at $60USD per night.
See the Latest Prices // Read Reviews.
Budget: Palm Hill Pension
Pensions are uniquely Korean places (and they have nothing to do with the money you receive after retirement). They’re somewhere between a hotel and a guesthouse, but with even more privacy. They’re a staple of family vacations during Korea’s summers. Palm Hill Pension is a more couples-oriented version of this, with only 8 rooms in total, each equipped with a tiny kitchen & a TV with cable. It’s not as inexpensive as other budget accommodation in Jeju, but it’s by far a crowd favorite. Double rooms start at just $40USD.
See the Latest Prices // Read Reviews.
Where to Stay in Jeju City (north)
Undeniably the transportation hub of the island, Jeju City is home to Jeju Airport, the main ferry terminal, and the bus terminal. It’s got the feel of most every other Korean city, albeit a touch warmer. There are convenience stores, noraebang (karaoke bars), and traditional Korean food restaurants at every corner. But more importantly, Jeju City has international restaurants and an abundance of bus stops. If you’re looking to visit Jeju without a car, then this is where you should base yourself.
Mid-Range: Dam Spa Vill
The slightly less-than-luxury accommodation in Jeju is not to be overlooked, and is often fully booked. Koreans know a good deal when they see one, and this, my friends, is a great deal. Every room has a private terrace and access to the Jacuzzi & swimming pool, as well as the lovely rooftop garden. Located just a few kilometers from the ferry and the airport, one of Spa Vill’s roomy suites would be a wonderful place to rest your head after a long day of travel. Double rooms start at just $130USD.
See the Latest Prices // Read Reviews.
Mid-Range Luxury: Hotel Regent Marine The Blue
It’s hard to beat a room with a view, so let’s not pretend we can, especially in the case of a 5-star hotel like the Regent Marine The Blue. The Regent is one of those rare beauties that manages to wow guests by providing a top-notch staff, comfortable rooms, and a luxurious atmosphere without coming off as too good to be true. Guests can also take advantage of the seasonal outdoor swimming pool, and the free parking and daily breakfast that come with each room. Double rooms start at just $60USD.
See the Latest Prices // Read Reviews.
Budget: Yeha Guesthouse
Yeha is one of the top contenders for backpacking or budget-minded visitors, with comfortable beds, a welcoming shared space, and a full breakfast spread (eggs, jam on toast, and brewed coffee). The top-ranked guesthouse is in downtown Jeju, and offers clean rooms and free luggage storage both before & after your stay. My only complaint is that they only offer one pillow per guest, but we were just happy that they were nice enough to accommodate our arrival near midnight! Dorm beds start at just $15USD.
See the Latest Prices // Read Reviews.
Where to Stay near Udo (east)
Considering that it takes over an hour to drive and two hours to ride the bus bus to Udo Ferry Terminal, if you follow my sample itinerary below, I highly advise that you stay near Udo island your first night on Jeju. Not only is it a gorgeous region and a visual break from the monotony of the city, but it’s also a relatively cheaper area to stay in. On top of all that, when you start off your day, you won’t need to drive a long way before reaching your first destination. I promise, once you see what the region has in store, you’re going to want to book a place immediately.
Semi-Luxury: Color In Jeju
I’ll be honest: eastern Jeju is not really known for its luxury, and is far more countryside than its southern neighbors. That said, if you’re looking to stay near Udo and want to splurge a bit, Color In is your spot. They’ve got immaculate rooms, a small outdoor pool, and the rugged surroundings you certainly came to enjoy (though have no fear, there are several coffee shops here). Front desk hours are limited, but that’s easily overlooked. With just 6 guest rooms in the entire place, the odds are good that yours will be poolside. Double rooms start at just $110USD.
See the Latest Prices // Read Reviews.
Mid-Range: Playce Camp Jeju
Playce is one of the most recent additions to the Jeju accommodation landscape, and a very affordable one at that. The private rooms are a bit small, but they include a plush double bed, en-suite bathroom with fancy toiletries & full-sized towels, and discounts to eateries in the complex (just show your room key). You can do laundry for free on the top floor, though you need to buy a detergent packet from the vending machine on ground level. Playce is just a half-hour walk or 6-minute taxi in either direction to visit Seongsan Ilchulbong, Udo, or Seopjikoji, making it fully worth the bus ride or drive there (free parking is just next door). If you can manage to stay on a Friday night, they have a large artisan market every Saturday morning. Double rooms start at $35USD.
See the Latest Prices // Read Reviews.
Budget: Jagoga Guesthouse
This Korean-style guesthouse is beach-adjacent, and just a short walk from the Aquarium and Seopjikoji, or a long walk from UNESCO World Heritage site Seongsan Ilchulbong. During the warmer months, walking around eastern Jeju is an absolute treat. Guests love the clean room and stunning views, as well as the short commute to both restaurants and Jeju’s number one past time: the ocean! Jagoga guests also have access to the guesthouse’s snorkeling and fishing equipment, and free parking for their vehicles. Single beds start at just $19USD.
See the Latest Prices // Read Reviews.
What to Do in Jeju
Jeju has innumerable sites that involve the sea and nature, including 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, but they have their share of quirk and Korean tradition (naked hot tubs, anyone?). This list could seriously go on for hours if I listed out everything that locals do for fun. So to stick to the more accessible stuff for 3 days in Jeju, I’ll share just the weird, the natural, and the educational, divided by region (don’t forget to carry around a few extra thousand-won notes to pay for parking).
Surprisingly, I also found the points of interest in Jeju to be more accessible than those in Seoul or Busan. Most everything was available in Korean, English and Chinese, and many more people were able to speak English than I expected. So don’t shy away from something that sounds interesting, just because it looks rural. Looks can be deceiving.
Love Land (erotic museum) /// ₩9000 entrance /// 9am-midnight daily
This is one of the most unexpected sites to exist in Korea: a park full of penises and other erotic sculptures. Opened in 2004 by a group of art students from Seoul’s prestigious Hongik University, the park has been a surprising success, with few visitors failing to get a selfie with one of the many sculptures. Feel free to look and touch, lewd jokes optional. Note that you must be 20 or older to enter the park.
Hallasan Hiking /// free /// roughly sunrise to sunset
It’s tough to designate a specific starting point to hike Hallasan, considering that it’s at the center of the island. But Jeju City is as good a place to stay as any when planning to Hike another of Jeju’s UNESCO World Heritage sites. Hallasan is actually an active volcano, though it spews no lava or smoke at the moment, and it’s the reason why Jeju island exists at all. The views from the top are unforgettable, and you have 5 different paths you can use to reach the top, each of a different difficulty level. Note that it is not safe to Hike Hallasan in the rain and that you should bring extra layers no matter the weather when you start.
Orange Picking Experience /// ₩3000-₩6000 /// usually 8am-6pm
With peak orange season from November to February, orange picking is a winter activity on Jeju that most everyone participates in, local or tourist. The deal is basically a flat fee per person to pick and eat as many oranges as they want & bring home a kilogram, with a lower price for every kilogram picked beyond that. However, most Korean pick their oranges as slowly as possible in order to maximize photo opportunities, and I find it hard to blame them. Lucky for us, just like with Hallasan, it’s hard to nail this down to one area of the island, as the island’s fertile soil allows orange groves to flourish basically anywhere. But keep in mind that you’re more likely able to catch a taxi to a nearby orange grove from either Jeju City or Seogwipo.
Manjanggul (lava cave) /// ₩3000 entrance /// 9am-6pm daily (closed 1st Wed. every month)
This is definitely a cave. It’s cold and badly-lit, but the long walk down into the volcanicly-formed earth most certainly appeals to people. As one of Jeju’s UNESCO World Heritage sites, the 1,000 meters of cave open to the public gets quite packed on weekends, and the slippery floors can become extra hazardous, so bring grippy shoes. The more claustrophobic folks in the bunch will enjoy the lovely greenery above ground, especially in springtime when the grass is dotted with flowers.
Jeongbang Waterfall /// ₩2000 entrance /// 8am-6pm
Jeongbang’s claim to fame is as the only waterfall in Asia to fall directly into the ocean, which is honestly a really cool sight to see. Even better, you can see it basically from the parking lot, and get up close & personal with just a 5-minute walk. There’s even a tiny beach in front of it, just before the vast ocean extending way beyond. The walk down is worth it in nice weather, but can be a bit treacherous in rain or snow. If you’re lucky, you may even see a rainbow— do it for the ‘gram, I dare you. There are a few shops just along the parking lot selling souvenirs, oranges, and Jeju chocolates, as well. Look for the coffee shop with free wifi if you need a break.
Cheonjiyeon Waterfall /// ₩2000 entrance /// 8am-6pm
Cheonjiyeon deserves a place on this list on a nice day, but in the rain it’s nothing but a waterfall. Jeongbang is a gnarly sight no matter the weather, but Cheonjiyeong is a worthy stopover only if you have the time, though it looks like some gnarly white water rafting could take place here. It’s nice for a picture, however, and taking a rest in one of the many cafes.
Olle Trails (Oedolgae Rock) /// free /// roughly sunrise to sunset
This is a stunning viewpoint from which to see the ocean and some of the many mini islands surrounding Jeju-do. Lost of people come to trek the trails and pause every few minutes to soak it all in, but the lazy among us tend to stand at the lookout oint and try to figure out what each rock formation looks most like. Think of it as cloud-watching, but for ancient volcanic rocks. Seriously, though, this place is gorgeous.
Jusangjeolli Lava Cliffs /// ₩2000 entrance /// roughly sunrise to sunset
Often compared to the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Island, Jusangjeolli is another act of nature bestowed upon Jeju by the volcano that formed its body. Easily less than 5 minutes from the parking lot, the cliffs are deep grey rectangular and square formations which jut out into the ocean as if slowly formed by the stacking of blocks. They’re quite the popular photo spot, and certainly worth a stop. But I have to warn you that the line on the weekend can be long, and quite the brutal place to be waiting if it’s raining.
Seongsan Ilchulbong (sunrise peak) /// ₩2000 /// Summer 7:10am-7pm & Winter 7:30am-6pm
Is this in Korea or the Highlands of Ireland? The immensity of the green and the brightly colored flowers that greet you in the spring could very well distract you from ever climbing to the top of Seongsan. The final of Jeju’s three UNESCO world heritage sites, this windy fairy tale mountain was formed long ago by an exploding volcano, just like the rest of Jeju Island. Available in the area is the hike to the viewpoint, and horseback riding and boating for a bit extra. If you’re lucky, this is also where you’ll catch site of some of Jeju’s famous women divers. Note that no food is allowed once you pass the ticket booth, so you’ll have to take any peanut ice cream pictures from outside the gates.
Seopjikoji (scenic view point) /// free /// roughly sunrise to sunset
Just across from Seongsan is Seopjikoji, an area famous for being the filming location for several dramas and a gorgeous area, to boot. The draws over here are a defined walking trail along the cliffs and a beach side restaurant, though the most gorgeous scenes are in the spring, when the hills are in full bloom with bright yellow canola flowers. Watch out for selfie sticks, and try not to buy too many trinkets.
Aqua Planet Jeju /// ₩37200-₩40900 /// 10am-7pm
If you’re visiting Jeju with kids, this is a must-see. This massive aquarium has not only penguins and sea lions, but whale sharks. They have daily demonstrations and educational programs about the animals (in Korean), but all of the aquatic animals found in & around Jeju are in their large main building (with English signage). The entrance is pretty steep, but I promise that the photos are worth it.
Submarine Ride to & from Udo /// ₩36000-₩55000 /// departing 8:55am-4:30pm
Again, this is not a cheap activity, but it is one that you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. Jeju is famous not only for its women divers, but also for its scuba diving. The marine life in and around the islands is very vivid, in a way that’s difficult to experience with snorkeling. And the best part? Children of all ages are able to experience the beauty of the ocean, without the need to swim in it. Check out the submarine company here. Note that there is a 10% discount if you book with them online.
Explore Udo /// ₩10.500 (same-day round trip ferry) /// 7:30/8am-5/6:30pm (varies by season)
Despite the fact that Jeju has become famous for their black pork, Udo is actually named for a cow. The shape of a cow, actually, which is what people thought it resembled when they first decided to name things. Like the rest of Jeju, Udo is know for its great views and it’s beaches, but unlike the rest of Jeju, Udo has a special dessert: peanut ice cream. Bear with me here. Imagine you could ride around on a scooter on Udo with a cup of their famous peanut ice cream and a beach waiting for you to spend the afternoon on it. Just don’t forget your international driver’s licence if you want to ride around on anything with a motor!
The Chocolate Museum /// ₩6000 /// 10am-6pm
Built to resemble a castle, this massive museum is actually the second-largest chocolate museum in the world, behind the one in Cologne, Germany. Its exterior is covered in Jeju-esque volcanic rock, while the inside smells as if it were coated in chocolate. There are exhibits on chocolate history and chocolate making, as well as a cafe and a sales area where you can buy boxes of the sweet stuff. It’s a chocolate lover’s paradise, but I’ll also admit that I’ve seen better. Note that the Jeju chocolate museum closes an hour early in winter and an hour late in summer.
Sanbangsan Carbonate Springs /// ₩12000 base entrance /// 6am-midnight (indoor hot springs)
This will be one of the strangest experiences of your life, if you’ve never been to a Korean sauna. Everybody here is naked. Separated by gender, but naked. It takes some getting used to. And when you do, it’s glorious. This hot springs, glorified swimming pools in many ways, are divided by both temperature and healing properties. It’s a very soothing way to spend an evening, especially if you’re ready to scrub down everything afterwards; trust me, you’ll feel baby smooth. Note that the jjimjilbang (sleeping area) is open 24 hours, and costs and extra ₩1000 to stay in.
O’Sulloc Tea Fields & Museum /// free /// 9am-6pm
Being a tiny museum, I wouldn’t expect much in the way of tea education, but if you came for the tea products, then this is your spot. The small museum is attached to a massive cafe serving up a variety of teas from their farm, plus coffee and desserts. In the Innis Free store a hundred meters away is the beauty products section of the grounds, along with another massive cafe. The best part for mos people will be the tea plantation itself, however, which is situated across the street from the museum and simply laden with photo-ops.
There are honestly so many things to do in Jeju, but it’s all so different that it’s unlikely that everything will appeal to you, so just pick your favorites in each area, and then move on to the next one.
What to Eat in Jeju
Confession time: despite being a food blogger, I don’t center my schedule around meals. I might center the occasional day around dessert for dinner, but for the most part, I carry my chocolate & some almonds in my bag and like to see where the wind takes me. It’s how I travel anywhere, so it’s not really fair of me to recommend you any specific restaurants around which to plan your day. However, I freely offer food recommendations, and the must-try foods on Jeju are…
Sannakji (“live” octopus)
It’s hard to deny that Koreans love their meat, but if you’ve ever visited the country, you’ll also note that they love their seafood. As for Jeju residents, that love is at least quadrupled with the importance of the seafood trade on their economy. This is one Korean food you’ve probably heard of— sannakji is baby octopus, killed and then immediately cut up & served with sesame seeds on top, but the freshness of the animals means that the tentacles are still moving around when it’s served. This one can be hard to stomach (or swallow), but it’s certainly an important dish here. Korea, I’d argue, is one of the cheapest developed countries in which you can find quality seafood.
Abalone (Sea Snails)
First, hear me out. I know it might sound gross to eat snails, but these are actually shellfish, more like oysters than snails (but don’t go looking for any pearls). They’re one of the many sea foods caught by the women divers of Jeju, and are caught & served fresh every day. Other than sannakji, you’d be hard-pressed to find any food served fresher. Local favorites are abalone rice porridge and grilled abalone.
Sometimes I catch myself drooling when I think of Jeju’s black pork. I’ve only had it a few times, but the slabs of pork belly (its most common form) you’ll find sold in most barbeque restaurants in Jeju are a softer and more flavorful version of the meat from the mainland. If you’re looking for easy picking of black pork restaurants, check out the aptly named Black Pork Street in Jeju City.
Hallabong (those big oranges grown throughout the island)
There is actually a season for hallabong (winter time), but in reality some of the groves manage to grow oranges year round. You’ll see these thick-skinned beauties for sale in boxes along the side of the road, and at gift shops in most of the major tourists sites. The hallabong tea is one way they preserve the fruits after the season ends, but be warned, it’s quite sweet. It’s also worth trying some gamgyul, the Korean clementines that are also grown throughout Jeju. Think of them as the hallabong‘s little cousins.
Green Tea Anything
Home to the well-known O’Sulloc tea fields, you’ll see green tea-flavored things for sale throughout Jeju. But nowhere is there a higher concentration of tea-flavored items than at the O’Sulloc tea museum, itself, which is profiled above. The crowd favorites are the green tea lattes and green tea roll cakes, but I always go for the green tea truffles, when they’re available.
As mentioned above, Jeju is home to the world’s second-largest chocolate museum. This means that Jeju chocolate has become famous throughout Korea over the years. If you’re bringing back a souvenir for those who couldn’t come with, a box of Jeju chocolates is an affordable option, though in my expert opinion, not my favorite chocolates ever.
Peanut Ice Cream
This is a sort of rite-of-passage food for Jeju visitors. Depending on where you get it from, the cream flavor can be more or less intense, and the ice crystals can be strong in this one. However, peanuts are grown on Udo, the island off the coast of Jeju, making it a local food & one that Koreans are rightfully very proud of. I find the flavor to be strong peanut over an icy vanilla soft serve, though honestly, most people just buy it for the cute pictures.
Bonus: many local friends told me that Jeju is known for their Indian food, so if you’re feeling some international fare, consider going out for Indian food in Jeju.
Sample Jeju Itinerary: 3 Days
3 days is enough to see the major sites of Jeju, so on the map I’ve outlined where to go for each day. This assumes that you can arrive at the first spot around 9am, and will be tired enough for dinner and relaxation around 7pm.
If this sounds like you, this may be your perfect Jeju itinerary. 3 days may not be enough for some, but never fear— not everything will appeal to you, and this is easy enough to remove stuff from or add to. You can read more about each site above. At the bottom of the page is a map of the island, with all of these points of interest marked off. Proceed at your leisure.
Jeju Itinerary Day 1
9am // Manjanggul: Start out the day at the lava caves, a kilometer of dark, firey history, and a look into how the island was formed. You can only explore the first 1000 meters of the more than 13,000 formed, but the multi-lingual signage will explain how rivers of lava burst from the earth and tunnel upwards to form the basis of modern-day Jeju Island. It’s chilly down there, so bring a jacket. This can be done either first or last, depending on your starting point, but remember that they close at 6pm.
10am // Udo: The first ferry to this island is not particularly early, but they can get packed on weekends. If you’re visiting on a Saturday or Sunday, be prepared to wait a bit for the next ferry, and don’t forget to buy round trip tickets. It’s only a 15-minute ride, so once you’re on the island, head straight from the ferry terminal to Udo Seobin Baeksa, a gorgeous beach just a 10-minute walk from the port. Once you’re there, grab some peanut ice cream and walk along the beach. Other things to do on Udo are: rent bikes to ride around the island, watch locals dive in the ocean, go horseback riding, grab a coffee on the pier, and hike Udobong. I highly recommend having black pork burgers for lunch.
4pm // Seopjikoji: Once you’ve returned from your half day on Udo, head just a few kilometers down the road to this beautiful look out point. If you don’t go now, I’m afraid you’ll be too tired to go at the end of the day, so just muster up the will power to see one more beautiful site.
5pm // Seongsan Ilchulbong: By now you may not feel up to any more hiking or walking around, but I promise that these surroundings will be worth the wait. I swear you’ll think you’re walking into a scene straight from the highlands of Northern Ireland. Seongsan is one of Jeju’s UNESCO World Heritage sites, and you’ll immediately understand why. Two hours is just enough to walk around and take pictures, observe the famous women divers of Jeju, maybe take a boat ride, and hike to the top of the small mountain. Going later in the day also allows you to look around without the mid-day sun glaring in your eyes, and with many fewer people.
Jeju Itinerary Day 2
9am // Jeongbang Waterfall: Literally a one minute walk to the falls (& the ocean), and another few minutes for the close-up view, this is a perfect first stop for day 2. If your legs are sore from the day before there’s no need to go down for a closer look, and there’s a coffee shop right in the parking lot, should you need it.
10am // Oedolgae Rock: Just like with the waterfall, this can be a more or less involved part of your trip. If it’s raining or you’re tired, then just walk over to where the view point is and admire the gorgeous natural scenery. Trekking is available here, however, and is quite possible. It can get rather crowded here on nice weekend afternoons, so head over before lunch.
11am // Jusangjeolli Lava Cliffs: Unlike the lava caves you visited yesterday, these cliffs are a spectacular representation of what happens after the lava shoots out of the earth. Looking just like the legos you played with as a kid, this is a wonderful photo-op for any kind of traveler.
11:30am // Lunch Time: Most people’s favorite time of day. Head into Seogwipo and look around for a barbeque restaurant that served black pork, and ask for samgyeopsal. This is pork belly, and they’ll bring it out in long strips that look like thick-cut bacon, and you can thank me later. Don’t worry, all the side dishes they bring out are included in the price of the meat. Note that the more side dishes, the more respect they’re showing you.
1pm // Chocolate Museum: After a nice hearty meal, it’s time for some dessert! Once you get over the immense grounds of this castle-like factory, head inside and learn all about how chocolate is made, and some history about chocolate. Kids and adults are all huge fans of the delightful aroma and variety of samples on offer, as well as the reasonably-priced gifts in the shop.
3pm // Green Tea Fields: Once you manage to drag yourself away from the chocolate factory, make the short drive over to the green tea fields. O’Sulloc’s tea plantation is famous throughout Korea for its quality tea (despite the name, the plantation produces a number of different teas from this one variety). But if you’re still full from the pigging out and the chocolate, then work off the calories by strolling around the endless fields of green. Peak season in from April to June.
6pm // Love Land: If by some miracle you’re still able to take in more sites, I highly recommend Love Land. It is Korea’s only Adult Theme Park, though I think of it as more of an erotic photo zone. However, it’s also open until midnight. So if you’re traveling with kids, I’d recommend grabbing dinner first and then leaving them in the hotel for a movie while you get your post on in the erotic theme park you never knew you would see.
Jeju Itinerary Day 3
9am // Hike Hallasan: I hope you’re not still sore from walking around the day before yesterday, because today is hiking day! Sort of. Hallasan actually has 5 trails, and each is vastly different from the others. One of them only takes half an hour each way, though you don’t see much. The route that starts at Eorimok Trail and returns down Yeongsil Trail is rightfully the most popular, however. This trip take about 5 hours total, so be sure to bring water bottles and snacks. If you’re using public transport, bus 740 heads to Eorimok and stops by Yeongsil, as well.
2pm // Late Lunch: After all that exertion, it’s only right to grab some nice warm soup to re-hydrate. Stop in at any of the many local restaurants at the bottom of the trail head, or head towards the hot springs and eat closer to there (though there aren’t any restaurants right around the springs).
3pm // Hot Springs: This was honestly one of the weirdest and one of my favorite parts of Jeju. There are saunas and jjimjilbangs everywhere in Korea, but outdoor hot springs or pools are much harder to find. Especially good for relaxing your muscles after a hike and challenging your definition of too many naked people, the Sanbangsan Carbonate Springs are heavenly. You can pay the extra ₩3000 for access to the outdoor pools and hang out with your significant other, or just stay in the cocoon of warmth inside, scrubbing off all the dead skin once you’ve had enough. General relaxation is a great theme for your last night on Jeju.
Now that you have an idea of what the island has to offer, you’re just about ready for your trip.
Best Time to Visit Jeju
There’s really no bad time to visit Jeju, since the weather on the island is so much milder compared to the mainland. But summer is definitely peak season, with mid-July to the end of August seeing the most visitors (when kids are off school).
Spring or Fall are my favorite time to visit, as in both cases the prices are a bit cheaper, the weather is still mild, and there are colors popping everywhere. Since most people come to Jeju for just 3 or 4 days at a time, flights are much cheaper to arrive Sunday through Wednesday & depart Wednesday, Thursday or Saturday.
Safety Level: 10/10
Because it’s an island, there’s really nowhere for criminals to hide. That said, just like the rest of Korea, Jeju is just a very safe place to explore. The entire country outlaws guns, except for the military, and the crime rate is extremely low. There aren’t really any dangerous parts of Jeju, unless you count those really tall cliffs people like to hike up to.
Sample Jeju Budget: 3 Days
This assumes you’re spending 3 nights on the island, and are travelling alone using the above-mentioned guide. The price will lower a bit per person as you share the cost of a rental car. If you travel by bus & taxi combined, you would travel slower, but spend more like $10-20 a day. Note that the current exchange rate is roughly 1150KRW per 1USD.
- Lodging: $70USD
- Transport: $60USD (flights are so varied in cost that those are not included in this budget, and neither is the cost of a rental car)
- Activities: $50USD
- Food: $70USD
Basic Korean Lesson
Okay, you’re all set for your trip, but you don’t know any Korean! So let’s consider the language barrier. I don’t discuss it much on this site, but for a native English speaker, Korean is one of the harder languages to learn. Lucky for you, I’ve already broken down this barrier several times over. So to help you prepare for your trip, I’ve compiled a shortlist to help you order food and just be generally polite. Many Koreans speak enough English to understand your order, but it’s always polite to throw in a little Korean. I’d also highly recommend downloading a picture-capable translation app before you go, like Google Translate.
Hello // An-nyeong-ha-se-yo. (안녕하세요.)
I don’t speak any Korean. // Han-guk-aw jal-moat-hae-yo. (한국어 잘못해요.)
Do you speak English? // Yeong-aw jal-hae-yo? (영어 잘해요?)
Thank you // Gam-saahm-ni-da. (감사합니다.)
How much is it? // Eol-ma-yeh-yo? (얼마예요?)
One of these, please. // Ee-gaw ha-na ju-say-yo. (이거 하나 주세요.)
It’s to-go/takeout. // Po-jahng ee-eh-yo or Tay-kow-shi-yay-oh. (포장 이예요.)
Lesson complete! Now let’s go pack.
Jeju Attractions Map
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Have you ever visited Jeju Island, or any of the other Korean islands? Anything else to add?