I’m currently planning my fourth trip to Jeju Island, so I figured it was time to give this post an update! Even if you only have a few days to explore Jeju, or maybe just a weekend from Seoul or Busan, there’s no reason you can’t make the most of it. Since Korea is now once again open to tourists, I’ve been doing intensive research for my return trip in May 2022, and BOY have things changed!
Both now and when I was teaching English in South Korea, Jeju has remained my favorite long weekend getaway, though I’ve found that the last two years have shifted availability of both activities and hotels. Since Jeju is a misleadingly large island, I want to make sure that these changes don’t affect your trip (or mine!). So here is my *updated* guide to where to stay on Jeju Island, plus a few more travel tips for your trip to Korea.
Since this is a very comprehensive overview of where to stay on Jeju, feel free to click around using the table of contents.
Visiting South Korea in May 2022 (Update)
Those of you looking to visit South Korea are probably as confused by all the changes as I was before I visited in May 2022. The Korean government has been as wishy-washy with their pandemic policies as those in most of the other heavily-touristed countries in Asia have been. But as of May 2022, if you want to vacation anywhere in Korea, you need to be ready to be strict with your mask wearing. As of May 2022, masks are still required in all public places, excluding the outdoors (unless you’re in a crowded area or at an event with 50+ people).
I found that there was a lot more paperwork to fill out than I remembered from previous visits. But I’m also American and don’t need to apply for a visa, so if you’re already used to applying for a visa to visit most countries, then it may not seem like as much more to you. Here are the documents you need to take to Korea to visit as a tourist:
- K-ETA (Korean Electronic Travel Authorization, applied for at least 72 hours before departure) OR Visa to visit Korea (countries which previously had a visa exemption now need to apply for a K-ETA)
- Proof of negative Covid-19 test: this means either a PCR test taken less than 48 hours before departure from country of origin or a rapid test taken within 24 hours of departure. Results need to be in English or Korean; this is not required for travelers 6 years of age or under.
- Proof of Vaccination uploaded to their quarantine system, known as Q-Code (you take a picture of your vaccine card and upload your proof of a negative PCR test all at once, so you can only do this AFTER you get your test results back, usually the night before you depart). Travelers under 12 years of age are currently allowed in with just 2 shots (booster not required).
This is not the end, however, as there are a couple other testing requirements in place right now. As of May 23rd, visitors to Korea are required to take a PCR test within 3 days of arrival. There’s no testing requirement to leave South Korea, but you may be required to take a test in order to move on to your next destination or home country. The section below this one details more general info about planning your trip and navigating Jeju.
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 South 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. If traveling by public transport, your favorite bus line on Jeju will be the 201, which takes you in a ring around the island. If you’d like to rent a car, you’ll need to apply for an international driver’s license in your home country before arrival.
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.
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 Jeju 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 spending at least 3 days on Jeju, split up your accommodation and stay in two different parts of the island. If you follow my sample Jeju itinerary, then I’d recommend staying near Udo Island 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 by now, 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 near 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). I know that all these place names can get very confusing, so I’ve made a map of Jeju attractions to go along with my 3 day Jeju itinerary detailed in a different post. Click here to scroll to the map now.
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.
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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.
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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.
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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 ideal Jeju Island itinerary 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.
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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. I can’t recommend this place enough! Spacious double rooms start at $60USD per night.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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, unless you bring your own. 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, which is why I stay here whenever I spen a weekend in Jeju Island. Double rooms start at $35USD.
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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.
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Top 5 Things to Do in Jeju
Jeju and its smaller surrounding islands have numerous beautiful sites that involve the sea and nature, including 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Navigating the island by car is definitely easier, but as someone who hates to drive, I also appreciate how accessible they’ve made all of the tourists sites, both physically and linguistically. Most everything is available in Korean, English and Chinese, and many more people are able to speak English than you may expect. You can check out my complete guide to Jeju for more sites, but just to whet your appetite, here are my 5 favorite spots on Jeju Island.
Jeju City: 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 surprisingly successful tourist attraction, 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.
Near Udo: Seongsan Ilchulbong (sunrise peak) /// ₩2000 /// Summer 7:10am-7pm & Winter 7:30am-6pm
This part of the island is often compared to the Highlands of Ireland, because the immense green and the brightly-colored flowers that greet you each spring could easily distract you from climbing to the top. As one of Jeju’s 3 UNESCO world heritage sites, this wind-swept mountain was formed millennia ago by the same volcanic eruption that formed the rest of the island. A popular activity on the tiny beach below is to take a boat out into the ocean and look at the viewpoint from afar, and later hike to the top or take a horseback ride around the area. Some people even go scuba diving from here, in the short period in which the water is warm enough.
Seogwipo: 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. Loads 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 point and try to figure out what each rock formation looks most like. Think of hiking Olle Trail as cloud-watching, but for ancient volcanic rocks. Seriously, though, this place is gorgeous.
Western Jeju-do: Sanbangsan Carbonate Springs /// ₩12000 base entrance /// 6am-midnight (indoor hot springs)
Everybody here is naked. Separated by gender, but naked. That’s the reality of a Korean sauna, and it can take some getting used-to. These hot springs, which are in many ways just glorified swimming pools, are divided by both temperature and healing property. Overall it’s an incredibly calming way to spend an afternoon or evening, especially if you’re all ready to scrub down afterwards. Note that the jjimjilbang (sleeping area) is open 24 hours, and costs an extra ₩10000 to stay in.
Western Jeju-do: O’Sulloc Tea Fields & Museum /// free /// 9am-6pm
Considering the very small size of this museum, I wouldn’t expect much in the way of tea education. But if you’re interested in great selfies and a huge variety of tea products, then this is your spot. The tiny museum is attached to a very large cafe which offers a selection of teas from their farm, plus coffee and desserts. A hundred meters away is the Innis Free store, which carries beauty products along with another massive cafe. The best part for most visitors will be the tea plantation itself, however, which is situated across the street from the museum and has very easy access.
There are really so many things to do in Jeju that it can be impossible to limit yourself to a few days. But each attraction on the island is so different that it’s unlikely everything will appeal to you, so just pick your favorites in each area, and then move on to the next one.
Korea Visa: while there are still 112 countries whose citizens don’t need to apply for visas before visiting Korea for 30 to 90 days, as of September 2021, ALL visitors from those approved countries still need to have an approved K-ETA before arriving in Korea. K-ETA stands for Korea-Electronic Travel Authorization. You can check if yours is one of those visa-exempt, countries and how long your visa lasts for, here. Common countries: USA (up to 90 days), Canada (up to 6 months), South Africa (up to 30 days), Malaysia (up to 90 days), Singapore (up to 90 days). But remember, even if you don’t need to apply for a visa, from now on you do still need to apply for a K-ETA, which is good for two years from the date of approval.
Voltage: 220v /60Hz, with two round holes for the plug (type F).
Best Time to Visit Jeju: There’s really no bad time to visit Jeju, but summer is peak season with mid-July to the end of August seeing the most visitors (when kids are off school). The best month to visit Jeju (and Korea in general) is in May, but overall spring and fall are my favorite times because 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.
Basic Korean Lesson
So you’re all ready 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 in a restaurant, but it’s always polite to throw in a little Korean. If you get beyond ordering food in a restaurant, the language barrier only gets more obvious. I’d also highly recommend downloading a picture-capable translation app before you go, like Google Translate. Click here to learn more about how I learned Korean while living in Korea!
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 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?