Jeju Island Travel Guide: Things to Do, See and Eat traveling in Jeju-Do, South Korea

Known as the Island of the Gods by native Koreans, Jeju Island is one of the most highly touted tourist destinations in Korea.  A temperate subtropical island (don’t come here expecting hot sun and lukewarm turquoise seas in January, despite its billing as “the Hawaii of Korea”), Jeju has attracted visitors, both Waegook and Korean alike for many years, with its misty mountains, unique and occasionally bizarre theme parks, and in summer time, its ocean beaches.

Despite the highly crowded nature of Korea, and the resultant intense popularity of this destination in summer (the air route from Seoul to Jeju is the busiest air route in the world, with more than 10 million passengers a year making the trip), there are still areas of this isle where one can find relative peace in this deeply beautiful place.  One thing to keep in mind on your travels here though is this: while there are many attractions and hotels to choose from here, do make an effort to try and stay with and patronize locally based businesses here, as many of the operations here that most people choose are run by corporations based on the mainland, shuttling the majority of your tourist dollars away from the locals that need it most.

That way, whether you scale the highest peaks in Korea in the interior, or rest on its silky sands, or geek out at its many wacky but homegrown theme parks, you will be supporting a mode of development that will sustain this place for many years to come.

Jeju-Do Travel Guide: Things to do on Jeju Island, South Korea including admiring rugged coastal views

Jeju-Do Travel Guide: A Brief History Of Jeju Island, Korea

Jeju-do, also known as Jeju Island, is a volcanic island located off the southern coast of South Korea. It has a rich and complex history dating back thousands of years. The island’s name, Jeju, is derived from the Korean word “Cheju,” which means “a place where nine things are gathered.” These nine things refer to the island’s natural wonders, including eight peaks and a volcano.

The island has been inhabited for over 10,000 years, and archeological evidence shows that the people of Jeju Island developed their own unique culture and way of life. Due to its strategic location, Jeju Island has been influenced by many different cultures throughout its history, including China, Japan, and Southeast Asia.

During the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), Jeju Island was used as a place of exile for political prisoners. In the 15th century, the island became a base for Korean naval forces, who used it to defend against Japanese invasions. During the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), Jeju Island was used as a center for trading and diplomacy with China and Japan.

In the 20th century, Jeju Island became a site of conflict during the Korean War (1950-1953). In 1948, a communist insurgency led by Kim Il-sung, who would later become the leader of North Korea, broke out on Jeju Island. The South Korean government responded with a brutal crackdown that lasted until 1954 and resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians. This period is known as the Jeju Uprising or Jeju Massacre.

Today, Jeju Island is a popular tourist destination known for its stunning natural beauty, unique culture, and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The island is also known for its agriculture, including the cultivation of tangerines, green tea, and the famous Jeju black pork. With its rich history and vibrant culture, Jeju Island is truly a gem of South Korea.

Jeju-Do Top Attractions and Best Places to Visit in South Korea

In order to dive head first straight into the traditional life of rural villagers on Jeju Island, make time to check out the Seongeup Folklore Village.  Unlike other contrived settlements you might see throughout Korea, this one actually has some of the original inhabitants living here as they always have.  You get to observe them go about their day to day routines, but it is advised that you hire a guide to get the best possible experience, as they are very well-read on this community specifically, and they can act as a translator if you wish to ask the local residents questions about their lives here in the past, and as a living, breathing tourist attraction.

Following this, continue your journeys across this island crammed with secrets and surprises around every corner by dropping on the various museums that dot the landscape here.  Topics range from the serious, with museums that document the horrific events involving the Japanese occupation in the earlier half of the 20th century, and a bloody civil conflict on the island following the Second World War (Jeju Independence Museum, Jeju April 3rd Peace Park), to the places that explore the resources and industries of Jeju (Green Tea Museum, Haenyeo Museum), to the light-hearted and fun (Teddy Bear Museum, Mini World, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not).

Finally, visitors in the winter may feel that while they are escaping the crowds by coming here in the off-season, they end up missing the buzz and energy of the warmer months as a trade-off.  If you time your visit to arrive here in February though, you get to have the opportunity to take in one of Jeju’s most famous celebrations, the Jeongwol Daeboreum Fire Festival.  Originating from the need of farmers to burn their fields to rid them of harmful insects, the festival of today features massive firework displays, bonfires, and the opportunity to play traditional Korean games with the locals!

Other Cultural Attractions: Trip to Jeju-Do, South Korea

While this could be considered one of the museums that we have already covered in the paragraphs above, Loveland has attracted so much notoriety on its own, that it deserves its own section.  In case you haven’t heard of this place before, it is a museum and sculpture park dedicated to various representations of … you guessed it … penises!  Or is that penii?  Anyhow, this place contains not only that, but actual depictions of people doing the horizontal rumba.  Exhibiting a level of comfort in sexuality that most Westerners lack, this place will generate vacation photos that will be guaranteed to makes your parents blush!

After that, it will be high time to begin connecting with the natural side of Jeju Island.  Start this with a trek up Mount Halla, the tallest peak in South Korea.  Despite this moniker, the trail is actually fairly moderate in difficulty, and provided you wear proper shoes, and provision yourself with some food and water for the trail, it will prove to be a spectacular hike for you and the numerous Koreans who will be likely making the trek with you!

Finally, after all that climbing and running around, you will need a day or two to recuperate.  Fortunately, being a subtropical island, there are plenty of stunning beaches to go around, despite the overwhelming popularity of this place (just plan a trip for September, after the official “swimming season” ends … trust us on this one).  The most popular beach on the island is the one closest to the airport, Iho Tewoo.  However, it tends to be overcrowded through much of the season, and the sand is of middling quality.  A better bet can be found on the northwest side of Jeju, at Hyeopjae Beach.  Here, the sand is a brilliant white, a spectacular view of an offshore island heightens the mood even further, and the shallow waters make for pleasant swimming through much of the long summer season.

source: Full Belly Travels on YouTube

Top 10 Things To Do on Jeju-Do, Korea For Visitors

Here are the top 10 things to do on Jeju-Do:

  1. Hike Mount Hallasan – Rising 1,950 meters above sea level, Mount Hallasan is the highest mountain in South Korea and the centerpiece of Hallasan National Park. A challenging but rewarding hike, the trail takes visitors through a variety of terrains, from dense forests to rocky ridges, with breathtaking views at the summit.
  2. Explore Manjanggul Cave – This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the longest lava tube in the world, spanning over 7 kilometers. Visitors can explore the vast underground tunnel and witness the unique geological formations formed by volcanic activity.
  3. Visit Seongsan Ilchulbong – This iconic peak rises dramatically from the sea, creating a stunning landscape that is beloved by locals and visitors alike. Hike to the top to witness the sunrise, and marvel at the breathtaking views of the surrounding coastline.
  4. Admire the Jeju Stone Statues – These unique stone figures, called dol hareubang, are believed to have spiritual powers and are a symbol of Jeju-Do. Visitors can find them throughout the island, but the largest concentration can be found at Bongseongri in Jeju City.
  5. Experience the Olle Trail – This network of hiking trails covers over 400 kilometers and takes visitors through some of the most beautiful landscapes on the island. With a variety of routes to choose from, the Olle Trail is perfect for both experienced hikers and those looking for a leisurely stroll.
  6. Relax on the Beaches – With over 20 beautiful beaches to choose from, visitors can enjoy swimming, sunbathing, and water sports on Jeju-Do. Some of the most popular beaches include Hamdeok Beach, Hyeopjae Beach, and Jungmun Beach.
  7. Learn About Jeju Culture – Jeju-Do has a rich and unique culture that is distinct from the rest of South Korea. Visitors can learn about the island’s traditions through a variety of cultural experiences, such as visiting a traditional Jeju-style house or attending a performance of the Jeju Samda Nori festival.
  8. Taste Jeju Cuisine – Jeju-Do is known for its fresh seafood, unique black pork, and delicious tangerines. Visitors can sample these local delicacies at one of the many restaurants and food stalls throughout the island.
  9. Visit Jeju Loveland – This adult-only theme park is filled with erotic sculptures and artwork, making it a unique and playful destination for couples.
  10. Relax at a Jeju Spa – Jeju-Do is home to a variety of hot springs and natural spas that are perfect for relaxing and rejuvenating after a day of exploring.

With its stunning natural beauty, unique cultural experiences, and delicious cuisine, Jeju-Do is a must-visit destination for any traveler to South Korea.

What To Eat and Drink on Jeju Island, South Korea

The island’s volcanic soil and temperate climate create the perfect environment for a variety of crops, seafood, and livestock, resulting in a diverse and flavorful culinary scene. Here are some of the must-try foods and drinks on Jeju Island:

  1. Black Pork – Jeju black pork is one of the island’s most famous dishes. The pigs are raised in a stress-free environment and fed a special diet of grains, chestnuts, and other nutritious foods, resulting in tender and flavorful meat. The pork is often grilled or served in a hot pot with vegetables.
  2. Abalone – Jeju Island is known for its fresh seafood, and abalone is one of the most popular delicacies. The meat is tender and slightly chewy, with a delicate flavor that pairs well with garlic and soy sauce. Abalone is often served raw or grilled with vegetables.
  3. Jeju Orange – These sweet and juicy oranges are a specialty of the island and are a must-try for any visitor. The fruit is often used in desserts and drinks, such as Jeju orange juice and Jeju orange tea.
  4. Sea Urchin – Jeju Island is home to some of the best sea urchin in South Korea. The meat is creamy and slightly sweet, with a delicate texture that melts in your mouth. It’s often served raw on a bed of rice or in a seafood stew.
  5. Hallabong – Similar to the Jeju orange, hallabong is a type of sweet citrus fruit that is unique to the island. The fruit has a distinct shape and a thick, easy-to-peel skin. It’s often used in desserts and drinks, such as hallabong tea and hallabong ice cream.
  6. Makgeolli – This traditional Korean rice wine is a popular drink on Jeju Island. It has a slightly sweet and tangy flavor and a low alcohol content, making it a refreshing drink to enjoy with a meal.
  7. Soju – Soju is a popular distilled spirit in South Korea, and Jeju Island has its own version made with the island’s unique water source. It has a slightly sweet taste and is often enjoyed as a shot or mixed with other drinks.
  8. Omegi Tteokbokki – This Jeju Island specialty is a twist on the classic Korean street food dish, tteokbokki. The rice cakes are mixed with omegi (a type of wildflower seed) to give them a nutty and slightly sweet flavor.
  9. Hyeonmi Noodles – Made from hyeonmi (brown rice), these noodles are a healthier alternative to traditional wheat-based noodles. They have a nutty flavor and are often served cold with vegetables and a spicy sauce.
  10. Gamgyul Bingtteok – These rice cakes are made with gamgyul (Korean persimmons) and have a chewy texture and a sweet, fruity flavor. They’re often served with a cup of tea or as a dessert after a meal.

Whether you’re a foodie or just looking to try something new, Jeju Island’s culinary scene is sure to leave you satisfied and craving more.

Top Restaurants on Jeju-Do, Korea

Its fertile land and pristine waters provide an abundant supply of fresh seafood, vegetables, and meat that the locals use to prepare mouth-watering dishes. Here are the top restaurants on Jeju-Do where you can indulge in traditional Jeju cuisine and other Korean delights.

  1. Haenyeo House – Located in Seogwipo, this restaurant offers a unique dining experience where you can enjoy the seafood caught by the haenyeo, or female divers, of Jeju. The fresh sashimi platter and grilled octopus are highly recommended.
  2. Gogane Oreum – Situated in Jeju City, this restaurant serves Jeju black pork, a local specialty known for its tender and juicy meat. The pork belly and pork ribs are a must-try.
  3. Black Pork Street – As the name suggests, this street is dedicated to restaurants serving Jeju black pork. The street is located in Seogwipo and is a great place to sample different cuts of black pork.
  4. Hwansangsang – This restaurant in Jeju City serves traditional Jeju cuisine made from fresh ingredients sourced locally. The abalone porridge and grilled fish are some of the popular dishes.
  5. Udo King Crab – Located on Udo Island, this restaurant specializes in king crab caught from the surrounding waters. The spicy king crab stew and grilled king crab are some of the standout dishes.
  6. Jeju Heukdonga – This restaurant in Seogwipo serves Jeju black pork along with a variety of other dishes. The stone pot rice with Jeju black pork is a must-try.
  7. Saebokdang – This seafood restaurant in Jeju City is known for its fresh sashimi and seafood dishes. The abalone and sea urchin sashimi are highly recommended.
  8. Myeongjin Jeonbok – Located in Seogwipo, this restaurant specializes in jeonbok, or abalone, a prized delicacy in Korean cuisine. The abalone porridge and abalone hot pot are some of the signature dishes.
  9. Jungsikdang – This restaurant in Jeju City serves modern Korean cuisine using local ingredients. The tasting menu featuring dishes such as beef tartare and Jeju mandarin sorbet is a popular choice.
  10. Seolbing – This dessert cafe with multiple locations across the island serves bingsu, a Korean shaved ice dessert. The Jeju tangerine and green tea bingsu are some of the favorites.

These restaurants on Jeju-Do offer a range of dining experiences, from traditional Jeju cuisine to modern Korean cuisine. Whatever your taste, there is no shortage of delicious food to discover on this beautiful island.

Tours For Visitors on Jeju Island, South Korea

Here are some popular tours for visitors on Jeju Island, South Korea:

  1. Jeju Island Full-Day Bus Tour: This tour takes visitors on a full-day adventure around the island, visiting popular attractions such as Seongsan Sunrise Peak, Manjanggul Cave, and the Jeju Folk Village. Lunch and transportation are included.
  2. Jeju Island East Coast Tour: This tour focuses on the eastern part of the island, including Seopjikoji Hill, Seongeup Folk Village, and Seongsan Sunrise Peak. Visitors can also enjoy a seafood lunch and a traditional tea ceremony.
  3. Jeju Island West Coast Tour: This tour takes visitors to the western part of the island, including the Jeju Stone Park, O’Sulloc Tea Museum, and Cheonjeyeon Waterfall. Lunch and transportation are included.
  4. Jeju Island Private Car Tour: This tour allows visitors to customize their own itinerary and travel around the island with a private car and driver. Popular destinations include Jeju City, Hallasan National Park, and the Jeju Olle Trail.
  5. Jeju Island Night Tour: This tour takes visitors to see the island’s stunning night views, including the Gwangchigi Beach, Jeju City, and Seogwipo City. Dinner and transportation are included.
  6. Jeju Island UNESCO Heritage Tour: This tour focuses on the island’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes, and the Seongsan Ilchulbong Tuff Cone. Lunch and transportation are included.
  7. Jeju Island Farm and Food Tour: This tour allows visitors to experience Jeju’s unique agriculture and food culture, including visiting local farms and trying traditional Jeju dishes. Lunch and transportation are included.

Jeju-Do Accommodations Guide: Hotels, Guesthouses and Hostels

From luxurious resorts to budget-friendly guesthouses, Jeju-do has something for everyone.

If you’re looking for a hotel on Jeju-do, there are many options to choose from. The Lotte Hotel Jeju is a five-star hotel located on Jungmun Beach, and it offers stunning ocean views and a range of amenities including a casino, golf course, and swimming pool. The Shilla Stay Jeju is another popular choice, with its modern design and convenient location in the heart of Jeju City. Hotel Leo is a smaller boutique hotel with cozy rooms and a laid-back atmosphere, perfect for travelers looking for a more intimate experience.

For those who want to indulge in a luxurious resort experience, Jeju-do has many options to choose from. The Haevichi Hotel & Resort Jeju is a five-star resort located on the southeastern coast of the island, surrounded by beautiful natural scenery. The Kensington Jeju Hotel is a modern resort with spacious rooms and a range of amenities including a spa and fitness center. The Jeju Dream Tower is a newly-built resort that offers panoramic views of the city and the sea, with a rooftop infinity pool that’s perfect for watching the sunset.

If you’re on a budget, guesthouses and hostels are a great option for accommodations on Jeju-do. Guesthouses like the Jeju Hiking Inn and Backpacker’s Home offer a friendly and welcoming atmosphere, where you can meet other travelers and get insider tips on the best things to see and do on the island. Hostels like K-pop Stay Hostel and Hostel Lyndon are also popular choices for budget-conscious travelers, with clean and comfortable dormitory-style rooms.

For those who want a more intimate and local experience, pension houses and hanok stays are a great option. Pension houses are small, family-run accommodations that offer a more personal touch, with hosts who can provide insider tips on the best local restaurants and attractions. The Blue Island Guesthouse, Sosomdo Pension, and Jeju Yeowoolmok Pension are all popular options. Hanok stays offer a unique way to experience traditional Korean architecture and culture, with rooms that feature ondol floors and Korean-style bedding. The Heukseok Hanok Pension is a popular hanok stay option.

If you want to get even closer to nature, camping is a great option on Jeju-do. The island has several camping grounds that offer stunning views and easy access to the beach and other natural attractions. The Hamdeok Beach Camping Ground, Seongsan Ilchulbong Camping Ground, and Hwasun Camping Ground are all popular options.

No matter what your budget or travel style, Jeju-do has the perfect accommodations for your next trip to this beautiful island.

Jeju Island Transportation Guide

Here’s a guide to transportation on Jeju Island:

  1. Buses: Jeju Island has an extensive bus network that connects all major tourist attractions and cities on the island. There are two types of buses – city buses and intercity buses. City buses are a great way to get around within a city or town, while intercity buses are ideal for longer trips between cities. The fare for city buses starts at 1,200 won, while intercity buses can cost anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 won depending on the distance.
  2. Taxis: Taxis are a convenient way to get around Jeju Island, especially if you are traveling in a group or with heavy luggage. Taxis can be hailed on the street or booked through a taxi app. The fare for taxis starts at 3,800 won for the first two kilometers, and then increases by 100 won for each additional 144 meters.
  3. Rental cars: If you want more freedom to explore Jeju Island at your own pace, renting a car is a great option. Rental cars are available at the Jeju International Airport and in major cities and towns on the island. The rental fee can vary depending on the type of car and the rental period, but generally starts at around 30,000 won per day.
  4. Motorcycles and scooters: Motorcycles and scooters are also popular modes of transportation on Jeju Island, especially among younger travelers. They are a great way to explore the island’s scenic roads and beaches, but be aware that driving can be dangerous if you’re not used to riding a motorcycle or scooter. Rental fees for motorcycles and scooters start at around 20,000 won per day.
  5. Bicycles: For eco-friendly travelers who want to explore Jeju Island at a leisurely pace, bicycles are a great option. Bicycles can be rented at various locations on the island, and many hotels and guesthouses also offer bike rentals. The rental fee for bicycles starts at around 10,000 won per day.
  6. Jeju City Tour Bus: If you want to explore Jeju City’s major tourist attractions, the Jeju City Tour Bus is a convenient and affordable option. The bus runs every 30 minutes and stops at popular attractions like Hallasan National Park, Seongeup Folk Village, and Jeju Folklore and Natural History Museum. The fare for the Jeju City Tour Bus is 5,000 won for adults and 2,500 won for children.

No matter which mode of transportation you choose, getting around Jeju Island is relatively easy and convenient. Just be sure to plan your route ahead of time and always carry a map or GPS device with you to avoid getting lost.

Where To Visit After Your Trip To Jeju-Do?

If you’ve had a great time exploring Jeju Island and are wondering where to go next, here are some destinations you might consider visiting:

  1. Busan: Located on the southeastern coast of South Korea, Busan is a vibrant city that offers a fascinating blend of traditional and modern culture. With a bustling port, Busan is renowned for its delicious seafood, particularly at the Jagalchi Fish Market, where you can watch the fishermen unload their catch of the day. Visitors can also explore the Gamcheon Culture Village, a colorful hillside neighborhood that’s known as the Santorini of Korea. Additionally, you can hike to the top of Mount Hwangnyeong for panoramic views of the city, or relax on the pristine Haeundae Beach, one of the country’s most famous beaches.
  2. Seoul: As the capital city of South Korea, Seoul is a dynamic metropolis that offers an incredible mix of history, culture, and modernity. Visitors can explore the majestic Gyeongbokgung Palace, home to the Joseon Dynasty, and Changdeokgung Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can also wander through the vibrant Myeong-dong shopping district or Gangnam, famous for its upscale shopping and nightlife. In addition, the city offers many world-class museums, such as the National Museum of Korea and the Seoul Museum of Art.
  3. Jeonju: Located in the southwestern part of South Korea, Jeonju is a charming city that offers a glimpse into traditional Korean life. Visitors can explore the Jeonju Hanok Village, a historic district filled with traditional Korean houses, or enjoy the local cuisine, such as Jeonju bibimbap, a delicious rice dish served with a variety of toppings. Additionally, the Gyeonggijeon Shrine, dedicated to the legendary Korean general Yi Seong-gye, is a must-visit landmark.
  4. Gyeongju: Located in the southeastern part of South Korea, Gyeongju is often referred to as the ‘museum without walls,’ thanks to its impressive collection of historical and cultural landmarks. Visitors can explore Bulguksa Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Seokguram Grotto, a magnificent Buddhist cave temple. You can also visit the Gyeongju National Museum to learn about the region’s rich history and culture.
  5. Jeolla Province: Located in the southwestern part of South Korea, Jeolla Province is renowned for its picturesque natural scenery, including national parks like Jirisan National Park and Naejangsan National Park. Visitors can also explore traditional Korean villages like Boseong Green Tea Fields, where you can learn about the country’s tea culture and sample local green tea, or Damyang Bamboo Forest, which offers a peaceful retreat into nature.

With so many incredible destinations to choose from, South Korea is a country that offers something for everyone, whether you’re interested in history, culture, food, or nature. Whatever your interests, you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience in this fascinating country.

Jeju Island Travel Guide: Final Thoughts

As we come to the end of our Jeju-Do travel guide, we hope that we’ve provided you with a comprehensive overview of this beautiful island and everything it has to offer. Jeju-Do truly is a unique and fascinating destination, with its rich history, diverse culture, and stunning natural landscapes.

Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or an adventure seeker, Jeju-Do has something for everyone. From exploring the UNESCO World Heritage Sites like Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak and the Geomunoreum Lava Tube System, to hiking through the stunning Hallasan National Park or relaxing on one of the island’s many pristine beaches, there’s no shortage of things to see and do on Jeju-Do.

But Jeju-Do isn’t just about sightseeing and outdoor activities; it’s also about experiencing the unique local culture and traditions. From trying the island’s famous black pork and fresh seafood to attending one of the many festivals and events throughout the year, there are countless opportunities to immerse yourself in the local culture and truly connect with the people and history of Jeju-Do.

We highly recommend a visit to Jeju-Do to anyone seeking an unforgettable travel experience. With its natural beauty, rich history, and vibrant culture, Jeju-Do truly is a gem of South Korea and a must-visit destination for any traveler.

Come with me to Jeju’s land, Where nature’s beauty is at hand. Volcanic peaks, green tea fields, And crystal waters that nature yields.

Hallasan Mountain stands tall and proud, A treasure of the island, never to be cowed. With trails that lead to stunning views, A hike that’s worth the effort, no excuse.

Seongsan Ilchulbong, a crown jewel, Rising from the sea, a sight so cool. A majestic peak, a fortress of stone, A sunrise view, one of the best known.

In Jeju’s waters, a world so rare, A diving paradise, beyond compare. With colorful coral and sea creatures galore, A wonderland beneath the ocean floor.

Jeju’s culture is rich and deep, Traditions that many choose to keep. From black pork to mandarins so sweet, A culinary journey, oh such a treat.

Jeju’s spirit, a gift to all, Welcoming visitors, both big and small. A land of wonder, a place to explore, Jeju’s magic, forevermore.

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