Jeju Island is my second favorite spot in Korea next to Seoul. Known as the Korean Hawaii, Jeju attracts an interesting mix of drop-dead gorgeous island beauty, a laidback vibe different from mainland Korea, a more seaside flavor and lots of Korean honeymooners. Jeju City is the most cosmopolitan you’ll get when it comes to restaurants and stores and frankly, I didn’t spend much time here, other than to catch the bus. I wanted to see the more exotic side of Korea, the one you might see on Korean dramas of a private getaway… not a climbing city.
Where to Stay on Jeju Island
Being the honeymoon capital of Korea, you’ll likely find some of the best hotels of Korea on this island. While you can stay near the airport or on the northern side of Jeju Island, such as Jeju City, the two most popular base camps for tourists are south of the island in Seogwipo and Jungmun. The southern part of the island seems to hold the best attractions.
Seogwipo (Map of Seogwipo City) falls second as one of the tourist destinations, but has less variety. Here’s a map of places to stay in Seogwipo City. Seogwipo is at the south eastern base of Jeju and the last stop on the Jeju Airport Shuttle bus. There is a bus station in the city and that connects you to a lot of places you’ll want to see. I stayed at Jeju Hiking Inn (wasn’t keen on it but it’s located near the airport shuttle bus drop). Restaurants will be mostly Korean and much seafood.
Jungmun (map of hotels in Jungmun Area) is the resort area and if you ask me, it’s got the best and most luxurious hotels on the island. Even if you don’t stay there, it’s worthwhile to see the backlots of some of these exaggeratedly posh hotels. Not only are some hotels shooting locations of K-dramas, but they also offer a unique look at luxury Korea. Many hotels line the cliff overlooking the ocean.
Hyatt Regency Jungmun
I booked a weekend stay at the Hyatt Regency for me and my mum. As one of the Boys over Flowers locations, our room was across the chapel and the cliffside view over the Jungmun beaches was breezy and romantic. Spacious rooms and with touches of high Korean standard, it was an excellent stay(and the rates were good).. Concierge service was helpful and the lobby was large.
Shilla Jeju Hotel Jungmun
Who lets you rent camping tents so you can BBQ on astroturf resort grounds? The Shilla Jeju Hotel does. Rent private cabanas by day or the UV heat lamp ones by night (note: you’ll find these red light heat lamps in jjimjilbangs and spas– they help activate collogen!)
Seeas Hotel Jungmun
For Korean dramas fans, check out the Seeas Hotel. Film locations to ‘The Secret Garden’ or ‘Boys over Flowers’ and more. The main grounds are locked off and accessible only to guests, so you can only roam in the garden grounds.
Most Koreans and westerners recognize the Lotte name. It’s becoming a world-wide giant. Who’d craft an enormous ice-skating rink and giant windmill in their backyard? Just say, Lotte Hotel & Resort!
Getting there: Take the airport bus or a bus to Jumgmun Resort. You’ll see a handful of museums as you enter, such as the Teddy Bear Museum and Ripley’s Believe it or Not.
Hera Castle Pension Seogwipo
Hera Castle Pension is a humble pension with garden terrace views, near Alive Museum with great traveler ratings. Awesome for smaller budgets!
Getting Around Jeju Island | Traveling Jeju
City Bus, bike, taxi, scooter and car rentals. These are the options. I chose to use the bus transportation with the occasional taxi. However, if you know what you want to see, have little time and want to take point-to-point trips, definitely rent a car.
For Americans, driving in Korea can be a mental switch as Koreans drive on the left side of the road. In mainland Korea, Koreans are known to speed but on Jeju Island, driving can feel laid back with minimal lane choices and freeways. For the most part, there is one main road that goes around the island and then a couple of roads cutting through it North to South. Bring your International Driver’s Permit and Driver’s License from home.
Scooters Traffic is laid back enough for travelers to ride scooters but you still have to be cautious around blind corners. In order to rent a scooter you need to bring your International Driver’s Permit and Driver’s License from home. Read Riding a Scooter around Udo Island
The bus routes are simple to spot on the map but you’ll still need occasional help with knowing which number to catch or where the bus stops are from your hotel. The bus is efficient, cheap and will give you a nice ride around the island. For Olle Trails, there’s English translation announcements, which let you know when to get off. Usually, there will be some type of English announcement made either by a computer generated announcement or on the electrical banner inside. If ever in doubt, sit close to the front of the bus near the bus driver and let him know where you’re going. He’ll be sure to let you know where your stop is if he knows you’re a tourist.
Jeju Island is domestic travel in Korea and you can fly direct to and from Daegu, Busan and Seoul via Korean Airlines, Asiana Airlines and Jeju Air. You can also take the Busan ferry. Outside of Korea, from the United States /Hawaii, Asia and abroad, you’ll likely need to do a layover in one of the main Korean cities.
Airport Shuttle Bus to Jungmun Resort or Seogwipo
There is an airport shuttle bus or circle bus located outside Jeju Airport. It will drop you at various locations in Jeju City, Jungmun and lastly, Seogwipo. It’s under 8,000 Won. The bus is a coach bus with AC and comfortable seats.
Jeju Airport Information
Jeju Airport is a smallish sized airport. It has an airport tourist information center where you can pick up free maps and tourist brochures. Get a map and ask for bus numbers to get around to where you need to go. The map will also help you spot sightseeing areas you’ve not considered.
Visit the Olle desk for Olle walking trails map. The Jeju Island Olle Information desk is outside baggage claim area. Having a map of the various trails up front will save you much angst figuring out online. Most local buses will announce trail stops but you need to pay attention.
Phone or SIM rental There is no phone rental at Jeju Airport. You will need to rent a Korean phone/internet/SIM at one of the main airports in Korea such as Seoul, Gimpo, Busan. Look for SK, LG, KT telecom companies.
Jeju Trip Planning: How long should you stay?
I’d say three or four days at the least. A week is good as it provides more coverage of the island and its activities. Then it depends on what you’d like to see.
Jeju has a lot of zany and unusual museums and theme parks. For those more active, you can golf, hike to the top of Mount Halla (it will take a day) or walk Olle Trails ( 2 or 3 a day depending on ambition).
Udo Island can be visited in a day trip or you can spend a night there if you miss the ferry. Lastly, if you’re there to visit the beach or take a leisurely drive around the island, the week+ duration is more for you.
How to book flights when they’re “sold out” for Chuseok?
1) call Korean Airlines (one of the main airlines carriers for that route) direct
2) Ask for Business Class seats. (* it’s a 30,000W upgrade difference)
3) Book point-to-point travel vs round trip (you have more control over cities you fly out of & can mix the economy seating with business class.
With Korean Air you can cancel up to 24 hours in advance and still receive a partial to full refund. The penalty is under $20 (maybe even less)
What to do on Jeju Island
Hike Mt. Halla
Dragon Head Rock (Yongduam)
Ride a Motorbike on Udo Island
Teddy Bear Museum
Jeju Ollie Trails
Jungmun Resort area
Jeju Gimnyeong Maze Park
Visit the *many* kitsch museums Jeju has
What to Eat on Jeju Island
Unless you’re staying in the little urban dwelling of Jeju City, the island offers a lot of seafood and the standard Korean platter. This isn’t a problem if you know what you want to order your sushi or plate in Korean; you’ll be hard-pressed to find English menus!
For back-end survival, typical cheap eats like bibimbap or kimbap (recognize and learn how to order from one here) are generally loved by foreigners. If you’re a very picky eater or have dietary concerns, you can do what I did and bring your own stash of instant oatmeal, power bars, dried fruits and nuts!
Another option: shop at local stores or larger multi-chain western-like stores such as Homeplus and Emart, where you can get groceries or see your menu in plasticized casings.
Jeju Island Resources
Jeju Publications- Jeju Life
Disclaimer:This post contains some affiliate links at no expense to you. This helps me maintain my website. I only recommend services I would use.