Our first family travel experience – A Li River boat Cruise in Guilin, China!

Hong Kong is a hub for international travel. It’s also a perfect jumping-off point for exploring some of the best places to visit in China. That’s why we just took a trip from Hong Kong to Guilin, Guangxi for a weekend, and we couldn’t have been more pleased.

This was our first experience traveling with our son (at writing he is 8 weeks old), so we were a bit nervous. However, everywhere we went we were well accommodated, and thus we can confidently say that going from Hong Kong to Guilin, Guangxi for a weekend is a family-friendly travel option.

If you have any comments/questions about all this, feel free to write us a message below!

The Mainland Chinese flag proudly flies at the bow of the boat on our Li River boat cruise.

Our Travel Route

We used the Hong Kong bullet train to get to and from Guilin. We spent one night in Guilin at a tea museum turned hotel (details below). Then, the next morning we enjoyed a Li River boat cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo. Once we were in Yangshuo, we stayed at a beautiful Chinese Heritage hotel. The meticulously restored historical Chinese farmhouse was a very memorable place to stay (details below). And then the next day, we took a car from Yangshuo back to the train station in Guilin, and then back on the bullet train to Hong Kong.

Map of the Guilin and Yangshuo area (Photo Credit)

Unfortunately, on this trip, we were rained out from seeing the Yangshuo Night Light Show. However, all that means is that we have yet another reason to travel from Hong Kong to Guilin for a weekend.

Below are all the details of our trip, so you can use them to craft your own Hong Kong to Guilin weekend getaway. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comment section below, and we’ll get back to you soon!

How to Travel from Hong Kong to Guilin for a Weekend

If you’re already in Hong Kong, one of the easiest ways to travel to Guilin is via the Hong Kong Bullet Train (officially called the “High-Speed Rail”). The bullet train departs from the West Kowloon MTR Station.

One way to get to Hong Kong’s bullet train (high speed rail), located at the West Kowloon MTR Station, is through the Elements Mall.

For the Hong Kong Bullet Train, you can buy tickets online here. At the time of writing, daily there is only one direct train from Hong Kong to Guilin. The direct train takes ~3 hours. There are indirect routes you can take, but they will take a longer time and may cost more money.

The once-a-day bullet train from Hong Kong to Guilin departs at 12:06 PM.
The once-a-day bullet train from Guilin to Hong Kong departs at 1:36 PM.

If you’ve done train travel in other parts of the world, such as India, you may be a bit worried about the nature of the Hong Kong bullet train experience, but rest assured, the train is clean, comfortable, and is even equipped with outlets to charge your devices.

Standing outside of Hong Kong’s bullet train.

We rode second class (cost HK$431, one way), and the seats were quite spacious and comfortable.

The seats are so comfy, you’ll sleep like a baby!

If you’re looking for even more room and cushioning on your seat, consider springing for a business or first-class ticket.

We found traveling to and from Hong Kong to Guilin for a weekend to be an experience in and of itself. However, the most memorable parts of our trip were definitely in Guilin and Yangshuo.

Things To Do in Guilin for a Weekend (Or More)

Guilin Longsheng Rice Terrace Tour

There is a LOT to do in Guilin. To begin, you can experience the Longsheng Rice Terraces. Located a few hours out of the city center, if you’ve never seen terraced rice fields before, definitely add this to your list of things to do in Guilin.

The Longsheng Rice Terraces in Guilin, China (Photo Credit)

Guilin Four Lakes Night Cruise

There is also the option to do the Guilin Four Lakes Night Cruise. Who doesn’t like a night cruise? Grab a few of your favorite drinks and snacks (you can drink alcohol in public in China), and make it into a bit of a party boat experience. Just remember to be respectful of others’ experiences too.

Check out Guilin at night via a boat cruise! (Photo Credit)

Guilin Biking Excursion

If you’re feeling active, you can even go on a Guilin biking excursion! Whether you are a beginner or an expert, there is something for everyone in the way of biking in Guilin.

Experience Guilin via a bike tour! (Photo credit)

Guilin Li River Boat Cruise

By far, the most popular thing to do in Guilin is to take a Li River Boat cruise to Yangshuo, and that is exactly what we did!

At the pier getting ready for our Li River boat cruise to Yangshuo.

The entire experience, from the time we left our hotel in Guilin until the time we arrived at our hotel in Yangshuo, took about 6 hours, so plan on this being a full-day activity.

Map of the Guilin and Yangshuo area (Photo Credit)

Li River Boat Cruise Tickets

It is possible to buy tickets online for a Li River boat cruise in Guilin. However, you’ll have to use Google Translate to navigate the site. The easiest way to book your Li River boat tour is to ask your hotel to book it for you, but you’ll pay a bit more. However, they will also arrange your transport to and from the boat piers on either end. The pier is ~60 minutes outside of downtown Guilin. In Yangshuo, there are accommodations both very near and very far from the pier. The hotel we were staying at in Guilin, The Aroma Tea House (more details below) was super accommodating. The hotel staff made it effortless for us to arrange our Li River boat tour and transport to the pier.

Boat Cruise On the Li River to Yangshuo

The Li River starts out quite wide and straight. We got perfect weather that day!

Starting out on our Li River boat cruise.

But eventually, it narrows quite a bit. At this point and beyond, we found the scenery most beautiful and interesting.

Mountains abound on both banks of the Li River. The chill vibes here even calm (often fussy) babies!

At some points in the river, the boat came quite close to the massive limestone karsts.

The limestone karsts here are like giant Chia Pets, catching all sorts of plants in their nooks and crannies.

And of course, no Li River boat cruise would be complete without the obligatory picture of the 20 Yuan bill in front of the hills after which it was created.

The place from which the Chinese 20 Yuan bill was inspired.

Eventually, we arrived in Yangshuo, and a lot of other boats did too! The Li River boat cruise is quite popular.

The pier at Yangshuo.

Things To Do in Yangshuo for a Weekend (Or More)

Yangshuo Bamboo Rafting Trip on the Yulong River

There are a plethora of things to do in Yangshuo. One of the most memorable is taking a bamboo raft down the Yulong River (a tributary of the Li River). Again you can make a booking online, but you’ll likely get a better deal if you contact your hotel and ask them to arrange it for you.

If you dare, step aboard a bamboo raft when you’re in Yangshuo. (Photo credit)

Yangshuo Hiking Trips

Given the abundant mountains in and around Yangshuo, there are TONS of places to go hiking. Rent a motor scooter, and explore on your own, or ask your hotel to arrange a hiking guide for you. Whatever you do, don’t miss the chance to trek in this unique limestone karst area of Yangshuo.

An arial view of the Yulong River in Yangshuo, China.

One of the most accessible and scenic hikes is up to the Yangshuo TV Tower. All the details you’ll need to hike to the Yangshuo TV Tower are here. If you still have trouble finding it, ask your hotel staff, and they’ll surely be able to help you. The TV tower is atop the highest mountain in Yangshuo, so it’ll afford you 360-degree views of the surrounding area.

View from atop the Yangshuo TV Tower (Photo Credit)

Yangshuo Night Light Show

If you can imagine Cirque du Soleil, performed in a natural limestone amphitheater and on the water/in boats, with a 600+ person cast, and choreographed to traditional Chinese music, you’ll be able to picture the Yangshuo Night Light show. On this trip, we got rained out, but on previous trips, we’ve seen this spectacular show, and we highly recommend you see this when you’re in Yangshuo. Ask your hotel to book tickets for you, and we promise, you won’t be disappointed.

A scene from The Yangshuo Night Light Show (Photo Credit)

Yangshuo West Street “Tourist Street”

While Yangshuo’s West Street is quite touristy, it’s also bustling and exciting and showcases quite a bit of ancient and traditional Chinese architecture. Worthy of an hour or two (at most), if you’re looking for some typical chintzy souvenirs or you just want to get swept up in the hustle and bustle of a busy tourist area, consider taking a quick trip down West Street.

Yangshuo’s touristy yet exciting West Street (Photo Credit)

Where to Stay in Guilin for a Weekend (Or More)

The Aroma Tea House in Guilin*

View from the restaurant at The Aroma Tea House, in Guilin

While we cannot give you a comprehensive review of ALL the places to stay in Guilin, we can say with 100% confidence that we LOVED our stay at the Aroma Tea House. First off, the Aroma Tea House was centrally located in many of the main areas of Guilin, and it was affordable. Additionally, not only were the staff completely accommodating to the fact that we were traveling with our 8-week-old son – they put his milk in the fridge and gave us all night access to it, and they put a nice baby bed in our room – but the hotel itself (and our room) was absolutely beautiful!

As a former tea museum, it features TONS of beautiful Chinese tea accouterment, and it has many antiques in both the rooms and the common areas.  

Some of the interior decor at the BEAUTIFUL Aroma Tea House, in Guilin (Photo Credit)

Our room was beautifully designed, had a calming vibe, and even had its own little sitting area for enjoying some tea.

Our room at The Aroma Tea House, in Guilin. The sitting area for tea was extra cozy. (Photo Credit)

If you’re going to be traveling from Hong Kong to Guilin for a weekend, we recommend you stay at The Aroma Tea House.

Where to Stay in Yangshuo for a Weekend (Or More)

Yangshuo Secret Garden Boutique Hotel*

The secluded entrance to the he Yangshuo Secret Garden Boutique Hotel

Again, we can’t give you a comprehensive rundown of all the accommodations in Yangshuo, but we can definitely recommend the Yangshuo Secret Garden Boutique Hotel. This registered Chinese Heritage Hotel has been meticulously restored from an old Chinese farmhouse, and that made it a very memorable, serene, and beautiful place to stay.

The exposed beams in our room gave it a cozy farmhouse kind of feel.

Naturally, there were farms and rice fields surrounding the entire hotel, and they were all set amongst Yangshuo’s limestone karsts.

Farmers here are in between rice crops now. Soon, this will burst with lime green rice shoots!

When the sunset, the mountains were on fire, and thus there was a perfect end to our Guilin weekend!

The sunset was spectacular in Yangshuo.

Other Weekend Trips From Hong Kong

In a sentence, we LOVED traveling from Hong Kong to Guilin for a weekend, and we think you will too. It was affordable, family-friendly, and scenic, and everyone we bumped into was very accommodating to the fact that we were traveling with a baby. If you live in Hong Kong and you’re looking for a quick escape, this is an easy and budget-friendly option. However, if you’re looking for another quick weekend getaway, and you’re going to be jumping off from Hong Kong you could also consider other places to visit in China. If you don’t mind hoping for a short flight, consider experiencing two days in Tokyo. If South Korea sounds more appealing, why not experience a two-day snapshot of Seoul? No matter what you decide to do, if you have any questions, leave them in the comment section below, and we’ll get back to you in a flash. Happy travels!

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  1. hi! this post is just timely for the upcoming 5th Oct long weekend! I am keen to follow your itinerary planned and I hope you could share how you traveled from the Guilin train station to Aroma Tea house and also from Li River Cruise to the Yang Shuo Secret Hotel?

    • Hi Cindy, thanks for the comment! We took taxis for both, and they both were quite affordable. I hope this helps. Let us know if you have any more questions.

  2. I’ve never heard of Guilin, it looks like such a beautiful place. Totally worth a visit the next time we’re in Hong Kong. Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Hi Cindy! Great trips – living in Shanghai and planning a weekend getaway to Guilin. How did you go back to Guilin from Yangshuo?

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