To call Jeju Island a “little-known” destination seems like a strange thing to say. Afterall, the Seoul to Jeju route is literally the busiest in the entire world, having carried over 11 million passengers last year alone. But as I was planning this trip, more often than not, I received confused faces rather than recommendations when mentioning my upcoming visit to Jeju.
I was able to get a handful of tips from friends who had visited before, but largely I was left to plan things on my own. Now that I have returned and have a better feel for what Jeju is all about, I would definitely recommend taking a trip there. Here’s are 5 reasons why.
1. It’s a seafood lover’s paradise
Of course the top reason has to do with food – what else did you expect? Jeju is best known for three different types of food.
Our visit in the Fall coincided with the tangerine harvest season, so you could buy these by the bushel at any number of roadside stands. An entire bag cost less than $5, and every attraction also had vendors with tangerine juice for sale.
These were very similar to the tangerines we had in Matsuyama, Japan and if you haven’t tried these before, they are probably the sweetest and juiciest forms of citrus that you can find anywhere in the world.
This pork comes from the special black pigs that inhabit Jeju, and is served at various BBQ restaurants around the island. As you can see below, there is even a little bit of black hair deliberately left on the meat to showcase that it is indeed from a black pig.
Going in, this dish is what I was looking forward to trying the most, but I found it somewhat underwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll eat fatty slabs of pork anytime. However, I just didn’t find it much different in taste or flavor compared to standard pork.
We ate multiple types of seafood at every meal, but the one that completely stood out was the abalone. All along the coast of Jeju, you could find the famous Jeju female divers in the water with their nets, free-diving for shellfish all day long.
Abalone is one of my favorite foods, so I was in heaven being able to eat it at every single meal, in multiple different forms. Given its abundance, the cost was very reasonable, with a bowl of Korean seafood stew with three large pieces of abalone costing around $10.
The abalone in Jeju was as fresh as you’ll find anywhere in the world. So fresh in fact, that it was still moving as it was being served!
2. It has a Hawaii-esque vibe
As we were driving along the coast and as I gazed out at the water and volcanic rock formations, my first impression was that Jeju really felt like Hawaii and even more specifically, Kauai.
Similar to Kauai there was a good mix of activities on land, including several hikes around the island like the trek up to Mount Hallasan or just casual strolls where you could take in the sights and breathe in the fresh ocean air.
And while I wouldn’t say that Jeju necessarily has some of best beaches in the world, there were still many nice options around the island to swim, surf, or just relax.
So if you have been to all of the Hawaiian Islands and are looking for something similar but also different, Jeju could be a great option.
3. You’re a Korean drama fan
If you are into Korean dramas, then you probably know that a number of your favorite love scenes were filmed in Jeju Island. If you have been wanting to create your own love story by immersing yourself in those very same locations, then this could be your chance.
The Spring-time flowers on Mount Hallasan are one of the most common filming locations, along with the iconic wedding chapel at the Hyatt Regency Jeju. My wife is a big fan of Korean dramas, so of course we had to make a stop over there!
4. You like to visit strange and unique museums
Jeju Island is home to over 100 museums and a number of unique attractions, including a teddy bear museum, chocolate museum, paper doll museum, Hello Kitty Island, and the famous Loveland – a sex-themed sculpture park filled with phallic symbols.
We were only there for two full days and unfortunately weren’t able to stop at any. But if this is your thing, you could probably spend an entire week going from museum to museum!
5. You are an #AVgeek
Lastly, you may want to visit Jeju Island if you’re an aviation geek.
Emirates just announced the shortest A380 route in the world between Doha and Dubai, which clocks in at 236 miles. But I would argue that the Seoul to Jeju route, which comes in just a bit longer at 280 miles, is even better.
Why is that? Because you have the unique opportunity to take a 45-minute flight across a distance that is shorter than San Francisco to Los Angeles, on a Boeing 747! Better yet, you could even splurge for a seat on the upper deck, which is always an amazing experience.
The cost of a Business Class ticket is less than $125, so it is likely one of the cheapest flights in the world that grants you access to that magical Boeing 747 upper deck cabin.
These are my top 5 reasons for visiting Jeju Island – for those that have also been, what was the most memorable part of your trip?