Jeju Island in Korea is a popular getaway for thousands of people looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the mainland. Jeju’s biggest attraction lies in the fact that it was formed by many volcanic eruptions almost 2 million years ago. This volcanic island offers numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites and has recently been named one of the 7 New Wonders Of Nature.
After accepting an English teaching job in Korea, I started reading up on the country. All the research I’d done lead me to Jeju as visiting the island comes highly recommended by outdoor enthusiasts. So, I packed my bags and headed to Jeju for 5 days to see what all the fuss was about.
Jeju 5 day itinerary (including the best things to do in Jeju)
- Day 1: Fly to Jeju, head to Seogwipo and explore the Seogwipo Olle Market
- Day 2: Jeju Folk Village, Pyeonsan Beach and indulge in a Jeju Black Pork BBQ
- Day 3: Walk the Jeju Olle trails and see Jeongbang Waterfall
- Day 4: Hike Mt Hallasan
- Day 5: Climb Seongsan Ilchulbong and explore Manjanggul Cave
Jeju 5 day itinerary: Day 1 – Fly into Jeju International Airport
How to get from Jeju International Airport to Seogwipo
After you’ve landed at Jeju Airport you need to get the airport limousine bus (#600) to Seogwipo. This bus is easy to find and will cost you 5 500 won ($5). If you’re headed to the center of Seogwipo, then get off at stop 22, New Kyoungnam Hotel.
Accommodation in Seogwipo: Gudeok Guesthouse (Jeju Hiking Inn)
Gudeok Guesthouse is slap bang in the center of Seogwipo and I’d recommend it for budget travelers. It has a great communal rooftop area with views of the port and bean bags to relax on. The owners are lovely and were happy to show us where the main attractions are and the best places to eat in Jeju.
Cost: 40 000 won ($40) p/n for a double room, incl breakfast.
Grab dinner at the Seogwipo Olle Market
The Olle Market is the largest traditional market in Seogwipo consisting of over 200 shops and street vendors. It offers a variety of local specialties including seafood, tangerines, dried fruit, fermented side dishes as well as cooked food. Perhaps you’re looking for some pot and pans to buy?! You’ll find these and many other household items at this market as well!
Opening hours: 07:00 – 21:00
Jeju 5 day itinerary: Day 2
Jeju Folk Village
Visit the Jeju Folk Village and travel back in time to explore Korea’s cultural heritage. More than 100 houses make up the 4 villages inside the Jeju Folk Village. The property is large and you can spend hours walking around learning about the traditional games that were played as well as how the people of Jeju used to live their lives. There’s also a maze within the folk village and if you visit in the spring, you’ll be treated to colorful flowers which line the paths.
Admission: 10 000 won ($10)
How to get to Jeju Folk Village: Take bus 101 from Seogwi Bus Terminal to Pyoseon-myeon Community Service Center. The duration is about 40 minutes from Seogwipo to the final stop. From here, take a right and walk toward the coast. When you reach the sea, turn right and the Jeju Folk Village will be along that road. The walk from the bus stop to the folk village is about 15 minutes, but it’s a pleasant one.
Take a walk along Pyoseon Beach
After your visit to the Jeju Folk Village, head towards the seaside, grab a cup of coffee or an ice cream and take a stroll along the beach.
Eat Jeju Black Pork at Tam Gung Restaurant
Jeju Island is renowned for its Black Pork BBQ’s and these restaurants can be found on every street corner in Jeju. The meat is in a league of its own, tender and juicy. The name “Black Pork” is derived from the color of the pig’s hair and not the color of the meat itself.
Because of its exclusivity to Jeju island, the price for a Jeju Black Pork BBQ is higher than its mainland counterparts. But is it worth the 18 000 won price tag it comes along with? YES! Considering it’s not something you eat every day, it’s most certainly worth indulging in. To date, this is the best Korean BBQ I’ve had, and that says a lot!
Never had a Korean BBQ? Don’t worry, this post has got you covered!
Cost: 18 000 won ($18) p/p
How to get to Tam Gung Restaurant in Seogwipo: Take the bus to Jeju World Cup Stadium. Here, you’ll walk to your left, away from the main road. Tam Gung is to the right, on the opposite side of the road.
Jeju 5 day itinerary: Day 3
Explore the Jeju Olle Trails
The Jeju Olle Trails are a series of paths that circle around the outskirts of Jeju Island. Created by a Korean journalist, the Jeju Olle Trails were inspired by her hike along the Camino De Santiago routes in Spain. There are 26 different routes with varying levels of difficulty. These trails lead through beaches, villages, mandarin farms, and forests which cannot be accessed by buses or cars. As a result, you have a more authentic and less crowded experience of Jeju Island.
Whilst you can spend your entire vacation making your way around Jeju by means of the Olle Trails, most people choose to walk a specific route for the day. You can also opt to walk only a certain distance before heading on to the next activity.
Indulge in Jeju Tangerines
Another big attraction in Jeju is their citrus fruit. Lush orchids fill the countryside and the moderate climate in Jeju is to thank for this. Tangerines are by far the most prized fruit of Jeju, and they aren’t cheap! After paying 3 000 won ($3) for 1 tangerine, I couldn’t help but compare it to the cheaper ones in my home country, South Africa. Let’s just say that I won’t be buying any more tangerines in Korea. However, I’ve come to realize that in Korea, all fruit is expensive and not just tangerines. So, check it out for yourself and you decide whether they’re worth it or not?
For those who love chasing waterfalls, Jeju has many of these for you to explore. The 3 most popular ones include Cheonjiyeon Waterfall, Cheongjeyeon Waterfall, and Jeongbang Waterfall. Both Cheonjiyeon and Jeongbang are located within walking distance from Seogwipo and don’t require a strenuous hike to get there.
Jeongbang Waterfall is the only waterfall in Asia to fall directly into the ocean so I was excited to check it out. I had recently visited the largest waterfall in the world, Victoria Falls, and so I was slightly disappointed! Needless to say, it was a nice afternoon exploring Seogwipo and seeing what all the hype is about.
Admission: 2 000 won ($2)
How to get to Jeongbang Waterfall: It’s a 30-minute walk from Gudeok Guesthouse to Jeongbang Waterfall. It’s a pleasant walk through the harbor where you pass many local restaurants and hidden cafes.
Jeju 5 day itinerary: Day 4
Hike Mount Hallasan
Mount Hallasan is an active volcano that forms the bulk of Jeju Island. At 1 950m, it’s the highest mountain in Korea and attracts thousands of tourists to the island. You’ll need a full day to summit Mount Hallasan and there are various other walking routes around the mountain if you choose not to go all the way to the top. The most popular trail to the peak is Seongpanak.
How to get there: From the Seogwi Bus terminal, take bus 182 to Seongpanak for about 30 minutes.
Jeju 5 day itinerary: Day 5
Yet another one of Jeju’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Manjanggul Cave is one of the longest cave tunnels in the world and one of Jeju’s biggest attractions. This lava tube is 13km long, but only 1km is accessible to the public. Manjanggul Cave houses a variety of natural formations that are well-preserved and the tunnels are lit up with illuminating soft-colored lights.
It does get chilly inside and it’s advised to wear closed shoes as the floor is slippery and uneven. Of course you always have the exceptions with ladies walking through the caves in their sky-high heels and short skirts all trying to get the perfect snap!
Admission: 2 000 won ($2)
How to get to Manjanggul Cave: From Seogwipo, take bus 101 to Manjanggul Cave Entrance. The trip will take about 1h 30min, but if you board the bus at Seongsan Ilchulbong, it takes 40 minutes. Once you exit the bus, you need to cross the street and walk about 2.5km to the entrance of Manjanggul Cave. This was a long walk in the scorching heat so I’d advise you take a taxi (4 000 won) from the bus stop instead of walking. There are buses that go to the main entrance of the Manjanggul Cave, but they don’t run as frequently and it’s better to walk the 30-minutes than wait for the bus to arrive!
Climbing Seongsan Ilchulbong is another UNESCO World Heritage Site and a must-do in Jeju. Otherwise known as “Sunrise Peak”, Seongsan Ilchulbong is an extinct volcano that was formed thousands of years ago after a series of volcanic eruptions.
The climb to the top takes about 30 minutes, with many picturesque spots along the way. At the peak, you’ll get a great view of the crater and Jeju Island. The trail is well-marked and there are proper steps along the way.
After you’ve completed the climb you can watch the Jeju Women Divers, also referred to a Haenyeo (sea women). These divers make their living by harvesting seafood from the ocean floor. Using no diving equipment, they can stay underwater for up to 3 minutes. They’re quite popular in Jeju, and Korea, so watch them do their thing!
Admission: 2 000 won ($2)
How to get to Seongsan Ilchulbong: Take bus 101 to Goseong-Ri. Once off the bus, you will notice the scores of people making their way to Seongsan Ilchulbong. You will also pass many restaurants and cafes along the way so grab a bite to eat if you’re hungry.
Accommodation towards the east of Jeju:
In an effort to explore the more secluded parts of Jeju, I chose to move to a spot closer to the east of the island as that’s where I had visited for the day. However, being more secluded means that using public transport was a bit of a hindrance rather than convenience.
If you’re making use of public transport in Jeju Island, I’d advise you to book your accommodation close to the main bus route or tourist attractions. If you don’t, you could be walking over 2kms with 3 heavy bags – as I did!
Things to do in Jeju if you have a few extra days
- Take a day trip to Udo Island. The ferry leaves from Seongsan harbor to Udo Island where you can spend the day exploring Udo on bikes or scooters before heading back to Jeju.
- Spend your summer days enjoying the beaches of Jeju. The more popular ones include Hyeopjae, Jungmun, and Samyang
- Visit one of the many museums on Jeju Island. These include the Hello Kitty Museum, Love Land, Mini Mini Land and the Teddy Bear Museum. Yes, Koreans love museums!
How to get to Jeju Island
Jeju is a quick 1-hour flight from Seoul or Busan. There are hundreds of flights weekly and a ticket shouldn’t cost more than 150 000 won ($150) return. I flew with Eastar Jet and would recommend them if you’re looking for a low-cost flight.
Which part of the Jeju to stay on?
Although Jeju is an island, don’t underestimate the size of it! It takes over an hours drive (by car) to get from one side to the other, and with buses it’s even longer! This will therefore affect where you stay, and the things you do in Jeju.
There are two main areas within Jeju: Jeju City (near the airport) and Seogwipo (toward the south of the island). Seogwipo is closer to the many attractions and this is where I decided to spend my 5 days in Jeju.
Best way to get around Jeju Island
There are 2 mediums of transportation around Jeju island: Public transport and car rental (taxi as well but that’s going to cost you an arm and a leg!) Make sure you grab a map at the airport as these come in handy when finalizing your plans.
Car rental: 60 000-80 000 won ($60-$80) per day
Renting a car is by far the easiest way to get around Jeju but they need to be booked in advance. Don’t be unprepared and try rent a car at the airport – it’s what I did and they were all fully booked. An international driver’s license is also required and after finding out that Koreans drive on the opposite side of the road to what I’m used to, I was rather relieved that I wasn’t able to get a rental!
Jeju’s public transportation system
Transportation on Jeju is not as convenient as that of the capital, Seoul but it’s a far cheaper option than renting a car if you’re traveling solo. The buses run at 20-50 minute intervals and so you’ll need to add extra time to see all the attractions. The bus numbers, routes, and schedules have also recently changed so be sure to double check all entry and exit points. This is the updated Jeju Tourism site where you can download the bus schedule.
However, it is manageable to get around the island using public transport and in my 5 days in Jeju, I was able to see most of the main attractions using public transport only. Yes, it takes longer, yes it can be difficult to find the bus stops, and yes, I did a lot of walking. But it was an experience and luckily I had time and good weather on my side!
When is the best time to visit Jeju?
Korea offers 4 distinct seasons, all of which ensure a unique experience when visiting Jeju. There are so many things to do in Jeju and so you’ll never be short of options, no matter the season.
- Winter (December-February): Winter in Korea is cold and you can expect a bit of snow in Jeju, although the weather is warmer than the mainland during this time. Because winter is the off-peak period, there are fewer crowds and accommodation is cheaper.
- Spring (March-May): Spring is one of the better times to visit Jeju Island. With sunny skies and pleasant weather, you can enjoy all the outdoor activities on offer. The flowers will be showing off and it’s a great time to get out and explore. However, there are thousands of tourists who visit Jeju during this time.
- Summer (June-August): Summer is extremely hot and humid. Hiking or other strenuous activities may be uncomfortable during this time, but you’ll be able to enjoy the beaches (crowded beaches at that!)
- Fall (Sept-November): Fall is also a great time to visit Jeju Island as it offers warm, sunny days. As with Spring, there is a lot more natural beauty due to the change of the seasons which brings along orange and red leaves and beautiful photo opportunities.
Jeju Island – The Hawaii of Korea! (So they say!)
Firstly, Jeju is as different from Hawaii as apples are from oranges! Despite the rumors, Jeju Island is NOTHING like the surfing hotspot of Hawaii. If you’re in search of palm trees, white sandy beaches, and pristine waters, then perhaps the Philippines is a better option for you!
However, Jeju is popular for many other reasons and the unique attractions on the island make it a worthy reason to include it on your Korean bucket list.
My thoughts of Jeju Island
Jeju will always hold a special place in my heart as it was my first destination in Korea before teaching English in the country. Not knowing anything about Korea, the culture, and the food, I had no idea what to expect, except a “Hawaii” like atmosphere! I quickly learned that most Koreans cannot speak English, hiking is part of their lifestyle and the whole “let’s drink cocktails on the beach whilst catching a tan” isn’t a thing here!
I was also amazed by the number of people who flock to Jeju. It’s a tourist hotspot and every attraction I visited was packed with people as the island is geared for tourism. There’s nothing untouched or mysterious about Jeju.
But that’s what I enjoyed about the island, I learned something new about the way Koreans travel and what they deem to be an amazing vacation. My students often go to Jeju and tell me how much they love it there. Learning about different countries and cultures continues to amaze me and it’s experiences like these that make one appreciate the differences.