An island paradise awaits you just off the southern tip of the Korean peninsula. A Hawaiian-like climate, unique culture, delicious delicacies, a multitude of outdoor sporting activities, and breath-taking scenery – Jeju Island has them all. It is no surprise that the island is a favored spot for Korean and Japanese vacationers and a top honeymoon destination for Korean newlyweds.
Isolated from mainland Korea by the sea, Jeju’s culture and language is distinct from the rest of Korea. Local legends are plentiful, the most famous being the Tol Harubang (or Dolharubang). Considered the god of protection and fertility, lava rock statues of this “stone grandfather” can be seen all over the island and miniature versions of the Harubang are popular souvenirs. Haenyo, or sea women, are also unique to Jeju. The haenyo dive year round in cold water to harvest abalone, conch and other deep-water marine life. No one is certain exactly when or how the haenyo originated. One theory is that men had traditionally been the divers on Jeju until heavy taxes made it unprofitable. Women were not subject to the same taxes, so they took over the diving. Another theory is that women were simply better equipped to dive in the cold waters with their "rounder" and thus better insulated bodies. Regardless of the explanation, the haenyo, became the main income earners and heads of their families, very distinct from the traditional Korean patriarchal structure. The Seongeup Folk Village is a wonderful spot to experience the old style living of the island. Locals still live in traditional stone houses and visitors can sample and buy local products.
As one would expect, seafood is plentiful on the island. Fresh fish, squid, octopus, sea cucumber, and more are both sold and used in local restaurants. The island also produces pineapples, Shitake mushrooms, cactus plants, a unique tasting honey, and mouth-watering tangerines. Kalchi Kui, Hwae, Chopap, Kimchopap, Haemul Sotpap, and Obunjaki Kui are some Jeju Island seafood specialties. The local tangerines and the island’s orange-flavored chocolates are popular treats.
Jeju also boasts many natural wonders. At the center of the island sits Mt. Hallasan, a dormant volcano and the highest peak in South Korea. Manjanggul Cave, a result of Hallasan’s active days, is one of the longest lava caves in the world. Watching the sunrise from the crater of Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak takes one’s breath away. Jungmun Beach has both restful white sand and amazing waves and Jeongbang Falls is the only waterfall in Asia falling directly into the sea. Finally, Cheonjiyeon Falls is a favorite of photographers for both the beauty of the waterfalls and the intricate arching Seonimgyo Bridge that crosses over them. The Seven Fairies Festival is held at Cheonjiyeon Falls every May to celebrate the legend of seven nymphs descending from heaven to bathe in the pure waters of the falls.
With all the amazing natural wonders and the temperate climate, a variety of outdoor activities are offered to visitors, many available year-round. Hiking, biking, horseback riding and general exploring are all popular land activities. Scuba, sea kayaking, windsurfing, and parasailing are popular water options. Beach season runs from May through October.
Jeju Island is accessible by both boat and plane. There are daily flights and ferries between the island and mainland Korea, less frequently between the island and Japan. Once on the island, visitors can rent cars, take buses, or bicylce to get around. Unique culture, delicious food, natural beauty, and a multitude of outdoor activities await you on Jeju Island, truly an island paradise.