In the last mid-term break, we visited Chuja-do (Chuja Island), a little island that’s between Jeju Island and the mainland of South Korea. The island is home to two of Jeju’s famous Olle Trails and is typically one of the last Olle’s people complete since it takes a little more effort to visit! In this post, I’ll explain how we got there, how the ferry system works, where we stayed and how we completed both Olles in two days with three kids 10 and under!
Getting to Chuja-do
I ended up booking with Direct Ferries, but if you have anyone who can help you with the translation, I’d recommend booking direct with Hanil Express. There two ferries are available, though only one comes up when searching Direct Ferries as the fast ferry is listed under Jeju-Wando on the Hanil Express website (but it stops at Chuja on the way).
The ferries leave from different terminals at the Jeju City port, with the fast ferry taking around an hour and departing from Terminal 1 at 7.20am (Blue Pearl) and arriving at the main port known as Sangchuja Island Port Ferry Terminal, located at the top of the island. The slower ferry takes about 2 hours and leaves from Terminal 7 at 1.45pm (Songlim Blue Ocean) and arrives at Sinyang Port Ferry Terminal (the smaller one at the bottom of the island).
We got the later and slower ferry and opted for second class tickets which involved sitting on the floor (shoes off please!) with some hard pillows for our backs (or heads when we had to lay down to help ease the seasickness!). We arrived at around 3.45pm and took a quick stroll around the port area, which didn’t offer a whole lot, to be honest – it’s pretty sleepy!
We stayed at a gorgeous pension (YouStay Chuja) right on the water with amazing views, with a great little cafe downstairs where we had dinner. Each night our lovely host, Min, gave us little extras on top of our dinner order, including a delicious Korean pancake and some smiley-face potato chips for the kids! Although the menu wasn’t extensive (we had cheese pizza two nights running), it was fine for a few nights and pretty much the only option on this side of the island.
Hiking the Olles
Both the Olle trails (18-1 and 18-2) start and end from either port so you can tackle them in either direction. I’m assuming they’ve just updated the trails to create two distinct trails, as even the Olle site doesn’t have information about 18-2, but it’s showing in our Olle passport (unless our passport is incorrect)!
We opted for 18-1 on the first day, which states on the Jeju Olle site is 11.4km, but honestly, by the time we crossed the bridge to the north side of the island, we’d already done around 12kms, according to both our Garmin watches, so I’m really not convinced of the accuracy! The trail was beautiful and there were some great lookout points along the way.
The Olle ends at the tourist information office, which is very helpful (no English but Google translate always works a treat) and can provide you with information about the bus back to the other side of the island.
The bus is your only option as we couldn’t get a taxi. Because we’d walked around looking for somewhere to eat, we’d ended up a little farther away from the bus stop, and with three whiny kids planned to order a taxi on the Kakao Taxi app. Unfortunately, none picked up the call (I’m guessing there’s one taxi driver on the whole island), but after asking a local cafe owner for help, one of his mates who was parked outside dumped his kids on the pavement and gave us a lift back to our pension. Legend!
On our second day, we tackled 18-2, which for me, was the most stunning out of the two trails. While 18-1 was beautiful, the views from 18-2 were breathtaking and we spent our morning break perched high above the sea overlooking the beautiful blue ocean where you can see all the way to Jeju on a clear day. Again, though, it was definitely more than 11km and we were well and truly exhausted by the time we reached our destination. The kids got ice cream and a smoothie for their efforts!
All in all, it was probably too much to attempt both trails back to back with a four-year-old! Our bigger kids (8 and 10) were amazing, although there was a fair amount of whingeing along the way at different points, though surprisingly, they were much better on day two. My husband had to carry our son for around 4 or 5kms both days, which is an effort given he weighs over 20kgs and we don’t have a proper hiking kid carrier!
Tips if you’re considering visiting with kids
Chuja was stunning and the Olle trails were definitely worth the visit, but there’s not much else to see and do, so pack lots of snacks and things to entertain the kids when you’re not walking.
Be aware that the small ferry can be cancelled because of bad weather quite frequently (it was cancelled the day before we left so we opted to go home on the bigger ferry just in case!).
Consider taking your car for more things to do. We didn’t take ours as we knew we were really only going to do the trails, but there are probably lots of pretty spots to visit if you’ve got a car and want to spend a few more quiet days visiting. The people are super friendly and you will have an amazing time.