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The Breakdown: Jeju Island Beach Break (with Kids)

OVERALL
In the first crazy, hazy days of motherhood, I never could’ve imagined the day I’d CHOOSE to travel solo with my wee one. It was hard enough making sure she stayed fed, had clean diapers, and got enough sleep, never mind going to a cafe or eating out at a restaurant.

And travel to a distant land? Yeah, right!

However, humans are adaptable if nothing else, and while motherhood isn’t always easy, I’ve definitely built up enough confidence to take her pretty much anywhere on my own.

It might be ignorance, arrogance or blind faith, but I even hatched up the insane idea of taking her on a plane solo, just as she’s on the brink of toddlerhood.

Ok, so it wasn’t exactly SOLO solo, since we traveled with Hallie from the Soul of Seoul, and her daughter Ava, but baby steps, right? And in fact, this was a trial run for the TRULY solo mommy-daughter flight to Bangkok we have booked at the end of September.

The destination we chose was New Wonder of the World, Jeju Island. A quick 1 hour flight away from Seoul, it seemed like a safe and manageable place to try our hand at solo mother-daughter traveling for a few days. Plus we were really, really craving some beach time!


WHAT WE DID
Since it was our first solo mommy-daughter trip, we chose to make it as stress-free as possible, by picking a place and sticking with it.

We chose Hamdeok (함덕 서우봉해변) because it’s known as a great beach for families, with excellent amenities and nearby cafes, restaurants and activities. Located 14 km east of Jeju City, Hamdeok is actually made up of 3 separate beaches, which are mostly shielded by Seoubong Peak, making for super calm water, despite the winds that Jeju is notorious for.

We arrived late in the afternoon, and immediately headed to the western-most of the Hamdeok Beaches to soak up the last rays of the sun. The next day, we woke to find that a huge sandbar had magically appeared in front of our hotel. It turned out to be the perfect toddler-friendly place to spend the day, with soft sand, tidal pools to cool off in, and small sea life for our little ones to discover.

When we tired of the beach, we took a rest in the stunning Cafe Delmoondo, walked atop the mosaic tiled break wall next to the beach, and strolled across a bridge to a small volcanic island to take pics at sunset.

TRAVEL COSTS
Let me preface this section by saying that we traveled to Jeju during PEAK season – the 2 weeks when all of the hagwons (after-school classes) are closed for vacation. If you travel at other times, you’re likely to find things a lot cheaper, and less busy than we did.

Our round-trip flight down to Jeju from Seoul on T-Way Air mid-week, cost 150,000KRW each. Naia, because she’s under 2, was totally free. Keep in mind that kids over 2 have to pay full fare.

A taxi from the airport, straight to our hotel took about 40 minutes and cost just under 20,000KRW each way.

We stayed at the Co-op City Hotel Jeju Beach, in a double room with partial sea view, balcony, wifi, unlimited draft beer at happy hour and breakfast included. It was literally right across the street from the beach, and the room was 124,000KRW per night. I was super happy with the view (which wasn’t really partial at all), the comfortable bed, amount of space and cleanliness of the room. I’d definitely book it again.

I booked the Jeju Beach Hotel through booking.com a few weeks in advance. If you also use booking.com to find, reserve and stay somewhere, using THIS LINK, both you and I will get a $25 credit. Sounds like winning to me! 🙂

FOOD AND DRINK / COSTS
Jeju is known for pretty fantastic seafood, but when you’re traveling with kids, sometimes it’s just about finding something quick that you know they’ll eat.

So, I’m slightly ashamed to admit that we had burgers 2 days in a row for lunch. The first should not even be mentioned, since it was at a fast food chain (which we’d never heard of until we walked in), and the second was at Burger 307 – a “real” burger joint, with some of the best shoestring fries I’ve had in Korea. Both places were on the main street facing the beach, towards the west side.

Combo sets with a burger, fries and drink ran from about 12-15,000KRW, depending on which burger you selected.

🏁8/5 토요일 당일 영업중입니다🤗 🍽영업시간 11:00am-10:00pm 📌Last order 9:00pm 입니다. – 🍔306버거➕토핑(살라미)추가 – ☎️02.371.3200 🏠경기도 고양시 덕양구 신원로1길 38 – 📢현재 진행중인 이벤트 ▪️학생 10%할인 이벤트 : 중고등학생 및 대학생 학생증 확인 시, 식사 금액의 10% 할인 ▪️신 맥주 출시기념 이벤트 : #빅웨이브 골든에일과 #하날레이 IPA 출시 기념으로, 두병 주문 시(당일 첫 주문 시에만) 사이드메뉴 Potato fries 제공 – #burger307 #버거307 #삼송 #삼송역 #삼송맛집 #삼송역맛집 #원흥 #원흥역 #원흥맛집 #원흥역맛집 #농협대맛집 #신원마을 #신원마을맛집 #삼송마을 #신원동 #신원동맛집 #수제버거 #수제버거맛집 #브런치 #맥주 #일산맛집 #구파발 #연신내 #고양시맛집 #고양시 #덕양구 #burger #감자튀김

A post shared by Bureger307_삼송점 (@burger307) on

We did manage 1 quality meal at 대촌회미락, a seafood restaurant which was literally right next door to our hotel. Our meal of grilled fish, with all the Korean sides was perfect for our little ones, healthy and super delicious. And while I really really wish I had a picture of the massive grilled mackerel we ordered, I was a bit busy trying to get my monster out from under strangers’ tables. 😮

Ava trying to teach Naia the error of her ways

Each fish, along with all the Korean sides and extras was 20,000KRW.

TRAVEL TIP
If you’re only visiting for a few days, pick one place and stick with it. Jeju is an unexpectedly huge island, and it takes a significant amount of time to get from one place to the other. The first time we visited Jeju, hubby and I made the mistake of trying to do too much, which resulted in us spending way too much time driving around and not seeing much of anything.

This time around, Hallie and I took a taxi straight from the airport to the beach, and didn’t move, aside from walking to and from our hotel to the sea.

If you’re traveling with little ones, pick a beach that has reasonable infrastructure around it, like restaurants, cafes and convenience stores within walking distance, and stay put for at least a couple of nights, before moving (permanently) onto your next destination.

ATTRACTION TIP
Since we stayed put in Hamdeok Beach for the duration of our 3 day stay on Jeju Island, I can’t really speak to other attractions around the Island.

However, if you’re traveling with younger kids, Hamdeok is the perfect place to go with them, because of a huge sandbar that appears every morning. It’s technically not part of Hamdeok’s 3 beaches per se, but at low tide, it’s totally possible to walk all the way over to one of the real beaches if you so desire. (You won’t).

The tide was SO long, and the sand so clean and soft, that I could let my 22 month old, wander away for quite a distance, exploring, before I had to go chasing after her.

Best of all, the tide stayed out until long after we (and our little ones) were ready to call it a day.

WHEN IN HAMDEOK
Without a doubt, the place to see and be seen at Hamdeok Beach is Cafe Delmoondo. And with good reason. It’s eminently instagram-worthy with several different patios from which to take in the incredible views of Hamdeok’s crystalline blue seas, while munching on baked goods and sipping a 6,000krw coffee.

They’re also one of the few (maybe only) places on the beach that has couple cabanas, and real sun beds available for rent, starting at 10,000KRW/hour per person. Something I’ll definitely be looking into next time I’m there.

Have you been to Jeju? Is there a beach you recommend? Share your travel tips in the comments below!

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15 Comments Post a comment
  1. Sha #

    Good tips! I’m planning to get to Jeju next March…but I’ve not started any research yet so I shall keep all these in mind, is it still cold in March you think?…:)

    September 12, 2017
    • Yeah, I think it’s pretty cold in March still – maybe even raining, but there’s tons to do there even if you’re not beachin it. I’ve been told by locals that September is actually the best month for swimming – the water’s still warm, but it’s not as crowded and much cheaper!

      September 19, 2017
      • Sha #

        Will have to think of other places to visit instead then if the weather is like that…Hallasan maybe??? Hehehehehe

        September 22, 2017
  2. the water looks awesome! great location

    September 12, 2017
  3. Keep it up, Shelley! You can do everything you want to, even with kids! And Jeju sounds like a really nice destination. Actually, I wanted to go there last year. However, due to non-availability of flights from Hong Kong, we ended up in Okinawa. I heard that the Chinese tourists are avoiding Korea and Jeju at the moment, so, did you feel it was too crowded? Perhaps I’ll explore it next year for a beach getaway, then. Cheers! Dennis

    September 13, 2017
    • When we visited, it was definitely busy – but mostly with Koreans because there was a 2 week break with all the after school programs. LOTS of families on vacation…but I still didn’t feel overwhelmed and it was easy to find our own little space next to that sandbar. I’m told the best time to visit in terms of warm water, less crowds and cost is early September, so maybe keep that in mind for your visit. (And I so want to get to Okinawa!!)

      September 19, 2017
  4. Our kids were huge beach babies in their early years although I don’t think I ever took them solo (3 kids born every other year would have made that completely insane!). This looks like the perfect mother-daughter x 2 trip – I would have loved to do this with a girlfriend way back then!

    September 13, 2017
    • Haha yeah, 3 kids solo would’ve been insane. We had a great trip, but I was pretty exhausted by the end, that’s for sure. Honestly, I can’t wait till Naia’s just a little older and we can go on a REAL mother-daughter solo trip…or better yet, a daddy-daughter solo trip. 😉

      September 19, 2017
  5. There’s a lot to be said for hanging out in just one place when your time is limited! If I had a hotel room view like that, I’d be at the beach or on the balcony 24/7!! Except when I was eating, of course – those monster burgers look like enough food for all day, haha!

    September 13, 2017
    • I really wished I had more time there to enjoy just sitting on the balcony, writing and drinking in that view, but alas, with a little one, those days are over for at least a little while…

      September 19, 2017
  6. Wow..you did it. hats off to you. To be honest I am scared even now to take a solo trip with mine although she has turned 3 now. Now, you are really inspiring me to…

    September 13, 2017
    • You can totally do it Neha! And technically I wasn’t solo…I went with a girlfriend and her daughter, and that might be a good way to start. It was perfect actually cuz one of us could watch both, while the other went to do what they needed to you. I’m not entirely sure how it would’ve been if I’d truly been solo – but I guess I’ll find out next week when I take the little monster to Thailand by myself. Gulp.

      September 19, 2017
  7. You made traveling solo with kid sounds so easy and definitely manageable. Your daughter seems to be from the same cloth as yours anyways, eh? 😀 Your images make me want to fly, or take a dip. 😀

    October 13, 2017
    • Haha really? Cuz it was manageable but definitely not easy. Toddlers are super exhausting, always running away from you and poking their fingers where they don’t belong. 😉 Jeju is super close to Japan no? Next summer maybe? 🙂

      October 14, 2017

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