Port of Jeju Island, South Korea
According to CLIA's 2016 Asia Cruise Trends Report, the Port of Jeju was the most visited Asia cruise port that year, with more than 450 calls and 1.2 million passengers visiting its shores. Port officials have set a goal to double the number of calls to receive 2 million cruise tourists by 2020. However, since March 15, 2017, cruise ships departing from a Chinese port have been prohibited from calling on Korean ports. Since 90 percent of cruise visitors to Korea are from China, Jeju and other Korean cruise ports have taken a significant hit with far fewer cruise ships calling on the port since.
Jeju is South Korea's largest island, located off the Korean Peninsula in Northeast Asia where the Yellow Sea meets the South China Sea. From its unique history and traditional female divers to its natural scenic beauty and modern K-pop culture, Jeju has plenty to offer cruise visitors of all ages.
Hallasan, the nation's tallest mountain and the volcanic island's centerpiece, stands at 1,950 meters or approximately 6,400 feet. Although the island was created by volcanic eruptions millions of years ago, it has not erupted in centuries.
Jeju Island is South Korea's only natural UNESCO World Heritage Site and features a unique set of lava tubes and spacious caves -- one of which, Manjanggul Lava Tube, is open for tourists to explore.
Jeju also features unique museums and theme parks and was once was a popular honeymoon destination for mainland Korean couples -- many of whom were the result of arranged marriages and often lacking in romantic experience. Love Land, an erotic sculpture theme park, pays homage to this history with its interactive, instructional and even humorous displays. Other popular attractions include the Teddy Bear Museum and Mazeland.
Jeju Island offers some breathtaking scenic areas. Although they are located on the other side of the island in Seogwipo city, they are well worth the visit. You will have to spend a good bit of time traveling to the other side of the island, and you will most likely have time to see only one or two attractions within your time in port.
About Jeju Island, South Korea
Jeju offers the relaxed feel of a tropical island with diverse offerings onshore.
There are often long queues for taxis; be careful of overcharging, too.
Scenic beaches and volcanic landscape provides an amazing backdrop to variety of activities.
Cruise ships dock at the Jeju International Cruise Terminal, next to the ferry terminal, which is a 10-minute car ride or 25-minute stroll to Jeju city center.
A second cruise terminal is being built on the Seogwipo side of the island, which is expected to open in summer 2018.
Jeju International Cruise Terminal, which looks more like an airport than a cruise terminal, opened in 2015. As you disembark your ship, you will pass through a long walkway that offers moving sidewalks and elevators for those with mobility challenges.
Inside the terminal building after you pass through customs and immigration, you can find a Jeju Bank ATM that accepts overseas cards. There is also a Jeju Bank currency exchange. Posted hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free Wi-Fi is available with plenty of seating. The terminal also houses a convenience store, a pharmacy, a snack shop and souvenir shops with tax free items.
If you want continuous Wi-Fi throughout the day while exploring on your own, SK Telecom has a counter set up for its T mobile Wi-Fi rental services. Hours vary depending on cruise ship schedule.
The terminal building also features a tourist information center, which can become busy with up to 30-minute waiting periods for assistance at peak times. However, if you just need to pick up materials, you don't need to wait in line.
Taxis are available, but visitors can experience long waits -- it's sometimes easier to hail a taxi outside of the terminal area. If you are not in a hurry and don't mind walking, you can get to the city center on foot in about 25 minutes.
Getting from the port area to the downtown area typically takes about 10 minutes by ground transportation. There is usually shuttle bus service for the 10-minute drive to the downtown Dongmun Traditional Market, the island's oldest and largest permanent daily market. However, demand for the shuttle often exceeds supply -- again resulting in long lines. Taxi fares in South Korea are quite reasonable, so those in the know prefer hailing a taxi to standing in line -- for a long time and in the heat--to return to the ship.
From the market area, public buses are the only means of transportation to major sights. Signage is in English and easy to understand.
Good to Know
Finding a taxi can sometimes prove challenging and you may encounter long queues at the cruise terminal. Taxi drivers have been known to overcharge -- or take the long route to bump up your fare. To minimize the risk of being overcharged, be clear in stating your destination and not allowing for detours. This will help ensure a direct route to your destination with no extra charge. It's also worth taking a photo of the driver's license posted on the dashboard -- when the driver sees you doing this, it lets him know you are paying attention and keeping careful records.
Use a bilingual map to facilitate clear communication and engage with taxi drivers during the trip regarding the route they are taking. This can ensure that they don't take a longer route than is necessary.
Orienting yourself around the island is simple: Mount Halla is in the center with Jeju City to the north and Seogwipo city to the south. Other key areas are the Mangjangjgul Lava Tube in the northeast, Seongsan Ilchulbong ("Sunrise Peak") in the east and Hallim Park in the west.
On Foot: If you don't want to take the shuttle bus and prefer to walk to the downtown area, say the Dongmun Traditional Market, it will take about 30 minutes and is a pleasant walk if you are not in a hurry.
By Taxi: Taxi fares are reasonable and should be metered. They are also readily available outside the terminal building. English-speaking taxi drivers aren't always guaranteed and it's advisable to pick up one of the maps in the terminal building before taking the taxi to insure smooth communication. Global taxis with certified English-speaking drivers are available in limited numbers and cannot be reserved online in advance. The fare is a bit more but worth it.
By Bus: There is a bus stop just outside the terminal building for the Jeju Golden Bus City Tour. It can serve as a hop-on hop-off bus with the purchase of a day pass. The complete loop runs about one hour 45 minutes.
Editor's note: The service doesn't run on the third Monday of the month; and a shorter timetable is in operation from November through February.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The local currency is the South Korean won. Check www.oanda.com or www.xe.com for up to date current currency conversion rates. Theoretically, it is possible to make purchases using a credit card at tourist-oriented shops and restaurants. However, many local shops will often only accept local currency.
The local language is Korean. While many Koreans are excellent English speakers, don't be surprised if your taxi driver or locals you meet in Jeju are not. Being able to greet someone or express gratitude in the local language is always appreciated. "Hello" is annyeonghaseyo and "thank you" is "gamsahamnida."
Food and Drink
Like many port cities, Jeju offers wonderful fresh seafood -- showcased at the local fish market. Jeju's black pork, noodles and raw fish are popular with locals and visitors, alike.
If you're keen to sample a local drink, opt for Soju, Korea's clear, colorless distilled liquor. Gaining in popularity, not only in Korea, but it has also garnered worldwide fame in recent years. There's also Makgeolli, native to Korean, which is a slightly sweet alcoholic drink made from rice or wheat.
Guksu Geori: This "Noodle Street" is conveniently located near the popular Jeju Folklore and Natural Museum, or a 15-minute drive from the port area. Here you can select from both fish-based and pork-based broths. The pork broth noodles (gogi-guksu) are a Jeju specialty. (Samseong-ro, Jeju-si; hours vary by restaurant)
Heuk-dwaeji Geori: Known as "Black Pork Street," this dining area is just a 5-minute drive from the port area. The entire street near Tapdong features Jeju's top-quality pork featured in dishes such as barbecued black pork belly or simply sliced tender boiled pieces. (25 Gwandeong-ro 15(sibo)-gil, Geonip-dong; hours vary by restaurant)
Hoeitjip Geori: For local raw fish, seek out the aptly named "Raw Fish Restaurant Street," which is about a 15-minute drive from the port. (1435-2 Geonip-dong; hours vary by restaurant)
Yongduam Rock: On the north coast of the island is a rock formation in the shape of a dragon's head. Small vendors set up on the rocks and sell freshly grilled treats such as octopus, oysters and fried squid on a stick. While in the area, you can also enjoy the scenic coast. (15 Yongduam-gil, Yongdam 2(i)-dong; hours vary by vendor)
Other than the Dongmun Traditional Market, Jeju's main modern shopping district is centered on Jungang-no, the main street running north to south through the old part of Jeju. There's also Jiha Sangga underground shopping area, which sells clothing, cosmetics, food and souvenirs.
Jeju citrus, which can be bought fresh, dried, used to fill chocolates or to make honey or tea, is probably the most popular souvenir from the island -- though don't forget to check with your cruise line if you can bring local food back onboard. Alternatively, replicas of the iconic Dolhareubang Jeju guardian statues made of local stone are also popular souvenirs when made into items such as magnets or keychains. Standard South Korean souvenirs such as Korean dolls and ginseng, as well as skin care products such as facial masks, are also unique buys.