Get there by ferry + bus, very touristy on a weekend but quiet during the week, forget the boat tour rides and simply explore on foot.. Tai O Fishing Village is absolutely fascinating and well worth the considerable effort to get there and back.
It has been decades (!) since my last visit to Tai O on Lantau Island so I took the plunge and went to visit on a Saturday just to see if all the Tripadvisor reviews were correct in so far that Tai O is a tourist trap.
First up, this is not a casual spur of the moment type visit, you need to allow 2 hours travel time there and 2 hours back, it is in a pretty remote spot and there is NO easy way to get there, having said that, the bus ride to Tai O is brilliant, I loved it!
I took a Ferry from Central Ferry Pier # 6 to Mui Wo on Lantau, had a quick squizz there (not much going on in Mui Wo but they do have a MacDonalds and a 7 - 11!) before getting on the bus to Tai O, the ride is roughly an hour.
When I got to Tai O it took me a few moments to orient myself but then it kind of came flooding back... as it was Saturday it was crowded and noisy but surprisingly I would say 95% of the visitors were local Hong Kongers...
I decided straight away that I would not do a boat tour (and it is really cheap) this is the worst part of Tai O, all the touts at the entrance to the "village" selling boat tours, once you are past them it quietens down considerably.
I spent an hour just wandering around and I was very pleased, there are some great photo opportunities, nobody bothered me, local people actually smiled (now there's a first!) and at anytime I could pop into some decent looking cafe's.
Tai O is considerably bigger than you think, I reckon I could have easily spent 3 hours there wandering around on foot (this is why most people opt for a boat tour) but I cut short my visit due to some massive thunderstorms that rolled in.
In a nutshell, once you get past the boat tour touts and into the village it becomes a very interesting place and not touristy at all, the word that comes to mind is the place is COOL and is so not like Hong Kong.
I will let my pictures do the talking.
Once you are done with Tai O, you can get back to civilisation by taking a bus to either Tung Chung (the bus stops next to the MTR Station) or back to Mui Wu and a trip back to Central on the Ferry.
So in conclusion, I think Tai O is a really cool place but it is 2 hours there and 2 hours back from either Central on Hong Kong Island or TST in Kowloon but it is absolutely worth the effort
I do personal walking tours around Hong Kong, I am on the streets every day and I have a somewhat interesting perspective of this wonderful city I have called my home for 37 years. My private walking tours are perfect for visitors who want a detailed overview of Hong Kong prior to exploring on their own and for people who are only here for a day or two who want to make the most of their limited time here.
Many clients book me for their first full day in Hong Kong, they get to see the best that Hong Kong has to offer + a crash course on our wonderful public transport system and then they go exploring for the rest of their stay armed with step by step instructions and recommendations from me....
...oh, and if you book a tour then you are booking a tour with me, I do not employ other guides.