If you’re tired of the cold and looking for short break somewhere warm, then head down to Sanya! Described as the Hawaii of China, Sanya is situated on the southern end of Hainan island. The island has no winter and is warm all year round and attracts many tourists from colder parts of China, such as Heilongjiang or Beijing. Not only is the weather great, the island is full of golden beaches with clear blue seas and tropical rain forests, along with beautiful mountainous scenery. The island’s capital city is called Haikou and the island itself is a similar size to the country Belgium.
I visited Sanya during Spring Festival and it felt as though 99% of the population in China also decided to visit at the same time. For a more enjoyable and less expensive trip, try to avoid it during this busy period, but nevertheless there is plenty to see and do – not only in Sanya but all over the island. Sanya is one of the biggest tourist resorts with tons of restaurants and bars, good transport links to other parts of the island and many English speakers. This makes it an easy place for tourists to visit, especially if they speak no Chinese.
The local food is simple and delicious and it comes as no surprise that every restaurant has an aquarium which boasts an array of fresh seafood. All seafood is priced very reasonably due to the abundance of marine life in the water. As well as fresh fish, Hainan is especially famous for dried squid and the use of coconut in the local sweets. Things to do in Sanya/Hainan include:
Yanoda Rainforest Cultural Tourism Zone
Yanoda Rainforest Cultural Tourism Zone is located 35km from downtown Sanya and is a major tourist attraction. On any given day the park will be packed and even more so during Spring Festival, but don’t let this put you off visiting. Besides all the tourists, the rain forests itself are pretty stunning! On a clear day you can see for miles over the lush green plantation and as far as down town Sanya. The rainforest is filled with all kinds of trees, plants, waterfalls, bugs and birds.
There are buses that reach the rainforest and depart at 8.00 from Mingzhu Department store in down town Sanya and return from Yanoda at 16.00 back to down town Sanya, but this needs to be booked 24 hours in advance.
The ticket price is 170 yuan and this includes free shuttles buses once inside the park – I recommend a one day visit.
Nanwan Monkey Island
Nanwan Monkey Island is a state protected island for macaque monkeys and is the only island nature reserve of its type. To get to the island, first you have to take the longest transoceanic rope way in China to a small fishing village where locals live and work. Once on the island you’ll be greeted by over 2000 macaque monkeys. The majority are free to roam the island as they please but some are not so lucky. Some of the monkeys have been captured and trained to perform for the flocks of tourists that visit. Due to the islands trees, plants and fruits, the monkeys are able to flourish here and is a perfect habitat for them to survive.
Warning- if you are sensitive to animals being treated in a cruel way then maybe you should give this attraction a miss but apart from the 30 or so monkeys who are used for performance, there are hundreds more who aren’t. The island also has snakes, parrots and bears who perform or are used to make money with tourists who wish to take photos with the animals. The ticket price is 68 yuan and a return ticket for then cable cart is 60 yuan.
From Sanya you can take a long distance bus to Lingshui and then take the ferry from Xincun Ferry Terminal to the island or take a taxi to the Nanwan Island transoceanic rope way for around 150 yuan from Sanya.
Nantian Hot Springs
Nantian Hot Spring Resort is the largest open air hot spring resort in China. The resort is a five star complex and is home to all kinds of hot baths which contain gases and natural elements that are good for the human body. You have 67 baths to choose from, including red wine, rose petal, coffee, lemon, green tea and coconut. Surrounded by palm trees and tropical flowers it’s an extremely relaxing, chilled out day.
The complex also contains two large swimming pools with a small play park for children, cafes and a restaurant. Free towels, slippers, shampoo, body wash, cotton buds, combs and hair dryers.
The ticket price is 198 yuan and is easily accessible from Sanya, either by taxi costing around 120 yuan or by a free shuttle bus (but at strange times).
Dadonghai (Pearl River Garden Hotel Sanya) to Nantian Hot Springs at 14:00, 16:00, 18:00, 20:00 Nantian Hot Springs to Dadonghai (Pearl River Garden Hotel Sanya) at 13:00, 15:00, 17:00, 21:00, 23:00.
Situated 25 miles from downtown Sanya Nanshan Temple is the biggest Buddhist preaching site to be built since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. The temple was completed in April 1998 to celebrate the 2,000th anniversary of Buddhism in China. The temple is relatively young compared to other temples in China which can date back to hundreds or even thousands of years ago. It’s a great place to pay your respects to Buddha whilst visiting Sanya with the surrounding grounds being peaceful, tranquil and harmonious. The ticket price is 150 yuan per person and takes around a whole day.
The temple is easily accessible by bus station that’s located in down town Sanya which is close to the beach and hotels.
Wuzhizhou Island is a smaller island located of the coast of the main island of Hainan. With clear turquoise sea, beautiful beaches, rare wildlife and with more than 2,00 different types of plants and trees along with coral reefs the island really is an amazing get away for the day.
The sea water is extremely clear and clean with a maximum visible depth of around 90 meters and is home to lobsters, starfish, sea cucumbers, sea urchins and colourful tropical fish which makes scuba diving or snorkelling is highly recommended.
There are no direct buses from Sanya so the best option is to take a taxi to the ferry terminal costing around 100 yuan. Then take the ferry which runs between 7.40 and 18.00 each day every 20 minutes and the ferry takes around ten minutes to reach the island. The ticket price 123 yuan but this includes the ferry to and from the island.
Sanya is most definitely worth adding to the list of places to visit in China especially during the cold months up north! There is plenty to see and do whilst here and a few days relaxing on a beach won’t you any harm – just don’t forget the sun cream!
by Cameron Hack
Hey, my name is Cameron and I have lived in Beijing now for around a year and a half. I am originally from the South of England a city called Portsmouth. Whilst living in China I have been teaching English and in my spare time I like to travel to different places both inside and further afield Beijing. I hope you enjoy what I write and that it will give you some tips and practical advice for your travels.
You can see my adventures around China by following me on Instagram by searching @cameronhack.