China’s largest tropical island boasts all the lovely weather, coconut palms and gold-sand beaches. Just like the Caribbean. We flew to Sanya! The island province of Hainan is located at the southern most point in China. It is best known as a holiday island because of its tropical climate, forested and mountainous interiors, and Caribbean like beaches. There was not much I knew about Hainan when the family of my boyfriend (all Chinese) suggested the trip, but I always love to explore new places and let me tell you this, I did not regret it. Here are my "Top 5 highlights of Hainan".
Hainan claims to be the 'Hawaii of China', but 'oscow on the South China Sea' is more like it. One reason why a lot of Russian also visit Hainan is that you (also German) don't need to apply for a Chinese Visa. The modern, hyper-developed city Sanya (三亚) has such a steady influx of Russian vacationers these days that all signs are in Cyrillic as well as Chinese. Middle-class Chinese families are increasingly drawn to the golden shores of as well.
There are three beaches which are easy to reach and very nice to relax at:
- Dadonghai beach
- Sanya beach
- Yalong bay
Everywhere are signs "Don't swim", but you can swim there, it is just without a guard.
Also nice is Sanya’s most popular market is a place to bargain for and buy locally grown produce, but its real appeal lies on the fringes, where food vendors set up shop. Stop for barbecued seafood and local sweets such as qīngbǔliáng (清补凉, a cold sweet soup) and chǎobīng (炒冰, fried ice, like sorbet). The farmer market is at 155 Xinjian Jie, Sanya, Hainan (新建街155号) and is open from 11:00–2:00.
PS: Houhai beach is unfortunately not an attraction anymore. The floating wooden restaurants, which are still described in old travel guides, burned down and the government of Hainan forbid to rebuild it.
Seven Fairy Mountain of Hainan
Seven Fairy Mountain, named for its dramatic seven pinnacles, is found inside Qixian Hot Springs National Forest Park (七仙岭温泉国家森林公园). The park is located in the north of Baoting (保亭). It includes both hot springs and forest areas. The seven peaks of Qixianling stand like fingers around the palm of a hand. But the popular name is Seven Fairy-Lady Mountain due to a very romantic story:
Long time ago, the local Li Ethnic group living in Boating County enjoyed a peaceful life and benefited greatly from the hot springs which kept them in good health. One day, the mother of the Heaven got known about the beautiful place and the hot spring. Then she sent her seven fairy daughters to check if the hot spring was as nice as the one in the Heaven. The seven fairies were surprised by the green mountains and wonderful hot springs. One day, the God of Wind on the sea wanted to occupy this land, but when he came, the rain brought much damage to the forest. So the seven fairy ladies helped the local people by fighting with the God of the Wind on the sea. They beat him, to protect local people from further disaster, the seven fairy ladies became the seven ridges.
We did a minimum four-hour return trip to the top of the first pinnacle along a stepped path through a rainforest buzzing with bird and insect life. The hike up to the Seven Fairy-Lady Mountain is a 2,300 meters long stone path with 3,770 steps. At the end of the stone path, there is a 80 meter long steep rock (bring good shoes, damp cloth and a towel). To climb the rock, you really have to climb on your hands and legs with the help of iron chain, which is the most challenging part of the hike. The view from the top is epic. With no shuttle bus and no gimmicks (such as glass bridges), this is a much more authentic way to experience Hainan's rainforest than visiting the forest parks closer to Sanya.
It's other charm lies in the hot springs. After the tiring hiking tour, I guess you stiffing legs need a good hot spring bath in the wild tropical rainforest. There is a resort just around the corner!
How to get there? We took a taxi for 600 RMB for the day to get there. When the street to this park was blocked we also visited the National Park Yanoda, which offers a beautiful and relaxed walk through the rain forest, and returned to Qixian afterwards.
Qixian Hot Springs National Forest Park, Baoting, Hainan, China, fee around 50 RMB, open from 7:30–18:00.
Tianya Haijiao (天涯海角), a beautiful scenic spot, and located in the west of Sanya, Hainan province. It opened in 1988 and attracts young lovers from every corner of the world to hold their wedding ceremonies. Tianya Haijiao means 'the furthermost part of the sky and the sea' in Chinese, suggesting an unattainable place. Chinese people believed that the sky was square and the earth was round. Therefore there was definitely a furthermost part of the sky and the earth. Walking along the beach, you will see a stone carved with four characters Nan Tian Yi Zhu (南天一柱), which means 'a pillar standing in the southern part of the sky' in Chinese.
The story goes that when the local fishermen's daily life was affected by terrible storms, and they could hardly catch the fish, two kind-hearted fairy maidens transformed themselves into two large stones and stood on the beach to shelter the fishermen. From that time fishermen were safe from storms whenever they went to sea. But the maiden's master, the Mother Goddess of Heaven, was so furious that she dispatched the Thunder God to drag them back to Heaven. The two maidens refused, so the Thunder God broke them in two. One of them was thrown into the sea and the other one was left here.
Near the remaining one another stone carved with the Chinese characters Hai Pan Nan Tian is located, which means 'the sea and the sky joined together' It is the oldest stone inscription to be found in Tianya Haijiao.
Tianyazhen, Tianya, Sanya, Hainan, China, fee from Oct–April 81 RMB, May–Sept 68 RMB, open from 7:30–18:00
Nanshan Temple in Hainan
The Guanyin of Nanshan (Chinese: 南山海上观音圣像) is a 108 meter statue of the bodhisattva Guanyin, located on the south coast of China's island province Hainan. The statue of the goddess Guanyin has three faces - one facing inland and two facing the South China Sea. It is among the highest statues in the world and took all of six years to build. Its height is significant because the number 108 is considered to be very auspicious.
Built in 1988 to commemorate two thousand years of Buddhist history in China, Nanshan Temple serves as a window into China’s rich Buddhist heritage. Nanshan is also the largest Buddhist temple established since the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Situated at the foot of Nanshan Mountain, the temple architecture was heavily influenced by the Tang Dynasty. Visitors enter the grounds through The Mountain Gate, where two figures of the Buddha stand guard. A terrace in front of the temple looks out over the South China Sea, affording stunning views of the nearby statue. There is also a beautiful walk through a little park, with donated trees, some from highly ranked politicians, which paid 1.000.000 RMB to get the tree planted. Today no one can tribute trees anymore, because the Chinese outbit each other to donate trees to the temple! Come hungry, as the vegetarian food served at the temple restaurant is famously tasty. The temple is located 40 kilometers west of Sanya along the Hainan West Expressway.
Hainan West Expressway, Sanya, China, fee 150 RMB, open from 8:00–18:00
Yalong Bay Forest Park
Not to be missed is an adventure at the Yalong Bay Tropical Paradise Forest Park (三亚亚龙湾森林公园玻璃栈道) close to Sanya, Hainan, China. A glass bridge offers a challenging hike, reaching the 400 meter long Seaview Glass Skywalk that threads through a high mountain forest overlooking the South China Sea. Walking under its “rainbow gate” of 30 meters height is quit a challenge. The walkway leads visitors across and through a random assortment of glass stairs, hoops and platforms that are just above treetop level. It is the first glass-bottomed skyway in the Hainan province. Made of tempered glass 30 millimeters thick. The glass viewing platforms offer a magnificent panorama of Yalong Bay and its surrounding lush landscapes.
Also close is Yalong Bay, the most panoramic beach of Sanya, though banana boats do buzz through. This is resort central, with all the attendant luxuries. Hainan’s beaches are theoretically open to everyone, but at Yalong Bay there can be a quasi-official entry fee if you’re not staying at one of the resorts. To avoid any sporadically enforced fees, walk through one of the hotels rather than entering the beach from the main square.
Yalong Bay Forest Park, Yalongwan Rd, Jiyang, Sanya, Hainan, China, the entrance fee is around 175 RMB, but the experience is priceless, open from 8:00–17:30