Summers are made for the beach. Even if you spent your youth landlocked far from any shore, the basic idea still stick with most people through the popular zeitgeist. It used to be common for those desiring summer beach time to hop on a plane to Thailand or the Philippines and within hours, be basking in a tropical sun. However, with the COVID-19 situation not seeming to be getting much better abroad, the idea of drinking cold cocktails while looking out at the ocean seems a distant, if not impossible, dream.
Despite our domestically locked travel plans, there is a place that can serve up some of your desired beach dreams. That place is Hainan. The appropriately named island is located off the coast of southern China, and was administered as part of Guangdong Province until 1988. Since then it has been used to experiment with some of the more progressive government policies, including a June 2020 declaration to institute a free trade port system in the province. Hainan was also used as one of the first places to allow 30-day visa-free travel to passport holders from 56 countries.
What has resulted is a place that is very welcoming to tourists, and checks many of the boxes for your tropical vacation. Palm Trees? Check. Sand? Check. Ocean? Check. But before you go packing your bags, there are a few things that you might want to consider.
Where in Hainan?
Hainan has two major cities, Sanya and Haikou, with Haikou being the provincial capital. Sanya is the larger of the two cities, and is the most popular tourist destination on the island by far. Haikou is a smaller city to the north and has less tourist infrastructure, but is still large enough to accommodate people. There are also other smaller towns on the island, including Wanning, a less touristy but still beachside town. If you are a sunrise over the water kind of person, then either Sanya or Wanning are the best for you, as they (mostly) face east, while Haikou faces west for sunsets.
What do you want to do?
Hardcore tourists – those that want to see and do everything possible – will want to stay in Sanya, as many of the activities, i.e. the Buddha statue, the Atlantis aquarium/water park, etc. are all located nearby. The beaches around Sanya tend to be full of people during the peak season, and not all of the beaches are open to swimming, so check ahead of time to see if your hotel is in the right area. Don’t assume that the beach on the map is a swimmable one. That being said, Sanya also has a boardwalk area with restaurants and bars overlooking the ocean, the perfect place to get that tropical cocktail.
If you’re looking for a more laid back, calm experience, you might look to Haikou or Wanning, or just book a resort with a private beachfront anywhere on the island. There is also an option to find one of the smaller fishing villages if you are looking for something a bit more rustic, but understand that the conveniences of a larger town may be hard to find. Also remember that the more out of the way the hotel is, the more you will need to travel for basic conveniences, should you need them.
If you like a bit more adventure to your holidays, there are abundant options for different outdoor activities. Surfing is big in Wanning and Sanya, and there are numerous spots with local and international surfers. There are also some of your typical beach side sports, such as snorkeling, jet skis, and similar things. There is also river rafting, hiking trails, and nature parks to go through in the interior, if that’s your thing. You can even skydive if you’re feeling very adventurous.
If you want a more relaxed sporting experience, there are numerous golf courses on the island, often paired with hotels, though there are options for independent travelers as well. Sanya Sun Valley Golf Club has packages starting from 900RMB/ Person and going up from there, though some of the options will definitely get quite expensive. It is generally suggested that you book your greens time before travelling to avoid disappointment.
Weather in Hainan
Hainan remains warm year-round, with the coldest months being January and February, with high temperatures in the 20s˚C. Summers are considerably warmer, but still not unbearably hot, with temperatures averaging in the high 20s to low 30s˚C. Like most places in the area, Hainan is subject to rainstorms and typhoons, which occur mostly from June to October, with August having the highest average number of storms. Luckily, Hainan doesn’t usually take the brunt of the storms, though it often sees a lot of rain, so expect heavy tropical showers at any point. If a typhoon does come during your trip, be prepared to wait it out, as air traffic will most likely be cancelled.
If you have a chance to travel to Hainan, as many people have decided to do recently, we hope that you will have a good time. If you have any experience that you would like to share with us, don’t hesitate to contact us at our official WeChat account or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.