Sanya (三亚; Sānyà) is on the southernmost point of China, at the tip of Hainan island.
Billed as "China's Hawaii", Sanya has long stretches of beach, water sports such as snorkeling and jet-skiing, rainforest hiking, and innumerable hotels ranging from zero to five stars. However, Sanya is becoming more crowded and more polluted (refuse from tourism, unchecked construction) as each year passes and is beginning to look tired. Islands and beaches that could have been compared to Hawaii a few years ago are still beautiful, but no longer pristine or secluded.
Even in January, temperatures hover around 25*C and the ocean is still warm enough to swim in without a wetsuit. Thus, Sanya is a popular escape for Russians fleeing sub-zero winters. Russians primarily stay at Dadong Hai(Great East Sea 大东海). Sanya is also a very popular vacation spot for Northern Chinese to escape cold, arid weather. Especially around Chinese New Year, the city will overflow with tourists. Fireworks will sound constantly, often being carelessly thrown around by children, for the weeks leading up to and the weeks after Chinese New Year.
- Sanya Bay Beach - stretches for around 25 kilometers, but is rather polluted and devoid of swimmers. It is lined with seafood restaurants and hotels costing ¥50-5,000+.
- Sanya city - filled with souvenir shops and street grills at night. You will see locals dancing along the beach in the evenings, and a range of people selling souvenirs, street food and fairground games. Try the outdoor public karaoke if you dare! Cross the Sanya River (三亚河) to reach a less touristy, cheaper, and more fun part of town.
- Dadong Hai - has Sanya's best balance between development and natural beauty. The town behind Dadong Hai is more expensive than Sanya, but has better restaurants and a gorgeous beach. The shopping, however, is not as good as Sanya city's. The dominant languages in this area, both spoken and written, are Chinese and Russian.
- Yalong Bay (亚龙湾) - is farther from Sanya city than Dadong Hai beach and has been developed into an international holiday center with multiple 5 star resorts, golf etc. The long beach is well taken care of by the various hotels. You will find many restaurants in the new shopping area. Definitely worth a visit, but be prepared for higher prices with respect to Sanya.
Sanya has an airport with flights to nearby Chinese cities such as Guangzhou, Zhuhai or Hong Kong. Fares vary significantly, depending on season and the particular tour. You may be able to save money by first busing to Haikou and flying out of the provincial capital's larger airport, but the bus ticket and overnight lodging can exceed the difference and you should account for travelling 3-4 hours each direction. In addition to the bus, you will easily be able to find "heiche" taxis that will take you between the two cities, for between 350 and 500 yuan per car. Although strictly illegal, you can find drivers that are courteous, safe and reliable, although this is much more difficult without being able to speak at least basic Chinese.
The 3.5 hour bus ride from Haikou will cost about ¥80. Buses between Haikou and Sanya depart about every 30 minutes; the last bus from Sanya to Haikou departs around 11PM. Sanya's bus station is along Jie Fang Lu (解放路), a few steps south (away from McDonalds) of the east end of "Shopping Street" (步行街).
Sanya can be reached directly by train from Beijing (35 hours), Shanghai (36 hours) and Guangzhou (15 hours). The whole train is loaded on to a ferry for the journey from mainland China to the Island, then continues its journey around the west coast as far as Sanya. As trains leaving the island originate in Sanya, tickets from this smaller town are easier to obtain than if leaving from Haikou.
The new train station in Sanya is far from downtown, approximately as far as the airport. A taxi to Dadong Bay（大东海）, the most popular tourist area) is approximately ¥25-30. A public bus will cost ¥1. Lines 2 and 4 lead through Sanya city proper and continue through (and past) Dadong Bay.
Many people stay in beach areas with more-or-less everything within walking distance. Darting in, around, and between Sanya city and Dadong Hai is best done by the city bus lines 2 (fastest) or 4 (adds some stops around Sanya River) for ¥1. The buses run along Sanya city's Jiefang Road (解放路), which is the street McDonald's is on, and hit Dadong Bay at Luling Road (鹿岭路), just one stop past the Deer Turns Head Square (鹿回头广场)
Taxis are cheap but it can be difficult to find available taxis. Check that the driver uses the meter for all journeys or agree a price before commencing the journey for longer distances. Taxi drivers can often be rip-off artists. If you have a white or black face or sound like a rich mainlander they will often ask for at least double the price you would pay using the meter. Check the initial meter reading, it shall be ¥5 only (2009), often the meter is alreday running when you enter the car. A taxi from Sanya to Dadong Bay should cost about ¥8.
There are also numerous motorcycle and sidecar taxis which are efficient and welcoming on hot days. Negotiation of the price before leaving is the rule and it is not unknown to be diverted to tourist attractions. Expect to pay approximately the same as a standard taxi, the main advantages to these taxis being that they are more prevalent and can more easily circumvent bad traffic.
For trips farther out of town, you can buy bus tickets at Sanya city's bus station or just hail buses on the road that runs along Sanya's beach. Tickets to most destinations will be ¥5-30. You could also hire a van with (or without) an English speaking guide from hotels or people with white and blue displays on the streets of Sanya City or Dadong Bay. If choosing to go with a Chinese tour group, beware that there may likely be several hours of scheduled stops at "infomercial" centers, complete with microphone delivered advertisements.
You can also rent a motorbike or a car of your own. There are several places to do this, with prices per hour (¥60), 4 hours (¥150), 8 hours (¥350) or by week (¥1,500). Discounts are available outside peak times. It is not recommended that any inexperienced driver use a motorbike on the public roads on Hainan, which can be even less organized that mainland China's motor-ways.
Though they may rent a car / bike to you be aware that you need a valid chinese driving licence (International Licenses are not valid). There is no exemption to this rule and according to Chinese law you can be jailed for up to 15 days by driving or riding a motorcycle without a license. In the event of an accident, this will be a major issue.
- Perfume Bay (香水湾; Xiangshuiwan), (Two hours from Sanya by bus (see the bus station, tickets less than ¥30) plus a 100m walk from the freeway (ignore all motorbike offers, or pay less than ¥4 per person)). This stretch of beach is rather undeveloped and thus delightfully peaceful (it will probably be only you for a good kilometer on either side). Visiting here is a delightful and mind-cleaning day trip, especially if joined with some hiking around the surrounding farms. Watch out for strong rip tides and pack snacks.
- Dadong Sea (大东海; Dadonghai). Predominantly Russian (in visitors and signage, there is little English here!) Dadong Sea has Sanya's best balance between development and natural beauty. The town behind Dadong Bay is more expensive than Sanya, but has better restaurants and a gorgeous beach. The shopping, however, is not as good as Sanya city's. The ocean has algae blooms that vary the water from thick green to tropically clear. However, even when "tropically clear" the ocean bed is just sand with a rare school of fish or eel. See the beach both in the morning, at sunset (sets gorgeously over the hills), and at night (when people are very scarce). Check out the trails that lead between tide pools along the Westernmost rocks of the beach. The tip of the trail has a dramatic view of the ocean and a deep and deadly ocean cave.
- Nanwan Monkey Island (南湾猴岛), (From Sanya, take the Lingshui 陵水 bound bus from the bus station and then switch to the Xincun (新村) bus and ride it to the end of the line. The park entrance will be 300 meters away). Actually a penninsula, Monkey Island is home to about 1800 endangered Macaque monkeys whose habitat you get to roam freely through. Be careful, these monkeys will jump on humans (playful) or attack for sweet drinks or food (hungry and thirsty)! There are also some circus-style comedy shows featuring monkeys doing stunts. Entrance ticket is ¥68 and a round-trip ride on the gondola is another ¥60, but well worth the quiet, long, and smooth ride over gorgeous ocean-top fishing villages and jungle.
- Sanya Nanshan Temple (三亚南山寺). Purposefully-constructed tourist trap began in 1998 with a gigantic statue of Guanyin (a Goddess of Mercy) on a sea-top platform. The park has few interesting spots (save a monastery bells that you can "gong") but demands a hefty entrance fee over ¥150. A trolley car can shuttle you around the park for extra cash, but it is best enjoyed without the trolley as it really is not that big. Nanshan is about an hour outside of Sanya city by city bus, which can be grabbed at the bus station or along the city's beach-side roadway (三亚弯路). The surrounding countryside is much more interesting than the park itself, which is a must-miss.
- Xisha Archipelago (西沙群岛). Gorgeous, remote, and brimming with tropical life, one of this chain of islands was formerly on exotic vacation spot that is now off-limits to travelers, reportedly due to territorial disputes.
- Wuzhizhou Island (蜈支洲岛). A popular spot for snorkeling and scuba diving, this island has fallen victim to it is popularity. Water is less clear and fish less plentiful than before, so choose dates and times to maximize visibility when visiting. Scuba diving will cost around ¥400-500.
- Betel Nut Ethnic Minorities Park (槟榔谷). Hainan is home to a large population of ethnic minorities, predominantly the Li (黎) and Miao (苗) Ethnic Groups, and you can find out more about them at this park, about 30km outside of Sanya. The park is very commercial with a large number of shops, snacks for sale and (paid) opportunities for photographs with locals in traditional costumes or with indigenous animals. Despite this, it appears that there has been a genuine attempt to show the traditional life and customs of the two minoritiese, and the park appears less tacky than some other similar attractions elsewhere in China. It is probably also a relatively good way for money to be returned to the local community. There is a steep entrance fee (approximately ¥150 per person) but the park is huge and there are a wide variety of shows; it will take you 3-4 hours to see in its entirety. Be prepared though to fight your way through Chinese tour groups shouting "Blong" as often as they can, the Miao word for hello, and try to eat before you leave as the restaurants outside the park are overpriced. Rental of a taxi from Sanya and backshould cost approximately ¥200 including the wait in between, but you should negotiate this with the driver before departing. There are also one-day tours on offer in all the hotels, which will offer a discount on the overall price of transportation and entrance tickets, but you will be constrained to the timing of the rest of the group and may be taken to shops on the journey there and back.
- Biking. There are excelent areas for biking around Sanya.
- Surfing. Hainan has pretty consistent surf most of the year. In the summer, the south winds bring waves to Sanya's south-facing beaches. In the fall through winter, the peak surf season, Hainan's east coast is the place to go. Hainan does not offer world-class waves, but it offers fairly consistent tropical surf, which is almost completely empty.
- Water Sports. Yalong Bay, Dadong Bay, and Sanya Bay all have a collection of jet skiing, parasailing, paragliding, snorkeling, scuba diving, glass-bottomed boat, and beach ATV enterprises. Prices aren't generally very negotiable (save for scuba and snorkeling), but duration of the ride, however, can. Do not go too cheap on scuba, for obvious safety reasons.
- Hiking. Sanya Bay and Fragrant Water Bay (香水湾) are kilometers long and can be a very entertaining afternoon's walk. Sanya Bay is touristy near the city, but fades into nearly silent sections filled only with resting fishermen and wedding photographers. Fragrant Water Bay is newly developing and is nearly devoid of humans! Beware of strong rip tides while swimming. Outside of beach hikes, Five Finger Mountain (五指山), a couple hours from Sanya, is an excellent place to spend the day. Hire a car to take you around the gigantic park's multiple scenic spots. Motorcycle side-cars can also be hired for the day for ¥100 and sit two. Bring a sweater to fight the windchill as the motorcycle goes through shaded, windy roads.
The area produces pearls in abundance and they are sold everywhere.
Prices are highly negotiable; overcharging tourists is common.
Tour guides get a fat (often 50%!) commission for bringing tourists
to pearl shops; try to go without one and beat the price down.
Coconut powders and teas are also popular Chinese buys, but for Westerners looking for something less commercially produced... the cone-shaped hats that women wear here with pictures inscribed are only 5 RMB at The First Market (第一市场) in Sanya city. Lines 2 and 4 have a stop there. Don't head into the department store; instead, stick to the side of it and walk down the road filled with small shops and street vendors.
- Corner Deli, (At Raihai Shopping Park in Dadonghai). Offers a wide range of imported food and drinks. For anyone living in China and wanting to take back a few western groceries that can't normally be found, this small deli is worth the trip.
A bit after sunset and well in to the AM hours, Sanya city's streets are filled with small barbeque stands, noodle stands, and other snack vendors. Not to be missed is Sanya's ¥0.5 crispy tofu skewers flavored with green onion and seasame seeds (even if you do not like tofu normally, try this, it is amazing) and delicious fire-roasted eggplant. If you do not like spicy, be sure to inform the cook! If you do like to eat spicy food, you are in for a treat.
Tropical fruits are cheap and common. Pineapples are attractively peeled, but beware that they may be dipped in likely unclean water throughout the day and just before the final sale so they will look more fresh.
Hainan is famous throughout China for its coconuts and they are worth trying, especially the red coconuts (红椰; Hóngyē). Away from the beach, expect to pay about ¥3 for a coconut. Prices increase as you get closer and you may end up paying about ¥15 for a coconut on the beach.
There are plenty of good restaurants, including many Sichuan places and some Cantonese. There is one McDonald's (on the pedestrian street at Jiefang Erlu) and four branches of KFC (105 Jiefang Lu; Duojialian; 63 Guoxing Dadao; Renmin Lu). Seafood is a beach city's speciality. Inspect the tanks for freshness before eating and beware of the different charges that are often handled by different people at the restaurant (fishery, cooking fee, and sitting fee can be separate). Shellfish go for ¥10-25 per jin (half kilo).
- Baguobuyi, 117 Yingbin Road, ☎ +86 898 88685688. Sichuan restaurant, part of a chain. Good value. Menu in Chinese only but the glossy menus have pictures which give you a good idea of what you are ordering. The giant meatballs are delicious, as is the braised pork. As with all Sichuan restaurants, if you do not like it too spicy ask them to cut back on the chilli.
- Bohemian (Boximiya), 3 Phoenix City (Sanyongfenghuangcheng) (Phoenix Road (Fenghuanglu)), ☎ +86 898 88882333. Newly-opened restaurant with an international menu. Very well decorated and furnished and the service by waitresses wearing faux-Bavarian uniforms is exceptional. Prices range from very expensive (for things like Japanese beef or caviare) to very reasonable for more conventional Chinese dishes.
- Casual Caffe Snack Bar, Dadonghai (Near Rainbow Bar & Grill). This cafe offers a set breakfast special. For Lunch, the menu includes pastas, pizzas and a "create your own sandwich" menu. The restaurant has a relaxed and intimate feel and a friendly owner known to occasionally give out free samples of wines and desserts. Set breakfast special costs ¥30.
- Fat Daddy’s, No. 1 Villa, Lan Hai Hua Yuan, Sanya Wan Lu, . 0800-0200. 400 square meter interior and 250 square meter ocean view terrace restaurant serves a variety of international cuisine from the Americas, SE Asia and China. Specialties include home made Indonesian satay, sugarcane crab and fishballs with sweet heat dipping sauce, fish and chips, hand tossed pizza, and wood fired beef burger with crisp onion and tomato chutney. Pool and sports TV available. ¥30-100.
- Jing Fu Gong, 4 Phoenix City (Phoenix Road, right next door to the Bohemian), ☎ +86 898 38295105. Korean restaurant run by South Koreans. Part of a chain, there is one in Haikou too. Very authentic, to the extent that it is a favourite for Korean tour groups who want a taste of home. Attentive service. Reasonable prices.
- Marco Polo, 8 Haiyun Road, Dadonghai District (Right beside the Casual Caffe), ☎ +86 898 88210308. Offers a slightly more upscale take on Italian. There is a large, outdoor seating area and the pizzas are highly recommended. The food and the service are great. Expect ¥80-100 for a meal.
- Sanya Rainbow Bar&Grill, 99 Yuya Road, Dadonghai, ☎ (86) 898 88215700. Western restaurant and sports bar with a wide selection of western favorites such as soups, salads, pasta, tex-mex, sandwiches, burgers and much more. There are usually good specials on draft beers and mixed drinks. Very friendly environment with countless big screen tv's showing all major sporting events around the globe. Also has typical bar games: pool, darts, foozball, etc. A second bar and grill, Rainbow 2, has opened in Yuya Road, closer to the city centre, in the Time Coast area adjoining the Eadry resort. Meals ¥20-50.
- Pizza Corner, Herton Hotel at Dadonghai Beach-1st floor (Opposite Resort and Time Hotel), ☎ +86 898 88677995, . 10:30AM-11:00 PM. Combo store with Coffee World. Offers pizza, pastas, salads, soups and the tastiest BBQ chicken wings in Hainan. Dining on a lovely balcony which overlooks Dadonghai Beach. Tel: 0898-88677995. The restaurant delivers to customers within a 5 mile radius of Dadonghai Beach. English is spoken. Service can be slow. Moderate price.
- Xinjiang Ren （丝路花雨新疆人）, Corner of Sanya Wanlu and Xinfengjie, ☎ +86 898 88388883. Very popular Xinjiang restaurant next to Sanya Beach. Has typical Xinjiang dishes such as Dapanji, a wide range of seafood that can be cooked as you wish and Indian Roti. Along the coastal road from the restaurant are a number of very popular seafood restaurants.
The most popular local brew is Anchor (actually Singaporean but produced in Hainan). Ask for the 'red label' or 'old' brew, which is the original. It is very hoppy and can be a great escape from Yanjing (燕京) or Qingdao (青岛) beer. Those are available, of course, as well. There are also local pineapple-based beers. Odd, but worth a try. Red coconuts (红椰) are especially sweet, even if you just pop a straw straight into the coconut!
Coffee Addict Warning The vast majority of coffee shops here open around 10 or 11AM. The Jiefang Lu (解放路) McDonald's has thus become a morning pilgrimage for many Westerners.
- Coffee World, . 10AM-12:30PM. The finest international coffee brand in Sanya/Dadonhai Beach with two locations. Moderate prices.
- *Dadonghai Beach (In the Herton Seaview Hotel opposite Resort In Time at Dadonghai Beach), ☎ +86 898 88677995. Combo store with Pizza Corner.
- * (LeFloret Shopping Plaza at Yalong Bay's Crowne Plaza Hotel).
- Fat Daddy's on the Beach, Lanhaihuayuan 2 Qi, #1 Villa (Corner of Jinjiling Road), ☎ +86 898 88391046, . 9AM-2AM. 'Fancy Pants' classic and signature cocktails as well as imported American micro beers and Scottish single malts are available from the 1st and 2nd floor bars. ¥30-100.
- Sanya Bar Street, Yuya Lu (In between Dadonghai and Sanya City). 'Sanya's Hai'an bar street has a number of different bars.
In Sanya city and Dadonghai there are many small, clean moderately priced inns and hotels (¥50-100, even in high season, for 1-3 beds). Some may be located in alley ways just off Sanya's beach street, sometimes several floors up without an elevator (but the view is worth it!).
- Blue Sky Hostel, 1 Lanhai Alley, Haiyun Road, ☎ +86 13976829281 (email@example.com). International budget hostel in Dadonghai with variable quality in rooms for furnishings and cleanliness. More expensive than other hostels in China. The staff is friendly, and subject to the management of the owner, Peter, who speaks English, Russian and other languages. The hostel can organize trips to all over Sanya and Hainan. It provides internet access, laundry service, food, drinks, towels, mats and hats for the beach. Scooters and motorcycles can be hired. It is a short walk away from the beach.
- Eagle Backpackers Hostel. Another hostel in Dadonghai. Run by the charming and helpful Jane. They will help to arrange daytrips, activities, tasty breakfasts and plane tickets. Internet, laundry, etc are all available. Decent sized twin rooms with facilities are available for ¥120.
- Guoxi Hotel, ☎ +86 899 88254888, . Four-star hotel with rooms with views of the mountain and sea along Sanya's coastline, cable TV, and free internet and breakfast. Shopping mall, night club, outdoor pool, sauna, and Chinese and Western food. Rooms start at ¥418.
- Tianze Beach Resort Sanya, Binhai Road, Sanya Bay, ☎ +86 898 88893888 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: +86 898 88893066), . The hotel is right along Sanya Bay, surrounded by a magnificent shoreline and a stretch of coconut palm trees. Best rates on official website start at ¥448+″.
- Sanya Royal Garden Resort, Luling Road, Dadonghai Beach, . Four-star resort along Dadonghai Beach. Offers 239 with lovely views of the mountains and Dadong Sea. The resort also has a restaurants, cafe, outdoor pool, conference rooms, and business center.Rooms start at ¥388.
- CPAPF Sanya Resort, 6 Sanya Bay Tourism Zone, ☎ +86 898 88365598 (fax: +86 898 88333688), . Rooms with sea view. Business center available. Rooms start around ¥500. Broadband is extra.
- Yinyun Seascape Resort Sanya, Haipo Development Zone, Sanya Bay, . The resort is a charming 80-room hotel that evokes Hawaii more than China. Online booking available on the official website. Rooms start at ¥268.
Out around Yalong Bay and the more Northern end of Sanya Bay are many Western luxury hotels.
- Kempinski (凯宾斯基饭店), (30 minutes North of Sanya), . A true five-star hotel on the most secluded and beautiful beach in Sanya. Employees are warm and welcoming, speak English fluently, and groups sift the wide beach's sands to make it even softer. Their pool, which includes an in-water bar, is not heated in the winter and is colder than the ocean. Even if you do not stay, it is an amazing retreat to sip a beer and hear only the sound of waves, unmarred by beach vendors or hundreds of children running to and fro. Rooms start around ¥900; luxury suites range to over ¥6000.
- Pullman Sanya Yalong Bay (三亚亚龙湾铂尔曼度假酒店), . With its own private beach. Rooms start around ¥1000.
- There are many water sports activities such as parasailing, diving, and boating, but not all operators are trained and certified. Check air tank pressures before diving.
- There are a lot of people who prey on Chinese and foreign tourists alike -- beggars, prostitutes, legal and illegal taxi drivers, and vendors with overpriced or phony pearl items. Watch out especially for pickpockets. They are good at grabbing wallets, phones, bags etc as you get onto buses, and work in pairs. Another trick is to zoom past you on a motorbike and grab your bag.
- Overpriced street vendors selling fruits etc. are very common. Their tactics can also be referred from Overpricing. Personally We were cheated into paying $20 for the fruits which we later found out cost only $3. The innocent looking fruit lady just started plucking fruits from the bunch and threw them into a bag, when we did not even tell her that we had wanted it. She started getting defensive saying, "Now that I have plucked the fruits from the bunch, you HAVE to buy them," and tricked us into buying it at an extremely higher price. The feeling of responsibility took over our common sense and this is what she intended to exploit from the good minded tourists. The worst part was that some of the fruits had already started to decay. The best thing to if you face this kind of a situation is to just walk away.
- Hainan is considered an active malaria region. It is recommended to take the usual precautions against malaria.
- Be careful in traffic. Road discipline is non-existent. Cars and motorcycles drive on both sides of the road, skip signal lights, and careen down sidewalks as if they had right of way. Honking is also ever-present, which can be irritating, but just try to imagine you are using sonar to navigate.
- There have been reports of unprovoked violence against foreigners, mostly occuring at night outside of the clubs in the Dadonghai and Sanya City areas. Russian tourists have reported being insulted and sworn at by vendors. English-speaking tourists have reported epithets being yelled at them as well.
While most tourists visit Hainan for the increasingly vibrant city of Sanya, the island is large and has many other more remote locations to see. The eastern coast, between Sanya and Haikou is home to Shimei Bay (石梅湾) and Riyuewan (日月湾), the former which hosts a large and very secluded-feeling Le Meridien, and the latter which has become a popular spot for surfers on a budget. A taxi to these locations will cost around ¥300.
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