Sanya, Hainan Island, Hainan Strait, China
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Photo Credit: iStock / Igor Kirillov | Sanya, Hainan
Hainan, China, The Guanyin of the South Sea of Sanya
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Photo Credit: iStock / lzf | South China Sea Kwan-yin Bodhisattva
Hainan, China, Hainan chicken and rice
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Photo Credit: iStock / yuliang11 | Hainan chicken and rice
Sanya, Hainan, China, China Duty Free mall
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Photo Credit: iStock / tassapon | Sanya mall
Hainan, China, Beach lounge chairs
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Photo Credit: iStock / hanhanpeggy | Thatched umbrellas
Hainan, China, food stall
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Photo Credit: iStock / tunart | Food stall

Hainan, China

Hainan, China, Fishing boat on beach Photo credit: iStock / tropicalpixsingapore | Fishing boat

Promoted as "China's Hawaii," the tropical island of Hainan is a favorite resort getaway for wealthy Chinese. Sailing into port city Sanya, you'll get a good idea of the island's contrasts. On one side is a raggedy fishing fleet; on the other are five modern skyscrapers sheathed in computerized lights. A causeway leads from the port into town, and you can hop a complimentary shuttle bus to reach the city center.

What We Love

Tea Shops: Experience a Chinese-style tea ceremony, and remember it with a tiny tea set or a brick of pu-erh tea.

Street Food: Vendors are everywhere, so grab a snack on the go. Taste warm pastries sold from a bicycle, sip coconut milk from the shell, or dine on steaming dim sum.

Best Known For

Nanshan Temple: The main attraction at this complex is a 354-foot seaside statue of the South China Sea Kwan-yin Bodhisattva. Make time to explore the 66-acre complex, which was completed in 1998. 

The Beaches: The weather is perfect pretty much year-round on this island. Chill out on the clean sands of Yalong Bay or Dadonghai Beach, lined by five-star resorts. There are options for water sports, too.

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Who It's Best For

Spenders: The entire isle caters to the Chinese elite, with shopping, golf, and theme parks. Sanya is home to the world's largest duty-free mall, with nearly 300 brands.

Adventurous Foodies: You could spend the whole day noshing on street food. The island location means lots of fresh seafood, as well as tropical fruit. You'll also find noodles and dumplings on the menu.

Don't Say We Didn't Warn You

Beware of Kickbacks: Taxi drivers likely get a "thank you" from pricey attractions, so beware. If you're headed outside of Sanya, you might want to book a shore excursion.

Chinese Wine Is Questionable: You should definitely try the local cuisine to experience the flavors and ingredients that make it unique, but draw the line at the local wine.

Gayle Keck

Gayle Keck is a San Francisco-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times.

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Itineraries Including Hainan, China
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