Sanya may have been a little late when it came to joining the resort crowd, but China’s answer to Hawaii has certainly made up for lost time. Existing solely to serve the needs of tourists, Sanya is a mix of monotonously kitschy ‘attractions’ and fabulously kitschy fun.
Unashamedly VIP, Sanya sees luxe resorts and stunning beaches crammed into every pocket of the ritzy Yalong Bay, while those with slightly smaller budgets head to the accommodation options at Dadonghai Bay. If you don’t have a good radar for sorting out the cheese from the real McCoy, you’ll probably end up getting lost in a sea of binoculars and poorly applied sunscreen in the tourist Mecca of Sanya Bay, but no one ever said Sanya’s draw card was authenticity.
Sanya's Top 10
10. Number 1 Market A fantastic night market surrounded by the city’s freshest seafood restaurants.
5. Xisha Archipelago Bring the waterproof camera – a huge array of tropical life can be found here.
9. Yalong Bay A great place to avoid the crowds and let your hair down in style.
4. Sanya Nanshan Temple Pay your dues to the Goddess of Mercy.
8. Yanoda Rainforest Cultural Tourism Zone Explore the rainforests and go hiking, but please don’t carve your name in a 1,000-year-old tree!
3. Nanwan Monkey Island Hide your food in a bag rather than your pocket unless you like being groped by monkeys!
7. Betel Nut Ethnic Minorities Park Learn about the myriad cultures that live here, or simply enjoy drinking coffee in its cafés.
2. Dadong Sea This is a great mix of nature and development. There is little English spoken, so brush up on your Chinese.
6. Wuzhizhou Island Snorkelling and diving at its best. Go at less crowded times if you want to see more than just other tourists under water.
1. Perfume Bay Pack a picnic and get relaxing – you won’t see anyone else for miles.
- Sanya Nanshan Temple – This giant statue of Guanyin was built on a sea-top platform.
- Betel Nut Ethnic Minorities Park – Visit this park in Sanya and get to know the ethnic minorities in the Hainan area.
- Guanyin Statue of Hainan – This Buddhist statue, 108 meters high, is one of the largest in the world.
- Deer Turning Head Park – Home to a large statue that tells the legend of a hunter pursuing a deer that becomes a lovely woman.
- Nanshan Temple – Built to celebrate 2,000 years of Buddhism in China and home to replicas of the Tang dynasty.
Sanya Art & Culture
- Sanya Museum – Extensive collection of cultural finds from the Palaeolithic Period until the present day.
- Sanya Sea Shell Museum – First of its kind in China, this unique and original collection is worth the visit.
- Sanya Zhuoyuetianya Museum of Palaeontology Fossils – More than 300 fossils are housed in this private museum, the largest in China.
- Hainan Jingrun Pearl Museum – The first pearl museum in the country, where visitors can learn how pearls are cultivated, processed and used in jewellery.
- Hainan Tianya Rainforest Museum – One of Sanya’s landmarks and a place to discover just 35km from downtown.
- Cultured Pearls – Well known for its cultured pearls that are very affordable.
- The 1st Market – Visit the largest market of agricultural products in Sanya and enjoy the local produce, seafood and local delicacies.
- Summer Mall – Discover some of the leading local styles and fashions featuring many of the world’s top designers.
- Yifang Department Store – Enjoy five floors of shopping and entertainment.
- Tianhong Emporium – Favoured by the rich and famous, this high-end department store features brands like Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana.
Gay & Lesbian Sanya
- Days Hotel and Suits Sanya Resort – A five-star hotel overlooking the spectacular mountains.
- Yangguang Didai – A small local bar in Sanya frequented mostly by younger local men.
- Le Meridien Shimei Bay Beach Resort Spa – Enjoy a vacation in a lovely villa with amazing views and amenities.
- Sanya Star Male Massage – A gay-owned business that offers relaxing massages.
- NARADA Resort and Spa Qixian Mount – This unique hotel located in a large tropical rainforest offers many amenities.
- Dàdōnghāi – One of the local beaches in Sanya with a wide range of eateries and water sports.
- Dadong Sea – Enjoy a leisurely vacation in a modern resort along a beautiful crescent-shaped beach that includes trails between the tide pools and rocks.
- Yalong Bay – Visit the world-famous holiday resort and you will be hard-pressed to leave.
- Nanwan Monkey Island – Home to more than 1,800 endangered Macaque monkeys, where a visit in their natural habitat is a treat.
- Xisha Archipelago – Ranked as one of the 10 most beautiful places in China, teeming with tropical life.
- The coast and islands off Sanya offer great snorkelling and scuba diving.
- Sanya is a popular destination for bikers.
- The coastal area offers consistent surf year round, with a high surfing season in the fall and winter months.
- Visit some of the local bay areas for water sports, such as parasailing, paragliding and more.
- For hiking adventures, head out to the Wuzhishan area.
January celebrates the Laba Rice Porridge Festival. It is customary to drink (yes, drink) Laba Porridge and celebrate its long history.
The Lantern Festival has been going on since the Tang dynasty and becomes more and more elaborate each January.
Chinese New Year is the biggest celebration in Sanya. This includes the New Year Blessing and many other traditions, celebrations, markets, stalls and dances (January/February).
Qingming Festival, known as ‘Tomb Sweeping Day’ or ‘Pure Brightness’ in English, usually in April. It is customary to take time to remember the dead.
When To Go
- Spring and autumn are warm, with the average temperature sitting at a pleasant 22ºC (72ºF).
- Sanya’s long summers last from June to early November. Expect hot and humid weather, with the occasional typhoon. Daytime temperatures often hit 38°C (101ºF).
- You can still hit the beach in winter, when temperatures only drop to 20ºC (68ºF).
- If you’re travelling along the coast, the cheapest option is minibus. It costs Y10 for a full trip and Y5 between Sanya and either end.
- You can always catch a motorbike taxi if you’re up for bartering. A trip should cost around Y3 to Y5, so don’t get ripped off!
- Most things you’ll need day-to-day are within walking distance, and it’s quite safe to walk around at night.
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