Hainan is an island province in the south of China, across the Gulf of Tonkin from Vietnam. It is China’s premier holiday destination, boasting many beaches and a subtropical climate.

Hainan used to be a backwater but has undergone heavy development of its towns and cities in recent decades. It is tourist-oriented, especially in the south around Sanya, and is a Special Economic Zone (SEZ).

Haikou is the capital of Hainan province and is located in the north of the island. It is the main gateway and comes with an airport and rail terminus. Ferries come in from Hai’an on the mainland, with direct trains from Beijing and Shanghai crossing over on the ferry.

Haikou is a fun town with good shopping and nightlife yet the best beaches are in the south around Sanya. This is the main tourist destination and comes with world class hotels, its own airport, and a thriving downtown area. Sanya Beach is the main draw and can be visited year round. Sunbathing, swimming, snorkeling, jet-skiing, and partying are all popular.

Sanya has Hainan’s second airport and receives flights from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, as well as from the Chinese mainland. Not far from Sanya is the popular Perfume Bay, while the town of Lingshui also comes with decent hotels.

Inland from Sanya is the town of Wuzhishan amid the central highlands. It features the renowned Five Finger mountains and amazing hiking and rafting. Ethnic minorities make up the populace in this region of Hainan.

Exploring the area in the north of Hainan around the capital, Haikou, can be interesting. Qiongzhong is an old county just south and connected by highway. It is loaded with Li and Miao peoples and comes with old Hainanese buildings in Qionghai town.

Nearby Wenchang is a good day trip from Haikou and is home to the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center. Wenchang is good for scientific types and especially when a launch is one. Nearby Gu Song Cun is a typical ancient Hainanese village in Wenchang.

The food in Hainan is generally heavy on the spice and revolves around markets. This is where Hainan chicken rice comes from and it can be had for a snip in any city, town, village, or resort.

Getting There & Away

Haikou and Sanya (north and south) both have airports that receive frequent flights from all major Chinese cities. Haikou is directly accessible by rail, despite being an island. Trains run down from Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou and are literally driven onto the ferry and unloaded in Haikou. It takes a day and a half to travel from Beijing and Shanghai. Ferries from Hai’an to Haikou take 1 hour, 30 minutes.

Onward Travel