What better way to spend a long weekend than enjoying the gorgeous beaches of Hainan island? I know walking through the sand and gazing at clear blue water isn’t normally what you think of when you think of China, but trust me, this place exists! Hainan island is a few hour’s flight from Beijing, and offers a great break from the hustle and bustle of the megacity.
We flew into Sanya airport, and rather than staying in the city where there are plenty of tourists and shopping, we drove about an hour away to a newer resort. It was gorgeous, to say the least!
For one thing, the pool in the hotel was amazing, and just steps away from the beach. Whoever designed this place really knew what they were doing, and special kudos go for the swim-up bar where you can order fresh fruit juice throughout the day when you want a break from your swimming.
And don’t worry, I did not spend the entire time in the hotel (as magnificent as it was)! A huge part of what makes Sanya special are the wildlife and adventure options! You can take the longest cable car in China to another small island that is actually a habitat for rhesus monkeys. And when I say habitat, I mean they basically occupy the entire thing and you can just wander around and watch them in their home!
Sanya also has an islet/ aquatic zoo on FengJieZhou island. There, they take care of dolphins, sea turtles, whale sharks, and sea lions in their natural habitat. I of course paid the extra money to be able to feed the dolphins, ride in a boat and feed the whale shark, give sea weed to some turtles, and even some fish to the sea lions. It was amazing to see all the different animals. The rest of this area also includes snorkeling, and a submarine you can take to view the reefs. You can be as adventurous as you want and go wind surfing or scuba diving. I was actually pretty impressed with what they had to offer, but my favorite part was getting to see all the aquatic life.
Also, the prices were pretty amazing compared to similar experiences you might have in other places- I paid around 30 USD to feed all the animals (greater still considering they even have photographers follow you around and snap great shots from different vantage points!). Even the monkey island was reasonable compared to what I would expect from tourist attractions in other countries- it was less than 4 dollars for a printed photo of me sitting down with 3 monkeys posed around me!
Overall it was a wonderful few days to spend seeing a different part of China. I had a great time talking with some of the hotel staff from Sanya and seeing how different their life is compared to the large cities (camp fires on the beach roasting frogs anyone?!). The one word of caution is of course that Sanya in general doesn’t seem to cater to international tourists as much. I scraped by with my minimal Mandarin, but it could be a little more difficult for travelers needing everything taken care of. Still, it was totally worth it, and not just because, while sitting by the pool in the evening, I could look up and search the sky for constellations (a very rare thing when you live in Beijing!).