Once populated by exiled poets and politicians, Hainan Island would scarcely be recognizable to the banished officials who called it home. China’s only tropical beach destination now boasts 4- and 5-star resorts by nearly every multinational hotel brand, meaning the vacationers and high-powered businesspeople who flock to the island’s palm-fringed sands face a difficult choice.
The luxury hotel boom has centered on Sanya, a tourist mecca stretching for 25 miles along the island’s southern coastline. Crowded Dadonghai Beach on the western end of town houses mostly mid-range hotels, while Yalong Bay, 15 miles east of the city center, features a long string of luxury resorts. Taxis between the two tourism zones can be tough to catch during the winter high season; better to book a driver through your hotel or a reliable, English-speaking service like Sanya Car Service.
Though it’s located close to the action on Luhuitou Bay in Sanya, Banyan Tree Sanya’s 49 pool villas offer plenty of privacy. Six private meeting rooms are equipped with wood paneling and high windows for views of the clay-tiled roofs and lotus ponds. The resort’s Ming Yue restaurant serves both European and Oriental dishes at its buffet breakfast and an à la carte lunch; reserve one of the intimate dining rooms for added privacy and discreet but attentive service.
For even more seclusion, travel east along the coast to Le Méridien Shimei Bay, set around a stunning open-air atrium and infinity pool. The resort’s 275 guestrooms feature soothing earth tones and indigenous décor to complement the surrounding natural-growth forest. Sit down to a power breakfast paired with sweeping sea views at Breakers. The restaurant serves Le Méridien’s signature Jean-Georges Vongerichten breakfast, created from local ingredients by the celebrity chef himself.
Completed in 2011, the InterContinental Sanya Resort attracts architecture junkies and sustainability buffs with its unusual sky gardens, glass canopies and aluminum and brass screens to reduce heat gain. The resort’s incorporation of the surrounding environment extends to the Sea Pavilion, an overwater Chinese restaurant built to resemble a set of beach sheds. Fifteen private rooms are available for lunch meetings overlooking the coral reef.
Another excellent choice for entertaining local clients is Pearl at The Ritz-Carlton, Sanya. Choose from Cantonese comfort foods like clay-pot eggplant or Wagyu beef wokfried with pepper and garlic served in a stylish, scarlet and bronze setting complete with six private rooms. After a successful lunch, head to the resort’s Scene lounge for a celebratory Champagne toast or a pot of Chinese tea, surrounded by views of the South China Sea.
For something a little stronger, stop in for cigars and single malt whiskey at Mo Blues inside theMandarin Oriental, Sanya. Smokers can spend time lounging at the cigar divan, while an exclusive four-seat alcove can be reserved for special tasting events. The resort’s grounds, overlooking a private bay, are among the most sumptuous in Sanya, and busy executives make good use of the freestanding garden pavilions designed for business meetings.
Hainan’s Robert Trent Jones-designed golf course is renowned among Pacific Rim players, and for good reason: The 18-hole Yalong Bay Golf Club, sandwiched between lush green hills and glittering Yalong Bay, is shaped like a dragon’s claw. Book an early tee time to avoid the intense afternoon sun, and cool off with clients afterward in the comfortable clubhouse, featuring a restaurant, a swimming pool and a corporate suite.
If you’ll be mingling with Hainan’s largest international tourist population, Russians, consider entertaining over potato pancakes, dumplings and flights of vodka at Wooden House Russian Restaurant on Sanya’s main street. Australian and American ex-pats, on the other hand, favor the nearby Rainbow Bar & Grill, where ribs, burgers and brews are served in a laid-back setting.
Though most international travelers stick around Sanya, the island’s provincial capital, Haikou, is increasingly drawing businesspeople and upmarket hotels with its booming economy. Located at the island’s northern tip, the bustling seaport city can be reached from Sanya in three hours by air-conditioned tour bus or in 90 minutes by the Hainan High Speed Railway.
If you end up staying in Haikou, the recently opened Shangri-La Hotel, Haikou boasts understated elegance and a convenient location next to the Hainan International Exhibition Centre. To golfers (and their clients), the Mission Hills Resort Haikou is the ultimate destination, with 10 courses and more than 200 mineral spa pools for a post-game soak. It’s an impressive array of offerings that, in Hainan, is quickly becoming par for the course.

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