Two children play on a beach in Sanya.
Crystal clear seawater, fine white-sand beaches, azure skies, tropical fruit, seafood — that’s what we want in a tropical holiday.

In Sanya, the southernmost city in Hainan Island, there’s all that, plus romance. There are sunset dinners on the beach, mountain-top views of land and sea, wedding pictures on the beach and total privacy in exclusive luxury hotels with secluded bungalows.

"Sanya is the only place in China without winter," said Tang Sixian, deputy director of the Sanya Tourism Development Commission.

True, Sanya is the only place with bright sunshine and tropical breezes, so you don’t have to take a long flight to Hawaii, Bali or the Maldives. And in winter you’ll see many people from icy northeastern China or Russia sunbathing.

On average there are seven hours a day of sunshine in Sanya and in Hainan, and the average temperature is 25.4 degrees Celsius all year. Almost every day is a sunny day.

After a three-hour plane flight from Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport to Sanya Phoenix International Airport, you step off the plane to a warm salty breeze, Hawaiian shirts and coconut palms.

Locals enjoy a slow pace of life, lingering over tea in the morning and napping after lunch.

Sanya has many pleasures for lovers and newlyweds.

For romance, weddings and honeymoons, Banyan Tree Sanya is ideal, cradled in enchanting Luhuitou Bay. Its 49 villas on pools, streams and lagoons are scattered throughout tropical forest. The resort offers magnificent vistas of sea and sky. Dining on the beach is unforgettable.

Mushrooming hotels

Resorts and hotels are mushrooming in Sanya so visitors have many options: beachside resort hotels, hot spring hotels, mountain forest hotels, golf resort hotels and resort villas.

Sanya is also family-friendly and hotels welcome children and the elderly.

Yalong Bay, a major resort area, and Dadonghai, Sanya and Haitang bays, have coral reefs teeming with marine life. They are popular for ocean sports and seafood feasts.

Yalong Bay is often called China’s top beach. Dadonghai is among tops for beach volleyball, swimming and bars. Haitang Bay is famous for hot springs and shopping centers. Xiaodonghai is a very secluded retreat where privacy is guaranteed.

Watching the sunrise or sunset from the top of Tropical Heaven Forest Park is an unforgettable experience. The rain forest park in the southeastern part of the city is filled with stunning scenery. From the pagoda on the highest mountain, you have a panoramic view of Yalong, Sanya and Haitang bays.

The 1,506-hectare park contains 1,500 varieties of plants and almost 200 animal species. Luxury houses can be rented on the top of the mountain where visitors can enjoy the natural habitat with all its sounds, as well as refreshing, mood-lifting negative ions.

Guojianglong Rope Bridge is the island’s highest and longest suspension bridge. It’s narrow and one-way and as you walk you can feel the ropes trembling as the wind blows. When you reach the middle, you feel suspended in the air, with the trees spread out below.

The bridge is 168 meters long and 40 meters above the bottom of the valley. Looking over the South China Sea to your right, you feel as though you are walking between sky and sea.

Also known as Lovers’ Bridge, legend has it then when couples cross the bridge hand in hand, they will be together forever.

Soaking in hot springs is also romantic. At Nantian Farm in Haitangwan Town, a large thermal area is considered among the top hot springs in China. The water in many pools is filled with beneficial minerals.

"Kissing fish" therapy is famous. Tiny fish less than 2cm long nibble and suck away dead skin and bacteria, stimulating blood circulation.

The spa service is delightful.

Sanya’s night sky is famous, appreciated from the beach, forest and mountains.

Its night life is famous as well. There are plenty of restaurants, bars, night clubs with live music and dancing. Outdoor bars and restaurants along Dadonghai Bay are a real treat where you can enjoy the freshest seafood and drinks in the tropical breeze.
Buddhism treat

China’s southernmost mountain, Nanshan Mountain, is considered a place of good luck and pilgrims make their way to Nanshan Temple. It is named after a popular Buddhist expression, "Good fortune is as grand as the East Sea; longevity is as high as Nanshan Mountain."

A Chinese monk named Jianzhen tried to spread Buddhism in Japan during the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), but five times his ship failed to reach it. Then the vessel was blown off course and he ended up at Nanshan Mountain, where he stayed for half a year. Finally, he made it to Japan.

At 108 meters high, Nanshan’s Guanyin Statue is the world’s tallest statue of Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy or Bodhisattva of Compassion. It’s 15 meters higher than the Statue of Liberty. The statue has three aspects, or sides. One side features Guanyin cradling a sutra or scroll in the left hand, while the right hand makes the Vitarka Mudra gesture, symbolizing wisdom.

In the second aspect, the statue’s palms are crossed, holding a string of prayer beads, signifying mercy. The third aspect holds a lotus in the right hand, meaning peace. The statue was completed in April 2005 after six years of construction.

Another great place for families with children is Nanwan Monkey Island, home to 1,500 macaques, a protected species.

"The monkeys are sexually active and one even bit my daughter but they are really funny and we like them," said Aksanna, a Russian with two daughters.

Aksanna, her husband, mother and girls vacationed at Sanya Bay. Apart from beach fun, they were interested in traditional Chinese medicine therapy to treat rheumatism.

For families like Aksanna’s from Russia, Sanya is paradise: lots of sunshine, short travel time, affordable prices, convenient shopping and dining.

During their stay, they also watched a local song and dance performance, visited a snake park and watched venom being extracted for medicine.

Fun for kids

At the Mandarin Oriental, Sanya, children can enjoy the tremendously popular camp outdoors in the sun. The professionally supervised activities include themed days of games, educational pastimes, creative art and crafts for children aged 4-12 years old.

The many activities include swimming in landscaped pools, snorkeling amid coral, kayaking, and raft building. There are also children’s archery, beach "Olympic" games, cooking classes and tai chi for children.

Each day the camp is packed with fun learning games that emphasize knowledge about the natural environment.

Renting a helicopter for an aerial view of sea and land or a yacht will surely impress families and boyfriend/girlfriend. Sanya has the mainlands’ best marinas with the best facilities.

For golf lovers, there are plenty of choices, including Yalong Bay Golf Club, an international seaside championship course. Sun Valley Golf Club also has a professional, 18-hole golf course as well as views of mountains, ocean and desert. Other courses include Sanya Dragon Valley Golf Club, Luhuitou Golf Club, Sanya Hongtang Bay Golf Club and Hainan Sanya Sunrise International Golf Club.

Of course, this being China. Food is important. Sanya delights with a variety of local delicacies.

One choice is the reasonably priced First Market downtown for fresh-off-the-boat seafood, including lobster, crabs, clams, small abalone, prawns, conger eels and sea urchins. It also has fruit and produce. After selecting your seafood and produce, nearby restaurants will cook them precisely to your order, within minutes.

Donghai Longgong, or East China Sea Dragon Palace, is another place to appreciate waves and great food. Don’t forget to ask locals which spots offer the best and most authentic food. They can often be had cheaply on small streets.

And don’t forget the traditional festivals that provide insight into culture. Dragon-head-raising Day falls on the second day of the second lunar month, usually sometime in March. It marks the day the dragon in charge of rain awakens. This mythical creature controls water and rainfall in Chinese legends. Therefore people pray for prosperity, peace and good harvests.

Another festival is Sanyuesan, or the Double Third Festival celebrated by the Li and Miao ethnic peoples, involving singing and dance, food and wine, games and other activities.

The Dragon Boat Festival falls on June 2 this year. Thousands of people come to cheer the dragon boats races along the Sanya River.

The Tianya Haijiao International Wedding Festival at year’s end is a gala that combines wedding parties, travel and honeymoon holidays. Hundreds of couples will say their "I dos" in a mass wedding during the festival.

Sanya also hosts the China Hainan Island Joy Festival and the Nanshan Longevity Cultural Festival, as well as global and regional sports, arts and tourism galas.



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