In a nutshell
Sanya is the quintessential beach holiday paradise, ideal for those who’d like to unwind in a tropical island vibe. You won’t find yourself closer to nature, so choose this idyllic beach getaway for a slow, relaxing holiday. Not only a nature lover’s dream, there are some fascinating cultural sights, too! Don’t forget the abundance of mouth-watering seafood.
Why should I go?
It’s the best destination in the country for a beach holiday. Although many places in China may masquerade themselves as seaside getaways, Sanya is the only truly authentic one.
The main drawing card for the area is it’s pristine beaches. Be aware that beaches can be over crowded at the best of times, so choose rather a private beach that many of the city’s luxury hotels have an offer. If you are not afraid of crowds, we highly recommend Tianya Haijiao. Not only will you get to swim, snorkel and frolic in the crystal-blue waters, but you’ll also have the opportunity to see a number of important cultural sights, like the Li Ethnic Group Cultural Village.
If you’re hungry and you love seafood, you’re in luck! We recommend the Mangrove Tree Seafood Street- here you can pick up any one of Sanya’s seafood delicacies, like the Hele crab.
Sanya has a bustling nightlife- find one of the open air markets to have a beer and a late-night snack. Seek out one of the local bars to enjoy some awesome live music. Their beachside hotels are an ideal place to stay, and they offer world-class service.
When should I go?
Sanya should be considered a year-round destination because the weather is moderate. Remember that during the tourist season beaches, shops and attractions will be full to the brim. The rainy season is July-October and be aware that this is the typhoon season. Avoid visiting over Chinese New Year (February) because this is when the city is overflowing with local tourists.
Where should I stay?
Close to the beach. Most tourist attractions, restaurants and shops are concentrated around the beach area like Yalong Bay and Dadonghai. There are a large range of places to stay, scattered across the city. For the cheapest option, choose a backpackers or a youth hostel. They’ll have shared rooms with an option to upgrade to a private room, and they’ll usually have free WIFI. You’ll pay from 40 RMB a night. This is recommended for solo travellers or young couples, if you’re with the family rather pay a little more.
The mid-range has the most options, and they really offer great services for the price. You’ll pay from 250 RMB, but you’ll get neat services like airport shuttles and an on-site restaurant.
Although most of Sanya’s accommodation options are hotels, you’ll also find ultra luxurious accommodations in the form of villas and boutique hotels. Needless to say these rival the best in the world with regards to service and facilities.
Where and what should I eat?
Sanya is well known amongst the Chinese to be the best place to eat seafood in the country. All the seafood here is fresh, tasty and locally sourced. There are plentiful “seafood squares” which we love because you can walk around, enjoy the atmosphere and pick out exactly what you want to eat- it really adds a personal feel to the dining experience. Chunyuan seafood square is one place we highly recommend- get the seafood hot pot! You can choose exactly what kinds of tasty seafood you want to add, and they’re also a super cheap, sociable way to eat out with friends.
There are also some fancier Chinese restaurants that will give you a more elegant dining experience, for a slightly higher price. Sanya has limited western food available- you’ll have to seek out some of the more luxurious beachfront hotels that have western restaurants, but of course expect to pay a price.
How do I get around?
Sanya has an incredibly well developed bus network that will take you to all the most important tourist areas safely, comfortably and cheaply. Busses service not only the inner city areas but will also take you to the outer lying areas, too. Bus fare is only 2 RMB for inner city travel. Remember to keep exact change-the drivers don’t dish out change. Look out for the handy maps at the bus stops so that you can work out where you’re going, and check out the final destination in front of the bus. Be aware that all signage is in Chinese, so it’s best to make a note of the Chinese character before hand. Drivers usually only stop when they’re aware someone needs to get off- they won’t speak any English, so shout “xia che”, and he’ll stop.
Taxis are easy to find anywhere in the city. Fares start at 11 RMB. The driver will not speak any English, so you’ll have to show him the name of your destination in Chinese.
How do I get to and from Sanya?
Sanya Phoenix International Airport
The airport is 11 km northwest of downtown Sanya, so it’s location close to the city makes it a popular thoroughfare into the city. It’s also just 5 km away from Tianya Haijiao, where there are numerous hotels and obviously the popular attraction itself.
The airport has 93 domestic routes which will link you to most of the biggest cities in the country. Some popular domestic flights are from Beijing: 3h 50m at about 4200 RMB; Shanghai which takes 2h 40m costing around 3900 RMB; and Hangzhou which takes 3 hours, and is a little cheaper at 3300 RMB.
As far as international flights go, popular flights you can catch are flights from Hong Kong, Moscow and Seoul. Hong Kong is only 1h 25 m away! There are two weekly flights from Moscow, which take 10h 25m, and from Seoul is 4h, with flights leaving every Monday and Friday.
For international flights, guests should arrive 2 hours early, and 1.5 hours for domestic flights. Although these are the rules, flights delays are very common in China.
There are plenty cheap shuttle busses that will take you into the city, or you can take a taxi for about 30 RMB.
The Sanya Railway station is only 5 km from the airport, and it will link you to Haikou and Beijing (be aware to Beijing takes over 16 hours).
There are around 100 busses to and from different places in Hainan province, and 20 that will take you to nearby provinces like Guangdong and Hunan.
Is Sanya safe?
There is very little crime. The biggest threats to your person are typhoons (avoid typhoon season if you’re worried, but you shouldn’t worry too much). The only other issue is the taxi drivers who can drive very recklessly.