Dubbed the "Hawaii of China," the tropical island of Hainan, located 300 mi/485 km southwest of Hong Kong, is a good place to eat seafood and to escape the winter. Today, the government is promoting it as a tourist destination and an industrial zone.
On the other hand, it's developing some great resorts. Hainan's largest city, Haikou, is on the north coast. It has an ancient temple complex nearby, a large night market and some of the best hotels on the island.
The major resort area is at Yalong Bay in Sanya, on the south side of the island, where deluxe developments are springing up on the beautiful beach.
Hainan's development pipeline is just getting started, however, it ranks among the top places in China for the volume of new hotels in the works.
Hainan's high-profile accommodations grab most of the attention, but the island's tropical attractions transcend poolside villas, fine-dining restaurants, kids clubs and exotic spas.
Beyond the beaches, Hainan counts around 30 top golf courses, including the Yalong Bay Golf Club designed by Robert Trent Jones II. Inland, courses have been landscaped amid rubber plantations and meander across rain-forested peaks.
More active sports aficionados can rent bikes from most resorts and head for the cycling paths that weave through the hills that flank the most picturesque bays.
Surfing is another up-and-coming attraction in Hainan. Waves at Shimei Bay, which segues into Riyue Bay, attract surfers from around the world for the Hainan Open Tournament each January. In addition, the team from Surfing Hainan arranges surf tours and lessons at various breaks along the east coast during peak wave season from September to March.
In villages (suburbs, really) near Haikou, you can see small temples with distinctive religious carvings on the doorways.
Another worthwhile stop is Tongza (Tongshi), a hill town about 40 mi/70 km north of Yalong Bay. It has an interesting market, a good museum (island-history displays) and a unique mix of Chinese, Miao and Han people.
In the countryside, you'll find small thatched-roof villages and the Guangdong Provincial Deer Farm, which sells medicinal wine made from antler marrow taken from the local deer. Take the ferry to visit End of the Earth Beach, a boulder-strewn, sandy beach popular with Chinese tourists.
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