things to do in Sanya

The 19 Best Things to Do in Sanya in 2024

As I stepped onto the shores of Sanya, I was instantly mesmerized by its beauty. The pristine beaches, with their powdery white sands and crystal-clear waters, stretched out before me like a postcard come to life.

The local culture is rich and diverse, with influences from the Li and Miao ethnic groups evident in the food, art, and traditions. Exploring the vibrant food scene is a must, especially sampling the fresh seafood that Sanya is renowned for.

Beyond the beaches, Sanya’s natural beauty extends to lush rainforests and stunning waterfalls, offering plenty of opportunities for adventure and exploration.

So, grab your sunscreen, put on your adventure hat, and let’s dive into the top 19 things to do in this tropical paradise.

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🌟Sanya Travel Planning Guide

Considering a last-minute trip to Sanya?

🇨🇳 Top Activities and Tours in Sanya:

1. 1-Day Sanya Customized Itinerary Charter Car Service
2. Scooter and hiking trip in the rainforest
3. 3 Days Sanya Private Tour for Beach Resort and Cultural Experience
4. Self-guided Private Day Tour to Wuzhizhou Islet from Sanya


🏨Top Hotels in Sanya:

Sanya Bay
Sanya Conifer Resort
Four Points by Sheraton Hainan Sanya

Yalong Bay
MGM Grand Sanya
Horizon Sanya Yalong Bay Resort & Spa

Haitang Bay
InterContinental Sanya Haitang Bay Resort
Atlantis Sanya

Dadonghai
Harman Hotel Sanya
InterContinental Sanya Resort


🌐Make sure to install ExpressVPN in advance for unrestricted internet access during your stay in China!

🌏 Where is Sanya Located

Sanya is located on the southern coast of Hainan Island, which is the southernmost province of China. Positioned at approximately 18 degrees north latitude, Sanya enjoys a tropical climate, with warm temperatures year-round. The city is renowned for its stunning beaches, clear waters, and lush landscapes, making it a popular destination for both domestic and international tourists seeking a tropical getaway. Sanya is often referred to as the “Hawaii of China” due to its similar natural beauty and climate.

In Sanya City, there are four bays: Yalong Bay, Haitang Bay, Dadonghai, and Sanya Bay. LingShui County near Sanya has ShiMei Bay. The resort hotels in Sanya are mostly built around these bays. Here is a summary of the advantages and disadvantages of these beaches:

Sanya Bay

  • Pros: Convenient transportation, only about ten minutes from the city center and the airport, and many nearby attractions.
  • Cons: Sanya Bay was developed earliest, the quality of seawater and beaches is average, the seawater is relatively dirty, and there are many old hotels.
  • Highlights: Well-known attractions like Tianya Haijiao and Coconut Dream Corridor are here, and there’s also West Island nearby.

Yalong Bay

  • Pros: Among the four bays in Sanya, Yalong Bay has the best quality of seawater and beaches, the most beautiful sea views, and is suitable for tourists who like to enjoy sea views, swim, dive, and want a high level of comfortable accommodation.
  • Cons: There are not many attractions in Yalong Bay, public transportation is not convenient, most hotels are five-star and relatively expensive.
  • Highlights: Yalong Bay Tropical Paradise Forest Park, Orchid Valley, Ailifang Seashore Park, and other well-known attractions are here, as well as an outlet shopping center.

Dadonghai

  • Pros: Dadonghai is very close to the city center, making it convenient for dining and entertainment. The quality of seawater and beaches is better than Sanya Bay.
  • Cons: It can be quite noisy, and the quality of seawater and beaches is average.
  • Highlights: Well-known attractions like Luhuitou. A variety of water activities and a bar street, vibrant nightlife.

Haitang Bay

  • Pros: Luxurious hotels are lined up along the beach, with fully equipped facilities. It is the newest of the four bays, suitable for hotel vacations, and is also very close to the duty-free shops.
  • Cons: Haitang Bay is windy with rough waves, swimming is not allowed, the consumption level is high, and hotel prices are relatively expensive.
  • Highlights: Duty-free shops, Atlantis, Wuzhizhou Island Scenic Spot, and various high-end hotels are located here.

So, as for which bay to visit in Sanya, my personal suggestions are:

For first-time visitors, Yalong Bay is a great choice. You can stay in a hotel, visit attractions, enjoy buffet meals, and relax on the beach. Nearby, you can explore the forest park. However, keep in mind that Yalong Bay is known for its higher prices and more developed amenities.

If you prefer convenience, consider staying in Dadonghai. It offers a tranquil environment, with beaches and sea views. It’s also close to seafood markets, and the hotels in Dadonghai offer good value for money.

For a peaceful retreat where you can enjoy the sea, beaches, and islands of Sanya, consider Haitang Bay. You can also take a trip to Wuzhizhou Island Scenic Spot for a breath of fresh sea air and some delicious fish barbecue. Alternatively, you can opt to stay directly on Wuzhizhou Island.

👑 Best Things to Do at Sanya Bay

1. Coconut Dream Corridor (椰梦长廊)

The Coconut Dream Corridor is a seaside scenic road built around Sanya Bay, stretching over 20 kilometers with a coconut-lined beach that reflects in the sand, creating a stunningly beautiful view along the coast.

On one side of the coast is a tropical botanical garden, and on the other side is a leisure resort area.

Visiting the Coconut Dream Corridor at dusk is the most romantic thing to do. The golden sunset glow will cover the sky over the Coconut Dream Corridor, and if there are clouds, you may even witness the rare phenomenon of a fiery sunset.

✅Notes:

  • Be sure to bring insect repellent as there are many mosquitoes and sandflies, especially near the coconut groves, and they can be quite vicious!
  • Do not visit at noon; the sun is particularly strong!
  • Do not swim in the sea; the water is deep, and there are many undercurrents, making it easy to be swept away!

🎫Admission ticket: free
⏰Opening hours: all-day
🚗How to get there: Take bus no. 6, 8, 24, 25, 26, 27, 30 or 57 to Guoguang Binhai Huayuan Station or Sanya Dujiacun Station.

2. Nanshan Culture Tourism Zone (南山文化旅游区)

The Nanshan Culture Tourism Zone is a large park that showcases traditional Chinese Buddhist culture, with numerous attractions.

One of its most notable highlights is the 108-meter-tall Guanyin statue, which stands majestically over the South China Sea.

Looking up, you can clearly see the grandeur of the South Sea Guanyin. The 108-meter-high statue stands right before your eyes, and the visual impact is truly breathtaking.

As this attraction is a sacred Buddhist site, there are many customs and rituals related to worshipping the Buddha, allowing visitors to deeply feel the sacred and mysterious atmosphere here.

The park is quite large, so it’s recommended to purchase a sightseeing car ticket.

✅Notes:

  • When visiting Nanshan Temple, avoid wearing revealing clothes or flip-flops!

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 129
⏰Opening hours: 8:00-17:00
🚗How to get there: Take bus 16, 55, or 57 to Nanshan stop.

3. Daxiaodongtian Area (大小洞天)

The Daxiaodongtian Area has a history of over 800 years and is a renowned Taoist cultural scenic spot.

The area is lush with vegetation and offers beautiful scenery, with nearly 30,000 Dragon’s Blood Trees (also known as Nan Shan Old Pines) thriving on the mountains.

There are clear springs and various wild animals in the mountains, while the seven-kilometer coastline below meanders with many rocky features.

Although the area is named Daxiaodongtian (Big and Small Caves), there is actually only one small cave, with the entire area being considered the big cave, collectively referred to as Daxiaodongtian. The environment of Daxiaodongtian is well-preserved and offers beautiful scenery. Being built by the sea, you can enjoy expansive ocean views.

Daxiaodongtian is very close to the Nanshan Culture Tourism Zone, and these two attractions can be visited together. It’s best to go in the morning to avoid long queues.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 60
⏰Opening hours: 8:30-19:30
🚗How to get there: Take bus 25, 30 to Daxiaodongtian Area.

4. Western Island (西岛)

Western Island is a small island located southwest of Sanya City, and it is the largest indigenous tourism island in Hainan, with relatively fewer tourists.

Here, you can find clear seawater, soft sandy beaches, swaying coconut groves, steep rocky coasts, and a colorful underwater world.

There are plenty of water activities to enjoy! You can try water sports such as parasailing, snorkeling, and jet skiing.

The surrounding waters are a national-level coral nature reserve and are recognized as one of the world’s premier diving destinations.

The fishing village on the island is a quiet and artistic place, with many fishermen. The whole village is colorful and very beautiful.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 95
⏰Opening hours: 8:00-17:30
🚗How to get there: Take bus 16, 25, 30 or 32 to Western Island station, and then take a ferry to arrive.

5. Tianya Haijiao (天涯海角)

Located at the western end of Sanya Bay, there are many differently shaped rocks on the beach, many of which are inscribed with characters left by famous people from ancient and modern times.

The most famous are two huge rocks inscribed with the characters “Tianya” and “Haijiao,” which have long been regarded as symbols of love and are also one of the iconic landscapes of Sanya. The beach here is mostly filled with couples, so the romantic atmosphere is particularly strong.

There are also other famous stone inscriptions like “Nan Tian Yi Zhu” and “Ri Yue Shi.” Nan Tian Yi Zhu is also known as the “Fortune Stone,” while Ri Yue Shi symbolizes love.

✅Notes:

  • Although Tianya Haijiao is often associated with Sanya, it might not be worth spending CNY 68 just to see two big rocks.
  • Due to the large number of tourists, almost every place with inscriptions is crowded with people taking photos.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 68
⏰Opening hours: 7:30-18:00
🚗How to get there: Take bus 16, 25, 26, 32, 55, 57 or Tourist line to Tianya Haijiao.

6. Yalong Bay Beach

Yalong Bay Beach, often called “the number one bay under the sky,” stretches about 7,000 meters with its silver-white sand. The sand is fine, and the water is clean and clear, allowing you to see the coral and various shades of blue from a distance.

It’s an ideal spot for a tranquil afternoon, and in the evening, when the sea becomes more active, it’s perfect for swimming!

There are numerous activities available. You can go on a yacht trip, watch sea lions and seals, sail, snorkel, fish, or fly a parasail in the blue sky.

The surrounding area is filled with 5-star hotels that have private beaches and pools, offering great environments but at higher prices.

🎫Admission ticket: free
⏰Opening hours: all day
🚗How to get there: Take bus 15, 24, 25 or 27 to the beach.

7. Tropical Paradise Forest Park (热带天堂森林公园)

Tropical Paradise Forest Park is the closest forest oxygen bar to the city, featuring a pristine tropical rainforest with extremely high vegetation coverage. The environment is beautiful and the air is fresh.

At the mountain top park, you can take a sightseeing car to the Dragon Rope Bridge, from which you can see the wooden houses of the Bird’s Nest Resort. After crossing the bridge, a short walk will take you to the Qianlisan Viewing Platform, where you can overlook the forest.

At the mountain top, there is a glass walkway with a panoramic sea view. Walking on the glass bridge offers a full view of Yalong Bay’s beautiful scenery.

It’s advisable to take the park’s electric car to reach the summit, where you can often see clouds drifting between the sea and the sky; Longtou Ridge is a prime spot to watch the sunrise over the ocean.

✅Notes:

  • Consider buying a package ticket since the entrance fee doesn’t cover the Dragon Rope Bridge and the glass walkway.
  • Take the park’s electric car; the turns at the top are super exciting!
  • Avoid visiting on rainy days as visibility will be poor. Make sure to choose a sunny day for your visit.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 175
⏰Opening hours: 7:00-18:00
🚗How to get there: Take bus 15, 24, 25 or 27 to Shenya Villa stop.

8. Yanoda Rainforest Cultural Tourism Zone (呀诺达热带雨林)

Yanoda Rainforest Cultural Tourism Zone is the only tropical rainforest in China located at 18° north latitude, serving as a natural oxygen bar. The park features an array of naturally growing plants and has friendly staff. It offers a wide variety of activities, even more than Yalong Bay Forest Park.

The park is extensive and is divided into two routes: mountain and water, which visitors can choose from. After buying a ticket, visitors are taken by tour bus to different sightseeing spots, where they can enjoy the glass walkway, high-altitude zip line, swing, and other attractions. While admiring the tropical rainforest scenery, you can also partake in exciting and adventurous activities.

The park also includes a Li and Miao ethnic culture experience area, mainly for tea and medicinal wine tasting. While the tea tasting is not recommended, the wine is suggested for treating rheumatism and bone pain, making it a thoughtful gift for parents and family members at CNY 200 per bottle.

Each visitor receives an electronic guide device that automatically detects your location. As you approach a sightseeing spot, the corresponding light on the device lights up, and it provides an automatic explanation.

✅Notes:

  • Water activities will get you wet, so it’s best to wear dark-colored clothes and bring a spare set of clean clothes.
  • You only need to visit one of the two: Yalong Bay Forest Park or Yanoda Rainforest.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 168
⏰Opening hours: 8:00-18:00
🚗How to get there: Take the Intercity Line 1 bus and get off at the Yanoda Rainforest Cultural Tourism Zone stop.

9. Rose Valley (玫瑰谷)

Rose Valley typically has few visitors, mainly tour groups on quick tours and couples taking wedding photos. It’s especially beautiful during the bloom season from November to April.

Upon entering, you’ll find a central garden themed around beauty, romance, and love, featuring a striking sculpture of a rose tree shaped like two hands. On sunny days, peacocks are placed in front of the sculpture for visitors to photograph.

The park has diverse courtyard designs, and at the end of a shaded walkway, there’s a heart-shaped scenic lake with lotus plants. Walking by the lake, the cool breeze makes for a refreshing experience.

✅Notes:

  • There isn’t much to see outside the blooming season. The park is highly commercialized with many places selling cosmetics and numerous salespeople promoting rose-based products. It’s best to avoid buying skincare and makeup items there.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 60
⏰Opening hours: 8:00-17:30
🚗How to get there: Take bus 27 to Rose Valley stop.

10. Binglanggu Li & Miao Cultural Heritage Park (槟榔谷)

Binglanggu was transformed from an old village and features the most authentic boat houses. You can watch elderly locals making pottery, weaving Li brocade, singing mountain songs, and weaving grass baskets, along with other carefully arranged displays in the scenic area.

The area is quite large, and even with a quick visit, it took four hours to explore. It is perfect for a quiet stroll, so avoid group tours and guides, and just wander around on your own.

In the park, there is a large tree with many silver butterflies hanging on it. The guide explained that in Li culture, which is matrilineal, butterflies symbolize mothers. Hanging a silver butterfly on the sacred tree is a prayer for the health and longevity of mothers.

Among the attractions in Sanya, I really like this one. It is the only site with real historical significance.

📕 Notes:

🔖 Li brocade, a 3,000-year-old intangible cultural heritage, is called a "living fossil" in the history of Chinese textiles.

🔖 Additionally, there are ancient and unique Li tattoos. It was believed that if a Li girl did not get tattooed with the specific marks of her clan, her ancestors would not recognize her as a descendant after death, condemning her to be a wandering ghost. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the practice was banned for being inhumane. Currently, the youngest women with tattoos are already 70 years old, and the tattoo culture is fading away.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 96
⏰Opening hours: 8:00-18:00
🚗How to get there: Take the Intercity Line 1 bus and get off at the Binglanggu stop.

11. Explore Markets at Yalong Bay

Outlet No.1 Town: The only seafood market in Yalong Bay is located here, featuring well-established seafood processing shops with a wide variety of fresh seafood. There are also many international brand stores offering discounts. The streets are lined with swaying coconut trees, and there are fountains with flowing water, creating a tropical atmosphere.

Xinhonggang Fruit Market: Sanya’s largest comprehensive fruit wholesale market. It’s a great place to buy fruits and local specialties like coconut slices. The quality is excellent, and if you venture further inside the market, prices tend to be cheaper.

12. Houhai Village (后海村)

Houhai Village is the largest surfing village in China, attracting a large number of surfing enthusiasts. It is said that Houhai was discovered by a group of foreign surfing enthusiasts. The water is shallow and clear, with visibility extending nearly a hundred meters into the bay, making it a great place for beginners to surf and snorkel.

Upon entering the village, there doesn’t seem to be anything worth visiting—a collection of simple houses, narrow streets, and street vendors. It might seem like just another ordinary village in Hainan.

However, turning into a back street, you’ll find more and more upscale vacation homes and restaurants mixed with the original fishing village, with no signs or planned roads, yet full of character.

✅Notes:

  • Houhai is suitable for beginners in surfing; experienced surfers are not recommended to come here.
  • For surfing in Houhai, it is recommended to book a professional instructor in advance and check if the weather is suitable for surfing.
  • Apart from surfing, there aren’t many other entertainment options in Houhai. If you want to play other activities, it is recommended to go to Wuzhizhou Island.

🎫Admission ticket: free
⏰Opening hours: all day
🚗How to get there: Take bus 28, Intercity Line 1, Haitang Bay Line 1, or Haitang Bay Line 3 to Wuzhizhou Island stop.

13. Atlantis Aquaventure Waterpark (亚特兰蒂斯水世界)

Atlantis is like a seaside Disney, where vacationers of all types will never get bored. It offers exciting water activities for adults and a water park for children.

The best order to enjoy Atlantis Aquaventure Waterpark is: Neptune Tower Aquaduct → SEAshooter → Speedloop → Leap Of Faith → Rocket Blaster → Wave Rider.

Ossiano Underwater Restaurant is the most expensive restaurant at Atlantis, where you can dine while enjoying the romantic seascape and marine life of the Ambassador Lagoon through floor-to-ceiling windows.

✅Notes:

  • Prepare a waterproof phone pouch, long-sleeve swimsuit, towel, and wear beach shoes.
  • Guests staying at Atlantis Hotel can enjoy unlimited free access during their stay. Non-hotel guests can buy tickets to experience the park.
  • Many attractions at Atlantis Aquaventure Waterpark have height restrictions, so it’s not recommended for very young children as there aren’t many activities they can participate in.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 298
⏰Opening hours: 10:00-21:00
🚗How to get there: Take bus 33 or Haitang Bay 3 to Atlantis Hotel.

14. Wuzhizhou Island (蜈支洲岛)

Wuzhizhou Island is often referred to as the “Maldives of China.” The surrounding sea is clear and transparent, with a visibility of 6 to 27 meters. The waters are abundant with luminous snails, sea cucumbers, lobsters, mackerel, sea urchins, bream, and colorful tropical fish.

The southern waters are home to well-protected coral reefs, making it one of the few islands in the world without rocks or pebbles. It is considered the best diving destination in China, offering vast, picturesque views of the sea and sky.

The island is filled with a romantic atmosphere, making it popular among couples and earning it the nickname “Lover’s Island.”

It is recommended to take a sightseeing cable car tour around Wuzhizhou Island to enjoy the beautiful scenery. The island offers a wide range of entertainment options, so it’s advisable to purchase the extreme ticket package, which includes 16 activities.

Route: Start by circling the island, then proceed to Sunrise Rock, Lover’s Island, relax on the beach loungers, and stroll along the sea-view promenade. Afterward, enjoy the water activities like diving, jet skiing, parasailing, and water flying.

✅Notes:

  • The island is heavily commercialized, and prices for food and drinks are high.
  • Board the first boat to the island to have enough time to enjoy all the activities. Make sure to allocate enough time for your return trip.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 96
⏰Opening hours: 08:00-17:30
🚗How to get there: Take bus 28 or Haitangwan 1 to the Wuzhizhou Island Wharf.

15. Sanya International Duty Free City (国际免税城)

Sanya International Duty Free City has now become one of the must-visit attractions in Sanya. It is quite large and divided into two sections, A and B, connected by a sky bridge on the third floor.

The products available include mainly cosmetics, skincare products, perfumes, watches, glasses, luggage, and clothing. The third floor houses most of the restaurants and some snack shops. Area A features more first-line brands, with well-known cosmetics stores always bustling with enthusiastic shoppers, offering great discounts.

It’s a good idea to list the items you want to buy in advance, have clear targets, and ask the staff immediately if they have the items in stock since some items might be out of stock. The annual duty-free shopping quota for departing travelers is 100,000 RMB per person, with limits on the number of items per category, such as a maximum of 30 pieces for cosmetics.

Purchases here only cover the browsing and payment process; you can only pick up your items when you leave the island. Phoenix Airport has two pick-up zones for different flights, so it’s best to clarify your pick-up point before going. Depending on whether it is peak or off-peak season, ensure you allow enough time to collect your items at the airport to avoid delays in your schedule.

🚗How to get there: Take bus 33, 34, 35 or Haitang Bay 3 to Haitang Duty Free Sq stop.

16. Dadonghai (大东海)

Dadonghai is the earliest developed tropical seaside resort area in Sanya and is the closest bay to the city.

The quality of the sand and seawater is inferior to that of Yalong Bay but much better than Sanya Bay, with high visibility. Many people come here for sunbathing.

Most accommodations are located in a small area by the beach, with prices significantly lower than those in Yalong Bay. The expenses here are moderate, and the nightlife is quite lively.

In addition to numerous hotels, there are many dining options, entertainment venues, and various seafood stalls in the surrounding area.

🎫Admission ticket: free
⏰Opening hours: all day
🚗How to get there: Take bus no. 2, 4, 8, 15, 17, 18, 19, 24, 25, 28, 29, 30, 31, 34, 36, 53 or 55 to Dadonghai Square.

17. Luhuitou (鹿回头)

Luhuitou is definitely a great place for a panoramic view and is perfect for watching the sunset and night scenery from the top of the mountain!

Located on a seaside hill in Sanya city, surrounded by the sea on three sides, its main peak has an altitude of 275.1 meters. From the mountain, you can overlook the vast sea, gaze at the rolling hills, and take in the full panoramic view of Sanya city, with extremely magnificent scenery.

The best time to visit is in the evening, allowing you to enjoy the sunset and then have a meal at the summit while waiting for the city’s lights to come on, offering a splendid view of Sanya at night.

🎫Admission ticket: free
⏰Opening hours: 8:00-22:00
🚗How to get there: Take bus 26 to Luhuitou Gongyuan (Luhuitou Park) station.

18. Sanya Phoenix Hill Park (三亚凤凰岭海誓山盟景区)

Sanya Phoenix Hill Park, located in the center of Sanya city, is the highest peak in the city’s center and the only place where you can have a full view of Sanya’s four major bays and a 360° bird’s-eye view of the entire city.

The park is filled with love-themed attractions, and many of them are named after love, making it a popular spot for couples to make vows. It is also known as the “Love Holy Mountain” at 18° north latitude.

It is highly recommended to take the cable car up the mountain! Along the wooden boardwalks in the park, you will come across different love-themed man-made attractions and viewing platforms at various points.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 88
⏰Opening hours: 8:00-23:00
🚗How to get there: Take bus 55, 24 or 17 to Fenghuangling stop.

19. Boundary Island (分界洲岛)

Boundary Island offers a more peaceful experience compared to Wuzhizhou Island. Its pristine ecological environment features crystal-clear blue sea and sky, with sunlight reaching several meters into the water. The seabed further out is adorned with coral reefs and vibrant marine life, akin to a beautiful garden.

The western side has a calm bay with a soft, white sandy beach, making it the island’s sole beach bathing spot. This area is lively and provides a variety of water activities like sea fishing, swimming, diving, jet skiing, and banana boat rides. Amenities include restaurants, playrooms, music bars, barbecue stalls, and hammocks, all concentrated here for enjoyment.

For diving enthusiasts looking to get certified without traveling to Southeast Asia, Boundary Island offers certification opportunities.

P.S. The island currently has two operating hotels. The Boundary Island Sea Fishing Club offers both sea-view and mountain-view rooms, with prices starting at about CNY 800. The Dolphin Bay Inn caters to backpackers, with dormitory rooms ranging from 100 to CNY 300.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 132
⏰Opening hours: 08:30-22:30
🚗How to get there: Take a high-speed train at Lingshui Railway Station. Get out of the station and take a free shuttle bus to the scenic area.

Hainan cuisine integrates Fujian and Guangdong cooking techniques, incorporates Li and Miao dietary habits, and introduces Southeast Asian flavors, making it a popular regional cuisine. Four must-try dishes include Wenchang Chicken, Crab from Hele, Jiaji Duck, and Dongshan Goat.

Wenchang Chicken, also known as White Cut Chicken, is the first among the four famous dishes of Hainan. It is the prototype of the internationally famous Hainan Chicken Rice.

Originally famous for being produced in Wenchang County, the chickens used today are carefully raised with a special diet. The well-prepared Wenchang Chicken is paired with garlic, sauce, and green orange juice, highlighting the unique Hainan sauce flavor while retaining the silky texture of the chicken meat.

Restaurants Recommended: Haikou Yanjiang Restaurant, Qiongxiangge Hainan Cai Restaurant

Mud Crab is a unique crab from the Wanning area of Hainan, known for its hard shell and rich, fatty meat. It can be cooked in various ways, with the best being steamed to preserve the original freshness of the crab meat while enjoying the unique flavor of the sauce.

Jiaji Duck is known for its rich, tender, and fatty meat that is flavorful without being greasy. When cooked as White Cut Duck, it retains the original taste and texture of the duck meat. The sauce is made from duck soup, chili, garlic, and other ingredients, complementing the tender duck meat perfectly.

Restaurants Recommended: Liguo Restaurant, Haiya Restaurant

Compared to other mutton, Dongshan Mutton has a lighter gamy flavor and higher nutritional value. It is often stewed in a thick soup, and diners can also cook the mutton themselves in the restaurant, enjoying a delicious and nutritious mutton feast.

Restaurants Recommended: Apo Dongshanyang Restaurant

In addition to the four famous dishes, enjoying an authentic Coconut Chicken dish is a must. Coconut Chicken is made with fresh coconut water, cooked with Chinese wolfberries, jujubes, and chicken pieces. The soup, boiled with fresh Wenchang chicken, is incredibly fresh and sweet.

Restaurants Recommended: Yexiaoji, Diadiade Coconut Chicken Sanya Bay Store

Baoluo rice noodles are a popular choice for breakfast among locals. They are round and thick, and can be enjoyed dry or in a soup, each offering its own unique flavor profile. The dry version is more flavorful, while the soup version is more refreshing, allowing you to choose according to your preference.

Known as “xiéng bǒu liō” in Hainan dialect, this dessert is made with chilled coconut milk, red beans (or green beans), coix seeds, peanuts, coconut meat, red dates, watermelon cubes, pineapple cubes, jelly, and coconut milk. It’s a refreshing and sweet treat.

Hainan Coconut Jelly is a traditional dessert made from coconut water and agar-agar, giving it a refreshing taste and a jelly-like texture. It’s often served chilled and is popular for its light sweetness, making it a favorite treat, especially in the hot tropical climate of Hainan.

Qunzhong Street (群众街)

Qunzhong Street gathers almost all traditional snacks in Sanya, such as green bean conge, black bean rice, sesame paste, coconut roll, pumpkin cake, fried shrimp cake, nourish cool, and Hainan rice noodles. It’s a feast for the eyes for traditional Sanya snacks.

Shengli Road (胜利路)

This street mainly features local Hainanese restaurants with authentic flavors and affordable prices. It gets crowded with diners in the evening.

Jianshe Street (建设街)

Jianshe Street is one of the oldest streets in Sanya, mostly frequented by locals. It offers many specialty snacks, including Hainan rice noodles, nourishing desserts, and Hainanese-style fish hotpot.

First Market (第一市场)

The First Market is the largest agricultural market in Sanya, offering a wide variety of seafood, from high to low-end options, at affordable prices. In the evening, it turns into a night market selling various Hainanese-style accessories, with overall reasonable prices.

🛫 How Do I Travel to Sanya

By Plane

Sanya Phoenix International Airport provides about 160 airlines, including 130 domestic lines and about 35 international lines, reaching 74 domestic cities.

Alternatively, you can choose to fly to Haikou Meilan International Airport and then transfer to a high-speed train to Sanya. Flights to Haikou tend to be more frequent, and prices are usually cheaper during holidays and peak seasons compared to Sanya. Travelers can choose their destination based on their city of departure.

The high-speed train from Meilan to Sanya takes about 1.5 hours. Meilan Airport in Haikou has a train station where you can board directly without having to go to Haikou Railway Station.

From Phoenix International Airport to the City

There are currently two bus lines to Dadonghai and Yalong Bay, with ticket prices ranging from 15 to 25 yuan. However, buses depart every hour and may be full, so there may be a long wait.

  • Airport Bus Line 1 → Direct to Haitang Bay: CNY 45
  • Airport Bus Line 2 → Direct to Yalong Bay: CNY 25
  • Airport Bus Line 3 → Direct to Dadonghai: CNY 15
  • Airport to the train station: about CNY 30-40 one way
  • Airport to the city center: about CNY 40-60 one way
  • Airport to Dadonghai: about CNY 60-80 one way
  • Airport to Yalong Bay: about CNY 100-120 one way

🚖 How to Get Around Sanya

Bus

There are over ten bus routes in the city, including many tourist lines that cover most of the attractions. Buses run every 5-10 minutes from 6:00 to 23:00.

🚍Tourist Lines: Sanya has several tourist bus lines, including single and double-decker buses. These buses operate from 6:00 to 18:00 with a frequency of 15 minutes. Fares range from CNY 10 to 20. Tourist buses do not stop as frequently as regular buses, making them convenient for travelers. Passengers can hail these buses by waving at them from the roadside.

There are tourist buses that run directly between Tianya Haijiao and Xiaodongtian without stopping at other stations. Passengers can board these buses at either Tianya Haijiao or Xiaodongtian, but be prepared for long queues due to high passenger volume.

The newly opened double-decker tourist bus from Tianya Haijiao to Haitang Duty-Free Shop operates on a one-person-one-ticket basis for CNY 68. Passengers can get on and off the bus unlimited times within a day.

Electric Scooters

Electric scooters can be rented online or offline for around CNY 30-50 per day, allowing you to travel over 100 kilometers. Some rental services may deliver the scooter to your hotel and collect it at the end of the rental period after taking a deposit.

Taxi

Sanya has blue and orange taxis that can take you around the city and to more distant attractions, starting at CNY 10. Make sure to ask the driver to use the meter or agree on a fare before starting your journey.

☀️ Best Time to Visit Sanya

October to March is the best time to travel to Sanya.

October to March:

During this period, while northern China is experiencing harsh winter, Sanya remains warm, almost like spring. The weather is sunny with little rain, and temperatures hover around 25 degrees Celsius, making it pleasant for travel and marking the peak tourist season in Sanya. During peak season, transportation, accommodation, and other expenses are higher, so it’s advisable to avoid traveling during the crowded Chinese New Year holiday if possible.

April to May:

This is the off-peak season in Sanya, with temperatures rising to around 30 degrees Celsius and sunny, hot weather. Local Li and Miao ethnic groups celebrate their grand ethnic festivals on the third day of the third lunar month. Hotel and transportation costs are relatively lower during these two months, and there are fewer tourists.

June to September:

This is the rainy season in Sanya, but the rain is mostly in the form of short showers that do not last long and have minimal impact on travel. July and August are the hottest months, with temperatures reaching around 35 degrees Celsius, so it’s important to stay cool and hydrated. September may encounter typhoons, so travelers need to be aware of weather changes. Traveling to Sanya during the peak summer season offers moderate expenses. Although there will be student travelers during the summer vacation, many tourists planning to travel avoid Sanya due to the scorching sun.

Recommended Duration:

For first-time visitors, it is recommended to plan a 4-5 day trip to Sanya. If there are plans to visit nearby islands, an additional 1-2 days may be needed.

🏨 Where to Stay in Sanya

Sanya Bay is adjacent to the Sanya city center, situated in the core of Sanya’s scenic area, offering convenient transportation, dining, and easy access to taxis.

  • Pros: Close to the city center and airport, predominantly mid-range hotels with moderate prices, offering great value for accommodation.
  • Cons: Developed earlier, average quality of seawater and sand, and it is relatively crowded with tourists.

Sanya Conifer Resort: A popular hotel in recent years, featuring a rooftop infinity pool and a cantilevered transparent pool, attracting many young people for photo opportunities.

Four Points by Sheraton Hainan Sanya: Offers unbeatable sea views along Coconut Dream Corridor, with a food street nearby, making it very convenient.

Mangrove Tree Resort World Sanya Bay (Buddha Tower): It’s very large, resembling a commercial area with dining, entertainment, and movie options. It is well-equipped with facilities for family-friendly activities.

Yalong Bay is renowned for having the finest water quality of all the major bays, featuring a 7-kilometer stretch of silky white sand that is perfect for swimming and snorkeling.

  • Pros: The area is home to predominantly mid-to-high-end hotels with excellent amenities. Guests can choose from various themed accommodations, including those with underwater restaurants, Greek-style decor, and the Bird’s Nest Resort.
  • Cons: The area is relatively expensive, and it is somewhat distant from the city center and other tourist attractions.

MGM Grand Sanya: Ideal for personalized stays, this hotel offers facilities like a children’s playground and is pet-friendly, with top-tier services.

Horizon Sanya Yalong Bay Resort & Spa: Perfect for families, this hotel includes a zoo, a cave pool, and several mother-and-baby shops.

Park Hyatt Sanya Sunny Bay Resort: A trendy and private retreat with a secluded Baifu Bay for diving and a soft coral reserve. The hotel boasts modern amenities, including an infinity pool, making it a great choice for those who prefer to relax at the hotel.

Dadonghai is situated between Sanya Bay and Yalong Bay, offering better water and sand quality than Sanya Bay. It was the first area to be developed, featuring a variety of water sports and a lively nightlife with many bars. The First Market boasts a wide range of seafood at affordable prices.

  • Pros: The area is lively with plenty of unique apartments and guesthouses, making it a budget-friendly option.
  • Cons: Being an early-developed area, it is quite crowded.

Harman Hotel Sanya: Located in the prime spot of Dadonghai, next to a big shopping center. Its main attraction is the rooftop sky pool with a 180° panoramic view of Dadonghai.

InterContinental Sanya Resort: Perfect for a holiday stay, close to Luhuitou Park with lush greenery. The resort features extensive facilities, including a shuttle train and a beach bar, providing a comprehensive resort experience.

Haitang Bay is located far from the city center and was developed relatively late. The water and beach quality are average, with strong underwater currents making swimming not advisable.

However, you can visit nearby Wuzhizhou Island for water activities. If you have a sufficient budget and prefer a private and quiet atmosphere, then Haitang Bay is the perfect choice for you.

  • Pros: There are many luxury hotels, most of which are perfect for a resort stay. The area is less crowded, making it ideal for those who enjoy peace and quiet.
  • Cons: The surrounding facilities and transportation are not very convenient, mainly centered around the hotels.

The Westin Sanya Haitang Bay Resort: Known for its excellent greenery, it boasts the largest pool area in Sanya, covering 12,000 square meters. It offers a variety of water activities, including a 400-meter river that lets you explore the tropical rainforest. Adjacent to the resort is a duty-free shop where guests enjoy a 5% discount.

Atlantis Sanya: This seven-star hotel is more like a theme park than a hotel. It features a water park, a mysterious and fantastic aquarium, an interactive dolphin bay, and a trendy shopping street—all within the hotel premises. You can easily spend three days without leaving the hotel.

InterContinental Sanya Haitang Bay Resort: The rooms are spacious, with 80 square meters of space. Its unique feature is the underwater restaurant, with a design that includes a 180° curved mirror and a 270° sea-blue surrounding underwater tunnel, where over 5,000 marine creatures swim around, creating a scene akin to “fish flying in the sky.”

  • Use sunscreen and bring sun protection essentials.
  • Beware of Free Photos: Free photos in tourist areas usually come with a fee afterward.
  • Avoid buying local specialties and souvenirs in tourist areas, as they are often more expensive than outside.
  • If visiting tropical forest parks, take measures to protect against mosquitoes.
  • With numerous attractions in Sanya, you don’t need to visit every one; choose similar attractions to visit.
  • If you plan to shop, bring a large, foldable travel bag for convenience.
  • Don’t overeat seafood, and avoid combining coconut with seafood.
  • Wear casual shoes, and if possible, bring flip-flops for comfort.
  • Don’t use unlicensed taxis, as you may be forced to pay higher prices.
  • If possible, consider chartering a vehicle for flexibility in adjusting your itinerary.

China Travel Planning Guide&FAQ

🎫Do I need a visa for China?

Yes. Most visitors to China will need a visa to enter the country. The type of visa you need will depend on the purpose and duration of your trip, as well as your nationality. If you are a resident of the US, you must apply for a Chinese visa at the Consular Office in the country. On the other hand, inhabitants of countries like Japan, Canada, and the UK can request a visa through the Chinese Visa Application Service Center.

🤔Why is it necessary to install a VPN in China?

In China, the government has strict regulations on internet access, leading to the blocking of popular websites and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, and YouTube. To access these sites, a VPN is suggested as a means of bypassing the restrictions. It is important to choose a reputable VPN provider and use caution while doing so. ExpressVPN has been historically deemed the most reliable VPN for this purpose, despite being heavily targeted by China’s censors. Nevertheless, it is still a widely preferred option owing to its ease of installation and user-friendliness.

📲Is it necessary to have a Chinese SIM card while in China?

Yes. It is crucial to acknowledge that accessing the internet in China may pose limitations due to certain websites being prohibited or filtered. To ensure uninterrupted connectivity while staying in China, purchasing a local SIM card is advisable. For optimum results, acquiring SIM cards from either China Unicom or China Mobile is recommended. While China Mobile has the most comprehensive coverage in China and is a market leader, China Unicom is more compatible with foreign phones, enabling 3G and 4G services. Or you can purchase a SIM card online.

🔮Should I buy China travel insurance?

Yes. Although China is generally a safe country for travel, it is still possible to encounter accidents or other unexpected occurrences. Therefore, obtaining travel insurance can provide a sense of security and financial protection. In my research, I have found that World Nomads is a reputable travel insurance provider that covers a wide range of activities and is recommended for the average traveler. Nevertheless, I advise you to compare insurance quotes from various providers before making a decision.

🚙Can you rent a car in China?

Unfeasible. Obtaining a Chinese driver’s license to rent a car and self-drive may seem like an option, but it is not a practical choice for most foreigners. Therefore, many prefer to opt for a driver or public transportation when navigating China, as it proves to be more convenient.

✈️What’s the best site to purchase flight tickets for China?

I suggest using Trip for affordable flights to China. As a China-based company, they often offer lower prices compared to foreign companies. Additionally, they offer English-speaking phone support in case of any issues.

🏡What is the best way to book hotels in China?

Not only does Trip offer a wider range of flight options, but it also provides a greater selection of hotels to choose from. Moreover, Agoda is a reliable resource for hotels throughout Asia.

🎒What do I pack for China?

Travel adapter and converter: China uses a different electrical system than many other countries, so it’s important to bring a travel adapter and converter if you plan to use electronic devices such as phones, cameras, and laptops.  
Sunscreen: The UV index in China can be high, particularly during the summer months, and prolonged exposure to the sun without protection can cause skin damage and increase the risk of skin cancer.
Deodorant: It should be noted that finding deodorant in China may not be a simple task.

📚Can a guidebook for traveling to China be useful?

Yes. If you’re planning to travel to China for the first time, a travel guidebook can be a valuable resource, and Lonely Planet is one of the most reputable guides available globally. Its comprehensive itineraries and recommendations take into account your personal preferences and can save you both time and money. The insider tips are also extremely helpful in navigating China’s unique cultural landscape like a local.

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