Hainan island is characterized by a tropical climate, a relaxed pace of life, and plentiful beaches. Outside Haikou, the capital city, Hainan is relatively undeveloped. Travel a short distance outside the city and you will find villages where people lead a traditional farming way of life in lush green countryside. Around the coastal regions are many beaches. Adventurous travelers who explore can find many unspoilt, natural beaches, unpopulated by tourists. The inner area of the island features jungle and mountains and are good areas for hiking and mountain biking.
Haikou City - the capital of Hainan
Haikou is a fairly large tropical city and the capital of Hainan. It is the business and transport centre of the island and a major port. It is a relaxed kind of place. Expect long breaks around lunch time and for shops to be open till late in the evening. Indeed Haikou is perhaps at its most lively at 10pm in the evening with many people outside along the streets eating, drinking and shopping.
Haikou city has many faces: Palm tree lined streets; modern skyscraper city scapes; traditional chinese Hutongs; bustling fishing ports/markets; and long beaches. As a major city, it has all modern facilities including bars, night-clubs, banks that accept foreign cads, and good transport links.
South Hainan - Sanya County
Sanya (in Hainanese, Tam A, pronounced "Dumb Ah") is the tropical resort at the southern end of Hainan that everyone seems to be going to. If you like beach resorts and tropical weather, it's a great place to go, but expect crowds of tourists, particularly at peak seasons. Don't forget, there is a lot more to Hainan than Sanya...
North-East Hainan - Wenchang County
Wenchang (Hainanese Ven Sio, pronounced "Vun Syo"), to the east of Haikou on the northeastern corner of the island, is the centre of Han settlement and the place where standard Hainanese is spoken. It is also one of the main sources of Hainanese migration overseas. The Song sisters were born here. The main attractions here are the Dongjiao Coconut Plantations and Tonggu Mountain Reserve.
East Hainan - Qionghai County
This area, centred on the city of Qionghai (Hainanese Heng Hai, pronounced "Heng High"), is emerging as a rival to the Southeast Coast (namely Xinglong Hot Springs), siphoning off some of the tourist traffic (especially Chinese tourist groups) that makes its way single-mindedly from Haikou to Sanya.
The small coastal town of Boao (Hainanese Bak Ngao, pronounced "Buck Gow") wins a lot of local traffic on the strength of its role as permanent site of the Boao Forum for Asia. Recognising Boao's distinctive dynamic, the Hainan provincial government has now more than doubled the area of the "Boao Aquapolis", expanding it southward to take in the coastal beaches of Wanning city.
The South-east, covers Xinglong with its hot springs, botanical gardens, local coffee, and Indonesian theme park (and many young women plying their trade, a fact that tends to be glossed over by the guide books), Lingshui County, Wanning County. Dongshan Range and Nanwan Monkey Island attract bus loads of tourists. The area's promise has been blighted by haphazard tourist development, but it still has mountainous, forests, and coasts that are worth checking out.
The mountainous centre of Hainan is certainly worth exploring. Travel to the centre of Hainan and you can find beautiful rural landscapes, mountains, waterfalls, small towns, and minority villages.
If traveling from north to south, Qiongzhong (137 km from Haikou) is when you really start to enter the centre of Hainan. Travel on to Wuzhishan (a further 75 km south) and perhaps try some trips into the surrounding mountains and villages. Baoting is an attractive town further south. The nearby hot springs at Seven Fairy Mountain make a good relaxation place after a hard days cycle. Each of these 3 towns have Chinese hotels to stay at, but no hostels. The centre includes: Qiongzhong, Wuzhishan, Baoting, & Baisha Counties.
The West Coast and South-West Coast of Hainan are some of the least travelled places on the island. Poor and left behind by the development on other parts of Hainan, somehow it occurs to very few people to come and have a look. Which, for some, is all the more reason you should want to! Western Hainan is inhabited mainly by the Li minority and has its own brand of natural beauty, including some of Hainan's only remaining virgin forests. The area includes Chanjiang, Dongfang, and Ledong Counties.
Some attractions include: Jianfeng Ridge and Forest Reserve, Qizi Bay, & Bawang Nature Reserve, home of the Hainan gibbon.
Not many tourists pass through this part of Hainan. The most prominent attraction in Danzhou is the ancient Dongpo Academy of Classical Learning, established in memory of the celebrated Song dynasty Chinese poet Su Dongpo, who was exiled here by the government. The main language spoken in much of this area is Linggao, not Hainanese.
Surfing in Hainan
An emerging sport in Hainan, there are now regular International surf competions and festivals. There is also an orgainsation that gives lessons and rent boards.
Cycling in Hainan
Cycling has become a popular activity on Hainan. Both Chinese and foreigners enjoy exploring Hainan by bike. Maybe you just want to cycle a few kilometers in the afternoon, or perhaps your planning a trip to cycle around Hainan Island. Either way this section contains some useful information.