Some Hainan Island (Hai Nan) Travel Tips to Save You Time and Money

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Hainan Island (Hai Nan) is a ferry ride away from the coastline of the Southern most tip of China.

I will never forget the stunning views from the deck of that ferry boat as we crossed the Qiongzhou Strait on the way to Hainan China.

Even if you just make a 2 day trip of either Haikou city or Sanya City on Hai Nan Island you will not regret it because of the ferry ride alone. It is that freaking beautiful.

Hainan Island is parked just off the Southern Coast of China. The Island is actually its own Province aptly named Hainan province

The island looks like a doughnut with a lush green core of vegetation and beautiful sandy beaches surrounding the edges.

It's nothing like the rest of China. Everyone compares the scenery, climate and fauna to the Islands of Hawaii.

I agree, except that the people in Hawaii wear grass skirts and in Hainan China they carry on their daily movements adorned in silk underwear of many gloriously colored flowered patterns.

These are a Chinese people like no other.

When night falls the cities of both Sanya and Haikou really come alive. The streets quickly fill with street vendors vying for the best spots on the sidewalks.

They sell everything from traditional Hai nan Cuisine, prepared in steaming Woks to chicken soup served in a coconut shell. All accompanied by and ice cold local home brewed beer.

Careful. The Hangover from the local beer is heavy.

The Chinese Government recently spent hundreds of millions of dollars giving Hainan Island an expensive makeover. They were in a rush to accommodate the huge number of tourists they thought were on their way.

They hosted the Miss World Pageant in 2007 and figured the rush would come soon after. (Ya, I missed it also).

But the tourists never really came.

When people traveling through China make it to the Southern end of the country, they elect to make the trip to either Hong Kong or Macau instead.

The best feature of the Island is perhaps the fact that some beautiful beaches have yet to fall victim to mass-tourism (It's getting there, though). Especially when compared to its neighbors in the South China Sea like the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Where is Hainan Island?

Hainan Island is located just off the Southern coast of China.

Its neighbors include the Philippines to the East, Malaysia and Brunei towards the South, Indonesia towards the Southwest, and Vietnam towards the West.

Hainan is almost as big as Belgium. It's the largest ocean island and the smallest land province in the People's Republic of China (PRC), but this has long been under dispute.

The Chinese Government believe that Taiwan is a runaway Province that must be pulled under the rule of Mother China.

Or they'll blow it up.

Therefore, the Chinese people believe that Hainan is China's second largest island and Taiwan is their largest.

Why Bother Visiting Hainan Island?

  • White Sandy Beaches

Yes, it doesn't get any better. I have seen better beaches but those on Hainan China rank well up there. Not too hot to walk on and smooth, rounded sand that squeaks between your toes.

It seemed every beach I went to in both Sanya and Haikou always had a small seafood restaurant on it.

One of the best parts of the beaches in all of Hainan China.

The food never failed to be just awesome. The the views from the tables in the restaurant out into the sea are the highlight. The fish caught that same afternoon was always as good as it could come for between $4USD to $7USD for a really good plate.

  • Tranquil Green Waters

Maybe it's the soft sands that slope quietly into the shallow depths or maybe it's something in the water. Either way, the water is tremendous for swimming in at most of the best swimming areas in all of Hai Nan.

  • Luxurious Hot Springs

Yup. I didn't go to one because I once saw a large Chinese man in a Speed o. I haven't been the same since.

Quite a few people talked about going to the springs and said wonderful things about it. The springs are natural and I guess it's something in the water.

  • Beautiful Scenery

Taking the bus from Sanya City to Haikou City was a nature lover's sight of beauty. The entire center of the island is made up of a really dense, lush green rain-forest.

You can rent a motorbike for about $10USD a day in most of the hotels and guesthouses in Sanya cityand drive up through the jungle along narrow paved roads dotted with little restaurants and hotels.

You'll never forget the ride.

  • Fresh and Delicious Hainan Cuisine

Nowadays, Hainan cuisine is very popular all over the world. What made the seafood so great was probably more to do with how quickly the fish got from the sea to the frying pan than anything else.

Whatever the reason, I don't care. The food in Hainan China is distinct and wonderful.

Do I Need a Visa to Travel to Hainan Island?

Hainan Island is part of China. If you enter China directly, say into Beijing, then you'll already have a Chinese Visa. You could take a trip down to Hainan China then return to Mainland China without having to pass through any border crossings or endure any travel Visa issues.

Just don't confuse a Visa into Hong Kong with a Chinese Travel Visa. A lot of nationalities get into Hong Kong without restriction but that cannot be said for the People's Republic of China (PRC).

You can obtain a Chinese Visa while in Hong Kong but allow yourself 3 days to get it or pay a large sum to have it done the Express route.

The Eight Regions of Hainan China for Tourism Purposes

Most people who visit Hainan end up in either Sanya City or Haikou City, the capital of Hainan Province and where most tourist developments and resorts are.

  • Haikou (Haikou, Qiongshan, Ding'an)

  • The South (Sanya)

Hainan Island by Province

  • The Northeast (Wenchang)
  • The Central East Coast (Qionghai, Ding'an)
  • The South East Coast
  • The West Coast (Ledong, Dongfang, Changjiang)
  • The North West (Danzhou, Lingao, Chengmai)
  • The Central Highlands (Baisha, Qiongzhong, and Wuzhishan/Tongzha)

How to Get to Hainan Island

As usual, we'll over-do it and tell you about every single possible way to get to Hainan, next to swimming.

Hainan island can be easily reached by plane from almost any larger city in South East Asia. There are two international airports on Hainan. One is in the larger capital city of Haikou and the other is in Sanya City.

Both accommodate daily international flights.

But there is also an awesome train, the normal tour bus as other ways of getting to Hainan. The train drives right onto the ferry and that is a beautiful way of getting to the island.

Check our Getting to Hainan Island Page for information on every possible way to get to Hainan Island as well as departure times, fares and even where to book them online.

Where To Stay on Hainan Island

You have to be very careful when choosing a hotel on Hainan Island. The normal international standards star rating system has absolutely NO meaning on Hainan Island.

Every hotel owner calls his establishment either a 4 or 5 star establishment when in fact some could barely pass as a 2 or 3 star hotel.

We chose our top 5 budget and mid range hotels for both Sanya city and the Capital city of Haikou on Hai nan Island.

Here's Where you can Tell or Ask about Hainan Island

Use this space to share your best or worst experience while in Hainan Island.

Is the boat ride the very best thing about the whole island?

Want to warn people away from a bad hotel or even recommend one?

Or use this space to ask any question you have about Hainan Island that isn't already on the Hainan Island page.

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What Other Visitors Have Said/Asked

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French Experience In Sanya 
I have been visiting Sanya City on Hainan Island (not Haikou City) in 2011. I went alone, taking the direct train from Guangzhou to Sanya. I do not …

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Here is a video I made of much of the Island. It will give you some idea of what you can expect of Hainan if you decide to make the trip over.

Take note of how few people got in the frames of our pictures and video. There weren't many people (6 or 7) on the beaches and NONE on the trip in land.

What a place!

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