Sanya is on the tropical island of Hainan, an island province of the People’s Republic of China. The island itself is quite large, almost 34,000 square kilometers in size. The capital is a city called Haikou, which is located on the northern part of the island. However, for the majority of tourists, the most interesting part of Hainan is the city of Sanya. Located on the southernmost part of Hainan, Sanya is the only area in China that is located inside of a tropical climate region. It’s because of this tropical climate that Sanya has become a magnet for tourists from across the mainland and Hong Kong, as well as tourists from places as far away as Russia.
Getting to Sanya is easy enough from Hong Kong and there are daily direct flights on several different airlines including Cathay Pacific, Dragon Air and Hainan Airlines. The most difficult part of any trip to Sanya is deciding where to stay. With so many resorts and beaches, all of the different choices can be daunting. That being said, Sanya, as far as resorts are concerned, can be reasonably be divided into the following areas:
First there is Yalong Bay, which is the most well-known of Sanya’s beaches. Located an hour’s drive from the airport, Yalong Bay is home to many of Sanya’s premier resorts including the Hilton, Marriott and Ritz-Carlton resorts. The resorts on Yalong Bay can be quite pricey and are geared towards the upscale market. There’s not much else to do in Yalong Bay outside of the resorts, so it’s only a good choice if you plan on living the all-inclusive resort lifestyle, not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Dadonghai Beach, located three kilometers to the east of Sanya city, is an up and coming hot spot for local and international travelers. There is only one big international chain on Dadonghai Beach and that is the ultra exclusive Mandarin Oriental Resort. The rest of the beachfront hotels are locally owned and priced accordingly, therefore Dadonghai is much more suited to budget travelers than Yalong Bay. What makes Dadonghai really special for Sanya beaches is all of its non-resort based activities, the highlight of which is a two kilometer long beachfront boardwalk that’s packed with restaurants, bars and watersports centers.
A more recently developed part of Sanya is Haitang Bay, which has in recent years seen the arrival of many major international hotel chains including the Conrad, Hainan’s most luxurious hotel. Other hotels located on the eighteen kilometer stretch of beach in Haitang Bay include the Doubletree by Hilton and the newly built Renaissance by Marriott. Coming years will see as many as thirty new hotels added to the mix, as local officials try to turn Haitang Bay into a world class tourist resort.
Xiangshui Bay can be found fifty kilometers to the east of Sanya. While there are currently several development projects underway, as of now there are only two hotels on this bay. The largest of these hotels is the Narada Resort and Spa Perfume Bay, a villa-style resort offering 96 individual villas in a beachfront location. This bay is a good choice for guests who want to be farther out from Sanya City and avoid any crowds on the beach.
Just south of Sanya City lies the Luhuitou Peninsula which is home to a small mountain park that is popular with tourists. Visitors come to hike around the mountain and enjoy the sea views. The peninsula is home to two of the area’s nicest resorts, the Banyan Tree and the InterContinental. Some of the benefits of staying on Luhuitou is the close proximity to the city and the privacy of its beaches.
The last part of Sanya worth mentioning is Sanya Bay itself. Stretching from the airport all the way to the city center, Sanya Bay is the location of the area’s most affordable beachfront accommodations. Some big name hotels located on Sanya Bay include the Holiday Inn and Howard Johnson. However there is a reason that the hotels on Sanya Bay are cheaper than their rivals and that is because Sanya Bay, due to its urban location, is not exactly the best beach for swimming.
Personally, when it came time for me to choose a resort for my stay in Sanya, I knew that I wanted to stay somewhere that was both romantic and luxurious. After spending several hours researching all of the different resorts and deals that I could find, I was able to narrow down my options to the Marriott Resort in Yalong Bay, the Renaissance in Haitang Bay and the InterContinental Resort on Luhuitou Peninsula. Each of the resorts had their own positive attributes.
The Marriott was located on the famous Yalong Bay and had a special package including transportation from the airport and a 500 RMB cash voucher for use in the resort’s restaurants and bars.
The InterContinental resort was roughly the same price as the Marriott, without the cash voucher and the airport transportation. However the InterContinental had the added benefit of being brand new, built in 2011, and being located on a more secluded beach.
The Renaissance was also brand new and had special opening rates that made it almost half the price of the other options, but I wasn’t sure about Haitang Bay and the resort’s photos didn’t seem quite as nice as the other two.
In the end, I chose to stay at the InterContinental Resort and I was not disappointed. Located a 40 minute taxi ride from Sanya’s Phoenix International Airport, the InterContinental had been built just a few months earlier. Boasting a private beach, a full service spa, gym, five pools, six restaurants and three bars, including a sunken pool bar, this resort had everything, it even had its own German-themed microbrewery on site!
The highlight of the resort though had to be its guest rooms, of which every one has an ocean view. My room in particular was just a standard room with a king-sized bed. Still though the room itself was stunning, one of the nicest rooms I have ever seen in a hotel. It had a large sunken bath tub in a beautiful bathroom, an iPod dock with speakers throughout the room, mood lighting, and a large balcony with a sofa.
My stay at the resort was great and everything was in tip-top shape from the landscaping to the service. The staff were plentiful and had a cheerful disposition about them which made my stay that much more enjoyable. The food at the restaurants was excellent and moderately priced. The Mediterranean inspired restaurant, Mediterraneo, in particular had an amazing buffet that must be seen to be believed.
In summary, while there are many different choices confronting any person wishing to visit Sanya, each area and resort will have its own unique charm and it’s just a matter of choosing the best one for your personal tastes.
Sanya is not just fancy resorts, there are also plenty of hostels in Sanya City so budget travelers needn’t be discouraged. Finally, for those looking to escape from civilization and beaches dominated by five-star resorts, check out one of Sanya’s more secluded bays, Yazhou Bay. Located fifty kilometers west of Sanya, Yazhou Bay is free from most of the tourists and development of Sanya’s other beaches.
Photo Credits: Tegan Woo