China’s largest tropical island boasts all the balmy weather, coconut palms and gold-sand beaches you could ask for. Down at Sānyà it’s see-and-be-seen on the boardwalks or escape altogether at some of Asia’s top luxury resorts. Thatched huts and banana pancakes haven’t popped up anywhere yet, but there’s a whiff of funkiness coming from the east coast beachside towns, and the budding surf scene is helping to spread the gospel of chill-out.
Money is pouring into Hǎinán (海南) these days to ramp up the luxury quotient. You can cruise on the new high-speed rail, but cycling is still the better way to get around. When you’ve had enough of a lathering on the coast, the cool central highlands are an ideal place to be on two wheels. The good roads, knockout mountain views, and concentration of Li and Miao, the island’s first settlers, give the region an appealing distinction from the lowlands.