China’s premier beach community claims to be the ‘Hawaii of China,’ but ‘Moscow on the South China Sea’ is more like it. The modern, hyper-developed resort city has such a steady influx of Russian vacationers these days that almost all signs are in Cyrillic as well as Chinese. Middle-class Chinese families are increasingly drawn to the golden shores of Sānyà (三亚) as well.
For cyclists, Bó’áo (博鳌) is a natural stop along the coast. For all travellers, it’s an unpretentious (though rapidly developing) beach town surrounded by pretty countryside. Just to the west are small villages of stone and brick buildings where locals dry rice in the middle of the lanes, and burn incense for their local folk deities in small shrines.
Shíméi Bay & Rì Yuè Bay
This is a wild, rocky stretch of coastline. Shíméi Bay (石梅湾; Shíméi Wān) is now lined with resorts, but Rì Yuè Bay (日月湾; Rì Yuè Wān; Sun & Moon Bay), further south, is still largely undeveloped and is popular with local surfers. Both bays have strong currents and aren’t considered safe for casual swimmers.
Hǎinán’s reputation rests on its tropical beaches, but for many travellers it’s in this region of dark-green mountains and terraced rice-growing valleys that they make genuine contact with the island’s culture. Bǎotíng, with it’s rainforest and hot springs, is the most accessible destination.