China’s premier beach community is a modern construction in every way – which makes the claim that it is the Hawaii of China a little suspect. Certainly, if you are hoping to be charmed by an indigenous culture closely tied to the sea – in addition to enjoying your beer, golden sand beaches and clear tropical blue waters, of course – you will be a bit disappointed. Sānyà is built just for fun.
While the full 40km or so of coastline dedicated to tourism is usually referred to as Sānyà, the region is actually made up of three distinct zones. Sānyà Bay is home to the bustling city centre and a long stretch of beach and hotels aimed at locals and mainland holidaymakers. Dàdōnghǎi Bay, about 3km southeast, beyond the Lùhuítóu Peninsula, is where most Western travellers stay. In fact, it receives such a steady influx of Russian vacationers these days that almost all signs are in Cyrillic as well as Chinese. A further 15km east, at exclusive Yàlóng Bay, the beach is first-rate, as is the line of plush international resorts.
You’ll find the bus station in the Sānyà Bay area on Jiefang Lu, the main drag. This road morphs into Yuya Lu as it heads into Dàdōnghǎi Bay and Yàlóng Bay. The Sānyà Tour Guide map (¥6) is worth buying from hostels and hotels to get an overview of the area. Also check out the What’s On Sanya website (www.whatsonsanya.com) for events, as well as eating and drinking recommendations.