Must see attractions in Hainan

  • Sights in Haikou

    Mei She Village

    Photogenic Mei She was built out of the rough grey volcanic stone so prevalent in this part of Hainan. Wander the quiet back alleys and gawp at the castle-like, five-storey gun tower in the town centre. It was built in the early 20th century to protect the village from bandits. The village is a 20-minute walk from the Haikou Volcanic Cluster Geopark entrance.

  • Sights in Haikou

    Haikou Old Town

    The pedestrianised streets around Zhongshan Lu are a looking glass into Haikou’s French colonial past, with cobblestone blocks of porticoed row houses – some restored, some charmingly decayed. Though still a work in progress, ‘Old Town’ has some cute cafes, bookshops, and markets hawking handicrafts and spices, while down the smaller side streets you can still see active scenes of local life.

  • Sights in Baoting

    Seven Fairy Mountain

    Seven Fairy Mountain, named for its dramatic seven pinnacles, is found inside Mt Qixian Hot Springs National Forest Park. It’s a three-hour return trip to the top of the first pinnacle along a stepped path through a dense, healthy rainforest buzzing with bird and insect life. The final 100m climb to the peaks runs up a pitted slope with chains and railings in place to aid your near-vertical climb. Purchase tickets at the excessively large park administration building at the entrance.

  • Sights in Bo'ao

    Cai Family Former Residence

    This sprawling, and pleasantly decaying, mansion was built in 1934 by several brothers who made their fortune in the Indonesian rubber industry. The building was abandoned in 1937 after the Japanese invaded Hainan, and later became a guerrilla outpost for resistance fighters. In 2006 it was declared a heritage site and these days you can wander around inside for a look if the caretaker is about.

  • Sights in Sanya

    Houhai Beach

    A crescent-shaped sandy beach about 30km northeast of Dadonghai, Houhai Bay, which is in Tenghai village (滕海村, Ténghǎi Cūn), is the place for those looking to get away from the crowds. Be prepared though: the entrance to Tenghai is also the gateway to Wuzhizhen Island, one of Sanya's major tourist spots, and is extremely busy with cars and coaches parking up for the ferry. Once you're through the crowds, however, Houhai is the most low-key of the Sanya area beaches and a popular place for beginner surfers.

  • Sights in Xinglong

    Xinglong Tropical Garden

    What sounds like another of Hainan’s many tourist traps is actually a surprising retreat: a huge area of lightly tended tropical gardens with a network of paths. Derelict hotels and cafes hidden in the rainforest indicate this was once intended as a major tourist spot, but nowadays you'll have it largely to yourself. In spring, the gardens are full of colourful tropical flowers.

  • Sights in Sanya

    Yalong Bay

    Yalong Bay is the most picture-perfect of Sanya’s beaches, though jet skis and banana boats do buzz through (there are roped-off swimming areas in the shallows). This is resort central, with all the attendant luxuries. Budget travellers will want to head to the main plaza for fast-food and coconut stands.

  • Sights in Haikou

    Haikou Volcanic Cluster Geopark

    While this geopark encompasses about 108 sq km of rural countryside, the main attraction here is a corny tourist park surrounding a (genuinely cool) extinct volcano cone. Make haste past the snack stands and gift kiosks to descend the stairs winding down into the lushly vegetated crater, which feels more like a cave. Then climb back up for luscious views of the countryside all the way to the sea.

  • Sights in Bo'ao

    Bo'ao Temple

    The highlight of this modern Buddhist temple complex, 3km west of the town centre, is the enormous statue of the many-armed and many-headed Guanyin, the towering pagoda, and the views over the delta. After getting the bus out, you can easily walk back to town along the quieter paths that run north of the main road, taking in some of the villages along the way.

  • Sights in Sanya

    Sanya Bay

    The long sandy strip off the city centre at Sanya Bay is where you’ll find crowds of mostly mainland Chinese tourists kicking back. In little covered areas locals play music, sing, write characters in the sand and so on. There’s a long pathway for strolling in the cool evenings, and if the tide is out a little, you can walk on the sand for many kilometres. In the evenings it’s fun to watch the lights on Phoenix Island (the awesome cruise-ship terminal).

  • Sights in Haikou

    Five Officials Memorial Temple

    Hainan wasn't always a desirable holiday destination. In earlier times it was considered a remote part of the Chinese empire and used as a place of banishment for disgraced court officials. This Ming temple is dedicated to five such officials. Famous Song dynasty poet Su Dongpo, banished to Hainan for his 'radical' writing and beliefs, is commemorated here as well. The temple is about 2km southeast of Haikou Park, a short walk from the east bus station.

  • Sights in Haikou

    Hainan Museum

    This modern colossus of a building should be your first stop when you arrive in Hainan. The displays on ethnic minorities, as well as Hainan’s 20th-century history, which included fierce resistance against the Japanese and later Nationalists, are particularly informative (and in English too!). The museum is about 2km southeast of Haikou Park, along the river. Passport required.

  • Sights in Sanya

    Dadonghai Bay

    Dadonghai Bay sports a wider beach than Sanya and has a shaded boardwalk running along most of its length. The setting, in a deep blue bay with rocky headlands, is simply gorgeous, but it does get busy here. At night, half the crowd is knocking back beers and eating crabs at the boardwalk restaurants, while the other half is still bobbing in the sea under the light of the moon.

  • Sights in Shimei Bay & Ri Yue Bay

    Ri Yue Bay

    If you like your ocean slate-blue and reckless (and largely resort free), Ri Yue Bay is for you. Colour is provided by local surfers rather than the usual flotilla of inflatable children’s toys. The beachside restaurant (10am to midnight) run by the friendly people at Jalenboo Surf Club is a good place to hang out.

  • Sights in Shimei Bay & Ri Yue Bay

    Shimei Bay

    With its blue water, golden sand and shady coconut trees, it's no surprise that several large resorts have staked their claim to Shimei Bay. Still, if you're after a little relaxation among affordable luxury you'd do worse than stay here for a couple of days – the Le Méridien resort is a solid choice.

  • Sights in Bo'ao

    Bo'ao Bay

    Bo'ao’s beach is a long, narrow strip of golden sand, just a few hundred metres east of the town’s main road. If you plan to swim, head at least 500m north to avoid dangerous currents. The best stretches are even further north, particularly around the Asia Bay resort hotel. The beach is popular with local kitesurfers.

  • Sights in Haikou

    Dongjiao Coconut Plantation

    This coconut farming community takes up a big chunk of Wenchang County on the northeast coast. Cool, palm-lined lanes wind through traditional villages where locals harvest coconuts and snooze in hammocks. The beach is less spectacular, thanks to construction on the marina. You’ll have to travel far from the entry point, at the Hainan Prima Resort, to find a more scenic stretch.

  • Sights in Haikou

    Tonggu Ridge

    Tonggu Ridge is famous locally for its great views up and down the coast from the top, especially of the moon-shaped beach at Yue Liang Wan’s beach. It’s 3km to the top; there’s a shuttle bus (¥20 round trip, 9am to 6pm) or you can hike along the road (though this is not so pleasant with the buses going up and down).