Feature: Cycling Hainan

Hǎinán is a great destination for recreational touring. You’re rarely more than an hour from a village with food and water, and never more than a few hours from a town with a decent hotel. At the same time, you’ll find most of your riding is out in nature or through pretty farming valleys, not urban sprawl. Roads, even to minor villages, are generally in excellent condition (and new ones are being created regularly). Preparation time for a tour can be minimal.

Around Haikou

A network of narrow, paved lanes connect the picturesque villages around the Hǎikǒu Volcanic Cluster Geopark, which are perfect for a day or afternoon trip. Velo China runs short, one- to three-hour cycling tours (free with the cost of bicycle rental, which starts at ¥80) that leave daily at 9am and 3pm from in front of the Mission Hills Resort; for reservations call %0898 6868 3888.

East Coast

The most popular of the multiday routes, because it is largely flat, runs from Hǎikǒu to Sānyà along the eastern highway, covering about 300km. The main road runs somewhat inland, though, so if you want to strike out along the coast, you’ll need a good map to follow the small roads that run to the seaside villages.

Central Highlands

This is the most spectacular ride, if you have the stamina for it. The central highway, which runs 300km from Hǎikǒu to Sānyà via Wǔzhǐshān, has a good shoulder most of the way, and allows for endless side trips up small country roads and stops in tiny villages.

After a day riding through the lush Túnchāng County valley, the route climbs into some fine hill country around Shíyùn (什运). The village, 32km southwest of Qióngzhōng, sits on a grassy shelf above a river and is worth a look around. Local cyclists recommend the 42km side trip from here up a wooded canyon to Báishā (白沙). The major towns in this area are Túnchāng (屯昌) and Qióngzhōng (琼中), the latter a major settlement for the Miao.

After Shíyùn you can look forward to a long climb (at least 10km), followed by a long fast descent into Wǔzhǐshān. If you are continuing on to Sānyà, the road is one long, steep downhill after the turn-off to Bǎotíng.

Bicycle Rental

If you’re not bringing your own wheels, you can rent decent-quality mountain bikes at Hǎikǒu Banana Youth Hostel from ¥30 a day. The hostel’s website has detailed information on cycling Hǎinán. Velo China also rents mountain and touring bicycles (from ¥80/500 per day/week) and can arrange custom tours with English-speaking guides. Six-day tours, which include hotel accommodation, bicycle rental and maintenance, picnic lunch and insurance, start at ¥2860 per person person.

Maps

Road maps are available at Xīnhuá Bookstore in Hǎikǒu. It’s worth noting that people in Hǎinán call bikes dānchē. Buses will accept bicycles in the hold but trains require you to box them up.