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Sanya - Life's a Beach, but Which One?
Ah, the life! Sun, sea, sand, waves gently toppling over, a tube of SPF 30, a stiffening breeze, the warm, red glow on the back of your eyelids.... Here is a quickie guide to Sanya's main beaches.
A 22km crescent of beach that fronts Sanya City and runs westwards towards the airport. Hotels and apartment blocks run the full length of it, separated from the sea by the main beach road.
The city end sees nightly square dancing, is blighted by dune buggies and motorcycle taxis and the water quality there is poor. Both beach and water quality improve towards the westward end, where highlights include the Kempinski Hotel (one of our Sanya favourites) and the Holiday Inn.
The beach itself is relatively wild and undeveloped. Watersports on offer close to the Holiday Inn include sailing and windsurfing. Windsurfing equipment for hire there is better than in Dadonghai, but still decidedly basic.
One of Sanya Bay's greatest assets is its position. It is the only beach in Sanya where you'll catch a sunset over the sea.
Verdict: Run it, walk it, windsurf it, or smooch in a hotel beach bar at sundown.
A 2.3km south-facing bay said by some to be vaguely reminiscent of Hawaii's Waikiki Beach. This the most popular beach with Russians and Sanya residents, mainly because it has more of a community beyond the beach and hotels. Hotel occupancy rates here also tend to be higher than at other beaches.
Beach bars and restaurants run the length of the wood decking that lines the beach, and despite extensive development in recent years, the compact Dadonghai area has enough of its own shops, bars, clubs, fruit stalls and barbecue stands to give it the feel of a small town set apart by hills from the rest of Sanya city.
The beach is crowded with diving schools at the western end and is rumoured to have a nudist section at the far eastern end. In between, you will usually find all manner of life including - but not restricted to - swimming, diving, volleyball, jetskis, surfing (in Summer), a reverse bungee, karaoke, massage, inflated tubes for walking on water, windsurfing, sailing (a small catamaran), towed parachutes, inflatable bananas, and multi-generational families (child, parents, both sets of grandparents, second great aunt, etc.) all proudly dressed in matchingly-loud Hawaiian flower suits.
When you have taken in all that Dadonghai has to offer, you'll be grateful for the chance to lie down in the shade on one of the many beach chairs (25 yuan per day).
Verdict: Life and soul of the party.
This small beach lies on the headland between Sanya Bay and Dadonghai, and is the quiet and secluded home to the wonderful Banyan Tree Resort.
This little-used, sandy beach is just a five minute taxi ride from Dadonghai, with all of the shops, clubs, restaurants and mad life on offer there.
Verdict: Away from it all but close to the action.
This 7.5 km strip of white sand, a forty minute drive from Sanya City, is the jewel in the crown of the Sanya travel industry.
Home to China's premier strip of five-star beach resorts - including the Ritz-Carlton, the Hilton, the Sheraton and the Marriott - Yalong Bay is an ideal place to be tanned, fed, entertained, pampered and pressed while you lounge in contemplation of dazzling beachscapes and brilliantly-designed infinity pools. The resorts also offer the full range of boating, sailing and diving.
The downside to Yalong Bay is that it was developed exclusively as a resort area, and there is very little life beyond the confines of the hotels. You can hotel hop if your own hotel restaurants start to pall, but don't expect to pop out to buy a cheese-grater or an onion or soak up the local atmosphere.
Verdict: Luxury divine
Shimei Bay and Riyue Bay
These two adjacent beaches are about an hour's drive up the East coast from Sanya City. Although Riyue Bay has its charms (great surf, a good dumpling shop and the famous Mama's restaurant), the various pigs, chickens, ponies and camels that roam on the beach make it less than idyllic.
On the other hand , Shimei Bay, home to the brand new Le Méridien Resort, is a whole different story. Apart from this resort, the beach there is almost entirely virgin territory - a huge stretch of pristine sand with barely a soul upon it. It is gloriously quiet, the sea is clean, and the beach offers some of Hainan's best surf in the winter months. The area is also well supplied with golf courses.
Verdict: Can't believe it's China.
Push the Boat Out
Big bad boats, boards, bikes and Wabobas. Sanya's fun in the sun.