Hainan Travel Guide
Hainan Island Guide
Hainan island is characterized by a tropical climate, a relaxed pace of life, and plentiful beaches. Outside Haikou, the capital city, Hainan is relatively undeveloped. Travel a short distance outside the city and you will find villages where people lead a traditional farming way of life in lush green countryside. Around the coastal regions are many beaches. Adventurous travelers who explore can find many unspoilt, natural beaches, unpopulated by tourists. The inner area of the island features jungle and mountains and are good areas for hiking and mountain biking.
Haikou City - the capital of Hainan
Haikou is a fairly large tropical city and the capital of Hainan. It is the business and transport centre of the island and a major port. It is a relaxed kind of place. Expect long breaks around lunch time and for shops to be open till late in the evening. Indeed Haikou is perhaps at its most lively at 10pm in the evening with many people outside along the streets eating, drinking and shopping.
Haikou city has many faces: Palm tree lined streets; modern skyscraper city scapes; traditional chinese Hutongs; bustling fishing ports/markets; and long beaches. As a major city, it has all modern facilities including bars, night-clubs, banks that accept foreign cads, and good transport links.
South Hainan - Sanya County
Sanya (in Hainanese, Tam A, pronounced "Dumb Ah") is the tropical resort at the southern end of Hainan that everyone seems to be going to. If you like beach resorts and tropical weather, it's a great place to go, but expect crowds of tourists, particularly at peak seasons. Don't forget, there is a lot more to Hainan than Sanya...
North-East Hainan - Wenchang County
Wenchang (Hainanese Ven Sio, pronounced "Vun Syo"), to the east of Haikou on the northeastern corner of the island, is the centre of Han settlement and the place where standard Hainanese is spoken. It is also one of the main sources of Hainanese migration overseas. The Song sisters were born here. The main attractions here are the Dongjiao Coconut Plantations and Tonggu Mountain Reserve.
East Hainan - Qionghai County
This area, centred on the city of Qionghai (Hainanese Heng Hai, pronounced "Heng High"), is emerging as a rival to the Southeast Coast (namely Xinglong Hot Springs), siphoning off some of the tourist traffic (especially Chinese tourist groups) that makes its way single-mindedly from Haikou to Sanya.
The small coastal town of Boao (Hainanese Bak Ngao, pronounced "Buck Gow") wins a lot of local traffic on the strength of its role as permanent site of the Boao Forum for Asia. Recognising Boao's distinctive dynamic, the Hainan provincial government has now more than doubled the area of the "Boao Aquapolis", expanding it southward to take in the coastal beaches of Wanning city.
The South-east, covers Xinglong with its hot springs, botanical gardens, local coffee, and Indonesian theme park (and many young women plying their trade, a fact that tends to be glossed over by the guide books), Lingshui County, Wanning County. Dongshan Range and Nanwan Monkey Island attract bus loads of tourists. The area's promise has been blighted by haphazard tourist development, but it still has mountainous, forests, and coasts that are worth checking out.
The mountainous centre of Hainan is certainly worth exploring. Travel to the centre of Hainan and you can find beautiful rural landscapes, mountains, waterfalls, small towns, and minority villages.
If traveling from north to south, Qiongzhong (137 km from Haikou) is when you really start to enter the centre of Hainan. Travel on to Wuzhishan (a further 75 km south) and perhaps try some trips into the surrounding mountains and villages. Baoting is an attractive town further south. The nearby hot springs at Seven Fairy Mountain make a good relaxation place after a hard days cycle. Each of these 3 towns have Chinese hotels to stay at, but no hostels. The centre includes: Qiongzhong, Wuzhishan, Baoting, & Baisha Counties.
The West Coast and South-West Coast of Hainan are some of the least travelled places on the island. Poor and left behind by the development on other parts of Hainan, somehow it occurs to very few people to come and have a look. Which, for some, is all the more reason you should want to! Western Hainan is inhabited mainly by the Li minority and has its own brand of natural beauty, including some of Hainan's only remaining virgin forests. The area includes Chanjiang, Dongfang, and Ledong Counties.
Some attractions include: Jianfeng Ridge and Forest Reserve, Qizi Bay, & Bawang Nature Reserve, home of the Hainan gibbon.
Not many tourists pass through this part of Hainan. The most prominent attraction in Danzhou is the ancient Dongpo Academy of Classical Learning, established in memory of the celebrated Song dynasty Chinese poet Su Dongpo, who was exiled here by the government. The main language spoken in much of this area is Linggao, not Hainanese.
Surfing in Hainan
An emerging sport in Hainan, there are now regular International surf competions and festivals. There is also an orgainsation that gives lessons and rent boards.
Cycling in Hainan
Cycling has become a popular activity on Hainan. Both Chinese and foreigners enjoy exploring Hainan by bike. Maybe you just want to cycle a few kilometers in the afternoon, or perhaps your planning a trip to cycle around Hainan Island. Either way this section contains some useful information.
Getting to Hainan
There are 3 main ways to get to Hainan Island: plane, train & bus. There are frequent flights from all major Chinese cities and Hong-Kong to Haikou airport. Trains and buses are much cheaper and can be taken from the Guandong province and all over the Chinese mainland. These are loaded on to ferries to cross over the sea to the island.
Transport on Hainan Island
This page gives information about the transport options availiable within Hainan Island for travellers, backpackers and tourists. The main way to travel around Hainan is bus and the high speed Haikou-Sanya train.
Within cities/towns/villages you can get around by bus, taxi, motorbike, motorised tricycle, and pedal tricycle. There are good roads linking the major towns, but these turn into bumpy dirt roads in less traveled areas (some of these roads are the most beautiful, surrounded by tropical scenery and small traditional villages, leading you into the unknown).
For information on getting to/from Hainan see the 'Getting To Hainan' page.
Flyin Circus Kiteboarding offer lessons, equipment hire and transport around Hainan. They have kiteboarding courses for beginners to advanced and have certified instructors. Flyin Circus offer kiteboarding trips all year round and will take you which ever part of Hainan has the best wind conditions for you.
To find out more you can visit their website: http://www.flyincircus.com/
Renting a car or motorbike on Hainan
Q: Is it possible for a foreigner to rent a car in Haikou?
A: Yes it is possible to rent a car in Haikou. Prices start from around 150 RMB per day, with a deposit of around 3000 RMB. If you want a driver, expect to pay atleast an extra 50 RMB per day. It is not easy to rent a car if you don't have a Chinese driving license. We do not keep an updated list of car rental companies in Haikou. We suggest searching Baidu.com for "rent car Haikou" in Chinese characters. Another starting point would be the Chinese website www.58.com.
Q: I want to rent a motorbike and drive around Hainan, is it possible?
A: It is normally easier to buy a motorbike rather than rent one because there are no rental shops in Haikou. However, several guests have manged to rent a motorbike from motorbike taxi drivers. You could buy a second hand motorbike from around 1000 RMB. You can ask at motorbike repair shops for second hand motorbikes, or around the East Lake area of Haikou, near to Haikou Park and the old town. A new motorbike would start from around 3000 RMB. You could try to sell the bike after your adventure. Various guests from the hostel have done this.
History, People, Geography, & Economy of Hainan
A tropical island the size of Taiwan, Hainan is located in the South China Sea. Like islands everywhere, it is a compact unity in itself, a small world of its own away from the grand scale and shifting boundaries of the continent. Like many islands it is a comfortable sort of place, isolated from the currents that have periodically raged in the centres of power.
For a long time Hainan was remarkable only for its intractable indigenous inhabitants and its role as a destination for exiled politicians from the Chinese Mainland. For many people, including many who live there, Hainan is nothing more than a Sun Belt location where life is easy and doesn't make too many demands on the intellect. The concept that Hainan has its own culture or history fails to make much impression in the indolent atmosphere of the tropical resort.