Fall in love with the natural beauty of this island paradise in China's Hainan province

Sanya in China's Hainan province was once where officials ran foul of the law were exiled to. Today, the tropical island city has completely reinvented itself. It styles itself after Hawaii and aims to become a luxury destination to rival Bali and Phuket. With several high-end resorts, a tropical climate and unspoilt, palm-fringed beaches, it does have the right mix.

Getting There, How To Go To Sanya?

What is the best way to get to Sanya

There are plenty of choices. You could fly Singapore Airlines to Guangzhou and take a domestic flight from there to Sanya. Or you could fly in from Hong Kong. If you prefer budget travel, take Tiger Airways from Singapore to Haikou, in Hainan island. I would suggest taking a bus from the South Station in Haikou to Sanya. Travelling by bus gives you a chance to appreciate the beauty and landscape of Hainan province.

Getting Around Sanya

The best way to explore Sanya is by...

Hiring a car and driving around yourself, but you need to have a valid China driving licence. Since most Singaporean visitors might not have that, I would suggest hiring a taxi.

What is the best time to visit Sanya?

The best time to visit Sanya is from December to March.

What is the weather like in Sanya?

I enjoy Sanya's nightlife. One of my favourite places is Sky Bar in Hai Yun Road for drinks and dancing. For dinner and drinks with friends, I like to visit the Rainbow Bar in Da Dong Hai (Tel: +86-898-8860-0553). It is located next to a river and is a great spot to relax and enjoy your drinks while watching the flowing water.

Cultural Stops

The entire city has so much to offer, where does one start?

Start at the Nanshan Temple, which is 40km from Sanya. The Nanshan Temple is one of the key attractions in the Nanshan Culture Tourism Zone. Spread over an area of 26.7 ha, it is one of the biggest Buddhist preaching sites established since the founding of the Republic of China. Nestling at the foot of Nanshan, the temple was completed on April 12, 1998. That date also marked the 2,000th anniversary of the arrival of Buddhism in China.

Your favourite cultural stop is ...

Li and Miao Minority Village, which is located about 28km from Sanya. It has a beautiful garden covered with betel nut trees. This is a native plant of Hainan Island. Betel nut, also known as pinang or areaca nut, is the seed of the betel palm. The tall palm with shallow roots looks quite similar to the coconut tree.

Wuzhizhou Island

Once you have visited the temple, I would recommend a visit to Wuzhizhou Island, a smaller island off Hainan. A paradise within a paradise, Wuzhizhou Island is located in Haitang Bay and is about 40km north-east of Sanya. Wuzhizhou Island is also known as Valentine's Island because many couples go there to take an oath of everlasting love. Legend has it that one day a young fisherman met a pretty girl on this island and fell in love with her. The girl was the daughter of the Dragon King, who found out about their affair and locked her in the palace.

The girl escaped to meet her sweetheart. When the Dragon King found out, he turned them into two big stones, which are still on the island. Legends aside, Wuzhizhou Island has a tropical maritime climate which is warm and agreeable all year round. It has pristine beaches which offer spectacular views of the mountains in the background.

Nantian Hot Spring Resort

Pearl River Nantian Hot Spring is a 20 minute drive from Sanya. It is also known as China's No 1 hot spring. The average temperature of the thermal mineral water is 57 deg C and the silicon acid, fluorine and radon in the water has led to many health spas opening there. There are 36 spa pools of various shapes and purposes set amid coconut groves. The place also has a children pool, which makes this a great place for families to relax in.

Guanyin Statue

Another attraction is the Guanyin of the South Sea Statue in Sanya. The 108m tall statue of the Goddess of Mercy stands at the edge of the South China Sea and is said to be one of the tallest statues in the world. Sanya has got what it takes to become a luxury destination, with its tourist attractions such as the gesturing hand in front of the Guanyin of the South Sea Statue. If you like sea, the tropical island city can rival Bali and Phuket.

Festival Town

Any key festivals to work into one's travel plans?

If you can, visit during the March 3 Traditional Festival, also known as the Hainan Happy Festival. I like the festive spirit during that time. Celebrations are held in different parts of the city. You can see various folk dances, eat at food bazaars and shop at handicraft stalls.

Shopping in Sanya

The best bargains are at...

The First Market, which is the best place to shop with the locals. The market is separated into two parts. The first one is like a pasar malam selling clothes, handicraft and local products. The second part, which I find quite fun, is a seafood wet market. You get some of the best raw seafood here. The market is located at the junction of Xinjian Road and Sanya River West Road. Finding it should be no problem, it is a landmark in Sanya.

The richest variety of products can be found at ...

Da Dong Hai Square which is a tourist centre like the Patong area in Phuket. You can get a range of handicrafts, beach wear and some food as well. You need great bargaining skills to shop here.

Food in Sanya

Trying famous dishes such as Wenchang chicken, Jiaji duck, Dongshan lamb and Hele crab. Wenchang chicken, a meaty variety of chicken from Wenchang City, is boiled and cut into pieces. It is eaten with a dip made with minced ginger, salt and other spices. The chicken is plump but not greasy and is a delicacy. It is served with fragrant Hainan chicken rice. Jiaji duck is best enjoyed the traditional way, boiled in water, diced, then eaten with a mixture of vinegar, chopped ginger and sesame oil. Hele crab, which is named after Hele Town in Hainan, is one of the most well-known local specialities in the province. The best way to cook the crab is by steaming it. It is tasty and succulent.

Haiya Restaurant

The best place to try these dishes is the Haiya Restaurant which is located in Sanya River West Road. It is not a fancy restaurant but the dishes are great. Depending on what you order, expect to pay anything between $10 and $20.

The best breakfast is ...

Yangsheng congee. You can get this nourishing congee made with various grains at the Changyu Yangsheng Congee restaurant. This is located at the junction of Sanya River West Road and Yuejing Road (Tel: +86-898-8836-9666)

The best dinner is at ...

The Saffron Restaurant at the Banyan Tree (Tel: +86 898-8860-9988) which serves Thai dishes. I love its signature Thai appetiser, Khong Wang Ruammit, which has grilled chicken satay, crispy fried noodles, tamarind sauce, as well as Sanya lobster spring rolls. I would also recommend Pla Gao Yum Mamuang. This is a crispy fried grouper served with a spicy local green mango salad. You would not want to miss the Tom Yum Goong, a traditional spicy prawn soup. To complete your meal, do not forget to ask for fresh cocnut juice.

What are some of your other favourite food spots?

I like Cantonese food very much and i frequent the Shui He Tian restaurant. It is located in Phoenix Road, opposite Bailu Park. The food here costs about S$25 per person (Tel: +86-898-8888-1288) For Hunan Food, I like to go to He Tang Shui Xie, which is near Sanya Bridge. The food here costs about $8 per person (Tel: +86-898-8887-7771).

What's the one must try drink in Sanya town?

Coconut milk, made of fresh coconut and milk. You can get it in various parts of town. It is very refreshing.

What's the coolest place to chill out at?

Sky Bar and Rainbow Bar.

The one place you always take your friends to is...

The Rainbow Bar at the riverside.

Your Favourite Drink is...

Long Island Tea.

Is there a Clarke Quay equivalent?

Not at the moment.

Any other sites that would appeal to Singaporeans?

Explore the natural tropical forest at Seven Fairies Mountain. You can go for a walk or hike while enjoying the beautiful mountain landscape.

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