Hainan: The Asian Hawaii

Traditional circular Hainanese dwellings are juxtaposed against modern amenities

When one mentions Hainan, not many would think about white sandy beaches and golf resorts – Weekender made the trip to tell you why it’s worth discovering

Traditional circular Hainanese dwellings are juxtaposed against modern amenities
Traditional circular Hainanese dwellings are juxtaposed against modern amenities

Like a pearl earring, Hainan Island dangles, unattached from the mainland, from the lowest lobe off Guangdong, China.

A mere three-hour flight away from Singapore, Hainan shares the same latitude as Hawaii, along with the American state’s tropical weather, palm trees, white sandy beaches and pristine, blue waters.
Hainan’s main cities are Haikou, in the North, closer to the mainland, and Sanya, in the South.

The former is Hainan’s oldest city, dating back centuries, and is where most of the trade between the mainland and the island happens. Sanya, however, is relatively modern and is a resort haven for domestic and international travellers.

Clean, fresh air

Hainan is very different from the stereotype of a noisy, polluted and overcrowded China. With a population of 8 million but a land area 46 times the size of Singapore, Hainan has plenty of room for everyone.

Its relative isolation could be a reason why Hainan evolved differently — its only connection to the rest of the world is by flights and ferries.

Hainan is surprisingly clean. The streets are virtually litter-free, the air is clean, and the roads are flanked by tropical trees and colourful, wild flowers.

A Golfer’s Heaven

The beauty of the island’s courses is definitely world class
The beauty of the island’s courses is definitely world class

Nonetheless, it is hot in Hainan. Some of my fellow Singaporean travellers felt that it was hotter than Singapore, but a quick check online suggested that, on average, Hainan is generally a few degrees cooler. It is also less humid here. In winter, the island’s temperature drops to a pleasant 20 degrees Celsius. Perfect for golfing!

Hainan may not have as many golf courses as Hawaii but the beauty of the island’s courses is definitely world class.

Take for instance, The Dunes At Shenzhou Peninsula at Wanning City. Designed by Tom Weiskopf, this 36-hole course lies by the beach and faces the South China Sea and a sweeping mountain range.

Though the scenery is superb from any direction, the upwind from the sea may be quite a challenge for those with weak swings. One night’s stay at a local resort, inclusive of a golf game, is about $350 per person.

For a more upscale experience, the Mission Hills’ Golf Course and Resort in Haikou is spectacular, with ten golf courses housed in one resort.

In fact, this massive area used to be a bed of ancient lava before it was transformed into golf courses, water parks, shopping centres, volcanic spa facilities, hotels and resorts, upscale housing developments, and even a simulated movie town.

The view from the 15th floor of the hotel, where I stayed, was magnificent. On one side was the lush golf courses, on the other, sections with European, Middle Eastern and traditional Chinese roundhouse villas.

Mobile street vendors add to the character of the island
Mobile street vendors add to the character of the island

Movie Town Glamour

Opened in June 2014, the 1,400-acre Movie Town — tickets are about $8 per person — features settings from acclaimed Chinese director Feng Xiaogang’s historical films, including “Back to 1942” and “Tangshan Earthquake”.

The replicas evoke the charm and dignity of the 1940s through the wonderful
montage of traditional and European architectural influences including banks, shops, a belfry and town square. Most of the replicas were inspired by notable buildings in cities such as Chongqing, Wuhan, Nanjing, and Shanghai.

Since this town was designed for movie making, every conceivable angle is photogenic. So prepare for lots of selfies, and come dressed for the period.

Beautiful Beaches – Manicured or Au Naturel

Hainan has balmy beaches reminiscent  of Hawaii
Hainan has balmy beaches reminiscent of Hawaii

As in southern Thailand, the beautiful blue water beaches in Sanya stretch as far as the eye can see.

Unlike Thailand, however, where every section of the beach is maintained by a beachfront resort, much of Hainan’s beige sand beaches are scattered with bits of seaweed, seashells and sea life left from the last high tide. It is disturbing at first, until you realise that this is nature’s pristine state, untouched by commerce.

There are plenty of seaside resorts, such as the Westin Sanya Haitang Bay Resort or the Sheraton Shenzhou Peninsula Resort, where the beachfront is immaculate. You can enjoy lounging on the smooth sand in stylish wicker chaise chairs under colourful umbrellas while watching puffy white clouds drift lazily across the deep blue sky.

Here’s an additional tip: Try to visit Sanya on weekdays, especially during the summer off-peak season. You can avoid the droves of tourists from the mainland and have the whole beach to yourself.

Isn’t that luxurious?

Getting your Hainan Experience Started

For the first timer, it’s probably best to get the full spectrum of the Hainan experience from its food to culture. ASA Holidays has a great eight-day package with chartered flights on SilkAir. Here are some highlights that you can experience with ASA Holidays:

A wealth of local flavours

  • Get the opportunity to try Hainan’s four most famous dishes, including Wenchang Chicken and Jiaji Duck.
  • Sample Qionghai and Chengmai local cuisine, and possibly dine in one of the local villages.
  • Try Hainan ethnic minority cuisines from the Li or Miao people
  • Enjoy the iconic coconut dishes and fisherman’s meal
  • Partake in a traditional Taoist vegetarian meal

Memorable activities in Hainan

  • Catch crabs with Hainan’s “Dan” fishermen
  • Stroll along beautiful Qingshui Bay and enjoy the morning sun
  • Pick fresh vegetables at the Green Farm Garden
  • Frolic with the Li ethnic tribesmen in song and dance and try your hand at weaving Li cotton the traditional way

Enjoy fascinating scenery and attractions

  • The replica of a 1940s city in Movie Town Haikou is must-see
  • Tour the scenic Ganza Ridge Areca Valley, the home of Hainan’s ethnic people
  • Check out the volcanic rock coast in Nanbo Bay Marine Park
  • Visit the mangrove wetlands in Chengmai’s Nature Reserve
  • While in Chengmai, check out the famous Hainan Yongqing Temple
  • Stroll through Hainan’s largest rose gardens in Yalong Bay Rose Village
  • Visit Hainan’s coffee plantation at Fushan Coffee Cultural town

Be sure to dip your toes in the blue waters off Hainan’s famous and wonderful beaches during your free-and-easy time. Cheers!

For more information about ASA Holidays’ tour package to Hainan, please call 6303 5333.


By Frank Young

ASA Holidays has chartered flights to Sanya on SilkAir weekly, and can help to organise golfing holidays. If you have more enquiries or would like to book a travel package, come down to ASA Holidays’ Pre-NATAS Travel Fair at Suntec Mall, West Atrium, Level 1, from 24-26 Jul, 10am-9.30pm.
Attractive destination gifts available.

Weekender would like to thank SilkAir for providing Business Class tickets to Sanya, as well as Mangrove Tree Resort, Ramada Wanning Resort, Ramada Plaza Sanya, and Mission Hills Resort for their hospitality.