This is sponsored content for Hainan Tourism.
Hainan is China's secret tropical island getaway, a beloved retreat for locals who want to swap the mainland toil for some sand, sun and sea. This is China's answer to Hawaii, a tropical escape that may belong to central China, but feels like another country, a world away.
Just off the coast of the province of Guangdong, Hainan manages to be a beach lover's paradise with coconut palm-lined sand leading to the inviting waters of the South China Sea – but it is also a great place for foodies, urban explorers and culture buffs the minute you step back from the coast.
The best place to grab a slice of Hainan beach life is at Sanya where secluded inlets like Yalong Bay and Baifu Bay play host to a range of water activities. Here are the top five water activities to dive into:
Hit the surf
Surfing at Sun and Moon Bay. Photo: Supplied
Have you ever surfed waves that have been whipped up by a typhoon? That is just one of the draws of surfing the waters of Hainan. On a normal day in Hainan you might get a 1-2 metre swell but in typhoon season, from June to September, waves range from 3-5 metres. Riyue Bay, also known as Sun and Moon Bay, is located in the province of Wanning and hosts Hainanese surfing events like the International Surfing Festival. The beaches of Hainan also have more gentle spots, surf clubs and friendly locals.
Dive below the waves
An island off an island, petite West Island on the western side of Sanya offers some of the region's best snorkelling. The protected coral reefs that ring West Island are part of a marine nature reserve, so expect great visibility and a huge array of marine life. The year-round warmth of the South China Sea is also a draw for deep-sea divers who head to the clear waters of Baifu Bay, the calm coral reefs of Dadonghai Beach, and the fish migration hotspot that is Sunny Bay.
Relax in a hot spring
Mission Hills Resort in Haikou. Photo: Supplied
Beyond the beach, you will find canoodling couples, stressed-out executives and surfed-out board riders hitting the area's famous hot springs. There is a thriving hot spring culture in Hainan and everyone has their favourite spot for a soak, but for sheer size and the occasional "WTF" moment you can't beat Mission Hills Hot Spring. Here you will find a Roman amphitheatre-like main spa with over 160 themed pools surrounding it. The hot springs have a continental theme so you may bathe with ancient Egyptian statues, sit in Amazonian caves or share a pool with carved tigers. The pools are open late into the night too, so skip dessert for a post-dinner dip.
Chase the catch of the day
You need only stroll the beachside restaurants to see the host of local seafood that is on offer in Hainan, but why not catch it yourself like many of the local anglers in Sanya. Throw in a line from the sand or take a boat out for some deep-sea fishing at hotspots like East Islet and West Islet. Then bring back your catch for a beachside barbecue.
Fenjiezhou Island in Sanya Bay. Photo: Supplied
The beaches along the Sanya coast take their seaside fun to whole new levels with a variety of ways to get you off your towel and out into the ocean. You can see what it feels like to actually fly with hydrogliding where you have huge jets of water strapped to your feet, propelling you through, and out of, the seawater. You can hire watercraft like jet skis, banana boats and even a power water skateboard at many of Sanya's hotspots. Or for a slower pace try the SUP or jump in a sea kayak.
Whether you are a swimmer, a snorkeller or you just love to curl up on the beach with a good book, knowing a cocktail and some amazing street food are nearby, Sanya has what you are looking for.
This article has been produced in association with Hainan Tourism.
Direct flights are available from Sydney-Haikou & Melbourne-Haikou. Upon arrival in Haikou, high-speed rail is available for travellers visiting Sanya and other island locations.
For more information on flights to Hainan, see https://hainanairlines.com