I think I’m in Paradise; I’m gazing at a palm fringed, white sand beach. In the distance there’s the gentle buzzing of water skiers and the like bobbing up and down on the pure, turquoise waters, while nearer to shore rainbow-coloured marine creatures dart in and out of a coral reef, just dodging the snorkelers.
A butler has brought me a fruit cocktail, and I have just experienced the best massage of my life. And to think I thought China was all about busy city centres, the Great Wall, and prawn crackers.
Known as “China’s Hawaii”, Hainan Island is the southernmost of China’s provinces and sits just across the Gulf of Tonkin from Vietnam. Originally a place of exile for disgraced Chinese officials, Hainan developed an air of mystery and frontier spirit, which attracted poets and artists to the island. (Source: http://wikitravel.org/en/Hainan) Today, it is fast becoming a luxurious travel destination that is justifiably compared to Thailand because of its stunning coastline and tropical climate.
I am here courtesy of the Hainan Island Tourism Board along with other wedding industry professionals and ten ecstatic engaged couples, who won the trip of a lifetime in a Facebook competition.
We are based in Sanya, the most desirable tourist destination on Hainan, for five days and four nights – our itinerary is busy while we’re here, in order to experience the very best of what the region has to offer.
First stop was to attend Sanya Destination Wedding Expo where the winners of the honeymoon competition where given a warm welcome on stage.
See what the winner of the Facebook honeymoon competition got up to on Hainan Island – Sanya.
Sanya is deservedly becoming one of the hottest spots to visit in Asia, and its two main bays, Yalong and Sanya Bay, provide the best of both worlds for holiday-goers and for destination weddings and honeymooners alike.
The busier, bustling Yalong Bay is a crescent shape which provides a perfect home for a kaleidoscopic array of marine life within the beautifully preserved coral reefs. Yalong is a hub of world-class hotels, stylish bars, shops, markets, and water sports. Alternatively, its neighbour Sanya Bay is a serene, astoundingly beautiful 14 mile stretch of beach renowned for its tangible atmosphere of romance.
Sanya Bay is famous for the ‘Long Corridor’ where the coconut trees that stretch along the beach are illuminated during the night, creating a corridor effect. If strolling hand-in-hand down the long corridor in the moonlight isn’t quite enough romance for some couples, then there’s the remarkable Guojianglong Rope Bridge, which traverses a valley 40 metres below, and stretches 100 metres from shore to shore. Known as “Lovers Bridge”, it is thought that when lovers walk over the bridge holding hands, they will be together forever…
Mother Nature and a brilliant tourism board have combined to amazing effect in Hainan. The unbelievable landscape has been perfectly complemented by a thriving tourism industry, with activities on offer to suit all tastes, ranging from the adventurous (think vertiginous rope bridges, monkey island, and water sports) to the relaxing (think golf, shopping, and a trip to the spa).
Then there’s the world class 5 star hotels. We have the chance to experience three of Hainan’s 5 Star Luxury Hotels; Banyan Tree Sanya, where we stayed for two nights, Intercontinental Sanya and The Sheraton in Haikou Resort,
Wedding ceremonies are offered in a large proportion of the hotels along Sanya’s gorgeous coastline, and given the increasing popularity of the island as a wedding and honeymoon destination, many hotels are now offering bespoke bride and groom packages, featuring beach view rooms, private pools, and butler services, and massage and spa facilities.
Whether for a full blown destination wedding, heavenly honeymoon, or quiet elopement (although good luck sneaking off to Sanya, once your nearest and dearest find out where you’re going, try stopping them from joining you) the bays of this beautiful island seamlessly offer something for everyone, in the sorts of hotels where everything you need is provided, before you know you need it.
Take a look through our hot list of the hows, whens, whys, and whos of planning a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the jewel of China’s many provinces.
How to get there:
Travel from London Heathrow International Airport to Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, then from there to Sanya Fenghuang International Airport. Go First Class with China Southern, and seize the opportunity to spend some time in the Sky Priority Lounge; the perfect way to start a luxury holiday as you mean to go on.
When to go:
Sanya has a tropical climate and the sun shines virtually every day of the year. The hottest month is June, although the weather can be somewhat unsettled at this time. There is a risk of typhoons between the months of May and September, so the best time to visit Sanya is between the months of November and March as the weather is both warm and settled, ideal for weddings and honeymooners.
What to do:
Animal lovers can take a trip to Yalong Bay’s Tropical Forest, home to a huge amount of wildlife. Be sure to look out for the Asian Dragon Bay Butterfly which can be seen in this forest and, sometimes, along Yalong Bay itself. In addition, animal enthusiasts can take a visit to the 1,000 hectare Nanwan Monkey Island which is home to over 2000 macaque monkeys, a state protected animal in China. This is the largest area in China that is used for raising and training monkeys. The reserve also has the longest transoceanic ropeway in China and is a must for thrill seekers.
For golf fans, Sanya Sun Valley Golf club has recently opened. This golf course is 7,875 yards and is becoming a must-visit course within the golf industry.
Another of Sanya’s most enticing charms is the bustling night market where you can haggle with the market traders and enjoy feeling like a Sanya local. The market sells everything from seafood to souvenirs so you can be sure to catch a bargain or two.
What to see:
Sanya is an important part of China’s history and visitors can widen their knowledge of Buddhism and Chinese history by visiting the Nanshan Culture Tourism Zone, located 40 kilometres south-west of Sanya City.
This tourism zone features three parks: Buddhism Culture, Park, Blessing and Longevity Park and Hainan Custom Culture Park. A sight well worth seeing is the breathtaking Guanyin Statue of Hainan which stands at 108 metres tall and took six years to build, officially opening in 2005, and is the fourth tallest statue in the world.
Eat, drink and be merry:
Sanya is renowned for its high-quality seafood. Local specialities include abalone, sea cucumbers and sea urchins which, are extremely rare worldwide. There is a number of award winning seafood restaurants scattered along the coastline to include Resort Golden Palm, Resort Horizon, Gloria Resort and Sheraton Resort. In addition, you can sample the beautiful Chinese cuisine and enjoy many famous dishes including Wenchang chicken, Dongshan lamb and, of course, plenty of fresh noodles.
Alternatively, if you are visiting Sanya on a budget, you can buy the local specialities at a market, and the locals will only be too willing to advise you on the best method of cooking the produce.
There are a number of bars dotted around Sanya offering local specialities, cocktails and evening entertainment. Many bars overlook the beach making them the perfect spot for cocktails at sunset.
If you can see the world renowned Li and Miao performers – these hypnotic dancers, whose origins are right here on Hainan, have travelled the globe with their award-winning folkloric Chinese art form, so it was a pleasure and a privilege to see them here in their home country. More proof, if needed, that Hainan is truly one of the most unique and magical places on earth.
Romantic Award Ceremony and Banquet.
The finale of our trip was to attend Romantic Hainan Award Ceremony and Banquet, held at the Sheraton Haikou Resort with the 10 winning couples from around the world. This ceremony was attended by officials and tourism industry Top management. With wonderful food, drinks and music, and a Chinese wedding themed party, some couples as seen below wearing the Yi minority costume.
Where to stay:
Banyan Tree Sanya
This gorgeous, atmospheric resort delivers first class facilities with an Eastern charm, in the most intimate of settings.
The Banyan Tree Resort comprises 49 private pool-side villas cradled in the Luhuitou Bay, which is deservedly nicknamed “Lovers Bay” by locals. With other facilities such as meeting rooms, a banquet room, a ballroom, al fresco restaurant (offering private beach dining), wonderful massage and spa facilities, and recreational activities, this resort offers a hotel spirit with the luxury of private accommodation.
For the perfect Oriental wedding with a touch of tropical flair, look no further than the Banyan Tree Resort.
Intercontinental Sanya Resort
Whether for your wedding day, honeymoon, romantic getaway, or family holiday of a lifetime, the Intercontinental has all your needs catered for.
You can feel like royalty in the most modern and luxurious surroundings, enjoy the spa and recreation facilities, wine and dine in splendour, with exceptional staff attending to your every need.
Weddings at CLUB INTERCONTINENTAL
The venue is equipped for weddings, and the facilities are world class, from the décor to the food to the staff. If it’s a family holiday you’re planning, or inviting guests with children to join you on your big day, the Intercontinental has activities, play areas, and childcare staff for children of different ages.
The Seraton Haiko Resort
Sheraton Haikou Resort is a magnificent beachfront resort, just 10 minutes away from the heart of the city. 40 minutes drive to Meilan International Airport. 2 international golf courses within a few minutes’ drive.
With over 1,300 square meters of meeting and celebrating. Sheraton Haikou Resort can accommodate events and special occasions from 10 to 600 guests. Including 2 pillarless ballrooms, 5 function rooms and a VIP room offer the functionality of breakout rooms for larger events or can be utilised for more intimate gatherings.
Hainan Island, China is a wonderful place not just for a holiday but a place that we would recommend as a wedding and honeymoon destination. If you are looking for great weather, white sandy beaches, good food, and adventure or simply a romantic getting away then do check out what this beautiful Island has to offer.