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Holiday Guide: Top Sights and Activities in Sanya

Living in China can leave anyone who grew up going to the beach on holiday or at weekends feeling slightly homesick. For sure, Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia have some other-worldly beaches, but they aren’t always convenient (or affordable) to get to for a quick break or a long stay.

But don’t worry! Sanya is here to lift your holiday mood and cure your homesickness.

Located at the bottom of Hainan Island, it is the southernmost point in China, about 200 kilometers across the South China Sea from the famed beach town of Da Nang in Vietnam. This means there is plenty of sun, sand, clear water, fresh air, and cool breezes available year-round.

Sanya’s location is convenient to access from virtually any part of China, so it is probably, if not, a perfect holiday destination, especially when the cold has set in the Northern part of China. Without further ado, let’s go through Pacific Prime’s list of top sights and activities in and around Sanya.

Hit the Beach on Yalong Bay

Sanya- Yalong Bay


Yalong Bay is about 15 kilometers east of Sanya town, but well worth the 20 to 30-minute bus or taxi ride to get there. While Sanya is lively and bustling with tourists, beach hawkers, seafood stalls, bars and clubs, and traffic, Yalong Bay feels quiet and remote.

This seven-kilometer stretch of white sand was virtually undiscovered five years ago. But as soon as the domestic tourism industry started to boom, Yalong Beach was quickly scouted by international luxury hotel chains for its quiet, relaxed, uninhabited surroundings.

Even for a day-long trip, Yalong won’t disappoint. It offers wide sandy beaches without the rowdy hectic atmosphere of Sanya, and its calm, clear blue water rivals many of the best beaches in Asia for both natural beauty and cleanliness.

While a stay in many of these hotels is quite pricey, there are more budget-friendly options just across the main road that runs the length of the beach; best of all, the beach is public – so it can be fully enjoyed no matter the room rate.

See the Butterflies

The Yalong Bay Butterfly Valley is a good start for a holiday by providing you with a stunning view and immersive experience with nature’s inhabitants. This popular tourist attraction is worth the RMB ¥21 entry fee and the time it takes to tour the facility.

Rare and beautiful butterflies are within visitors’ reach in a free-flight enclosure for an up close and personal view of these incredible insects. You can easily spend an hour or two watching butterflies dancing from blossoms to blossoms and chasing the wisps of living colors.

Try the Beach Barbecue on Dadonghai Beach


Barbecue is irreplaceable in Chinese street food culture. If you are already in Sanya, there’s just one more reason you need to go for a beach barbecue – Ingredients are always fresh and tasty, as Hainan is a major agricultural and fishing center in China.

Dadonghai is a bay that is relatively close to Sanya city center. Surrounded by mountains on three sides, the whole bay is of a beautiful crescent shape. There is a coconut forest that lies outside the beach, giving the location a pleasant atmosphere.

Enjoying the quintessential seafood, meats, and vegetables grilled on a skewer along with a cold local beer or fresh juice just before the sunset is probably the combined definition of “holiday” and “enjoying life” in Sanya.

Spend a Day on Wuzhizhou Island

Just two kilometers off the coast in Haitang Bay, Wuzhizhou Island feels a world away from the rest of Sanya. Barely a kilometer long and with just one long beach on its north side, Wuzhizhou is not a long-term destination; though there is one resort on the island, it is best seen during a day trip.

The island offers diving and snorkeling opportunities in its surrounding waters, as well as a few kilometers of easy hiking trails for you to escape from the crowd. As a bonus, Wuzhizhou’s beach is spectacular and has lots of space to chill out and relax; assuming you went there on a quiet day.

Learn to Surf

Surfing at Sanya

Surfing is yet to gain popularity in China, but Dadonghai Beach has been providing a quick fix for expats missing the waves of their home surf break.

Several local shops will rent surfboards for beginners, and there are even a few guide companies that can assist anyone wanting to try their hand at catching a wave for the first time. Options for outfitters include Hainan Outdoor Adventures and DDH Beach, both offering surf lessons and gear rentals.

Dadonghai’s water is warm and forgiving, so it is a good place to try watersports. Waves are small and manageable, and the sandy bottom keeps the risk of injury low, even for first-timers.

The swell is almost non-existent during summer, so the best time for surfing is from October to March. Otherwise, paddle-boarding is a good catch too – the flat conditions make mastering the basic technique much easier.

For more serious surfers, a bigger swell is often needed. About one and a half hours northeast of Sanya is what is held to be the best surf beach in China – Riyuewan.

Waves on Riyuewan tend to run consistently at about one to one and a half meters and the location is as remote and uncrowded as any surf fanatic could ever ask for. Getting to this fabled spot isn’t easy, but expat-owned and operated surf club/restaurant Surfing Hainan has provided some useful directions.

Rent a Bike

One of the best ways to feast on the long shoreline of Sanya is on two wheels, and there are plenty of shops and hotels providing bike rental services to visitors for the day, so the starting point of your bicycle trip could be as close as the main entrance of your hotel.

Hainan Island would be your next best location for long-distance rides, though you should prepare your own bicycle as they are not available for rent. If you have the chance, trust me, pedaling through the jungle on Hainan’s smooth roads, exploring and experiencing the less-explored won’t let you down.

If time permits (provided that you have the stamina and dedication), it is possible to circumnavigate the entire island. But be prepared that it could take several days as it is a trip of about 700 kilometers.

End Note

Whether you are looking for a quick getaway or staying past winter seasons in China, Sanya is definitely a recommendation for those who want to be surrounded by friendly people, embrace the warmth of the Sun, and destress and rest in a refreshingly slow tropical pace of life.

While Sanya is all fun and exciting, it is also best to secure travel insurance or international health insurance to ensure that you are enjoying every bit of your holiday as planned, and without the worry of having to pay anything medically related out-of-pocket in case of emergency.

Contact us today and start planning your trip to Sanya!

Disclaimer: Pacific Prime solely represents, operates and manages locally regulated insurance products and services in the territory of PR China. Any references to Pacific Prime Global Company or Group, the international services, insurance products or otherwise stated written or verbally, is for introduction purposes about our overseas network only as each entity is fully independent.

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