When the Chinese believed their empire encompassed all creation beneath a circular heaven and bounded by a square earth, the southern tip of Sanya must have truly felt like the far end of the world. Aside from the stunning natural beauty of this sandy cape dotted with gargantuan boulders, Tianya Haijiao (Tiānyá Hǎijiǎo, 天涯海角) holds great cultural significance. During the Song Dynasty, the south of Hainan Island was a place of exile for officials and poets who had offended the Emperor, hence the name, which means "the ends of the..
Dadonghai Beach (Dàdōnghǎi, 大东海) is one of the most popular of Sanya's beaches. It's a nice stretch of white sand meeting blue water, perfect for swimming (there's absolutely no surf here). Don't expect to be alone in Dadonghai, though. It's a busy beach, and the weather's always nice here so expect people to always be here. Swimmers beware of jet-skiers and boaters and sunbathers beware of 4-wheeled sandbuggies (and their inexperienced Chinese drivers). It's beautiful, nonetheless, so enjoy the mango and coconut vendors and the..
Located just far enough away from Sanya to weed out some tourists, Yalong Bay (Yàlóng Wān, 亞龍灣) is the area's premier beach offering good ol' R&R. The resorts here are fairly low-key (except during the annual hosting of the Miss World Pageant), and while water sports are an option, most people come to Yalong to enjoy the sand and sea (and pools and cocktails). The water is very clear and good for a snorkel if you are interested in getting off your lounger, and boats are available to take divers to outlying islands for a peek under..
Nanshan Temple stands as a fascinating monument to the crosscurrents flowing through contemporary Chinese society—currents that to many an outsider may appear contradictory while feeling perfectly natural to many a Chinese citizen. A massive Buddhist temple complex completed in 1998—just a generation or so from the Cultural Revolution and its tragic vogue for smashing up ancient religious sites—Nanshan Temple was built explicitly as a tourist draw. This fact, however, hasn’t stopped it from becoming the site of..
The Big and Small Dongtian scenic spot (大小洞天; Da Xiao Dongtian) is located about 40 km to the west of Sanya city, and 13 km away from Tianya Haijiao. It has a history of more than 800 years and became famous during the Song Dynasty as a place for monks to run to for monks seeking the Truth. It's said that when the Chinese eminent Buddhist monk Jian Zhen visited Japan for the fifth time, he was struck by a typhoon and floated here where, grateful for being alive, he built the Dayun Temple to..
19 km northeast of Yalong Bay and some 50 km northeast of downtown Sanya, the mineral-laden waters of Nantian Hot Spring's 67 pools bubble up through the bedrock. Acclaimed nationwide for their restorative and health-giving qualities, the springs are very popular with Chinese tourists. Groups spend hours in the pools, which have been substantially engineered to provide a range of experiences: there are perfumed pools, waterfall pools, medicanal herb soaks, cold-water dips, a variety of warm-to-hot pools suited, and "fish therapy" pools full..
Home to what might be China's best waters for scuba and snorkeling, Wuzhizhou Island (Wúzhīzhōu Dǎo, 蜈支洲岛) lies within easy reach of Sanya and makes for a nice alternative to the increasingly busy resort town's enclaves of five star hotels and overdeveloped beachfront. Ringed by beaches and coral reef in Haitang Bay, just 2.7 km (1.7 mi) offshore and about 30 km (19 mi) from downtown Sanya and the airport, the 1.48 sq km (0.57 sq mi) island is home to a handful of attractions and scenic spots, some stunning beaches, and one..