A few days in Sanya

For years I avoided Hainan because as far as I had heard, it was a dirty, rude knock-off of nicer islands farther south and west (Bali, Phuket, Hawaii).

Well, after four days and five nights in Sanya, I am going to have to set the record straight for any others out there who may have the same impression I once had.

Sanya is beautiful. The sea breeze never stops wiping the heat off of your back and the beaches are each a paler shade of golden. The street food is phenomenal. If you save up some cash or if you just happen to be well-off, then Sanya can be the tropical paradise the ads claim it is. I was lucky enough to be bouncing in and out of five-star hotels, so I caught the best the island has to offer in terms of service, food and just plain comfort.

But I stayed way out on Sanya Bay, the westernmost bay of Sanya, where the hotels are dingy and might lose electricity for a while and the streets are filled with touts, working girls, Russian families and not-so-rich Chinese families: mom and dad carrying the little one, gramma wobbling along six or seven feet back.

For the first few days I took taxis across the whole southern half of the island — from the Beverly Hills of Sanya (the Serenity Beach or 半山半岛 area) all the way to the new MICE capital of the Pacific Rim (they hope), Haitang Bay — and then returned to my hotel at night, tired and sticky. Taxi’s from the Marriot would keep asking me, yo we there yet? and I said, when the road narrows down to one lane, then we’re almost there.

When potholes force you to swerve around a huge puddle, then bust a right, down that seedy alley filled with fishbones and melon rinds, yeah, stop right here. I didn’t get much satisfaction from living seedy and working rich. Except when I hit up the alley next door, where I got me some crab porridge, BBQ shrimp, BBQ fish, noodles and stir-fried clams.

When they offered me that last night at the Intercontinental in Serenity Beach, I took it up immediately. Club suite; view of the ocean; nice spread on the table … the high side of five-star luxury.

Update: Here is the first article of many, Escape to the beach: Living it up in sunny Sanya and Minority Report: China’s betel chewin’ islanders, the Li people of Hainan

Stay tuned, I’ll have articles forthwith. For now, check out these pics:

Nice spot.


Just part of a balanced breakfast
Two little guys on vacation
What is best in life?
Every day, all day
Sascha Matuszak
Sascha Matuszak

5 thoughts on “A few days in Sanya

  1. Pingback: Hao Hao Report
  2. It’s too bad we didn’t have a chance to meet up. Next time for sure. I think Hainan is like every other place that structures its advertising with “the … of China” — if you kill the comparison, it’s nice enough in its own right.

    It’s not Hawaii, Boracay or Samui — but it’s the best in-China option for a sun and sand vacation.

    I’ve been to Sanya twice, and both times stayed on Sanya Bay and enjoyed it well enough. The city is small enough that it doesn’t take much time to get to nicer beaches at Yalong Bay and the apartments we stayed in there (at 300RMB) were as nice as any average hotel I’ve stayed in here or back in N. America (but with a beautiful sea view).

  3. Yeah man I had a great time. granted i was running around like a chicken for four days (hence the non-meeting of the minds — yer in haikou anyway right?), but i really liked it.

    i mean. Sanya or Shanghai? no brainer.

  4. Yep, in Haikou. Though I hear that new high-speed train makes the trip up/down the coast less than 2 hours.

    We considered moving to Sanya, but the building boom and lack of infrastructure outside of the tourist sector deterred us.

    Still might find a little island home down the coast at some point. It’s not tough livin’ here.

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