Sanya Travel Guide | 10 of the best things to do in Sanya, Hainan

Travel Tips
Travel Tips
Nov 23, 2022


  • 1. How to plan a trip to Sanya?
  • 2. Sanya Hainan Transportation: How to Get to Sanya
  • Entry requirements - China travel advice
  • 3. Sanya Transportation: by Train, Bus, Taxi
  • 4. Best Times to Visit Sanya: Weather, Season, Temperature
  • 5. Popular Hotels in Sanya
  • 6. Best Things to do in Sanya, Hainan
  • 7. Sanya Food Guide: Best Restaurants in Sanya
  • 8. Sanya Shopping Guide: What to buy and where to go
  • 9. Sanya Local Culture
  • 10. Unique Experiences in Sanya
  • Show More

Known as the Hawaii of China, Sanya is a tropical island escape for visitors from both in and outside of China. Located on the southernmost tip of Hainan Island in the South China Sea, Sanya is a beautiful tourist hub with almost 50 km of coastline. It is well-known for its pristine white sand beaches, warm temperatures, clear blue sea, abundant seafood, and fascinating local culture. Sanya is also known as Samah, meaning "three Asias." Due to its geographical remoteness and distance to historical political centers of China, it has also been called Tianya Haijiao, which means "the end of the sky and ocean" or "the end of the earth."

Sanya Travel Guide | 10 of the best things to do in Sanya, Hainan

Wuzhizhou Island 蜈支洲岛

Widely known for its year-round tropical climate, Sanya has emerged in recent decades as a popular tourist destination with world-class resorts and attractions. Whether you are looking for some pampering in 5-star hotels, filling your day with adventures like scuba diving or zip lining, or perhaps finding some quality family fun in amusement parks and butterfly valleys, Sanya has it all.

Sanya’s main claim to fame is its numerous top-rated white sandy beaches. There is a perfect beach for you depending on what you are looking for: few crowds, water sports, best swimming conditions, or luxury or affordable hotels nearby. The most famous local beaches include Yalong Bay for the softest sands and cleanest sea in Sanya, Sanya Bay Beach for its 25 km stretch of public beach, and Dadonghai Beach for its gorgeous setting.

Of course, Sanya and Hainan island as a whole are not just about beaches. There is a wide range of cultural, natural, and religious sites to explore too. Most significant is the Guanyin of Nanshan, the world's highest Buddhist statue standing tall at 108 meters (354 feet) near the Nanshan Temple of Sanya. Nanwan Monkey Island is a great place to see the endangered macaques in their natural habitat. Binlang Ethnic Village is designed to showcase the unique and intangible cultural heritage of Li and Miao minority groups.

In terms of transportation in Sanya and around Hainan island, there are plenty of options from train to car to bus. Visitors can fly into Sanya Phoenix International Airport, which is about 15 km outside Sanya city center. Alternatively, Sanya can be reached directly by train from Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou.

With its beautiful beaches, cultural parks, all-inclusive luxury resorts, and many other significant attractions, Sanya is fast becoming one of the most desirable vacation destinations in China and Asia. Over the past two decades, Sanya city is also developing into a flourishing and sophisticated tourist center. For first-time travelers to the region, go beyond the beaches and resorts, immerse yourself in Sanya and Hainan island’s unique local culture, delicious local cuisine, and of course, don’t forget its many popular shopping zones. Sanya's favorite local products include shells, pearls, seafood, spices, tropical fruit, coconut, and tropical clothing.

Not sure when to go? September to April are the best times to visit, but Sanya has comfortable weather conditions all year round. Even for the height of summer, the average temperature in June is around 28 ℃ (82 °F). If you don’t mind hot weather or possible monsoonal rain in the summer, this is a good season to save some money with low flight rates and hotel tariffs.

Reaching Sanya is easy. Visitors can fly into Sanya Pheonix International airport, which operates flights connecting 63 cities, including 23 international cities. There are train services between Sanya and Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. Getting around the city is convenient via busses and trams. In addition to regular taxis, there are lots of motorcycle and sidecar taxis available too.

For first-time visitors who prefer their creature comforts when traveling, there have been significant improvements in Sanya's hotel infrastructure, so international hotel chains are easily found on the island. While shopping, it is important to remember not to buy corals or natural tortoise shells as souvenirs as it is against the law, and you will not be allowed to carry them out of the country.

There are many ways visitors can reach Sanya on China’s Hainan island. The easiest and fastest way is flying. Sanya Phoenix International Airport (SYX) is the closest and largest airport serving Sanya city and the surrounding areas. Located about 15 km (9 miles) away from the city center, SYX has two terminals (T1 for domestic and T2 for international) and operates flights to roughly 80 Chinese and regional travel destinations.

The Sanya Phoenix International Airport has many amenities on offer. Travelers can store their luggage at the Inquiry Center on the 2nd Level of the Terminal Building. There are several ATMs available in different parts of the airport. Passengers can pay using their credit/debit cards in shops, restaurants, and for services. Telephones are accessible in Check-in Hall and Isolation zone. The parking lot is located in front of the terminal building.

Transfer options to and from the airport include bus and shuttle services. Perhaps the cheapest way to travel, several public buses and shuttles operate between the airport, city center, and various hotels. For example, Shuttle Bus 1 runs from Sanya Airport to Binhai Lu, Sanya Holiday resort, General Bus Station, and Dadonghai. Ticket price from 10 to 15 RMB depending on destination. Buses run until the last flight of the day, and the duration of this bus trip is about 40 minutes. Other bus and shuttle routes include Shuttle Bus 2, City Bus Line 2, Public Bus Route 27 (Sanya Airport to Yalong Bay), etc.

Another option for airport transfer is a taxi. Visitors can find taxi stands outside the Arrivals Hall of the Domestic terminal (entrance 3) and the International terminal (to the right of the arrivals hall). A taxi ride from SYX to Sanya city center takes around 30 minutes, depending on traffic conditions.

China, or officially the People's Republic of China, is the world’s third-largest country by size, covering an area of around 9.6 million square kilometers (3.7 million square miles). It is also the world's most populous country, with more than 1.41 billion inhabitants. There are 23 provinces, 5 autonomous regions and 4 direct-controlled municipalities including Beijing.

There are 55 ethnic minority groups, with the Han Chinese being the main ethnic group. The Chinese Language is one of the oldest written languages in the world, and today, the official language and dialect of China is Standard Chinese (Putonghua) or Mandarin. There are several other main dialects spoken in different regions of China. For example, Cantonese is spoken in Hong Kong and most of Guangdong.

For the size of China, it spans five geographical time zones, but officially China only has one time zone, China Standard Time (CST). In China, CST is also known as Beijing Time, always 8 hours ahead of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time). There are no Daylight-Saving Time clock changes.

Sanya is situated on the southern tip of Hainan island. Visitors can hop on the Hainan Eastern Ring High-Speed Railway to travel around the island, such as to the provincial capital Haikou. The trains run between Haikou Railway Station and Sanya Railway Station, with fares for the whole journey range from 173 RMB for a first-class class to 108 RMB for a second-class seat. There is also the Hainan Western Ring High-Speed Railway, which connects the western coastal cities on Hainan. Another way of getting around the island is by long-distance buses which depart from the main Sanya Bus Station located at No.16, Jiefang 2 Road.

Traveling in and around Sanya is convenient and affordable. There are buses that will take visitors to every region in the city and every scenic spot. Special tourism lines are available in the city center and tourist destinations like Yalong Bay, Tianya Haijiao (the End of the Earth), and the Nanshan Cultural Tourist Zone. The buses (e.g., No.2 and No.4) run hourly and cost between 1 to 4 RMB.

There’s an abundance of taxis available in Sanya, look out for the round sign symbolizing Sanya city on top of the cab. While the fares are metered and relatively reasonable, it is still advisable to negotiate a price with the taxi driver first when traveling to tourist spots. Taxis charge 10 RMB for the first 2 km.

Another popular way to get around Sanya is by car rental. This is especially convenient if you have a family or want to explore many attractions dotted around the island. There are numerous car rental companies in Sanya with different car and minibus models to choose from. You may need a deposit to rent one.

Sanya enjoys a tropical climate, hence it is warm all four seasons and is one of the cities where the sun shines nearly 300 days of the year. But being in the tropics also means that Sanya has wet and dry seasons too. Summer is the wet season, with chances of typhoons, so remember to take rainwear with you. The hottest month is June, with an average temperature of around 28 ℃ (82 °F), but on some days, it could rise to 36 ℃ (97 °F). While warm weather remains throughout the winter months, the coldest months are January and February, but the average temperature still remains around 20 ℃ (68 °F). It is worth noting that in the winter months, the sea can be pretty cold in the mornings and evenings.

Because of Sanya’s mild and pleasant winter weather, the best time and peak season to visit is between September and February. While the rest of China, especially up in the north where it is below zero and often covered in snow, Sanya’s tropical climate is particularly alluring. During this time, hotels are usually packed and it is difficult to reserve rooms. This is definitely the case during the New Year and Chinese Spring Festival periods.

(1) Atlantis Sanya

The Atlantis Sanya is one of the newest hotels in Sanya, having opened in 2018.

The hotel is 21km from Yalong Bay Railway Station and 43km from Sanya Phoenix International Airport. Seeing Sanya's sights from this hotel is easy with The Lost Chambers Aquarium (Sanya), FORYOU SKI and Aquaventure Waterpark all close by.

At the end of a busy day, travelers can unwind and relax in the hotel or go out and enjoy the city. For guests' convenience, airport pickup can be arranged. Guests of this Sanya hotel can make use of the parking facilities.

According to our trusted guests, the facilities at this hotel are first-rate. This hotel is a popular accommodation for guests traveling with families.

(2) MGM Grand Sanya

The MGM Grand Sanya is an ideal spot for travelers wanting to discover the city. The MGM Grand Sanya is an ideal choice for travelers who want to take in the sights and sounds of Sanya.

With Yalong Bay Railway Station just 11km away and Sanya Phoenix International Airport only 35km away, transportation is very convenient. There's plenty to do nearby, with Jinmao Sanya Lisika'erdun Jiudian Children Club, Haitianxianjing Resort and Yalong Bay Ailifang Marina Park all within a short distance.

When guests have some time on their hands they can make use of the onsite facilities. Airport pickup can be arranged by the hotel upon request. This Sanya hotel offers parking on site.

Germaphobes can rest easy - the level of cleanliness is highly rated at this hotel. This hotel is particularly popular with those traveling with families.

Sanya is one of the most famous beach holiday destinations in China. Its picturesque white sandy beaches, crystal blue waters, and tropical climate have attracted tens of thousands of visitors each year. Depending on what you are looking for, there is a perfect beach for you. For the softest sands and cleanest sea in Sanya, head to Yalong Bay. For some peace and quiet, Haitong Bay is the one to pick. But if you want the most sought-after beach, it has got to be Sanya Bay Beach. Its mesmerizing 25 km (15.5 miles) stretch of sandy coastline will take your breath away.

In between all the sunbathing and pampering, be sure to explore some of Sanya’s most spectacular local cultural, natural, and religious sites too. About 40 km (25 miles) west of Sanya, the Nanshan Cultural Tourism Zone is one of the must-see sights on Hainan island. It is the home to the Guanyin of Nanshan, the world's highest Buddhist statue standing tall at 108 meters (354 feet). The statue has three sides or faces, one side faces inland, and the other two face the South China Sea. The entire Nanshan Cultural Tourism Zone is an expansive Buddhism complex set in lush natural scenery. Visitors can also enjoy the manicured gardens, stunning sea views and sample some excellent vegetarian food.

Located in the center of Hainan island, about a 40-minute drive from Sanya, Binlang Ethnic Village is designed to showcase the unique and intangible cultural heritage of Li and Miao minority groups. Surrounded by miles of betel nut trees, the village is an open-air museum of tribal architecture, craft demonstrations, and live performances. It gives visitors a glimpse into the treasured culture and customs of local minority groups.

One of the advantages of being on a tropical island has got to be the abundance of seafood options on offer. From 5-star resort restaurants to family-owned establishments, visitors will be spoiled for choice by the variety of fresh food and local flavors. Be sure to sample popular seafood dishes like sea urchin, blue crab, oysters, scallop, and lobster. Local markets and food streets usually stock a wide variety of seafood and local snacks, such as the No.1 Agricultural Market, Chunyuan Seafood Square, and Hongsha docks.

For that authentic regional dish, Wenchang Chicken is perhaps the most famous Hainan export to the world because all over Southeast Asia, it is also known as Hainan chicken rice. Originated from Wenchang, the chicken used in the dish is fed a special diet, then poached in stock, and eaten with fragrant rice and an array of dipping sauces.

Another popular local dish is Hainan Hot Pot. While the hot pot is a national favorite, the version served in Hainan is all seafood. A typical hot pot in Sanya includes shrimp, crab, and fish. Both Chunyuan Seafood Square and Nanshan Hotpot City are good choices for this delicious local treat.

Buying souvenirs and local products is an essential part of a good vacation. Sanya's favorite local products include shells, pearls, seafood, spices, tropical fruit, coconut, and tropical clothing. But while shopping, it is important to remember not to buy corals or natural tortoise shells as souvenirs as it is against the law, and you will not be allowed to carry them out of the country.

Pearls of various qualities are sold all over Sanya, but for top-grade pearls, visitors should go to premier brand shops, department stores, or Haiyun Pearl Shopping Center. Did you know pearls can also be used as a cream or be eaten? Chinese women have long used pearl cream and powder for their beauty benefits. Top-selling pearl lotion brands can be found in most Sanya department stores and cosmetic shops.

Well-known shopping destinations in Sanya include Jiefang Road, a long stretch of department stores, shops, dining and entertainment venues; Sanya International Duty-free City, the world's largest single-building duty-free shop; and Baihuagu Shopping Center, a luxury hotel and shopping mall in Yalong Bay.

While violent crimes are rare in Sanya, visitors still need to take caution against pickpockets and bag snatching. For emergencies, dial 110 for police and 120 for ambulance services.

Folk Festivals are great opportunities for visitors to catch a glimpse of traditional Hainan culture. For example, admire all-things coconut at the Hainan International Coconut Festival and celebrate vibrant local Li and Miao cultures at the Sanyuesan Festival (held on the third day of the third month of the lunar calendar).

The official currency used in China is Renminbi (RMB) which is also known as Yuan. While tipping is not customary in China, it is acceptable to leave a gratuity for guides, drivers, and hotel porters.

A trip to Sanya


family getaway on Hainan

Family vacation @Sofitel Haitang Sanya group
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