Sanya – the premium holiday resort at the tip of tropical, mountainous Hainan Island in southern China – was known in ancient times as ‘the end of sky and ocean’. Today, the two collide beautifully on its long stretch of beach in front of Mandarin Oriental, Sanya. Hainan is variously described as China’s Hawaii and China’s Florida: days here should involve long lazy sessions on its sugar-white sands, pausing only to sip from a coconut or splash about in aquamarine waters.
Sanya’s culture has long revolved around the water, which is perhaps why the Nanshan Temple, an important Buddhist shrine, overlooks the gorgeous South China Sea. The low-slung, winged roofs of the temple are joined by the imposing three-sided Guan Yin Buddha statue, taller than the Statue of Liberty and slightly further out on the sea. Tian Ya Hai Jiao – ‘the end of the world’ – is an inelegant (but arresting) cluster of boulders embedded into Sanya’s golden sands. It’s been namechecked in various Chinese romance poems, and as a result is a popular spot for couples. Look out for inscriptions and poems carved into the rocks.
Mandarin Oriental, Sanya is situated on a protected coral bay. Soak up the sun or meander through the pathways and gardens. Those who fancy a dip afterwards have a choice of three swimming pools: Vista, a lap pool for serious swimming fans, Tranquillo, an adults-only pool that’s ideal for those who want to relax, and Activo, the main pool which features a landscaped beach and pool bar. There’s also nearby Yalong Bay, a 7.5km long crescent is bookended by casual bars, restaurants and watersports shops. A pretty alternative is butterfly-shaped Wuzhizhou Island, a short boat ride off Haitang Bay. Fringed by coral reef, diving opportunities abound. Or visit hilltop Luhuitou Park, which coalesces around a 12m high statue of a deer – a tribute to a local love legend.