Why China’s beach-blessed playground should be on your radar.
Just off Mainland China in the South China Sea, Hainan Island is an expansive tropical paradise—similar in size to Canada’s Vancouver Island—where year-round temperatures hover around 79°F. “Hainan Island resembles Hawaii more than Harbin,” explains Michael Parker, general manager of the just-opened Rosewood Sanya, referring to the northern Chinese city. “People who live in China’s bustling metropolises really do come here to breathe the beautiful clean air.” His favorite leisure activity in Sanya, the region at Hainan’s southern tip? “Deep breaths.”
Here, we share what else there is to do in Sanya, Rosewood’s newest destination.
Sanya is a diving mecca, thanks to its clear, wildlife-rich waters. Favorite spots include West Island, Dadonghai, and Wuzhizhou, where the coral reefs teem with kaleidoscopic schools of tropical fish. “It’s China’s best preserved coral reef,” says Parker with a knowing smile, aware of how few travelers think of China as a coral destination in the first place. For the more adventurous, Parker recommends trying parasailing around Wuzhizhou, which offers breathtaking perspectives over the pristine, cerulean waters.
Super-Fresh Seafood & Tropical Produce
Locavores rejoice: Sanya is rich in seafood, including mackerel, cuttlefish and octopus fished right out of Haitang Bay. A local dining tradition involves selecting oysters, abalone, prawns and squid from the food stalls of Chunyuan Seafood Square, Youyi Seafood Square or Xinmin Seafood Street. Choose steaming, sautéed or fried, then select a sauce. Locals lavish their plates with spicy chilies and garlic, cooling their palates with sticky rice cooked in coconut shells.
Gourmands should not restrict their diet to the sea, though. “Hainan is known for its seafood, but I am equally impressed by the organic farms,” says Parker, who seeks out locally grown mangoes, passionfruit, strawberries, cherry tomatoes and white asparagus. In all, Rosewood Sanya’s chefs source more than 80 fruits and vegetables from nearby purveyors.
Ancient Cultures and Handicrafts
A particularly popular cultural outing for families is to visit Hainan Island’s ethnic communities like the Miao and Li, 3,000-year-old indigenous cultures that still make up around one third of Sanya’s population. Some of these minority villages are located only 30 minutes by car from the resort. Parker suggests trying their unique basket weaving techniques which, along with dying, weaving and embroidery, are listed among China’s official Intangible Cultural Heritage. Many visitors purchase the colorful brocades featuring folk motifs like clouds, animals and flowers. These descend from what is believed to be China’s oldest form of cotton textiles, predating even the written word.
(New) Buddhist Traditions
At Nanshan Temple, where Rosewood has arranged for buggies to bring guests around, visitors can admire the 108-meter high statue of Guanyin (a female Buddhist goddess), one of the world’s tallest statues. Built only in the 1980s, it’s become a hub for practicing Buddhists, and offers a unique glimpse into China’s complex social fabric. “People feel freer to worship here, being so far from Beijing,” notes Parker. “It’s moving to see and feel the vibrant energy of China’s rich tradition of Buddhism here.”
A New Rosewood
Rosewood Sanya melds the natural wonders of Sanya with contemporary design. In keeping with Rosewood’s A Sense of Place philosophy, the resort incorporates elements of wood, tribal totems and the sea. All 246 rooms face the ocean—many with balcony plunge pools—with sweeping views over Haitang Bay. Up on the 13th floor, the views continue at the rooftop restaurant, bar and infinity pool, which stretches the length of a football field. There, guests can scan the 360-degree panoramas of the surrounding seascape while enjoying Southeast Asian cuisine.