Sanya boasts several impressive landmarks, including one of the tallest statues in the world – Guanyin, a Buddhist icon which stands at 354ft high – and Tianya Haijiao, one of China’s most fabled romantic spots where two huge rocks sit before the turquoise sea. The city’s coastal location is makes it popular for watersports including diving, snorkelling and jet-skiing, while at nearby Yalong Bay you can unwind on idyllic beaches, hike through unspoilt tropical forests and tour a butterfly valley spotting rare species. To explore elsewhere on the island, take the high-speed bullet train north to Haikou, Hainan’s capital city, where you’ll find historic temples, pretty parks and beautiful beaches.
Sanya’s main shopping districts are Jiefang Road, where you’ll find several department stores selling jewellery, cosmetics, locally-designed clothes and shoes, and Hongqi Street, where vendors sell brightly-coloured Hawaiian shirts, seafood and fresh fruit. Local handicrafts are sold throughout the city, but avoid anything illegally fashioned from endangered coral or turtle shell – instead, opt for decorative items made using rare seawater pearl and crystal.
Fresh seafood is Sanya’s signature cuisine and visitors can tuck into an abundance of delicious lobster, oysters and prawns, along with more exotic delicacies such as sea urchin. The city’s culinary scene is diverse, with the choice of eateries ranging from charming seaside shacks and street-food stalls to gourmet restaurants in upscale hotels. Head to one of the lively downtown cafés for an authentic local dining experience – popular regional dishes include qing bu liang (a refreshing cold soup), lin gao ru zhu (roast suckling pig) and teng qiao pai gu (deep-fried spare ribs).
Sanya has become a hotspot for luxury hospitality brands in recent years, with everyone from Banyan Tree to InterContinental opening chic five-star hotels along its coastline. Standout tropical beachfront resorts include the Mandarin Oriental Sanya, Anantara Sanya Resort and The Ritz-Carlton Sanya, all of which boast pampering spas, world-class restaurants and idyllic private beaches.
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