In partnership with: Department of Tourism, Culture, Radio, Television and Sports of Hainan Province

10 things you may not know about Hainan

Picture-perfect beaches, awe-inspiring resorts and tropical foods galore – there are many reasons why China’s southern island province of Hainan is the nation’s most popular tropical getaway.

BY MAGGIE HIUFU WONG   September 30, 2019

Dubbed the “Hawaii of China”, Hainan – which means “south of the sea” – consists of various islands, including the largest and most populous, Hainan Island.

The province welcomed more than 76 million domestic and foreign tourists in 2018 – a 1.8 per cent year-on-year rise, local authorities said in January – while many more people have moved back because of its development.

“Hainan is very different now compared with my childhood memories,” Gabriel Chen, a Hainanese local who moved away to study in New Zealand about a decade ago, says.

“Right after the government named Hainan a tourism island [in 2009], locals became excited as they could sense that huge changes were coming. Then there were high-rises, hotels and tree-lined paved roads everywhere within just a few years.”

Seeing its potential, Chen moved back to Hainan more than a year ago.

“I can swim on the beach every day, drink coconut water and enjoy the clean air while I run my data product design company here,” he says. “People always think that I’m on holiday again.”

However, things are about to get even better. The local infrastructure has developed to international standards, ever-more impressive hospitality facilities are being rolled out, while locals’ enviable island lifestyle remains unchanged.

Need to check out what’s new in Hainan? Here are 10 things to know before you visit the sun-and-sea paradise.

Passport holders of 59 nations don’t need visas
Since May 2018, visitors from 59 nations can enjoy 30-day visa-free entry to the whole of Hainan.
Explore more
Sanya Phoenix International Airport. Photo: sharptoyou /
World’s first island-looping high-speed railway
Hainan’s round-the-island high-speed rail is arguably the best way to explore it, allowing visitors to travel all the way around in about three hours.
Explore more
Haikou East Railway Station. Photo: Maggie Hiufu Wong
Foodies love Hainan chicken, goat meat, duck and crab
Among the “four great dishes of Hainan” – Wenchang chicken, Dongshan goat meat, Jiaji duck, and Hele crab, Wenchang chicken is the most common dish found on the province’s menus.
Explore more
Hainanese chicken rice. Photo: Shutterstock
Home of 'Save the Turtles' conservation efforts
Located in the South China Sea – a stone’s throw from Southeast Asia’s marine biodiversity coral triangle – Hainan was once a breeding ground for marine turtles.
Explore more
Green Sea Turtle. Photo: Shutterstock
World’s tallest Guanyin statue
Towering 108 metres (354 feet) above its base, the Buddhist Guanyin of Nanshan, on the southern coast of Hainan, is the world’s tallest Guanyin statue.
Explore more
Guanyin of Nanshan. Photo: Shutterstock
International hotels eye Haitang Bay
Running 22km along the coast, Haitang Bay arguably has been the most popular stretch of beach in Hainan in recent years.
Explore more
Haitang Bay. Photo: DreamArchitect /
World-class yachting destination
With the opening of at least five international yacht marinas, including Serenity Marina and Shimei Bay, Hainan has become a world-class yachting destination.
Explore more
Sanya Serenity Marina. Photo: Sanya Serenity Marina
Locals love ‘Old Daddy Tea’
Laoba cha, or “Old Daddy Tea” – a shared passion among local Hainanese – is more than just a meal: it has become part of the island’s lifestyle.
Explore more
Laoba cha served in Hainan. Photo:
Steller-designed golf courses
Hainan has invited a number of big-name golf course designers to turn the island into a golf haven...
Explore more
Meadow Links Course at Mission Hills Haikou. Photo: Mission Hills Resorts
‘World Longevity Island’
... Hainan was one of the world’s few places to be declared a World Longevity Island
Explore more
Elderly Hainanese women. Photo:

Explore more of Hainan

Share this story

Visit the SCMP graphics home page