China’s tropical island resort of Hainan is the perfect place for families – offering a wide array of attractions and luxury resorts that will please both parents and children.
November 15, 2019
By Maggie Hiufu Wong
Choices range from a trip to a vast, cinema-themed town, a dinosaur-focused study park, an ecologically protected rainforest – or a stay at one of the stunning hotel resorts with offerings tailored specially to your needs.
Check out 5 holiday attractions that should suit the needs of any family.
With more than 60 per cent of Hainan covered in green forest, the island resort is never short of adventurous outdoor holiday pursuits that will appeal to budding Tarzans and Indiana Jones.
If you have time to visit only one of the many rainforests in Hainan, then you must visit Yanoda Rainforest Cultural Tourism Zone in Baoting Li and Miao Autonomous County.
Yanoda – spanning 45 square km (17 square miles), and surrounded by another ecologically protected area covering 123 square km – is literally translated as “one, two, three”, which means “hello” in the local dialect. It comprises two main areas – Rainforest Valley and Dream Valley. Rainforest Valley features easier rainforest hikes, routes and family-friendly activities, while Dream Valley offers a two-hour action-packed guided trekking adventure for the physically fit.
“Hainan has great natural scenery and clean air, so we think it is a good destination for families to visit,” says Angie Qi from Wuhan, who travelled to Yanoda with her husband, their two-year-old son and her husband’s parents.
“Yanoda is great for older children, but Yalong Bay Tropical Paradise Forest Park also has easier scenic trails if you’re travelling with toddlers and elderly people,” Qi, who visited both parks during her trip, says.
Yalong Bay Tropical Paradise Forest Park became widely known in China after being featured in the hit Chinese film, If You Are The One 2, starring Ge You and Shu Qi.
Some of the park’s attractions include a suspension rope bridge and a pagoda, offering panoramic views of Sanya’s sea shore. Attractions that were featured in the film include a hillside chapel and the Yalong Bay Earthly Paradise Bird’s Nest Resort.
For families staying in the north of the island, Haikou Volcanic Cluster Global Geopark is only 15km (9 miles) from Haikou, the island’s capital.
Listed by Unesco as a Global Geological Park in 2006, its main tourist attraction is its dormant volcano, Qiong Bei – believed to have last erupted 13,000 years ago. But the park also offers a further 36 volcano craters, a geological-themed museum, a 200-year-old temple and the Volcano Restaurant, which serves rustic local offerings, such as mountain goat meat.
Driving along the road outside the Yuan Longping R&D Center, you would never guess that it is a world-renowned scientific research centre.
Named after Chinese agronomist Yuan Longping, the “father of hybrid rice”, scientists at the park are working on developing sustainable, high-yield and disease-resistant strains of Asia’s staple food, which can feed larger populations while taking up less land.
Outside the R&D centre is a China Dinosaur Park with more than 300 life-sized dinosaur models (of species once excavated from China), a vast flower-viewing park and a restaurant.
Guests at Sanya’s five-star Mangrove Tree Resort World Sanya Bay – comprising more than 3,000 rooms and 71 restaurants and outdoor attractions including the Amazon Jungle Water Park and Adventure Zone – can also enjoy some great indoor activities, away from the hot summer sun.
Today X Bookstore, inside the resort, has been dubbed Hainan’s most beautiful bookstore. The 4,800-square-metre premises offer many more facilities than most other bookshops, including a spacious children’s playroom with a treehouse-like reading room.
Staff also host educational activities for youngsters, while parents can also sign up their children for local handicraft workshops.
The bookshop also has a café, painting area, hi-fi zone and “Zen area” for those visitors who want to zone out.
Hainan has its fair share of unusual theme parks that are sure to attract families. Feng Xiaogang Movie Town, in Haikou, is built on a 1,500-acre (607-hectare) site and features specially designed period streets and buildings – all created for use as film and television production locations by nearby studios – where visitors are free to walk and relive scenes from cinematic history.
“The worlds in films seem to be out of reach for most people, [but] we’re trying to bring the movie characters and scenes [to life] here so people can be a part of those worlds,” Zhang Daobao, the park’s performance manager and director, says.
The park is named after Feng Xiaogang, a renowned Chinese film director, whose work includes If You are the One and its sequel, If You are the One 2, Back to 1942 and I Am Not Madam Bovary. It features recreated buildings from a number of Feng’s atmospheric films. Feng’s favourite art director, Shi Haiying, was the mastermind behind the design of the town, Zhang says.
“Shi has influenced everything in the town, even the typefaces for all the shop signs in the towns.”
There are six main attractions where guests can enjoy an immersive cinematic experience. Nanyang town, featuring architecture resembling Haikou’s qilou (old shophouses with influences from Southeast Asia), is the most photogenic attraction and 1942, which comprises mostly retro wooden architecture, offers visitors the chance to take part in martial arts scenes. There is also a street displaying the autographs of dozens of Chinese and international stars.
Short dramas are performed regularly around the different towns, but Zhang says the theme park plans to expand the performances in the near future.
For families who still have energy to spare after sunset, Sanya Haichang Fantasy Town – China’s first 24-hour theme park – offers 13 major day-and-night attractions in a variety of different zones, including various exciting rides, theatre shows, an aquarium, observatory wheel, a multi-sensory cinema, themed restaurants, shops – and even a beer bay.
As a family-friendly resort island, Hainan’s luxury hotels have been designed to allow parents to enjoy their holidays with their children without having to leave the properties.
Most of the hotels offer customised family services.
Crowne Plaza Sanya Haitang Bay Resort – which resembles a gigantic cruise ship sailing into Haitang Bay – has its own private beach area, four outdoor pools and an indoor rooftop pool.
Special features for youngsters including a well-equipped playroom, cooking classes and a restaurant dedicated to children, which serves inventive, colourful and nutritious meals. Guests can opt to book sea-viewing family suites, which have interiors designed for the needs of both parents and children.
The Ritz-Carlton Sanya, Yalong Bay runs special family activities at its resort each day. A noticeboard in the family corner provides up-to-date details.
Activities include poolside film screenings and a professional photoshoot at the beach with a tag-along photographer.
Costing US$2 billion and four years to build, Atlantis Sanya, Haitang Bay, Sanya, has taken the city of Sanya’s luxury family resorts to another level.
The 1,314-room hotel, which overlooks Haitang Bay, features its own full-sized Aquaventure Waterpark, and an enormous open-air aquarium where guests can go scuba diving.
Parents can relax in the resort’s Ahava Spa, while their children immerse themselves in the numerous state-of-the-art attractions offered at Club Rush, where the emphasis is on adventure, fun and exploration.
In the future, Sanya plans to open China’s second Legoland Park (Shanghai will be the first). The new Sanya Legoland Park will be water-themed and is expected to combine elements of existing Legoland Parks and Hainan’s tropical features.
Another international brand, Sanrio, will be opening a Hello Kitty Theme Park Resort, including an amusement park, rides, restaurants and accommodation, in Haitang Bay in 2024.
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