Tuesday, 2 October 2012 10:20 AM
Can you name three things you know about Hainan Island? In most cases, the answer is a resounding no...
Despite this, according to a report released this week ‘Hainan: Travel & Tourism Development Potential 2011-2021’, the Chinese province is on track to become one of the world’s leading tourist destinations by 2021, rivalling the likes of Singapore and Malaysia.
Hainan has often been referred to as the ‘Hawaii of the East’. It is China’s only real tropical beach destination and it lies in the same latitude as the Hawaiian Islands, but it only really looked into developing tourism in the 1990s (helped in part by Island’s hosting of the famed Miss World Competition in 1997!).
The smallest province of the People’s republic of China in terms of land mass (but if you include its large marine territory comprising of some 200 islands scattered off the southern coast it’s actually the largest), Hainan Island includes eight major cities and ten counties; Sanya on the south coast being the most popular tourist destination.
The Kuan-yin Bodhisattva Buddha is a popular tourist attraction
So, what does Hainan Island offer holidaymakers?
Pristine sandy beaches make up over 50 per cent of Hainan Island’s 1,528km coastline and with the average water temperature between a balmy 18°C and 30°C, the ocean is ideal for swimming all year round.
Surfing is one activity that could really take off here, with perfect waves on the east coast at Riyue Beach and Shimei Bay, Wanning. In fact, this area was chosen to be the host of China’s very first professional surfing event this year.
But, clearly there’s much more than just sun, sea and surf here. The island is noted for its volcanic peaks, dense tropical rainforests, such as the virgin jungle of Mount Jianfeng in Ledong Country, and a plethora of roaring waterfalls and mirror-like reservoirs, just waiting to be explored.
To protect the island’s wealth of wildlife, several reserves have been established including the Bawangling Black-crested Gibbon Reserve in Changjiang County, the Datian Slope Deer Reserve in Dongfang and the Macaque Reserve on the Nanwan Peninsula in lingshui Country, known as Nanwan Monkey Island.
Established in 1965, Monkey Island is now home to 2,000 macaques and is China’s largest area for raising monkeys; but there are also 100 other species of animals and the largest over-sea cable car in China – spanning 2,138 metres – to marvel at.
Clearly there’s plenty on offer for culture vultures too, with plenty of historic sites spread around Hainan, including the Wugong Temple in memory of the five renowned court officials of the Tang (960-1279) and Song (618-907) Dynasties who were relegated to Hainan Island. Interestingly, before it became a province in its own right, Hainan Island was a strictly-off-limits naval base and in days of yore, a place for exiles who dared criticise the emperor.
One of the most popular spots is Nanshan Culture Tourism Zone, located 40km southwest of Sanya City, where visitors flock to see the imposing three-sided Kuan-yin Bodhisattva Buddha – 16 metres taller than New York’s Statue of Liberty!
What’s clear is that Hainan Island is a tropical destination with huge potential. And, with a host of new hotels and resorts planning to set up shop along the exotic shores and a new East Ring Intercity Rail Link planned, it’s not long before we’ll all know a lot more about this up-and-coming destination.
Anyone else reaching for their passport?
By Sarah Gibbons