The Coconut City
Hainan is the smallest and the southernmost province as well as China’s largest tropical island. It was a perfect spot to enjoy a warm weather in November and wrap up my trip before returning to Europe, much colder at this time of a season.
Together with my friend we took a sleeper train all the way from Guangzhou to Haikou. We arrived in the capital of Hainan, early in the morning, happy to finally step out of our compartment after 15 hours! If you are not up for this type of epic journey you can get to Hainan by plane. Both Haikou and Sanya in the south of the island have small airports with regular flights from major Chinese cities and Hong Kong.
Haikou tends to be called the Coconut City for a reason. The streets are full of coconut palm trees so the tropical feel is very much in the air. Booking a room at the Haikou Banana Hostel was a great choice due to its convenient location. Based on a large island called Haidian Dao, it is next to Renmin Avenue with many bus options and round the corner from the Baishamen Park, where you can find a small amusement park and a lake.
My highlights from Hainan Island
Haikou Qilou Old Street
I found city’s architecture very underwhelming until I ventured out into the Old Street. Chinese arcade houses create an interesting urban landscape. They were introduced into Haikou by overseas Chinese merchants from Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia at the beginning of the 20th century. It is a shame that other parts of the city do not follow similar spirit that could add more charm and personality to the cityscape.
Hainan Volcano Park
A short bus ride away from Haikou, the Volcano Park is a good alternative to two-wheeled road madness of the city. It is also a place offering an insightful way to find out about the island and its past. One of the volcano cones has been preserved and it is possible to explore it. Except getting close to the dormant volcano anyone visiting the park can see the examples of dried lava flow and rock and even try a special volcano coffee.
Sandy beaches of Sanya
Sanya is a popular tropical seaside resort. It is often referred to as the “Hawaii of China”. With the high numbers of Russian tourists it is more like “Moscow on the South China Sea” these days since there are more signs in Cyrillic than in Chinese to accommodate the sun-craving crowds. It is easy to get there from Haikou by taking a high-speed train. I recommend this short trip to anyone, who is planning to stay in the north part of Hainan. The beaches are beautiful and with a variety of water sports available Sanya reminded me of my visit to Nha Trang in Vietnam.
Haikou local BBQ stalls
Food was excellent in Haikou. At least at all the places where my friend and I decided to stop for either lunch or dinner. My Chinese dictionary app came in handy most of the times but in few places the menus were also available in English. Local BBQ stalls down the night market were the best and will remain my main highlight from the trip. I loved all the variety of tofu and seafood as well as grilled corn on a cob and my favourite needle mushrooms.
Haikou Banana Hostel was clean, conveniently located and reasonably priced. All staff were extremely helpful, friendly and spoke really good English. All directions written in Chinese by them were invaluable when my friend and I were trying to find our away around and “asked” people to point us to the right place. It seems that hard beds are very popular in China. At this hostel bed mattresses were very firm too. It was not to my liking but yes I know, I know it supposed to be healthy.