If your idea of an active holiday is combing deserted beaches, Hainan will give you plenty of exercise. But it might take a little effort to get to those beaches. The main seaside resort, Dadonghai, is more of a sandy walkway from karaoke joint to dance hall than a peace¬ful stretch of unspoiled beach, along Bay, around the corner, is undergoing a better-managed process of development, aimed at the higher budget traveller, and will offer you (at a price) the atmosphere of luxurious se¬clusion you may be seeking.
If it’s wild, endless stretches of sand you want, go west up the coast from Sanya. Down the east coast from Haikou, made more ac¬cessible by the new highway, there are vast beaches, many facing uninhabited off-shore islands which local fishermen can take you out to.
On the east coast you might find an isolated hotel to stay in. In the west, however, you will need to find a place to stay in a village, or camp out in the dunes. “Rough camping” — some-thin - the locals fail to see the
Buses regularly ply the main Haikou¬Sanya route. To get further off the beaten track and head deeper into the island’s interior, you might have to try other forms of local transport: sim¬ply sticking out your hand and stopping anything with wheels that passes by usually does the trick. For the ultimate freedom of movement, hire a car and driver from a travel agency or hotel (the hotels will probably be able to pro¬vide an English-speaking driver). The Health Club at the South China Hotel in Dadonghai offers self-drive Beijing Jeeps available at about US$45 per day. The vehicles are not supposed to leave the Dadonghai city limits, but since you can hire them for several days at a time, who’s to know? You will, however, be ex¬pected to provide an international licence, although (with a little persuasion) a na¬tional licence might suffice, and you will have to sign a comprehensive disclaimer.
To enter China you will need a visa. Haikou is mainland China’s only port of entry where you are able to obtain one on arrival at the airport, but before you travel it would be wise to check that this is still the case.
There are regular flights to Haikou from Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and most major Chinese cities. There are also charter flights from Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and some other East Asian countries, which may have seats for sale. The new airport at the southern Hainan city of Sanya also services international flights from Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea, as well as domestic flights from southern Chi¬nese cities. An alternative method of travel to Hainan might be by boat from Hong Kong, Shenzhen or Guangzhou. These generally take 24 hours and sail at least once a week.
When to go
The most popular time to visit Hainan is during the winter season, which runs from October to April. The skies are generally clear and it may even get a little chilly in the mountains at night. Summers are in¬evitably hot and humid and can also be wet, with the typhoon season running from August to September.
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