At one point, Hainan was considered a backwater and used as a place of exile for failed officials.
Today, it is undergoing heavy tourist-oriented development with various international hotel chains establishing resorts, especially in the Sanya area. The entire island has been declared a Special Economic Zone.
- The hilly center of the island is home to various ethnic minorities, with many involved in the tourist industry.
- Much of the coast has beaches.
- Baoting toward the South, in the hills
- Bo'ao on the East coast
- Haikou in the North, the capital
- Sanya in the South, main tourist destination
- Tongzha (Wuzhishan) in the central highlands
- Wenchang (文昌市) in the north-east coast of Hainan Island
- Yalong Bay resort area near Sanya
Very few people speak English, apart from in the major hotels, and even then the standard will be negligable. The volume of Russian tourists mean that most shop keepers and restaurant staff know enough Russian to sell you goods, but trying to engage anyone into a conversation more often than not will prove fruitless. Most signage is in (bad!) Russian.
Trains run daily from Guangzhou and Beijing with stops at both Haikou and Sanya (end of the line).
You can also reach Hainan by boat. Buses take the ferry.
The local Han Chinese speak a variant of Minnan known as Hainanese. This variant differs significantly in pronunciation with the more well known Amoy/Taiwanese variant or the Teochew variant, and is not mutually intelligible with either of them. Hainanese is considered difficult to learn even by speakers of other Minnan dialects as it employs many unusual consonants which have no equivalant in any other Chinese "dialects" or Western languages, and has an odd tone structure. Nevertheless, learn a little of the language if you can, as it will get you acquainted with the locals much more easily. They realise that Hainanese is difficult even for native speakers of other Chinese "dialects", and much more so for foreigners, so they'll politely correct any pronunciation errors you make. Due to the proximity with Guangdong, many locals have a functional command of Cantonese as well. The Li people, who are the largest non-Han minority on the island, speak a language that is distantly related to Thai and Lao.
As Hainan is a major tourist destination for Chinese tourists, all educated people, include all those you will most likely meet as a tourist, will be fluent in Mandarin. English is not commonly spoken, though staff at the main hotels and beach resorts will have a functional command of English.
Sanya Wan (Sanya Beach). This beach is well known to anyone who has handled modern Chinese currency, as it is the landscape rendered on the Two Yuan bill. There is a large rendering of a 2 Yuan bill at the entrance to the beach where many lovers go to be photographed. This beach was also the landing point for exiled officials to the island and there are two large boulders marked with characters referencing the fact that they were being sent "to where the water meets the sky."
Nan Shan (South Mountain). This is a large Shaolin Buddhist temple complex along the southernmost point of the island. There is a saying in Chinese culture - "May your life be as long as the South Mountain," and it refers to this very place. There are several tour buses that will pick you up at your hotel and take you to this complex, but check to see if the guide speaks English. Many tours on the island are exclusively in the local dialect, called Hainanese, so you may want to enlist your own interpreter to come along with you. Located off shore from the complex is a giant statue of Buddha (being erected as of 2004) which was to be the largest in the world. Within the complex there are many temples and daily demonstrations of martial arts by the Shaolin monks. The restaurant within the complex is all vegetarian.
Hainan Bike Tours. Organisation run by ex-pats offering cycling tours around Hainan.
Hainan Chicken Rice although it is one of the most famous Hainan dish, Hainanese who moved to other countries probably made it better than the original -Thailand, Singapore, and Vietnam
Be very careful with water sports on Hainan. Government regulation of activities such as parasailing, diving, and boating on Hainan is lax, so staff often provide little or no training to customers, and the equipment can be shoddy. Without adequate safety precautions, these activities can be dangerous, and even fatal.
This page was last edited at 10:41, on 9 March 2009 by Wikitravel user Pashley. Based on work by Stefan Ertmann, Jang, David and Todd VerBeek, Wikitravel user(s) Superdog and Erxleben, Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel and others.