I have traveled to China over six different times from the ages of 16-23 and during that time I have seen many different cities and been on many different adventures. That being said, the best adventure I ever had was a more recent one when I was teaching English in China. I took this four-day trip over the national holiday to Sanya 三亚, China.
Why did I choose Sanya for my trip? Well it starts with a bit of a back story; I am obsessed with sharks. Sanya isn't the shark capital of the world, in reality sharks are rarely spotted off its shores and the only ones I saw on my trip were the nurse sharks in the airport tank that greeted us when getting off the plane. What really planted the seed of my Sanya adventure was when I came across the latest Jason Statham movie “The Meg”. If you aren't familiar, it's your average shark movie, with a clique monster movie plot and bad acting, however, what stuck with me the most was a scene where the megalodon swam past a massive Buddha statue perched on the coastline. Upon viewing it I thought to myself “wow that looks extremely familiar” and with further research I uncovered that it was located in Sanya. From that moment on I decided that was where I was headed.
Sanya is an island located in the Southernmost part of China. Many refer to it as the Hawaii of China, as it contains beautiful beaches, rolling hills, and fantastic live music at almost every bar. There's three main bays to choose from when one is looking for a place to stay; Sanya Bay, Da Dong Hai and YaLong bay. It is worth mentioning that with all of these bays their beaches seem to be relativity lacking crowds, however, swimming areas roped off as we were told the undercurrent is strong. Should you dare to venture past them you are almost immediately met with a whistle. YaLong Bay is a little more spaced out, much fewer stores and restaurants, but it sports nicer hotels such as the MGM Grand, Sheraton, Ritz Carlton etc. Its beaches are less crowded and there are larger water sports companies for those interested in jet skiing, scuba diving, or parasailing (however, these activities are extremely pricey). The only thing I know about Sanya bay is from the brief time I spent there after returning the scooters we rented. The water seems much dirtier and it's clearly not for beach loungers like the other bays, but if you're a shell collector this the best place for grabbing some tiny shells and watching small crabs scuttle by. The bay that stands out to an EF'er like myself is DadongHai. This area tends to boast the cheaper hotels, more restaurants, and a handful of beach bars and tourist shops where one can grab classic beach bum attire.
My friends and I chose to stay near DaDongHai at the advice of a friend who had been there recently and mentioned there were a ton of great restaurants and bars in the area. This proved true in the form of one really great bar called “Dolphin” - a Western sports bar two blocks from the beach. When I looked up reviews online the first webpage was titled “THE BEST BAR IN SANYA” followed by about 20 exclamation points. During our time there that review more than held up. Packed with foreigners and locals alike, decked up for Oktoberfest with German banners draped from the ceilings, and waitresses with scary perfect English and sporting German dirndl's, this was definitely the place to be. As an added plus, the band there was amazing! Towards the end they sat down at a table with us, took requests, and then dedicated their last set in entirety to us. The band was called Gone Wild and have since moved to the other side of the island in HaiKou at a bar named Sharky, but if you ever find your way to that side of the island you would be foolish not to look them up!
The very first thing I did once arriving in Sanya was to rent mopeds with my friends. We used these as our major source of transportation during our stay. It was dirt cheap: only 55 rmb a day with a 500 rmb deposit, and was without a doubt the best way to travel in Sanya. That being said, roads aren't very even, and, if you can believe it, drivers tend to be even more reckless there than in Shanghai. One busy road specifically was wide enough to be a four lane road, but didn't have any lane markers so it was a free for all to get from point A to point B. In the middle of all this pandemonium, here's a little ol' girl from Wisconsin trying to make a left hand turn across four lanes of busy traffic. Another word to the wise is that between the four of us one of us took a tumble and received some good scrapes during the first few miles due to being cut off and bad roads, and there were even more close calls. Despite this, renting mopeds made my trip in Sanya and I think they're a wonderful addition to your travels. However, you need to make sure you are entirely comfortable not only riding one, but doing so in a bustling Chinese city. Similarly, it is necessary to be hyper aware of your surroundings at all times. If you think you can do these things, then mopeds would be a great addition to your time there. Feel free to add my moped contact (WeChat: zuche700) if that is something you're interested in!
The appeal of Sanya is simply soaking up the sun in a tropical location. Coming from Shanghai, it was without a doubt a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and a chance to just sit and catch my breath. There is so much to do throughout Sanya, whether it is hiking up Yalong nature reserve, making the hour trek to Nanshan to gaze upon the massive Buddha resting on the ocean shore, or simply sipping a coconut on the beach, Sanya will not disappoint!