2011's tourism hotspots: What to do in Sanya, China

Despite being virtually unheard of in the West, Sanya welcomes millions of tourists every year, a number which is rising exponentially as it firmly establishes itself as the 'Hawaii' of the world's new tourism epicenter - China.

Situated on the south of Hainan Island in the South China sea, Sanya actually sits about as far north of the equator as Hawaii does, giving it a balmy temperature all year round.

It's been the favored getaway spot for China's elite for decades, but only in recent years have international brands cottoned on to the market here - and they're arriving in droves.

Fairmont, Radisson are among two names building for an opening in the future, while Renaissance, Sheraton, Crowne Plaza and Kempinski are just some of the names already open in the resort.

The influx of visitors has prompted ambitious plans from local authorities, who have promised to build the world's largest duty free complex to take advantage of new tax-free shopping rules and Sanya's 18.7 percent rise in duty free sales last year.

So with more hotels and shops to choose from than ever before, what can travelers do in China's holiday hotspot?

Lie on a beach. Sanya was basically purpose-built for this, but away from the concrete jungle of the resorts it all gets a bit quieter. Try Dadonghai Bay, a crescent-shaped beach 3 km southeast of downtown Sanya.

Shop. This is pretty much a must, especially if you're hunting for bargains - even without the tax regime, Sanya offers some great deals. Haggle on the streets or shop in the larger department stores such as Mingzhu Plaza and Xiari.

Relax. Sanya's reputation for luxury has seen the arrival of several plush spas designed for China's elite, no more so than in the sprawling five-star resorts dotted along the coastline.

Eat chicken. As the name suggests, Wenchang Chicken originated in the nearby city of Wenchang - it's now served all over Asia and very popular in Sanya's restaurants.

Dive. Sanya Bay's warm water is home to some stunning marine life, including pristine coral reefs. The tiny islands offshore make for a good starting/rest point for boat trips.

Escape. When the tourists and the touts of Sanya get too much, the nearby National Attraction of Nanshan is a worthwhile visit. Intricate Buddhist temples, stunning scenery and traditional entertainment are on offer for those prepared to make the 20-kilometer journey.

http://english.sanya.gov.cn

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