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    China's Hainan Island is an idyllic but often overlooked vacation spot that’s teeming with pristine nature. With soft, white-sand beaches dotted with coconut palms, lush mountain landscapes and year-round warm weather, it's easy to see why this tropical island is often nicknamed the ‘Hawaii of China’.

    You can find many small islands and islets lie just off the coast of Hainan. Apart from watersports like parasailing, jet-skiing and banana boat rides, you can dive or snorkel between corals that thrive in crystal-clear water surrounding the islands. It's best to plan your trip between November and April when Hainan Island is generally quieter – do avoid Chinese New Year’s when travelling can be hectic. Check out our picks of the best islands to visit in Hainan below.

    1

    West Island

    A gorgeous island with picture-perfect scenery

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    West Island lies in the centre of Sanya Bay on the south coast of Hainan, around 13 nautical km from downtown Sanya. It is home to over 3,000 people who have subsisted for generations by fishing. With idyllic surroundings of unspoilt beaches with palm trees, rocky coves and transparent water full of diverse marine life, who wouldn’t want to live here?

    Besides sunbathing on beautiful beaches, canoeing, jet-skiing, parasailing, scuba diving and snorkelling, you can explore the rocky hills dotted all over West Island. Take a public bus number 16, 24 or 25 to Xiaoqi Port and transfer to a ferry that departs for the island every 20 minutes.

    Adress: West Island, Sanya, Hainan, China

    Öppet: Daily from 7.30 am to 5.30 pm

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    2

    Phoenix Island

    A luxurious island resort

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    The tall, curved towers of Phoenix Island dominate the skyline of Sanya Bay. Dubbed the ‘Oriental Dubai’, the luxury resort occupies an artificial archipelago that's connected to the mainland's Guangming Street by a sightseeing bridge.

    The resort has 5-star hotels, boutique apartments, a yacht clubhouse, shopping streets and a harbour for international passenger liners. Even if you aren’t staying at the resort, the striking and futuristic architecture is lovely to look at, particularly at night when a light show illuminates the buildings in different colours.

    Adress: Sanya, Hainan, China

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    foto av Anna Frodesiak (CC0 1.0) redigerad

    3

    Wuzhizhou Island

    A hotspot for divers and snorkelers

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    Wuzhizhou Island is a very tiny islet that lies 30 km northeast of Sanya in Haitang Bay. Boasting white-sand beaches, crystal clear water and one of the best-preserved coral reefs in China, the 1.48-sq-km island is a paradise for watersports, especially scuba diving and snorkelling.

    For panoramic sea views and stunning sunrises, head to Sunrise Rock on the southeast cliff of the island. You can also find seafood restaurants, bars and hotels dotting the island. To get there, take bus no. 28 from downtown Sanya to Wuzhizhou Island Wharf, where you can buy a ticket for the 15-minutes ferry ride across to the island. Ferries leave approximately every 30 minutes, starting from 8am.

    Adress: Haitang, Sanya, Hainan, China

    Öppet: Daily from 8.30 am to 5.30 pm (last entry at 4 pm)

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    foto av Lovelanlan (CC0 1.0) redigerad

    4

    Nanwan Monkey Island

    Observe endangered Macaque monkeys

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    Nanwan Monkey Island is not technically an island, but rather a state-protected nature reserve on the Nanwan Peninsula, 14 km south of Lingshui County. True to its name, the reserve is home to about 1,500 endangered macaques – many of them are tame enough to greet visitors as they alight Nanwan's cable car. Spanning 2 km in length, the cable car is the longest oversea ropeway in China. It departs from a village called Xincun.

    You can wander around the forested island and watch the monkeys swim, play and even perform circus tricks. Afterwards, enjoy a seafood meal on fishing rafts known as the ‘street on the sea’.

    Adress: Lingshui, Hainan, China

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    5

    Wanning Boundary Island

    For a day full of adventure

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    Boundary Island is a gorgeous island located just off the southeast coast of Hainan, between Lingshui County and Wanning in Riyue Bay. It is also known as Fenjiezhou Island. You can expect clear and clean blue water, soft white-sand beaches and exquisite marine life on this well-preserved tropical island.

    Looking for adventure? The small island offers a bevvy of outdoor activities including scuba diving, snorkelling, parasailing, yachting, hiking, volleyball, and a sightseeing submarine. Take a high-speed train from Sanya to Lingshui Railway Station, then a free shuttle bus to a ferry pier. The ride across to Boundary Island takes about 10 minutes.

    Adress: Lingshui, Hainan, China

    Öppet: Daily from 7.30 am to 5.30 pm

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    Coconut Island

    Be at one with nature on an unspoilt island

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    Coconut Island (Yezi Island) is a mostly uninhabited island located some 5 km east from the village of Lingshui, where the Lingshui River flows into the sea. The islet is pristine and abundant in coconut palm groves and is yet to be developed.

    This 1-sq-km island is a must-visit if you’re seeking a day away from crowded beaches. There's nothing to do here apart from enjoying a stroll on the soft sand, listening to the sound of the waves as they gently crash on the beach, or enjoying a refreshing swim. Ask your hotel to help you rent a local boat to take you to Coconut Island.

    Adress: Yezi Island, Lingshui, Hainan, China

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    7

    Jiajing Island

    A secluded spot for a beach day

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    Jiajing Island lies in Shimei Bay on the southeast coast of Hainan and is one of Hainan’s last remaining uninhabited islands. The north and west shores are flat and surrounded by coral and tropical fish, offering excellent snorkelling and scuba diving opportunities.

    There are no facilities on the island, so it’s best to bring your own snacks and water. The easiest and most convenient way to reach Jiajing Island is by signing up for an organised tour. Most trips will include a barbecue lunch and fruit.

    Adress: Wanning, Hainan, China

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    foto av Zhangmoon618 (CC BY-SA 3.0) redigerad

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    Zhouzai Island

    Camp under the stars

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    Located 3 km off the Shenzhou Peninsula, Zhouzai Island offers visitors sandy beaches and warm, transparent water set against a beautiful lush mountain landscape. For a day devoid of loud music, tourist crowds and vendors, this unfrequented island should be at the top of your places to explore when visiting Hainan. 

    Prolong your island experience by with an overnight stay on Zhouzai. Bring along a tent and everything else you might need for a night of remote island camping, as you won’t be able to buy anything here.

    Adress: Wanning, Hainan, China

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    9

    Haidian Island

    A non-touristy place to explore

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    Haidian Island is located in the north of Hainan and forms part of Haikou, the island province’s capital city. It's connected to the urban area via 4 bridges and has plenty of 5-star hotels and resorts.

    While it’s not often on most people's list of places to visit, Haidian does offer several things to do. There's coastal path circling the island that starts at Baishamen Beach. It’s flat and excellent for runners, walkers and cyclists. You can also visit the Baishamen Lighthouse, which is the second tallest lighthouse in China and 6th tallest in the world.  

    Adress: Meilan, Haikou, Hainan, China

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    10

    Dazhou Island

    Snorkel in turquoise waters

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    Dazhou Island is a protected nature reserve and lies 5 km off the coast of Wanning. It’s also home to China’s exquisite Jinsi Swallow. The island consists of a northern and a southern mountain, with a 500-metre long sandy beach connecting them. 

    The warm, crystal-clear tropical waters surrounding the island mean snorkelers are treated to colourful fish and other marine creatures. To reach the island, take a short ferry ride from Wanning’s Wuchang Wharf to Dazhou Island. It’s also possible to bring your own tent and stay the night.

    Adress: Wanning, Hainan, China

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    Jacqui de Klerk | Skribent

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