The best time to visit Sanya is from October to March, when temperatures range between 21 and 25 degrees Celsius. Summers are hot and bring more rain.
Direct flights to Sanya Phoenix International Airport are available from Seoul-Incheon (on China Eastern Airlines), Hong Kong (on Dragonair) and several cities in mainland China (on China Eastern, China Southern Airlines, Hainan Airlines and other Chinese carriers).
Hainan Island has rail links to mainland China, with the train itself actually carried across on a ferry. So visitors with time to spare can take a train from Shanghai, Beijing or Guangzhou to Haikou, Hainan's other major city -- located on the northern side of the island, near where the ferry lands -- and on to Sanya, another 360 kilometers or so. From Shanghai, the journey to Sanya takes about 36 hours; from Guangzhou, about 15.
You can also catch an ordinary ferry to Haikou. From there taxis and buses can take you to Sanya along a modern highway.
Where to stay
Most of the international-standard hotels and resorts are clustered in three locations around the city itself. Kempinski and Holiday Inn have seaside hotels at Sanya Bay, a quiet but rather isolated area on the western edge of the city not far from the airport. The Kempinski Hotel Sanya has a pretty beach and claims to be home to the city's only authentic German-style Brauhaus serving freshly brewed beer. Rooms this month start at 8 a night (www.kempinski-sanya.com).
Banyan Tree and Mandarin Oriental have resorts near Dadonghai, a beach close to central Sanya. Banyan Tree has 49 villas in a tropical-lagoon setting. Oceanfront villas with a personal swimming pool and heated jet pool are now going for 4 a night (www.banyantree.com).
Yalong Bay, a 30-minute taxi ride east of Sanya, has the biggest concentration of luxury resorts, most of them with spacious lots on the beach. One of the first on the scene was the Sanya Marriott Resort & Spa, which opened in 2004. It has immaculate gardens and a breezy open-air lobby. Ocean-facing rooms with a king-size bed are running 1 a night (www.marriott.com/syxmc).
The Ritz-Carlton has 450 rooms and villas at a rambling, park-like property at one end of the beach at Yalong Bay. It offers eight restaurants and lounges and boasts of having the region's biggest spa. Ocean-view rooms now start at 8 a night (www.ritzcarlton.com).
One row back from the beach is the Pullman Sanya Yalong Bay Resort & Spa, with colossal, Thai-inspired reception halls and a large compound of villas. It lacks a beachfront location, but electric carts shuttle guests to a nearby strip of beach reserved for them. The Pullman's current rates start at 5 a night (www.pullmanhotels.com).