Haikou: Tropical Pleasure
Photo: Old Quarter © YONGNIAN GUI - DREAMSTIME.COM
WHILE THERE IS BUSINESS TO BE DONE in Haikou, the capital city of Hainan focuses on pleasure. The island 20 miles off the south coast of China is the country’s designated international tourist destination. Just two years shy of the 2020 goal to create “a worldwide first-class island resort,” it abounds with activities. Once the sun sets (regularly about 6 p.m., year-round), Haikou offers plenty of opportunities for rest and relaxation.
In the Old Quarter downtown near the renewed harbor, streets lined with colonial architecture, storefronts and clubs bustle with activity. The high-rise Wan Guo shopping center hums with restaurants, juice bars and electronics markets. On its eighth floor, the comfortable Wood Bar serves cocktails, beer and wine. A movie theater shows the latest films in English.
At the popular Banqiao Road Seafood Market, wander among buckets of fresh fish, squid and oysters, picking out a morsel to be cooked and served with trimmings at adjacent restaurants. On nearby Haikou Snack Street, stalls in a two-story food court sell local fare — try Wencheng chicken or Dongshan mutton — and its open-air stage features performances of traditional shows.
Night spots vary from small local bars with wooden benches where visitors can mingle with the locals to pricier, large international nightclubs with flashy lights, mirrors, loud sound systems and dance floors. Book a dinner or party cruise for views of the city lights from the water.
A departure tax rebate and duty-free take-home allowance of 16,000 yuan, about $2,600, act as shopping inducements. In the MH Outlets Shopping Mall, surrounded by palm trees and set under a segmented, cool glass canopy, upscale shops sell popular take-homes such as pearls, brocades and coconut carvings.
Unique in the country, Hainan provides special internet zones where foreigners can consult Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and some other websites blocked elsewhere. Discretion is recommended, but China is the world’s third-largest LGBTQ+ market, and venues here are relaxed.
To the west of town, nearby resorts offer tee times for night golf in the cool evening air and spas for relaxing soaks in plentiful hot springs. Concierges at the Mission Hills Resort and Shangri-La Hotel can help with bookings.