10 Things to Know Before Going to the Hawaii of China

by Mallory Siebers

Hainan is known to the Eastern World as the “Hawaii of China”. Hainan and Hawaii are indeed on the same latitude, but that’s about all they have in common. This can be a great place to visit while interning in China. Here are 10 things you should know while planning your trip to Hainan.

Enjoy people watching on the beaches of Hainan Island
Enjoy people watching on the beaches of Hainan Island. Photo by Mallory Siebers

1. If you sprawl out in the sun in a bikini, you will receive many judgmental stares. 

During your internship in China, you will learn that Chinese women prize marble white skin, so unlike in the West where women will beachcomb nearly-naked, Chinese women walk in full length flower dresses, thick shoulder shawls, massive sunglasses, sun hats larger than their waists, and carry wide umbrellas to block any stray rays. 

2. You will see a lot of man skin. 

While men in the West usually wear swim trunks, Chinese men prefer speedos or just plain whitie tighties. Skin color doesn’t seem to be a physical concern for them. Neither does the size of the bottom, or wearing one at all, which can come as an uncomfortable surprise to foreign interns in China. 

3. Come to the beach during the day, as if you have to be told. 

Chinese women want to be white, but they still want to take a dip, so the beach is much more crowded at night. If you want some peace and quiet, you’ll find plenty of it on the beach at high noon. Come sunset, the restaurants open, the bars light up, the music stops, and every square inch of sea is full with night swimmers, which goes on well past midnight.

4. The beach is a free comedy show. 

Most Chinese people did not learn how to swim as children and still have trouble. Full grown men have no shame jumping in the ocean with pink floaties on their arms or riding a blown up whale through the waves. Standard inner tubes of rainbow colors are the cheapest option, so the ocean looks like a sea of chewy jolly ranchers. Giant rafts are also acceptable, but very difficult to get beyond the breakers. These variables add up to a very enjoyable people watching.

Hainan beach

5. Bring your own sunscreen and beach towel. 

They are nowhere to be found in the hundreds of gift shops. But leave plenty of room in your suitcase for floor-length willowy sundresses, petite flip flops, blow up turtles, and pearl earrings.

6. Bring someone who speaks Chinese with you. 

This is pretty standard for vacation in China anywhere. Just started your internship and haven’t made any Chinese friends yet? Bring someone who speaks Russian with you. Hainan is a hot vacation spot for wealthy Russians. The street hawkers speak to you in Russian, the food is Russian, and all the signs are in Chinese and Russian. If you are Western, pretend you are Russian. It’s just easier.

7. Eat mango sorbet. 

On most corners there are street vendors who set up little fruit sorbet stands. They blend up fresh fruit and pour it on a freezing plate. After a bit of scooping, it freezes into a guilt-free Icee that tastes incredible. Have it every day. Every meal. It’s fruit so it’s healthy…right

8. Stay in Dadonghai. 

There are plenty of very inexpensive hostels hidden between the Marriotts and Ritz Carltons. Dadonghai Bay is considered the “second best beach”, but really the sand and ocean are exactly the same as the “best beach”, Yalong Bay. The difference between them is that Dadonghai has fewer Western hotels. Dadonghai has nice cheap hostels you can book online, right next to the beach. It’s less expensive (perfect for unpaid interns), less crowded, and more accessible. 

Hainan

9. There are activities other than tanning. 

Take a day off beach bumming for a stroll through the rainforest in the central highlands. Yanoda Rainforest Park is the Disney World of rainforests. It has “China’s Longest Zip Line” that soars above the treetops and a “water trek” where you wade up a river in straw sandals, conquer obstacles, and eventually free climb a 20 foot waterfall. Take a taxi there individually instead of a tour so you are free to choose your activities. It’s worth the extra effort.

10. Bring your ID to attractions.

 Even if you are working as an intern in China, if you still have a student ID, flash it at attractions. You’ll get a discount, and the ticket takers will be very excited to see a foreigner.

Check out more internship programs abroad and take a dip at the famed Hawaii of China now!