FIRST-TIME visitors to China's southern sea-and-surf capital, with its year-round balmy weather, may initially find it hard to get their bearings. Its sights are spread over a surprisingly large area and it would require two or three busy days to take everything in. Most foreign visitors end up in the exclusive Yalong Bay, which is about 20 minutes east of Sanya city. Dadonghai Beach, a lively, more proletarian version of Yalong, abuts the eastern side of the city, while Sanya Bay - which sees few foreign visitors - sprawls away to the west, past the airport and the 'End of the Earth' (Tianya Haijiao), to the new Nanshan Culture Zone, with its record-breaking statue of Guanyin. Take your pick from our selection of sights below and leave some time for lounging poolside or at Yalong Bay's splendid beach. Luhuitou Park The park celebrates a local legend about a hunter who pursued a deer for 99 days only to have it turn into a beautiful maiden just as he was about to kill it with an arrow (they married and lived happily ever after, it goes without saying). But it does not quite fall into the category of must dos. The best thing about it is the rickety fairground cable car to the top and the views of Sanya City and Sanya Bay when you get there. West Island Definitely a runner-up to Wuzhizhou, West Island, or Xidao, is a sleepy place circled in part by a narrow road serviced by small electric buses. What were not so long ago fishing villages (the houses are made of coral) line the waterfront, but most of the locals are now involved in the tourism industry. Tianya Haijiao Tianya Haijiao, or 'End of the Earth', is an attraction that conjures up an emotional response in Chinese visitors, as the characters on the beachfront rocks here famously mark the southernmost extent of the Chinese empire. For domestic tourists, this is Sanya's must-see attraction and there are usually lively queues for photo opportunities against the historical backdrop. Wuzhizhou Island Wuzhizhou (pronounced wu jir joe) is reminiscent of southern Thailand and the resort would not look out of place in Phuket. Electric minibuses circle the island, but the bicycles for hire are a lot more fun. There are water sports, including scuba-diving, as well as a boat with portholes in the hull that makes 20-minute excursions out into the reef. The local tourist literature advises visitors to carry a stick to ward off the snakes, but we saw no evidence of them. Nanshan Cultural Park The chief attraction of this relatively recent cultural endowment to Sanya is a world superlative with a specialised niche - a 108-metre tall statue of Guanyin, the world's tallest 'offshore Buddhist statue in the open air'. The statue is an impressive sight and elsewhere around the park there is a lakeside temple and an ink stone museum. Chinese tourists flock to the Buddhist vegetarian restaurant. Tropical Ocean Zoo Close to Tianya Haijiao, the ocean zoo is a good children's outing. Attractions include sea lions and dolphins, an aquarium and a crocodile section. Sanya Nanshan Treehouse Resort and Beach Club Tel (+1 808) 248 7241 (Maui) Tel 1300 509 0705 (China) If you fancy getting away from it all in a beachside tree house, consider booking a weekend at the Sanya Nanshan Treehouse Resort and Beach Club. Not far from the Nanshan Cultural Park, it offers affordable treetop escapes just minutes from the beach. Nantian Resort & Spa Sanya Tel (0898) 88819888 We cannot confirm whether, as the Nantian Resort claims, this is 'the best spring in China', but it is difficult to imagine that there are any others in such a lovely setting. About 40 minutes' drive almost directly north of Yalong Bay, the resort is home to dozens of soak pools of varying temperatures - from piping hot to ice cold - amid a grove of coconut palms. Bungalows and regular hotel rooms are available for an overnight stay. Sanya Wuzhizhou Island Holiday Resort Tel (0898) 88811777 Delightful beachside and hillside cottages make this resort a laid-back island alternative to those of Yalong Bay. Visit www.wuzhizhou.com (in Chinese) for bargains.