Haikou offers easy access to nature at its finest and most beautiful
Extinct ancient volcanoes enhance Hainan’s natural splendour
Haikou is a growing city of 2.27 million people, but there are still beautiful, wild and natural places surrounding the city. There are beaches and parks, volcanoes and coconut plantations, as well as vast strands of mangrove trees and exotic botanic gardens.
Many of the best beaches in China are on Hainan Island, and the northern coastline east and west of Haikou are no exception. Holiday and Xixiu beaches make up parts of a long strip of sandy beach heading west from the city. The luxurious beaches along the northern coast of Hainan are among the more popular areas for locals and visitors to spend a weekend afternoon. Visitors can rent parasols and chairs for the day, or set out a blanket and sip sorbets all day.
The best times to go are in early spring – the rainy season starts in April, with big storms coming towards the end of August and September. Temperatures can reach in the high 30s Celsius around midsummer, so sunscreen or a big umbrella are essential.
One of the city’s greatest attractions lies several kilometres to the southwest, where extinct ancient volcanoes poke out through the lush countryside. The Haikou Shishan Crater Cluster National Geological Park encompasses about 108 square kilometres of countryside, and includes a tourist park and gift stands surrounding an amazing extinct volcano cone. Visitors can descend the stairs winding down into the lushly vegetated crater, which feels more like a cave, then take in luscious views of the countryside all the way to the sea, including vast pineapple groves and row after row of swaying palm trees.
Another great trip is out to Wenchang County, in the northeast, to walk amid the coconut groves of the Dongjiao Coconut Plantation. This coconut farming community is comprised of cool, palm-lined lanes winding through traditional villages where locals harvest coconuts and spend their leisure time swinging in hammocks. The attraction here is not just access to coconut products but also a close glimpse into the sleepy, sun-soaked villages of the emerald tropical island. Down the coast, southwest from Haikou, is the Dongzhai Harbour Mangrove Natural Reserve Area. The mangroves grow like many others around the world, with one root firmly planted in the ocean. The tides swallow up the bases of many trees, making for great hiding places for a variety of aquatic creatures. It is also a great way to spend the afternoon. Boat tours are available through the mangroves, winding in and out of the roots, and then out into the bay.
The wilds of Hainan are famous in China, and with good reason. Its major cities, such as Haikou, have progressed and developed like their mainland counterparts, but Hainan retains much of its natural splendour, thanks to its tropical climate and rugged terrain.
Visitors can take a trip in any direction from Haikou and encounter amazing eco-tourism options, from more coconut plantations to fabulous sunny beaches and excursions in the placid seas of the South Pacific.