Haikou is the capital city of China’s favourite holiday island, Hainan, and perched on its northern coast. Clean air, lush volcanic scenery, dramatic geoparks and white-sand beaches make Haikou a playground for outdoor adventures. Hiking, cycling, golfing and all kinds of watersports await. So without further ado, here are the places to embrace your sporty side.
For sailing, SUP’ing and surfing
Blessed with near-perfect conditions year-round, Hainan is a premier destination for watersport enthusiasts. Holiday Beach (also known as Jiari Beach) is a major recreational spot, with a six-kilometre stretch of gorgeous white sand, your choice of watersport opportunities – from kitesurfing to banana boat rentals – and food and entertainment options.
Head to neighbouring Xixiu Beach for windsurfing, sailing, SUP and kayaking, with English-speaking instructors, equipment for rent and a clubhouse with showers and lockers.
Surfers will find it worth the two-hour journey to reach Riyuewan, or Sun and Moon Bay, which offers some of the area’s best swells, plus everything a beach bum could hope for: silky fine sand, relaxed accommodation and plenty of surf clubs and facilities.
For more laidback activities on the water, venture an hour south of Haikou to rent a boat and explore the peaceful expanse of Nanli Lake, which encompasses 13 islands and five peninsulas.
For teeing off with scenery and amenities galore
Haikou’s numerous world-class golf courses draw international big hitters. Award-winning Mission Hills comprises a whopping 10 golf courses – the second largest complex in the world – beautifully landscaped over volcanic terrain. Additional facilities include luxury hotels, a water park, beach, hot springs, restaurants and a movie-themed tourist attraction.
The largest driving range, however, can be found in the stunning West Coast Golf Club, along with wide flat fairways and views of the South China Sea and Haikou city skyline.
Another standout is the Hainan Moon Bay Golf Club, where three courses wind around pretty lakes and delicate bridges, with jungle and beach vistas from different holes. And at the picturesque Hainan Meilan Golf Club, designed by Australian golf great Graham Marsh, you can enjoy enchanting sunset tee offs and play long into the evening on floodlit courses.
For hiking, picnicking and vertical climbing
Haikou is packed with gorgeous parks for soaking up the fresh air and stretching your legs along scenic hikes.
Located in the heart of downtown, Evergreen Park is a sprawling green lung boasting large grassy fields that are perfect to fly kites, play frisbee, go for a jog, or enjoy a picnic. Regular events and art exhibitions can also be caught here.
Join early-morning residents in the city-centre People’s Park for a host of activities from tai chi to badminton, square dancing and aerobics, or watch locals engage in a fast-paced game of gateball (inspired by croquet). Hundreds of shaded paths also offer peaceful jogging tracks.
Get your heart rate pumping with scintillating views and plenty of vertical climbs at Huoshankou National Geopark, which boasts ancient volcanic craters, dramatic lava tunnels, geological rock formations, waterfalls and lush jungle foliage. Bicycle hire can also be arranged to explore the picturesque villages dotted around the area, such as the 20th-century Mei She village, carved out of volcanic rock.
For a day – or days – cycling through bucolic countryside
If you’ve got the time to commit to adventure, cycling the 300 kilometres from Haikou to Sanya is a popular choice (it takes a good five or six days). Among the possible routes, the East Coast appeals for its largely flat ride with the opportunity to visit pretty coastal villages along the way.
For advanced cyclists, the Central Highlands offers a punishing climb through mountainous terrain, though efforts are rewarded with spectacular views.
Two hours out of Haikou, in Wenchang county, the Bamen Bay Greenways are a network of biking and hiking trails. The full route continues for about 45 kilometres, passing by the towns of Wencheng, Dongge, Wenjiao and Dongjiao, mangrove forests, coconut groves and riverbanks.