A Weekend at the Anantara, Sanya

When I told my parents I was off to Sanya, it was met with a ‘where’s on earth is that?’.  I must also admit that until I moved to Hong Kong, I wasn’t too familiar with Hainan Island aka ‘China’s Hawaii’.  

Where is Sanya?

Sanya is located on the southern tip of China’s Hainan Island.  It even shares the same latitude as Hawaii meaning it’s warm all year round.  Remember most of you reading this will require a China Tourist Visa.  I organised mine through Hong Kong’s China Travel Service (4 days) although a rush 1 day service is available.  A slightly cheaper option is to obtain your visa directly through the Chinese Embassy.



Getting There

The reason Sanya is popular with Hong Kongers is that it’s an easy one hour flight.  We flew with Dragonair who have a schedule that allow you to make the most out of a short trip with an early 9am departure and 9pm return (although we never actually made the return.. more on that later).  From Hong Kong you can also fly direct with Hong Kong Airlines and Hainan Airlines.

When to go

November to April is known as the best time although if you’re looking to sunbathe, Jan & Feb might be slightly chilly.  The rains can greet the island July to mid October (similar to HK). That said, we enjoyed fabulous weather on our visit at the end of September whilst super typhoon Usagi brought showers to Hong Kong.

Arriving in Sanya

I had been warned by friends staying in Sanya the previous week that outside of the resorts, there really is nothing to do.  Phoenix International Airport has a bright, breezy feel like Koh Samui.  However, on driving 5 minutes through the main town, its clear that Sanya isn’t a laid back tropical island, it looks like a generic Chinese city.  That said, once you drive out to the ‘tourist zone’, things start to feel different when you are greeted by glimpse of turquoise sea and sandy bays.

The new-ish Anantara Hotel is located close to Dadonghai Bay, only a 25 minute drive from the Phoenix International Airport.

The Anantara

From the outset, the Anantara lures you in with its chic modern Thai design, in keeping with other Anantara resorts I have visited.  The resort consists of its main building which houses the restaurants and hotel rooms and a separate area with its villas.  Whilst the hotel rooms look fabulous, I was living the high life in a Spa Pool Villa.

Anantara Sanya Spa Pool Villa

At 500 square metres, this is a huge living expanse with two pavillions.  The lounge/dining pavillion also houses a spa room for your own in-house spa treatments.

Anantara Sanya Lounge Diner

The separate master bedroom is in itself enormous with two walk in wardrobes and enormous indoor/outdoor bathrooms.  People often ask where the kids sleep on holiday.  Well.. we put one travel cot in one walk in wardrobe and a mattress on the floor of the other one!  The hotel had also thoughtfully babyproofed all sharp table edges with ‘edge guards’.

The kid Crocs were a nice touch

The kid Crocs were a nice touch

The villa pool is huge, far bigger than I’ve seen at any hotel pool villa.  There is a sala at one end which makes for a nice shady place to hang out with the kids.  What I love about the idea of a villa within a hotel is that when your kids are napping, you’re not confined to hiding in a dark hotel room with them.  If money is no object, you can also opt for a Family Pool Villa with two separate bedrooms.

I can’t mention the room without showing you a picture of the Anantara’s ‘towel art’. This was by far, the best towel work I have ever seen in a hotel!  Intricate elephants and a hanging monkey…

Anantara Monkey Towel


The main pool is a lovely, free-form design with a big shallow area where young kids can splash around. If the weather’s a bit chilly, there’s a nice covered hot jacuzzi. There are comfy beds surrounding the pool, my favourite being big double mattresses in cabanas overlooking the shallow area with curtains to create shade.

Anantara Hotel Pool Sanya

Anantara Pool

The beach in front of the hotel has lovely powder white sand and clear blue sea.  It’s not a long stretch of beach; to the left is the Intercontinental and to the right it looks like they are developing another hotel although we weren’t disturbed by any noise.

There’s a good sized gym and exercise classes on offer from yoga to beach football.  Sadly I didn’t have time to check out the spa but if it’s anything like the other Anantara spas, I’m sure it’s fabulous!

Kids Club

The Kids Club is a big, clean colourful room filled with toys, arts & crafts and a TV.  Outside is a small playground and sandpit.  There were daily activities scheduled but I wan’t sure if any residents had actually ever attended these…  When I took my kids for ‘Face Painting’ they seemed very confused but then happily found some acrylic paints and let my kids go wild drawing pictures and painting each other.

Anantara Kids Club

The main issue parents might have is that the Kids Club staff don’t speak much English.  However, they are so smiley and engaging with the children, mine were delighted to be left there to get on with some arts & crafts.  There is a small shaded kids pool located several meters from the club so parents can sit and relax there whilst the kids play in the club.

The Food

The buffet breakfast at Shi Yuan is well presented with lots of choice.  We also ate lunch at Shi Yuan – although the Western dishes were fine, the local dishes were absolutely delicious!  We ordered room service from the Anantara’s Thai restaurant, Baan Rim Nam which was very good.

I did appreciate the offer of plastic cutlery though – more five star hotels need to take note of this!

We walked across the beach to the Intercontinental and enjoyed cocktails and a snack dinner at their beach bar.  We had also intended to eat at the nearby Mandarin Oriental but the typhoon cut short our stay!

Intercontinental Beach Bar

Lounging at the Beach Bar 


If you’re looking for a short beach getaway from Hong Kong then Sanya is very convenient (although do remember to get a visa)  There’s a huge choice of luxury hotels and I highly recommend the gorgeous Anantara, especially if you can treat yourself to a pool villa!  Sanya and the island of Hainan is also a popular golf destination with 27 courses available.

What’s lacking in Sanya, in comparison to Thailand, Malaysia, Bali is the polished service and high level of English.  It is a hugely popular beach destination for mainland Chinese tourists but if Sanya is also setting its sight on the non Chinese tourist dollar, service needs to be stepped up a notch.

I feel I couldn’t give Sanya itself a full in-depth review as we made a hurried exit due to Super Typhoon Usagi.  Instead of taking a one hour flight back to Hong Kong, we made the journey by land.  Which is a whole tale in itself.

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