The Crab Island resort reportedly sprawls over 1 million square meters. What’s not in question is the wealth of family fun that if offers: a lake with paddle boats, fishing ponds, go-karting, grassland carting, a zoo, and an "organic" farm complete with egg picking. There are two amusement parks: one with a carousel and bumper cars, the other with a big playground, aqua bumper boats and a swinging boat. The zoo features ostriches, camels, llamas, bunnies, exotic birds and deer.
But the biggest summer attraction of Crab Island is City Seaview, a 60,000sqm faux beach. With gentle waves from the wave pool and soft, warm sand, it’s the closest thing to a beach in Beijing. Plop down on a beach towel under a free sun umbrella, get your thrills on one of the two water slides, spike a ball at the beach volleyball court, or splash around in the designated children’s play area. For ultimate relaxation, take a ride on an inner tube down the lazy river, or stand under the waterwheel where buckets of water periodically spill onto patient bodies.
Nearby concession stands sell assorted drinks (including beer) and chuan’r. If barbecued meat isn’t for you, head to one of the restaurants in the resort or stock up on snacks from the mini-supermarket across from the City Seaview entrance. The market sells swimsuits, beach toys, as well as apples, small snacks and drinks. Crab Island resort also has guesthouses, a convention center, bowling lanes, private KTV rooms, a sauna, as well as a lake stocked with fish and crabs.
Bus: Take Bus 588 to the Xiedao Dongmen stop; or Bus 418, 909 to the Xiedao stop and then follow the signs labeled "Xiedao," head north 600 meters.
Car: Take the Weigou Exit off the Airport Expressway and follow the signs labeled "Xiedao." Parking is free.
City Seaview 蟹岛绿色生态度假村
Daily 9am-8pm. RMB 60, RMB 40 for children under 1.4m; an additional RMB 1 for insurance. (Entry into Crab Island is free.) 1 Xiedao Lu, Chaoyang District (8433 9689, 8433 9191, email@example.com) www.cityseaview.net (Chinese only)朝阳区蟹岛路1号
Not too far from Beijing, Beidahe is an oasis of sandy dandy fun in the sun; it’s has been a favorite getaway of China’s highest-ranking officials since the 1950s, including Mao Zedong. Boasting yellow sandy beaches, convenience, and a colorful history as the perfect picturesque retreat for backroom deals, Beidaihe is probably the most famous ocean resort town in China.
Life in this once-quiet fishing village on Bohai Bay was forever altered by the arrival of laowai in the late 19th century seeking relief from the heat of Beijing and Tianjin. The foreigners built bungalows and golf courses and, to the bemused surprise of locals, bathed in the ocean.
There’s a reason Beidaihe’s unofficial motto is "lick ice lollies by day – crunch crab shells by night!" From boat and bike rentals to seafood and people-watching, Beidaihe has all the essential elements of a beach adventure. The main public area of the beach can be lit up for safer night swimming, and during the day there are several kilometers of beach to explore. Be warned: Beidaihe is very crowded during the peak summer tourist season (June through August).
Owing to Beidaihe’s fame and popularity, the surrounding region has been built up with tourist attractions – ranging from classic and cheesy to magnificent. Aside from the beach, you can take your brood to any one of the many shopping centers, hotels, restaurants, massage parlors, and amusement areas. For example, the Jade Snail Tower Bar Park (碧螺塔酒吧公园) is widely renowned as the most sumptuous snail tower bar park on Earth.
Beidaihe is about an hour away by bus from Shanhaiguan (the eastern end of the Great Wall), so visiting both places in one weekend is fabulously plausible. If you need some respite from the crowds, Qinhuangdao City, a short bus ride away, boasts a large port as well as plenty of other swimming locales. South of Beidaihe is the intuitively named town of Nandaihe. Compared to its neighbor, Nandaihe offers seaside at marginally cheaper rates, with marginally less intense crowds. However, for those hoping to follow Mao Zedong’s footsteps in the sand, Beidaihe is the place.
Every single building is a hotel, some fancier than others. If you like to shop around, you might be able to make a deal. If you like to plan ahead, there are a few websites you can use to reserve rooms in advance. Visit www.chinahotelsreservation.com/Beidaihe or
www.beidaihe.org (Chinese only).
Bus: Long-distance buses run directly to Beidaihe from the Lizeqiao and Bawangfen bus stations. In the high season there are direct buses from Beijing Railway Station every hour.
Train: Thirteen trains connect Beijing Railway Station and Beijing West Railway Station to Beidaihe every day from 0.28am to 8.54pm.
Car: Take Jingshen Expressway to Beidaihe Exit.
This Shandong coastal city is a hot spot for locals and tourists alike who seek a refreshing swim in the sweltering summer months. Qingdao was and still remains a major seaport, naval base and industrial center. The city was occupied by the German navy from 1897 until 1914. That country’s influence is still visible in Qingdao, from its European architecture to China’s cold, perspiring Tsingtaos.
Qingdao was also the location of the 2008 Olympic sailing events, but currently, its main allure is Number One Beach (第一浴场), a 580m expanse of yellow sand. However, this beach is often the most crowded. If that’s the case, head to one of Qingdao’s five other smaller, but more secluded beaches.
Kid-friendly attractions include two aquariums, the Qingdao Underwater World (also known as Qingdao Aquarium) and Polar Ocean World. The latter is newer and is dedicated to polar marine animals: polar bears, penguins, dolphins, sea lions and seals. For an additional fee, kids can feed the seals or have their picture taken with a dolphin. Folks traveling to Qingdao between June and September should visit Laoshan Mountain, home of the well-maintained Taiqing Palace Taoist Temple.
Qingdao has great food options, ranging from fresh, abundant seafood to excellent Western food. For accommodations, reserve a room at family-recommended Zhan Qiao Prince Hotel or the Crowne Plaza, which has a swimming pool.
Getting there: A 75-minute flight from Beijing.
This famous sandy destination is the summer haven your family has been seeking. Sanya is easy to navigate and has a wide choice of beach resorts. Of the two main beaches, Yalong Bay generally has fewer tourists and a more peaceful setting. If the relaxing beach life becomes too monotonous, families can take advantage of the snorkeling and hiking trips available.
Day trips to and from Sanya can also help add a little spice to the experience. Most notable are the extensive Jianfengling Nature Reserve (which shows off the jungle that once covered Hainan) and the Nantian Hot Spring Resort – an oasis of relaxing hot springs and gardens with hammocks, a perfect playground for kids. Nanwan Monkey Island is the only tropical island reserve for macaque monkeys. Access to the island is via a 2,138-meter ropeway – the longest in the world.
Local supermarkets sell great snacks and beach toys for a fraction of the resort prices. The Yalong Bay Central Plaza will delight parents and little ones alike with its Shell Museum. The nearby Butterfly Valley will also entrance the kids. For a delicious meal, dive in to a serving of Hainan chicken rice, which is a hit with kids. Also try giant prawns, hot off the barbecue, and don’t miss having a fresh coconut on the beach!
Getting there: A four-hour flight from Beijing.