- Travelers: Kerry Driver, her husband David Hoffman, and their sons Duke (age 6) and Kam (age 5), who attend Beijing City International School (BCIS).
- Destination: Hainan, China
- Dates: March-April 2014
- Travel plans: The Driver-Hoffman family flew to Sanya from Beijing with Air China and stayed at the Marriot Renaissance Resort in Haitang Bay. They booked their flights through eTravel but arranged their hotel booking and transportation independently.
- Cost: Flights were more expensive than usual because the holiday overlapped with Qing Ming. Driver and Hoffman’s economy class flights cost RMB 3,470 per person while airfare for Duke and Kam cost RMB 2,320 per person. Their oceanfront room was RMB 850 per night for the first four nights, rising to RMB 1,050 for the final three nights due to holiday rates and Hoffman’s arrival. The rate included breakfast buffet for two people; each additional person cost RMB 100. Additional food and drinks at the hotel came to RMB 3,000 for the week. A 90-minute massage at the hotel was a worthwhile splurge at RMB 800. Lunch at a seafood restaurant near Monkey Island came to RMB 118, while lunch at seafood market in Sanya city cost only RMB 380 (1 adult, 2 children). A fresh seafood dinner at a restaurant down the beach from the Renaissance came to RMB 500 (2 adults, 2 children).
What I loved most about the trip was the simplicity of it. Flights were short enough to allow David to join us for a few days since his work schedule didn’t allow him to come for the whole trip. We love family trips in China, but this one was so much more relaxing than our usual domestic adventures because we didn’t do much trekking – the pool and the beach were enough to keep us 100 percent happy on most days.
My husband and I have been traveling with our two boys since they were tiny babies, but this trip was the first family holiday we’ve taken where the kids and the parents had the same agendas. We were all happy to sleep late, swim and play all day, and eat dinner after sundown.
Sanya’s airport is open air like the one we fly into when going home to Hawaii. I love that feeling of instant relaxation when the warm humid air hits you as you get off the plane. The drive to Haitang Bay from the Sanya airport was a bit depressing – too many huge, empty “ghost complexes” of condo units. But our first impression of the Renaissance was great; it’s a wonderful resort with helpful staff. The location, grounds, and facilities were excellent. The pool is suitable for young kids, but would’ve been better if there were a lifeguard on duty.
We really enjoyed hanging out by the pool and on the beach, but after a few days we wanted something new. We asked the hotel to help us book a driver to take us to Monkey Island, a tourist destination near Haitang Bay. We speak Chinese, so we were able to reserve a local car and driver rather than the hotel car, which would have been significantly more expensive. The price for half a day was RMB 400, which was only slightly more expensive than two one-way fees. The driver took us by a grocery store on the way back to the hotel so we could stock up on some fruits, snacks, and simple foods, which provided us with a nice break from the hotel restaurants.
We called the same driver again a few days later to take us to the Li Minority Village in the mountains near Sanya. This tourist village was well done, with lots of quiet areas to explore. The kids really enjoyed the shows and interacting with the animals. The village charges an entrance fee, with small extra charges once you’re inside for activities like bird feeding (RMB 10). Like Monkey Island, its best to let your driver or tour guide purchase the tickets because they get credit for bringing you there and receive a slight discount.
There was one beachside seafood restaurant that was not part of the resort but just a short walk down the beach. It had great fish at very decent prices, more casual than the resort restaurants, and therefore more fun to go with kids.
- I recommend eTravel for booking flights, as they have excellent customer service.
- The prices for flights, hotel rooms, and meals go up a lot during Chinese national holidays and everywhere is a lot more crowded. If possible, go to Hainan during the off season.
- Be sure to take down the phone number and address of your hotel in Chinese, because there are many with similar names.
- If you’re visiting the attractions mentioned here, make sure the car has seatbelts; driving can be erratic on coastal highways and mountain roads.
- Pack your favorite snacks or food staples if you don’t have a kitchen and don’t want to eat out for all three meals. Local grocery stores don’t stock things like peanut butter.
Photos courtesy of Kerry Driver