Haikou means ‘Mouth of the Sea’ and while sea trade remains relatively important, the buzzing provincial capital at the northern tip of Hainan is most notable for its booming construction. New and restarted projects are everywhere (including a mass transit line that should open in the next couple of years). Most astonishing is the western section of the city, which looks more like Florida (pastel-coloured low-rises, wide palm-lined lanes, and a long stretch of sandy coastline) than anything in China.
Haikou has few interesting sights within the city itself, though it makes a good base for exploring the north of the island. With the beach just minutes away, some find themselves quite satisfied just hanging out here for a few days.
Find cheap flights to Haikou
Recommended things to do & see
Our top picks for Haikou
The joggers, badminton players, tai chi artists, kung fu kickers, chess players and people-watchers are a wonder to behold. Even if you can't speak a word of Mandarin, just bowl up and you'll soon be communicating with the locals. And don't miss the dancers; the 80-something geezer we saw could have cut a rug with Fred Astaire.
Tomb of Hairui
More attractive than the Five Officials Memorial Temple, the Tomb of Hairui was ravaged during the Cultural Revolution but has been restored in vibrant colour. Hairui was an incorruptible and popular Ming dynasty official who was eventually banished to the island after criticising the emperor. The tomb is in western Hǎikǒu, off Haixiu Dadao; take bus 2 and tell the driver 'Hairui Mu!', or watch for a turn-off marked by a blue sign in English and Chinese. From there it's a 1km-walk south.
Kilometres of smooth sand beach stretch west of Xiuying Harbour. From Haixiu Dadao, bus 40 terminates smack in the middle.
Lonely Planet has supplied content for Jetstar. All Lonely Planet content is independently reviewed and reflects their editorial independence and impartiality.