A paradise of sun, surf and sand, Greater China’s second-largest island after Taiwan lures visitors with a taste for holidays spent in the lap of luxury

China’s smallest and southernmost province, Hainan is the People’s Republic’s answer to the American vacation hotspot of Hawaii. Home to beaches, mountains and jungle and blessed with balmy weather year-round, this pear-shaped island paradise has become a popular getaway locale not just for wealthy mainland Chinese but also for Russian tourists starved for a break from the seeming permafrost back home. Hainan is known as the “Coconut Island” in honour of its leading agricultural export and was at one time a place of exile for errant government officials. However, these days it’s anything but a backwater thanks to the ongoing development of posh seaside resorts and spas in Sanya – the island’s Honolulu – and the presence of natural wonders such as Sanya’s half dozen major bays, mangrove forests, wildlife such as sea turtles and monkeys, golf courses, snorkelling, surfing and diving spots, and cultural attractions designed to spotlight Hainan’s various ethnic minorities.