Nature, culture and coconuts: welcome to your tropical getaway.

Haikou's nickname, 'Coconut City,' gives a hint of what you can expect from the capital of island province, Hainan. But its coconut tree-lined streets are just the start. Its tropical appeal is further boosted by idyllic beaches, stunning natural landscapes, inviting outdoor bars and eateries, and a balmy climate.

Like all old port cities, Haikou has a long and interesting history. Sites such as Hairui Tomb, Xiuying Fort and the Temple of Five Lords provide a captivating glimpse into the city’s past. For nature in all its glory, don’t miss the jaw-dropping Haikou Volcanic Cluster Geopark and the famous mangrove forest at Dongzhai Port. In the centre of town, you’ll find the sprawling People’s Park, where you can join the locals in a spot of tai chi or relax with a picnic lunch.

Travellers seeking sun, sand and surf can take their pick. Stretching more than six kilometres, the glorious Holiday Beach is a popular choice for swimming, kayaking and soaking up some rays, while nearby Xixiu Beach is great for windsurfing and sailing.

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Things to do: Haikou

  • Historic buildings along Qilou Old Street, Haikou, Hainan, China.

    Wander around Qilou Old Street

    Qilou Old Street is not just one street, but a clutch of them, famous for their historic ‘arcade houses’ (qilou). A charming blend of European and Asian architectural styles, qilou have ground floors which are set back to make room for an open-air storefront at street level. The storeys above, extending over the sidewalk, provide shelter from the elements. Browse eclectic shops, grab a meal at one of the area’s many eateries, soak up the historic vibes – and make the most of the fabulous photo opportunities!

  • Village entrance gate made of ancient volcanic rock amid lush greenery, Haikou Volcanic Cluster Global Geopark.

    Explore Haikou Volcanic Cluster Global Geopark

    It's been about 13,000 years since the most recent eruption in Haikou’s Rocky Mountains but even without molten lava, the remaining volcanic cluster is mighty impressive. There are around 40 craters (the highest of which clocks in at 223m), amazing lava tunnels, and heaps of caves – all surrounded by lush tropical greenery. Hike to the top and take in the views, visit hot springs and enjoy tasty local cuisine at the on-site restaurant. This massive park is only 15km from the city centre, yet it feels like a world away.

  • The front of the red, two-storey Temple of Five Lords, Haikou, Hainan, China.

    Be wowed by the Temple of Five Lords

    One of Haikou’s oldest cultural sites, the Temple of Five Lords is a sprawling memorial complex with some eye-catching historic architecture. It was designed as a tribute to five officials from the Tang and Song dynasties who were banished to Hainan after power struggles in their respective imperial courts. Dating back to the 16th century, the Five Lords Ancestral Hall is a striking red building which houses statues of the five lords. There are also plenty of other centuries-old temples and pavilions to explore, plus a lovely lake and old stone sculptures.

  • Boats on the river beneath an overcast sky, Dongzhai Harbor Mangrove Nature Reserve, Haikou, Hainan, China.

    Discover the wonders of Dongzhai Harbor Mangrove Nature Reserve

    Not only is the Dongzhai Harbor Mangrove Nature Reserve a must-see for its dense mangrove forest, abundant marine life and tens of thousands of resident birds, it’s also where you’ll find China’s own Atlantis! Legend has it that at midnight on 13 July, 1605, a major earthquake resulted in 72 villages disappearing into the sea, where their buildings remain to this day. With their lower tides, May and June are the best months to view the underwater ruins from a boat. Or you can join a snorkelling or diving excursion to explore them up close.

  • Tourists wander around 1942 Street in Movie Town, Haikou, Hainan, China.

    Act out your film fantasies at Movie Town

    Fans of Chinese cinema (and cinema more generally) will love Movie Town, a unique attraction comprised of replica settings from acclaimed director Feng Xiaogang’s most famous films. Key among them are ‘1942 Street’ (a Republican-era streetscape inspired by his film Back to 1942), ‘Traditional Beijing Street’ and ‘Nanyang Street’. There’s also a movie studio, an ‘Avenue of Stars’ (a bit like Hollywood’s Walk of Fame), restaurants and souvenir shops. Lights, camera, action!

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Airport information

Haikou Meilan International Airport (HAK)

Distance to city centre 25km

Taxi The trip to Haikou should cost around CNY ¥60 and take about 30 minutes; make sure the driver uses the meter. You’ll find licensed taxis just outside the arrivals hall; don’t accept a ride from the touts inside the airport building.

Shuttle There are a couple of shuttle buses you can catch – one to and from Xinyuan Spa Hotel in Meilan district, and the other to and from West Bus Station in Xiuying district. They operate all day and cost CNY ¥20 per adult.

Train You can catch a high-speed train to either Xiuying district or Longhua district from the airport. The station is located on floor B1, between Terminals 1 and 2. Expect to pay between CNY ¥9 and CNY ¥19.

Rideshare Didi Chuxing is available at Haikou Airport. Pickups can be booked from both terminals.

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When to go

Though Haikou’s tropical climate is welcoming year-round, the golden period for visits is from October to April. So when China's north is at its most Siberian, Hainan is balmy and sun-drenched. May to October is the rainy season (September is the wettest month), and typhoon season hits between June and September.

Along with national festivals such as Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) and Tomb-sweeping Day, Haikou’s local festivals are worth travelling for. The colourful Hainan International Coconut Festival takes place in early April, while early March sees the Junpo Festival, featuring ancient traditional rituals. During the joyous Huanhua Festival (around January), people exchange flowers and celebrate friendship.

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Getting around

Haikou’s two sightseeing bus lines – known simply as Lines 1 and 2 – offer twice-daily circuits of major tourist sites. Fares cost up to around CNY ¥16, depending how far you travel. City bus routes 14, 35 and 50 each take in several top attractions, with fares as low as CNY ¥1. Taxi fares cost CNY ¥10 for the first 3km and CNY ¥2 for each kilometre thereafter, with a waiting fee of CNY ¥3 per minute (eg. traffic jams and intersections).

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