By Duncan Gordon
The crowds flocking to China’s tropical Hainan Island from the mainland for Chinese New Year are, on the whole, seeking sun, sand and sea. The island is renowned for its idyllic sandy beaches and luxury hotel developments. However, Hainan is now also gaining a reputation as a top-class cycling destination.
Hainan has a well-developed and maintained highway system, both around the coastline and straight through the island’s hilly interior. The coastal routes provide gentler cycling while the interior offers a challenge for experienced cyclists. Any of the routes between the provincial capital, Haikou, in the north and China’s number one beach resort, Sanya, in the south, can be completed in a few days to a week.
The routes following the coastline follow the highway over gentle hills and a few steep ones, and through small towns and cities. A cool breeze comes in off the sea, making conditions more comfortable than in the humid interior. There are plenty of places to stay the night along the route, as well as opportunities to turn off the main road and pass through villages, paddy fields and coconut plantations.
A series of ‘517’ cycling hostels mark the route, which also provide bike rental in either Haikou or Sanya. One of the hostels in particular, near Wenchang town on the east coast, is set in a stunning, isolated location overlooking a natural bay. The only local restaurant serves delicious and dirt cheap seafood as well as fresh coconuts to drink from.
For visitors attracted to Hainan’s beaches but also looking for a more active adventure, fitting a multi-day cycling trip into a Hainan holiday is well worth it.