China’s premier beach community claims to be the ‘Hawaii of China', but ‘Moscow on the South China Sea’ is more like it. The modern, hyper-developed resort city has such a steady influx of Russian vacationers these days that almost all signs are in Cyrillic as well as Chinese. Middle-class Chinese families are increasingly drawn to the golden shores of Sānyà as well.
While the full 40km or so of coastline dedicated to tourism is usually referred to as Sānyà, the region is actually made up of three distinct zones. Sānyà Bay is home to the bustling city centre and a long stretch of beach and hotels aimed at locals and mainland holidaymakers. Busy, cheerfully tacky Dàdōnghǎi Bay, about 3km southeast, beyond the Lùhuítóu Peninsula, is where most Western travellers stay. A further 15km east, at exclusive Yàlóng Bay, the beach is first-rate, as is the line of plush international resorts.