Orientis DMC’s Travel Guide to Haikou, Hainan Province

Haikou, the capital city of China’s Hainan Province, is located on the northern coast of Hainan Island on the western banks of the Nandu River estuary. Historically, Haikou City achieved prosperity as Hainan’s chief sea port; a role which it still holds, but in recent years the city has been gaining popularity as a desireable resort for holidaymakers.

Haikou’s major streets and avenues are lined with coconut palms which lend the city a fresh and exotic appeal. Whilst the modern downtown area provides visitors with all of the opportunities for shopping, dining, entertainment and recreational activities they could wish for, the older parts of the city are treasure troves of historic architecture and beautiful public parks, making Haikou a delight to explore.

Haikou possesses two main beaches. The six-kilometre-long Holiday Beach is always popular with the locals thanks to its clean golden sands and warm clear waters. Holiday Beach offers many water-based and beach activities along with a selection of shops, cafes and bars. Further west, Xixiu Beach is a little quieter and an idyllic spot in which to relax and sunbathe, swim or indulge in a little sailing or windsurfing.

Haikou’s seasons and the best time to visit

Hainan is China’s second largest island and is subject to a tropical climate in the south and a subtropical climate in the north. As a result, Haikou’s northern coastal location means that the city experiences four distinct seasons. Winter, from December to March sees average daily temperatures of around 18°C (64°F) and can be humid yet chilly at night. Spring is hot and humid from April to the end of June, when temperatures can reach 27°C (81°F). Summer, from July to the end of September sees temperatures rise to 30°C (86°F) and higher, but this is also Haikou’s ‘rainy season’ when tropical showers and stronger sea winds help to bring temperatures down. Autumn, from October to the end of November is arguably the best time to visit; there is still plenty of sunshine and heat but temperatures and humidity are more hospitable and rainfall is rare.

Haikou’s cuisine

The population of Hainan Province is diverse; Chinese ethnic minority groups such as the Li, and Hui people have lived on the island for hundreds of years and have been joined by immigrants from the mainland and from other regions of Asia. Haiku, Hainan’s economic and commercial hub, is a truly cosmopolitan city and this is reflected in the exciting and varied cuisine of offer. Must-try local specialities include coconut soup, Wenchang Chicken, Jiaji Duck, Dongshan Mutton and bamboo rice.

Since Haikou is a coastal city excellent seafood is also plentiful and visitors should particularly look out for steamed crab dishes and seafood hotpot. However, Haikou’s multicultural nature means that, in addition to restaurants serving the very best local, regional and national Chinese dishes, a wealth of restaurants serving international cuisines of all kinds means that the city can easily cater for every palate.

Key activities and attractions in Haikou

Haikou possesses several unmissable ancient buildings including the sixteenth-century Tomb of Hai Rui, an upstanding statesman of the Ming Dynasty. Set in ornamental gardens, this beautiful tomb is built from white granite and green vesuvianite; a crystalline mineral rock found in Hainan Province. The Wugong Ci temple complex also dates from the Ming Dynasty and commemorates five Chinese officials who were famously exiled on Hainan Island during the earlier Tang Dynasty.
Any visitor with an interest in tracing Hainan’s history and ethnic cultures will enjoy visiting Hainan Provincial Museum. In a building of stunning contemporary architecture, a collection of over more thousand historic artefacts – including artworks and ceramics – relate Hainan’s fascinating story from earliest times to the present day.
A stroll along Haikou’s Qilou Old Street is equally rewarding and unforgettable. Here visitors can admire some of China’s best surviving examples of arcade architecture, a style founded in Ancient Greece and introduced to China by merchants in the 1920s. Vibrant and atmospheric, Qilou Old Street is also notable for its eclectic range of shops and market stalls.