Haikou Travel Guide
Hainan is known for its beaches and tropical climate, but few linger long in Haikou, as it is a capital city rather than a beach destination.
Before you head off to Sanya, though, take a day or two to visit this city’s museums, parks, and other attractions.
Come check out our Haikou travel guide as we cover the best things to do in Haikou, China.
Begin your time in Haikou by learning about the history of China’s tropical isle by exploring the halls of the Hainan Museum. With over 20,000 artifacts in its collection, you’ll learn about this island’s history as a place of exile for failed government officials and political prisoners.
Its exhibits also shed light on the culture of the native inhabitants of Hainan, with particular attention paid to its indigenous residents. Special galleries which highlight the region’s literature, art, and economic development have also been held here over the years, so keep an eye out for these as you explore.
While some exhibits are in Chinese only, audio guides are available for rent that will tell the story of this place in English, Russian, Japanese, and other tongues.
Dive into the past of the city of Haikou by spending a few hours walking down Qilou Old Street. While this thoroughfare has existed for over 2,000 years, the architecture you’ll see along its length dates back to the mid-19th century, when this place was done up in the Arcade style commonly seen in many Chinese enclaves in Southeast Asia.
As you make your way under the overhangs built to protect locals from torrential downpours and the punishing tropical sun, make note of the European, Indian, and Arabic influence in the buildings you see. As an important trading port in those days, it played host to many foreigners from those nations, you helped inform many of the structures you’ll see as you walk through here.
If you’re more into natural sights and attractions, book a day trip to Huoshankou National Geopark. Centred around a dormant volcano, this geological reserve is recognized by UNESCO for the ease of access it allows visitors to a former volcanic site.
A delightful hike that will take you through tropical rainforest, up the slopes of a formerly active volcano, and down into its crater, it will put you in touch with some of the best natural environments that the Haikou area has to offer.
As a Special Economic Zone in China, the island has seen the development of a number of schemes, including the building of infrastructure meant to prop up the film industry. During your trip here, check out Movie Town Haikou, a combo tourist attraction and open-air filming location.
Over 1,400 acres, you’ll find 96 buildings situated along a variety of themed streets which allow producers to shoot films based in the Republican era of China, along a Beijing street in the 1950s/60s, or in a prototypical European town square.
There are also four sound stages where indoor scenes can be done with a myriad of lighting, sound, and other physical effects, so be sure to check those out while touring the grounds of this studio.
The island of Hainan and the Haikou area sit in a tropical climate biome; as such, there are plenty of plant and animal species which can live in this corner of China. Check out a good cross-section of these on a visit to Hainan Tropical Wildlife Park and Botanical Garden.
Here, you’ll find the Liger, a rare cross-breed of wild feline (lion + tiger = liger), as well as other tropical animals like the Asian Elephant, hippos, and over 200 species of birds. The garden portion of this attraction contains many delicate species of orchid, lush palm trees, and many examples of flora species that are endemic to the island of Hainan.
Most of the attractive beaches on Hainan can be found around the Sanya area, but if you want to enjoy some time in the sun in a low-key place, spend a sunny afternoon on the sands of Jiari Beach. Featuring golden sands that aren’t as crowded as Sanya’s beaches (even so, make sure you visit during the week rather than on weekends). A popular gathering place for locals, you’ll find them barbequing food and enjoying the company of family and friends.
Take a break from sightseeing in Haikou by spending time in Wanlv Park. Situated along the coast near the centre of Haikou, this green space is a great place to watch fireworks, fly kites, ride a bike, or go for a jog.
Finally, satisfy any cravings you have while walking around Haikou by stopping for a meal along Qilou Snack Street. Note that hard currency isn’t accepted at the booths which serve everything from seafood to steamed pork buns – instead, you need to load money onto a prepaid card at the tourist information office, or download Wechat and put money on it.
Once you jump this hurdle, though, an evening here will be cheap and enjoyable, as there are many dishes to choose from.