Taller than the Statue of Liberty, the three faces of the goddess of mercy Guan Yin, looks out over the South China Sea from a golden platform in the Nanshan temple in Sanya.

Nominated by The New York Times, Sanya, located on the southern end of Hainan Island, the second largest island in China, is one of 52 Places-to-Go in 2017.

Often billed as China’s Hawaii, you’ll be greeted here by rows of palm trees and a lush tropical landscape. It’s sunshine all year round, and temperatures hover around 25 Celsius during January which is the winter time.

The Nanshan Guanyin Statue, at 108 metres in height, is the world’s tallest depiction of Guanyin, a venerated Buddhist bodhisattva or goddess.  She is a mother goddess and patron of seamen.  A long promenade leads up to the statue and Buddhist monks pray at her feet.

Sanya faces the sea yet is surrounded by mountains on three sides and is where the Li, Miao, Hui and Han nationalities live together.

The Li Nationality is unique to Hainan Isla. More than 3000 years ago, their ancestors sailed across the Qiongzhou Strait and settled on the island, where they continued to develop their unique and distinct culture.

Diverse cuisine on Sanya

Several Chinese historical figures chose Sanya as the place to promote Chinese culture, and each left a footprint of their efforts. The most famous among them is Tang Dynasty monk Jian Zhen who failed five times in his attempts to reach Japan in sailing vessels and promote Buddhism there. On his fifth try, the sailing ship drifted ashore at Nanshan, in Sanya, where he decided to stay. He subsequently built temples and Buddha statues there and today this is where you’ll find the goddess.

Sanya’s cuisine also embodies diversity. Hainan province is known for the wide variety of local delicacies, including delicious seafood dishes and the iconic Hainanese Chicken Rice.

Visitors can experience the Li and Miao cultures at Binglanggu, relax at the Nantian Hotspring Resort, explore the tropical rainforests at Yanoda, or simply enjoy the long stretches of beach.

Visitors can experience the Li and Miao cultures at Binglanggu, relax at the Nantian Hotspring Resort, explore the tropical rainforests at Yanoda, or simply enjoy the long stretches of beach.

Hainan Island is China’s only destination with consistent, year-round surf. In the summer, the south winds bring waves to Sanya’s south-facing beaches. Wuzhizhou Island and its coral reefs are destinations for scuba diving, surfing and other water sports.

Need to know

Peak season for Sanya is October through to the end of winter.  It’s a popular resort area for Russian tourists and for Northern Chinese escaping the freezing winter.

Sanya’s airport has flights to and from most major Chinese cities including Guangzhou, Shanghai and internationally Taipei, Hong Kong, Singapore, Busan, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Ho Chi Min City, Seoul, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur.

Disclaimer: EdbK travelled to China as a guest of Helen Wong Tours.