Golden sands, verdant forests

Coconut palm trees, warm breezes and sandy beaches: Hainan is China’s largest tropical island and scores of local and international visitors head here for their annual vacations. The beaches are certainly gorgeous, drawing a growing number of surfers, but the rest of the island, from the central highlands’ forests to its bustling capital, should not be missed.

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Your visit will likely begin in the busy and colorful capital. Start off at the Hainan Museum for some useful background on the island’s history, which is full of powerful and poignant resistance movements. There’s good English signage to accompany the exhibits, and the sections on the island’s numerous ethnic minorities are particularly fascinating.

When in Haikou, be sure to make time for one of the great attractions in Hainan Island: the National Volcano Park, which lies about ten miles from the city and is easily reached on a day trip. The park is lush, green and ideal for nature walks, but the highlight is the extinct volcano cone. There are stairs inside that let you climb down into the cave-like crater, a thrilling experience; from the top you can see all the way to the ocean.

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