An hidden gem in China called Houhai
Most people will know China for its majestic Great Wall, the mysterious Beijing or the fearful Terracotta Warriors. However deep south, on the tropical
island of Hainan, there is a hidden paradise featuring crystal clear water and golden beaches: Houhai (后海村 – Houhai cun).
Houhai it’s a little village located in Haitang Bay, the eastern suburb of Sanya city (三亚市海棠湾 – Sanya shi Haitang wan).
The fishing village has been recently redeveloped by the government for tourism purpose, but keeps its charm and chilled out atmosphere. Life here flows slowly, locals people are very relaxed. This relaxed attitude, reflects also in their way to speak: rather than say “Goodbye”, they would say “Take your time / Take care” (慢走 – Manzou, litterly translates “Go slowly”), or Manchi (慢吃, “eat slowly”) if you are having a meal, which can be translated as “Enjoy your meal” and so on.
What to do
Here is a list of cool activities to do in Houhai. Some options to best enjoy your travel experience, whether you prefer sporty or social activities, or prefer to simply hang out on the beach.
Enjoy Houhai bay (后海湾 – Houhai wan)
Behind the village, a hidden bay extends for 2 km. : the turquoise water and the golden beach will amaze your eyes. The bay is surrounded by hills and a forest, making it the best place where to watch the sunset or the sunrise. Walk along the bay during the morning to see the fishermen going out or coming back from their fishing trips.. Lay down enjoying the sun or have a drink at one of the many guesthouses on the bay.
The area is becoming popular among the surfing community: it’s the perfect spot to learn how to surf. The best time is between May and October. You can attend one of the courses organized by the surf schools or rent a board from any guesthouse in town. Many locals surf: they can suggest you some very interesting and less crowded spots.
Kayak and snorkel
If you are not into surfing, it is possible to rent a kayak from the guesthouses on the beach and explore the coastline as well as snorkeling in the crystal clear water within tropical fishes. You will however, need to go a bit further away from the shore to have a better chance to see them. There are some incredible diving spots, where it is possible to admire caves, some corals, and beautifully shaped rocks.
Hike and cycle
Walk the long sandy bay and admire the peaceful mountains surrounding the bay. There are some little hills and a tropical forest, which can be hiked. Take with you a plastic bag to carry back your own trash.
An interesting hike is the east coast of the village, from the main pier head right and follow the coast, you’ll see many rounds rocks, inlay, and perfect photo stops. The nearby area it’s full of hidden bays and villages: you can rent a bike and explore them.
There are some incredible diving spots, where is possible to admire coral, tropical fishes and if you are lucky some big mysterious fishes not yet identified. The most famous place to dive is Wuzhizhou island (蜈支洲岛): however, you will have to share this paradise with many Chinese tourists. Boats depart daily from Houhai pier.
Get a haircut..
In the village, I have discovered the coolest hair salon I have seen in China so far. It’s run by a young local couple. They are very skilled, speak some English and will do whatever they can to help you. I got to know them quite well and spent time chatting and drinking together, as well as eating a delicious BBQ on the beach and experience the local way to have a “night out” … I was so lucky!
Hainan Sheng – Sanya Shi – Haitang Wan Zheng – Tenghai Yucun Zhongcun no. 36
Get to know local people
The highlight of the village is the local people. Everyone I met was kind, generous, easy going and made me feel like part of the family! I had BBQ, celebrated Dragon boat festival on the beach, watched the world cup with locals and had such a wonderful time. They gave me advice on hikes, nice place to swim, the best spot for sunset/sunrise. A truly deep experience.
Celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival (端午节 – Duanwu Jie)
While it’s best to avoid the village during Chinese bank holidays, the Dragon Boat Festival celebration on the bay is a must.
The festival is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese calendar.
During this period people eat Zongzi (粽子）glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo leaves and race in fascinating long dragon boats. It’s possible to see the dragon boat race in a bay close to the village, then when the race is over everybody will gather on the bay bringing food, drinks, and music. What is curious is that group of friends will wear the same dress, a sort of crew dress code. If you walk along the bay day-time you will see them and you will have the chance to join the celebration, eating delicious food, drinking Qingdao, dancing and playing games.
Where to eat
The fish here is fresh and delicious, make sure you try some, there is more to taste though! I will recommend some of the best places I tried, good food, at affordable prices and the best customer service ever!
Mike Tianxin (蜜可甜心)
Mike, it’s a little bar run by two young and friendly guys. They made me feel at home, sharing with me their culture, their love for food and some cool party’s info. Their specialties are the traditional desserts, freshly made juices, cold teas, and snacks.
It’s a meeting point for the local youngsters, so if your intention is to get a local experience and meet new friends this is the place where to go.
Hainan Sheng – Sanya Shi – Haitang Wan Zheng – Tenghai Yucun Zhongcun no. 38
Thenghai Yucun Canding (藤海渔村餐厅)
Lovely fish restaurant run by a local family. I had the best fish here. All the food was very tasty, but the star dish was the sauteed clams. The fish is fresh and the prices very cheap. If you have the chance to meet the chef, a very fun guy from Haikou, ask for his specialty sauteed clams!
Sanya Shi – Haitang Qu – Linwang Zheng – Houhai Cun
Dongbei Jiaozi Guang Houhai Dian (东北饺子馆 后海店)
BBQ restaurant run by a family from the northeast of China. You’ll find the restaurant on the main street, just opposite the village clinic (Yucun San Xiang Zhensuo渔村三巷诊所）.
The service here is excellent! The family is very kind and I shared with them many nice conversations, was interesting to get to know them. They treated me so well, offered fresh fruits and many smiles. Here you can have a taste of a typical Chinese BBQ and if you like spicy ask for extra Lajiao (辣椒). Try the delicious BBQ mackerel and oyster.
Luana Mirenda, in partnership with A Wanderlust Love