BEACHES AND SWIMMING IN CHINA
Beach in Xiamen
China has some places to go swimming. The South China Sea is swimmable from May to November. The nicest beaches are on Hainan Island. The Yellow Sea is good for swimming from June through September. It is also possible to swim in the rivers and lakes. Most cities and resort areas have public pools in addition to the private pools at fancy hotels and resorts. Some resort hotels have heated pools which are open in the winter. See Beaches
Beaches in China are often dirty and crowded and tend to be muddy rather than sandy and the water brown rather than blue. In Shanghai City officials have built a six-mile beach with sand shipped in from southern China. Near Shanghai is Putuoshan (accessible from Shanghai, on a two-hours fast boat, 14-hour slow boat and from Ningbo), a small island with a quiet unspoiled atmosphere, green rolling hills, nice beaches, and Buddhist temples.
Hainan Island (20 kilometers off the mainland) has been called the Hawaii of China. A popular honeymooning spot and tourist destination, it has some nice beaches, warm winters, good food. Sanya , on the southern tip of Hainan Island, has some wonderful beaches and five-star hotels. Xiamen lies on an island by the same name off the Fujian coast near Taiwan. For a long time its beaches were strew with mines and barriers to prevent a military sea landing. These days some of the beaches are pretty reasonable.
Qindao (670 kilometers southwest of Beijing) is regarded as the beach capital of northern China. Northeast of Qingdao there are a number of empty beaches that are used mostly by fishermen who uses wood boats to catch cuttlefish, whelks, snails, slugs and a variety of crustaceans, which are displayed live in tanks and basins outside restaurants.
Winter swimmer in Harbin Beidaihe Beach (300 kilometers from Beijing and16 kilometers from Qinhuangdao) is a six mile long resort beach along the Bohai Sea. Immortalized in a poem by Mao, it has traditionally been a popular retreat for Communist Party elite and a home to spas and sanitariums where model workers and local party bosses were sent as a reward for good service. Mao apparently like the place. Lin Biao's former mansion sits on the top of Lianfeng Mountain Park.
Beidaihe boasts over 3000 restaurants, hotels, shops and guesthouses. Located on bay shaded by trees, the beach is noted for its golden sand and rock formations. Behind the guesthouses and hotels are lovely green hills. Tourist boats travel the bay. The streets are lined with willow and plums trees that are filled with large, buzzing cicadas in the summers.
During the summer, the Communist party elite have traditionally headed en masse to Beidaihe for recreation, meetings and purges. The tradition was began by Mao soon after the Communists came to power in 1949. Ordinary people who have been coming to the resort for years have never seen the party members. Haitan Road, where most of the officials have their villas, is closed to traffic. Sometimes people see their motorcades, which bring traffic to a stop.
Beidaihe is dismissed by many Chinese as a "once pretty places with crowded beaches, dirty grayish-brown water and unsafe seafood." The beaches are carefully divided. There is one area for soldiers in the People's Liberation Army; another for the Diplomatic Services Bureau; and another for the State Council. The public beach, which has a $1 admission charge, is full of women in skirted bathing suits, men in shorts, socks and loafers and vendors who sell tourists the chance to have their photograph taken dressed up as emperors or monkey kings. Many ordinary people stay in places like the Railway Cadre Resort, the Sanatarium for Chinese Coal Miners and the Tianjin Teacher's Sanatorium.
Visitors enjoy local snacks and delicious seafood, ride in speedboats, or engage in ballroom dancing. Tiger Rock Park had many huge rocks that conjures up an image of a “herd of tigers.” To the east is Yingjiao Stone — a twenty-meter (66 feet) steep rock that looks like an eagle perched on the cliff. Because groups of doves nest in the cracks there, it is also called Dove Nest Park. Yingjiao Pavilion on the top is a popular place to watch the sunrise.
Pine-covered Lianfeng Hill, which backs on to Beidaihe beach, comprises two peaks, the east peak and the west peak. A path leads to Wanghai Ting (Seaside Pavilion) at the top of the hill, where you can get a good view of the sea and the scenery around the mountain. At the foot of Lianfeng Hill is a beautiful park named Lianhuashi (Lotus Stone Park) because of the many unexpectedly huge lotus shaped stones. Beidaihe Scenic Spot attracts more and more attention from more than 4 million people a year. Web Sites: Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Getting There: Beidaihe is accessible by taxi from Qinhuangdao which is accessible by train from Beijing.
Happy Ocean Park
Happy Ocean Park (40 kilometers from Beidaihe, 10 kilometers from the Great Wall at Shanhaiguan Pass) covers 26 hectares and includes eight different sites and offers different entertainment services. The main attractions are shark hall, seal hall, fur seal hall, sea turtle hall, and exhibition hall for animals from the South Pole and North Pole. Over 60 sharks and dozens of seals are on display. In the polar animal exhibition, polar bears, penguins and many other polar animals are raised in different pools.
Animal performances are shown in the Sea Circus Theater, where 2000 people can watch dolphin and sea lion shows or feed the seals in the seal pool. The park even offers an opportunity for visitors to go scuba diving. The park also offers 13 submarines for visitors without any diving experience. The park is the only one so far to offer submarine trips in China. Seven submarines can take 50 passengers each and the other six submarines can only take four passengers per trip. Usually the deep-sea trip lasts 20 minutes and the four-person submarine trips cost more than the 50-passenger submarines. Happy Ocean Park also has two dining and shopping areas. Inside the park, both Chinese and Western cuisine, as well as exotic souvenirs, gifts and imports in various shops are available;
Admission: 90 yuan (US$10.80) per adult and 50 yuan (US$6) for children between 1.2 meters and 1.4 meters. Entrance to the park is free for child under 1.2 meters. The entrance covers several items but not all the entertainment services offered inside. Separate tickets are required for the submarine rides or surfing. getting There: It takes about 3.5 hours cover the 300-kilometer distance from Beijing Drive along Jingshen (Beijing-Shenyang) Highway to Shanhaiguan Exit. Follow the road signs. Many of the signs are in Chinese and English. Trains from Beijing Railway Station to Qinghuangdao or Shanhaiguan are frequent. Train tickets usually cost 30 yuan (US$3.60) for a seat and the trip takes three hours.
South China Sea
The South China Sea, which lies south of Guangdong Province and Hong Kong. By some reckonings it is the world's largest sea, covering 3,500,000 square kilometers (1,400,000 square miles). A marginal sea that is part of the Pacific Ocean, the South China Sea stretches from the Karimata and Malacca straits to the Strait of Taiwan and carries tremendous strategic importance. Today it carries roughly a third of the world's shipping, carrying over $3 trillion in trade each year, and accounts for a tenth of the world's fish catch, which are critical for the food security of millions of people in Southeast Asia.
In the last 2,500 years mariners for Malaysia, China and Indonesia navigated the South China Sea to trade sandalwood, silk, tea and spices. China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines all have 200-mile coastal economic zones in the South China Sea. All of these countries also claim the Spratly Islands which are in the middle of the sea Below the South China Sea is an estimated US$3 trillion worth of oil, gas and minerals. Fisheries in the South China Sea have been decimated by overfishing and polluting chemicals from shrimp farms and factories.
The South China Sea is south of China; east of Vietnam; west of the Philippines; east of the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra, up to the Strait of Singapore in the western, and north of the Bangka Belitung Islands and Borneo. In recent years, China’s claim that the entire sea is it exclusive possession has been a hot international issue and a point of outrage with China. Web Sites: Wikipedia Wikipedia South China Sea Virtual Library South China Sea Virtual Library
Hainan Island (20 kilometers off the mainland) is the largest of the 200 islands that make up Hainan Province and is home to the vast majority of Hainan province’s million people, many of them farmers and fishermen. Known in a Chinese legend as the end of the world, where the sky and the sea meet, Hainan Island is a popular honeymooning spot and tourist destination with beaches, warm winters, good food, Portuguese colonial buildings, outgoing people and markets with live cobras and sea turtles. Gibbons, parrots and other wild animals that once filled the forest are now largely gone.
Much of the new development on the island has gone into tourism. To draw tourists, many fancy resorts and open duty-free shops have opened, visa exemptions have been introduced, and infrastructure and airports have been improved. Development now is proceeding more carefully with established firms providing much of the capital, a far cry from the anything goes model that prevailed in the 1990s.
According to the Chinese government: “Hainan is the sole tropical island in China, and is known around the world as "the world's most beautiful island". It has other names, such as Coconut Island, Sunshine Island, Longevity Island, Health Island, and many more. It is one of only a few resort destinations perfect for for summer holidays, winter swimming and vacationing as well. Now Hainan is making great strides towards the grand goal of building an international tourist island. As Enríquez Savignac, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization once said: "Hainan is a masterpiece of the Creator, a brilliant pearl for all mankind".
Hainan Island: the Hawaii of China?
Conde Nest Traveler has called Hainan “Hawaii without the Honolulu high-rises and crowds." The island lies in a region at 18°9'-20°11' northern latitude and 108°36'-111°03' eastern longitude, between the tropical and sub-tropical areas. The island has a pleasant climate, bright sunshine, fresh air, green coconut groves, beautiful bays, natural ocean swimming spots, fine beaches, soft breezes and tasty seafood, hot springs and golf courses do bring to mind Hawaii. The island is nice all year and many varieties of tropical plants and quality fruits available.
Bonnie Tsui wrote in the New York Times: “Hainan Island has often been called the Chinese Hawaii, and indeed, it is the only tropical beach destination in China. With coasts on the South China Sea and the Gulf of Tonkin, about a 90-minute flight southwest of Hong Kong, this island, slightly bigger than Maryland, is attracting hordes of Chinese in the market for a little sun and fun. [Source: Bonnie Tsui, New York Times, March 12, 2009]
“The warm, sandy south coast around the port city of Sanya is experiencing a luxury hotel boom: Ritz-Carlton, Banyan Tree, Le Méridien and Mandarin Oriental have all opened resorts there in the last year, with Fairmont and Raffles properties also in the pipeline. Look around, and you’ll encounter weekend warriors from Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Guangzhou, all seeking to escape the crush of big-city life for a quiet stretch of beach and a frozen cocktail.
“In the past, Hainan had a romantic, Wild West frontier air about it; as the southernmost point in China, it served for centuries as a place of banishment for criminals, exiled poets and political undesirables. Thirty minutes from Sanya is the famously scenic Tianya Haijiao, a k a the Edge of the Sky and the Rim of the Sea, a boulder-strewn beach depicted on the Chinese two-yuan note. Today, it is an immensely popular tourist attraction.
“In the last few years, Hainan has become a fashionable draw for Russian tourists looking to escape winter — entire blocks in Sanya have signs lettered in Russian for their benefit. More recently, Hainan has attracted younger international travelers like Drew Aras and Catherine Forman, both 24 and from Melbourne, Australia. Mr. Aras, a physical therapist, first heard about the island while watching the Beijing Olympics, since it was where organizers obtained the 17,000 tons of sand for the Games’ beach volleyball courts. “Usually, when we travel together, we negotiate a place that is both interesting to travel to and has the added bonus of offering some surf time for me,” said Mr. Aras, who has been surfing since he was 5. “We thought we’d find a nice place to relax by the beach and maybe catch a few waves between cocktails.” What they found were uncrowded waves, cheap and delicious seafood and a quirky landscape that skipped from isolated coastline to spots jammed with mainland package tourists outfitted in matching head-to-toe Hawaiian prints.”
Beaches and Islands in Qingdao
Qingdao (670 kilometers southwest of Beijing) is a major port and harbor city on the Yellow Sea famous for Tsingtao beer and hosting the 2008 Olympics sailing competition. Home to about six million people, it is a major insurance center, a retirement retreat, and a pleasant. lightly-industrialized city with a nice coastal climate, a low key atmosphere and clean beaches with cafes filled with college students and beat-up health clubs where men gather to lift weight and check out each other's physique.
Qindao is regarded as the beach capital of northern China. Northeast of Qingdao there are a number of empty beaches that are used mostly by fishermen who uses wood boats to catch cuttlefish, whelks, snails, slugs and a variety of crustaceans, which are displayed live in tanks and basins outside restaurants. Beyond Shi Laoren, or Old Man Mountain, the city gives way to the Laoshan mountains which reach the sea among boulder heaps, cliffs and gnarled pines that inspired classical poets and scroll painters.
Web Sites: China Tourism-Asia.net China Tourism
Qingdao has several large and small bays, of which Huiquan Bay is the largest. Along Huiquan Bay are No. 1 Bathing Beach, a light and music fountain with beautiful scenery, wooden trestle roads, Luxun Park, Seabed World, a diving training base and Qingdao Aquarium, the oldest aquarium in China. Badaguan is nearby. Qingdao Bay is crescent shaped. It is pireced like an arrow by Zhao Bridge. No. 6 Beach west of the bridge and Zhan Bridge Park around the bridge invite visitors to enjoy the beauty of Qingdao Bay
Number One Bathing Beach (on Huiquan Bay) is 580 meters long and 40 meters wide, with nice sand. It embraces 380 meters wide sea area with shark-proof net and welcomes 200,000 tourists everyday in the peak season. "The gentle slope, the tiny grains of sand, the green water, the soft wave" are the four characteristics of the No. 1 Bathing Beach. According to the historic records, the first group of tourists came to No. 1 Bathing Beach in 1902. In 1903, it was set up as a resort, the first such resort in the Qingdao area. Facilities at the beach include lockers, entertainment facilities and a hotel. In 1984, the beach was “completely rebuilt” and expanded. Sometimes Number One Bathing Beach gets so crowded locals say it"like dumplings in a bowl."
Small Qingdao Island (southeast of Zhanqiao Bridge) is shaped like an ancient lute, and hence is also called Lute Island. Known in Chinese as Xiaoqingdao, the island has a little park, a few small cafes and a white lighthouse. It is a good area for a brief stroll, giving good views of the Huilangge Pavilion, the rusting submarine and destroyer of the Naval Museum, and, if the weather is right, the nearby Yellow Island (Huangdao). The island has many black pines and flowers such as oriental cherries, green peaches, pomegranates, and Sharon roses. Getting There: Take bus No. 6, 26, 304, 311, 312, and 316 to get there Admission: 15 yuan. Preferential Price for Group. Admission: fee: 5 yuan; Hours Open: 7:00am to 7:00pm (peak season);
Beach Areas in Fuhian Province
Xiamen Garden at SeaFujian Province is a coastal province across the Taiwan Straits from Taiwan. Formerly romanised as Fukien, Xiamen (275 kilometers northeast of Fuzhou and 75 kilometers northeast of Quanzhou in southern Fujian) is a hilly, pleasant, tourist-friendly coastal town with a large military presence. For a long time its beaches were strew with mines and barriers to prevent a military sea landing. Under Deng Xiaoping Xiamen was selected as one the places to experiment with free-market reforms.
Meizhou Island (halfway between Quangzhou and Fuzhou) is a small island close to the shore of Putian and regarded as the home of goddess Matsu, the patron deity of fishermen and sailors in southern China and East Asians. Meizhou is regarded as the birthplace of Matsu, or Mazu, and the place she died. During the Ming Dynasty many temples dedicated to her were built across China. These temples have also been built in other countries with large numbers of Southern Chinese inhabitants. Matsu is said to have been a small girl plucked from the ocean by fisherman during a tempest in A.D. 975. After she died at the age of 27 she was worshipped as the Sea Goddess, and became an important deity for Chinese living along the coast. The temple that honors her sits on hill and offers fine views of the sea.
Pilgrimages and beach vacation are two reasons people come to Meizhou Island. Jiubaolan beach is located in the southwest of the island. Its soft sand and clean sea have earned the beach the nickname "China's Hawaii." Erwei Stone Park, a cluster of amazing stone landscapes, is also worth seeing; Admission: 65 yuan (US$10.22) per person. Guanghua Temple on mainland Putian is also worth checking out.
Coastal Area of Guangxi
Guangxi is home of famous limestone Karst formations of Guilin and several ethnic minorities but it also has a coastal area. Situated north of Vietnam and east of the Yunnan Province, it for the most part is rural and poor. Han Chinese outnumber the local ethnic groups in Guangxi.
Beihai Silver Beach (150 kilometers south-southeast of Nanning) is located on the southern point of Beihai Peninsula and stretches for 24 kilometers. Designated a AAAA national scenic zone, it is characterized by long and flat beaches, soft and white sands, temperate and clear water, gentle waves and no dangerous currents. With an annual average water temperature of 23.7˚C, the sea is suitable for sswimming from March to November, and the air is especially refreshing. Recreational activities include speedboat and motorboat cruising, sea bicycling, sailing, surfing, parasailing, beach karting, beach football and beach volleyball. The beach is open to visitors without any fees.
Weizhou Island (southeast of Beihai) was ranked second in China National Geographic’s list of China’s Ten Most Beautiful Sea Islands in 2005. The island has volcanic features and foliage so dense it shuts out the sunlight. The fragrance of the sea and flowers floats on the breeze. Numerous migratory birds stop here. The beaches on island have clear blue water and coral reefs. A variety of marine products in various colors and types are sold in the markets. Xieyang Island, 15 kilometers from Weizhou Island, covers an area of 1.89 square kilometers. The island is known for its dense woods and rocks with peculiar shapes. Weizhou Island and Xieyang Island have been called “Major and Minor Penglai Islands”.
Surfing in China
Surfing has not really caught on in China in part because they are not really any good waves in China except when there is a typhoon out at sea. The beaches often tend to be muddy rather than sandy and the water brown rather than blue.
China does not have great surfing because its coastline is blocked by Japan and the China coastline is at an angle so it doesn’t receive the full force of the Pacific Ocean. The beaches often tend to be muddy rather than sandy and the water brown rather than blue. The best surfing is when a typhoon is out at sea. There are some decent surfing spots in the warm, relatively clear seas on Hainan Island. Until recently most of the surfers have been Japanese and Westerners. But these days an increasing number of Chinese are showing and interest in the sport.
A Chinese scuba diver who decided to take up surfing told the China Daily, “When you go out and surf, when you catch a wave the feeling is always different. Also when you stand up, you feel like you’ve achieved something. A natural high. The world ceases to exits. It’s just you and the wave.” In 2009, Santa Crux Surfboard organized a surfing event, with Robert “Wingnut” Weaver, star of the surf movie “Endless Summer II”, that featured a beach barbecue, drinking and surfing. More than 90 percent of the participants were Chinese.
Surfing in Hainan
Bonnie Tsui wrote in the New York Times: “THE sun is out, the sand gleaming white, the waves rolling toward shore in clean, regular sets. At the edge of this palm-fringed paradise, the sea is a pale, minty hue and empty of people. Launching my surfboard from the beach on Hainan Island, I paddle out to catch a wave. [Source: Bonnie Tsui, New York Times, March 12, 2009]
“The couple were introduced to the island by Brendan Sheridan of Surfing Hainan, a small local company that leads surfing expeditions and rents surfboards to visitors. Mr. Sheridan, 29, attended high school in Hong Kong and learned to surf while at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Two years ago, he made it his mission to bring surfing to the Chinese people. “It’s the right time for the Chinese to get into surfing,” Mr. Sheridan told me as we set out to surf at Riyuewan, a picturesque bay about an hour and a half northeast of Sanya. “There’s an emerging middle class that is finally learning how to spend their money and have some fun in life.”
“Most of his customers are foreigners, as many Chinese have an aversion to the sun — having a tan still denotes “farmer” — and don’t have much experience with the ocean. But Mr. Sheridan, who speaks Mandarin, finds that more and more Chinese are interested in the culture of surfing, including his two Chinese staff members, who are both in their 30s and have taken to the sport with a vengeance....One afternoon, when Mr. Sheridan took two young Chinese couples out for a surf lesson in Sanya, he got an unusual request from one of the women. “Can I take this umbrella with me onto the surfboard?” she asked. Mr. Sheridan fought off laughter and soberly told her that he didn’t think it was a good idea. “But he did admire her effort. He said, “Why not have it both ways?”
“To Around Hainan, the surf is up pretty much year round. Between April and September, waves tend to come from the south, while October to March brings a northeastern winter swell. surf several breaks, rent a board or take a lesson with Surfing Hainan (8 Huayun Road, Sanya; 86-135-1980-0103; www.surfinghainan.com; from 350 yuan a person, with transportation and equipment).
Diving and Snorkeling
Diving and Snorkeling in Chinese waters is reasonably good on Hainan Island in southern China. The water visibility is some areas is 30 to 50 feet. There are some shipwrecks to be explored, but the reefs are marginal and a lot of marine life and sponges that once thrived are now gone. There are a couple of dive operators in. Snorkeling is offered on the boat trips out of Sanya and Haikou. Web Sites: For more information about overseas diving contact PADI International PADI , 1251 East Dyer Road #100, Santa Ana, CA 92705-5605, ☎ 714-540-7234. PADI Dive Shop and Site Locator PADI Dive locator ; Dive China Dive China ;
Fishing is popular in China as it almost everywhere. Sport fishermen can enjoy deep sea fishing, long line fishing, slow or fast trolling, flycasting, wet fly casting, surf casting and night fishing. There are a countless number of fine fishing rivers, streams and lakes in China. Many rivers and lakes are polluted.
Deep sea fishing is usually organized through charter boat companies in the major seaside resorts. Freshwater fishing is usually organized through fishing outfitters. Fishing on your own takes some research. Since fish regulations vary from place to place, inquire about licenses and regulations at the hotels or local tourist offices. Web Sites: There is little information about fishing in China.
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: CNTO (China National Tourist Organization), China.org, UNESCO, reports submitted to UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, China Daily, Xinhua, Global Times, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications. Last Updated June 2023