In China’s smallest and southernmost province lies Hainan Island, a subtropical paradise which is home to Raffles, an elegant outpost of the legendary hotel chain. Sitting on the edge of Clearwater Bay looking across the Gulf of Tonkin to Vietnam, this stylish and spacious resort offers relaxation to city-bound settlers and international travellers alike.
With a great curve of beach, which is reputed to be the best in the area, and access to a myriad of watersports, a nearby marina and a championship golf course next door, it’s a true sunshine playground. Little wonder that the area is known as the ‘Hawaii of the East’, with its tropical gardens and forests, its clear blue water and myriad of islands and its innate hospitality ethos.
The hotel has seven restaurants and bars, the latter offering the iconic cocktail first devised at the mother hotel — the Singapore Sling — and of course a spectacular spa built to refresh and revive, pamper and indulge.
Stressed-out city-dwellers, expats looking to relax, families on holiday, groups of friends and international travellers needing a break before heading home, golfers and spa seekers all looking to enjoy the purest air in China.
Hainan Island has a humid, subtropical climate which is warm throughout the year. The hottest months are July and August and the coldest are January and February, when the temperature dips to 15-20°C. Rain falls mainly in summer, while fog hits in January.
Your best bet is to avoid the excess heat of high summer; early spring, late summer and autumn are the best times.
Raffles Spas take their inspiration from the lotus flower, which has been traditionally used in healing in many Asian cultures and is a symbol of strength and purity. Its influence is felt throughout, from the tea on arrival to the décor in its eight spa villas and two suites, where it is used in textiles, pictures and artefacts.
The treatment menu offers an exotic selection of wraps, facials and programmes, as well as special rituals for couples and massages for golfers. There is also a jet-lag remedy for travellers and an after-sun cooler for when you’ve overindulged. Try a rose facial or a ginger and black pepper handand foot treatment, or the Oriental Infusion, which uses traditional herbs to nourish and energise with an exfoliation and massage using jade stones.
Tempting though it may be to stay put and luxuriate in the hotel and spa, a foray to some of the smaller islands is often worth the effort.
For instance, you could take a trip to Nanwan Monkey Island for the macaque monkeys (there are reputedly more than 2,500) and the 400-plus different species of plant. Alternatively, head south to Nantian Hot Springs, where you can indulge in nature’s spa treatments.
It has to be the Lotus Journey, an exotic peel and body treatment followed by a Lotus Ceremony Facial and finishing with a Mystic Lotus Massage — two glorious hours of pampering.