August 7, 2009
High Luxe Hits Hainan
China’s erstwhile island of exile and poverty is now basking in the sun – with beauty pageants and a brand new Banyan Tree.
Originally published on April 3, 2008.
From the “gate of hell” to “Hawaii of the East,” Hainan Island has pulled off one of the great identity shifts in modern China. And now that it’s played host to Miss World (with its very first Chinese winner), the tropical island province is stepping up the glam transformation further still. On April 20 the swarming sun-and-sea magnet welcomes Banyan Tree Sanya Resort & Spa, the first all-pool villa resort in China. Set around a sculpted tropical lagoon by Luhuitou Bay, the retreat also showcases a pair of the most lavish presidential villas in Asia — both of which are supposed to sleep “heads of state and their entourages” of up to 50 people.
The 49-villa Banyan Tree will, however, soon be dwarfed by two major luxury hotel groups. Later this year, the 297-room Mandarin Oriental, Sanya, opens with four landscaped swimming pools, each with its own dedicated butler service. And come May, a neighboring Ritz-Carlton — the group’s first resort project in China — will command a private section of the “most secluded” part of Yalong Bay, acclaimed as one of Asia’s top 10 beaches. Which should go some ways in ensuring that guests don’t feel cramped by the 16 million tourists Hainan gets each year. Each of the 334 guestrooms at the sprawling resort is at least 650 square-feet, while 33 private villas have individual pools. And if the pressure to choose between seven restaurants gets too much, remember: the resort’s largest spa in the region is on site. Plus, for every budding Miss World who wants to become a Mrs., there’s an in-house oceanfront wedding chapel — Sanya’s one and only.