Overall, my stay was pleasant and a welcome break from the hubbub of daily life. The hotel impressed me more than I was expecting and the staff were very polite and helpful, even though they still had to wade through a lot of the bureaucracy that still plagues mainland Chinese hotels.
I went with my wife and our four-month-old baby. We told the hotel that we would need a car to meet us at the airport, and this was arranged for a small additional fee. Transit to and from the airport was quick, but the standard of driving in Sanya is among the worst I have seen in eight years of China experience. I was very much afraid for our safety a number of times. Our driver, it seemed, avoided a number of collisions more by luck than by judgement.
We stayed three nights in January 2013, amidst the near continuous back-drop of Chinese New Year fireworks.
There are many hotels in Sanya that are right on the beach. This isn't one of them. That's not to say it's inconvenient, but it isn't ideal. Wend your way down the long drive-way to the road and you're met by heavy, fast-moving traffic with drivers leaning on their horns the whole time. Surprisingly, perhaps, this noise is practically inaudible from the hotel. Get down to street level, however, and you're left in no doubt that you're in a bustling Chinese city.
The local area has plenty of restaurant choices and a few shops, as well as a small theme park. It's a twenty minute walk to the beach, but the hotel also has a golf cart that will take you to the beach and back in five minutes. Surprisingly, the golf cart feels safer on the manic roads than a regular car does.
From some parts of the hotel you can just about see the sea, but mostly the views consist of high-rise apartment blocks.
The check-in was the least pleasant part of the trip. There's still far too much bureaucracy. It took over half an hour for the staff to make all the necessary copies of our ID documents, fill-out all the forms in triplicate, process my credit card for the deposit and advise us of the special price hikes for Chinese New Year.
It was gone lunch time and our baby was hungry so once check-in was complete, his mother just wanted to take him to the room and feed him. Small snag : the room won't be ready until three o'clock. What!? The lobby was fully of fairly grumpy-looking tourists who were sitting around with their bags, waiting. They'd all been told the same thing. Rooms are not made available until three in the afternoon. Hotel policy. Angry wife, crying baby changed that policy. We were shown to our room.
The hotel is half way up a hill and is accessed by two routes; each quite long and winding. This means that there is a degree of seclusion from the noise and the sight line is elevated above many of the nearby buildings, allowing for nice views from breakfast.
There is free wi-fi in the lobby and there is an Apple Macintosh computer for those who haven't brought their own device. The lobby itself is very nicely decorated, however the water feature is quite low on water and many of the koi carp were half sticking out of the water as they swam around.
From what I saw, smoking seems to be permitted in all areas of the hotel.
Despite having been told that there were no rooms available until 3.00pm, we noted that throughout our stay all of the rooms around us remained wholly unoccupied. The hotel had plenty of empty rooms and could have let guests go to them straight after check-in. I still cannot figure out why they are reluctant to do this.
The first thing I noticed about the room was the lack of places to hang towels. There was precisely one hook in the whole room. Towels just had to be laid on the the side of the wash basin.
I also noticed that the cushions on the chairs reeked of cigarette smoke. Ash trays are provided and there didn't appear to be a 'non smoking' option for rooms.
The room was comfortable but unexceptional. Nice TV, nice bed, nice shower, nice little patio (which they market as a balcony). Nothing much to write home about.
Stepping out of our room by way of the patio led directly to the top of the slides down to the children's pool. If I were a kid I'd have loved to stay in that room! Every morning I'd be out the door and down the chute.
Unlike a lot of Chinese hotels, this one has lots of 'western' options in the breakfast buffet. They were cold, though. We were down early for breakfast on the first day, and the staff told us they didn't start warming up the food until about an hour into breakfast.
There are the usual serving instruments accompanying every dish, of course, but as this is mainland China do not be surprised to see guests taking food with their hands or with their soiled chopsticks. If this sort of thing puts you off eating, get to breakfast early. Better cold than diseased.
Proper coffee cups and bowls and spoons for breakfast cereal were notably absent. Cereal was stale and had to be served in a rice bowl and eaten with a Chinese soup spoon. On our first morning, coffee had to be taken in a Chinese tea cup. Espresso-sized coffee cups appeared on the second morning.
We didn't have lunch in the hotel. There are plenty of really good local options in the surrounding area.
We tried the evening buffet, once. It's held outside and there's live singing of a fairly average standard. The evening buffet isn't cheap, and I don't think I'd do it again. It comes with unlimited free beer, so that might appeal to some.
The hotel boasts its own private beach. What it means is that it has its own, demarcated hundred yard section of a beach. It has its own beach chairs and umbrellas and attendants, and the sand is nice and its generally pleasant enough when the sun is out. Again, though, this is mainland China so expect to see people drinking and smoking whilst swimming. The water quality isn't great and resulted in a strong stinging sensation after ten minutes of swimming. The sea floor was littered with beer bottles. This cannot be taken as a criticism of the hotel.
The beach, outside of the hotel's roped-off area, offers jet-skis and parasailing and massages and other sorts of fun. Anyone can use these for a fee.
The hotel's little area doesn't offer showers, but for twenty yuan you can use the showers at another hotel's section.
The golf cart to and from the hotel leaves every 15 minutes but can be called if you don't want to wait.
Pools & recreation
There are two pools. Each is clean and fairly quiet. Neither is very deep and each has a portion dedicated to children. One has a bar. Nothing to write home about.
There is small a hot-tub near the larger of the two swimming pools. It's described as a 'hot spring', which raised a few laughs from families that came along expecting to find something a more spa-like thermal pool.
There is a snooker table, but the room was chained shut. Above that room is the gym. This is small, but clean and always left open. There's a foosball table and some basic gym equipment. The treadmill is the only item that requires electricity, but it was not plugged in and there was no obvious way to do so.
The staff speak several Chinese dialects as well as English and Russian. Many of the signs around the hotel are presented in Chinese, Russian and English.
The staff were very polite and helpful at all times, though I think they could have mentioned the 'Government tax' at the time of booking. In eight years of staying at hotels in China, this is the first time I have come across this tax (it is, apparently, a real thing, though).
They were very helpful in calling the golf cart for us and driving us to the beach and back, and along the way recommending different restaurants depending on our tastes. The staff always maintained a smile and made us feel welcome and at ease.
The room we booked wasn't dreadfully expensive, but they put the price up by nearly 300% for the night of Chinese New Year's Day (not New Year's Eve). Room service was also not as expensive as I had feared.
The car from the airport to the hotel was 70 yuan, which is 10 yuan more than a taxi but you have the added benefit of a man with a sign waiting for you. The return fare to the airport was 150 yuan because it was Chinese New Year at that point. This was still good value as you'd be hard-pushed to find a taxi during the New Year holiday.
All-in-all, I felt the hotel was good value, though I question the big price-hike for New Year's Day. Try to avoid travelling in China at this time of year.
Quicker than check-in, check-out was completed in under five minutes and the car was waiting outside to take us to the airport.
The hotel is still fairly new and boasts room designs by a 'well-known Hong Kong designer', yet it is already starting to show signs of wear-and-tear around the edges. They need to take better care of their Koi and the children's underwater play equipment is in desperate need of de-rusting.
All-in-all, however, this is a nice hotel and the staff tried their best to make our stay comfortable and enjoyable. I wasn't dazzled by any aspect of my stay, but I would recommend it to families looking for a relaxed, pleasant stay in a quieter part of Sanya.
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- Also Known As:
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- International Hotel Sanya
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