Chinese island offers a climate similar to Hawaii and a wide range of leisure options, Winsor Dobbin discovers.
China’s largest island, Hainan, has always been something of a cultural and economic backwater, but that’s all about to change with the Chinese Government aiming to establish it as the “sports and leisure capital of Asia” within the next decade.
And if that sounds far fetched, bear in mind that Hainan is already home to the biggest spa facility on the planet – as recognised by the Guinness Book of Records – and it is part of a complex that also includes no fewer than 10 golf courses, a massive volcanic mineral springs reserve, an array of 10 restaurants and a Movie Town amusement park with its own
If it all sounds like nothing succeeds like excess, prepare to be surprised. Everything here is surprisingly classy and exceptionally well organised.
Welcome to the amazing world of Mission Hills Haikou, a resort with something for every member of the family on an island that has been dubbed “the Hawaii of the east” and is warm all year round.
Mission Hills Haikou follows in the footsteps of the first Mission Hills facility, which is located between the cities of Shenzhen and Dongguan, and a 90-minute drive from Hong Kong International Airport, home to a mega golf complex that boasts 12 courses – the largest in the world. But it is Mission Hills Haikou on Hainan island – a one-hour flight away – that offers a bewildering array of sporting, spa and eco-friendly activities.
Opened in 2010, this resort occupies a lava rock-strewn landscape on undulating terrain that proved useless for farming but is dotted with ancient trees and areas of wetlands. All the golf courses are beautifully manicured with high-tech golf carts (and there is the possibility of night golf); while the hotel and leisure facilities are similarly impressive – including a luxury 18-storey hotel with over 500 rooms and suites, and some private villas.
Rooms here all have LCD televisions with access to international cable channels, free and reliable wi-fi, 24-hour room service, bathrobes, mini bars and safes, along with excellent bathrooms with quality amenities.
Ongoing developments, also by the Mission Hills group but a few kilometres away and not intrusive, include Mission Hills Lan Kwai Fong; a low-carbon-footprint lifestyle, shopping, dining and cultural precinct; hotel developments including a Ritz-Carlton, a Renaissance and Hard Rock, and the newly opened Huayi Brothers Feng Xiaogang Movie Town theme park, with 24-hour dining and shopping districts as well as six movie studios.
The theme park allows peeks behind the scenes at film sets and transports visitors back to 1940s China. It is fascinating to wander through the perfectly re-created streets and laneways of a past era. An ice skating rink and tenpin bowling facility are also in the pipeline for the new shopping precinct.
Mission Hills Haikou’s golf courses have already hosted the World Cup in 2011, and two editions of the World Ladies Championship, along with a high-profile celebrity pro-am each October.
Its courses are the Lava Fields, Blackstone, The Vintage, Sandbelt Trails, Meadow Links, Stone Quarry, The Preserve, Shadow Downs and the par-3 Stepping Stone and Double Pin layouts. Many feature 100-year-old lychee trees and ancient stone walls.
However, the spa and mineral springs complex, which sprawls over 88,000 square metres with circular buildings inspired by an ancient fortress in Fujian province, is every bit as popular as golf. The spa, also accredited by The Guinness Book of Records, comprises a grandiose main building made from volcanic rock and with a bamboo ceiling. It houses 90 private treatment suites, a hair and nail spa, private gardens, and spa cafe.
Treatments range from facial care and signature baths to body scrubs, body wraps, steam baths and a selection of massage treatments, including lava shell massage, warm organic candle massage and herbal heat massage. Traditional Chinese herbal medicine treatments are used alongside modern technology. There are also special treatments and health and fitness programs for younger guests, along with a wellness pavilion for yoga, tai chi and qui gong.
There are several spa packages available including a two-day “East Meets West” wellness program.
Guests can also consult traditional Chinese doctors, who offer diagnosis and traditional herbal cures. My doctor was insistent I give up all oily, fatty and fried food and go on an immediate detox to save my ailing spleen! I’ve since developed quite a taste for detox tea.
The volcanic mineral springs complex extracts water from 800 metres below the ground and offers an amazing 168 hot and cold mineral springs baths of varying sizes and styles – celebrating bathing rituals from five continents; from Turkish baths to Japanese onsen.
There are mud baths, a mist shower tunnel through the rocks, a mineral springs bath that unleashes a torrent of water jets and is designed for relaxing muscles, along with steam rooms and the amazing selection of exotically scented plunge pools – from jasmine and tamarind, to coffee and Rooibos tea. Kids of all ages will also enjoy the Lava Lagoon, a 20,000 square metre outdoor lake/pool with a range of water craft, including canoes and water trikes.
And what of the food, you ask?
There is outstanding Chinese food at Magma Cafe, one of several restaurant outlets on site, which specialises in noodle and dumpling dishes from northern China, while the Silver Moon offers a rather more authentic food experience, which can mean a lot of offal, gristle and bones in some dishes. The Ukiyo Japanese restaurant, however, is outstanding with sushi, sashimi and a variety of grilled dishes.
There are also plenty of western, and healthy, options at the Bistro on the Rock, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the Lava Bar & Grill and the World Kitchen, a food hall affair with several cooking posts. There is also a pretty good wine list – including some familiar Australian names.
For those travelling with their families, all the Mission Hills hotels feature specially decorated children’s rooms, which interconnect with parents’ rooms, and all campuses offer childcare facilities.
The Recreation Centre includes a heated lap pool and children’s pool, as a well as an ultra high-tech gym, fitness studio for martial arts classes and less strenuous options like table tennis and billiards. There is a large on-site kids’ club that offers a range of activities for the young ones including music and handicraft classrooms and a games room.
Mission Hills Haikou – like its sister resort – underlines its eco-friendly credentials with sign-posted eco trails that wind around the golf courses highlighting local flora and fauna – and an eco gallery. One eco trail visits the remains of an ancient settlement and you can spot squirrels, birds, frogs and some brightly coloured butterflies.
And, because this is China, there are many shopping opportunities throughout the hotel, golf clubhouse and spa.
Staff across all the Mission Hills facilities are multinational and multilingual – the company now has over 14,000 employees. And the expansion is not finished yet. Next up is a new golf and lifestyle resort in Yunnan.
Mission Hills Haikou is located in the volcanic region outside Haikou city on Hainan island – which is climatically similar to Hawaii. It is 20km from Haikour Meilan International Airport – a one-hour flight from Hong Kong and Shenzhen. For details of spa treatments and packages visit www.missionhillschina.com.
Qantas operates 28 return services each week from Australia to Hong Kong, with daily flights from Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. With Hong Kong a key hub for the region, customers can enjoy onward connections to cities across Asia with partner airlines. The new Qantas lounge in Hong Kong offers signature cocktails, wines, spirits and barista service and with all of Qantas’s inbound flights from Hong Kong to Australia being overnight, customers can enjoy a substantial meal in the lounge before they fly so they can maximise their sleep on board. See www.qantas.com.au.