Betcha didn't know China could look like this.
Curious wanderlusters should head to the island of Hainan, in the South China Sea, before it gets any more popular. The tropical isle -- with sprawling rainforest and pristine volcanic hot springs -- is a totally unexpected retreat from mainland Asia.
On Hainan, you can swim, surf, golf, soak in hot springs, camp in the rainforest or zip line through tropical trees. Cyclists meander the island on wheels, weaving toward beaches with rocky outcrops and turquoise water.
The best time to visit Hainan (conveniently) starts in November, when the weather hits a warm but mild sweet spot.
Beach in Sanya, the island's southernmost city
View of Sanya
Hainan is the main island in China's smallest province -- once an escape for political exiles and criminals, people now flock there for the health benefits of its clean air and warm temperatures. Roughly 34 natural hot springs dot the island, and a whopping 61 percent of its area is tropical rainforest. Sanya, a city in the south, is home to sandy beaches and bays (not to mention a Ritz-Carlton hotel). Fresh fruit and fish is a staple on Hainan's menus -- dining options are rumored to include a floating seafood house and top-notch dumpling shop.
A number of hotels have popped up on Hainan, from a guesthouse with a hot spring pool to a waterfront resort on a separate island of its own. Fly into one of Hainan Island's airports or take a (long) train ride from Beijing or Shanghai to find a paradise you never knew existed.
The tropics await.
Yalong Bay Golf Course