Low visibility and only moderate maximum depths don’t make Hainan the most exciting location for scuba diving, but it can be good fun and there’s always the novelty of having dived in China. Don’t bother with Dadonghai; the best areas near Sanya are just east at Yalong Bay (clear water and best for its coral growth, and a variety of fish); Tianya Haijiao, over to the far west of Sanya Bay (good for molluscs); and – best of all – Wuzhizhou Island, in Lingshui Bay around 30km east of Sanya (coral, fish, molluscs and crystal-clear water). Bookings can be made through virtually any hotel (the hostels are the best), but touts, who are more amenable to bargaining, often patrol the beachfront at Dadonghai and Yalong Bay.
Yalong Bay is the least expensive, and boat dives around the west of the bay for certified divers run at ¥580–680 for one tank, with additional tanks ¥200. Without certification, you can do a controlled 30-minute “resort” dive for ¥300–400. Snorkelling trips cost around ¥200 for a couple of hours.
Trips to Tianya Haijao (diving around West Island) and Wuzhizhou Island are both about fifty percent more expensive than Yalong Bay, and require you to pay an “island landing fee” of ¥148 on top of diving costs. You can dive at Wuzhizhou for considerably less, however, by booking in nearby Houhai Bay, whose operators dive on the same sites but don’t “land”.