Canadians have a new tropical destination they can travel to, and it's the perfect alternative to Hawaii and Cancun.

The island of Hainan in China is a hidden gem that boasts a beautiful tropical climate and world-class, white sand beaches studded with palm trees. As of May 1, 2018, the island began offering greater visa-free access to citizens from 59 countries, including Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. The move was intended to support reform and promote tourism in the country's southernmost province.

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The new policy now allows travellers from those countries to stay on Hainan visa-free for up to 30 days. The visa-free access will be exclusive to travellers who book their tours through travel agencies.

"By extending the policy to individuals and the stay to up to 30 days, the government aims to attract more international tourists, nurture the tourism industry and meet the needs of foreign individuals," said Qu Yunhai, head of the Bureau of Exit and Entry Administration.

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Hainan is growing in popularity, having seen as much as 50 per cent growth year on year. In 2017, the island played host to more than 1.1 million international visitors in 2017, 320,000 of which were from countries that had visa-free access at that time (Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Korea and Russia).

"The policy will inject vitality into Hainan and bring us closer to our goal of becoming a world-class destination," says Sun Ying, the director of the Hainan Tourism Development Commission.

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You need to put Hainan on your bucket list

Hainan is the world's newest trendy tropical escape. It has the perfect mix of adventure and relaxation, with its many offerings of outdoor activities and resort-style experiences.

In the city of Sanya at the southern end of the island, travellers can expect a laidback vacation that entails a slew of fun beach activities like diving, surfing, speed-boating, jet skiing and snorkeling. 

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In the outskirts of the island, there are a variety of green spaces for the nature lover — Luhuitou Park is a mountaintop wonderland that takes you on hikes through a rainforest filled with scenic vistas and wild monkeys. The Yalong Bay Tropical Paradise Forest lets you release your inner daredevil with gravity-defying suspension bridges, ziplines and ostrich rides. There's also the Yanuo Tropical Rainforest Resort, which lets you go site hopping to some of the island's most beautiful waterfalls and swimming holes.

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Those who would prefer to indulge in cultural experiences can do so at the Nanshan Buddhism Cultural Park, where a Buddhist statue of the goddess Guanyin stands taller than the Statue of Liberty in New York. Delicious food awaits your trial at the night markets in Sanya, which stay open well past your usual bedtime. There's also the Phoenix Island resort, the island's very own miniature Vegas that features casinos, luxury amenities and incredible suites to spend the night in.

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Needless to say, Hainan needs to be on your travel bucket list!

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