Wenchang has been the cultural center of Hainan for centuries and the Wenchang accent is considered the standard variant of Hainanese. The city houses the Confucius Temple, one of the oldest building on the island, and Wenchang School, a prestigious school funded by many overseas Chinese.
The city is not as "modern" and booming as Sanya. It is rather like a showcase on the lifestyle of ordinary Hainanese. It has only 520,000 residents, but is the ancestral home for over a million overseas Chinese, mainly in Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. These immigrants have influenced the lifestyle back in Wenchang. During the day, people enjoy hanging out in a (kinda) cafe with a cup of tea and a slice of cake for Y1-2. At night, they may play table tennis, sing KTV and dance Tango in Wenchang Park.
The city also has a huge coconut plantation with more than 500,000 trees shadowing the beach resort area. The water quality is not as clear as certain beaches in Sanya, but the area is largely unspoiled by tourism. Tourism-related scams and crimes are almost unheard of. The friendliness of local people have made it an appealing alternative to Sanya.
As with most of the island, Hainanese is the main language spoken in Wenchang. The Wenchang dialect is considered to be the prestige dialect of Hainanese, making the city an excellent place for people who want to learn it.
As with elsewhere in China, Mandarin is the main language used in the education system, so most non-elderly locals will be able to speak it as well. English is virtually non-existent, except perhaps at some of the higher-end hotels.
- It takes about 1 hour by car from Haikou to Wenchang (80 km).
In Haikou, buses to Wenchang mainly depart from Haikou East Bus Station. There are buses not only to Wencheng (Wenchang's main urban center) but also to several other towns in Wenchang.
Buses to Wenchang are also available from Sanya and other cities in Hainan but tend to be much less frequent.
- 1 Wenchang Bus Station (文昌车站, 文昌汽车站), 275 Xinfeng, Wencheng Town (文城镇新风路275号) (local bus nos. 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 10), ☏ . Wenchang's main central bus station.
- 2 Longlou Town Bus Station (龙楼镇汽车站), Wentong West Road, Longlou Town (龙楼镇文铜西路） (Tourist Buses 1 & 2). This bus station is far from Wenchang's downtown area but convenient if you're visiting tourist attractions in Longlou.
- 3 Wenchang Railway Station (文昌站, Wenchang Station), Huochezhan Road, Wencheng Town (文城镇火车站路). The station is on Hainan's circular high-speed rail network, which links together all coastal cities on the island. Trains from Haikou East Railway Station take about thirty minutes to reach Wenchang. From Sanya, the journey time is around one hour and twenty minutes.
- The Provincial Road S201 between Haikou and Wenchang, which is only 75-km long, has been popular among beginner and amateur cyclists because it's flat and easy to ride. However, the road has been under extensive reconstruction in 2011, making it among the worst roads you could see in China. In your last 50 km heading to Wenchang, the road is extremely dusty, muddy and crowded with construction trucks which make the air quality worse like a hell.
The better route is Haikou-Fenglai (蓬萊鎮)-Nanyang (南阳)-Wenchang. The route is 90 km and it's much more pleasant.
- 1 Wenchang Satellite Launch Center (WSLC, 文昌卫星发射中心, 文昌航天发射场, 文昌航天城 Wenchang Aerospace City), Longlou Town (龙楼镇) (From Wenchang Railway Station, take Tourist Bus No. 1. From Longlou Bus Station, you may take either Tourist Bus No. 1 or Tourist Bus No. 2), ☏ . 08:30-16:30. This is a former sub-orbital test center and being upgraded. It is the fourth and southernmost space vehicle launch facility (spaceport) of China. It was selected for its low latitude, only 19 degrees North, which allows a substantial increase of payload mass, necessary for the future manned program, space station and deep space exploration program. Therefore, it will replace the obsolete Xichang Satellite Launch Center upon completion of upgrade works. Furthermore, it will be capable of launching the new heavy lift CZ-5 booster under development. Rail tracks of inland Space Centers will not allow the delivery of the new 5 meters core boosters, which Wenchang will, as it is served by a sea port. Chinese nationals may tour the site. but due to reasons of national security, there is a ban on visits by foreign tourists. Residents of Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan are also not welcome here. ¥130.
- 2 Wenchang Confucius Temple (文昌孔庙), 20 Wendongli, Wencheng Town (文城镇文东里20号) (A short distance west of Wenchang Park), ☏ . 08:00-18:00. One of the best preserved examples of ancient architecture in Hainan. The temple was built during the 11th century, and has undergone repeated renovation and expansion since the Ming Dynasty. ¥15.
- 3 Tonggu Ridge (铜鼓岭), Zuanshi Avenue, Longlou Town (龙楼钻石大道) (From Wenchang Railway Station take Tourist Bus No. 1. From Longlou Bus Station, you may take either Tourist Bus No. 1 or Tourist Bus No. 2. Alternatively from Wenchang Bus Station, you may take a 1-hour bus to Longlou and change to a motorcycle taxi to get to Tonggu Ridge), ☏ . 08:30-18:00. Tonggu Ridge provides an easy escape from the busy downtown of Wenchang and has a stunning view of the coastline of Hainan island covered by hundreds of thousands of coconut trees. Special sightseeing cars are available to take visitors to the summit for ¥25 (or ¥45 for a return trip). You can also choose to walk. The road is well-constructed and paved and it only takes a 40-minute walk to go to the top. To avoid troubles, you better arrange when the drivers should take you back to Longlou. As of 2019, Tonggu Ridge is designated a restricted military area due to the presence of a small army base near the summit. Unfortunately, this means that foreign tourists are not allowed to visit. ¥50.
- 4 Dongjiao Coconut Groves (东郊椰林, Dongjiao Coconut Plantation), Dongjiao Town (东郊镇) (Across from the bus station in Wenchang is a local bus stop from which white mini-buses can take you to a ferry crossing at Qinglan Harbour (清澜港). After reaching the other side, take a 3-km ride on a motorised pedicab to get to the site). 08:00-18:00. A beautiful quiet spot to spend a few days. There are about 500,000 coconut trees here amongst winding footpath, small huts, sunshine and the sandy beach. Enjoy the seafood in the restaurants at the shore and try different kinds of beach and sea sports or just have a stroll along the footpath. If it happens to be a breezy day, the leaves of coconut trees will let out a sound of pleasing. There are a good number of basic guesthouses and restaurants along with a resort on the sea. English is not spoken, but the local people are friendly and eager to help. Free.
- 5 Gaolong Bay (高隆湾) (From Wenchang Railway Station, take bus nos. 9 or 12. From Wenchang Bus Station, take bus no. 5), ☏ . Open all day. White-sand bathing beach Free.
- 6 Bamen Bay Mangrove Forest (八门湾红树林, 八门湾国家海上森林公园 Bamen Bay National Sea Forest Park), Binwan Road, Wencheng Town (文城镇滨湾路) (The best option is take a taxi. There is no public transport in the area). Open all day. Free.
- 7 Ancestral Home of Song Qingling (宋庆龄祖居, 宋氏祖居 Song Family Ancestral Home), Luyuan Village, Changsa Town (昌洒镇古路园村) (About 40km northeast of downtown Wenchang. From Wenchang Bus Station, take a long-distance bus to Changsa (昌洒), then hire a motorcycle taxi to take you the remaining 6km to the site), ☏ . 09:00-17:30. ¥15.
- 8 Gusong Village (古松村) (Take a bus to Longlou Town, then hire a motorcycle taxi to take you to the village). Ancient, unique, beautiful, non-commercial traditional Hainanese village, a hidden gem. The village houses are bright and close to beautiful undiscovered and isolated beaches.
- 9 Wennan Old Street (文南老街, 文南路 Wennan Road). Wenchang's best preserved historical street. The street is lined with old qilou buildings (骑楼) dating from the 1920s. Free.
- Wenchang Golf Club (about 50 minutes from Haikou City and 35 minutes from Haikou Airport). Has 41 standard rooms with lake or golf course view, Chinese cuisines, coffee lounge, lobby bar, outdoor terrace, business center pro-shop and a 16-bay driving range.
- Abalone Farm, Longlou Town, Gusong Village (龙楼镇红海村委会古松村), ☏ . Experience the shallow water diving for wild abalone. Abalone are not bi-valves like clams or oysters. They are snails. Gross, yet cool. The farm produces almost 100,000 abalone a year. The water is changed daily, dumped out through fine membranes to catch the microscopic babies which are then laid back in clean water. The hoses are also used to inoculate the tubs with algae-plugs of green stuff are allowed to form in the hoses and then blown into the tub to make seaweed slushies. Visitors can buy the fresh live abalone at a very reasonable local farmer price (around ¥100 per 400g!) Most of the abalone production is delivered fresh. Live abalone can survive for 30 hours.
- Wenchang Chicken (文昌鸡 Wénchāng jī) - thanks to the influence of overseas Chinese from Hainan, this is one of the most famous chicken dishes in Chinese cuisine. Poached by warm chicken broth, the chicken is tender and tasty.
- Abalone and seafood - Longlou Town (龙楼镇) is famous for abalone and seafood.
- Baoluo noodles - The rice noodles are soaked with a thick sauce traditionally served with beef jerky on top. Usually served at breakfast and lunch
- Tea house - Hainan is famous for its pervasive teahouse scenes. They are affordable for everyone but don't expect much on sanitation and cleanness. If you don't know how to get one, ask your hotel owner "附近有茶馆吗?" (Fujin you chaguan ma?) and they will be eager to show you one. Grab a cup of coffee and a slice of bread or cake for ¥1-1.5 each.
As the hometown of many overseas Chinese, hotels are everywhere in Wenchang. Most people would choose to stay at the downtown of Wenchang or Dongjiao Yelin (Dongjiao Coconut plantation). It is also possible to stay in Longlou if you want to explore Tonggu Ridge.
The downtown of Wenchang, where most residents live, is the busiest area with most restaurants, shops and local night life. Most hotels are along Wenjiang Lu (文建路) and Dongfeng Lu (东风路). The most basic hotel usually start from ¥60-80 for a room with private toilet, hot water and air-con but most of them don't offer internet connection. For better rooms, expect to pay ¥100-200.
Dongjiao Yelin (东郊椰林)
Dongjiao Yelin is resided mostly by farmers and fishers and the area, like many other places in Wenchang, is fairly unaffected by tourism. It is among some of the most silent touristy spot you could see in Hainan. People are accommodating and many tourism-related annoyances are almost unheard of. While Dongjiao Yelin has some very basic groceries stores and one quite primitive internet cafe, you may need to take a bus (around 10 km) to Dongjiao Town for some (relatively) more choices on food and groceries items.
Most hotels are located around Prima Resort and there is a bus coming back and forth the resort and Dongjiao Town. It would be easier for you to start looking for a hotel from there.
- Prima Resort, Yelin Bay, Dongjiao, Wenchang, ☏ . Located in the coconut plantations, directly at the sea. Some of the huts have a direct view over the shore. Limited activities to do, but very nice beach - like paradise.
- Gangmen Hotel (港门旅店), Yelin Bay, Dongjiao, Wenchang. Right next to Prima Resort, this family run hotel has a free kitchen which is particularly useful in a place where you don't have many choices on restaurants. Like many other hotels, there are not much travelers so expect to get some discounts for extended stay.
Wenchang has been known for being safe and hospitable. As it is away from the main tourist trail, tourism-related scams and crimes are almost unheard of but you should never ditch your common sense. Traffic rules are, like many other Chinese cities, practiced half-heartedly.