If your senses ever get full of the invitingly quaint yet appropriately hipster delights of Riyue Bay, a short drive or ride up into the mountains will bring you to Xiannu Tan, a bijou and easy-to-reach waterfall pool recently designated as an official tourism site.
As you approach Xiannu Tan (仙女潭), which literally translated means ‘Fairy Pool’, a typical Hainanese tropical vista treats your eyes. You will wonder what awaits as you wind up the mountain road.
Having been there on three occasions now, I can say two things. Firstly, the fairies are either invisible or have been driven away by the modern world (I stand with the latter theory). While that is regrettable, going out of the way to get to this pool three times now proves it is worth a visit.
The waterfall is not particularly high, but it is quite ferocious. Standing under it, which is perfectly possible and recommended, can be likened to the force applied through traditional Chinese massages. Below the drop lies a generously proportioned pool, brimming with icy, crystalline water, and garnished with leaves from overhanging trees.
As the water runs off the mountains, the water level can vary. On my first and second visits during the relatively dry period of Hainan’s winter, the level was low enough to provide plenty of exposed rock on which to bask and relax with a beer or water, depending upon if you’re the designated driver or not. The low level also revealed a shallow cave into which the braver of us might like to venture.
On my most recent visit, it had been raining heavily the preceding day, and so with the higher water level, the cave and rocks were more or less submerged. The water level or the rains seemed to have instilled some local youths with the confidence to slide down or jump off the waterfall into the frigid depths. Admittedly, this is not an activity I would recommend, but after a few hours of observation, the youths in question all seemed to be uninjured.
The path of the river that supplies the waterfall extends quite a way behind it. It’s quite a fun experience climbing and rock hopping, but do bring some ‘sensible’ shoes if you intend to explore that area.
The whole area is well-maintained. From what I saw, locals and tourists alike were mindful to take their trash with them as they left. There is ample parking overlooking the waterfall, and a roadside stall across the road selling coconuts alongside a whole host of other refreshments. There are no changing facilities, so best to bring a big towel with you or simply ride back to Riyue Bay wet!
The most convenient way to reach Xiannu Tan is from Riyue Bay via X187, taking a left turn onto X228. For those who want truly unparalleled views to accompany their journey, consider a day trip to Xinglong first to get some local coffee, then set your GPS to 仙女潭瀑布 (Xiannu Tan Waterfall). You won’t regret it.
Based in Qionghai, David is new to Hainan, having spent the past 13 years adrift on the Chinese mainland and in Hong Kong. He arrived back in 2007 to study Chinese Language and Literature at Nanjing University. After graduation, he ended up in Hong Kong, then Shanghai, working as an educator and on/off translator for nine years. He can’t wait to meet more people and make Hainan his home.
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[Images by David Janke/That's]
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