Tried & Tested

Hotel review: Capella Sanya

5 Feb 2019 by Jackie Chen
Capella Sanya - Ocean view at the Terrace

Background

Capella Sanya is the Singapore-based Capella Hotel Group’s first beach resort and second hotel in China, after Capella Shanghai opened in September 2017. It joins the brand’s portfolio of properties in Singapore, Düsseldorf, Ubud (Bali), as well as planned hotels in Bangkok, the Maldives and Sydney. The Capella Sanya had its soft opening in mid-November 2018, and has been officially open since January 11, 2019.

Hainan has long been a popular domestic tourist destination and the Chinese government has identified the island as an important hub on the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, the sea route part of its oft-touted Belt and Road Initiative. The island is trying to increase oversees tourism by allowing travellers from 59 countries visa-free access to the island, though they will still need a visa for other parts of China. Under the scheme, which began on 1 May 2018, eligible travellers must apply for the visa waiver through a Hainan-registered travel agency and submit all the documents as required.

Where is it?

Capella Sanya is along the coastline of Blessed Bay in the east of Sanya. It’s a 45-minute drive from Sanya Phoenix International Airport (SYX), and the 72,000-sqm CDF Mall, the world’s largest duty-free shopping centre, can be reached within 15 minutes by car.

The property is far from Sanya’s downtown areas, but the hotel does provide airport pick-up service. Upon arrival, I was collected by a white BMW 5 Series 525Li, but there is also a Rolls-Royce Phantom for VIP guests. In the car, I was offered complimentary mango sago, apple mint ice tea, bottled water, some snacks, and a hot wet towel. There’s also a USB charger.

What’s it like?

The hotel is designed as a collaborative art piece by architects Jean-Michel Gathy, who designed the famous infinity pool at Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands, and Bill Bensley, whose design projects include St. Regis Bali Resort and InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort. The hotel says the overall design is “inspired by ancient Chinese wisdom”, as well as the Maritime Silk Road.

In the lobby, there is a “treasure bowl” dome trickling water into a central pool with a square inside. This is inspired by the ancient Chinese belief that the universe was round and the earth was square. The round structure also echoes the concept of “family reunion”, “fulfillment” and “perfection” in Chinese culture.

What’s more, the design of the central pool looks like the ancient Chinese coins that were round with a square hole in the center. Also, water represents wealth in Chinese feng shui. Every morning at 8:30am, a Taichi master performs Taichi at the centre of the pool, while water starts to drop from the dome. Then, water from the lobby flows all the way down to the ocean in the daytime, implying an endless flow of fortune. In the evening, the fountain closes, representing tranquility, peace and harmony.

Capella Sanya - Lobby pool

The rooms

There are 190 guestrooms and villas, with sizes starting at 88 sqm. There’s a balcony in each guestroom outfitted with a sun lounger. One-storey villas are located closer to the ocean and equipped with a secluded pool, a private garden and outdoor terraces. The most luxurious Chairman’s Penthouse measures up to 816 sqm, but it’s still under construction and not open to guests yet.

I was staying at a Gardenfront Room on Level 1 in the Manor building where the guestrooms are located, with only a limited view of the garden. You can expect a better seaview if you stay in other room types on the upper floors. At 88-sqm, the room is quite spacious for an entry-level guestroom.

Capella Sanya - Gardenfront room
Capella Sanya - Gardenfront room view

What impressed me most inside was the mini bar. Besides the basic coffee- and tea-making facilities, it’s fully stocked with a great selection of complimentary snacks and non-alcoholic beverages, while alcoholic offerings are chargeable as per consumption. Guests are also encouraged to make their own cocktails with a full set of tools provided.

Capella Sanya - Mini bar 2

The bathroom is also quite large, with both a bathtub and a shower room. There is a tall closet opposite the dual bathroom sinks, a smaller TV installed on the wall in front of the bathtub, and a small bed that is there to allow guests to take a rest after a bath. Bath salt and Paris-based Diptyque amenities are provided. Other amenities like dental kits and shower caps are stored in a wooden antique-looking box. The bathtub was easily big enough for me to fit in, and was comfortable to soak in. The shower room is relatively small compared with the overall size of the bathroom, but the water pressure was strong.

Capella Sanya - Gardenfront room 2

Overall, the room is well equipped. Besides a long work desk placed in front of the TV, there’s a sitting area in front of the king-sized bed, a long sofa that you can lie on with a floor lamp, as well as a dresser next to the bedside table. The 65-inch flat screen IPTV offers international channels, movies and other programmes. However, I found the light switches in the room a bit tricky. For example, the light of the mini bar was not lit when I returned to my room on the first day, and I couldn’t find the switch to it. I was later told that I just needed to close the mini bar door and then reopen it, so the light could be lit again.

Capella Sanya - Gardenfront bathroom
Capella Sanya - Bathroom amenities

There are three in-room dining periods: breakfast (6:30am-11am), all day (11am-12am) and midnight (12am-6am). On the last day of my stay, I ordered an in-room breakfast because I had to catch my flight at noon and needed time to pack my bag the next morning. The in-room dining menu can be found on the TV, and you call the service centre to make the order. I chose a seafood congee and a baby oyster omelette, and waited around 45 minutes for my breakfast, a minor delay of five minutes past the promised time. The dishes were kept in a heated trolley, so they were still hot when served.

Capella Sanya - In-room dining

Food and beverage

There are four food and beverage outlets in Capella Sanya, with a fifth specialty restaurant that is planned to open in the future.

Lan Ting

Located next to the hotel lobby, Lan Ting is a Chinese fine dining restaurant. It’s now open to guests for lunch (11:30am-2pm) and dinner (6pm-10:30pm). To get to Lan Ting from the hotel lobby, you’ll need to walk along a zigzag walkway decorated with a red roof and ceiling, which is inspired by the architectural style of the ancient Chinese gardens in Suzhou. The restaurant, which serves modern Cantonese cuisine, is run by chef Peter Ma Wing-tak from Hong Kong, who previously worked in the Chinese gourmet restaurant Lili at the Peninsula Paris.

Capella Sanya - Lan Ting
Capella Sanya - Lan Ting Cantonese cuisine

The restaurant has a Chinese Tea House, where you can appreciate the gongfu tea ceremony or try some special tea-infused cocktails. Besides the main dining hall, there are five small private rooms on the ground floor that can accommodate around 10 people each, and a larger private room on the upper floor with a terrace that offers a beautiful ocean view.

Capella Sanya - Lan Ting tea house

Silk Road

Silk Road serves buffet breakfast (7am-11am) and buffet dinner (6pm-10:30pm). As its name implies, Silk Road offers a decent selection of delicacies along the Maritime Silk Road from the Mediterranean Sea, Middle East, India, Thailand and Singapore to Sanya. You can find special counters offering dishes from different regions along the Silk Road, including a Chinese cuisine bar in the centre with delicacies from different regions of China.

Capella - Silkroad buffet breakfast
Capella Sanya - Silkroad fruits

The restaurant also has some special drinks. There are tea trolleys serving different Chinese health teas and the hotel’s specially curated “moon phase” drinks. During breakfast time, a moon phase drink (four in total) is served based on the current cycle of the moon. I tried the Waxing Moon drink made with orange, turmeric, carrots and ginger. At first, I thought such healthy drinks wouldn’t taste very good, but to my surprise, it turned out to be sweet and refreshing.

Capella Sanya - Silkroad health tea
Capella Sanya - Silkroad moon phase drink

For dinner, there’s a wide array of seafood to choose from, including prawns, abalone, mussels, oysters, scallops, and squid – great for seafood lovers like me. You can select the seafood you want and ask the members of staff to grill or make a Thai tom yum soup for you.

Capella Sanya - Silkroad seafood 1
Capella Sanya - Silkroad seafood 2

The Library and Library Bar

The Library and Library Bar opens at 9am and doesn’t close until late. In-house guests can enjoy all-day complimentary snacks. There’s an outdoor terrace where you can enjoy a beautiful ocean view, especially in the evening when the sun is about to set. The bar is also open to walk-in guests not staying at the hotel from 6:30pm.

Capella Sanya - Library Bar interior
Capella Sanya - Library Bar terrace

The bar has different kinds of snacks and cocktails inspired by spices, herbs, teas and ingredients along the Maritime Silk Road. Even the leather menu book is designed to look like the logbook of a seafarer.

Capella Sanya - Library Bar menu

Guests at the bar are invited to follow the journey of an unknown French man who, inspired by the German traveller Ferdinand von Richthofen who first coined the term “Silk Road”, decided to follow his route and came all the way to Sanya.

Every day at 6:30pm, there is an evening ritual at the bar called “Stops along the Maritime Silk Road”, where a host tells the story of one of the ports the French man travelled to, and a guest will be invited to make a special cocktail inspired by local spices and ingredients in the themed city. The cocktail is shared with all the guests afterwards. I was invited to make a Bangkok-style cocktail called “Siam” with gin, soya sauce, chili, basil and maraschino liquor.

Capella Sanya - Ritual at Library Bar

Besides the evening ritual, guests are also encouraged to make their own spirits in a special room at the bar during their stay. They can select a base spirit (gin, vodka or whisky) and choose from a selection of spices, herbs and teas displayed in the room to create a special drink to bring home.

Capella Sanya - DIY spirits at Library Bar

The Dempsey

The Dempsey is a beachfront restaurant, named after the Dempsey Hill in Singapore where there are many good cafes and restaurants. It’s not officially open yet, but I got the chance to have lunch at a poolside cabana and ordered from a temporary menu at the restaurant. You can order some snacks, salad, burgers, main dishes, desserts and drinks, but the choices are still limited at the moment.

Capella Sanya - Cabana 1

I ordered a Caesar salad with lemongrass prawns and fried rice with seafood and XO sauce. I didn’t expect the salad to be served in such a large portion, so I didn’t have space to finish both dishes.

Capella Sanya - Food at The Dempsey

Leisure facilities

The resort’s major wellness centre, Auriga Wellness, is next to the Manor building and comprises a spa complex and the Athletic Centre. In the spa complex, there are 10 treatment rooms named after spices.

Capella Sanya - Spa room

You can also take a Moroccan hammam bath, and then get into the region’s first “Snow Cabin” that is said to help shrink the pores and keep your skin firm. It’s rather interesting to see snow on this tropical island. There’s also a sauna room, a steam room and a children’s playroom, with a pool table for adults.

Capella Sanya - Moroccan hammam
Capella Sanya - Snow Cabin

The Athletic Centre next door boasts a spacious 24-hour indoor gym (with staff members on duty during 7am-10pm) that features Technogym equipment and Kinesis for functional training and complete stretching. There are also complimentary drinks and snacks on offer.

Capella Sanya - Athletic Centre

In addition, there are two table tennis tables and a 125-sqm heated lap pool where the water temperature is kept at around 28 degrees Celsius (opening hours: 7am-10pm).

Capella Sanya - Athletic Centre swimming pool

Walking all the way down to the beachfront, you can find the main swimming pool, (open only to in-house guests from 7am to 10pm), equipped with pool beds and poolside benches.

Capella Sanya - Main Pool

There are also eight air-conditioned bookable private cabanas outfitted with shower facilities and a beach kit with sun spray, mosquito repellent liquid spray and gel moisturisers.

You can also book other specially curated leisure programmes. For example, the “Fishing DaWang” programme is a fishing trip with local fishermen. There’s also another trip to a local farm in Wenchang with executive chef Peter Ma to savour the authentic Wenchang Chicken Rice.

Capella Sanya - Cabana

Meeting and event facilities

The resort’s combined meeting and function facilities measure over 2,000 sqm.

A ballroom is just next to the lobby. You can take the lift downstairs and arrive at the ballroom foyer, which has an outdoor lawn in front of it. Both of them can be used to host events. The large pillar-free ballroom measures 646 sqm, and can be partitioned off for smaller events.

Capella Sanya - Ballroom

There’s also a 136-sqm meeting room, a 70-sqm Boardroom, a 55-sqm VIP Lounge, and two smaller 20-sqm meeting rooms.

Capella Sanya - Boardroom

In addition, the 225-sqm Romance Lawn located at the centre of the resort can be used to host weddings, banquets and press conferences. The Lawn at the beachfront, measuring around 600 sqm, can be used as a venue for banquets or cocktail parties.

Capella Sanya - Romance Lawn

Verdict

Before I visited the resort, I was sceptical about the hotel’s location, as it’s not close to the downtown areas and there are no shuttle services at the moment. I did feel a bit isolated at first; however, during my stay, I found that the hotel really boasts a tranquil and relaxing environment, which is different from other areas in Sanya that are packed with tourists. So if you want to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life for a while, this may be what you’re looking for. You certainly won’t get bored with all the leisure facilities and programmes at your disposal.

Meanwhile, I really appreciated the concept that guests are encouraged to create a specially spiced drink for them to bring home – it’s a nice souvenir. Also, the unique programmes like Taichi at the lobby pool and the evening ritual at the bar also left a deep impression on me, and will surely leave a memorable impression on other guests.

The staff members were always friendly and helpful, always greeting me with a smile, and they are good at remembering guests’ preferences – one night when I arrived at the bar to participate in the evening cocktail session, a young bartender asked me if I wanted a non-alcoholic drink because I’d previously mentioned I don’t drink alcohol. Also, when I was waiting for my spa at the Auriga Wellness centre on the first day, a woman at the reception offered to lead me on a tour around the complex and introduced all the facilities in the centre to me.

Quick Facts

  • Best for… The spacious, tranquil and neat environment, as well as the high-quality services offered by friendly staff
  • Don’t miss… Enjoying the sunset at the terrace of The Library and Library Bar and making your own spirits to bring home
  • Price Internet daily rates for a Gardenfront King during mid-March start from CNY 2,115 (US$311), taxes and fees not included
  • Contact Tufu Resort Area, Yingzhou Town, Lingshui County, Hainan Province, China 572000; +86 898 8309 9999; info.sanya@capellahotels.com; capellahotels.com
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