The Chinese government has doubled the number of countries whose residents can travel to the tropical island province of Hainan without a visa.

Starting May 1, residents of 59 countries, including those in North America, Southeast Asia, Western Europe and South America, can travel to Hainan for as long as 30 days without a visa. China, which had previously allowed visa-free travel from 26 countries, added many countries from Europe and South America. African countries as well as many in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran, are not on the list of visa-free countries.

Often referred to as "China's Hawaii," Hainan sits in the South China Sea and is known for its tropical climate. At about 13,000 square miles, the island is about three times the size of the Hawaiian Islands combined.

China's government continues to try to spur development on the island, with recent proposals to allow horse racing, sports lotteries and expanded duty-free shopping.

Much of island's resort development has been in Sanya, on the island's southern coast. Recent openings there include the 1,314-room Atlantis Sanya in February and the 246-room Rosewood Sanya last summer.

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