Based on SPOT5 satellite remote sensing images and land use data in five time phases covering the period 1988-2012, the distribution characteristics, spatial differentiation processes, and driving mechanisms affecting the residential land of the Jinshitan Tourist Resort were studied. The work included a combination of GIS technology, adoption of the differentiation index D, and the multi-group differentiation-measure model D (m). The results provided a basis for the following conclusions:1) From 1988 to 2012, the degree of differentiation of the rural residential land first decreased, and then increased. The general residential, commercial residential and garden-house land-types all showed declining trends, of which the garden-house type presented the most intense volatility. 2) The overall background of the traditional residential land type was gradually replaced by a new residential land type, and the total area of residential land increased year by year, significantly improving the overall residential conditions. The areas of the new residential land type showed growth, and were increasingly widely distributed in the coastal tourist resorts, transportation corridors, and scenic areas. 3) Government policy, social differentiation, market mechanisms, and individual choices (along with other factors) were mutually promoted, although still restrained. However, all of these factors interacted to constrain the developmental direction and the processes affecting tourism real estate in the Dalian Jinshitan Tourist Resort.