Although Kenting National Park is located in Kenting, these two places should not be confused as the same destination. Kenting is the wider area that includes small townships as well as the national park.
Kenting National Forest Recreation Area is between 150 and 300 m above sea level and the total area is 466.8 ha. Since the landform of Hengchun Peninsula is complicated and the weather is highly changeable, it breeds abundant and special rare plant resources. The forest landscape is roughly divided into three layers. The first layer is arbores. Moraceae and lauraceae are dominant. The second layer is bushes, primarily small palmae. The third layer is chamaephyte. Low grasses and liana are dominant. It is a rich and adequate forest with more than 1,200 kinds of ornamental and conserved plants.
Rising high coral limestone is everywhere in Kenting National Forest Recreation Area. The limestone is primarily composed of sedimentation of corals, foraminifers and nullipores. According to research, this area is supposed to be under sea level ten millions years ago. After weathering and sea water erosion, the coral limestone has gradually become stalagmites, stalactite caves, columns, notches and stalactites. Especially stalagmites and stalactites, they are formed by deposition of calcium carbonate which is precipitated from mineralized water solutions. An average growth rate is 1 cm every 30 years. They are rare and precious stone resources.
Entering from the memorial archway in Kenting National Forest Recreation Area, along the forest trail, there are old trees on both sides of the road. Among them, there is a 300-year-old giant Chinese pistache. Heading inside the recreation area, everywhere, there are spots worth a visit. Aquatic plants area, stalagmites cave, Silver Leaves and Roots, Fairy Cave, Labyrinth Forest, Sky in a Line, Falling Banyan Valley, Silver Dragon Cave, No.1 Gorge, Umbrella Pavilion and Ape Cliff are geographic landscape that you can’t miss.
Flora and fauna
Kenting National Forest Recreation Area is the only one tropical botanical garden in Taiwan and also one of the top 10 tropical botanical gardens in the world. There are thousands of tropical plants and adequate resources of butterflies, birds, insects and reptiles. Sometimes, you can see groups of Formosan macaques playing. Every autumn and winter, plenty of migratory birds including Chinese goshawks, oriental honey-buzzards, cattle egrets, falco subbuteos, brown shrikes and gray-faced buzzards roost at this place. It brings the original forest a more vivid ambience.
During typhoon season, the waves can get quite rough causing all beaches to be closed.
Buses travel every hour on the hour from Taipei Bus Station (get there via Taipei Main Station MRT) to Kaohsiung. UBus (United Bus), is a popular company that offers such a service for NT$430. There is no Wi-Fi, but the seats recline and there is a roughly 20" screen mounted on the ceiling of the bus every 4 rows. The trip can range from 5 to 6 hours.
From Kaohsiung to Hengchun and Kenting buses travel frequently – take the line 9188 from the Kaohsiung bus terminal (don't get confused with city buses). The price for a ticket is roughly NT$350. The transit time from Kaohsiung to Kenting is approximately 2½ hours. There is both a regular and express bus. The express bus arrives on the hour. It can be difficult to discern which bus is the express bus and it is also unlikely the driver will speak English.
Along the coast and passing by Fangliao and Fangshan (for transfer from Eastern Taiwan) at least four different buses can be taken to get down to Hengchun and Kenting: 101, 9117, 9127, 9188, 9189. The price from Fangliao or Fangshan to Hengchun or Kenting is NT$112-150.
Note that GoogleMaps states travel times for the bus of 3-5 hr to Hengshun and Kenting from Fangliao – this is wrong. The buses take barely an hour to go down the coast, and about 20-30 min from Fangshan to Hengshun, since it does barely stop at any of the 60-80 official bus stops along the road.
Kenting is accessible via the HSR, or High Speed Rail which connects Taipei with Zuoying, Kaohsiung. The total travel time from Taipei to Zuoying (Kaohsiung) via HSR is approximately 90 min. After arrival in Zuoying, exit the station and head outside where there is a bus stop. Line 88 bus to Kenting operates 24 hours/day, so getting back to the HSR on time is no problem. Ask your place of accommodation about shuttle buses, or you can take a taxi, which usually picks up passengers until it's full and then quotes a price per person for the trip.
It is advisable to reserve your HSR tickets by telephone or online if traveling on the weekend. Weekend trains are often sold out.
Renting a car is not optimal, but nice if you wish to travel around the Kenting area. Having an automobile or renting a scooter in Kenting enables you to travel up and down the entire southern seaboard and visit both public beaches easily.
By rental motorbike
You should really rent a scooter to explore this region. Otherwise, it is much more hassle to see all the beautiful places, which are quite distant from each other. It is probably best to get 24-hr deal in Hengchun, which has better prices and also fuel scooter not just electric ones for people without international driving licence. From here exploring the Kenting National Park area and surroundings for a day is easy. As Taiwan has a motorbike helmet law, be aware that wearing a helmet is a requirement when operating or riding as a passenger on a motorbike.
In Hengchun, motorbikes can be rented from NT$300 per 24 hr, with international driving licence. Without, they will charge higher. Stand your ground if you got promised a cheap price and then are driven down the road to the real renting station where you will be demanded more money. Most rental stores are near the central bus stops in Hengchun.
In Kenting, motorbikes can be rented from NT$500-800 per 24 hr from many different store fronts. Most places here rent electric scooter, and the fuel powered ones are more expensive. The range of the electric ones is 80-100 km and they are relatively slow, but they can be recharged for free at the pickup station. Drivers must show a Taiwan or International motorbike drivers license and sign a rental contract before being given keys. Some places might be reluctant to rent to foreigners, therefore it can be useful to go with a Taiwanese to help in the process.
- 1 Pyng An Rent Car (right next to the fuel station before entering Kenting), ☏ , , , firstname.lastname@example.org. They also have fuel powered scooters in Kenting and are quite decent with NT$500 per 24 hr, maybe can be bargained down to NT$450. They also have an "office" at 1 Ji Jing Guest House, which is run by her sister, and will pick you up there or in Kenting. Line / WeChat-ID: 0932301866
By rental car
You can also arrange a rental car for pick up at the HSR Kaohsiung Zuoying station.
- 2 Southernmost point of Taiwan (The entrance to the carpark is about 200 m further down the main road from the Eulanbi Lighthouse.). A sculpture representing the southernmost tip of Taiwan. Famous with the locals for pictures and a great sunset spot. No admission, but parking fee NT$50.
- 3 Eulanbi Lighthouse (鵝鑾鼻燈塔). The surrounding park area is well worth the trip past Kenting. The lighthouse is pretty bland, but the easy hiking trails are pleasant and near the ocean. NT$40.
- 4 Longpan Park (龍磐公園). A scenic geological formation formed by levels of the coast separately lowering and getting washed away by the sea. Now, a very green and picturesque coast line and cliff. Also check out 5 this nearby location.
- 6 Fongchueisha (Dune) (風吹沙). A large and picturesque dune. You can walk down it on its right flank.
- 7 Chuhuo Eternal Fire (出火特別景觀區). An interesting sight where natural gas escapes from under the earth through porous rock. It is alighted and constantly burns. You can even alight smaller spots by yourself with a lighter – there are about 6-7 of them where gas emerges. Best time to come here is during sunset when the place dives into the night and allows for great pictures, given you have the right photo equipment.
- 8 Maobitou (貓鼻頭 / 南海洞). A beautiful black cliff and coastal area, which is great for sunsets. The rock formation is supposed to look like a lying cat, with a lot of imagination. Nevertheless, the price is probably not worth the tiny walkway, seems more like a tourist trap. You should rather go for Longpan Park instead – equally or more beautiful. Parking NT$10-50, Entrance NT$30/15 full/concession.
- 9 Houbihu (Marina) (後壁湖), Daguang Road, Hengchun Township. A mildly picturesque and small harbour. Just nearby, also a coral and power exhibition can be found – quite obvious with the nuclear plant right to the east.
- 10 Chuanfan Rock (Sail Rock), Chuanfan. A huge rock at this stony beach, which allows for pretty pictures.
- 11 Hengchun Town Wall. Nice for a stroll around the centre.
- 12 Hengshun South Gate. This palace-like gate is worth a visit when you are in Hengshun. Located in the middle of a roundabout.
- 13 Rocks Park (Hengchun) (Hou Dong Shan Gong Yuan), Hengchun. This is either coral or volcanic rock.
- 14 Gangkou Suspension Bridge (屏東滿州港口吊橋).
- 1 South Bay (樂活南灣遊憩區), No. 223, Nanwan Road. Decent and beautiful beach to take a dip.
- 2 White Sand Bay (Baisha / 墾丁白沙灣海灘). Remote and beautiful beach.
- 3 Sheding Natural Park (社頂自然公園), ☏ . There is a free trail (about 1½-2 hours of walking) but you have to pay a small parking fee. The gorges are fairly interesting to look at and there are views of the southern tip of the coast.
- 4 Kenting National Forest Recreation Area (墾丁國家森林遊樂區), No. 201, Gongyuan Road, Kenting (apparently no public bus goes here), ☏ . 08:00-17:00. A beautiful forest and jungle area, but it seems quite expensive, unless you are a botanist. The Stalagmite Cave closed as of Nov 2017. Also, the Fairy Cave does not seem to be open constantly – best to inquire at the entrance. If you must do this park, you definitely need to do the extend walk until the "First Ravine" – the backmost part is much more worth it. Parking: NT$20-50, entrance: NT$100/150 weekday/weekend.
As in any tourist area, it is advisable to double-check prices. Kenting closes surprisingly early for Taiwan - most shops and stalls seem to shut down at 22:00.
- Surfing is quickly becoming a popular sport at all beaches. Popular locations include Jialeshui (佳樂水), an isolated hamlet on the east coast, and Nanwan (南灣), a beach located between Hengchun and Kenting.
- FuDog Surfing provides lessons at a reasonable price and in English.
- Afei Surf, No. 264 Nanwan Road, ☏ . Surf courses, tours and board rental. They also run two Balinese-style hostels, one in Nanwan, the other in Jialeshui.
- Jet-skis can be rented at the more popular beaches, but will generally cost NT$1000/30 minutes during peak times. Inquire with shops that rent motorbikes for more reasonable rates.
- Scooter rides. Take a motorbike ride around the main roads in Kenting, which give you access to several tourist sites. Your motorbike rental operator should provide you with a map of the area; if not ask for one at your place of accommodation.
- Go-Karts. There are several fun and exciting Go-Kart tracks in Kenting that offer 18 cycles around the track for NT$100.
- Swimming. The ocean is open and safe for swimming at 2 public beaches and numerous (pay) private beaches. Sometimes, the beaches are closed due to high waves in typhoon season.
- Every evening the Main Kenting Strip turns into a night market with merchandise, games, restaurants, and street food.
- Scuba-diving and snorkeling. Kenting's coast has plenty of corals and a variety of ocean wildlife.
- 1 Kenting Night Market, Kenting Rd., Kenting. At night the main road in Kenting becomes a night market, with all kinds of food sold from stalls.
- 2 Hengchun Night Market, Hengchun. closes early at around 21:00-22:00. Not as busy as Kenting, but worth while staying in Hengchun.
Thai food is in vogue in Kenting, and virtually every restaurant now offers it. There are plenty of restaurants too - lots of Chinese (of course), Thai, and a little western. There is also a lot of fresh fruit available and plenty of seafood.
- Gelato (?), Nanwan (5-10 minutes North from the Kenting Strip, near Santosa restaurant). Delicious gelato and a great place to have an afternoon snack. There is seating in front of the storefront. NT$40-110.
- Chinese Seafood (Across from Cafe 85). The seafood is delicious and worth ordering the fish of the day. It is very reasonably priced unlike some of the other seafood eateries offering live fish. NT$200 per person.
- Santosa Restaurant, Nanwan (close to the 7-11 on the Nanwan strip). Cheap Thai food that is delicious and filling. Try the seafood fried rice and the basil chicken. The restaurant owner is very friendly. About NT$150 per person.
- Warung DiDi, No. 26 Wenhua Lane, Kenting Rd, Kenting (Hidden down a narrow alley off the main road - follow the signs). Seems to be the most popular restaurant in Kenting, serving a variety of pan-Asian food. A little hard to find, and fills up quickly, but worth a visit.
- The Rock Garden (when going from Kenting, the place is 300 m) off the main road before the bridge; at Jialeshui Beach), ☏ . Lovely place in a garden setting, great for a lunch outdoors.
- Bossa Nova beach cafe, 100 Nan-Wan road-Nan-Wan beach-Hengchuen-946-TW, ☏ . all day open. Cool beach cafe with one of the rare ocean view in the area. Solid menu with a large Asian selection and a western section as well. Wine, coffee, desserts. Look for Claire, the owner. She is a local and a longtime body boarder, always ready to help you with any info you might need.
- Beach Bistro, No.230, Changfun Rd.Eluan village. Hengchun Township, Pingtung County (Next to Chuanfanshih “Boat Sail Rock), ☏ , . 10:00-22:00. Beach Bistro is a Greek-style seaside restaurant which offers a mixture of Asian and European recipes. The owner, Chang Chung-Ho, was born in Kenting and travels to France every year, so his cooking inevitably has become French-oriented but with an own Asian touch, resulting in an Asia-Euro "Nouvelle Cuisine" with unique dishes in a particularly relaxed and friendly atmosphere. NT$200-400.
- Chez Papa, No.142 Kenting Street, ☏ . 09:00–01:00. Moroccan-style restaurant which offers a mixture of Asian and European recipes. The owner, Gillou, was born in France, so his food is French-oriented, but with an Asian touch. Also features a big selection of Belgium beers and wines, and cocktails. Relaxed and friendly atmosphere. NT$180-450.
- 人和素食館, No. 232 Hengnan Road, Hengchun (50 m south of the Old Town South Gate), ☏ . This vegetarian restaurant offers succulent Taiwanese delicates. The mushroom-dish, a must try, is recommended by the owner. Your plate is weighed to calculate the price. A good plate costs about NT$100.
There are plenty of bars and stands to have a drink along Kenting Road in Kenting.
- 1 Light Blue Hostel (Kenting Light Blue Bed and Breakfast), No. 30, Lane 41, Sheng-Bei Road, Hengchun, ☏ , . Decent value for money. If you are lucky, you can get the budget room at the top with great balcony. Also, Hengchun seems to be a better base for exploring the surrounding area of Kenting (National Park), since prices are not so inflated here. WeChat-ID: david65631 (or AlingHappy21). Double from NT$500.
- 2 Kenting Youth Hostel, No.243-1, Kending Rd, Kenting. Check-out: 11:00. Cosy and clean with very friendly stuff. Free Wifi. NT$300.
- 3 Blue Sea Inn (墾丁藍海旅店), No. 10, Lane 692, Chuanfan Road, Chuanfan, ☏ . Friendly young owner and decent location near the beach (300 m). All required standards for an unbeatable price in this region. Double from NT$650.
Resorts and hotels
Since Kenting's popularity as a destination is rising, it seems like every plot of land that isn't already a hotel or restaurant is being turned into one, and many shops and restaurants have rooms upstairs too, so it shouldn't be too hard to find a place to sleep. The newer hotels are generally nicer but pricier, and you'll want to check there's no ongoing construction that might interfere with your sleep.
- Caesar Park Hotel Kenting, 6 Kenting Road, Hengchun, ☏ .
- Château Beach Resort Kenting, 451 Kenting Road, Hengchun, ☏ . Made famous by the movie "Cape No.7". It is the only hotel in the area with direct beach access from terraced rooms.
- Howard Beach Resort Kenting, 2 Kenting Road, Hengchun, ☏ .
- Ipanema Surf House, In a small village. Nice and cosy place for an escape from busy beach, ☏ , email@example.com.
- Kenting Nan Wan Resort Hotel, No.10, Nanwan Rd., Hengchun Town, Pingtung County, Taiwan.
Camping is allowed in the National Park. It is advisable to contact the park directly to set up permits. Several bed and breakfast or small proprietor operations will rent tents and space for camping on their property.
Like all of Taiwan, the Kenting area is very safe from violent crime. Use common sense when protecting your valuables, and don't leave anything valuable in your car.
Stray dogs, while not violent or aggressive, are everywhere and likely harbor disease and/or parasites. Don't pet them!
During weekends, tourists park all over the sidewalks and entryways, making it very difficult for pedestrians to walk safely and out of street traffic.
Bus Line 88 runs 24 hours a day and will take you to Kaohsiung city. The bus will drop you off opposite the operator's storefront. There are usually taxis waiting there to take you to the ZuoYing HSR station for no more than NT$120.