Kenting National Park, Taiwan’s Blue and Green Paradise

Kenting National Park in Taiwan is the most lush place I’ve been in recent memory. The park is filled with bright green fields, forests of unique tropical pine trees, the bluest ocean waters, and billowing white clouds overhead. After spending a few days in the nearest major city, Kaohsiung, I boarded a bus and fell in love with Kenting almost immediately.

The national park is situated on the southernmost peninsula in Taiwan, and offers everything that an outdoorsman or outdoorswoman could want in a destination. There’s lots of hiking opportunities and a number of white sand beaches to choose from.

In addition to all the outdoor attractions, Kenting is a great place to soak up some authentic Taiwanese culture. The area is admittedly touristy, but most visitors to the area are regional tourists. Therefore, you’ll undoubtedly come in contact with “the real Taiwan” on your visit to Kenting. If you’re especially interested in the cultural side of things, you can stay in the nearby town of Hengchun, which has a very traditional vibe as well as a surprisingly poppin’ restaurant and bar scene that’s worth checking out.

Since there’s not a ton of infrastructure set up for international tourists who aren’t fluent in Mandarin, getting around Kenting may be slightly harder than navigating big cities and more famous beach destinations in Asia. That’s why I’ve written this guide: to give some basic information about the park and its vicinity. Read on to find out why Kenting should be your next beach destination!

Skip to one of the sections below:

  1. Beach Guide
    1. White Sand Bay
    2. South Bay Recreation Area
  2. Other Attractions
    1. The Parks at Sheding
    2. Guanshan During Sunset
    3. The Southernmost Point in Taiwan
  3. The Case for Staying in Hengchun
    1. Restaurant, Cafe, and Bar Guide
  4. Things to Consider
    1. Renting a Scooter
    2. Language Barriers
    3. Getting to and from Kenting

Beach Guide

Kenting and the surrounding townships are home to a number of sandy beaches. Here are the two that I liked the most.

White Sand Bay
白沙灣海灘

White Sand Bay is beautiful. There’s not much more to it than that. Despite being sandy and great for swimming, there are some rocky portions right past the shoreline which give the water there a full spectrum from light, pearly blue to the darkest navy.

Since White Sand Bay is about a twenty minute drive from the Kenting hotels, it’s a little less crowded than most of the other beaches in the area. If you only visit one beach in Kenting, this should be it.

South Bay Recreation Area
樂活南灣遊憩區

This is the other beach that I recommend. If the sun is shining, the waters here are also incredibly pretty. It’s right off the main road, so there are more beachgoers as well as people who will approach you to ask if you want a jet ski ride or a surfing lesson. Traffic also zooms by, so you have to be careful when crossing the street or getting back onto the road.

In addition to these beaches, there is also a large public beach located right along the hotel strip. If you have a favorite beach in Kenting that I didn’t mention, let me know in the comments section!

Other Attractions

Kenting is home to more than just picturesque beaches. Most of the area’s nature trails are located in wooded areas further away from shore. Here are some of the best places to visit for short hikes.

The Parks at Sheding
社頂

Getting to Sheding requires driving for about twenty minutes uphill from the beach. Therefore, the area offers some of the best panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and beaches. A couple of specific spots are mentioned below.

Longzipu Grassland
籠仔埔草原

This was my favorite attraction in Sheding! It’s not a park (officially) and there’s no entrance fee to see it, although the grass in the fields looked much too tall to walk through. However, the views from the road are still so stunning. You have to turn off the main road, and there was literally no one else there when I drove by.

Views of 大尖石山, A Striking Rocky Cliff

Dà jiān shíshān (大尖石山) is a massive stone mountaintop towering over the beachfront roads and hotels of Kenting. I didn’t visit the summit, but if you want the best views of it from below, drive down Daxi Lane.

Ocean Views from Shexing Road

There isn’t a park here, but Shexing Road (社興路), especially from this point down to beach level, offers some of the best views of the water below.

Sheding Natural Park
社頂自然公園

This free park offers a main trail loop that is worth a visit mainly because it overlooks the ocean to the east, which most of the Kenting area does not. There are two main lookout towers: one located here and the other here. I preferred this park to the National Forest Recreation Area mentioned below.

Kenting National Forest Recreation Area
國家森林遊樂區

I recommend this park least enthusiastically of all the attractions in Sheding because it’s not free. The main trail going through it felt like any old hike through a nondescript forest. There is a seven-story viewing tower, which probably is the highest viewpoint around, but it’s far enough away from the ocean that it’s almost hard to see anything clearly. The park is also home to some small caves, greenhouses, and gardens. In all honesty, many of the free views from the road were more impressive than what this recreation area had to offer.

Guanshan for Sunset
關山

This little hill overlooks the ocean to the west, which makes it a phenomenal place to watch the sunset. Guanshan is one of the few places that actually draws a crowd in the area, but you’ll understand why after you experience a sunset there. If you want to get in, you’ll have to pay a small fee of 60 NTD to get in, but it’s worth it.

The Southernmost Point in Taiwan

I imagine most travelers to the area will want to check out Taiwan’s southernmost point. However, once you arrive, it’s a little anticlimactic. There’s just a single statue on a wooden deck, and you can’t actually walk out to the beach because it’s so rocky. I’m not saying don’t go, but don’t expect anything too jaw-dropping.

The little sculpture located at the southernmost point

Nearby is a tiny village called Eluanbi. It looked like it might be worth exploring because it’s got a few parks and a lighthouse. Unfortunately, I visited the area right at sundown so I didn’t have time to check anything else out.

Eluanbi Lighthouse in the background

Now that you know what to see, you might be wondering where to stay. Read on to see why it’s worth it to stay a little further out in the next town over.

The Case for Staying in Hengchun

Visitors to the Kenting area will basically have two different areas they can choose to “set up camp.” The first is the small town of Hengchun, which is located a few miles north of the beaches. The other option is to stay in the touristy area located here with resorts aplenty and a beach across the street.

A street in Hengchun with festive decorations

I chose to stay in Hengchun mostly because I found a guesthouse there that cost about 15 dollars a night for a private room. At first, Hengchun felt very quiet and honestly a bit boring. However, by the end of my trip, I had come to really love this small town that’s a little more out of the way. I recommend that you stay in Hengchun too, and here’s why.

The 南門+緣 SouthGate Guesthouse where I stayed

First and foremost, I think Hengchun is probably cheaper. Since the town of Kenting is basically a road filled with resorts, I’m guessing everything from lodging to food is more expensive there. But perhaps more importantly, Hengchun offers what felt like an authentic experience. It’s a small town where people live and work, and it still has a distinct traditional vibe. It’s quiet and relaxing but still close enough to the beaches via electric scooter.

South Gate in Hengchun

Restaurants, Cafes, and Bars

The one other thing about Hengchun is that it has a pretty cool bar and restaurant scene, although the best places were hidden in plain sight. To read a mini-post on food options, click here!

Things to Consider

Here are a few other pieces of information to note about Kenting.

It's Free

As far as I can tell, Kenting National Park doesn’t have strictly defined boundaries. I never passed any signs welcoming visitors into the park. As such, you won’t have to pay for admission into the park, although some attractions require a small entrance fee, such as Guan Mountain.

Scooter Rental

Even if you decide to stay next to the beach, the only real way to get around the area is on electric scooter. Unfortunately, beaches in Kenting are just too spread out to walk between them. There is a bus system, but I think if you used it to get around, you’d spend most of your time and energy figuring it out instead of enjoying the sites.

Scooter rental places are everywhere, but this is one situation where English might not be well understood (the rental agreement was only in Chinese). I rented one a block away from my guesthouse and paid 600 NTD per day. I saw other places advertising for as low as 400 NTD per day, but if someone tries to charge you significantly more than this ballpark, turn them down because they’re ripping you off.

Electric scooters have a relatively low speed limit and do not require presentation of a license, international or otherwise (gas-fueled motorbikes do, however). In fact, I didn’t even have to present a passport or put down a deposit (which admittedly was very strange and unexpected). The scooter is easy enough to ride even if you’ve never driven one before. Keep in mind that they are powered by battery, not gas, so you have a limited range. The shop I rented from offered as many battery exchanges as I needed without charging extra, which was nice.

It goes without saying that you need to wear the helmet which should be provided with the rental. You’ll be sharing the road with cars and other motorbikes (the gas-powered ones go way faster), so drive defensively and stay focused.

Language Barriers

Language barriers can be real in this part of Taiwan and anyone who doesn’t speak or read Chinese needs to be prepared for that. Compared to the other places I’ve been to in Asia since I moved here in March, Kenting probably had the least English signage. Since I can speak a bit of Mandarin, I never really got to see how well local people spoke English, but the fact that most locals spoke to me in Chinese suggests that proficiency might overall be low.

A dumpling restaurant that doesn't have a bilingual menu (the red banner)

The two areas where I think tourists would encounter the most challenges are while driving (street signs) and menus. In particular, lanes are marked as forbidden for motorcycles with only the following: “禁行機車.” They tend to be the left lanes on the major road connecting Hengchun to the coast, but that might be one string of characters to try to learn to recognize. That’s probably the most critical, but even signs for directions tend not to be bilingual.

A menu at a local cafe in Hengchun

Menus also tend not to be translated into English, and some don’t have pictures. Luckily, there’s less at stake when it comes to ordering a food at a restaurant than riding a scooter on a busy road. Language barriers are a thing that all serious travelers will eventually have to learn how to deal with. Alternatively, learning some basic spoken phrases in Mandarin before visiting can potentially go a long way.

Getting to Kenting

The closest major city to Kenting is Kaohsiung, which is about two hours away from the park by bus. I went to this bus station in Kaohsiung, which only allowed ticket purchases for the day of travel. The drop-off point in Hengchun is located here, but I believe there are a number of other stops throughout Kenting.

Tickets cost a little more than 300 NTD for a one-way journey. The bus I took was comfortable but had no bathroom (a trend I’m noticing in Asia). They leave fairly frequently so you shouldn’t have to worry about booking in advance, and as far as I could tell, they don’t sell round-trip tickets.

Now that you’ve read about it and seen how beautiful it is, has Kenting made it onto your bucket list? After visiting Kaohsiung and the national park, Taiwan has skyrocketed to the top of my list of most highly recommended destinations. It’s beautiful, relatively affordable, the people are so welcoming, and it has such an interesting culture and history that are worth reading up on.

Have any thoughts or questions about Kenting? Leave a comment below! I for one cannot wait to go back and experience Taipei and other parts of Taiwan at the earliest opportunity! Until next time, fellow caffeinoholics!

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This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. Wow this is such a great and informative guide! I love that you give options for those of use that like to stay in more local areas vs touristy ones. I cant wait visit this area one day

  2. I am so used to seeing posts on the urban city life of Taiwain. This was neat to see a whole different side of it. The colors are so vibrant!

  3. Wow – I had NO idea Taiwan was this beautiful (and I’ve only been through the airport – which I can see now is a shame). White Sand Bay and South Bay look stunning, and I’d love the Longzipu Grassland as well. Thank you for the tip about Hengchun; I’d definitely prefer to a more resort-type area. Thank you for this helpful post!

  4. Wow I really need to visit Kenting. I’m going to study in Taiwan in 2019 and I’m already really excited as I have no idea what to expect. The nature looks beautiful and especially White Sand Bay looks like a dream. Definitely worth the 20 minutes drive out of the main tourist area! Also the view from Guanshan looks amazing!! Can’t wait to move to Taiwan for a semester!

    1. Oh my gosh Maria, I am honestly so jealous you get to spend a whole semester in Taiwan! I think you are seriously going to love it and you’ll have so much time to explore every nook and cranny of the island! It felt to me like the perfect mix between large cities with good infrastructure and all things nature. Enjoy your time there!!

  5. Taiwan is not yet very touristy so I am not surprised that there might be language barriers. It’s really cool though that the entrance to the Kenting National Park is free, that’s not common! I’d love to rent a scooter and drive around, it’s so green and the bays/ beaches are pretty cool too. I specifically love White Sand Bay, it’s gorgeous! I haven’t really tried Taiwanese cuisine, that’d be a highlight for me.

  6. Very beautiful place indeed! The beaches are nice, and there seems to be a wall a bit further from the shore. Is there a scuba diving outfitter there? Also, the Dà jiān shíshān rock cliff looks interesting. Is rock climbing permitted or is there a rock climbing scene there?

  7. This part of Taiwan looks absolutely beautiful. I don’t know any Chinese so I would have a hard time, but that is what google translate is for! I love places like this, that are more for regional tourists. I would LOVE to visit some day.

  8. This looks like it was an awesome trip. I didn’t realize Taiwan had beaches like that, it makes me want to pack up and go myself. I love that you got to rent a scooter while you were there too, I’ve never ridden one of those before but I’ve always wanted to try it!

  9. I can’t believe this is located in Taiwan. The beach is amazing and so beautiful! This is the first time that I read a blog about local place in Taiwan, and not all about the city proper.

  10. Taiwan sees like an absolute dream! It’s definitely on the list for my (tentative!) move to Indonesia next year. I’m so excited to see what other things you have on Taiwan.

  11. That’s a serious amount of photos for one post, and I’m loving it. You really communicated what makes this place special, and I legit had no idea this place even existed. It looks the spot to be, so thanks for sharing!

  12. What a comprehensive guide on Kenting National Park! Your pictures are stunning and speak for itself how splendid it is!

  13. I have to admit I know very little about Taiwan but really want to go there for the street food 🙂 This park shows a beautiful site of the country, which I would be happy to visit, as I really love nature.

  14. You had me at beautiful views and hiking. It looks like I have another place to visit on a return trip to Taiwan. Kenting is stunning with the greenery and the sunset views, especially on Guanshan.

    I’m glad that you mention the language barrier as I find that Taiwan is challenging to travel through without knowing Chinese. I’m currently learning Chinese now so I can’t wait to practice my communication and reading skills when I go back.

    1. Taiwan is a perfect place to practice Chinese, Jackie! People are so friendly and unlike some other places, if you make an honest effort they are delighted and try to maintain the conversation in Mandarin instead of insisting on responding in English. The language is written using traditional characters there, so that’s one thing to note. However, I found that I was generally able to piece things together even though I’ve only studied simplified.

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