A Guide to Kenting National Park at the Southern Tip of Taiwan

A pristine, white sand beach in Kenting national park, Taiwan

Kenting National Park is Taiwan’s oldest national park. For Taiwanese, Kenting (墾丁, pronounced ken ding) is synonymous with beaches, water activities, April long weekend, and partying.

Kenting is the closest thing Taiwan has to a beach town. There’s nowhere else in the country where you can see night market vendors wearing beach attire as they mix cocktails, with techno music blasting from loudspeakers behind them (see my Kenting Night Market guide for that!)

But there’s more to Kenting that the above – including some stunning coastal scenery, hiking trails, waterfalls, and wildlife.

I’ve been to Kenting half a dozen times, several of those for going to Spring Scream music festival (which no longer exists, but helped to make Kenting famous). In this article, I’ll cover it all – how many days you need, how to get there, where to stay, things to do, the best beaches, activities, tours, and what to eat.

Kenting National Park Introduction

Looking down on a canopy of trees with mountain on right side and a small beach town on the coast
Kenting National Forest Recreation Area and Mt. Dajian, with Kenting village visible on the coast

Kenting National Park occupies the tip of Hengchun Peninsula in Hengchun Township of Pingtung County.

Hengchun (恆春) is the main town in the area and most visitors drive through it just before reaching the famous beaches of Kenting, including Kenting Main Beach, the location of Kenting Night Market.

Hengchun is known for its old city wall (恆春縣城, built 1879) with four ancient gates, some of the best preserved ones in all of Taiwan.

A strangely shaped metal artwork on a hill with a beautiful coastline behind it
Artwork and coast of Kenting from Eluanbi

In 1883, Eluanbi lighthouse was built at the southern tip of Taiwan, after many shipwrecks occurred there. It one of the few fortified lighthouses in the word – it has a protective wall due to regular attacks by local aboriginal tribes after it was first built.

Kenting National Park was established on January 1, 1984, making it the first one in modern Taiwan (earlier, the Japanese had made a national park in what is now Taroko National Park).

A huge collection of beach umbrellas packed tightly together with some swimmers on the beach in the background
A crowded beach in Kenting on April long weekend

Kenting reached peak popularity among locals in the 2000s and early 2010s. During that time, it became the party capital of Taiwan for the 4-day April long weekend. Taiwanese would flock there for Spring Scream (春吶), an alternative rock music festival.

Over time, other festivals and beach parties popped up on the same weekend, including the electronic music-focused Spring Wave.

Some fans watching a small concert in taiwan
My wife and son at Spring Scream Music & Art Festival about 10 years ago

In 2008, the Taiwanese film Cape No. 7 (海角七號) was filmed in Kenting. Then in 2012, scenes in Ang Lee’s Life of Pi were also filmed there (Lee himself was born in Pingtung) These made Kenting even more popular.

Around the mid 2010s, Kenting’s popularity started declining. As rock music became less popular, Spring Scream music festival tapered off. I went to a few of the last ones, and it was tiny compared to earlier years. In 2016, Spring Wave was held in Taipei instead of Kenting.

A sandal store with huge model wearing bikini in the window
Shopping on Kenting Main Street

As budget flights from Taiwan to Japan proliferated, many Taiwanese started choosing Japan instead of Kenting for their holidays – they price of getting to Japan from Taipei is often cheaper! (see my list of budget flights)

To keep the music festival tradition alive, the Pingtung government now puts on the free Taiwan Music Festival (台灣祭) on the main beach in Kenting during April long weekend. Kenting remains popular, but just not quite as popular as it used to be.

Kenting Orientation

A map of Kenting National Park showing its main beaches and attractions
Map of Kenting National Park

Most people access Kenting from Kaohsiung on the west coast of Taiwan. Even if you’re coming from Taitung on the east coast, you’ll most likely cross over to the main road on the west coast to get down to Kenting.

Going south down the west coast, you’ll go through Checheng and Hengchun. There are a few attractions in and near Hengchun, including a weekend night market, old city gates, and capybara and sika deer parks.

Kenting National Museum of Marine Biology (Kenting Aquarium) is on the coast west of Hengchun. Although it’s quite a ways from other sights in Kenting, it’s part of the national park – a thin strip of national park extends up the coast to it.

A habor crowded with traditional boats and large port building
Houbihu Fishing Harbor in Kenting

Shortly after Hengchun, the highway enters the national park and reaches Nanwan (a small but popular beach) and then Kenting Main Beach.

This is Kenting’s largest beach community. Taiwanese call “墾丁大街” (or “Kenting Main Street”). It is home to Kenting Night Market and the largest concentration of restaurants and hotels in the national park.

Just north (inland) from Kenting Main Beach, Kenting National Forest Recreation Area (墾丁國家森林遊樂區) has some cool walks and caves.  

Snorkeling and scuba diving tours take place near the seafood harbour called Houbihu (後壁湖), which is west of Nanwan and Kenting Main Beach.

A large white resort facing a beach, with a mountain sticking up behind it
Hotels along Kenting Main Beach

East of Kenting Main Beach, the next points of interest are Xiaowan (a small beach with beach bar and a couple resorts), Sail Rock Beach, and Eluanbi Lighthouse.

After Eluanbi, the highway follows the coast north to some lovely coastal lookouts called Longpan and Fengchuishan. After a remote surfing beach called Gangkou, the highway veers inland for a big loop back to Hengchun – I’ll recommend a cool waterfall with natural infinity pool around here.

When to Go

A view of a palm tree beside one of the best beaches in Taiwan
Visit Kenting in winter for no crowds

Because Kenting lies in the tropical south of Taiwan, it’s warm enough to swim in the ocean-year round. Come in winter and you’ll find the beaches pleasantly crowd-free.

The 4-day long weekend at the beginning of April is the busiest weekend of the year in Kenting (read my guide to visiting Taiwan in April). That’s when Taiwan Music Festival takes places and when many Taiwanese go for a mini spring break. It can already be very hot in Kenting my April.

From April till the end of summer, Kenting remains busy, especially on weekends, then it tapers off again in fall. Try to come on weekdays for less crowds and lower room rates.

Like anywhere in Taiwan, Kenting can be affected by typhoons anytime from July to October.

How Much Time Do You “Need” for Kenting?

A silhouette of a woman sitting on the sand watching sunset in front of her
My Taiwanese friend at sunset on Kenting Main Beach

In my Taiwan Travel Planning group, travelers often ask how much time they need for Kenting. My answer to that is – how long do you want to spend on a beach? For me, I could happily spend a week just suntanning and drinking on the beach every day.

If you’re just going to squeeze one night in Kenting into your itinerary, I don’t think it’s worth the trip. If you’re coming here mainly to add some beach time to your otherwise busy Taiwan itinerary, then give yourself at least one full day for the beach (i.e. spend two nights in Kenting).

Add one more full day if you want to do any sightseeing, such as Kenting Aquarium, animal places, hiking, Eluanbi lighthouse, etc). In other words, I think 3 nights (2 full days) is the ideal amount of time for enjoying Kenting’s attractions and beaches.

And if you’re staying in a nice resort with a pool, make sure to also include some time to actually enjoy the resort’s facilities – otherwise, why bother?

A Note about Expectations

Even though Kenting is said to have the best beaches in Taiwan (personally I think the offshore islands like Penghu have even better ones), you can’t compare them to beaches in countries like Thailand or the Philippines.

Kenting Main Beach is pretty, but you aren’t even allowed to swim there. And for beaches where you can swim (Baishanwan, Nanwan, Xiaowan, and Sail Rock), on busy days they are usually packed with people, umbrellas, noisy jet skis, and so on.

A sea of Taiwanese people on a beach in Kenting with some hotels in the background
Long weekend crowds on the beach in Kenting

Even though Kenting is a national park, don’t be surprised if you see some garbage on the beach, some corrugated metal roofs blown off my typhoons, and mass tourism activities, like go-karting (see here), animals zoos (see here and here), banana boats (see here), and so on.

As for water activities, the snorkeling, scuba, and surfing in Kenting is just OK, not great. Try Green Island for better snorkeling and scuba. For surfing, I’ll recommend a good spot at the end of this article, or try Dulan area of Taitung for a bigger surfing scene.

A super crowded street in Kenting Night Market
Night market crowds on April long weekend

So why still come to Kenting? For me, I still love Kenting for its stunning coastal scenery. Nothing beats riding a bike, electric bicycle, or scooter along it.

I also enjoy love the casual and party-esque vibes (don’t expect anything too crazy!) in Kenting town and seeing Taiwanese let loose on their holidays.

I think it’s important to enjoy Kenting for what it is, and don’t compare it to other places with more stunning beaches (it won’t win) or more engrained beach culture (like almost anywhere in Southeast Asia).

Getting to Kenting

Kenting is not on the main train line around Taiwan. If you go, consider it as small detour from your round-Taiwan loop, or a “beach break” in your otherwise rushed itinerary.

By Car or Scooter

A road running right along the sea
A coastal road between Taitung and Kenting

If you’ve rented a car (I recommend renting here), the drive from Kaohsiung to Kenting usually takes about 1.5 hours, but can take as long as 3 hours during peak traffic (holidays, rush hour, etc.)

You can also rent a scooter in Kaohsiung here. Expect it to take a bit longer to reach Kenting by scooter than by car.

Note: I once tried to rent a scooter in Fangliao (after taking the train over from Taitung), but wasn’t able to find a shop there willing to rent one to me (even though I have a Taiwanese license).

A pond with sand dune behind
Sand dunes in Jiupeng Desert

If you’re driving from Taitung on the east coast, the fastest way is to take Highway 9 across the island to the west coast, and travel south from there.

A slower but scenic route from Taitung is to take a combination of small roads, including 199, 26, and 200 down to the eastern end of Kenting. There are almost no people or signs of civilization on this route. The road is sometimes very narrow, but cars can still fit. And it even passes through a small desert!

You can also hire a driver to explore Kenting or take this Kenting day tour from Kaohsiung.

By Public Transportation

The best way to get to Kenting is to take the HSR to Zuoying station in Kaohsiung (see my HSR guide and order discounted tickets here) then ride the Kenting Express shuttle bus to Kenting (order tickets here).

The traveling time to Kenting by bus is around 2 hours, but it can take longer on busy days. You can see the bus schedule here. Redeem your voucher or buy tickets from the Kenting Express Counter near Exit 2 of the HSR station.

Taxi drivers often hang out around the station trying to entice passengers. They’ll sell one seat in a shared taxi for around TWD 600, about double the price of the bus.

If there’s a long wait for the bus, it’s not a bad deal. Usually, they drive quite fast (like borderline dangerously fast) so they can squeeze in more trips in one day. I’ve done this several times with my friends – we don’t mind splurging on the ride for those extra hours on the beach.

A bus stopped beside a small bus station
A shuttle bus in Fangliao

From central Kaohsiung city, it’s still going to be fastest if you ride the MRT to Zuoying then catch the Kenting Express from there. However, another option is to ride the TRA train from Kaohsiung station to Fangliao then catch the Kenting shuttle from there.

If you’re coming from Hualien or Taitung on the east coast, ride the train to Fangliao, then board the Kenting Express shuttle bus there. Exit the train station, walk straight to the main street, turn left, and purchase a ticket from the bus station here. Then you’ll need to cross the street and wait for the Kenting bus here.

There are a few direct trains from places on the east coast to Fangliao. However, you’ll get more time options if you buy two separate tickets – point A (such as Hualien or Chishang) to Taitung station, and then Taitung to Fangliao. That’s because some trains only do the east coast. See my guide to buying train tickets in Taiwan for more info.

Getting Around Kenting

For some holidaymakers, just choosing one beach and staying there is sufficient. However, if you want to do some sightseeing in the area or visit multiple beaches, you’ll need to take the bus or drive between them.

Kenting Shuttle Buses

A map showing all the stops of four colored lines of the Kenting Shuttle Bus
The 4 local shuttle bus routes (click here for clearer image or here for a simpler version of the same map)

Besides the Kenting Express shuttle from Kaohsiung, there is a network of shuttle buses which ply the Kenting area.

There are four shuttle bus lines, with three of them meeting in Hengchun (see route map above). You can buy a one/two-day pass on the same Klook page as the Kenting Express bus from Kaohsiung, or you can swipe EasyCard to ride the buses.

Here’s a table showing the bus lines and their main stops:

Shuttle Bus LineMain Stops
Kenting Express (9189)Zuoying HSR station (Kaohsiung), Checheng, Hengchun, Nanwan, Kenting Main Beach, Xiaowan, Sail Rock Beach, Eluanbi Lighthouse
Orange (101)Kenting Aquarium (O7), Hengchun, Nanwan (O33), Kenting Main Beach (O39), Xiaowan (O44), Sail Rock Beach (O48), Eluanbi Lighthouse (O52)
Blue (102)Hengchun, Baishawan (B11), Maobitou (B14), Houbihu Harbor (B16), Kenting Main Beach (B31), Xiaowan (B36)
Green (103)Hengchun, Chunxing Intersection (G6, for Qikong Waterfall), Chashan (G13, for Gangkou Surfing Beach), Jialeshui (G17)
Yellow (201)Kenting Aquarium (Y1), Checheng (Y9), Sichongxi (Y15, a park with hot springs)

Renting a Bike or Scooter

Nick Kembel on a red scooter on the highway with the coast of Kenting visible behind him
That’s me riding a scooter in Kenting

There are many shops hiring out bicycles, electric scooters, and regular scooters on Kenting Main Street. Book your scooter in advance here. A license is not required for the electric scooters, but they won’t be powerful enough to get you up the steep hill to Kenting National Forest Recreation Area or to travel very far.

For regular scooters, like anywhere in Taiwan, you will most likely need and International Driver’s Permit (IDP), and some shops may additionally require proof that you are licensed to drive motorcycles in your home country (either an A stamp on the IDP or motorcycle endorsement on your home license).

Main Beaches (and where to stay at each one)

Here I’ll introduce the five main beaches in Kenting from west to east, plus my recommended hotels at each one.

Baishawan Beach

A golden sand beach in Kenting with beach umbrellas
Baishawan Beach on a quiet day

Baishawan (墾丁白沙灣, not to be confused with Baishawan in New Taipei City) literally means “white sand beach” even though sand is actually golden. It is the westernmost main beach in Kenting National Park.

Because it is a 10 to 15-minute drive off the main highway to, Baishwan is more off-the-beaten-track than the other main beaches. There are only about half a dozen guesthouses here and a couple restaurants – that’s it.

This beach’s main claim to fame is that some scenes from Life of Pi were shot here. When it’s not busy, I personally think it’s the most beautiful of Kenting’s main beaches – that’s why I chose it for my list of best beaches in Taiwan.

A beach with several people on it, some doing water activities
A normal day at Baishawan

However, don’t expect anything too pristine. At busy times, this beach still has umbrellas, water activities, and crowds, just like all the other beaches at Kenting. But it does retain a more remote and less “resorty” vibe than the others.

If you’re driving or taking the bus from Kenting Main Beach to Kenting Aquarium, you could make a stop at Baishawan on the way.

Baishawan is on the Kenting shuttle bus Blue Line, between Hengchun and Nanwan/Kenting Main Beach.

Where to Stay

I recommend Baisha 31 B&B (see on Booking / Agoda), a friendly guesthouse which is only a short walk from the beach.

South Bay (Nanwan)

An empty reclining wooden beach chair beside a small tree on the beach, with some beach umbrellas between it and the water
My spot for a whole day on Nanwan beach – with bar service!

South Bay (南灣 or Nanwan) is right at the point where the highway from Kaohsiung and Hengchun reaches the coast in Kenting National Park.

This beach is very popular for lounging under an umbrella, swimming, and beach activities like banana boats and jet skis.

There’s also a small bar right on the beach. Overall, even though there are no big resorts near this beach, the beach itself has beach resort vibes.

A beach crowded with multi-colored umbrellas, crowds behind playing on the beach, and a nuclear factory down the coast
Somewhat apocalyptic scene of Nanwan on a super busy weekend with nuclear factory

The beach is pretty but can get very crowded at peak times. Another downside is the large nuclear power plant visible on the right side of the bay – maybe try not to think about it…

With several great B&Bs and hostels, a few restaurants, and a 7-Eleven right across the street, Nanwan has everything you need for a relaxing beach holiday.

If you want to go into Kenting main town for the night market, that will be just 10 minutes on any bus passing by. Buses run till late.

Profile shot of an elderly taiwanese woman wearing beach hat, face cover hanging around her neck, and clothing, all in pink, with beach umbrellas behind her
An umbrella vendor on Nanwan beach

The Kenting Express from Kaohsiung will stop at Nanwan. It’s also on the Orange and Blue shuttle bus lines.

Where to Stay

There are 20+ small B&Bs and hostels right across the highway from the beach. Most have options with balconies facing the sea.

The First Nanwan Hostel (see on Booking / Agoda) has capsule-style dorms, while Meet You Nanwan (see on Booking / Agoda) is a kid-friendly choice.

For a reliable guesthouse with balcony rooms, try Cat at Greece (see on Booking / Agoda), Summer Delight (see on Booking / Agoda), or Pii Hostel (see on Booking / Agoda). The latter also has a five-bedroom house for available for groups.

Kenting Main Beach & Night Market

A panoramic view of a beach with few people on it and vegetation in the foreground
Kenting Main Beach (shot from my room at Kenting Moon Bay Hotel)

Often when people say “Kenting”, they are referring to the main town and beach here. This is the largest community in the national park and its longest beach.

Notably, though, you are technically not allowed to swim at this beach. This means the beach is also pleasantly free of umbrellas, jet skis, and so on. If you play in the water a little, especially at the beach’s far ends, probably nobody will say anything. Just be careful, as the tides can be strong and there’s no lifeguard.

Looking up a road at night, with crowds of pedestrians on either side and some people crossing the road, a few cars driving toward us, and night market stalls and signs on either side
Kenting Night Market

Kenting Village lines both sides of the highway a few blocks inland from the eastern half of the beach. There you’ll find dozens of hotels, restaurants, shops, and bars.

At night, the street comes alive with Kenting Night Market every night of the year. Besides the usual night market snacks, you’ll also find at least a dozen cocktail stalls, which often blast techno music to set the vibe.

At the eastern end of the night market near Xiaowan (see next section), there’s a more chill vibe. Several food and cocktail trucks play reggae music, with seating available.

A topless Taiwanese male cocktail bartender shaking a cocktail and a night market stall with lots of liquor bottles on the counter in front of him
The only night market in Taiwan where you can find sexy, topless cocktail vendors

On a normal night, the night market isn’t too crowded. But on April long weekend or other busy weekends, the crowds can become so thick that they take over the whole highway.

The Kenting Express from Kaohsiung passes through town, with a few different stops you can get off at, plus the Orange and Blue shuttle bus lines.

Crowds of people on a beach at sunset time, with a large resort on the beach reflecting the sunlight
Sunset on Kenting Main Beach with Chateau Beach Resort (note: some people still swim despite rule)

Where to Stay

At the quieter western end of the beach, Chateau Beach Resort (see on Booking / Agoda) is the only major hotel in Kenting that is actually right on the beach. However, its facilities are getting old.

On my most recent visit, I had a great stay at Kenting Moon Bay Hotel 月彎灣渡假旅店 (see on Booking / Agoda), on a quiet street right across from the beach. Although my balcony had a sea view, I had to walk a ways down to access the beach due to a fence and stream between the hotel and the beach.

A bed in a hotel room with a balcony window showing view of the sea
Sea view from my room at Kenting Moon Bay Hotel

In town along the highway, Kenting Space Capsule (see on Booking / Agoda) is a hostel option with cool space theme.

Gloria Manor (see on Booking / Agoda) is one of the top luxury hotels in Taiwan. It’s not right in town but in a secluded spot up the hill towards Kenting National Forest Recreation Area. It has a pool and overlooks Kenting’s iconic Mount Dajian.

For family-friendly resorts, consider Xiaowan (see next section), which is right at the end of Kenting Main Street.

A balcony with tables overlooking a pool, with pointed mountain peak in the distance
Gloria Manor

Xiaowan

Looking down on some colorful recining beach chairs, a beach, and sunset over a cape in the distance
Sunset at Xiaowan

I put Xiaowan (小灣 or “Little Bay”) in its own entry, but it’s just a few steps past the end of Kenting Main Street. Xiaowan is a small beach just east of Kenting Main Beach, with a small peninsula between them called Frog Rock (青蛙石).

Two big resorts are here. Both of them have private paths or tunnels under the highway to Xiaowan beach. However, the public can also access and use the beach by taking a small flight of stairs down from the highway – watch for the sign that says 小灣沙灘 on an upright surfboard.

Looking down a set of gray stairs with lights leading down to a beach bar
Stairs down to Xiaowan Beach Bar

Swimming is allowed at this beach and there’s a small bar on the beach. It’s romantic at night.

For a small adventure, walk from Kenting Main Beach to Lover’s Beach (情人灘 here), a small hidden beach on the peninsula between Main Beach and Xiaowan.

The Kenting Express from Kaohsiung goes here, plus the Orange and Blue shuttle bus lines.

Where to Stay

A beach resort's pool surrounded by palm trees
Caesar Park Kenting

There are two resorts at Xiaowan: Caesar Park Kenting (see on Booking / Agoda) and Howard Beach Resort Kenting (see on Booking / Agoda).

Both resorts have seen better days, but between the two of them, Caesar Park is a little nicer. The resorts are right next to each other, with Caesar Park being the closer one to town – it only takes 5 minutes on foot to reach the eastern end of Kenting Night Market.

Both resorts are kid-friendly, with lots of activities, swimming pool, and beach access.

Sail Rock Beach

Looking up the coast along a deserted beach, with some houses on the hill backing it
Sail Rock Beach (I shot this early in the morning before the crowds)

Sail Rock Beach (船帆石沙灘 or Chuanfan Beach) is named after a large sail-shaped coastal outcrop 500 meters down the coast from the beach.

This beach is similar to South Bay in terms of size, popularity, and amenities – meaning it can also get quite crowded at busy times. It also has one 7-Eleven and 20+ B&Bs across the highway from it, plus a few resort options.

Looking up a grassy coastline, with a large rocky outcrop sticking up on the left, and beach town barely visible at the back right
Sail Rock (note the beach on the far right)

One downside here is that it’s a little further away – you’ll have to travel past Kenting Main Street to get here. But as a result, it does feel a little more away from it all than South Bay or Main Beach.

The Kenting Express from Kaohsiung goes here, as well as the Orange shuttle bus line.

Where to Stay

For a guesthouse with sea-facing balconies, Sasa Nor Lamour B&B (see on Booking / Agoda) is right across from the beach. For a more secluded option, Hotel Everyday Life (see on Booking / Agoda) is further down the coast near Sail Rock, but rooms also have sea views.

Kenting 4 Sisters Hotel (see on Booking / Agoda) is a beautiful property with amazing views. It’s a little ways from the beach, but they offer a shuttle. Guests rave about the amazing breakfast.

Fullon Resort (see on Booking / Agoda) is a resort option with pool. Red Garden Resort (see on Booking / Agoda) has Balinese vibes.

Other Things to Do in Kenting National Park

Besides the beaches, here are some more fun things to do in Kenting. Again I’ll cover these in the order you’d encounter them coming in from Kaohsiung.

National Museum of Marine Biology

Two kids at the bottom right standing in a large water fountain, with statues of huge waters in front of them, with water splashing down from the whales
Whale fountain

Kenting Museum of Marine Biology (國立海洋生物博物館), also commonly called Kenting Aquarium, is Taiwan’s largest aquarium.

The aquarium is in a remote spot on the coast west of Hengchun.

A person in silhouetter on the bottom left, shooting photos of a huge water tank, with sharks and rays swimming past
Huge tank filled with sharks and rays

Some highlights of the aquarium include whale-shaped water fountains for kids to play in, a simulated underwater shipwreck, sea stars and hermit crabs you can touch, beluga whales, and a giant tank filled with sharks and rays.

Close up of a red hermit crab in blue shell being held by a hand
You can touch hermit crabs and sea stars

I personally found this aquarium to be a little dated (Xpark in Taoyuan is smaller but has much newer facilities).

A lot of facilities here looked quite old or were out of order when I visited. The huge water tank was darker and murkier than the one at Xpark, so it was harder to get a good picture of it. Yes, this aquarium is huge, but I found a lot of space there is just filler.

A beluga whale side profile inside a large water tank with head pressed against the side
Meeting this beluga was my favorite part

From Kenting Main Street, it’s a 30-minute drive or 45-minute bus ride on the Orange Line.

If you do make the trip out there, book your tickets online here. They also offer a penguin encounter and overnight sleepover experience.

Kenting Capybara Park

Nick Kembel kneeling down and petting the head of a capybara
I enjoyed some alone time with the capybaras in Kenting

The small Capybara Park (墾丁鹿ㄦ島水豚生態園區, location) is outside the national park, just before Hengchun when you’re driving down from Kaohsiung. It is one of the best places in Taiwan to meet capybaras, the world’s largest rodent.

This was probably my best capybara experience in Taiwan – it’s nowhere near as busy as Zhang Mei Ama’s Farm in Yilan.

Besides interacting with and feeding the capybaras, you can see sika deer, giant tortoises, and a dedicated capybara shrine. And unlike any other capybara place in Taiwan, you can swim with the capybaras here (extra fee). Book your tickets here.

A cartoonish staue of a capybara made to look like a god in a red shrine
Worship the capybara god!

Paradise of Deer

Looking down at two sika deer in a pen, and one is looking up to the camera with ears upright
Hello Mr. Sika!

Near the capybara place, there’s also this similar and longer-running one called Paradise of Deer (鹿境梅花鹿生態園區, location) focusing mainly on sika deer, but they also have a few capybaras.

A young woman kneeling down and feeding a bottle of milk to a standing baby deer and she takes a photo of it with her cell phone in the other hand
A fellow traveler feeds a baby sika deer

Note that if you’re visiting with kids, the deer can be a little aggressive as they try to get food from the tourists. My kids didn’t love visiting them because of this. The capybaras are actually much more chill.

There are some cute deer stuffies for sale. You can book tickets online here.

Snorkeling and Scuba Diving at Houbihu

Houbihu snorkeling and scuba site

If you join any snorkeling tour (like this one) or scuba diving (like this one), they will most likely take you to the shore just south of Houbihu Seafood Harbor (後壁湖), not to one of the beaches in Kenting, where the waves are too big.

The main snorkeling and scuba spots are here, here, and at Little Bali (小巴里島岩), which is also a semi-secret swimming spot.

A Taiwanese blue truck with about 8 Taiwanese sitting in the back and wearing snorkeling gear and life jackets
A group of Taiwanese being driven to the snorkeling site

Maobitou Park

A lookout hill with two sets of stairs going up to it and some tourists on it
Maobitou Lookout

One of the most popular tourist attractions in Kenting is Maobitou Park (貓鼻頭公園). Mao (貓) means cat, so there’s a large cat statue here (and I found a couple live cats lazing around, too).

The view from the observation deck is nice. You can see the most of the Kenting coastline from here on a clear day. When I visited, this place was busy with busloads of domestic tourists, so I didn’t love it.

There’s a TWD 30 entry fee. You can get there on the shuttle bus Blue Line.

Guanshan Sunset Viewing Park

Looking down at a coastline after sunset, with the sky all orange
Sunset from Guanshan (image by sci_ck is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0)

Many local visitors go to Guanshan Sunset Viewing Park (關山夕照觀景園) to watch the sunset. This is an elevated spot between Baishawan and Kenting Aquarium.

After reading the reviews, I decided not to bother. You need to pay and it sounds like it gets crowded. You can only get here by car or scooter.

I once enjoyed a lovely sunset view from Eluanbi Lighthouse (see below), which is also on a hill with view down the coast, so that is a decent sunset alternative which is accessible by bus.

Otherwise, sunset is a nice time to be on pretty much any beach in Kenting, though all of them face south.

Kenting National Forest Recreation Area

A macaque sitting on a tree branch and looking at camera
Macaque I spotted in Kenting National Forest Recreation Area

Kenting National Forest Recreation Area (墾丁國家森林遊樂區) is a beautiful slice of pristine nature only a few minutes’ drive from Kenting village.

The large park features walking paths through the jungle (I spotted several macaques and huge butterflies!)

Inside a dark cave shaped like a triangle, with some lights shining on the cave walls
Fairy Cave

The forest here is growing atop an uplifted coral reef with unique karst topography. This includes some cool coral reef tunnels and caves – the most impressive of which is Fairy Cave.

There’s also a elevated Viewing Tower. It provides an expansive view looking down on the jungle canopy, coast, and mountains in all directions, including iconic Mt. Dajian. There’s even a small restaurant with a view inside.

An empty restaurant table with wall of windows behind it showing view of a coastline with mountain on the right
Dining with a view of Mt. Dajian

It takes 1-2 hours to walk to the above two spots and back to the entrance, or longer if you visit even more caves and features in the park. Entrance is TWD 150.

Unfortunately, you’ll need a car or scooter to get here. Buses don’t go and it’s too steep for electric bicycles.

Shadao Ecological Reserve

Looking along a coastline, with some coral pools of water in foreground and white sand beach in background
Coral pools and off-limits beach

Between Sail Rock Beach and Eluanbi Lighthouse, you’ll notice a small parking lot for Shadao Ecological Reserve (砂島生態保護區). The parking lot here overlooks a stunning, pristine beach which is inaccessible to the public. It is a nesting ground for sea turtles and other wildlife.

Although you can’t get to the beach, the coast in front of the parking lot is fun to explore. There are rows upon rows of coral pools here where you can spot crabs or even (carefully, as the coral is sharp) take a dip in the water.

Once many years ago, when my friends and I were hungover between two days at Spring Scream music festival, we spent a whole day lazing in the sun and pools here. And yes, we all got sun burns.

Eluanbi Lighthouse

Historic Eluanbi lighthouse

Eluanbi Lighthouse (鵝鑾鼻燈塔) is a historic lighthouse dating to 1883. The fortified white lighthouse a symbol of Kenting and one of the most recognizable landmarks in Taiwan.

While you can’t enter the lighthouse itself, the hill-top park around it offers stunning views down the coast – these are the grounds where the legendary Spring Scream music festival used to be held.

A long view of a coast with some mountains along the sea and palm trees in the foreground, and orange/purple sky at sunset
Looking down the coast from Eluanbi at sunset

There are several trails down to lookouts beside the sea, including one to the actual southernmost point of mainland Taiwan. Entrance to the area is TWD 60 and there’s a huge parking lot with some small shops and a 7-11 just around the corner.

One trail leads to Longkeng Ecological Reserve (龍坑生態保護區), but this can only be visited on a guided tour. Bookings can be made here (Mandarin only).

A wooden railing with coastline and sea beyond
Looking out from the southern tip of Taiwan

There are a few small B&Bs near the lighthouse – we used to stay in them for going to Spring Scream, but today I wouldn’t stay here because there’s no beach nearby. There are several campgrounds near the lighthouse – search 露營區 on GoogleMaps to find them.

Eluanbi the last stop of the Kenting Express from Kaohsiung and the Orange shuttle bus line before they turn around and go back.

Longpan Park

An expansive view looking up a coast in Kenting National Park
Longpan Park

Just up the coast as it veers north from Eluanbi, Longpan Park (龍磐公園) has a small boardwalk trail to an amazing view up coast. It’s a must-stop, but once you’ve seen the view, that’s about it.

None of the Kenting shuttle buses come here or to the next spot. There’s an infrequent bus from Hengchun (only 3 per day) – in other words, the only viable way to get here is to drive or ride a bike.

Fengchuisha

Looking down on some coastal sand dunes with blue sea
Sand dunes at Fengchuisha

Fengchuisha (風吹沙) offers another fine view further up the coast. There are beautiful coastal sand dunes here. Once when I visited many years ago, the sand dune were even blowing onto the highway.

Gangkou & Jialeshui

Looking sideways at a suspension bridge over a creek to the sea, but the bridge is falling apart
Gangkou Suspension Bridge used to be a popular tourist attraction

Not many visitors make it past Fengchuisha these days, especially ever since Gangkou Suspension Bridge (港口吊橋) further up the coast closed. When I visited Kenting for the first time in 2008 with my friends, we rode scooters up to this point (see below pic).

On my most recent trip, I had a look, and the once popular bridge is totally falling apart, so I don’t know if it will ever be fixed.

Nick Kembel and three of his friends posing on a suspension bridge
My friends and I on Gangkou Suspension Bridge circa 2008, before it was closed

There’s a small and remote surfing community at Gangkou Beach (港口海灘). Try this surf hostel if you want to check it out. Swimming is not allowed on the beach, but this spot has the best surfing in Kenting.

Some surfers catching small waves just off the coast, shot from the beach
Surfers on Gangkou Beach

You can get there on the Green Line from Hengchun – get off at stop G16. From Kenting Main Beach, you’d have to take the bus to Hengchun first then transfer to the green line.

Ride the same bus to the last stop, G17, for Jialeshui (佳樂水). This is a remote but picturesque stretch of coastline with cool rock formations.

Qikong Waterfall

Nick Kembel taking a selfie in a pool of waterfall below a waterfall, with his other arm holding onto a rope on the side
Swimming below a waterfall at Qikong

If you like adventure activities and getting off the beaten-track, drive to Qikong Waterfall (七孔瀑布). Qiking means “7 holes”, as there are seven pools of water below waterfalls which you can hike up to here.

You can swim in several of these pools. The waterfalls form natural infinity pools, which you can climb down into using ropes.

You only have to hike 5-10 minutes to reach the first two, but the trail is a little tough and requires some scrambling and hanging onto ropes.

Looking down at some ropes tied around trees to help people climb up a trail with small creek behind
Ropes on the trail to the falls

An elderly man living next to the parking lot charges TWD 20/60 for scooter/car parking. If you drove this far from Kenting Main Beach, then consider continuing on Highway 200 all the way to Hengchun, making a big loop, instead of driving back the way you came. That’s what I did! 

You could get here by bus (Green Line from Hengchun to Chunxing Intersection stop here, stop G6 on the bus route map), but then you’d have to walk 40 minutes up the car road to reach the trailhead.

Looking down and two natural infinity pools with waterfalls between them
Natural infinity pools

What to Eat in Kenting

Where you eat in Kenting will be dictated by where you stay.

At Nanwan, Pizza Rock (run by a fellow travel blogger) and Piccolo Polpo Italian Restaurant stand out.

A hand holding a small white paper bag filled with colorful deep fried balls that look like pokeballs
Pokeball-shaped sweet potato balls at Kenting Night Market

Kenting Main Street has by far the most dining options, not to mention Kenting Night Market. See my Kenting Night Market guide for all my food stall recommendations.

For sit-down restaurants, there are a lot of international options, including Singaporean, Indonesian, Thai, Korean, Japanese, Italian, and Tex Mex. There are also several quick fry (Taiwanese seafood) restaurants.

An aisle of seafood restaurants, with a sushi bar on the left with a few people sitting at it, and some tanks of fish on the right
Fresh seafood restaurants at Houbihu Harbor

For fresh seafood, you can consider driving or riding the bus over to Houbihu Fishing Harbor. Two buildings here right beside the harbor are full of fresh seafood restaurants.

However, when I visited on my own, I wasn’t able to buy a small plate of sashimi as a snack (the pictures were so tempting!) – all the restaurants have minimum orders. They basically want you to sit down for a full meal, unlike many other seafood markets in Taiwan, where you can just buy smaller samples. It’s on the shuttle bus Blue Line.

If you stay at Sail Rock Beach, there are only a few cafes, a 7-Eleven, this seafood restaurant, and this small restaurant down the highway.

Near Eluanbi, this little restaurant has some of the best seafood in Kenting, but it’s out of the way.

A pink vegetarian wrap with veggie meat, pink yogurt sauce, on a white plate with cherry blossoms
Vegetarian dragon fruit wrap in Hengchun

In Hengchun, Hengchun Night Market takes place on weekends only. Vegetarians may consider going to Hengchun for the unique dragon fruit wraps with veggie meat and other dishes at this vegetarian restaurant.

Near the vegetarian restaurant, this famous vendor sells delicious deep fried green onion cakes with egg (dan su bing). There are also some popular mango shaved ice shops around it.

A special local variety of water chestnuts (菱角) are sold around Fangliao and Checheng. You may see shops selling them along the highway. Locals call them “bats” due to their bat-like shape – watch for signs with a bat-shaped symbol.

2 thoughts on “A Guide to Kenting National Park at the Southern Tip of Taiwan”

  1. Hi Nick,

    Thanks so much for all your detailed guides. They definitely help give peace of mind when planning a trip to Taiwan.

    My husband and I will be travelling to Taiwan in March 2024 and I am wondering how important it is to book bus tickets from Fangliao -> Kenting for the 9189 Kenting Express bus ahead of time (or if it is possible to even book this ticket online ahead of time?) or if it is fine to just buy the tickets once we arrive same day? We will be travelling on a Tuesday in March. Thank you for your help!

  2. I don’t think it’s even possible to book. You just show up and buy a ticket then board the next bus that passes by.

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