For a whole region to be called a national park it must be special and that’s what we discovered when we visited Kenting along the Hengchun Peninsula on the south east coast of Taiwan.
The area is the site of Taiwan’s first national park and is full of beautiful white-sand beaches, lush landscapes and spectacular views and whether you enjoy sunbathing, exploring nature or water sports there is something here for you. Add in a few historical sites around Hengchun old town and your spoilt for choice for day time activities.
The Kenting National Forest area is a mountainous area between Kenting town and Hengchun and a must see for your visit. It’s a beautiful forest with great view points, tropical gardens, ravines and rock formations from coral reefs. The walk around it takes a few hours and is well signposted with good paths and several viewing platforms. We saw hundreds of different types of butterflies and birds and quite a few monkeys swinging through the trees.
There is a visitor centre and a café inside the Forest Area, but if you fancy something more substantial to eat the stylish Gloria Manor Hotel is only a short walk down the hill back towards Kenting and offers great food and views of Dajian stone hill.
The Kenting coast matches the forest for beauty and there are a number of unspoilt beaches to explore. To the south of Kenting beach, Little Bay is a small sandy beach close to a large hotel and from there it’s just a short drive to see a giant rock in the sea called chuanfan. At the tip of the south coast is a beautiful white-sand beach called Shadao, which is protected for turtles so you can’t swim or sunbathe here, but it’s lovely to admire.
Close to Shadao is Eluanbi Park, which has an old Lighthouse looking out to the sea. The park is close to the southernmost tip of Taiwan and has a forest to explore with a number of coastal viewing platforms, caves, narrow gorges and even a kissing rock – very romantic. Entry is around £2 and you can easily spend a few hours here.
We hired an electric scooter on our final day in Kenting and drove along the west coast, passing several beautiful beaches and a gigantic lake, which is a sanctuary for hundreds of different species of birds, which you can see up close using binoculars from the visitor centre.
We saw several beautiful beaches on our drive and the beach at Baisha Bay was particularly stunning and my favourite, with white-sand and turquoise calm waters. We spent a few hours chilling in the sun and it was so quiet and relaxing.
Our day exploring the coast on a scooter was so easy and one of our favourite days of our trip to Hong Kong, Sydney and Taiwan, it was really fun. We ended the day in Hengchun which is the main town on the Hengchun Peninsula. The old town is nice to walk around and you can see four gates, which still remain of the ancient town walls.
Our brilliant day exploring Kenting by scooter ended near Kenting Beach and we grabbed some beers and caught a spectacular sunset to end the day. You can’t swim at Kenting Beach but it’s the best spot to watch the sun go down.
At night Kenting is buzzing with a nightly food market, which stretches along the main road through the town. Each evening hundreds of little vendors set up selling everything from cocktails to fried fish and chicken. We tried some dumplings and sweet potato balls and they were good. Bar wise, we found Kenting fairly quiet, but enjoyed a few drinks in Player Bar and 2PS bar just off the main road. We also enjoyed a nice Thai dinner at Dian Ping on the main road.
Kenting has long been a popular tourist destination for the Taiwanese and Chinese, but is still a hidden gem for many Western tourists and we would really recommend it for any visit to Taiwan and for those looking for a quieter beach experience compared to Thailand or Bali.
We stayed for three nights at Hotel Day + which is a stylish hotel close to the night market and it also had a nice swimming pool.
Most memorable moment
When we first arrived in Kenting we decided to visit the Kenting National Forest Recreation Area while we waited to check-in. What we didn’t appreciate is that the area is situated at the top of a big hill and it’s a long walk from the main street in Kenting, so half way up, tired and hot we about to give up and walk back when a taxi pulled up from nowhere and picked us up. We were so relieved and it was worth the effort when we actually made it to the park.
- The weather can change quickly in the mountainous national park, so it’s best to be prepared for all seasons
- A moped is the best way to explore the area as there are few buses and taxis can add up
- You need to have a motorcycle drivers licence to hire a petrol moped, but you can easily hire an electric one with a regular driving licence and they are very easy to drive
- Be careful using an electric moped to go to the National Forest Area as the battery might run out climbing the very steep hills
- Book your hotel before you visit as Kenting can get busy during the peak season and weekends
When to go
It will be busy over the summer holidays with Taiwanese families so it’s best to avoid these months if you want a quieter, less expensive trip.