Kenting is located at the southernmost point of Taiwan Island, between the Pacific Ocean and the Bashi Channel. It used to be the backyard (yes, the Kenting National Park) of the island and a best-kept secret for surfers. Now the small town has become a popular travel destination, thanks to the promotions of some Taiwanese movies and music festivals that brought tens of thousands of visitors annually. The area, in fact, has more than a few nice beaches or local food markets; it certainly has a lot more things to see and do!
How to get there?
As Kenting is at the very tip of Taiwan Island and the closest city is Kaohsiung. Express bus services are available that commute between Kaohsiung and Kenting, and it’s the most common way to get to Kenting without a car. Flights are also available from Taipei to Hengchun (a small city close to Kenting). But I would recommend visitors to rent a car just because it’s the most convenient way to get around Kenting once you are there anyway. There are a few local bus lines that run along the main street in Kenting but it’s rather infrequent and they don’t cover many scenic spots in Kenting – it’s mainly for the local students or residents not using cars.
When to go?
The “best time” to go to Kenting would usually be in the summer – given how “beachy” the area is. However, tens of thousands of visitors flooded to Kenting in early April each year for the Spring Wave Music and Art Festival as well; I was there for the festival before it moved to Taipei last year.
Spring Wave is an outdoor music festival that started about 10 years ago and it showcases a variety of music styles from artists, DJs, and independent bands from all over the world. For a few days, there is a marathon concert from day to night. The main stage is set up in an outdoor area, surrounded by food booths and fun booths, where visitors could freely sit on the lawn and enjoy the performance. Smaller-scale concerts, private shows, and disco parties are also held in different venues. As I know the festival would still be in Taipei in 2017, and for those who are interested in experiencing the festivities – visit here.
Places to Stay!
Kenting’s homestay was already a “thing” before Air BNB was everywhere in the world because many guesthouses were mindfully decorated with a theme that appeals to different people. It could be a house with a Tuscany garden, a house on a Greek Island in white and blue, a house for the surfers with sandy walls and seashells, or a house with a cottage or farm animals.
Visitors could enjoy the amazing sea view from the balcony or the Barbecue party on the rooftop; they could borrow a bike and travel around town; they could go surfing or swimming because the beach is just 10 seconds away!
I stayed at a hotel in a room with access to the beach – and there were parties at the beach bar during the music festivals!
What to do? Let’s get Sporty!
Apart from music festivals and markets, Kenting is also an active place with lots of activities to do!
Join an eco-tour, go jet skiing, kayaking, and banana boat riding for the thrill, or go scuba diving or surfing! Even if you feel like slowing things down, there are beaches where lay-back travelers could get a tan after a lazy afternoon.
The Kenting National Park has interesting rock formations and biodiversity that divers would love, places like Banana Bay are great spots to get into the water and explore the underwater world.
Sightseeing in Kenting!
Kenting National Park is considered one of the most beautiful spots in Taiwan – and somehow Kenting is usually Sunny during the dry season. I remember when we took off from Kaohsiung it was hazy and drizzling and we thought … “Oh, great”; magically the sky was cleared and the sun came out as we headed south. For a day or two before the festivals, we drove along Provincial Highway 26, and here are some of the great attractions in order, starting from the aquarium!
National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium
Opened in 2000, the aquarium features a great collection of aquatic lives from Taiwan, including a Coral Kingdom Pavilion. It is amongst one of the best aquariums in Asia.
Located in southern Taiwan, the site is a major research institution for marine biology. Here, visitors can learn about the history of the ocean and its ecological landscapes. The aquarium opened in 2000, covering an area of 1 million square meters (100 hectares) of the museum and outdoor water park. The aquarium takes up 35.8 hectares, with three main areas from Waters of Taiwan, Coral Kingdom Pavilion, and World Waters Pavilion. The first section is dedicated to the native aquatic animals in Taiwan, and it’s more exciting than you expect – while Taiwan is an island, it has a wide spectrum from cuttlefish, yellowfin tuna, and spotted eagle rays to a whale shark. The area is punctuated with an 80-meter-long shark tunnel.
Hengchun is a small historic town with an old town wall where delicious local delicacies are available in stores. Buy a softwood board postcard and mail it home at the Hengchun post office as a memento, too!
Chuhuo means “fire out”. The surrounding area of Chuhuo is the Kenting Shale, a soft sedimentary rock layer. During the dry season, the natural gas generated underground would spill out from the cracks in the ground and ignite the surface. Visitors might purchase popcorn packs and make a snack of the natural phenomenon!
Nanwan (South Beach) & Kenting Beach (Dawan) Chateau Beach Resort
Dawan is the main beach of Kenting, and it has a great hotel lineup along the beach (I stayed at the Chateau Beach Resort, as this is the venue featured in a beloved Taiwan movie Cape No. 7, I had a nice beach house with a terrace facing the ocean.)
It is one of the best beaches in Kenting and tens of thousands of beach goers usually sunbathe, swim, or snorkel here. Another thing that you may want to try is lighting a lantern. It’s a romantic tradition that usually happens in Taipeir’s Shifen Scenic Area and Old Town.
Kenting Street Night Market
In Taiwan, it’s all about the night markets; and Kenting’s night market is among the most exciting ones. On a hot day, we strolled along the main street, sat down on the side of the street at a café, and cooled down with some ice cream and sweet treats; at night, the market is alive with local food stalls, standing bars, souvenir counters, and fun & games in a great variety: from half-naked guys giving tattoos, hot girls grilling meat skewers to local housewives selling different kinds of merchandise or local crafts.
Passing Kenting Street, we were entering the coastal section of the highway; The Sailboat Rock is kind of like an eye-catching signpost by the sea. It is also a great spot for snorkeling and scuba diving!
Eluan Pi, and the southernmost point
Eluan Pi is situated in the southernmost area of Taiwan Island; visit the southernmost point, lighthouse, and Longkeng Ecological Protection Area.
The lighthouse was originally built in 1883, and it was renovated a couple of times. The one that we see today was its latest version constructed in 1963.
It is open to the public all year round. The lighthouse is named after nearby Cape Eluanbi – the lighthouse is also known as “The Light of East Asia” because its light is the most intense of all you could see in Taiwan.
The distinct dry and wet seasons of the Hengchuen Peninsula created dramatic and stunning coastlines with spectacular sand cascades, sand rivers, and sandhills!
Jialeshui is the end of Provincial Highway 26 and used to be known as Chialuoshui, which means “waterfall” in Fukienese. Take a sight-seeing bus and enter the scenic route to see interesting rock formations caused by erosion of the wind and sea waves. Trust me, they have a name for any rock: a toad, a rabbit, a pig (up-side-down), honeycomb, seal, or ball stones.