Visit Taiwan's Finest Beaches
in Kenting National Park
If warm tropical weather and white sandy beaches are your thing, head down south for at least a day or two.
What!? White sandy beaches in Taiwan? This guy has got to be out of his mind. Is he talking about Thailand? Nope! No mistake here my friend. Believe me, there are some really gorgeous beaches that dot Taiwan's coast and the most beautiful (and popular) ones are located at the southernmost tip of the island, in and around Kenting National Park.
Kenting is sometimes spelled Kending or Ken-ting.
IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT ACCOMMODATION...
Book your hotel before you get there, especially if you're going to visit the area during a weekend or holiday! You do not want to waste your time driving or walking around looking for a place to stay there. I always reserve my rooms on HotelsCombined.com and I recommend you do the same if you want the best rates.
Things to do in Kenting:
- chill on the sand with a cold drink
- hike in grassy meadows
- surf or watch surfers
- eat fresh seafood
- snorkel or scuba dive
- Spring Scream - one of Asia's biggest outdoor music festival
Best time to visit Taiwan's beaches
If the weather is your main concern, do not worry - Kenting has good weather year-round. Still, keep in mind that typhoons are frequent during the summer months and most beaches are closed on those occasions. Also, just like other popular places around the island, expect a gazillion Taiwanese tourists on holidays.
Should you join a guided tour of Taiwan?
Read the title again: it says Top beaches. So here, I won't recommend the big, crowded ones that you can find right outside Kenting town. I won't even name them. Why? Because I don't even go there myself. They are packed, dirty, noisy and it's not uncommon to see ATVs zigzagging between people on the sand or Sea-Doos slaloming around swimmers a meter away from the shore.
Baisha: visit Taiwan's most beautiful beach!
My favorite one is by far Baisha Beach, located in the quiet Baisha Bay about 5 km away from Kenting. By the way, bai means white and sha means sand. I like it because it's removed from the hustle and bustle of Kenting town, it's free, long, clean and you can even camp on the sand at night or have a barbecue without worrying about being kicked out.
There's a campground and some vendors at the entrance of the beach, at the southern part of the bay, where you can shower, buy drinks and rent beach umbrellas.
To visit this Taiwanese jewel, head north toward Hengchun on Kenting Rd (for about 2 or 3km) and turn left at the 7/11 (road 153). Follow the sign that says Maobitou or Fishing Harbour. It helps if you have your own scooter or car.
You won't have any difficulty finding the other beaches along Kenting Rd. As you drive around the peninsula (the tip of the island) you'll pass about a dozen parking lots where you can stop and it's usually only a short walk to the shore. Try Nanwan beach if Baisha is too far for you.
Surfing in Jialeshui
If you're a surfer, your visit to Taiwan won't be complete without a trip to Jialeshui. It is considered by many to be the top place on the island for surfing. You can rent surfboards at one of the little surf shops nearby the beach. There are also some camping spots available by the parking lot.
For the best - and extremely cheap - seafood, head for Houbihu Fishing Harbor. Follow the directions to Baisha beach (explained above).
There are so many places to eat in Kenting. You can have Chinese, Thai, Italian, Tex-Mex, Mongolian BBQ (no joke), Starbucks, McDonalds... Just walk around and browse the menus on display by the main road.
The past few times I went down south to visit the beautiful beaches around the southern tip of Taiwan, I was shocked to see the huge amount of new hotels, hostels, and guesthouses that now line up the road in Hengchun. As Kenting is getting more expensive and crowded, it seems like everyone wants to stay in Hengchun. Check availability and prices for a hotel now.
Catholic Kenting Student Activity Center: Some of the cheapest beds in town, very central, clean, friendly staff, open 24h. From what I remember, a bed in the dorm was around 400NT$.
2 Wenhua Lane, 08-886-1540
Kenting Youth Activity Center: I've actually never slept there - it was fully booked when I went - but I have heard the best things about this very special place. One of the things that makes it so special is the traditional Fujian architecture. It really has a cozy atmosphere. The center is set in a secluded area and the beach is only a minute away. 3000NT$ (100USD) for a double.
17 Kenting Rd, 08-886-1221
Ceasar Park Hotel: This tropical paradise has a Southeast Asian design, spa, an awesome beach-bar, a supervised children's play area, a business center, good restaurants and rooms that most people simply can't afford. It is expensive, but if money isn't a problem and you want the best, you should go for it. Doubles start at 250USD. Their top villa is around 1300USD.
6 Kenting Rd, 08-8861888
Kenting Rd turns into a kind of nightmarket at night. You'll find cheap souvenirs, T-shirts, snorkeling gear, swimsuits and all the typical gadgets that are usually sold at beach resorts.
Nightlife, bars, discos
In Kenting town, there are quite a few bars and even a place or two where you can dance your way late into the night. Just walk along Kenting Rd after dusk and let your senses guide you. The liquor store has some nice surprises, and yes, you are allowed to open a bottle pretty much anywhere you want - on the road or at the beach.
Outside of town, options are limited but they exist. Eluanbi has cold beer, beetle nuts, hard liquor and cigarettes. Hengchun is the place to go for KTVs. If you plan to spend the night under the stars in Jialeshui, bring your own juice. There's a place that sells beer but it's overpriced.
Spring Scream Outdoor Music Festival
If you visit Taiwan in April, make sure you don't miss Spring Scream. This massive outdoor musical event features bands both from Taiwan and overseas. Last time I went in 2010, it lasted 4 days, there were around 300 bands playing on 8 stages, and the ticket was 1500NT$.
Getting there and away
The bad news for those of you who want to visit Taiwan's southern part is that the train doesn't go all the way down to Kenting - it will only take you as far as Kaohsiung.
The good news is that long-distance buses (Ho-hsin) from Taipei, Taichung and other big cities around Taiwan are cheap, comfortable, and they even travel at night.
Another option is to take the train to Kaohsiung, and then take a local bus to Kenting. Buses leave frequently from Kaohsiung train station.
I only have 3 words for you: GET A SCOOTER!
There is no better way to travel around Kenting and explore the little beaches surrounding the southern tip of Taiwan than on a scooter. Here are the reason why:
- renting a scooter is cheap and easy (around 10US$/day)
- traffic can be alienating on weekends
- you can park for free anywhere
- you can feel the wind on your face and smell the ocean water
- easier to wander through narrow alleys in small villages
- and so much more... (I just love scooters!)
Arrange Kenting Hotel Reservations here.
So that's pretty much all I had to say about Kenting. I hope you've found the above information helpful and that you'll enjoy your time at the beach. Have a safe trip!
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