Gateway to beautiful Kenting National Park!
Hengchun is the main big town in the Kenting area. Not too long ago, passing through this place was seen as a big annoyance. Even today, when I mention it, some people will ask: “Oh, is that the ugly city north of Kenting?” Yes, it is. I must admit that Hengchun needs a proper facelift on most of its streets, but it still is a cool place that should not be avoided.
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Main reasons to visit Hengchun:
- Lots of great local restaurants, where you can sample authentic, seriously amazing Taiwanese food
- Tons of cute cafes and dessert shops
- Take a stroll along Hengchun’s old street
- Check out the night market on Sunday
- Take the Express Bus to Kaohsiung HSR or TRA train station
- Crazy nightlife
I’ve been living in this area since 2017 because one of my Pizza Rock restaurants is not too far, at Nanwan beach. I actually live in Manzhou, 30 minutes away, but I pass through Hengchun pretty much every day when I’m down south. I have come to truly love this place and its friendly local people. The vibe is quite laidback and time seems slower than in the rest of Taiwan.
Important note: Make sure to visit Manzhou Township if you are in the area! That’s where I live, it’s not far from Hengchun, and it’s just an amazing place for too many reasons to list here, so click on this link to read about it. 🙂
Over the past few years, Hengchun has gone through a transformation where traditional noodle shops are turned into modern cafes, worn out hotels morph into boutique B&Bs, and young Taiwanese from all over the island are eagerly replacing the older generation of shopkeepers and waiters in the hope of a more relaxed lifestyle away from the big cities.
Hengchun has plenty of cool attractions – traditional and new – to keep you busy, such as the bustling night market. Walk around, ride around, hitch as ride with a local, all good. Just make sure you don’t just pass through. At the very least, stop for a drink, a bite, or a few pics.
Yougsters moving in…
That trend can be felt all over the southern tip of the island, around Kenting, Nanwan, and Jialeshui where hordes of kids in their early-twenties move here to “practice work” before going abroad on working holidays in places like Australia and Canada. The good news is that some of these “kids” fall in love with the laidback pace of life of the great south and decide to call it home. Which brings a kind of vibrant / fun / party energy to the area.
That being said, I would not recommend that you plan to spend your whole vacation in Hengchun, but you shouldn’t avoid it completely either. Hengchun is a great place to find accommodation when everything else is fully booked in Kenting or Jialeshui. And there’s tons of great little local eateries, cafes, and even some bad-ass stinky tofu!
A Charming, Authentic Town
Hengchun is the main town in the Kenting area where you can find supply such as grocery, camping / BBQ stuff, as well as services like hospitals, clinics, hair dressers, post office, and mechanics.
A nice thing about Hengchun, is that the economy is not only geared toward tourism. There is a fairly large local population that’s involved in other industries such as agriculture, fishing and construction. I think that’s an aspect that’s pretty cool – you get to witness “real” Taiwanese culture – not just the stuff that’s aimed at travelers. All in all, it’s a pretty genuine town, gritty on some levels, but still charming on most. I personally love it!
Facts about Hengchun Township
- Hengchun is located in Pingtung County
- Chinese: 恆春鎮
- Written in Pinyin: Héngchūn Zhèn
- Population: +/- 30,000 people
- Entryway to Kenting National Park
- That’s where your guide (me!) buys his food, tooth paste, wine, tools…
Hengchun’s Main Attraction: The South Gate
Hengchun South Gate (also called Ancient City Gate) is the main attraction in town. It’s really easy to find because it’s quite big and it’s in the middle of a big traffic roundabout on Hengnan Road, the township’s main drag where most shops are located.
This historical building is one of Taiwan’s most photographed structures, and it has become a symbolic image for tourism in Southern Taiwan and Kenting. There’s no doubt that it’s a really beautiful subject for photographers who want to shoot pictures of anything different than beaches and palm trees. Unfortunately, there is no info about it on signs on the ground, no plaque, and you can’t even get inside. It’s just there, like a statue, no access, it’s just nice to look at from the outside – especially at sunrise or sunset.
While you’re here, you might want to read about:
Other Things to Do in Hengchun
I filmed the following video of a Taiwanese man singing Karaoke in front of Guang Ning Temple. After he finished singing his song, the lady who owned the karaoke truck yelled: “Ok, OK, that’s enough now… I have to leave, no more songs!” I wish I had filmed that part too.
The Gates and the Old Wall
The old wall (and the gates) have important significance for Hengchun and its historic past, but I haven’t done my homework properly, so I cannot tell you anything intelligent about them. For me, they are just there, standing tall around the city, to remind us that important stuff happened here at one point in history. Regardless if you’re a history buff or not, they’re worth taking a look at, or walking around and/or on them.
Old Town / Old Street
If you happen to be in Hengchun and have some free time, you could take a walk around the little streets between South Gate and West Gate. This old part of town has ancient buildings that have been turned into cafes, gift / art shops, restaurants and some of them are still selling traditional stuff like Chinese medicine, Taiwanese tea, and temple offerings like ghost money and incense.
Chinese Pavilion near Yuquan Temple
This is a very “local” spot not known by many tourists. The pavilion is set on a hill, east of town, and offers gorgeous views over the valley, Mt. Guan 關山 on the other side, and Longluan Lake (龍鑾潭). It’s one of my favorite places to watch the sunset, have my morning coffee, or simply disconnect. It’s a very peaceful place, and there’s seldom anyone around here. My place in Hengchun is 5 minutes away, so I get to go there quite often. Map
Hengchun Night Market
The night market is the place to go to try Taiwanese classics such as stinky tofu, barbecued squid on a stick, and muaji. Sunday night is when you want to visit. Some of the best nightlife options such as Duojiu Bar and Newcut Wearhouse are also in this area.
Map of Hengchun and Kenting
The following map shows you my favorite attractions, sights, restaurants, cafes, and hotels in Hengchun and Kenting.
Accommodation in Hengchun
Hengchun has probably the highest concentration of hostels, B&B, and guesthouses in all of Kenting National Park. A search on your favorite booking app will reveal more than a hundred options.
As to my favorite places, well, so far there is only one that I can personally recommend, and it’s called Yellow House. Good for backpackers, family, or solo travelers, this very special place boasts a swimming pool, a bar, lounge chairs, in a stunning setting. Check it out here.
Transportation – Getting to Hengchun
The reality is that the main reason why people end up in Hengchun is not to eat, sleep, or visit the sights. Most people only pass here very briefly on their way to Kenting, because the main bus station is here. Tourist and regular buses from Kaohsiung HSR, Airport, and Train Station, as well as buses from Pingtung and other cities around Taiwan stop here. Check schedules and fares at the bottom of this page.
Travel to Hengchun from other cities around Taiwan
The fastest way to get to Hengchun from Taipei, Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Miaoli, Taichung, Changhua, Tainan is to take the high-speed rail train (HSR) all the way to Kaohsiung Zuoying Station. From there, you can catch a bus, taxi, or private car to Hengchun or all the way down south to Kenting.
Kaohsiung International Airport to Kenting
Bus #918: Kaohsiung Airport – Chaozhou – Fangliao – Haikou – Checheng – Hengchun – Nanwan – Xiaowan