Plan your Kenting surf adventure the right way!
The southern tip of Taiwan, Kenting National Park area, is one of the most popular travel destinations in Taiwan. This area that makes part of Hengchun peninsula, is probably the most versatile surfing zone on the island. Due to the fact that there are surf spots facing different directions, there´s often at least one surfable break, depending on the wind and swell direction, among other factors. It could be Nanwan on the edge of the southern most bay, Jialeshui on the east coast, or Fenggang area on the west side of the peninsula, all of these within a range of 40 minutes of driving.
Surfing at Jialeshui
Jialeshui is a wide natural beach, definitely one of the most scenic ones with quite reliable wave supply. There´s a right-hand river mouth break with mixed sand/rock bottom, suitable to surfers of all levels usually, and a left-hand point break hundred meters away with a little bit less frequent but often more shapely waves.
There are only few local restaurants/snack bars in this idyllic and well preserved fishing village surrounded by lush forests, mountains and monkeys. There are several spots for board rental in Jialeshui, you can´t miss them. For beers, burgers and snacks, there´s Summer Point and Corner, and right across the Corner there´s a local restaurant for bigger hunger.
Surfing at Nanwan
Nanwan can get really well formed and fast waves that break to the right, barrels even when the conditions are correct. The beach itself is more suitable for swimming and chilling than Jialeshui. There´s more variety of restaurants and hotels in Nanwan, but also more people and commercialism like banana boats and jet skis that might be a bit of an annoyance. The beach itself is clean though with smooth and fine sand.
Try Bossa Nova for food and drinks, or Piccolo Pulpo for finer dining. For live music on weekends and good food, drinks and great atmosphere, go check the Goat Bar! It´s one of the coolest bars in Taiwan, you´ll find it approx. 2 km up north from Nanwan right at the south entry of Hengchun. For coffee, forget about the 7Eleven and Starbucks. Enjoy a variety of the different tastes from all around the globe in the cozy Café 149 in Hengchun instead.
Other surf beaches around?
Jialeshui and Nanwan are the two main surf beaches you will find on Kenting tourist map. Windmills, Houbihu and Banana Bay are some other spots for more advanced surfers, worth checking when the swell sets right. This is not all, there´s more to explore for those looking for more adventure, but let´s save some of the secrets for the locals.
Weather / Best Seasons for Surfing in Kenting
The quality of surf is very seasonal among the different locations. As a thumb rule, the wind blows from north-east during the winter months, whereas south-west is the predominant wind direction in the summer. This is why Nanwan, for example, is more likely to receive offshore wind and better surf overall during the winter season compared to the summer months. Remember though, surfing is not simple science, it´s often the exceptions that rule the decision making.
Summer in general is a calm surf season in Taiwan: The summer waves are good for beginners and doable for longboarders, but probably the biggest single contributor to depression among short boarders. On the other hand, summer is the typhoon season, and Taiwan´s east coast is very exposed. Usually there are 5 to 10 typhoons every year born on the Pacific Ocean that hit or pass Taiwan generating proper swell. You shouldn´t go in the water when there´s a typhoon nearby, and often you cannot either because the beaches are closed and guarded by police patrols. Before and after typhoons, however, you usually get the biggest and shapeliest waves of the year. Just hope the swell hits the weekdays rather than weekends, to avoid the crowds.
Early spring and autumn are the best seasons for surfing down south. They are the most wave-consistent periods of the year when you can expect really nice, glassy conditions. In the winter, the crazy monsoon winds are a turn-off for some surfers, but if you don´t mind some splashes, it can be great fun. When the wind swell does the trick and the waves grow head-high, nothing feels better than shooting down those big and bumpy walls with full speed.
Surfing in Kenting area has a clear advantage compared to many other locations in Taiwan: The water temperature never drops under 21-22 degrees of Celsius. Because of the strong wind though, it´s recommended to use a proper wetsuit in the winter.
Accommodation in and around Kenting
If surfing in Kenting is the main reason why you’re visiting Taiwan, you’re probably gonna be looking for a proper, comfortable surf house / bed and breakfast where you can meet other like-minded travelers and have some space to do some cooking, drinking, chilling…
I personally recommend Koti B&B and Wild East Guesthouse, both in Manzhou, only 10 minutes away from Jialeshui beach by scooter or car. Manzhou is my favorite place in Taiwan, and that’s why I have a house there. It’s paradise, like the rest of Kenting, but without the tourists!
Jialeshui is also OK to spend a few nights, if you can afford it. In my opinion guesthouses there are way too overpriced. Kenting Town is also an option, but it’s just too crowded and loud for me. Manzhou is much cheaper, a lot quieter, the green scenery is unbeatable, and there are tons of options for dining at little traditional places with the locals.
Koti B&B and Wild East Guesthouse are two of the newest places to stay in Manzhou, and they offer seriously amazing value. They are new, clean, and super well-equipped to make your surfing in Taiwan adventure a very comfortable and memorable one. The owners Henri (from Finland), and his Taiwanese wife Cindy are the nicest hosts in the world and can provide you with tips and travel advice for the Kenting area. Henri is an avid surfer, and he most likely won’t mind giving you a ride to Jialeshui early in the morning.
More Taiwan Travel Info
Surfing in Kenting might open your appetite for more adventure travel in Taiwan. If that’s the case, make sure to take a look at the following pages: