Kending: coconut palms and tropical mountains.
For many, Taiwanese and expats alike, Kenting means sunny beaches and not much more.
Infact here there are not only (sometime overrated) beaches but also a nature lush and diverse, fully tropical - Kenting is located at the 21st parallel north, well below the Tropic of Cancer, among coconut palms and pandanus trees.
The landscape is simply beautiful. Part of the area is an ancient coral reef, that was uplifted to form a plateau gently sloping toward the sea.
The plateau is crisscrossed with a maze of mysterious caverns and small ravines, where huge banyan trees put down their roots.
A magic place, covered by a thick forest and windy grasslands.
From the top of the hills the view is wide. This is one of the very few places in Taiwan that gives me a feeling of vast landscapes.
The following is just a sample of the many things to do in Kenting:
An ancient banyan tree.
The National Park covers most of the area.
The Forest Recreation Area and Sheding Nature Park are among the most beautiful spots in the Park.
These two different areas are very close to each other. The former has an extensive network of excellent trails that from a Botanical Park lead you to discover marvels such as the Valley of Hanging Banyan, the Fairy Cave and the Silver Dragon Cave.
Monkeys are frequently spotted, and also strange animals such as land crabs.
Sheding Nature Park is more open with glades and hollows covered with pandanus trees. From rocky outcrops that emerge from the forest, the view on the plateau and the ocean is breathtaking.
National Museum of Marine Biology & Aquarium: Kelp Forest.
The National Museum of Marine Biology boasts one of the largest and most modern aquarium in Asia.
The aquarium has three main exhibitions: “Waters of Taiwan”, “Coral Kingdom” and “Waters of the World”.
Among the main attractions we enjoyed most the Underwater Tunnel and the massive tank with the Whale Shark. Fortunately all the explanations are in English too. Obviously you can not miss this Aquarium if you are with children.
Baisha Beach. Unfortunately the weather was so-so ..
And here we come to the beaches. Actually most of the coast is rocky so the sandy beaches are just a few. In fact, you can count them on the fingers of one hand.
The beaches of Kending are not bad at all (I might say bucuo in Mandarin :))).
But they are not the tropical paradises they look like in too many "cosmetic" photos. This is not Malaysia nor Thailand!
The largest beach, Dawan (Great Bay), has long been accessible only to the guests of Chateau Hotel. Not anymore, now this Kenting beach is accessible to all through the hotel premises.
Other beaches in the area are the animated Nanwan (Southern Bay), that boasts a splendid view on the nuclear power plant (!) and Xiaowan (Small Bay), just below the Caesar Park Hotel.
The hidden gem of Kenting, however, by all accounts, is the relatively isolated Baisha Beach (White Sands), lined with coconut palms and casuarina trees. During the off season, you may be the only visitors to the beach.
Shadao Beach, a tiny nature reserve, and Jialeshuei, the surfer's beach on the Pacific coast, complete the picture of kending beaches.
The shore at Frog Rock.
The rocky but flat coastline is very suitable for snorkeling. Snorkeling can be done starting from the beaches or even in areas where the sea is quite easily accessible as around Sail Rock. A lot of shops rent the equipment. The same goes for diving.
Be aware: the sea of Taiwan is far more dangerous than the South China Sea or the Mediterranean because of strong currents and rips. As this story happened a couple of years ago tells. Luckily it ended well.
Surfing at Jialeshuei when the NE monsoon blows.
Kenting is the surfing capital of Taiwan. You can rent boards everywhere.
Good surf on Jialeshuei Beach, on the Pacific side of the park.
But also on the western side can be good, as you can see on this video:
Henghun: East Gate.
Hengchun (Eternal Spring) is a sleepy town (and also a little bit neglected), typical of Southern Taiwan. Beside this, Hengchun is the only town in Taiwan that kept all the four city gates built during the Ching Dynasty - and also a part of the walls.
A couple of years ago Hengchun was briefly on the stage because of the successful movie "Cape No. 7". Throngs of fans have come on pilgrimage to the places where the scenes have been shot.
Taiwan Hot Springs are usually Japanese style (Onsen).
We have not been there yet, but we have heard good things about Sihjhongsi Hot Springs, located along the road n. 199 that climbs from Checheng.
These hot springs are carbonatic at a temperature of 50-60° C and, they say, have healing properties for skin problems, arthritis, fatigue and gastrointestinal problems as well (the water is drinkable).
The spa has been established in the Japanese time. There are a few hotels with both private and public pools. The new Fennel Resort looks quite good.
Continuing along the quiet road you will come out over the Pacific Ocean among green mountains and villages inhabited by Paiwan aborigines.
On Taiwan In Cycles nice photos and a description of a bike itinerary around Kenting which also runs through this valley.
You might think that it would be better to reach Pingtung by train and catch you bus to Kenting from there. It would be wrong. Actually there are many more buses available from Kaohsiung.
Actually there is not a specific place called Kenting. That name simply designates the main road. Anyway the main village, where a night market is hold every evening, is often called Kenting.
The attactions, beaches, parks, villages, are scattered and cannot be reached walking.
Pingtung Bus provides some local bus service (Baisha Beach is reached as well).
Your hotel could organize tours. For example I know that the Caesar Park does.
Also the Visitor Center of the national Park organize tours and visits, or, at least, provides the local guides with whom you can arrange trasportation.
I have seen a few tourists, local or Asians, renting a taxi for their tours. A taxi should cost from 3000 to 4000 NTD for a day.
It is better to have your own transportation. We have our car so I know how to rent a vehicle only by hearsay.
I have seen many places that rent scooters, which is perhaps the best way to get around. You will need an international driving license (and sometimes also an ARC is requested). Renting a scooter should cost a few hundred NTD per day.
You can also rent bicycles which is at least easy to move between the main beaches, except Baisha.
The offer of hotels in Kending can be overwhelming and is quickly increasing.
We have been in two of them, that are normally considered among the most interesting.
You can find our considerations - and pictures - about them (and more) in our page about Kenting Hotels.
Of course there are plenty of restaurants in the area.
But we were more interested in the relatively unknown - for the tourists - Xiong Jia Restaurant in Checheng Township that offer allegedly the best pork knuckle in Southern Taiwan.
Map of Kenting. Click here for a larger map (10 Mb).