Kenting National Park Travel Blog (Pingtung, Taiwan)

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Situated on the southern-most tip of Taiwan lies Kenting National Park (墾丁國家公園), the favorite summer playground of the island nation. Famous for its scenic beaches and dramatic coastline, the park has long been a premier travel destination for both locals and foreigners alike.

Having visited Kenting National Park in November 2016, let us share with you on how to best plan your trip to this coastal wonderland. We’ll touch on how to plan your itinerary, what are the best places to visit, and the travel tips that we’ve picked up during our trip. So, go ahead and share this with your travel buddies!

Coastline at Fengchuisha (風吹沙), Kenting National Park (Taiwan)
Coastline at Fengchuisha (風吹沙), Kenting National Park (Taiwan)

 

Kenting National Park: Taiwan’s favorite summer destination

Established in early 1984, Kenting National Park is the oldest of Taiwan’s eight national parks. Believed to be submerged ten million years ago, the area is now home to rugged shorelines, sandy deserts and lush inland forest.

Kenting’s coastline is dotted with golden beaches with turquoise waters. In addition, more than 60% of the known coral species (plus numerous species of reef fish) can be found just offshore of Kenting National Park. Little wonder that the park attracts more than 5 million visitors in 2016, ranking top amongst other national parks in Taiwan.

Popular activities include hiking, snorkeling, scuba diving, surfing, go-karting and jet-skiing.

Fun Fact: Part of Ang Lee’s movie, Life of Pi (2012), was filmed in Kenting National Park.

 

When to visit Kenting National Park

Kenting has a tropical monsoon climate, typically warm/hot all year-round. Therefore, it is suitable to visit the park during most times. Except of course, during periods of bad weather system.

It is worth noting that June to October (summer months) is typhoon (hurricane) season for Taiwan. Historically, Kenting National Park also receives most rainfalls between June and Sept. Having said, the water/surface temperature during the summer months naturally makes it more conducive for water-related activities, provided the typhoon stays away.

As with any other popular tourist destinations, Kenting National Park gets crowded during weekends/holidays. Best avoid visiting during these periods.

Pingtung Manchurian Port Drawbridge (屏東滿州港口吊橋), Kenting National Park (Taiwan)
Pingtung Manchurian Port Drawbridge (屏東滿州港口吊橋), Kenting National Park (Taiwan)

 

Most interesting way of getting around Kenting National Park

One of the most exhilarating and refreshing way to explore the park is via renting a motorbike or electric scooter. Finding your way around the park is relatively easy. As there is only one major coastal road looping around the entire park.

Riding along the coast at leisure speed, with winds through your hair and scenic coastal views at every turn. Surely, your holidays couldn’t get any better than this.

Note: For higher resolution of the images in this Kenting National Park Travel Blog, refer to our Facebook Page.

 

Must-see places in Kenting National Park

Most of the must-see places in Kenting National Park are conveniently located along the coastal road (Provincial Highway 26) looping the park. As such, the easiest way to cover all the attractions would be to make a counter-clockwise loop of the road (starting from Kenting Street).

 

We’ve listed the eight must-see places in Kenting National Park below, in sequence of their location on the counter-clockwise loop. These eight attractions can be comfortably covered within a single day trip. Start the journey early morning from Kenting Street, and end the day by watching sunset at Guanshan (see map above).

How do we know this itinerary works? Simply because this is the actual travel log of our Nov-2016 trip! =)

 


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Sand Island (砂島), Kenting National Park (Taiwan)
Sand Island (砂島), Kenting National Park (Taiwan)

#1: Sand Island (砂島)

Start your trip in a counter-clockwise loop from Kenting Street in the morning. Travelling 7km south-east along Highway 26, you’ll reach Sand Island.

Contrary to its name, Sand Island is not an island. Instead, it is a small bay with a shell sand beach. Shell sands are tiny fragments of corals and shellfish, which were broken down by weathering. Kenting National Park has a total of eight shell sand beaches. Sand Island stands out as it has the highest percentage of shell sand (of the eight beaches).

Unfortunately, as of Nov-2016, Sand Island is closed to the public. The shell sands on the beach were found to be depleting and the authorities had to close it for conservation and regeneration. Luckily, the coral beach adjacent to Sand Island is still open to public access.

360-degree picture: Below is our 360-degree picture of Sand Island

 

 

#2: Eluanbi Lighthouse (鵝鑾鼻燈塔) and Eluanbi Park (鵝鑾鼻公園)

Eluanbi Lighthouse and Eluanbi Park is located at Cape Eluanbi, the southernmost point of mainland Taiwan.

Eluanbi Lighthouse (鵝鑾鼻燈塔), Kenting National Park (Taiwan)
Eluanbi Lighthouse (鵝鑾鼻燈塔), Kenting National Park (Taiwan)

Prior to the lighthouse, a number of shipwrecks had occurred around the cape due to hidden reefs. Thus, the Qing government ordered the construction of Eluanbi Lighthouse in 1882. Eluanbi Lighthouse is 21.4 metres tall and has a range of 27.2 nautical miles.

Before the construction, animosity had existed between the indigenous tribe in the area and the Qing government. As such, government troops had to be deployed during the lighthouse’s construction. In addition, to protect the eventual lighthouse and its operators, a fort and moat was built around it. Hence, enabling Eluanbi Lighthouse to have the honors of being the only fortified lighthouse in the world.

The current version of the lighthouse was re-built in 1962. Nowadays, the grounds around Eluanbi Lighthouse is converted into a park (Eluanbi Park) with excellent coastal views.

Tickets are required. See prices in picture below.

 

Fun Fact: Eluanbi Lighthouse earned the nickname “The Light of East Asia” due to it having the highest intensity of all lighthouses in Taiwan.

Note: For higher resolution of the images in this Kenting National Park Travel Blog, refer to our Facebook Page.

 

360-degree picture: Below is our 360-degree picture of Eluanbi Park

 

 

#3: Taiwan Southernmost Point (台灣最南點)

Geographically, the actual southernmost point of mainland Taiwan is actually located approximately 1km southeast of Eluanbi Lighthouse.

To get there, drive out of Eluanbi Lighthouse visitor centre carpark and turn right onto Highway 26. Drive a mere 400m down the road and look out for the right-turn road-sign to “Southern Most Point” or “Observation Deck” (see Google Street View below). Turn right following the road sign and arrive at the carpark.

 

Unfortunately, the park was closed for renovation during our visit in Nov-2016.

However, from what we read online, there is a 5-10 minutes’ trail from the carpark that leads to a coastal viewing deck (see Google Street View below). At the viewing deck, there is a stone marker proclaiming it is the southernmost point in mainland Taiwan.

 

 

#4: Longpan Park (龍磐公園)

From the carpark of Taiwan Southernmost Point, turn right and continue on Highway 26 for another 3.5km to Longpan Park. The parking area of Longpan Park is just along Highway 26 and marked by a green board. Relatively small, the park is on the Pacific Ocean side of Kenting National Park.

Coastline at Longpan Park (龍磐公園), Kenting National Park (Taiwan)
Coastline at Longpan Park (龍磐公園), Kenting National Park (Taiwan)

Longpan Park is a coastal limestone plateau that resulted from the uplifting of coral reefs millions of years ago. Over time, the ocean further erodes the resultant limestone coastline. Resulting in dramatic cliffs, caverns and fissures.

Nowadays, Longpan Park is an open grassland complete with a short network of coastal trails on top of the limestone cliffs. Due to its wide and unblocked coastal views, the park is ideal for catching sunrises/sunsets and stargazing.

 

Note: Strong winds are common along this stretch of the coast. Young kids and elders should be cautious during such times. In addition, ride slowly and be careful when opening/closing car doors.

Note: For higher resolution of the images in this Kenting National Park Travel Blog, refer to our Facebook Page.

 


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#5: Fengchuisha (風吹沙)

From Longpan Park, get back onto Highway 26 heading north. Fengchuisha is approximately 2.4km drive from Longpan Park. Look out for a small parking area on the coastal side (right side) of the road. Similar to Longpan Park, the carpark is marked by a green board.

Another tip to identifying Fengchuisha’s parking area is the presence of sand on the road at this specific point on Highway 26.

Coastline at Fengchuisha (風吹沙), Kenting National Park (Taiwan)
Coastline at Fengchuisha (風吹沙), Kenting National Park (Taiwan)

Fengchuisha (in Chinese) translate into “wind blow sand”. At this particular spot on Highway 26, the seasonal northeast winds (during winter) tend to blow the sand (from the shoreline) back onto the road and grassland beyond.

True to its name, we experienced really strong winds at Fengchuisha during our Nov-2016 visit. The gale was blowing sands right into our faces. Indeed, the winds were so strong that we could hear sands hitting the front lens of our DSLR camera.

 

Tip: Take precautions to protect your camera/gears that are sensitive to dust/sand. It is no fun having sand particles jamming up your gears. In addition, do have some form of eyewear, for obvious reasons.

Fengchuisha (風吹沙), Kenting National Park (Taiwan)
Fengchuisha (風吹沙), Kenting National Park (Taiwan)

 

360-degree picture: Below is our 360-degree picture of Fengchuisha

 

 

#6: Pingtung Manchurian Port Drawbridge (屏東滿州港口吊橋)

From Fengchuisha, continue heading north via Highway 26 for another 5km. You’ll then pass over a road bridge. At this point, the red-white Pingtung Manchurian Port Drawbridge can be seen on your right, running in parallel to the road bridge.

Pingtung Manchurian Port Drawbridge (屏東滿州港口吊橋), Kenting National Park (Taiwan)
Pingtung Manchurian Port Drawbridge (屏東滿州港口吊橋), Kenting National Park (Taiwan)

Spanning across Gangkou River, we estimate the bridge to be approximately 150m long. Although officially categorised a drawbridge, it really appears to be a suspension bridge instead.

Pingtung Manchurian Port Drawbridge was originally built to facilitate the locals in interacting with the wider region. Before the bridge, locals could cross the dried riverbed during winters. However, during wet seasons, access across the river was either impossible, or else limited to making a difficult detour along the beach at the river mouth.

The current bridge is a 1994 reconstruction of the earlier one. Tickets are required to access the bridge and can be purchased at a small office next to it.

During our Nov-2016 visit, the entry fee was 10 TWD (NT$10). However, we’ve noted from other travelers that the price might have increased to 20 TWD since our visit.

 

Tip: For those renting electric bikes. During our Nov-2016 visit, we saw an electric bike charging station beside the bridge. However, do check with your rental company if the charging station is still operating during your visit.

 

360-degree picture: Below is our 360-degree picture of Pingtung Manchurian Port Drawbridge

 

 

#7: Maobitou Park (貓鼻頭公園)

From Pingtung Manchurian Port Drawbridge, use County Route 200 to drive inland and head west towards the western coast of Kenting National Park. Maobitou Park is approximately 24km away. For those riding e-scooter, please consider the range of your e-scooter.

There are actually two promontories at the southernmost end of Taiwan, namely Eluanbi and Maobitou. Of the two, Eluanbi is at the eastern side of the peninsula (bordering Pacific Ocean) and stretches further south. In contrast, Maobitou is located on the western side of the peninsula and is the separation point between Taiwan Straits and Bashi Channel.

Maobitou Park (貓鼻頭公園), Kenting National Park (Taiwan)
Maobitou Park (貓鼻頭公園), Kenting National Park (Taiwan)

Maobitou (in Chinese) translate into “Cat Nose Cape”. The name is derived from a rock that resembled a cat lying on its stomach. The rock is a short distance off the coast at Maobitou Park and is the result of a collapsed sea cliff. See if you can identify the rock when you’re there. We tried, but unfortunately were one of the few visitors that failed to see the “cat”.

Maobitou Park is also home to many interesting coastal features, and thus, is one of the most popular attractions in Kenting National Park. The park is frequently filled with tourist whom comes in the busload. There is an elevated viewing platform along the coast that offers splendid panoramic views of the entire coastline.

Tickets are required. See prices in picture below.

Note: For higher resolution of the images in this Kenting National Park Travel Blog, refer to our Facebook Page.

 

 

#8: Guanshan (關山)

A short 6km drive north of Maobitou Park is Guanshan, one of the most famous sunset viewing point on the peninsula.

View from Guanshan (關山), Kenting National Park (Taiwan)
View from Guanshan (關山), Kenting National Park (Taiwan)

Guanshan is a coastal hill that came from the uplifting of coral reefs, which was submerged thousands of years ago. It currently stands at an elevation of 152m above the sea level.

From the parking area at the foot of Guanshan, visitors could make a short and easy hike to the top of the hill. A small Buddhist temple (Kaoshanyan FuDe Temple) occupies the summit. At the front of the temple is a large viewing area facing north into the peninsula. It offers wide and unblock view of the surrounding flatlands.

 

360-degree picture: Below is our 360-degree picture taken at the viewing platform in front of Kaoshanyan FuDe Temple

 

More notably, Guanshan is renowned for its sunset view. In fact, Guanshan was listed on CNN’s “12 other superb sunset spots around the world”. The Sunset Viewing Platform on Guanshan is a short walk from both the temple and carpark. Facing west towards the Taiwan Strait, the platform offers excellent sunset views with Kenting’s scenic coastline in the foreground.

Map/Picture: Google Map Photo Sphere of the Sunset Viewing Platform at Guanshan. 


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Best place for cheap seafood: Houbihu Fishing Port (後壁湖港)

A short drive from both Maobitou Park and Guanshan is the largest fishing port in Kenting, Houbihu Fishing Port. Located near the juncture of cold and warm ocean currents, Houbihu is blessed with rich fishing resources.

Houbihu is extremely popular with both locals and tourist alike due to its cheap and fresh seafood. In fact, most restaurants in the area source their seafood from Houbihu.

Houbihu Fishing Port (後壁湖), Kenting National Park (Taiwan)
Houbihu Fishing Port (後壁湖), Kenting National Park (Taiwan)

For those looking to dine-in at the port, there are several seafood restaurants in Houbihu. Diners could simply select from the wide range of fresh seafood on offer and have the chefs cook the seafood immediately.

From our experience, though the seafood (cooked) at Houbihu is extremely fresh, the prices are however average. The only exception is the sashimi, which is both fresh and insanely cheap! Freshly cut and served in large portions at irresistible low prices, the sashimi here is worthy of being an attraction in itself. If you’re into sashimi as we are, do not miss this for the world.

Seafood Restaurants at Houbihu Fishing Port (後壁湖), Kenting National Park (Taiwan)
Seafood Restaurants at Houbihu Fishing Port (後壁湖), Kenting National Park (Taiwan)

 

 

Where to stay and shop in Kenting National Park

Within the park, Kenting Street is where most accommodation, F&B and retail establishments are concentrated. During the evenings, it transforms into Kenting Night Market and most visitors would congregate here for meals, shopping and entertainment. In fact, Kenting Night Market is one of the most popular night markets in southern Taiwan.

Kenting Street (see Google Street View below) is 1-2km long. Starting from the MacDonald’s in front of the white colored gate to Kenting National Forest Recreation Area, till Caesar Park Hotel. Parking can be challenging during the evenings, especially so during weekends and holidays.

Plenty of accommodation options can be found within walking distance of Kenting Street. This is definitely the most convenient place to stay while at Kenting National Park.

 

 

 

Getting to and around Kenting National Park

Kaohsiung is the nearest major city to Kenting National Park. It is approximately 100km away.

Regular buses depart from Kaohsiung Main Station and HSR Zuoying Station (High-Speed-Rail) for Kenting National Park. Alternatively, it is possible to take a cab from Kaohsiung to Kenting National Park. Cab fares in Taiwan are generally affordable. Taking a cab to Kenting National Park can be especially cost-effective when in a small group or shared with other travelers. Do check with your accommodation for more information about the cabs.

Once in Kenting National Park, the easiest way to get around would be to rent an electric scooter. The park is not particularly large and can be explored in parts if on an electric scooter. However, do note that the eastern coastline of the park can experience strong winds during certain periods. As such, do ride with caution and seek advice from your rental company. Refer to this website for more info on the electric scooter rental.

For those driving rental cars, Kenting National Park can be comfortably explored in a single day. However, while at the eastern coastline, do be cautious when opening/closing car doors if there are strong winds.

 

 

Renting a car in Taiwan?

Needless to say, if you have the budget and are able to rent a car in Taiwan, self-diving can be a cost-efficient and convenient way to explore the island. This is especially so if you’re visiting places outside the major cities.

The central highlands, east coast, northern (e.g. Jiufen/Shifen) and southern (e.g. Kenting) parts of Taiwan can be easily explored via self-drive. However, if your itinerary predominantly revolves around the major cities, then you’re better off taking public transports. Public transportation systems in Taiwan are affordable and convenient. Moreover, traffic conditions in major Taiwanese cities can be hectic and should be best avoided for the tourist driver.

For our Nov-2016 self-driving trip, our extended family rented two sedans for eleven days. We drove from the northern tip (Jiufen), via the east coast (Yilan, Hualien, Taitung), to the southern-most point (Kenting National Park) and back. Covering a total distance of 1,470km. Subsequently, we returned the vehicles at the outskirts of Taipei city, before taking public transport into Taipei for the rest of our holiday. (If you want to know which car rental company we used, just send us a message via our Facebook page.)

Note: For higher resolution of the images in this Kenting National Park Travel Blog, refer to our Facebook Page.

Our rental cars in Taiwan @2016
Our rental cars in Taiwan @2016

 

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