Kenting National Park
Kenting National Park (墾丁國家公園; kěndīng gúojiā gōngyuán) is in at the extreme southern tip of Taiwan. It is famous for its beautiful beaches and lush vegetation.
Although Kenting National Park is located in Kenting, these two places should not be confused as the same destination. Kenting is the wider area that includes small townships as well as the national park.
KenTing National Forest Recreation Area is between 150 and 300 meters above sea level and the total area is 466.8 hectares. Since the landform of Hengchun Peninsula is complicated and the weather is highly changeable, it breeds abundant and special rare plant resources. The forest landscape is roughly divided into three layers. The first layer is arbores. Moraceae and lauraceae are dominant. The second layer is bushes, primarily small palmae. The third layer is chamaephyte. Low grasses and liana are dominant. It is a rich and adequate forest with more than 1,200 kinds of both ornamental and conserved plants. Rising high coral limestone is everywhere in KenTing National Forest Recreation Area. The limestone is primarily composed of sedimentation of corals, foraminifers and nullipores. According to research, this area is supposed to be under sea level ten millions years ago. After weathering and sea water erosion, the coral limestone has gradually become stalagmites, stalactite caves, columns, notches and stalactites. Especially stalagmites and stalactites, they are formed by deposition of calcium carbonate which is precipitated from mineralized water solutions. An average growth rate is 1cm every 30 years. They are rare and precious stone resources. Entering from the memorial archway in KenTing National Forest Recreation Area, along the forest trail, there are old trees on both sides of the road. Among them, there is a 300-years-old giant Chinese pistache. Heading inside the recreation area, everywhere, there are spots worth a visit. Aquatic plants area, stalagmites cave, Silver Leaves and Roots, Fairy Cave, Labyrinth Forest, Sky in a Line, Falling Banyan Valley, Silver Dragon Cave, No.1 Gorge, Umbrella Pavilion and Ape Cliff are geographic landscape that you can’t miss.
Flora and fauna
KenTing National Forest Recreation Area is the only one tropical botanical garden in Taiwan and also one of the top 10 tropical botanical gardens in the world. Currently, there are thousands of tropical plants and adequate resources of butterflies, birds, insects and reptiles. Sometimes, you can see groups of Formosan macaques playing. Every autumn and winter, plenty of migratory birds including Chinese goshawks, oriental honey-buzzards, cattle egrets, falco subbuteos, brown shrikes and gray-faced buzzards roost at this place. It brings the original forest a more vivid ambience.
During typhoon season, the waves can get quite rough causing all beaches to be closed.
Buses travel every hour on the hour from Taipei Bus Station (get there via Taipei Main Station MRT) to Kaohsiung. A popular company that offers such a service is known as United Bus, or "UBus" for short. Their ticket price as of June 28, 2011 is 430NT$. There is no wireless internet access (a somewhat popular rumor), but the seats recline and there is a roughly 20" screen mounted on the ceiling of the bus every 4 rows. The trip can range anywhere from 5 to 6 hours depending on the time of departure, as well as road and weather conditions.
Buses travel frequently from Kaohsiung to Kenting. Take the line 88 from the Kaohsiung bus terminal (don't get confused with city buses). The price for a ticket is roughly 350NT$ (as of June 28, 2011, the price is 230NT$). The transit time from Kaohsiung to Kenting is approximately 2.5 hours, depending upon the general traffic situation.
There is both a regular and express bus. The express bus arrives on the hour. It can be difficult to discern which bus is the express bus and it is also unlikely the driver will speak English.
Kenting is accessible via the HSR, or High Speed Rail which connects Taipei with Zuoying, Kaohsiung. The total travel time from Taipei to Zuoying (Kaohsiung) via HSR is approximately 90 mins. After arrival in Zuoying, exit the station and head outside where there is a bus stop. Line 88 bus to Kenting operates 24 hours/day, so getting back to the HSR on time is no problem. Ask your place of accomodation about shuttle buses, or you can take a taxi, which usually picks up passengers until it's full and then quotes a price per person for the trip.
It is advisable to reserve your HSR tickets by telephone or online if traveling on the weekend. Weekend trains are often sold out.
Renting a car is not optimal, but nice if you wish to travel around/within the Kenting area. Having an automobile or renting a scooter in Kenting enables you to travel up and down the entire southern seaboard and visit both public beaches easily.
A motorbike can be rented for 400-600 TWD/day in Kenting from many different storefronts. Users must show a Taiwan motorbike drivers license and sign a rental contract before being given keys. Apparently it used to be easy to rent a motorbike without showing a license, but this is no longer the case since the police cracked down on the shops. As Taiwan has a motorbike helmet law, be aware that wearing a helmet is a requirement when operating or riding as a passenger on a motorbike.
You can also pre-arrange a rental car for pick up at the HSR Kaohsiung Zuoying station. Please check the HSR website for more information and a link to the service providers websites.
As in any tourist area, it is advisable to double-check prices. Kenting closes surprisingly early for Taiwan - most shops and stalls seem to shut down at 10pm.
Thai food is currently in Vogue in Kenting, and virtually every restaurant now offers it. At night the main road in Kenting becomes a night market, with all kinds of food sold from stalls. There are plenty of restaurants too - lots of Chinese (of course), Thai, and a little western. There is also a lot of fresh fruit available and plenty of seafood.
Resorts and Hotels
Since Kenting's popularity as a destination is rising, it seems like every plot of land that isn't already a hotel or restaurant is being turned into one, and many shops and restaurants have rooms upstairs too, so it shouldn't be too hard to find a place to sleep. The newer hotels are generally nicer but pricier, and you'll want to check there's no ongoing construction that might interfere with your sleep.
The main resort hotel in Kenting is "Château Beach Resort", made famous by the movie "Cape No.7" - it is also the only hotel in the area with direct beach access from terraced rooms.
Camping is allowed in the National Park. It is advisable to contact the park directly to setup permits. Several bed and breakfast or small proprietor operations will rent tents and space for camping on their property.
Like all of Taiwan, the Kenting area is very safe from violent crime. Use common sense when protecting your valuables, and don't leave anything valuable in your car.
Stray dogs, while not violent or aggressive, are everywhere and likely harbor disease and/or parasites. Don't pet them!
During weekends, tourists park all over the sidewalks and entryways, making it very difficult for pedestrians to walk safely and out of street traffic.