Nanwan Beach in Kenting (aka South Bay) is the premier beach destination on the Taiwan mainland, and attracts more visitors than any other beach on the island. It features beautiful white sand and long, flat beaches, as well as clear water that is relatively warm year round. In addition, the beach has sunshine for most of the year. Popular activities include jet skiing, water skiing, surfing, swimming, and sunbathing. Located right next to the beach is Kenting Street, a great night market for snacking and tourist oriented shopping.
Kenting was first settled by Chinese during theQing Dynasty. The word Kenting comes from twp words that mean cultivate (ken3 墾) and strong man (丁 ding1). During that time, a group of strong men (or Zhuang Ding 壯丁) came from Guangdong, who were basically Chinese pionners of the area to cultivate the land, hence the area was named Kenting for them.
The area was considered to be made into a park during the Japanese occupation due to it being the only tropical location in the Japanese Empire, but was never officially created.
During the Japanese era Nanwan was used as a whaling area and there were a few fishing villages here.
Kenting National Park was established in 1984 as the first national park in Taiwan after WWII.
Kenting became a major vacation spot, becoming a center for hostels and hotels for travelers.
Kenting is considered by many to have the best beaches in Taiwan. This is because of its fine white sand and year-round warm temperatures and sunshine (it is in the tropical part of Taiwan after all).
The facilities at Nanwan include changing rooms, showers, toilets, rentals, and a parking lot.
Nanwan Beach: 8:30 AM to 9 PM
Kenting Street Night Market: 6:30 PM - Midnight
When to go:
Summer! It's when the water is warmest and the sun is hottest. However there will be more people in summer, and there could be Typhoons.
Spring and Fall are also good times to go, as there will be less visitors and cooler temperatures.
Winter is an okay time to go as well, it will be warmer than the rest of Taiwan and the water will still be warm enough to swim in.
How to get there:
By Car/Scooter: Take provincial highway 1 south to the bottom of Taiwan until it becomes provincial highway 26. After that keep going past Hengchun into Kenting National Park. The beach will be on your right as you pass the a 7-11. There is a parking lot next to the beach.
By Bus: Busses leave daily to Kenting from Zuoying HSR station, Kaohsiung Station, and Pingtung. Get off at the Nanwan Beach stop （南灣）.
By Plane: There are direct shuttle busses to Kenting from Kaohsing's Xiaogang (KHH) Airport.
Map: Please see below:
Our first journey to Kenting started out by car, and we camped at a random camp spot near Kenting Old Street. After we had set up our tents in the middle of the night and had began to doze off to sleep, the boss asked for our camping fee with what little English he knew: "Show Money!" Little did he know we knew Chinese. I think the camping was 500 NT per person. But there were showers.
I have been to Kenting three times. My latest trip came right after typhoon Nepartak in 2016. As you can see above, the typhoon devastated Kenting. The eye passed right over the Hengchun peninsula.
Once you pass Mcdonald's you are basically already at the beach. Just turn right and you are there. There is parking along the road, as well as a parking lot near the beach, and a parking lot in front of Kenting Street.
There is very limited parking on the side of the road. Most of the time on weekends you will have to pull into the paid parking lot. There is a large rock here with the words "Nanwan."
To get in the parking lot you have to pay.
Map of the parking lot and facilities.
In the background you can see the No. 3 Nuclear Power plant which is still active. There is another spot of beach in front of the plant which is off limits.
There are endless umbrellas and chairs at the beach to rent.
Also there are endless jet ski rentals and boat rides.
Another view of the beach to the south.
More beach goers.
View of the beach under the sun.
There is a well marked off swimming area that gets no more than waist deep at the deepest point.
The water at Kenting Beach is an amazing blue-green color. The geology around Kenting is made of coral, which makes for a nice light colored sand as well. As you can kind of see in the background, water skiing and being towed by water ski are popular activities in Kenting.
Also, lifeguards are always on watch to make sure you don't swim out too far. If you go out of the boundaries, be prepared to get whistled at.
Umbrella's are also available for rent if you want to stay out of the sun. The beach can get really crowded especially during the summer, weekends, and holidays, but the beach is long enough that you can find your own space even with tons of people.
The sand is also great for making castles.
The waves are also great for body surfing. As you can see, the water is not 100% clear, but it's just as clear if not clearer than any beach you will find on mainland Taiwan.
A butterfly landing on the sand.
Closeup of the light colored sand on the beach.
Kenting Street Night Market
Right across the street from the beach you can find parking for Kenting Street, which is only a bout 30 NT per hour. As you can see above, the typhoon also did a number on the parking lot.
The Night Market is split on both sides of the street (unless there are a ton of people), which makes it easy to see everything. The market specializes in seafood but you can find almost any Taiwanese snack here.
The night market is very tourist friendly, and every time I go there have been tons of western foreigners. However, the prices in this night market are sky high. For instance I recall a small cone of low quality ice cream being 80 NT, enough to buy four of the same at any night market in Kaohsiung. I do not recall anything being particularly cheap.
Having said that, I must admit that Kenting has some of the best selections of souvenirs in Taiwan, so if you are looking for things to buy for your family back home, Kenting is a good place to come shopping.
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for some more blogs about Kenting.
We are US Expats that have extensive experience living, working, and travelling in Taiwan. In our day, we had to learn many things about Taiwan the hard way. But we have come to learn that Taiwan is one of the best places in the world for Foreigners to live. Our blog does not represent the opinions of every foreigner in Taiwan. We are just trying to help others learn more about this beautiful country.