29 June 2020.
Sprawling across the southernmost tip of Taiwan, Kenting National Park is a popular destination for beach-loving locals on a weekend getaway and travellers seeking a touch of sun, sea and relaxation.
While Kenting is rather remote, located hours from the nearest major city and train station, thankfully getting here is actually very straightforward.
This guide walks you through exactly how to get to Kenting Town and Kenting National Park, whether you’re arriving from Kaohsiung in the west or Hualien in the east.
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From Kaohsiung To Kenting
From Kaohsiung, the only way to reach Kenting by public transport is via the Kenting Express bus which departs frequently from both the Kaohsiung Main Station (for TRA local trains) and Zuoying Station (for the High Speed Railway).
Bus #9188 travels from both stations to Kenting and onwards to Eluanbi Lighthouse so will be your best option if you’re visiting Kenting National Park on a day trip from Kaohsiung,
Bus #9189 (Zuoying Station) and #9117 (Kaohsiung Station) will take you only as far as Kenting Town where you’ll need to change to the #9188 service to reach the end of the peninsula.
Zuoying Station is an enormous modern terminal where you’ll find the bus stop located around Exit 2 (see here) with clear signage to direct you towards the Kenting Express Shuttle area throughout the station.
Kaohsiung Station is less obvious and while I didn’t actually pass through here, it sounds like there is major construction underway to combine the train station with a number of the small bus terminals that lie along Jianguo Road. For now, the Kenting Express stop at Kaohsiung Station is here.
Buses depart every 30 minutes and depending on traffic the journey should take between 2 and 3 hours. Tickets prices start from $352 (€10.85) for Zuoying to Kenting or $382 (€11.80) for Eluanbi Lighthouse.
Unfortunately, the official website is in Chinese only but you can check it here for any fare or route changes.
Direct buses also depart Kaohsiung International Airport for Kenting almost every hour between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m.
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Get a discount on the Kenting Express by using your EasyCard or purchasing a return ticket.
An EasyCard is a handy top-up card that can be used on most public transport throughout Taiwan and will save you having to rummage around for exact change every time you need to take a short train or bus trip. It will also allow you discounted fares on many public transport routes around the country. For the Kenting Express, using an EasyCard instead of purchasing your ticket from the service counter will give a discount of $49 (€1.50) each way.
Order your EasyCard in advance here for collection at either Taipei or Kaohsiung airport.
You’ll also receive a discount if you purchase a return ticket in advance rather than single tickets. Buy your return tickets here.
Taipei To Kenting
If you’re beginning your journey in Taipei, you’ll first need to make your way south to Kaohsiung.
The fastest and most convenient option is to glide down the west coast on Taiwan’s High Speed Rail (THSR) from Taipei Main Station to Kaohsiung’s Zuoying Station. The trip takes between 1.5 and 2.5 hours with standard tickets costing $1,490 (€46).
For a more affordable option, it’s also possible to reach Kaohsiung via long-distance local train (TRA). These services are considerably slower taking between 3.5 and 7 hours, but prices are also more budget-friendly ranging from $650 (€20) to $850 (€26). If you’re pinching your pennies, these are a decent option.
Just pay close attention to which service you’re taking as some of the all stops coastal services really are excruciatingly slow, while options like the Puyuma Express still make pretty good time. Check the timetable and fares here.
It’s also possible to travel between Taipei and Kaohsiung via long-distance bus but given the heavy traffic you’ll encounter along the way, I wouldn’t recommend this option. At best, the trip will take 5 to 6 hours, but it’s likely to take much longer and without the comfort of being able to move about the carriage like you’ll have with the trains. Ticket prices start from around $500 (€16) with more expensive tickets sold on weekend services.
Once you’re in Kaohsiung, follow the steps above for taking the Kenting Express.
Taitung Or Hualien To Kenting
Arriving from the east coast? You’ve got an absolutely beautiful journey in store!
From Hualien, take the train to Fangliao, a small town on the south-west coast of Taiwan. Though you could also travel all the way to Kaohsiung, jumping off in Fangliao instead will save you several extra hours of travel time.
Along the way, you’ll zoom through the lush mosaic of the East Rift Valley where rugged emerald mountains rise high on either side, before returning to the coast and cutting through the mountains en route to the west.
It’s a marvellous journey and without a doubt my favourite train ride in all of Taiwan.
If you’re beginning your trip from Taitung, you’ll be able to jump on virtually any train travelling between Hualien and Fangliao or Kaohsiung.
The trip from Hualien to Fangliao takes just 4 hours with tickets from $436 (€13). Services along this route are limited though so keep an eye on the timetable. Check the timetable here.
If you do get stuck and need to reroute through Kaohsiung, once again pay close attention to which train you’re choosing. The faster trains from Hualien to Kaohsiung take just 4.5 hours and head directly south before cutting through the mountains, while other services travel via Taipei before making their way down the west coast and can take up to 10 hours.
In Fangliao, you’ll need to make your way to the small bus station for the final leg of the journey which sits just a block from the train station here.
You’ll find a 7-11 on the corner if you need to top up your EasyCard.
From here, the trip to Kenting takes around an hour and costs $188/$214 (€5.80/€6.60) with/without an EasyCard. Buses pass regularly, at least every 20 to 30 minutes, so you’ll never have to wait long.
It’s a lovely coastal drive, where you’ll pass through Hengshun which many travellers actually prefer for accommodation and food than Kenting itself before reaching Kenting Town.
Kenting To Kenting National Park
To reach Kenting National Park from town, you’ll need to jump on bus #9188 which travels all the way down the peninsula to Eluanbi Lighthouse at the southernmost tip.
Unfortunately, these buses are relatively infrequent – around once an hour – so if you plan to explore more widely in the national park, you’ll probably be better off renting a scooter instead of relying on public transport.
There are numerous rental operators in town with petrol and electric scooters on offer.