The beach resorts at Taiwan’s southern tip have a reputation for hedonism which sometimes obscures Kenting National Park’s remarkable natural assets. In addition to stretches of striking coastline, notably the erosion-carved rocks at Jialeshui and the crumbling cliffs of Longpan, the park offers superb scuba diving (there are at least 48 dive sites) and birdwatching, plus opportunities to see larger wild animals such as macaques and sika deer.
Just inland from the main resort, Kenting National Forest Recreation Area is one of the few places in Taiwan where monsoon rainforest exists. Now around 300m above sea level, the land here was originally submerged coral reef, and huge chunks of dead coral can be seen amid fig and laurel trees. To visit the protected ecological zones at Longkeng or Nanrenshan, permits must be arranged in advance, but eco-tourists are handsomely rewarded for their trouble. Longkeng has tidal platforms full of sea creatures, while Nanrenshan – where there’s primeval forest and a small lake – is exceptionally rich in both fauna and flora.
Kenting’s superb combination of mountains, rivers, cliffs and steep, narrow roads make it perfect not only for cycling and watersports, but also adventure races and triathlons.