Picture a long stretch of soft brown sand reaching out to the horizon and big, beautiful blue waves lapping up against it. Now, take away the hordes of people, restaurants, shops, and vendors that usually come with such a locale and add a handful of people with surfboards and a laid back attitude.

What you get is Jialeshui Beach in Kenting, Taiwan, one of Asia’s hidden gems. Located in Manzhou Township on the eastern side of the Hengchun Peninsula, Jialeshui faces the Pacific Ocean and offers good swell for all – everyone from beginners to advanced, depending on the time of year and weather conditions.

While not the most picturesque beach you’ll ever find for sunbathing (and not great for swimming, either, with a rocky bottom and little jellyfish giving you a small jolt every now and again), Jialeshui more than makes up for it in tranquility, atmosphere and, you guessed it, surf.

Kenting Taiwan

Rarely overcrowded like many famous surf beaches throughout the world tend to be, Jialeshui is a fantastic place to learn how to surf. Several surf shack hostels in the area provide lessons, board rentals and transportation to and from the beach. As surfing is relatively new to Taiwan and Jialeshui is well off the beaten path, the attitude of the locals is extremely relaxed. Here, it’s extremely rare to find veterans barking at you to steer clear of their area. With small numbers of bodies and boards in the water, there are more than enough waves to satisfy everyone. For more seasoned boarders, Jialeshui can produce some sizable swell and even small barrels at times. Normally, the biggest swells occur from June to August; however, this is just a general rule, as waves are usually consistent year round and large waves can be generated by violent off-coast storms in the Pacific at almost any time.

For those who aren’t interested in lessons or transportation, Jialeshui is easy to reach by scooter (approximately $5-10 USD per day) from anywhere in the Kenting area, and a small surf shack just a short ride down the road from the beach offers board (beginner foam, long and short) and vest rentals at a reasonable price – usually in the neighbourhood of 300-500 New Taiwanese Dollars (NTD) for the day (approx. $10-17 USD). Across the road from the board shop, a small snack shop and restaurant provides food, refreshments and respite from the sun when you’re in need of a break.

Kenting Taiwan Surfing

If seeing and being seen is more what you’re after, Nanwan Beach (between Hengchun and Kenting town) on the opposite side of the peninsula might be good for you. More what you’d picture a tropical paradise beach to be, Nanwan is considerably more crowded than Jialeshui. Here, hundreds of sunbathers, swimmers, boogie boarders, jet skiers and surfers share the strip of sand and water, making surfing a lot more difficult – and dangerous. Locals are considerably more territorial about their waves, and it can be tough to find open space to paddle out and catch one to ride in. With so many people around, it’s easy for rookies and seasoned veterans alike to find themselves running into others or having to cut their ride short. In terms of pure surf, Nanwan doesn’t hold a candle to Jialeshui, but if you’re wanting to catch someone’s eye or spend a day on a nicer beach it’s certainly not a bad place to be.

Two well-known surf shack hostels in the Kenting area provide everything you could need for your surfing experience, from airport pickups and drop-offs to hostel rooms, food, drinks, lessons and board rentals. The Surf Shack Hostel in Hengchun is run by ex-pat Canadian Terry and his wife Ee and is a great place to stay. And just down the road, accross from Nanwan Beach, Fu Dog Surf, run by Sammy Hawkins, offers the same kind of services as the Surf Shack. Both have websites which you can check for rates and availability, and you can contact each by phone or e-mail to speak to directly.

How to get to Kenting, Taiwan

To get to Kenting, you can fly to Taipei (Taoyuan International Airport) and take the High Speed Rail (HSR) to Kaohsiung Zuoying Station (approx. 90 minutes and 1490 NTD/$50 USD) or fly directly to Kaohsiung International Airport. From the Kaohsiung HSR station, take bus # 9188 or 9189 and from the Kaohsiung airport take bus #9117 (approx 2 hours and 330-390/$11-13 USD one-way). You can get off the bus in Hengchun or Kenting town.

Photo credits: Gerhard Swart; Gail Elgersma

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Alex Rathy

Alex Rathy

Alex is a writer, ESL teacher, baseball enthusiast and Hunter S. Thompson fanatic currently based in Sydney, Australia. He has previously lived in Canada, the U.S., South Korea and China and has traveled extensively throughout Asia. He enjoys hiking, spicy food, dance parties in the jungle, questionable hairdos, Vonnegut novels and has been known to appreciate a good hammock on occasion.

Departful is a full service travel agency for busy professionals seeking unique and transformative custom travel experiences. We create memorable holidays that are 100% tailored to our clients, saving them time and energy by handling all of the little details while providing value by leverage our expertise and network of travel partners. We are based in Toronto.

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Departful is a full service travel agency for busy professionals seeking unique and transformative custom travel experience. We create memorable holidays that are 100% tailored to our clients, saving them time & energy by handling all of the little details while providing value by leverage our expertise and network of travel partners. We are based in Toronto.

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