The Best Of Hualien
One of the most scenic and naturally beautiful areas in Taiwan, Hualien County sits like a green jewel nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the grandiose Central Mountain range. Home to some of the most stunning locations in Taiwan with a rich, unique combination of traditional cultures, Hualien has become a must see region for travelers looking to get away from the urban centers while in Taiwan. From dramatic marble gorges and towering green mountains, to idyllic sandy beaches and turquoise waterfalls and swimming holes. Hualien has something special to offer for everyone, and it is sure to take your breath away… likely more than once. Let’s take a look at some of our favorite places throughout Hualien County.
1. Taroko Gorge National Park
The undisputed king of Taiwan’s National Parks, Taroko Gorge is the quintessential must experience destination on Taiwan’s east coast. Towering marble valleys? Check. Thundering waterfalls? Check. Forest hikes and mountain to mountain suspension bridges? Check and check. Carved by the Liwu river over millions of years, the spectacular Gorge is the largest marble canyon in the world and boasts a wide variety of trails and landscapes. Just a few highlights of the park include the Swallow Grotto, Shakadang trail, the Baiyang Waterfalls, Changguang Temple, Qingshui Cliffs and the Eternal Springs Shrine. While it is “possible” to see everything in one day, we highly recommend spending two days exploring the gorge to really see it all.
2. Coastal Highway 11
There is a reason Coastal Highway 11 is so often listed as a one of the best stretches of road in all of Taiwan. From hidden beaches to wild mountain viewpoints, the winding palm lined coastal road will take you past dozens of breath-taking spots. Try out a traditional long bow at a hunting camp in Shuilian and head down to the hidden beach oasis of Cow Mountain. Take an ocean swim at beautiful Jici Beach and gawk at the precipitous depths of Fanshuliao Gorge. Go for a walk beside tidal pools in the dramatic lunar landscape of Shihtiping and stand in two climate zones at the Tropic of Cancer marker. There is so much to explore along the coastal highway, you’ll see why it’s one of the best road trips on the island!
3. Mukumugi Valley (also called Mugua River Gorge)
If you’re lucky enough to be in Taiwan and you love experiencing incredible natural beauty, you have GOT to visit the Mugua River Gorge. An area in Taiwan blessed with mesmerizing, crystal clear waters, waterfalls, lush forests and unique aboriginal culture; it is a terrific way to spend a day while in the Hualien area. This area is listed as one of the East Coast “highlights” in the Lonely Planet Taiwan Guide book, and for good reason. Within the Mugua River Gorge itself and in the surrounding area, there are numerous places to explore, including Emerald Valley, Tongmen, Liyu Lake, Wunlan, Zimu Falls, the Miyawan River, Rainbow Falls and more! The Truku people living in this area are known for their custom knife making skills, so have a swim as you wait for your traditional Truku Machete to be forged by hand.
The only way to describe this unique stretch of coastline between Fengbin and Changbin is “Wow”. Millions of years of volcanic activity and salt water erosion have transformed this incredible stretch of the coast into something truly remarkable. As if walking on the moon, the bizarre uplifted coral reefs and stone cliffs of Shihtiping feel otherworldly in their shape and texture. The name “Shihtiping” loosely translates to “stone steps”, and let’s just say, you’ll see why when you visit this natural phenomena. With hundreds of tidal pools and an offshore coral reef, Shihtiping is also a wonderful place to see countless species of sea creatures big and small.
5. The East Rift Valley
As one heads south on Highway 9 or scenic Old Highway 193 from Hualien City, it becomes clear, quite quickly, what a spectacular day is in store for you. With the Coastal Mountain Range rising on your left, and the Central Mountain Range on your right, the green and fertile East Rift Valley stretches south, littered with glistening rice paddies, wild rivers, waterfalls, hot springs and more. From the tranquil shores of Liyu Lake, to the tea fields and hot springs of Ruisui, there are tons of things to explore in this beautiful valley. Cool off under Fenghuang waterfall, take a bike ride through Danong Dafu forest park, view countless orchids and critters in the Mataian wetlands, and so much more.
6. Cow Mountain
Niushan or “Cow Mountain” sits hidden in a cove off Coastal Highway 11. The winding road down into the valley brings you to a hidden beach oasis surrounded by green mountains on all sides. A real “secret cove”. Enjoy an ocean swim, wander around the unique driftwood sculptures built by the local tribespeople, or lay out on the grassy hillside for a picnic. One can easily spend hours relaxing in this stunning locale.
7. Mataian Wetlands
As the Fudeng stream flows from the base of the Masi Mountain, making its way sluggishly towards the North, the slow flow of the water has led to the formation of over 12 hectares of swampy wetland. Full of beautiful orchids, water plants and other flowers, the Mataian Wetlands are home to countless species of birds, frogs, and insects. Take a leisurely walk on the elevated plank paths through the wetlands and immerse yourself in this unique ecological environment.
8. Liyu Lake
This serene lake lies at the foot of Liyu mountain and is the largest freshwater lake in Hualien County. The name “Liyutan”, literally means Carp Lake, and stories vary as to the origin of the name: Did the lake used to be filled with carp? Does Liyu mountain look like a carp when viewed from across the lake? Is the entire lake the shape of a carp when viewed from the sky?! One thing is for sure, the beauty and tranquility of the lake is the reason so many travelers have stopped for a rest by its shores. There is a pathway alongside the lake’s shores where you can walk and enjoy seeing beautiful statues and other inspirations. Visit in April and enjoy a marvelous sight as hundreds of fireflies come out in the evening, making the whole lake shimmer with lights!
Home to many of the “100 Peaks” of Taiwan, the Central Mountain range of which Hehuanshan is part of, is often called the backbone of Taiwan. Towering over Taroko National Park, these mountains have also been described as the “Switzerland of Taiwan” with their rolling green hills and never ending views. Thankfully, the Cross Island Highway climbs most of the way making hiking to the 3000-meter peaks surprisingly easy.
10. Bai Bao Xi
Bai Bao Creek meanders downstream from an old mountain jade mine. Here you can walk in the cool river and pick unpolished natural jade from the shallow water. Enjoy an afternoon treasure hunting in the serene beauty of the place and then take your finds to one of many DIY Jade polishing shops in the area.
While seeing everything on our list by yourself would be highly difficult, Island Life Taiwan offers well-constructed day tours to all of these places and so much more. As you can see, Hualien County is such a diverse and beautiful region, why would you not?!