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.

 

 

4. Shihtiping

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!

 

9. Hehuanshan

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?!

 

 

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The Gorge

Mesmerizing, clear blue waters and rich green forestry. 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 beautiful, 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! So put on some comfortable clothes and your walking shoes, bring along your swimsuit and a towel, and let’s go on a journey together to explore the wondrous destinations in and around the Mugua River Gorge.

Hualien

The jumping off point for adventures to the Mugua River, Hualien is a beach city located on the eastern coast of Taiwan. Nestled amid the surrounding green mountains, this is the easiest place to access tours of the Mugua River Gorge (www.islandlifetaiwan.com offers great all day adventures to the Gorge). There are also some great places to eat in Hualien, so grab some “dan bing” for breakfast (a green onion pancake wrapped around fried eggs), before taking off on a wild journey into the forest!

Emerald Valley

Our first stop is Emerald Valley. This hidden valley is tucked away amidst the forest and is filled with several pristine swimming holes of extremely clear, emerald coloured waters. Here one can feel like they’re in their own jungle hideaway, as it’s not a very frequent stop for tourists. Though nearby Mugumuyu (Mugumuki) was long a hot spot for Chinese tourists, since it’s closure in 2016, the tourists have yet to discover the equally beautiful waters of Emerald Valley. It takes some hiking to get to, thankfully, so it’s not Tour Bus accessible!

 

Lounging and swimming in Emerald Valley.

Liyu Lake

This lake lies at the foot of Liyu mountain and is the largest freshwater lake in Hualien County. The name “Liyutan”, literally means Carp Lake. 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.

Miyawan River

Well off the beaten path, the Miyawan river is another nearby jewel of Hualien. With turquoise swimming holes aplenty and the secret Rainbow Falls trail, the Miyawan is a wonderful place to visit year round.

Zimu Waterfall

Speaking of waterfalls, there are a number of amazing waterfalls in the Hualien area. Among them is the stunning Zimu Falls. Zimu Falls lies off a little trail near the aboriginal village of Tongmen. Here you can find another blue swimming hole, only this time with a gorgeous waterfall to accompany it.

Going for a dip under Zimu waterfall.

Tongmen & Wunlan

There are two aboriginal villages in and around the Mugua River Gorge. The Tongmen & Wunlan villages. While Tongmen is famous for its hand crafted Truku machetes, Wunlan is famous for its traditional longbow archery! Maybe if you’re lucky, you can catch an archery competition while you’re there or even have a chance to try a traditional wooden longbow yourself.

If you are in Taiwan, or are planning a trip to Taiwan any time soon, you must make it a point to stay in Hualien and visit the Mugua River Gorge. The easiest way to see all of this is to contact Island Life Taiwan (www.islandlifetaiwan.com) and take one of their all-day tours of the Mugua River Gorge.  If you’re not already planning on travelling there yet, put it on your bucket list, because it’ll be an unforgettable experience of nature and culture.

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Welcome to Island Life Taiwan! Island Life is a unique adventure and experience company offering a wide variety of fun and exciting day trips across Taiwan’s scenic East Coast. From Hualien to Taitung, we have you covered with the greatest selection of outings to truly experience this remarkable part of the country. Stunning waterfalls and jungle swimming holes? Boy, have we got that. Secret beaches and scenic back roads? We know em all! Towering mountains and verdant valleys? In abundance. Whatever your heart desires, we’re sure to have something that will have you leaving with a huge smile on your face. So come join us! We look forward to showing you around this extraordinary part of the world.

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