Destination Adventure: Taiwan’s Wild East Coast
One hardly thinks of adventure tourism when hearing the name Taiwan. “Don’t you mean ThaiLAND?” people often tell us. And though Taiwan’s western neighbor continues to garner most of the hubbub, the wild East Coast of Taiwan has quietly been developing some seriously epic activity options to offer adventure seekers and outdoor enthusiasts, while offering little of the tourist crowds and accompanying annoyances. Towering 3,000+ meters mountains, check. Rivers, waterfalls and the world’s largest marble canyon, check. Epic wild and tamed coastline, check. Monkey filled jungles and wilderness hot springs, check. While one could spend weeks exploring the incredible adventures to be had in Hualien & Taitung counties, here are 7 of our favorites to get you started.
There is an amazing variety of hiking and trekking locales for people of all skill levels throughout the East Coast. For the daring, take a walk along the cliffs edge on the infamous Zhuilu Old Trail, a narrow path perched high above the valley below. For nature lovers, take a long walk through the wilderness on the historic Walami Trail or the Lushui-Wenshan trail in Taroko Gorge National Park. For epic views, take a stroll above the clouds in the Hehuanshan mountains, one of Taiwan’s 100 peaks over 3,000 meters. There are dozens (maybe hundreds) of exotic trails throughout the area just waiting to be explored! Whether crossing a planked suspension bridge in the Taroko mountains, taking a dip below a waterfall in the Mugua River Gorge, or spotting monkeys in one of the numerous vine covered tropical jungles, hiking in Taiwan’s wild east coast is sure to get your heart racing. Just watch out for snakes! Local outfit Island Life Taiwan offers numerous guided hikes, info and other adventures.
A blast of a sport combining hiking, swimming, bouldering and climbing, river tracing (or river trekking) is one of the most adventurous ways to spend a day in the greater Hualien area! People come from throughout Taiwan (and the world) to experience this homegrown activity, and seldom leave disappointed. With countless pristine blue rivers to explore, winding through green jungles and marble canyons, one is sure to have an excellent day out on the river making your way deep into the wilderness. Check out local outfit Hualien Outdoors, offering full day river tracing adventures for guests of all skill levels.
3. Wild Hot Springs
Taiwan is a literal hotbed of geothermal activity. As a result, there are countless wild hot springs throughout the country just waiting to be visited and they are especially plentiful on the rugged east coast! While there are numerous hot spring resorts who pump water into their manmade pools from springs in Rusui, Antong and Zhiben, nothing quite compares to hiking to a wild hot spring and taking a soothing soak amidst nature. Some, including one of the east coast’s best, Lisong Hot Springs, even offer spectacular mineral deposits making the cliffs around them vibrant colors from green to orange! A magical landscape unlike any you’ve likely ever seen.
Wether in the quaint village of Wanrong, or the Sanjan river valley near Taroko Gorge, there are a number of amazing locales to try one’s hand at this daring sport. Strap yourself into your seat, and let the guide, parachute and wind take up above vibrant green rice paddies, over gushing blue rivers and alongside towering green mountains. It’s a ride you’ll never forget!
Though you may not be of the caliber to enter the international annual Open of Surfing competition in Donghe, just north of Taitung, there are numerous breaks along the east coast for surfers of all skill levels. Or those just hoping to learn in a chill, friendly environment. From Jici beach near Hualien, to Donghe and Dulan by Taitung, take a day to rent a board, throw on some boardies and head to the water for one of the island’s favorite water sports.
Cycling on the coastal road which lines the island has become somewhat of a pilgrimage for cyclists from around the world. With spectacular ocean vistas on one side and green mountains bestrewn with waterfalls on the other, a multi-day cycle ride down the coast from Hualien is sure to tickle your giddy bone. Or if the ocean isn’t your thing, make your way up to one of Taiwan’s mountainous peaks (either by riding or bussing) and take a wild winding ride 3000 meters downhill back to the coast. The choice is yours! Taiwan is very bicycle friendly, so there are bike paths for riders of all ilks.
7. Scuba Diving/ Snorkeling
Though there is some so-so snorkeling and diving to be done from the east coast shores themselves, take a ferry ride from Taitung to one of two small adjacent islands, Green Island and Orchid Island, for clear waters and a great collection of sea life. With colorful tropical fish, turtles, eels, and even an annual hammerhead shark migration to check out, the East Coast’s tiny neighbors offer some of the best diving in the country.