Ten Tips When Visiting Taroko Gorge National Park

1. Go Early

Taroko Park tour in Taroko Gorge National Park

By 10am, most of the walking paths throughout Taroko Gorge National Park begin to fill with large tour groups. Many of their guides even bring megaphones to yell information to their groups. So when trying to enjoy the serene grandiosity of Taroko and the sounds of nature, this can be quite distracting. Also, who likes having to wait in line to get to that perfect photo location and then having twenty people in your shot! For these and many other reasons we suggest getting to Taroko as early as possible.

One great option is hitching a ride with Island Life Taiwan Adventures & Experiences who offer a fun filled, and affordable, Taroko Gorge Tour that leaves Hualien at 7:30am making their guests among the first few people in the park. Thus having many trails all to themselves to start the day and having a much better chance of seeing wildlife in the park.

2. Bring an Umbrella

Taroko Park tour in Taroko Gorge National Park

Some days the sun can be blindingly hot… other days a cloud can roll through the gorge and dump rain unexpectedly. Having a small umbrella with you can protect against both! Like our parents always said, it’s better to have and not need, than need and not have!

3. Avoid the Large Tour Busses

Taroko Park tour in Taroko Gorge National Park

While the low prices of the large tour busses visiting Taroko Gorge each day can make them tempting, take a look at what you’re actually getting for the money. Most of the busses don’t have an English speaking guide to explain anything. They typically all use the same route at the same times so you can expect 2-10 other bus loads of people to be at any place you are at the same time. That can mean 200 people at the same viewing area as you. They only give you a few minutes of time at each stop, and only visit a tiny percentage of the numerous wonderful places in the park.

And worst of all, on an 8 hour Taroko Gorge National Park tour, expect to spend only a few hours in the park and the rest at high pressure gift shops off the highway. The reason they can charge so little is because they receive commissions from the gift shops they visit. We highly recommend small group tours, private tours or if you’re feeling spunky, DIY!

4. Try an Aboriginal Sausage at the End of Shakadang Trail

Taroko Park tour in Taroko Gorge National Park

Yes, you’ve probably already tasted a Taiwan sausage on a stick by the time you visit Taroko Gorge National Park, but not like these! The old Truku man who sells them, claims they’re the best in Taiwan, and while we can’t go that far, they certainly are up there. Made with black peppercorns grown in the park, they are unlike any others in Taiwan. Near the 1.5 km mark on the Shakadang Trail you’ll find several aboriginal stands selling their wares. You can’t miss the sausage man!

5. Don’t Plan on Walking Between Trailheads & Viewpoints

Taroko Park tour in Taroko Gorge National Park

While some guidebooks foolishly suggest that you could walk completely through Taroko, we highly advise against it. The distance from trail head to trail head can often be 5-10 kilometers on winding narrow roads with NO shoulder. Add to that, speeding tour buses, tunnels with no lights and you have a recipe for a terrifying and LONG walk.

6. Book a Zhuilu Old Trail Tour

Taroko gorge trails in Taroko Park, Zhuilu Old Trail tour

Do you like heights?! Do you like the idea of walking on a 90cm wide trail carved into the side of a cliff, 700 METERS above the canyon floor?! Did we mention, no ropes or guardrails? Welcome to the Zhuliu Old Trail. An old Truku tribe hunting path, widened slightly by the Japanese military during their occupation of Taiwan, this trail is a once in a lifetime experience for the daring amongst us. Book ahead as only a few permits are issued each day. See Taroko from an entirely new perspective.

7. If You Decide to DIY, Check for Trail Closures

Taroko Park tour in Taroko Gorge National Park

Taiwan is Typhoon country and the mountains throughout Hualien County are notorious for landslides during big storms. Taroko Gorge is no different and several trails are closed every month for maintenance. If you decide to DIY it, be sure to check for the latest trail closures. The Taroko Park Service website has reasonably updated information here, though it’s best to consult with a ranger at the visitor center to confirm or use a tour company that will take you to the best places currently available.

8. Spotting Wildlife

Taroko Park tour in Taroko Gorge National Park

There are over 300 kinds of butterflies in Taroko Gorge National Park, 150 kinds of birds, 46 large mammals including the Formosan Black Bear, the Formosan Macaque (Grey Rock Monkey) and the Sambar Deer, and countless lizards, snakes, insects and other wildlife in the park. As suggested before, the best time to see wildlife is early in the morning before throngs of tourists enter the park and scare them into the hills.

While you probably won’t spot any bears or deer, the Formosan Macaque tends to hang around throughout the park. Good places for spotting them include the trees behind the 7-11 in Tianxiang, the small path behind the visitor center, and in the trees around the Qingshui Cliffs.

9. Bring a Wide Angle Lens for Your Camera

Taroko gorge trails in Taroko Park, Lushui Trail

The views through the gorge can be sweeping beyond words. If you have a DSLR camera or even an Iphone with a lens kit, a wide-angle lens can really help capture the grandiosity of the park. While tripods are typically unnecessary, a wide angle can help you get that towering mountain above you, the sprawling cliff to your left and the river below into one spectacular shot.

10. Take an ATV Ride to the Qingshui Cliffs

One of Many things to do in hualien, a Taroko Gorge Tour in Hualien, Hualien Tour of Taroko Gorge National Park ATVs

The towering Qingshui Cliffs are a marvel to be seen on any visit to Taroko Gorge. Yet while most tours take you to a viewing platform located off the highway, now you can take ATV’s up the beach from the village of  Chongde and go right to the cliffs base! It’s a truly breathtaking way to view one of Taiwan’s most spectacular spots. Island Life Taiwan now offers ATV’s as an add on to their Taroko Tours.

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The Zuilu Old Trail

A Visitors Guide

High in the mountains above Taroko Gorge National Park near Hualien, Taiwan lies a trail unlike any most people ever see or experience in their lives. Carved into the flat face of a massive cliff of solid marble, the Zhuilu Old Trail sits perilously more than 700 meters above the canyon floor below.

With limited (often no) guardrail or fencing along the trails edge, one can stare down past their toes at the great Liwu river winding like a little creek over half a mile down. As if that wasn’t enough, the 500-meter-long cliffside portion at the top is only 90cm wide!

This…is the Zhuilu Old Trail…

The Best Things to do in Taiwan

The East Coast

A small Island nation located in the Pacific Ocean with the Philippines to the south, Japan to its northeast, China to its west, and the vast Pacific Ocean to its east, Taiwan is home to vibrant culture, modern cities, sandy beaches, ornate temples, natural hot springs and dramatic mountain terrain. The presence of such beautiful landscapes and rich culture have made the country one of the top havens for international tourists in recent years. Here are the Top 5 things to do on the East Coast.

All of this and SO MUCH more can be found in our 2019 Hualien Visitors Guide. We hope you enjoy!

Taroko Gorge National Park

The Jewel of Taiwan

It’s easy to pass by the small island of Taiwan on a map of the world. When most westerners think of Taiwan, they rarely, if ever, think “tropical island” and all too often think of the “made in” tags on their computers and electronics. What many people don’t realize is that Taiwan is actually one of the most stunning islands on earth that nobody is talking about.

Ilha Formosa, the name written in the logs of a passing Portuguese merchant ship in 1544 simply means, “beautiful island”. An appropriate name for a green gem nestled in the Pacific Ocean, hugging the Tropic of Cancer and covered with verdant green tropical and subtropical forests, towering mountains, sandy beaches, sparkling blue rivers and more waterfalls than one could even imagine.

Yet amidst all this abounding natural beauty, one place stands out above all others. Taroko Gore National Park.

Ancient History of Taroko Gorge

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Swallow Grotto in Taroko Gorge National Park

With a geologic story that begins 145 million years ago in the early Cretaceous Period, the towering stone canyons of Taroko Gorge are awe inspiring in their height and grandeur. Though often referred to as the largest marble canyon in the world and nicknamed “The Marble Gorge” because of the large quantities of the stone in it, the rock is actually a unique combination of marble, granite and quartz micas, giving it a wide range of colors and textures.

From the narrow canyon of Swallow Grotto, where the Liwu River has carved an almost gravity defying slot through the Earth, to the towering waterfalls of Baiyang, known to the Truku tribe as da-ou-la-ss, “waterfall of the cliffs”, the rich geologic diversity of Taroko Gorge make it one of the more surprising National Parks in Taiwan, that never ceases to amaze.

Flora and Fauna of Taroko National Park

Formosan Macaque

It has often been said that there are only two primates indigenous to Taiwan, humans… and the Formosan Macaque.

One needs only spend a day in the wilds of the Taroko National Park to get a glimpse of both of them! Drawn to the fruits of the abundant fig trees in Taroko and other fruit bearing plant species, the Formosan Macaque (also called the Formosan Rock Monkey), thrives in Taroko and are a unique species to Taiwan. But they are certainly not alone…

Sambar deer, countless lizard and spider species, 144 bird species, more than 250 kinds of butterfly, rivers teeming with fish, freshwater shrimp, crab, numerous species of frog and so much more fill the jungles and forests of the Gorge. Taking a walk through the forests of Taroko, it becomes pretty obvious at once that you are not alone!

The Truku Tribe (Taroko Tribe)

Taroko Gorge takes its name from the Truku tribe, one of the 16 tribes of Taiwan and a splinter group of the Atayals.

The Truku settled in the gorge between 1680 and 1740 having come from the Nantou area near Sun Moon Lake. Prompted to relocate, likely due to the scarcity of hunting grounds in the west, the Truku crossed the Central Mountain Range and settled in the mountainous areas of Hualien. Isolated from their Atayal brethren in the west for 250 years, they soon developed customs and dialects of their own. A fierce but unified tribe, they lived communally by sharing the land, livestock and harvest equally.

The remains of 79 old Taroko villages have been found within Taroko Gorge National Park, and learning about their history can be one of the most fascinating aspects of a Taroko Gorge Tour. The Zhuilu Old Trail offers a unique experience walking on a former Truku hunting path, carved 700 meters up into the cliff side!

Taroko Gorge National Park Recent History

Shakadang Trail walking into the Mysterious Valley

Originally founded in 1937 as the Tsugitaka-Taroko NP by the ruling Governor General of Taiwan under the Empire of Japan, the park was abolished after Japans defeat at the conclusion of World War II in 1945. Reestablished in 1986, through huge infrastructure investments by the government, Taroko Gorge National Park has become one of the premier attractions in all of Taiwan.

Taroko Gorge Tours vs. Public Bus

Taroko Park tour in Taroko Gorge National Park
Crowded Busses in Taroko

Taking a Taroko Gorge tour is a must while in Taiwan. Though there is a public bus that travels through parts of the park, with such a wide range of sites and trails, one would have difficulty seeing much of the parks diversity while restrained to the hourly (at best) bus schedule. Also, there are large parts of the park busses can’t reach including the Changuang Temple, the Bell Tower Trail and the Yue Suspension Bridge. In addition, with such a rich history and a number of hidden gems nestled about, taking a small group tour can add many layers to experiencing all the park has to offer.

For additional information check this nice article about Taroko Gorge National Park.

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Taiwan for Nature Lovers

For lovers of nature, Taiwan offers a shocking wealth of unique natural beauty and landscapes. From soaring green mountains to sprawling beaches, spectacular rivers to bizarre geologic wonders, there are countless adventures to keep you busy in the great outdoors. Here are just a few of the must-see destinations for nature lovers in Taiwan.

1. Taroko Gorge: 1-3 days

Taroko gorge trails in Taroko Park

The number-one item on anyone’s Taiwan nature agenda has to be Taroko Gorge National Park. Easily visited from Hualien City on Taiwan’s green East Coast, here you will have your choice of beautiful nature hikes amidst the largest marble canyon in the world. Towering cliffs, gushing waterfalls, turquoise rivers, and hundreds of species of butterflies, birds, insects, reptiles and mammals make this one of the most abundant natural areas in Asia.

While there you can add a day to hike the famed Zhuilu Old Trail,  a, former tribal hunting path carved into a cliff 700 meters above the gorge. Or, drive up 3,000 spectacular meters to the Hehuanshan Mountains to see rolling hills of pygmy bamboo high above the tree line. The massive Taroko Gorge National Park can’t be missed!

2. Hot Springs: 1-2 days

Taiwan sits along a geothermal hotbed and is home to countless rejuvenating natural hot springs. The Hualien-Taitung area alone boasts more than 20 different wild hot springs and hot spring resorts that you can visit! Looking for a relaxing day away from Hualien? Look no further than the Butterfly Valley Hot Springs in Fuyuan National Forest.

Feeling more adventurous? Be sure to take the long journey to the wild Lisong Hot Springs from Taitung. Nestled at the base of a river valley, the green mineral covered cliffs around Lisong are unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before. The trip is not for the faint of heart, but well worth the effort! 

3. Kenting National Park: 2-3 days

This national park is a natural treasure filled with an impressive array of plants and animals. The forested park is fringed with beautiful beaches along the Bashi Channel, and people come from all over the world to swim, snorkel, and surf in the brilliant blue water. The interior of the park is no less beautiful, so don’t spend all your time at the beach if you visit! Be sure to take a stroll or a hike along the paths so you can appreciate the unique biodiversity around you.

4. The Beaches: 1-2 days

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Taking a dip at Jici Beach

Taiwan is an island, so there are plenty of opportunities to relax on beaches. While the beaches of Taiwan aren’t all great for swimming, many being rock beaches rather than sandy beaches, they are still wonderful for relaxing and enjoying the tranquil sounds of the ocean. The Kenting area has the best sandy beaches, Baisha Beach and Little Bay being two of the best, but there are other sandy beaches throughout the island.

Niushan Huting (Cow Mountain) beach south of Hualien is one of the more beautiful.  This along with Jici Beach and others can be visited on this Epic East Coast Explorer tour from Hualien. 

5. Shihtiping: 1/2 day

Shihtiping on east coast explorer tour in hualien

A unique geologic wonder, Shihtiping is a bizarre coastal landscape where volcanic rock burst from the sea, and then was eroded over countless eons. Towering rock formations and incredible tidal pools teaming with sea life abound in this strange world between Taitung and Hualien. Off the shore, you can snorkel amidst coral reefs and see countless sea creatures, or just wander on the rocks among the crystal pools spying fish, crabs and more in natures aquariums.

This spectacular location is also visited on this popular Epic East Coast Explorer tour from Hualien. 

6. Lao Mei Green Rock Troughs: 1/2 day

If you enjoy the ocean, this is another special twist on your typical beach day. Lao Mei Beach in Xinbei, near Taipei, is home to a wild vista unlike any other in Taiwan. Here, the rocks at the edge of the sea appear as though there are a thousand nearly-straight trenches carved from the beach to the water! In the late winter and early spring, the rocks are covered with green algae that add a bit of magic to this already interesting place.

If you love nature and plan to visit Taiwan, you will never run out of amazing places to explore. You really won’t find destinations like these anywhere else in the world.

Other Wonderful Nature Locations

Alishan National Park, Green Island, The Walami Trail, The Liji Badlands, The Mugua River Gorge, Yuemeikeng Waterfall, Sixty Stone Mountain, The Qingshui Cliffs and More!

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The Qingshui Cliffs

Awe Inspiring Wonder of Eastern Taiwan

Along the Eastern seashore of Taiwan lies an awe inspiring testament to the sheer power of Earth plate tectonics. Massive cliffs of stone seem to defy reason in their precipitous plummet from Taiwan’s Central Mountain Range into the azure turquoise waters  of the Pacific Ocean far below. Established as one of the “Eight Wonders of Taiwan” in 1953, the Qinqshui Cliffs are a mesmerizing marvel, and truly something to behold. Come take a look with us as we explore Taroko Gorge National Park’s very own, Qingshui Cliffs.

Where the Mountains Meet the Sea

Comprising a wide 21km long stretch of coastal cliffs along a winding stretch of Taiwan’s Suhua Highway, the Qingshui Cliffs lie approximately 120km south of Taipei between the cities of Yilan and Hualien. The road leading to (and through) the cliffs is a bit heart-stopping, with hairpin curves and steep drops throughout. Yet, the views of the cliffs and the ocean beyond are more than worth the trip. You can easily find your breath taken away by the sheer wall of green and grey rising from the brilliant blue ocean.

Their are several well maintained viewpoints located on the Hualien side of the cliffs, near the small village of Chongde. Each offer stunning views of the massive cliffs and the sprawling Pacific Ocean far below. For the more adventurous, ATV’s can be driven on the beach out to the base of the cliffs!

This area is highly Instagrammable so bring your cameras and/or smartphones!

History of the Qingshui Cliffs

Qingshui Cliffs

From the mid 1600’s to the late 1800’s, numerous foreign visitors arrived at the cliffs. British and Dutch traders, Spanish explorers seeking gold and North American missionaries all tackled the area, generally with minimal success. Largely due to the impenetrable landscape, and largely due to conflict with the Truku indigenous tribe that inhabited the region. It was not until the 19th Century that a massive migration of Han Chinese immigrants finally created a viable community in nearby Hualien.

It wasn’t until relatively recently that a road was constructed to cross from one side of the cliffs to the other. Previously, only those traveling by water could see the stunning cliffs rising from the sea. Perhaps it was the unconquerable aspect of this edifice that intoxicated so many people with the magic of the region, drawing them to the rugged cliffs.

Today, visiting Taroko Gorge National Park and the Qingshui Cliffs is widely considered one of the best things to do in Taiwan.

Geology of the Cliffs

Millions of years ago, the rock and land that now form the island of Taiwan resided deep at the bottom of the ocean. Then, around 6 million years ago, the Philippine Sea plate slowly began to slide under the Eurasian Continental plate, causing Taiwan to gradually emerge from the ocean into the island we see today. Taiwan continues to rise from the sea to this day!

Composed primarily of marble and schist walls, the rock in Qingshui Cliffs is thought to be the oldest rock in Taiwan. On average, the cliffs tower an incredible 800 meters above sea level, but reach almost a kilometer up in some places! The tallest of the attached mountain peaks is Qingshui Mountain, a 2408- meter vegetated behemoth rising from the Pacific Ocean.

Visiting the Cliffs

taroko gorge tour in taroko gorge national park

With stunning views and fantastic photo ops galore, this famous Taiwan locale offers a spectacular destination when visiting the area. The Qingshui Cliffs are also one of the most popular stops on a Taroko Gorge tour.  They are also a wonder to behold from a the beach level. Visit them with this awesome ATV ride to the base of the cliffs! Either way, this unforgettable adventure will surely be a memorable part of your trip to Taiwan!

One of Many things to do in hualien, a Taroko Gorge Tour in Hualien, Hualien Tour of Taroko Gorge National Park ATVs

For further reading on Taroko Gorge National Park, check out: Taroko Gorge National Park: The Jewel of Taiwan

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Destination Adventure

Explore 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 favorite things to do in Taiwan to get you started.

1. Hiking & Trekking

Zhuilu Old Trail Tour on the Jhuilu Old Trail in Taroko Gorge in Hualien

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.

2. River-Tracing

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.

3. Wilderness Hot Springs

Taiwan is a literal hotbed of geothermal activity. As a result, there are countless hot springs throughout the country just waiting to be visited and they are especially plentiful on the rugged east coast! Among them, are numerous wonderful hot spring resorts who pump natural spring water into their man made pools, including the gorgeous Butterfly Valley Hot Springs in Fuyuan National Forest.

For the more adventurous however, hiking to a wild hot spring and taking a soothing soak amidst nature is an especially wild experience. Some, including one of the east coast’s best, Lisong Hot Springs, even offers spectacular mineral deposits making the cliffs around them vibrant colors from green to orange! A magical landscape unlike any you’ve likely ever seen.

4. Paragliding

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!

5. Surfing

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.

6. Cycling

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

Green Island Scuba

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.

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Hualien Tour Guide

10 REAL Reasons Why Using a Tour Guide in Hualien is a Great Idea

We’re often asked: “Why should I use a tour guide or adventure service in Hualien when I’m a DIY-er with loads of travel experience? Why would I need someone to show me around when I can just explore on my own?”And the truth is, you don’t. But we think you can see a heck of a lot more and have a way better experience when you do! Here are 10 REAL reasons using a tour guide in Hualien is a great idea.

1. Much More Efficient

Hualien tour guide

Unlike Thailand, Central America or other popular DIY travel locations, Taiwan has very little tourist infrastructure in place to facilitate DIY style travel. Slow infrequent buses, a lack of English signage, license restrictions for renting scooters, etc.

That’s not even mentioning what it’s like to drive a rental car or scooter in Taiwan. Yikes!

The possibility that you could spend half your precious time in Hualien just trying to figure out where to go and how to do it is very high. A guide knows where to go, how to get there, the best time to go to beat the crowds and more.

It is very possible you will see and experience more on an 8 hour tour with an efficient guide than a full day or two trying to figure it out on your own. Vacation time is precious, why waste it!

2. Up to Date on Trail & Road Closures

Taroko Park tour in Taroko Gorge National Park

The newest Lonely Planet Taiwan that arrived in May 2017 lists at least three highlights on the East Coast that have been closed for more than a year. Guidebooks are outdated long before they’re even published.

While it might be easy to find out online if the Eiffel Tower is closed, trails and parks in the Hualien Area have no such online presence. Hualien is typhoon country, so imagine spending half a day trying to get to the “perfect swimming” hole you read about, only to find it was destroyed by a typhoon over a year ago. Guides know what’s closed and can often take you to awesome alternatives the guidebooks don’t know about!

3. Intimate Knowledge of the Area

Zhuilu old trail tour on taroko gorge national park tour jhuilu old trail

There is so much to learn about Hualien. It’s storied history, its geology and ecology, its culture and more.

From the geologic forces that created the largest marble canyon in the world (Taroko Gorge) to the Taiwanese aboriginal cultures that were the predecessors of indigenous cultures from Madagascar to Easter Island and everywhere in between. A good guide can impart information in a way that enhances your visit and educates as it entertains.

4. Equipment and Supplies

Hualien Rivers Velley tour in the Mugua River Gorge

Let’s say you find out the location of one of Hualien County’s numerous amazing waterfalls. Then when you go, you discover you have to hike through a long curving tunnel to get there, and you don’t have a flashlight. Then you get to the river and find out you have to hike up the river, but you don’t have the proper shoes.

Note: Western water shoes don’t work well on the slippery river rocks of Taiwan

Finally, you get near the falls, but you don’t a have a rope to get the last 20 feet up! A good guide will have everything you need. From proper water shoes, gear and safety equipment to toilet paper, hand soap and flashlights. A good guide’s got you covered.

5. The Food

When you’re traveling in a foreign country, sometimes it can be hard to find good food.

Maybe you take the easy route and just go for western owned restaurants with English menus, 7-11 curry bowls or pre-packaged rice boxes. That’s all well and good, but it just isn’t experiencing everything Hualien has to offer. A guide can introduce you to numerous local dishes and traditional roadside delicacies you otherwise may never have known about!

Taiwan has some of the best food in Asia, eat it up! 

6. Safety

Hualien tour guide

Safety is always a concern when travelling in a foreign land. Taiwan is no different. For example:

Driving a rental scooter or car in Taiwan is a risky proposition. With large Tour buses hurdling down the road at dangerous speeds, the unpredictability of other drivers is more a concern than your own skills. Using a guide that provides transportation and is familiar with the roads and driving conditions takes the worry away.

There are numerous poisonous snakes in Taiwan. And all of them live in the forests in and around Hualien. A good guide will clear the path ahead on the trail for you and will also know where the closest treatment location is should someone need it.

Currents are strong and flash floods DO happen. The ocean is beautiful around Hualien and the swimming excellent. That being said, the currents can be deadly and a proper guide will know where it is safe to swim. Same goes for the rivers. Flash floods happen every year and a good guide will know where it is safe to swim and when it is time to leave the river.

7. Secret Spots

East Rift Valley, Butterfly Valley and Mugua River Gorge on our Hualien Rivers & Valleys tour

The tourist maps tell you one thing, the guide books another, and that other guest at the hostel another yet. But a guide who lives in Hualien year-round will know all the secret local spots.

And let’s be honest, those are usually the best! There are so many things to do in Taiwan, let someone who lives here show you the best of them.

8. Fun Activities

Mugua River Gorge Tour Hualien Tour

Going somewhere new and looking around can be a blast. But there are so many fun things to be done that you just might not know about. This is where a good guide can be especially helpful. A good guide will have activity ideas that maybe you never even thought of!

Tasting jumping live prawns, taking an afternoon swim in a secret swimming hole, eating lunch IN the river, not beside it! Without a guide, who knows what you might miss out on.

9. Ease and Convenience

what to do in hualien? One of the best things to do in hualien is a taroko gorge tour in taroko gorge national park

There is something special about taking a step back from the planning to just enjoy your vacation sometimes. Being picked up, taken for a wonderful day out and then returned to your hostel/hotel is one of the great pleasures in life.

Yeah, you could stay up in your hotel all evening planning the next day’s itinerary, OR you could just send an email or make a call and let a guide do all the work for you.  Allowing you extra time to go to the night market and try that stinky tofu everyone is talking about!

10. More Fun Together

Hualien Tour Guide

Whether you are a solo traveler, a couple, a group of friends or a family, joining a guide or small group tour can add a whole new quality to an experience. The quality of sharing in a wonderful day together.

We here at Island Life Taiwan, love what we do. We love the beauty and adventure of the East Coast and enjoy more than anything sharing it with our guests.

We hope you come join us soon!

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Travelers Reviews Of Taroko Gorge

Taroko Gorge National Park is unarguably Taiwan’s biggest natural attraction and for good reason. Some have dubbed Taroko as one of the seven wonders of Asia, and visitors tend to agree. One reviewer even called Taroko “…the best experience I had in Taiwan!” and another “Hiking Jhuilu Old Trail in Taroko was a once in a lifetime experience.” The reviews of Taroko Gorge are in – It’s a must see!

We’ve culled through TripAdvisor and Google Reviews to give you a taste of what folks are saying about Taroko Gorge

Location and Where to Stay at Taroko Gorge

Taroko gorge trails in Taroko Park

Located on the eastern coast of Taiwan, the main entry point to Taroko Gorge National Park lies close to the pleasant beach city of Hualien, a few hours south of Taipei. It is very common therefore for travelers to use Hualien City as a base camp for explorations into and around the Gorge.

There are only a few accommodation options inside the park. The 5-Star Silks Place resort, the Tianxiang Youth Hostel and the Heilu Campground. Numerous reviewers complained of “bed bugs” in the Youth hostel and the lack of services in the area. “There is nothing to do in Tianxiang after 5pm.” expressed one reviewer. As for the campground at Heilu, be warned that it is first-come-first-served and can be very competitive during holidays and peak season. For these reasons and others, most travelers opt for a hotel outside the park. “For food and options, stay in Hualien.”

Visiting Taroko Via Public Bus vs. Small Group Tour

Taroko Park tour in Taroko Gorge National Park
Crowded Busses in Taroko

The bus system in Taroko Gorge leave a LOT to be desired. Most western travelers prefer to use private or small group Taroko Gorge tours to explore Taroko, as the public transportation through the park is widely regarded to be neither convenient nor time efficient. One reviewer had this to say about the public bus “I waited an hour for the bus to take me five minutes to the next trail. I would have walked but there are no sidewalks and the giant tour buses go flying on those roads!” Also, the public bus follows the same route as the large tour buses. One reviewer had this to say about the advantages of a small group tour “Our guides knowledge of the park allowed us to maximize our time while avoiding all the large tour bus groups. Highly recommended and worth it.”

Taroko Gorge Tour Types

Hualien Tour Guide
Small Group Tour in Taroko Gorge

Not getting the right Taroko Gorge tour however could be your undoing. It is important to ask what language the tour is offered in and how many people will be in the vehicle. One reviewer said “We were packed like sardines in a van much too small for our group. My legs still hurt!” and another said “The advertising online was in English so I assumed our guide would speak some. Won’t make that mistake twice.” Be sure to ask good questions if you opt for a Taroko Gorge tour.

Getting the right guide however can make your day, as this happy reviewer wrote “He brought us to a place on the trail where we could get traditional aboriginal sausages made with black pepper grown right there in the forest! Then he led us to a hidden swimming hole for swim after a long hike. Never would have seen either of those without him.”

Different tour companies have different packages for travelers depending on numbers of passengers and the places to be visited. Some Taroko Gorge tour companies have 1-day tours, while others offer 2-day tours or more. Nature walks, forest treks and high mountain treks are all available depending on what you want. It is best to get in touch with the tour company beforehand and plan with them to book the tour style that suits you best. One reviewer had this to say “We had two days for Taroko Gorge and told ******* what we were interested in. They planned everything perfectly and even got our Zhuilu Old Trail permits sorted before we arrived in Hualien saving us a LOT of time.”

Best Places to See in Taroko

Zhuilu Old Trail Tour on the Jhuilu Old Trail in Taroko Gorge in Hualien
Cloudy Days on the Trail are Still Beautiful

Taroko has many impressive formations and landscapes including a good number of nature walks and hikes (Note: Some hikes, including Zhuilu Old Trail, require permits). While there are several hiking trails leading to remote areas of the park, and these will certainly bring you away from the crowds, they might not take you to the more impressive locales. Four of the most popular trails are widely reviewed as four of the best. Shakadang Trail, Tunnel of Nine Turns Trail, Swallow Grotto and the infamous Zhuilu (Jhuilu) Old Trail.

Shakadang Trail

Avg. Review 4.5/5

Shakadang Trail in Taroko Gorge on a taroko gorge tour, Taroko gorge trails in Taroko Park
Blue Waters of Shakadang Trail

Shakadang Trail takes you several kilometers along a sparkling turquoise river on a spectacular winding trail carved directly into the rock. Said one reviewer: “Shakadang was our favorite. The blue water was unbelievable.”

Tunnel of Nine Turns Trail

Avg. Review 5/5

Taroko gorge trails in Taroko Park
Tunnel Of Nine Turns Trail

The Tunnel of Nine Turs Trail meanwhile, meanders through the most massive canyon of the gorge and passes through numerous tunnels along the way. Note that there is no where to park a car at the trail so it is typically advised to use a small group tour company that visits Nine Turns if you’d like to see it. “Thankfully our tour guide dropped us off and picked us up at the trail head!” said one reviewer.

Swallow Grotto

Avg. Review 4.8/5

One of Many things to do in hualien, a Taroko Gorge Tour in Hualien, Hualien Tour of Taroko Gorge National Park
Swallow Grotto in Taroko Gorge National Park

Swallow Grotto also has a number of tunnels but this spectacular piece of towering canyon is the narrowest spot on the river and a geologic wonder. The curved cliffs reach a thousand meters up from here and it is truly a site to behold. Another reason a tour guide can come in handy was expressed by this reviewer “They taught us about local and national history, geology, entomology and the botanical wonders of the gorge as we hiked.”

Zhuilu Old Trail (aka Jhuilu Old Trail)

Avg. Review 5/5

Zhuilu Old Trail Tour on the Jhuilu Old Trail in Taroko Gorge in Hualien
The Historic Zhuilu Old Trail

For the more adventurous traveler, there is the amazing feat of engineering that is the Zhuilu Old Trail. This old Truku tribe hunting path is cut straight into the side of a cliff 700 meters above the Gorge! Though it was widened by the Japanese in the 1920’s, it is still only 3’ wide and has no guardrails. This trail requires permits so it is most often visited as part of a tour. “Jhuilu Old Trail was the craziest thing I’ve ever done!” said one excited reviewer.

Some Helpful Tips

As many reviewers pointed out “Make sure you bring a Poncho and good shoes as it rains all the time in Taiwan.” While this isn’t exactly true, it’s always best to be prepared!

To get the best out of your trip to Taroko Gorge National Park, do your research or try and book the best Taroko Gorge National Park tour you can find. Read reviews of Taroko Gorge National Park and don’t forget to bring a hat!

Also, while you are there and if you have some time, use a few extra days to explore other highly reviewed areas around Hualien including the East Coast Scenic Area south of Hualien City and the nearby Mugua River Gorge.

Average Visitor Reviews for Taroko Gorge

Trip Advisor: 4.5/5
Google Reviews: 4.6/5
Yelp: 4.5/5
More From Our

Hualien Travel Blog

Download Your Free Hualien Visitors Guide Here


things to do in hualien

We Hope You Enjoy Your Visit!