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 Guidebooks are outdated long before they’re even published.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


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We Hope You Enjoy Your Visit!