Hualien Hotel Guide

The Best Neighborhoods & Where To Stay In Hualien

Hualien Street Layout

Squeezed between the mountains and the sea, most of Hualien follows a rough grid pattern with primary roads going East-West and North-South. Zhongshan Road bisects the city from east to west and is the primary road to know in Hualien. Most things of importance are within 3-4 blocks of Zhongshan Road and there are always taxis driving up and down this wide road. Don’t know which way to go on Zhongshan? If you see giant green mountains in front of you, you are walking West! It’s that easy.

We believe these are the three best neighborhoods in which to stay in Hualien. Beibin, Downtown, Train Station. Each are good for different reasons as we will outline below.

The Best Things To Do In Hualien

Our Favorite Hualien Attractions

Basecamp Hualien City

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 visit 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, there are countless Hualien attractions worth exploring. It’s sure to take your breath away… likely more than once. Searching for what to do in Hualien? Here are the best things to do in Hualien, Taiwan.

Liyu Lake Visitors Guide 2019

Welcome To Liyu Lake

Lying at the foot of Liyu Mountain, the serene Liyu Lake is the largest freshwater lake in all of Hualien County, and a popular weekend recreation spot for those seeking a respite from the city. Considered one of the best things to do in Hualien, the name Liyutan, literally translates to “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 the western shore of 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.

So Come Take a Look with Us as We Explore the Many Wonderful Things You Can Do at Liyu Lake!

A Little About Liyu Lake

Liyu Lake hualien tour

At roughly 1.6 km in length and 930 meters in width, Liyu Lake is the largest inland lake in all of Eastern Taiwan. Located less than twenty kilometers from Hualien City in Shoufeng township, it has a total area of 104 hectares.

Surrounded by rolling green mountains on all sides, arriving at the lake one can easily see why it has become such a popular site for many different outdoor recreational activities.

Getting To Liyu Lake

Liyu Lake on Hualien tours
Liyu Lake

Liyu Lake is about 20-30 minutes from Hualien City and can be reached by car, scooter or the occasional bus. Most people however, visit Liyu Lake as part of a larger tour day that includes other beautiful spots in the area. Island Life Taiwan visits Liyu Lake as part of our Hualien Rivers & Valleys Experience, our Mugua River Gorge Tour or a Butterfly Valley Tour!

The Liyu Lake Visitor Center

Liyu Lake hualien

The charming visitor center at the North shore of the lake has many educational displays related to the lake and the gift shop and cafe are not to be missed. Especially for ice cream on a hot day!

Also at the Visitors Center:

  • BBQ areas
  • Viewing towers
  • Picnic tables
  • Jade souvenir shops
  • Several food stalls
  • Vendors renting paddle boats and kayaks to the public.

Activities at Liyu Lake

Liyu Lake kayaking
Water Sports

Activities such as paddle boats, kayaks and motorboats are all readily available on the lake. The relaxing and easy going nature of paddle boats and kayaks make them the most popular for a leisurely afternoon on the tranquil lake. However, motorboat hires are available if you want a faster tour of the area. Though be warned: the lake is small enough that a motorboat tour might be finished in just a couple of minutes!


Bicycling around Liyu Lake is an extremely popular way to enjoy the Liyu area. Available for rent at the visitors center, bicycles come in all sizes and rent for NT$100. The 4km long bicycle trail around the lake is as beautiful and scenic as they come.

Walking Paths and Trails

If you don’t want to boat or bike, you can take a stroll along the lake shore walkway, appreciating the scenery amidst the trees and nature. There are several resting and picnic spots along the way and it takes about an hour to circle the lake on foot. Also, Liyu Mountain at the south end of the lake has numerous mountain trails for exploring.

Mugua River Gorge Tour Hualien Tour
Liyu Lake Sculpture Park

Near the north visitor center is the Liyu Lake Sculpture Park. Take a leisurely walk through the numerous stone sculptures scattered about the grass and trees. Talk about tranquil!

Tasting Live Shrimp or Papaya Milk

If you are bold, you can try out the Live Jumping Prawns available at food stalls along the lake shore! Mini live shrimp dipped in a spicy sauce made of soy, rice liquor, ginger, lemon and chili. Yum! They are still jumping while you put them in your mouth! If this seems a bit crazy, be sure to try a Papaya Milk instead. Also a Liyu Lake specialty!

Mugua River Gorge Tour Hualien Tour

Annual Events at Liyu Lake

Dragon Boats
Dragon Boat Festival!

People come to Liyu Lake from far and wide each year during the Dragon Boat Festival in late May to watch the exciting dragon boat races. It is a traditional cultural festival you shouldn’t miss!


Every year around April in the evening, thousands of fireflies flash above the lake, making the whole lake shimmer with light. If you’ve never seen fireflies before, here is your chance.

Other Nearby Attractions

Hualien Rivers Velley tour in the Mugua River Gorge
Mugua River Gorge Fun

There are numerous other spots in the area worth exploring. Among them are the spectacular Mugua River GorgeButterfly Valley Hot Springs, and the vast East Rift Valley. The Mugua River Gorge is home to countless scenic waterfalls and swimming holes. While the East Rift Valley stretches from Liyu Lake all the way down to Taitung and contains beautiful pastures, lakes, hot springs, tea plantations and more. Visitors could combine these lovely sites into a multi day tour itinerary while visiting Hualien. There is so much to do at Liyu Lake and in the surrounding area. It’s time to get started!

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Taiwan’s Coastal Spectacular

At first glance, the word Shihtiping (Shi-tee-ping) may invoke chuckles from those English speakers among us, and yet in the language of the locals, the name perfectly describes the spectacular landscape of this stretch of mesmerizing Eastern Taiwan coastline. Meaning “stone steps” in Mandarin, millions of years of natural erosion and massive tectonic upheaval along the seacoast have created exactly that. A stunning natural stone staircase, rising to the sky and descending down into the azure sea below.

In this magical place where nature has created such amazing scenery, life thrives. Both in the abundant sea creatures in Shihtiping’s tidal pools and coral reefs, but also in the Amis tribespeople who live a traditional Taiwanese lifestyle in rustic villages along this enchanting shoreline. This is Shihtiping.

What is Shihtiping?

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

Shihtiping is a geologically unique coastal region in the Eastern part of Taiwan that has remained well preserved and culturally traditional, despite recent tourist interest. This Hualien County must-see consists of a sprawling geologic nature park, a vast marine preserve, a quaint village, a fishing harbor, and clusters of fisherman’s homes along the coastline. The people who live in this area are primarily of the indigenous Amis tribe, and most of them make a living as fishermen or craftsmen. Smoked flying fish is one of many delicious local specialties of the area and can be had at several haunts along the shore.

What to do in Hualien? Check out these Hualien attractions: Hualien East Coast Tour with Shihtiping

While there, curious visitors can witness the grandiose sweeping scenery, while taking in the everyday life of Shihtiping area residents as they go about their daily lives; a weather-worn fisherman praying silently for a good catch as he walks along the beach, a woman sweeping out her house, children laughing and splashing in the shallows. Although the modern world has rolled in on tour buses over the years, traditional life still goes on in this misty coastal enclave.

Geology of Shihtiping

Shihtiping East Coast Tour Hualien

Shihtiping is both a place of geologic curiosities and picturesque natural beauty. The settled area outside of the park lies on a green plateau between rolling verdant mountains and the sea, where the rich volcanic soil has created the perfect environment for a lush, green landscape.

The natural stone steps meanwhile are a result of ages of erosion in the limestone and the continued collision of the Eurasian Tectonic Plate and the Philippine Sea Plate. The same erosive processes have created innumerable tidal pools and bizarre crater-like holes along the coast. This is the perfect environment for coral reef and marine life, drawing anglers, divers and scientists alike to the area.

There are few places in the world that boast such magnificent views and striking scenery. Gaze along the horizon to the point where the mountains meet the sea for a view unlike anything you’ve ever imagined.

Visiting Shihtiping

Shihtiping East Coast Tour Hualien Tour
Shihtiping on a Hualien East Coast Tour
East Coast Hualien tour Shihtiping tour
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The East Rift Valley

Taiwan's Green Countryside

Nestled between the Chungyang (Central) Mountain Range and the Haian (Coastal) Mountain Range in Eastern Taiwan, the East Rift Valley is an emerald treasure in the heart of Taiwan’s most beautiful locale. Driving Highway 9 or Route 193 south through the valley, one can gaze out on the most verdant agricultural vistas in the country.

The jutting mountains on either side give way to a green plane patch-worked with vegetable fields and rice paddies. Snaking curls of river cut through the earth, festooning the green landscape with ribbons of blue.

Here, you will discover a Taiwan you hardly imagined could exist—a sleepy, rural world of delicious isolation and virgin beauty.

Things to Do in the East Rift Valley

One of Many things to do in hualien, a Taroko Gorge Tour in Hualien, Hualien Tour of Taroko Gorge National Park Danong Dafu Forest Park
Danong Dafu Forest Park
East Rift Valley, Butterfly Valley and Mugua River Gorge on our Hualien Rivers & Valleys tour
Fenghuang Waterfall
East Rift Valley, Butterfly Valley and Mugua River Gorge on our Hualien Rivers & Valleys tour
Taking a Walk in the Fuyuan Forest

You’ll never run out of things to do when visiting the valley. Rent a bike and take a ride in Danong Dafu Forest Park, hunt for pieces of jade and take a swim in Bai Bao Creek, relax in the soothing natural spa of one of the many hot springs in Ruisui, Fuyuan National Forest or Antong, walk through the wetlands of Matai’an Ecological Area, visit the gorgeous Fenghuang Waterfall,  or just revel in the beauty of country life in Taiwan.

Much of the above & more can be experienced on Island Life Taiwan’s popular Rivers & Valleys Experience which visits the East Rift Valley, Butterfly Valley & the Mugua River Gorge in a fantastic day out!

Where is the East Rift Valley?

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

The East Rift Valley, also known as Huatung Valley, is located between the Central and Coastal mountain ranges, and is a must-visit location for any tour of Taiwan.

The long valley stretches 160km from Hualien City in the north to Taitung City in the south, making up a respectable slice of Eastern Taiwan. You’ll have plenty of space to enjoy yourself and countless activity options when you tour the East Rift Valley.

Geology of the Area

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

The East Rift Valley was created as a result of complex tectonic plate movement known as the Philippine Mobile Belt. The Valley itself is located on the seam of the vast Philippine and Eurasian tectonic plates.

Slowly, inch by inch, the mountains on either side of the valley have been ripped apart from one another. A process which continues to this day.

In addition, ancient volcanic activity left behind extremely rich soil, making the East Rift Valley a prime producer of fruits, vegetables, rice and other crops. The result of all this wild geologic action is the verdant East Rift Valley.

Natural Beauty 

What to do in hualien. Liyu lake a Hualien attraction. One of the best things to do in hualien
Boats & Kayaks at Liyu Lake

There is beauty in every direction here and something new to appreciate everywhere you look! From the jutting green mountain peaks to the sweeping sea of golden daylilies, there will be no lack of color and beauty to delight your senses.

The reflection of the mountains in Liyu Lake, the jungled mountainside locale of Funghuang Waterfall, sunset over the lake in Yunshanshui, and the sight of the misty mountains in the morning will be enough to make you wonder if you’ve entered paradise.

Naturally, an uncommon geologic formation like Taiwan’s East Rift Valley is full of surprising natural treasures to enjoy. Dotting the valley are numerous hot springs as well which you can visit and enjoy when you take a tour of Taiwan’s most beautiful valley.

How to Get There

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

The East Rift Valley is accessible via Provincial Highway 9 or old Route 193. Island Life Taiwan offers a wonderful day tour of the East Rift Valley and the Mugua River Gorge from Hualien taking you to many of the places listed above. With so much beauty to explore in the East Rift Valley, why wouldn’t you make a day of it!

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Niushan Huting

The Hidden Hualien Beach!

There are few places in the world like Niushan Huting. This hidden beach cove and recreational area along Taiwan’s scenic East Coast could be one of the more memorable things you can experience during your visit to Hualien County. If you appreciate the little charms in life and enjoy getting off the beaten path, Niushan Huting just might be one of  your favorite things to do in Taiwan.

So come, answer the call of the wind and sea. Surround yourself with natural beauty and rustic simplicity. Peace and tranquility will never be a stranger when you take a visit to Niushan Huting

History of Niushan Huting

“Niushan Huting,” translates to cow mountain, a rather odd name for a beach one would think. Yet long ago, before this area was on the map, the rolling green hills surrounding this small bay were a place for local aboriginal tribespeople to graze their cows and other livestock. Then, in the mid 20th century, an outpost for the Taiwanese military was constructed here in the hidden cove, before eventually being destroyed by a typhoon. It wasn’t long before nature reclaimed the land, sweeping away the remains of the base to leave the beautiful rural area we can all now enjoy.

Niushan huting on an east coast explorer tour from hualien

Today, nestled on the property is a rustic bed and breakfast built by aboriginals from the area. Formed as a small group of cabins along the hillside and adorned with driftwood art, it is a perfect escape into the rural world of Taiwan. In fact, Martin Scorsese even filmed scenes here in 2016 for his film Silence, the rustic structures of Niushan Huting on the picturesque cove serving as a stand-in for 17th century Japan!

Don’t Forget the Camera!

Known for its stunning views, one can gaze out at the endless blue expanse of the Pacific Ocean, or turn your chair the other way and marvel at the grandiosity of the Coastal Mountain Range. Niushan Huting offers endless photo ops, and is a great place for travel bloggers and avid Intagrammers. You’ll also love photographing all the quirky corners of this beautiful place. Everything is made of driftwood, from the cabins to the décor. It’s outdated in the best way—cozy and comfortable, while maintaining a quaint antique feel. You won’t find silk sheets and a spa tub here, but you will find the whispers of the wind in a still rural setting and a certain feel of communing with nature. There is also a sprawling hillside lawn with aboriginal wood carvings to explore.

Go Off the Beaten Path

You’ll also have plenty of space to take it all in at Niushan Huting, as you’re not likely to run into anybody who will disturb your reveries while you are here. Not many tourists, especially foreigners, know about this place, and the steep cracked winding road down from Highway 11 is certainly not tour bus friendly. Niushan Huting is truly a rustic paradise nestled into the beautiful lush greenery of the Eastern Taiwan coastline you just can’t miss!

Where is Niushan Huting?

Niushan Huting is located at the edge of the Pacific Ocean off Taiwan’s famed scenic Highway 11. Here, you can enter the recreational area for just 50 NT Dollars. This price is well worth it for the private beach and grounds alone, but you can also redeem it at the eclectic café for food and beverages. Sipping a coffee while out for a stroll on the gold-sand beach is the perfect way to while away a relaxing morning!

How to Get There

Niushan Huting is a about 40 minutes from Hualien City in a rural area or Hualien County. You can take a day trip here as part of Island Life Taiwan’s East Coast Explorer Tour while visiting Hualien, or make a whole weekend out of a visit to this place. Whichever you decide, just be sure to visit! You’ll never again find a place quite like Niushan Huting.

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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

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

A River Valley Unlike Any Other

Literally meaning “papaya” in Mandarin, the sweetness of the Mugua River Gorge area is hard to miss. A region in Taiwan blessed with beautiful, crystal clear rivers, waterfalls, lush forests and unique aboriginal culture, this is one of the best ways to spend a day while in the Hualien area.

Listed as one of the East Coast “highlights” in the Lonely Planet Taiwan Guide Book, this area has earned an international reputation that is well deserved. Within the Mugua River Gorge itself and in the surrounding area, there are an astounding number of wild and wonderful 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!

Basecamp Hualien

Shihtiping East Coast Hualien Tour

The classic jumping off point for adventures to the Mugua River Gorge, Hualien City is a mellow beach town located on the East Coast of Taiwan. Nestled amid the surrounding green mountains, this is the easiest place to access tours of the Mugua River Gorge, Taroko Gorge National Park and so much more. There are also plenty of 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

Mugua River Gorge Tour

Our first stop is Emerald Valley. This hidden valley, tucked away amidst the forest, is filled with several pristine swimming holes of clear, emerald coloured waters. Making one feel as if they’re in their own jungle hideaway. Though nearby Mugumuyu (a.k.a. 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 just 5 minutes away. It takes some hiking to get to, thankfully, so it’s not Tour Bus accessible!

Join our Mugua River Gorge Tour and we’ll take you to the best swimming holes without the crowds.

Liyu Lake

Liyu Lake on Hualien tours
Liyu Lake

Lying at the foot of Liyu Mountain, this tranquil lake 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. Visit in April and enjoy a marvelous sight as hundreds of fireflies come out in the evening, making the whole lake shimmer with lights! Check it out on a Hualien Rivers & Valleys Experience, a  Mugua River Gorge Tour or a Butterfly Valley Tour!

The Miyawan River

Hualien Rivers Velley tour in the Mugua River Gorge
Mugua River Gorge Fun

Well off the beaten path, the Miyawan River is another nearby jewel of Hualien. With some of the best swimming holes around and the secret Rainbow Falls trail, the Miyawan is a wonderful place to visit year round. For a fun time swimming at the Miyawan, check our exclusive Hualien Rivers & Valleys Experience!

Zimu Waterfall

One of Many things to do in hualien, a Taroko Gorge Tour in Hualien, Hualien Tour of Taroko Gorge National Park
Rainbow Waterfall in the Mugua River Gorge

Speaking of waterfalls, there are so many amazing waterfalls in the Hualien area, and among them is the stunning Zimu Falls. Lying off a little trail near the aboriginal village of Tongmen, at Zimu you can find numerous blue swimming holes, only this time with a gorgeous waterfall to accompany them! There are no trail signs to Zimu falls, so it is highly recommended that you use a guide to get there.

Tongmen & Wunlan

East Coast Tour hualien tour

The aboriginal villages of Tongmen & Wunlan also lie deep within the Mugua River Gorge. 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.

Visiting The Mugua River Gorge

Mugua River Gorge Tour Hualien Tour

With so many amazing spots to explore, the Mugua River Gorge is a must see for anyone visiting Taiwan. Far and away the easiest way to see all of this is to contact Island Life Taiwan and take one of our two different all-day, one of a kind visits to the Gorge . Either our easy, fun day out with lots of swimming on our Hualien Rivers & Valleys Experience or the more difficult back country hiking on the Mugua River Gorge Adventure. 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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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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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
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