Hualien Taiwan captivated me in so many ways with its beautiful national parks, colourful bridges and in-depth cultural history. I was really surprised at how many things you can do, especially outdoors. Situated along the east coast of Taiwan, Hualien is a mountainous county that covers a very large area.
Due to the region’s natural beauty, Hualien attracts many outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers all year round. You’re sure to enjoy the stunning landscapes and many activities this county has to offer. With two national parks and dozens of cliffs and mountains, your hardest decision will be deciding what to do first.
Things to do in Hualien
Once you’ve explored all the wonderful night markets in Taiwan, it’s time to head out into the great outdoors for an adventure only mother nature can provide. Here are a few of my favourite outdoor activities in Hualien, Taiwan.
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1. Spend a day on the trails at Taroko National Park – 太魯閣國家公園
One of the most popular places to visit not just in Hualien but in Taiwan is Taraoko Nation Park. Taroko National Park is one of two stunning national parks situated in Hualien. It’s named after its most famous landmark – Hualien Gorge. Explore the park on one of its multitude of trails, some of which lead to the famed gorge, while others provide views of the Pacific Ocean.
You can spend an entire day exploring the many trails, but to really appreciate the natural beauty of the area you will need at least a few days in the area. I was really taken aback at how beautiful Taroko National park was and how much there was to do there. Colourful bridges, gorges, shrines, suspension bridges, caves and even waterfalls.
I spent two days exploring the different trials and wore good lightweight walking shoes. They were great for the conditions and on the paved trails.
Some of the popular Taroko trails:
- Tunnel of Nine Turns Trail (1.9km/1.2mile)
- Swallow Grotto(Yanzikou) Trail(1.37km/0.83mile)
- Shakadang Trail (4.4km/2.8miles to 3D Cabin)
- Changchun Trail (Eternal Spring Shrine Trail)
- Baiyang Waterfall (2.2 km/1.2miles) – One of my favourite trails
If you’d like to have an experienced guide show you around, then be sure to book a tour to Taroko Gorge.
2. Go Rafting to the Estuary 在河上漂流
Rafting on the longest river in eastern Taiwan, the Xiuguluan River, is a not to be missed experience for adventure lovers. The river winds its way through valleys and gorges until it flows into the Pacific Ocean.
Although the first half of your journey will be relatively peaceful, the second half is filled with exciting rapids. These can overturn your raft if you’re not careful, so be prepared to get wet on your thrilling ride. You’ll make your way over 20 sets of rapids before the river becomes calm again, so make sure you’re in a mindset for non-stop excitement.
The river is busiest between May and October, so be sure to book your rafting adventure well in advance if you’re travelling during this period.
- All tours are only in Chinese. If you only speak English, ask the company if there is anyone that can translate. Maybe they will be able to help.
Related outdoor things you can do and book in advance
- Take a Stand up paddleboarding experience
- Do an east coast nature tour with a guide
- Spend a fun day at Farglory Ocean Park
3. Go Canoeing at the Stunning Qingshui Cliff 清水斷崖
Qingshui Cliffs are considered one of the most majestic natural wonders in Taiwan. And what better way to see them than from the water canoeing? I spent a fun few hours in the morning canoeing with a professional guide and taking photos.
The water can be rough and rips occur, so beforehand the guides will show you how to use the canoe safely. You are also required to wear a life jacket at all times, as well as swimming boots. However, if you have your own swimming boots you can bring them along. If you have a GoPro or other waterproof camera, be sure to take it with you as the views are unmatched.
Wilds offers other canoeing activities tours, like evening canoeing and visiting the Elephant Trunk Tunnel.
- Make sure to put on sunscreen before you leave and take a bottle of water.
4. Walk along Huide Trail at Qingshui Cliffs 匯德步道
After or before going Canoeing head up to Huide trail and take the scenic walk along Qingshui cliff. The views are absolutely stunning and you can see all the different shades of blue in the ocean. As well as views of the cliffs and landscape.
Huide scenic trail is great for anyone wanting to walk it, as it is pretty flat in most spots. The trail is less than a kilometre long to the viewing point near the end and should roughly take 30 minutes.
There is another viewing deck at the start of the trail that is accessible by stairs. The weather in Hualien in August to September was hot and humid. I wore good light walking shoes that were great for these conditions.
Address 972, Taiwan, Hualien County, Xiulin Township, 匯德隧道40號 (located next to the north opening of Huide Tunnel)
⇒ Looking for other routes in Aisa? How about Hiking Routes of Niigata & Nagano Japan
- Take a packed lunch and eat it along the trail on one of the seats. There are bins and toilets available at the start of the trail.
5. Visit Martyr’s Shrine 忠烈祠
There are a variety of Martyrs shrines around Taiwan that were built to honour the Kuomintang soldiers who sacrificed their lives during the Chinese Civil War. This one is a little different though as it is on the same spot as the Japanese Karenko Shrine.
Martyrs shrines beautiful white and red structures stood right out for me. I notice it straight away when we were driving on the bridge across Meilum River. The stairs leading up to Martyrs shrines is an ideal spot for photographers and Instagrammers. There is a Martyrs’ Shrine in Taipei if you don’t have time to see the one in Hualien.
Address: 970, Taiwan, Hualien County, Hualien City, 復興新村82號
⇒ I used Lonely Planet Taiwan (Travel Guide), as my reference while travelling around Hualien country.
6. Enjoy Whale & Dolphin Watching
I love seeing sea life in its natural habitat and what better way to do this than go Whale and Dolphin watching. Due to the highly successful rate of sightings, Hualien is a popular place to go whale and dolphin watching. Witnessing the joyful leap of a dolphin, or the majestic splash of a whale is a privilege. So taking a tour with a company that respects these animals and their environment was a fantastic experience.
I took a tour with Turumoan dolphin and whale watching tours a company that provides an eco-conscious way to see these wonderful sea creatures in their natural environment. You can expect to see both dolphins and killer whales on this tour, as well as a considerable number of other sea creatures, so remember to keep your eyes peeled. Make sure you have the right camera for taking all those amazing action shots that uses a zoom lens.
The best time to spot whales, dolphins and other sealife is between April and October..
7. Visit the Hualien Railway Culture Park – 花蓮鐵道文化園區
If you like Railway history, add Railway Culture Park to your to do list in Hualien city. It was once the Hualien office for the railway department, dating back to 1932. Today it is a cultural park and gallery, showcasing the history of Taiwan’s Eastern Line.
It should only take you an hour to look around and it is a good attraction for families.
Address: No. 71號, Zhongshan Road, Hualien City, Hualien County, Taiwan 970
⇒ Check for FREE if you require a visa or if there are any restrictions before you go to Taiwan.
8. Hualien City Old Railroad Pedestrian – 舊鐵道徒步區
After your visit to the Railway culture park, head over to the Hualien City old railroad pedestrian. Also known as the old railroad pedestrian zone, It is an area full of stalls, shops, yummy restaurants and bars. It is located on the tracks at the western edge of Hualien City’s downtown triangular shopping district. This is a great spot for getting souvenirs and local handicraft gifts.
The old railway area became empty space after a new line was put in place and the route was changed out of the city. You can visit here during the day but I think it is much better at night when the bars and restaurants open and the trees are all lit up.
9. Dongdamen (also known as Dongdaemun) Night Market – 東大門夜市
Located in Hualien City is Dongdamen (also known as Dongdaemun), Night Market. It is a great spot for families, friends or even solo travellers wanting to try food in Hualien. I loved this market and it reminded me of the Christmas markets in Europe with its big arched gates. Best to get out cash beforehand, as I didn’t see cash machines and most places didn’t accept cards.
Apart from the usual stalls of food and drinks there was an undercover area with lots of tables and some entertainment where you were able to sit down and enjoy your food. Some of the dishes to try are the fried chicken or the succulent pork sausages, they were both pretty yummy. If you want to try drinks then check out the different types of creative teas or bubble tea.
⇒ Wanting to find other night markets in Taiwan? Then how about reading Best Night Markets to Visit in Taiwan
Address: No. 50, Zhongshan Road, Hualien City, Hualien County, Taiwan 970
Highlights of night markets street food in Taiwan
10. Check out Pine Garden – 松園別館
Located in Hualien city, Pine Gardens is one of the top things to see especially if you enjoy historical sites. It is a former Japanese military office that played a large part in Hualien history. Its name comes from the garden of hundred-year-old pine trees that surround the area. You get a 30NT discount ticket for a drink/food/souvenir to use inside when you purchase your entrance ticket.
Today; Pine Gardens Japanese style garden and house’s are a cultural centre that offers historical exhibits & events. After visiting the exhibitions take a walk around the grounds, visit the underground bunker and see the views overlooking Hualien County.
Address: No. 65號, Songyuan Street, Hualien City, Hualien County, Taiwan 970
11. Spend Time on Lishishi Mountain for the Scenic Views – 六十石山
One of the most popular spots for Instagrammers, especially during the blooming of daylilies is Lishishi Mountain. Situated in the Zhutian Village with an elevation of 800 metres, Lishishi Mountain provides some of the best views you’ll see in Taiwan. It’s part of the coastal mountain and the green rolling hills give way to stunning mountain backdrops.
The best time to visit Lishishi Mountain is between August and September when the blooming of daylilies takes place. Witnessing the blooming of exquisite orange daylilies takes the views to a whole new level. I was lucky enough to be here during this time and the orange daylilies made everything pop with colour.
⇒ How about a guided to Shin Kong Chao Feng Ranch & Eco-Resort which takes you to Lishishi mountain.
12. Ruisui Pasture – 瑞穗牧場
After visiting Liushishi Mountain, head over to Ruisui Pasture, for its famous dairy products. It is a great outdoor area to take the family, where you can try various dairy products. As well as feed the cows and ostriches from your own hands with grass.
Ruisui Ranch source their water from the Central Mountain Range which is known for its pure water. The cows feed on the grass, which turns it into high-quality milk. The milk products are fresh and tasty and you can enjoy them in both indoor and outdoor areas. Especially the ice creams and coffees at the ice cream shop.
Address: 978, Taiwan, Hualien County, Ruisui Township, 6鄰157號
13. Go Paragliding – 滑翔傘運動
If you’re looking for an adventure and up for a thrill then how about going Paragliding? What better way to see Hualien coastline and landscape than from above in the sky.
I love paragliding and I have been lucky enough to have done this a few times around the world. Unfortunately, I was not able to do it in Taiwan because I had just had heart surgery two months before. You can book a paragliding experience in advance online
14. Try Authentic Local Truku Aboriginal Tribe Food
For the ultimate local experience, immerse yourself in Taiwanese culture and try the traditional local tribal food. There are a few restaurants in Hualien that serve aboriginal tribal food and teach you their traditions. One such restaurant that I went to is Dageeli Tribe Restaurant, which does traditional food with a modern twist. The food was delicious, and the portion sizes were decent too, I certainly went away feeling satisfied.
There was a couple who play and sang music that made the atmosphere relaxing and fun. Dageeli Tribe Restaurant also had an upstairs area that overlooked the ocean and reminded me of a treehouse. Afterwards, visit the attached room and outdoor area that display art pieces and information about the aboriginal tribe. You can dress up and have your picture taken (refer below) or even buy local products to support the locals. It’s best to book in advance to ensure you get a table as it can get busy at times.
If you’d like to learn how to make traditional Taiwanese dishes for yourself, take a Taiwanese Aboriginal cooking class in Hualien.
- Another great place to try authentic aboriginal food is Leader Village Taroko (Buluowan)
15. Kecheng Iron Bridge – 克城铁桥
Kecheng Iron Bridge is a must visit photo spot for those who are looking for their next instagrammable picture or enjoy photography. It is a red railway bridge that crosses lush green rice patty in the stunning valley of Hualien. Located not too far from the station, Kecheng Iron Bridge is considered to be one of the most photographed in Hualien.
Many people come here to wait for the train to pass over the Kecheng Iron Bridge so they can take their shot. It is definitely worth a visit especially if you have a car or scooter. If you don’t want to wait too long, you can always check the train timetable time from Hualien.
Address: No. 294號, Section 1, Ren’ai Road, Yuli Township, Hualien County, Taiwan 981
16. Cycle Around Liyu Lake – 鯉魚潭
Go cycling or try other outdoor activities in and out of the water at Liyu Lake. Liyu Lake is the largest of the lakes in Hualien County, spanning over 1.6 kilometres in length. It’s also referred to as Carp Lake because of the abundance of fish in its waters.
You can take part in watersports like sailing, paddle boats and waterskiing or try your hand at stand up paddleboarding with a guide. Out of the water, there’s a 5 kilometre one lane bicycle path that encircles the lake, which you can either ride a bike or even walk. It gives you the perfect opportunity to see the glassy lake from every angle. there’s another recreational activity that provides a great way to explore the lake.
Please be careful of the snakes and spiders, especially if you stop and wander onto the grass.
Don’t forget your GoPro for your outdoor adventures at Liyu Lake
17. Explore Chihnan National Forest Recreation Area 池南國家森林遊樂區
After cycling around Liyu Lake head to The Chihnan National Park located just a 5min drive away. It is the perfect place for the family to learn about the forest, timber industry and enjoy a picnic. All while taking in the beautiful views of the mountains and Liyu lake.
You can head inside to the learning centre where you can take part in active displays or take a tour with a guide. Afterwards, head outside where the old machinery is on display or go hiking along one of the many tracks,
The park is open from 08:00 until 17:00 every day and there are restrooms available in the centre. Whether you relax in the park or create your own adventure, this is a great spot to be outdoors.
- There’s a beautiful pavilion that provides stunning views of the lake.
18. National Forest Recreation Area and see the butterflies – 国立森林遊楽区
Start your day of hiking the trails in the picturesque Fuyuan National Forest, before having a dip in the springs. One of the trails is through an area called the butterfly valley with scenic waterfalls. During March to August, this area is swarming with butterflies.
With numerous trails, waterfalls, butterflies and outdoor cold and hot spring pools to soak in, Fuyuan National Forest is the ideal forested and worth spending a few hours exploring.
Address: 979, Taiwan, Hualien County, Wanrong Township, 花60鄉道81號
19. Watch the sunset at Qixingtan Beach Hualien – 七星潭
What better way to end the day than watching the sunset from one of Taiwan’s prettiest beaches, Qixingtan beach. Also known as Chihsingtan Beach, it is a pebble beach, located in Xincheng, Hualien. It is forbidden to swim in Qixingtan beach due to the strong rips and tide. However it is a nice spot to relax, take photos and participate in stone stacking with the pebbles. While taking in the stunning views of the colours dancing in the sky.
This is great to do either after visiting Taroko Gorge as it is on the way back on the shuttle. Or when you finished riding along the coastal bikeway known as Liantan (Two Lakes) cornice bike path. If you’re an early riser, a sunrise at Qixingtan is also a great start to the day. If you have time, visit Qilaibi Lighthouse in the same area.
⇒ Heard of Green Island in Taiwan? It also has some amazing sunsets, read more what to do on this incredible island
20. Visit Matai’an Wetlands Ecological Park 花蓮馬太鞍休閒農場
Matai’an (also known as Fata’an) Wetlands Ecological Park is a picturesque natural swamp with spring water, Hualien County. It is a magical piece of paradise that reveals nature at its finest with birds, fish and other wildlife. Paths and a viewpoint have been built above, so you can wander around without harming the environment.
The Learning Centre
The Amis people, who live in the area, developed an ancient fishing method that they still use to this day in the springwater. The Palakaw ecological fishing method makes use of three layers of bamboo and tree branches, to create a manmade habitat for both fish and shrimp. Today it is shown and taught to tourists who want to learn more about this method on your visit.
The best time to visit Matai’an wetlands outdoors is from May to August when everything is in bloom. The natural spring water is covered in water lilies and lotus flowers which you can appreciate walking along the trails and boardwalks.
- Have a delicious traditional banquet lunch at Shin-Liu Farm located near the Matai’an wetlands. Sourced from local products in the area.
21. Hualien Tourism Sugar Factory – 花莲旅游糖厂
After visiting the Matai’an Wetlands Ecological Park head to over to Hualien Tourism sugar factory for ice cream. Due to the popularity of the ice-cream, it is a favourite tourist activity for the locals and tourists in Hualien County. You can sample from a large variety of yummy ice cream or flavoured ice. I think they had the most flavours of ice-cream I have ever seen before in one place.
Originally it used to be a major supplier of sugar manufacturing for east Taiwan. Today, the area has exhibits about the factory’s history, wooden buildings from the Japanese colonial era. As well as restaurants, ice-cream stands, local craft shops and places that sell local products. You can browse through the outdoor shops while enjoying your ice cream.
Address: No. 19號, Tangchang Street, Guangfu Township, Hualien County, Taiwan 97642
22. Visit the Ruisui Tropic of Cancer Taiwan – 北回歸線地標
Visit the Ruisui Tropic of Cancer Marker a monument marking the position of the sun to the equator. The Tropic of Cancer Marker is the Northern Hemisphere’s furthest location from the Equator with the sun being overhead. During the summer every year, the sun is directly overhead creating a “shadowless” effect. It is considered to be a unique astronomical phenomenon.
If you are in the area it is worth a stop and should only take 30 minutes at the most. It is quite an interesting place to observe the monument and learn about astronomy and the zodiac.
Address: No. 76-9, Section 2, Zhongzheng South Road, Ruisui Township, Hualien County, Taiwan 978
23. Baxian Cave (Baxiandong) 八仙洞
Baxian Caves or also known as Baxiandong is an archaeological site of sea caves in cliffs. There are at least 16 different size sea caves at a height of 100 meters, like the Lingyan Cave. The caves are pretty cool to see, especially when you are up close to them. The tracks that lead to all the caves are either wooden or stone with some having stairs. There are also information points along the way, which is in both Chinese and English.
The sea caves are located along the east coast of Changbin Township and you can visit them from either Hualien or Taitung. If unsure about the different caves and want any information, there is a visitor’s centre at the entrance. A gift shop and restrooms are also available.
Address: 962, Taiwan, Taitung County, Changbin Township, 三間村水母丁1-4號
- While in the area stop past Xiaoyeliu, a scenic seaside area known for unique sandstone rock formations
24. Necklace Coast Studio 項鍊海岸工作室
Necklace coast studio is considered to be a top instagrammable spot in Hualien. Located on a private beach with views overlooking the ocean, it is one of the prettiest restaurants that I visited in Taiwan. The restaurant and grounds are decorated with artist statues scattered everywhere and paintings. Making it a great spot for your instagrammable pictures.
The atmosphere is peaceful and has a traquil feel about it. There is a minimum fee if you do not plan on eating and just want to take pictures and explore. We had already eaten beforehand, so we just had a coffee, which was enough. It is worth a visit if you are in the area and is a great spot to take in the views outdoors. One of the best spots for instagrammble pictures is on the swing overlooking the ocean.
Address: 977, Taiwan, Hualien County, Fengbin Township, 號
Final Thoughts on Outdoor Activities in Hualien, Taiwan
As stated earlier, Hualien County captivated me in so many ways. I was able to fit in so many incredible outdoor activities when I was there. However, I still felt like there were so much more that I could have done. Like, I would have loved to have spent more time exploring the trails at Taroko National Park or checking out the hot springs. Not to mention the Hualien food scene.
You could easily spend a week in Hualien county seeing the sites and doing activities. I always felt safe and I think that it would be a great spot for a solo traveller to explore. Now that you have a better idea of some of the amazing things you can do and if you are looking for your next outdoorsy escapade then Hualien, Taiwan is your place.
If you want to extend your experience to other parts of Taiwan, be sure to take part in a few cultural activities in Yilan.
Things to do indoors in Hualien
There are plenty of things to do indoors in Hualien, especially when it is raining. It really depends on what you are looking for like culture, landmarks or even food. Here are just a few suggestions:
- Visit the Instagrammers container Starbucks in Hualien City for coffee.
- Head to 瑪武拉外工作室 (Mavurawai studio), to make traditional local Ami crafts with Ms Yu-ying Lee. An Ami indigenous lady.
- Check out Fogstand art gallery that showcases work from the local community.
- Do some shopping at Hualien Tourism Winery 花蓮觀光酒廠 for local products such as wine and beer.
Staying in Hualien
There is a variety of types of accommodation to stay in Hualien County from hotels, Air BnB to homestays. There are even hostels to stay in if you are travelling on a budget. I stayed in 3 different types of accommodation across Hualien County using them as bases for my activities. Kishiuan International Hotel, Zen Ocean B&B and The Silence Manor.
⇒ Check the current availability of places to stay in Hualien County.
Kishiuan International Hotel
Kishiuan International Hotel located in the city centre and was a great base for exploring the Hualien city on foot. If you don’t feel like walking the hotel offers free bicycle rentals to the guest. My room was nice, had strong wifi and offered views of both the ocean and mountains.
Zen Ocean B&B
Located just out of Hualien city and in walking distance to the popular Dongdamen night market is Zen Ocean B&B. It is a cosy B&B with only 5 rooms, which I think made it feel more homely. I had a large spacious room with an amazing clawfoot bathtub, as well as views of the ocean. The morning breakfast was delicious and filling, making for a great start for all those activities.
The Silence Manor
The Silence Manor was one of my favourite places to stay in the whole of Taiwan. It was nestled in between a pineapple plantation and on the edge of the forest with views of the mountains. The food was modern and a mix of western and Taiwanese food.
My room was beautiful and my own private courtyard with a hot springs tub. Where I would sit at night with a glass of wine and listen to the animals in the wild. Not to mention the amazing hotel pool. My only downside was I wanted to stay longer!
More tips for your trip to Hualien
- Getting around Hualien: Hire a scooter from Hualien railway station or Xincheng railway station
- Lonely Planet Taiwan (Travel Guide), was my reference while travelling around Hualien country.
- Download Google translate, it’s free and it is very handy. The main language spoken in Taiwan is either Taiwanese or Chinese. English is not frequently used by locals in rural areas.
- Affordable transfer: On a budget, book a shared transfer on a comfy bus from Taipei to Hualien
- Taiwan uses the same power outlets as USA and Canada
- Have 24hr access to the internet to keep update with maps and things to do while in Hualien. You can purchase a 4G Sim in advance and pick it up at the airport in Taiwan when you arrive.
⇒ Check for FREE if you require a visa and if there are any special requirement restrictions before you go to Taiwan.
Have you been to Hualien Taiwan before or any other things I should add to my list? I would love to hear about your tips and experience. Just drop me an email or leave a comment below.
Disclaimer: Even though I was there with Taiwan Tourism UK. All views are my own and based on my own experience.