If you want to get off-the-beaten-path and explore one of Taiwan’s best-kept secret spots, Sun Link Sea Forest Recreation Area (杉林溪度假園區) is an excellent choice.
Sun Link Sea (also known as Shanlinxi and Shanlinhsi) is a beautiful 40-hectare scenic area in Zhushan Township, Nantou County. It sits at an elevation of 1600-1800m and offers some of the most incredible natural scenery imaginable.
With misty forests filled with towering trees, jaw-dropping waterfalls, and excellent hiking trails, Sun Link Sea is the perfect place to immerse yourself in nature, breathe in some crisp mountain air, and wander through mystical forests. Read along to discover all of Sun Link Sea‘s best bits and plan the perfect trip!
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How to get to Sun Link Sea Forest and Nature Resort
Sun Link Sea is not the easiest place to reach with public transport, so keep that in mind when planning a trip here. A couple of buses come this way, but journey times are long, and it’s not unusual to get stuck in traffic over weekends.
If you must take public transport, you can take either Yuanlin Bus 6871 or Taiwan Tourist Bus 6883B from Gancheng Station in Taichung to get to Sun Link Sea. The ride takes about 3 hours and costs NTD 280. There are only a handful of buses here daily, so make sure to check schedules well in advance.
Bus 6883B also leaves from the Taichung TRA Station and Taichung HSR Station for those just arriving in Taichung. Since there’s not much information in English online, download Google Maps so that you can check schedules in real-time.
While taking the bus to Shanlinxi is doable, you’ll be wasting much time on transport. To save the headache, consider renting a car, hiring a private driver, or joining this guided tour to get you there.
Not sure how to get to Taichung? Read my detailed guide on getting to Taichung from Taipei.
It’s possible to visit Sun Link Sea Nature Resort on a day trip from Taichung, but it’s worth spending a night or two to really get acquainted with the area.
Sun-Link-Sea Hotel is the most famous resort within the forest area and offers spacious rooms and cabins where you can book a few nights’ stay. The decor is a bit outdated, so don’t expect anything fancy. Also, since rooms fill up quickly, it’s important to book accommodation well in advance. Check rates and availability here on Agoda.
Shanlinxi Entrance Fees
There’s a small admission fee to access the forest area, which helps to safeguard the site.
- Regular ticket: NTD 250 per person, and kids under six years of age can enter for free
- Discounted ticket: NTD 150 for seniors (over 65)
- Parking fee: NTD 100 per vehicle
How to get around Sun Link Sea Forest
Sun Link Sea is huge, and cars are not allowed in most areas of the forest. There is a massive parking area near the entrance where you need to park your vehicle. From here, you can either walk onward or use the little shuttle bus that travels up and down the mountain at regular intervals. It’s about a 3km trek to Songlong Rock Waterfall, so if you’re pressed for time, it’s a good idea to make use of the shuttle bus.
The shuttle bus runs from Theme Hall (the main visitors center) to Songlong Tribe near Songlong Rock Waterfall every few minutes, also stopping at Red House (near Sun Link Sea Hotel) and the Flower Center, where you can see the Peony Garden.
You can buy a ticket at one of the ticket booths located at Theme Hall and Red House. Just a heads up, if you are visiting over the weekend, the line gets long quickly. Luckily the shuttle bus comes every few minutes, so you won’t need to wait too long for the next ride.
A single ride costs NTD 40 from Theme Hall to Songlong Tribe, and a half journey costs NTD20. The bus operates between 7:30 am to 4:20 pm on weekdays and 7:30 am to 5:40 pm on weekends. Remember to grab a map at the ticket booth or view it here on the park’s official website.
Insider’s tip: If you don’t want to walk, buying a return ticket might be a good idea. But since the scenery is incredibly beautiful, I suggest taking the shuttle bus up the mountain and walking back down. The setting is beyond stunning, and you’d seriously be missing out if you didn’t experience it at a slower pace.
Sun Link Sea Attractions & Hiking Trails
Songlong Rock Waterfall
Songlong Rock Waterfall is the star attraction at Sun Link Sea. And it’s not hard to see why.
Set beside a huge natural cave (Songlong Rock) that has been formed by thousands of years of erosion, Songlong Rock Waterfall is arguably one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Taiwan.
What really makes this attraction so stunning is that you have to follow a paved walkway running all along the cave’s interior to get right in front of the waterfall. Dozens of stalactites in all shapes and sizes dangle from its ceiling. And if you look down, crystal clear streams, huge boulders, and lush vegetation add an extra touch of beauty to this mysterious and biodiverse setting. The cave is also a popular foraging ground for swallows, and if you’re lucky, you might even spot a few on your visit.
Take your time to explore the area because there are loads of photo ops. Oh, and don’t miss crossing the 99 Suspension Bridge! It offers an amazing view over the waterfall and the lush valley shaped by the Jiazouliao stream below.
The trailhead to Songlong Rock Waterfall starts just behind the upper terminus, marked Songlong Tribe.
Insider’s Tip: The best time to visit the waterfall is during spring and summer after heavy rains.
Tianyen Trail & Ancient Red Cypress
After you’ve marveled at the waterfall, follow the 900m long Tianyen Trail to the Ancient Red Cypress Tree. The trail follows a well-paved walkway which takes about 25 minutes to complete. There are hundreds of steps to climb, and it’s quite steep, so get ready to break a sweat! Also, make sure to wear proper slip-proof shoes because it rains a lot in this part of Taiwan, and the path can get slippery.
Before you get to the Ancient Red Cypress, you’ll walk through a tiny tunnel used to transport timber back in the logging days. The tunnel was originally dug by hand and measures 170cm in height, 100cm in width, and 20m in length. At the other end, the scenery changes entirely, and you’ll be greeted with crystal clear streams, lush forests, and misty mountain views.
After a short stroll, you’ll reach the giant cypress tree – another iconic sight at Sun-Link-Sea. The Ancient Red Cypress is a stunning 4000-year-old tree that has survived everything from frigid temperatures to rain to the logging period. The hollowed trunk still stands today, and you can walk all around it. There’s also a little pavilion nearby where you can catch your breath.
The Eyes of Heaven and Earth
The last push to the highest point of Sun Link Sea is a tough one with more steps to climb. Don’t rush the climb, though. The scenery is really special, and walking under the treetop canopy is bound to leave you speechless.
Once you reach the top, there’s a large wooden deck that gets you right in front of The Eyes of Heaven and Earth (Tian-ti Yen) – a weird geological wonder embedded in the rock face. Two huge protruding holes (6m and 8m wide, respectively) resembling eyes are separated by a thin ridge. The holes were formed by thousands of years of erosion, and legend has it that the eye of heaven (Tian Yen) will see through a man’s soul, while the eye of land (Di Yen) will reveal it to the world.
After taking in the views and admiring Tian-ti Yen, make your way down the same trail. Right before you get to the Ancient Red Cypress Tree, the trail splits in two. You can go back the same way you came, but I highly recommend continuing on the Tiyen Trail.
The trail is 930m long and it only takes about 20 minutes to reach the trailhead, ending at 99 Suspension Bridge. It’s a nice path taking you through more forest scenery brimming with lush greenery and towering trees cypress trees.
If you’ve had enough of the forest, head back to Songlong Tribe, where you can grab a bite at the Mountain Spring Cafe or catch the bus back to the Flower Center, Red House or Theme Hall. Alternatively, continue along the Yueshan Trail that takes you past azure-colored streams and a thick forest filled with incredible plant and animal life. This trek is 1150m long, and unless you stop to admire the scenery or take pictures, you could easily walk it in 20 minutes. The trail ends right in front of the Herb Garden.
Insider’s tip: If you’re visiting in autumn, don’t miss the field of redwood trees (Metasequoia) that burst into a kaleidoscope of yellow and orange hues during this season.
Medicinal Garden & Flower Center
After you’ve snapped some photos at the Golden Yellow Metasequoia forest, it’s worth taking a quick browse around the Medicinal Garden – a living research and learning center for both scholars and the public. Many of the herbs that grow here are also used in the resort’s meals, souvenirs, and drinks.
The garden is not very big, and you can easily walk through it in about 5-10 minutes unless you are really into plants. Plants aren’t really my thing, so I just had a quick browse. I should add, though, I didn’t see any name tags on any of the plants, which is a pity because some looked quite interesting.
Across the road, also check out the wide range of pretty flowers at the Flower Center. More than 30 flower species grow here, including peony, hydrangea, tulip, and fuchsia. While not all of them bloom throughout the year, you’re almost guaranteed to see something blooming no matter when you visit! Here are some key timings to keep in mind:
- Cherry Blossoms & tulips – January to February
- Peonies & Taiwan Rhododendron – March to April
- Indian Pipes – March to May
- Hydrangea – May to August
- Maple leaves – November to December
Other Popular Trails at Sun Link Sea
If you are only visiting Sun Link Sea on a day trip, squeezing in all of the park’s wonderful attractions in such a short time can be tricky. And to be honest, you’ll probably only have enough time to see the attractions listed above.
However, for those with a bit more time on their Shanlinxi itinerary, here are a couple of other paths worth tackling.
Trails near the Visitors Center
Songlong Rock Waterfall isn’t the only spectacular waterfall in the Sun Link Sea Forest. If you also want to check out Chinglong Waterfall and Chinglong Second Waterfall, follow the Chinglong Fern Trail which starts near Theme Hall.
The trail is 1.6km long and takes about an hour one way. Make sure also to cross the 88 Suspension Bridge, where you can spot several cool-looking well-like potholes (Shyrjing Ji) in the riverbed. The potholes were formed by years of erosion, and the deepest one reaches up to 5.5 meters.
Trails near Sun-Link-Sea Hotel
Further afield, near the Red House, you’ll also find a bunch of scenic treks worth your time.
The Taiwan Rhododendron Forest Trail is one of the must-do hikes in Sun Link Sea. The 1.7km long trail starts right behind the Red House and takes about 1 hour to complete.
Along the way, you can spot dozens of pretty rhododendrons and rare Indian pipes (in season), and there are several cozy pavilions where you can sit back and enjoy the scenery. The area contains over 3,000 plants, of which about 500 are Taiwan Rhododendrons.
Another trail near here is the Yenan Trail. This course only takes about 10 minutes to complete, and the beautiful Longlin Waterfall awaits you at its end. Come in spring or summer if you want to see the waterfall in its full force.
Just across from the Shanlinxi Bridge and behind the Sun-Link-Sea Hotel, you can also follow the Chunlin Trail to the Medicinal Herb Garden. The trail is 1.8km long and takes around 40 minutes to complete. This trail is especially popular during cherry blossom season in Taiwan because it offers a wonderful view over the Cherry Blossom Forest from across the river. Cross the 98 Red Bridge to access the herb garden.
Other Attractions Near Shanlinhsi
There are loads of attractions in Nantou, and it’s easy to combine a trip to Sun Link Sea Forest with several other gems in the area.
If you have a bit more time to explore the area, here are the best attractions near Sun-Link-Sea:
- Xitou Monster Village: A quirky Japanese monster-themed village located roughly 17km from Shanlinhsi. Bus 6871 and 6883B connects the two areas in less than 45 minutes. The ride costs NTD 58.
- Xitou Nature Education Area: Another mystical forest home to towering trees, canopy walkways, and beautiful natural scenery. Access the forest area via the same route as Monster Village.
- Wyougu Forest: An eerie forest full of odd-looking dead cedar trees which tumbled after a landslide caused by the 1999 Ji-ji Earthquake. A visit to Wyougu Forest usually forms part of most Sun Link Sea day tours, but a locally operated shuttle service can also quickly get you up the mountain (NTD200).
- Sun Moon Lake: Taiwan’s largest natural lake and a mecca for outdoorsy folk. Taiwan Shuttle Bus operates several buses daily between Xitou and Sun Moon Lake and if you’ve bought a Sun Moon Lake Xitou Pass the ride will be a bit cheaper. Also read my detailed guide to Sun Moon Lake for more tips.
Shanlinhsi in Conclusion
Sun Link Sea is probably one of the most underrated destinations in Taiwan and ideal for anyone who wants to get off the main tourist track!
Well, that wraps up my insider’s guide to Sun Link Sea in Nantou! If you think I’ve missed any must-see sights, let me know in the comments below so that I can check them out the next time I’m in Nantou!
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