Planning a trip to Taiwan’s gorgeous East Coast and looking for things to do in Hualien?
Hualien is a beautiful city nestled on Taiwan’s East Coast that rivals some of the best cities in Taiwan. While the city of Hualien is best known as the main gateway to Taiwan’s incredible Taroko Gorge, the town itself and its surrounding areas are equally stunning.
With glistening lakes, beautiful beaches, epic hiking trails, rice terraces, bustling night markets, and so much more, Hualien has plenty to entice travelers and definitely deserves a spot on any Taiwan itinerary.
In this guide, I will share the very best things to do in Hualien, Taiwan. I’ve also included tons of tips (gathered from years and years of living in Taiwan) so that you can plan the perfect Hualien trip.
Read along to find the best things to do in Hualien and discover the best attractions to add to your Hualien travel itinerary.
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Before you go to Hualien
Before we dive into what to do in Hualien, here are a few Hualien travel tips to help you plan the perfect trip.
- Hualien is one of the busiest travel destinations in Taiwan. Make sure to book accommodation and train tickets well in advance to avoid disappointment.
- Check the weather before your trip, as the East Coast is prone to typhoons and landslides.
- Read my detailed Taiwan packing list for tips on what to wear and what to bring along on your trip.
- Download the Uber app, Google Translate, and Google Maps on your phone for a stress-free trip.
- Don’t forget your Easy Card if you’re planning on using the bus or local train while in Hualien.
- Taiwan’s East Coast is famous for its incredible cycling routes. If that’s on your list of things to do in Hualien this guide on Taiwan bike rental shops will come in handy.
When to visit Hualien
Hualien is a great city to visit year-round. And if you want to get acquainted with Hualien’s best bits, plan to spend at least a couple of days here. With 3-4 full days in Hualien, you’ll be able to get a real feel of the city and experience all of the city’s best attractions.
So when is the best time to visit Hualien?
Well, that’s somewhat of a tricky question. You see, Taiwan’s east coast is prone to unpredictable weather patterns, and typhoons and earthquakes are quite common in this part of the island. With that said, the best time to visit Hualien is during spring or winter (IMO).
Spring (Mar -May), especially the month of March, is a great time to visit Hualien. During the season of spring, you’re likely to experience good weather with average temperatures in the mid-twenties (°C).
Winter (Dec-Feb) is another great season to go to Hualien as there’s less rain and less humidity. During these months, you can expect average temperatures between 20-25 °C.
If you must visit in autumn (Sept – Nov), try to avoid the month of October. It is the wettest month with roughly 367mm of rainfall.
Summer (Jun-Aug) is not a bad time to visit Hualien, but you should Hualien is hot and muggy during this season. July is the hottest month, and temperatures easily go above 30°C. Typhoon season also runs through summer in Taiwan, so remember to check the weather forecast before your trip.
How to get to Hualien
Hualien is one of the most popular travel destinations in Taiwan. And as a result, it’s quite easy to access the city. I’ve written a complete guide on how to get from Taipei to Hualien, but if you’re in a rush, here are the basics:
By train: Many trains go to Hualien daily, but book a seat on either the Taroko Express or Puyuma Express trains for the fastest and most convenient journey. Tickets cost NTD 440, and the ride takes about 2.5 hours. Make sure to book a ticket 14 days in advance when traveling during peak season, special events, or weekends.
By direct bus: Thanks to the recent improvements on Taiwan’s Suhua Highway, it is now possible to bus directly from Taipei to Hualien. Both Taipei Bus and Ubus offer direct routes between Nangang Station in Taipei and Hualien Station. The ride takes roughly 200 minutes and costs NTD 320.
By bus & train combo: If you’ve missed the direct bus or are too late for one of the fast trains, it is possible to take a local bus from Taipei to Loudong and then catch a local train to Hualien. But just a heads up, this option isn’t much cheaper, and travel times are often much longer.
By air: If you want to maximize your time in Hualien, flying there is your best bet. Several flights depart to Hualien from Songshan Airport in Taipei and Kaohsiung Airport each week. Tickets start at around NTD 3000 for a return trip.
By shuttle bus: If your Taiwan itinerary is flexible, you could also join this shared sightseeing carpool. The shuttle runs from Taipei to Hualien via Jiufen – an iconic small mountain village and one of the best day trips from Taipei.
Join a tour: If you only have one day in Hualien, this Taroko Gorge Day Tour with Round-trip Flight from Taipei will allow you to drop by some of the stunning trails in Taroko, visit Qingshui cliff, and snack your way through the night market – all in less than 15 hours.
Getting around Hualien
Hualien City has a wealth of transport methods to transport you to all corners of the city. However, the best way to experience all of Hualien’s amazing attractions is at your own pace. And the easiest way to do so is by car or scooter.
If you have a valid driver’s license (international or local), renting a scooter or a car in Hualien is pretty easy. You can rent a scooter right in front of the train station, where you’ll find several scooter rental shops. Prices generally start at NTD 500 a day. However, it is often possible to get a cheaper rate through your hotel. If you’re traveling in a group or just not comfortable navigating Hualien by scooter, another option is to rent a car. Book a car rental for pick up near the train station here.
If none of the options above are for you, then you’ll be glad to learn that it’s relatively easy to get around Hualien City by taxi, Uber or by public bus.
Like elsewhere in Taiwan, you can flag down a cab on the street, ask your hotel to call one for you, or book one through an Ibon machine in any 7-Eleven. Just make sure always to have your destination’s address written down (or screenshot thereof) in Chinese.
Getting around Hualien is pretty easy if you are relying on public transport too. There is no subway (MRT) in Hualien like in Taipei, Kaohsiung or Taichung, but Hualien City has an extensive bus network that can easily transport you around the city and surrounding areas. It’s a good idea to download Google Maps before your trip to access info on the go and invest in an Easy Card so that you can tap and go on the bus. If you’re planning on making good use of the bus in Hualien, it’s wise to buy a bus pass. You can buy a 1-day or 2-day Tourist Pass at the Hualien Bus Station (the orange building near the train station).
Where to stay in Hualien
There are oodles of accommodation options in Hualien catering to all types of budgets and traveling styles.
With that said, the best place to stay in Hualien is near the train station. From here, you’ll have easy access to buses and trains, as well as loads of shops and restaurants around you.
Here are my top recommendations on where to stay in Hualien.
Hualien Wow Hostel practically sits opposite the train station and is a great option for backpackers or those traveling on a tight budget. The hostel offers everything from dorm-style rooms to private rooms for those who value their privacy.
Another great budget option is Bayhouse Comfortel Hualien Hostel. The same owners as Bayhouse Hostel in Penghu run this hostel, so expect an awesome atmosphere, helpful staff, and clean rooms.
Meci Hotel is only 500m from the train station and ideal for mid-range travelers. Although the building looks a bit outdated from the outside, the interior is beautiful! In the lobby, you’ll find loads of maps and info, as well as free snacks and drinks. The rooms are clean and comfy, and the staff speaks English.
The Lakeshore Hotel is a 4-star hotel with beautiful clean rooms and ocean views. It is a bit further away from the train station, but it’s a great option if you’re looking for an upscale stay at surprisingly affordable rates.
Best Things to do in Hualien, Taiwan
Hualien is one of Taiwan’s most scenic areas to explore and a huge must while in Taiwan. Below you’ll find the best things to do in Hualien and lots of tips to help you plan the perfect Hualien trip.
Hike Taroko Gorge
If there is one thing you must do in Hualien it is visit Taroko Gorge.
Taroko Gorge is one of the nine National Parks in Taiwan and a must on any Taiwan travel itinerary. Here, you’ll be able to trek through beautiful trails following along marble walls, spot unique fauna and flora, see some of Taiwan’s best waterfalls, and pop into cute temples.
Hiking is one of the main draws of this park, with the Eternal Spring Shrine trail, Shakadang trail, and the Swallow Grotto trail being among the most popular. If you want to attempt something a bit more challenging, the Zhuilu Old Hiking Trail is the toughest trek in Taroko. The hike requires a permit and since only 96 permits are issued a day, make sure to plan well ahead. You can apply for permits online or book this Zhuilu Old Road Trail hike to make things a bit easier.
Be sure also to read my super detailed Taroko Gorge guide, which highlights the best trails (plus tons of tips) to help you plan your trip. Taroko can easily be visited independently, but this Taroko day trip from Hualien is a great option if you prefer to join a guided tour. Alternatively, book a private car charter to explore the area at your own pace.
Visit Qingshui Cliffs
The Qingshui Cliffs are one of Taiwan’s most iconic sights and arguably one of the top Hualien attractions!
If you are driving, be careful not to miss the parking lot. The sign is often obscured by large tour buses, and since the parking lot lies on a bend (just after a tunnel exit), it is quite easy to drive by. Make sure to download Google Maps beforehand so that you can find it easily.
Once you’ve parked, it’s a short 5
More adventurous travelers won’t be disappointed visiting here either. With activities such as sea kayaking or SUP nearby, you can enjoy the natural beauty and get your adrenaline fix in one go!
Relax at Qixingtan Beach
One of the best things to do in Hualien is to visit Qixingtan Beach. In fact, no visit to Hualien would be complete without visiting this spectacular Taiwan beach!
Unlike the white sandy beaches that you’ll find in Kenting, Qixingtan is not your typical beach. Here instead of sand, you’ll find pebbles – in all shapes, sizes, and colors imaginable! It’s also one of the best spots on the island to catch the sunrise (besides Alishan and Hehuanshan, near Cingjing) or do some stargazing.
Unfortunately, swimming is not allowed here due to the strong currents on this side of the island, but it’s still a great place to hang out. If you’re visiting in summer, pop into the tiny ice cream store (near the visitors center) where you can enjoy a refreshing (and cheap) treat.
Spend at least a few hours here hunting for pebbles, building zen towers, strolling on the beach or simply enjoying the stunning scenery.
Wander around Liyu Lake
Liyu Lake is only a 20-minute scooter drive from downtown Hualien and a huge must on your list of things to do in Hualien.
While Liyu Lake is not nearly as impressive as Sun Moon Lake, it is Taiwan’s second
Be sure to pop by the visitors’ center, where you can wander along the wooden skywalk and admire the natural beauty. You can also do all kinds of water sports here, like canoeing, boat paddling, and standup paddleboarding.
Drop by Pine Garden
Built in the early 1940s, Pine Garden played an important role in Taiwan’s history and was the Japanese Navy Administration Office for multiple years.
It’s excellent vantage point was the perfect location to spot ships nearing the city. Although Pine Garden has changed many hands since then, it is one of Taiwan’s 100 Historical Buildings today.
Even if you aren’t into history, Pine Garden is a lovely spot to enjoy a walkabout or relax under the towering pine trees.
Stroll around Manor House
Near the city’s hub, you’ll find Manor House – a former Japanese military residence and yet another historical landmark in Hualien.
Today the area is home to quirky art pieces and colorful murals. It’s also the only Japanese community library on the east coast.
Manor House is a great place to stroll around and a cool add-on to your Hualien things to do list!
Snack your way through Hualien
Dongdaemun is the biggest night market in Hualien and a popular go-to spot for foodies. Although it’s a nice place to have a walkabout, there isn’t that much food on offer here. But it’s still a fun place to browse, sample street food or enjoy the game stalls.
Unlike other Taiwanese night markets, Dongdamen has nice broad walkways so it never feels overcrowded. If you’re still feeling peckish, opt for browsing the streets where you’re likely to find tons of local favorites.
Oh, and if you have a sweet tooth, definitely try the taro or sweet potato cakes. They are divine!
Visit Farglory Ocean Park
If visiting Hualien with kids, don’t miss the Farglory Ocean Park. The park is home to an aquarium, loads of water rides, and even a cable car that offers a panoramic views over the coastline.
You can also book a room in the onsite hotel to really enjoy all of the park’s attractions. But if you simply want to visit for the day, make sure to come early. That way, you can browse the aquarium and try some of the rides without the crowds.
Duck into temples
Like other cities in Taiwan, the city of Hualien is jam-packed with beautiful temples and religious sites.
The Hualien Martyr’s Shrine, Hualien Ji-an Shrine, and Tzu Chi Buddhist Grounds are just a few of the temples to visit during your Hualien itinerary. If you only have time to visit one, I highly recommend visiting Ji-an Shrine — a small Japanese Shinto Shrine.
Soak in a hot spring
If you’re looking for one of the most relaxing things to do in Hualien, then don’t miss Hualien’s hot springs!
There are three large hot springs near Hualien; Ruisui Hot Springs, Hongye Hot Springs, and Antong Hot Springs.
While they all offer beautiful scenery and steamy thermal pools, Ruisui Hot Springs is one of the most popular resorts in the greater Hualien area. The resort dates back to the early 1900s and features beautiful traditional Japanese wooden architecture.
The resort has a stunning open-air pool with the most incredible mountain views. But you can also book a private tub if crowds aren’t for you.
What really makes Ruisui hot spring so special is that it’s also Taiwan’s only carbonate hot spring. The water (which reaches up to 48°C) is rich in minerals such as iron. When the iron comes into contact with air it oxidizes giving the water a slightly yellowish tint. It’s also not uncommon to see a layer of salt crystals (aka hot spring flowers) float on its surface.
Get your adrenaline fix
There are loads of fun things to do in Hualien for thrill seekers – from hiking and paragliding to river tracing, rafting, SUP, and even ATV tours! If you have a bit of free time to spare on your Hualien to do list, why not squeeze in a few heart-thumping activities?
Here are some of the most adventurous things to do in Hualien:
- Paragliding: The paragliding experience is only 15 minutes long, but the breathtaking views from above over the rolling hills and epic coastline will be more than enough reward.
- River rafting: Experience one of Taiwan’s best rafting spots on this river rafting tour as you navigate the rapids of the Hsiukuluan River while being fully surrounded by lush jungle scenery.
- River tracing: Ever wanted to trek, climb and swim your way through the gorgeous forests of Taiwan? Check out this fun river tracing experience.
- Sea kayaking: Join this Qingshui Cliffs sea kayaking tour for one of the most magical sunrises in the world!
- Ziplining: Hualien County is blessed with an abundance of beautiful subtropical forests. if you want to get a close-up look at the area’s natural gems join this treetop adventure!
Join a cooking class
Taiwanese aboriginal food is one of the most unique cuisines in the world. And what better way to get acquainted with Hualien’s local specialties than by joining an aboriginal cooking class.
The cooking class lasts about 3 hours, and it’s a great add-on to any list of things to do in Hualien. Not only will you learn how to prepare some incredibly delicious dishes, but you’ll also learn a little more about the unique cooking methods used in aboriginal cuisine.
Enjoy a Cuppa at the Starbucks Shipping Container Store
If you love coffee and taking Instagrammable photos, you have to add the Starbucks Shipping Container Store (see map) to your list of things to do in Hualien!
The store is only about 15 minutes drive south of downtown and is hands-down one of the coolest Starbucks stores in Taiwan.
Even if you’re not a coffee drinker, it’s still a great place to take photos. The architecture is really impressive The 2-story tall store consists of a whopping 29 recycled containers and offers stunning views over the Pacific Ocean. It is also the first store in the Asia Pacific region built from recycled shipping containers.
Admire the views at Baqi Observatory
Roughly 45 minutes drive south of Hualien is one of the most beautiful coastal views of Taiwan, the Baqi Observatory (see map). The lookout point sits along Provincial Highway 11 and offers sweeping views over the Pacific Ocean and mountains covered in lush vegetation.
While the observation deck is not very big, it’s still a cool pitstop to snap some pictures. You’ll also find a couple of vendors here selling drinks and local favorites like luwei (braised snacks) and sticky rice bamboo tubes.
Take a day tour
Still wondering what to do in Hualien? Well, then you’re in luck because Taiwan’s east coast is a mecca for nature lovers!
And one of the easiest ways to get a close-up look at Hualien’s attractions is with a day tour. Here are some of the most popular day tours to add to your Hualien itinerary:
- Whale Watching – If you want to catch a glimpse of dolphins or whales, Taiwan’s east coast is the best spot to do so! Especially since these waters are home to 29 of the world’s 60 species of whales and dolphins. Apart from spotting whales or dolphins frolicking in the water, you’ll also be rewarded with beautiful views.
- East Rift Valley Day Tour – A scenic drive through Taiwan’s East Rift Valley should be high on your list of things to do in Hualien, Taiwan. On this day trip, you’ll drop by Lintian Mountain (an old logging village), Butterfly Valley, and the Hualien Sugar Factory.
- Orange Day-Lily Day Tour – Take in the magnificent views from the top of Sixty Stone Mountain, also known as Lioushidan. Sitting at an elevation of about 800 meters, Sixty Stone Mountain is an incredibly scenic mountain area best known for its vast fields of daylilies. Every year from August to September, a sea of golden lily fields blanket the mountain slopes, making it one of the prettiest places to visit in Taiwan. If you’re an adventurous foodie, don’t miss the deep-fried daylilies that many vendors sell her along the road.
What’s your favorite thing to do in Hualien?
There you have it – the absolute best things to do in Hualien! Did your favorite Hualien activities make the list? If not, let me know in the comments below so that I can check them out when I visit Hualien again.
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