Hualien is a sleepy city on Taiwan’s east coast with plenty to do and see. Although most people rush through Hualien rather quickly on their way to explore Taiwan’s 19km-long canyon – Taroko Gorge – the city itself and the surrounding areas are well worth your time. In this guide, I’ve narrowed down the best things to do in Hualien, Taiwan so that you too can explore this beautiful area with ease. Drop by the best attractions in the city or explore the diverse beauty of this part of Taiwan.
Ready to plan the perfect Hualien itinerary? Read along to find the best things to do in Hualien and discover the best Hualien attractions here!
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Things to do in Hualien: Quick Overview
In this guide, I’ll cover the best things to do in Hualien, Taiwan. You’ll also get tons of tips and tricks so that you can spend less time planning and more time enjoying your Hualien trip.
Before we dive right into what to do in Hualien and my tips to help you travel Hualien stress-free, here’s a quick look at what Hualien activities are covered in this guide:
- Hike Taroko Gorge
- Visit Qingshui Cliffs
- Relax at Qixingtan Beach
- Wander around Liyu Lake
- Pop by Pine Garden
- See the quirky street art at Manor House
- Visit Falgory Ocean Park
- Browse the temples
- Go to a hot spring
- Try some adventure sports
- Snack your way through the night markets
- Explore the Taiwan East Coast
When to visit Hualien
Taiwan’s east coast is prone to unpredictable weather patterns – especially if you visit during the summer months (Jul-Sept). Summer is also typhoon season, so it’s best to keep an eye on the weather forecast before traveling here. For cooler and more tolerable temperatures head to Hualien during spring (Apr-Jun) or autumn (Sept-Nov). It’s also important to know that frequent earthquakes aren’t uncommon in these parts of Taiwan.
Hualien deserves at least 3-4 days of your time, especially if you want to get a real feel of what the city has to offer and explore some of the beautiful scenery nearby.
How to get to Hualien from Taipei
Taking the Train from Taipei to Hualien
Unless you are driving or flying, the best way to get to Hualien is by train. Trains run daily and there are a bunch of options to choose from. However, if you want the shortest ride, opt for either the Taroko or Puyuma trains. The journey takes 2.5hrs from Taipei and tickets go for NT$419 a pop. But as prices often change, it’s best to check prices here. Pre-booking seats on trains is a huge must, especially if you’re traveling during peak season, weekends or national holidays. Bookings are only possible 14 days in advance though.
Pressed for time? This Hualien Day Tour from Taipei covers some of the best spots to explore in Hualien and Taroko Gorge.
Taking the Bus from Taipei to Hualien
Thanks to the recent improvements made 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 Taipei and Hualien and prices are a lot cheaper than taking the Puyuma train. Buses depart at Nanggang Station in Taipei and the ride takes roughly 200 minutes.
It is also still possible to take a connecting bus from Taipei to Hualien via Loadong. Keep in mind that you’ll need to buy a combo ticket and traveling times aren’t necessarily shorter that taking the direct bus.
Joining a shared car shuttle
There is also a shared sightseeing carpool from Taipei to Hualien via Jiufen – an iconic small mountain villages and one of the best day trips from Taipei. Although the trip takes 8 hours, it will give you the chance to see some of Taiwan’s most iconic viewpoints. If your schedule is flexible, I highly recommend booking this tour as you’ll be rewarded with amazing views along the way.
Flying to Hualien
If you want to maximize your time in Hualien, you could consider flying here instead. Daily flights depart from both Taipei and Kaohsiung and tickets shouldn’t set you back more than NT$3000. But as things often change, always check individual sites for accurate pricing and schedules.
Only have one day to spend in Hualien? This Taroko Gorge Day Tour with Round-trip Flight from Taipei allows 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
If you’d like to explore Hualien at your own pace, the best way to do so is by car or scooter. Both cars and scooters can be rented easily in Hualien. But keep in mind that you would need a valid license (international or local) to do so.
You can rent a scooter right in front of the train station and there are many options to choose from. Prices start at NT$500 a day, but you might be able to get this cheaper through your hotel. Car rentals can be picked up near the train station too.
Getting around the city is still pretty easy if you are relying on public transport. There is no subway (MRT) like in Taipei or Kaohsiung, but buses are frequent and an affordable way to navigate around the city center and surrounding areas. If you do not have an Easy Card, you can buy a 1-day or 2-day Tourist Pass at the Hualien Bus Station (the orange building near the train station). Although I highly recommend investing in an Easy Card as it will give you the freedom to tap and go on the bus.
Where to stay in Hualien
There are many accommodation options in and around Hualien catering to all types of budgets and traveling styles. During my nine years in Taiwan, I’ve traveled to Hualien several times and have really gotten a feel of where to stay in Hualien. Most people do however tend to stay near the train station, where there are a bunch of hotels and backpackers. If you are traveling onwards or looking for the most convenient location, it’s best to stay near here.
Hualien Wow Hostel is located opposite the train station. It caters mainly to backpacker types looking for cheap dorm rooms. But if you prefer your own space and bathroom, rather book a private room.
If you’ve ever stayed at Bayhouse Hostel in Penghu, you’ll know exactly what to expect from their sister hostel in Hualien! Bayhouse Comfortel Hualien Hostel is also located near the train station. The rooms are clean and trendy, and the staff is super helpful.
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. All in all, it’s a great budget-friendly option.
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 want to treat yourself!
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 Taiwan’s beautiful Taroko Gorge. The gorge is one of the nine National Parks in Taiwan and a must on any Taiwan 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.
Some must-do hikes while here are the Eternal Spring Shrine trail, Shakadang trail, and the Swallow Grotto trail. If you want to attempt something a bit more challenging, add the Zhuilu Old Hiking Trail to your list. However, you’ll need a permit to do this trail and only 96 permits are issued a day. The reason for this being is the trail’s unique intensity and the dangers associated with it. You can apply for permits online or book a Zhuilu Old Road Trail hike to make things a bit easier.
Be sure to also read my super detailed Taroko Gorge guide which includes tons of tips to help you plan your trip, as well as the best hiking trails.
Oh, and travel tip: If you aren’t comfortable accessing the park by yourself, there are many Taroko day trips from Hualien to join. Alternatively, consider grabbing 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 stand up paddle boarding 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 visiting 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. Near the visitors center, there is also a little ice cream shop selling dirt cheap, delicious ice cream – perfect on hot summer days!
Spend at least a few hours here hunting for pebbles, building zen towers, strolling on the beach or simply just enjoying the turquoise water and beautiful mountains as a backdrop.
Wander around Liyu Lake
Liyu Lake is only a 20-minute scooter drive from Hualien City and definitely deserves a spot 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 here. Some water sports like canoeing, boat paddling and stand up paddle boarding can be enjoyed nearby too.
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. With its excellent vantage point, it was the perfect location to spot ships nearing the city. Although Pine Garden has changed many hands since then, today it is recognized at one of Taiwan’s 100 Historical Buildings.
Even if you aren’t into history, it’s a great place to have a walkabout and relax under the towering pine trees while taking in the magnificent ocean views.
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, colorful murals,
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!
Get your thrills at Farglory Ocean Park
If you’re traveling with kids, one of the best things to do in Hualien is visiting the Farglory Ocean Park. The park is home to an aquarium, some water rides and even a cable car from where you can get a birds-eye view of the ocean. I’m not a fan of animal tourism, but it’s a nice spot to spend the day, get some thrills and see some diverse sea life up close.
Duck into temples
Similar to other cities in Taiwan, there are oodles of cool temples in Hualien. The Hualien Martyr’s Shrine, Hualien Ji-an Shrine, and Tzu Chi Buddhist Grounds are just a few of the temples you can duck into on your Hualien itinerary. If you only have time to visit one, I highly recommend dropping by the Ji-an Shrine — a small Japanese Shinto Shrine.
Soak in a hot spring
There are quite a few hot springs near Hualien, but the best place for some well deserved R&R is undeniable, Ruishui – a small village in the East Coast Rift Valley.
At Ruishui Hot Springs, in particular, you can enjoy a relaxing soak (with mountain views) at the outdoor pool. Alternatively, book a private tub if you want to escape the crowds. No matter which option you prefer, you’re bound to feel completely rejuvenated afterward.
Get your adrenaline fix
Since there are so many great things to do in Hualien, Taiwan you might want to consider adding a day or two to your trip. This will not only allow you to explore the area with more ease but will also give you a chance to try some of the adventure activities nearby. Hualien has no shortage of adventure sports – from hiking and paragliding to river tracing and river rafting.
Although the paragliding experience is only 15 minutes long, the breathtaking views of rolling hills and the coastline are more than enough reward. Alternatively, join a river rafting tour that will take you through rocky ravines, and lush mountainous jungles. Or, trek, climb and swim on this river tracing experience.
Take a day tour
Besides all the cool things to do in Hualien, Taiwan’s east coast is a real mecca for nature lovers! And one of the easiest ways to enjoy this scenic area hassle-free is with a tour. Here are some of the most popular tours you might want to consider joining on your Hual
- 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 coastline views on this day trip.
- 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 while enjoying scenic views along the way.
- Orange Day-Lily Day Tour – Take in the magnificent views from the top of Sixty Stone Mountain – one of Taiwan’s most scenic mountain trails. Dotted along the way, you’ll find colorful lily fields and quaint pavilions.
Have you visited Hualien yet? What tips do you have for fellow travelers wondering what to do in Hualien? Drop your comments below.
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