Xiaoliuqiu: An Insanely Detailed Guide to Lambai Island
Xiaoliuqiu (小琉球) is a tiny, gorgeous coral island located a short ferry ride from Kaohsiung. Often also called Little Liuqiu, Lamay Island, Lambai Island, or Little Ryukyu, Liuqiu is revered for its gorgeous scenery, warm tropical waters, laid-back vibes, tasty seafood, and the chance to see green sea turtles up close!
Despite only being 6.8km2 big, this stunning Taiwan island has plenty to do and packs the perfect mix of outdoor fun and fascinating history. Whether you’re exploring the lush jungles and centuries-old caves on land or discovering the diverse animal life underwater – there’s something for everyone in Xiaoliuqiu!
In this Liuqiu Island guide, I’ll cover everything you need to plan the perfect Xiaoliuqiu itinerary – whether you’re making a day trip, spending a weekend, or planning a more extended beach vacation. Find out how to get to Xiaoliuqiu, when to visit and where to stay. I’ve also included all the best things to do in Xiao Liuqiu and tons of tips to help you explore this stunning Taiwan island at your leisure!
Disclaimer* Please note this post probably contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may receive a tiny commission at no additional cost to you.
Xiao Liuqiu Island Itinerary Pre-Travel Tips
Before you dive into this comprehensive guide, here are a few quick tips for planning the perfect Lambai island itinerary:
- Search the best Xiao Liuqiu hotels well in advance. Rooms fill up quickly, especially on weekends. Also, make sure to book a room with a free cancellation policy as ferry departures depend on the weather conditions.
- To get to Xiaoliuqiu from Taipei, or elsewhere in Taiwan, you need to get to Kaohsiung first. The fastest way to do this is via Taiwan’s super-efficient High-Speed Rail. Book a seat on the HSR in advance to get to Zouying Station (the terminal station) stress-free.
- Grab a discounted return ferry ticket online if you’re only planning a day trip.
- If you aren’t comfortable exploring the underworld independently, check out this guided snorkeling tour or this scuba diving excursion for beginners.
- While Taiwan is an exceptionally safe country to visit, it’s always best to have proper travel insurance. My go-to provider is World Nomads – they have lots of different packages, and applying online is super quick.
- Make sure to download Google Translate and Google Maps before your trip. That way, you can easily access maps, plan your stops, and translate Chinese menus on the go.
In a rush? Pin this Taiwan island post to read later.
Lambai Island Essentials
Along with the tips above, here are a few things I highly recommend bringing along for a stress-free Xiaoliuqiu trip.
- Cash: Make sure you bring enough money for your trip. There are a few ATMs on the island, but they only accept local bank cards. Therefore, if you are traveling with an international bank card, remember to withdraw cash on the mainland.
- Eco-friendly Sunscreen: Since Liuqiu is a protected area, regular sunscreen won’t do. Make sure to pack a reef-safe sunscreen that won’t harm the environment.
- Microfibre towel: Pack a lightweight towel, like this Dock & Bay microfiber beach towel. It dries in a jiffy and won’t weigh you down.
- Waterproof Cellphone Case & Dry bag: If you’re planning on spending a lot of time near the water, make sure to pack a decent waterproof cellphone case and a dry bag to keep your belongings dry.
- Snorkel Gear: If you’re not joining a snorkeling tour, it is still possible to rent gear at one of the dive shops in town. Alternatively, bring your own snorkeling equipment to save the hassle.
- Beach Umbrella: Since there’s not much shade on Little Liuqiu’s beaches, it’s worthwhile to pack a sturdy beach umbrella or this super lightweight, portable pop-up beach tent.
- Camera: I always travel with my Olympus Mirrorless Camera. It’s not as bulky as a DSLR and takes gorgeous photos. If you prefer something more lightweight, consider investing in a waterproof Go Pro or grab this DJI Mavic Mini Drone that fits in your pocket!
- Mosquito repellant: Xiao Liu Qiu’s jungles are home to lots of mosquitoes. Make sure to pack an eco-friendly bug repellant to stay protected.
How to get to Xiaoliuqiu
When I started researching how to get to Lambai Island, most of the English information I found online was quite outdated and confusing. That’s where this guide comes in. I’m going to show you the easiest and fastest ways to reach Xiao Liu Qiu so that you can spend less time planning and more time enjoying the island vibes!
The only way to get to Lambai Island is by ferry from Donggang Ferry Terminal in Donggang City, Pingtung County. Before hitting the road, you should also know that Donggang is an hour’s drive from Kaohsiung City.
Boats sail roughly every hour between 7:00 and 17:30 and take less than 30 minutes to reach Xiaoliuqiu. (More info below).
How to get to Donggang Ferry Terminal from Kaohsiung
The easiest way to get to Donggang Ferry Terminal is by car or scooter from Kaohsiung. You could also grab an Uber, but unless you’re traveling in a group, expect to pay between NT$800-1300. If that is not an option for you, you’ll need to rely on a mix of transport modes to get to Xiao Liu Qiu.
If you are traveling from Taipei, the fastest way to get to Kaohsiung is to book a seat on the High-Speed Rail to Zouying. Then follow the steps below.
From Kaohsiung, take the red MRT line towards Siaogang to Kaohsiung Main Train Station (TRA).
Then walk to Spring Tourist Rental (春天旅遊汽機車出租, see map here) to grab a shuttle taxi to Donggang Wharf. It’s advisable to phone in advance to book a shuttle unless you travel during peak seasons or weekends. It’s also good to know that you might need to wait for passengers to fill up the taxi, but usually, this doesn’t take very long. Rides cost NT$150 per person.
Although it is a cheaper option, I do not recommend taking the Kenting Express Bus (#9189) to Dapeng Wan and then transferring to bus #503 to Donggang Ferry Terminal as you’ll be wasting a lot of traveling time. It took me well over 4 hours and a lot of sweat and tears to follow this route!
Travel Tip: Getting back to Kaohsiung from the Donggang Ferry is much easier. Once you exit the ferry, you’ll see several taxi drivers waving signboards for shuttle services. The prices are the same, no matter which company you choose. A shuttle ride to Kaohsiung Train Station costs NT$150, while a trip to Zouying HSR Station is NT$200. If you’ve missed the window, simply cross the street. There is a taxi shuttle company right next to Family Mart.
Taking the Xiaoliuqiu Ferry
Once you arrive at Donggang Ferry Terminal, you’ll notice there are two private ferry operators. Prices are the same no matter which company you use and the sailing times are quite similar. I sailed with TF Express, and the ride was comfortable and smooth.
I also recommend buying a return ticket as it works out a bit cheaper. Return ferry tickets to Xiaoliuqiu cost NT$410 and NT$230 for a single journey. The return ticket is valid for seven days, allowing you to spend up to a week on the island.
There is also a public ferry that runs at a lower price (NT$200 one way) but with fewer sailing times.
It’s also good to know that private ferries sail to Baisha Tourist Harbor while the public ferry stops at Public Ferry Harbor.
Sailing Times from Donggang to Xiaoliuqiu
7:00, 7:30, 8:00, 9:00, 10:30, 10:45, 12:00, 12:36, 13:30, 14:00, 15:30, 17:00
8:00, 11:00, 14:00, 16:30, 18:45
Sailing Times from Xiaoliuqiu to Donggang
7:40, 8:00, 9:00, 10:00, 10:30, 11:30, 12:00, 13:00, 14:00, 14:30, 15:00, 16:30, 17:00, 17:30
7:00, 9:30, 13:00, 15:00, 18:00
Travel Tips: These prices and timings were correct at the time of writing. Since things often change, please only use them as a guideline. Make sure to arrive at the ferry terminal 30 minutes before sailing times. Bring your ID card or passport to purchase a ticket. Oh, and don’t forget to pack medication if you suffer from seasickness.
When to visit Xiaoliuqiu
Xiaoliuqiu is a great destination year-round, making it perfect for a quick island getaway. The climate is mostly dry and warm, but expect hot and humid conditions during the summer months.
Spring (Mar-May) is a popular season to visit Lamay Island as the temperatures are pleasant with little rainfall. Expect average highs in the upper twenties while the temperature hardly ever dips below 21°C.
While summer (June – Aug) is the low season in Liuqiu Island, the temperatures are perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving. It can be quite hot and muggy, though, with temperatures ranging in the mid-thirties. Since typhoons aren’t uncommon during summer, it’s best to keep an eye on the weather forecast before booking a trip.
During fall (Sept – Nov), expect pleasant temperatures ranging between 25°C – 30°C. Since the weather is perfect for an island getaway, hotel rooms fill up quickly. Prices also tend to be slightly higher than in summer. You should, however, know that Xiaoliuqiu is still susceptible to typhoons, storms, and huge waves during the month of September.
Winter (Dec – Feb) is an enjoyable time to visit Liuqiu as the weather is quite pleasant, with average highs ranging between 22°C – 25°C. If you don’t like crowds, this is a great time to visit the island.
How long to stay in Lambai Island Taiwan
Most people visit Xiao Liu Qiu on a day trip from Kaohsiung. While a 1-day itinerary is enough time to stop by several tourist attractions, enjoy a delicious seafood lunch, and work in a 2-hour snorkeling tour, staying longer is highly encouraged, especially since there is so much more to do in Xiaoliuqiu!
To really experience all of Liuqiu island’s best bits, I highly recommend spending at least 2-3 days on the island. By doing so, you can explore all of its nooks in crannies, relax at the beach and work in a few snorkeling trips.
How to get around Xiaoliuqiu
The easiest way to get around Xiaoliuqiu is by scooter or electric bike. It’s easy to rent a motorcycle (NT$450 per day) or an electric bicycle near Baisha Tourist Harbor. To locate the bike shops, turn left when you exit the ferry terminal and go up the stairs. Alternatively, rent a scooter via Klook or ask your hostel or hotel to help you rent one.
Travel Tip: To rent a scooter in Taiwan, you must have a local license or an IDP for a motorcycle. Don’t forget to bring this along, as you won’t be able to rent a scooter without one!
Walking: Since most of the attractions in Xiao Liuqiu are quite spread out, it’s nearly impossible to see all of the island’s best bits on foot. If you’re only planning on sticking to the center of town and swimming at Vase Rock or Zhongao Beach, there’s not much need to rent a scooter. That said, there are heaps more to do further afield, and you’d seriously be missing out if you don’t have your own set of wheels.
Bus: There is a little round–the–island bus, but I wouldn’t recommend wasting time trying to figure out the schedules and stops. I couldn’t find any English information online, but if you are keen to use it, see the bus route here. Alternatively, visit the Liuqiu Visitor Center on Minzu Road (see map here) for more info.
What to do in Xiaoliuqiu: Top Liuqiu Attractions
Located 13km southwest from the mainland in the Taiwan Strait, Xiaoliuqiu is revered as Taiwan’s most extensive coral island with plenty to entice travelers. From adventure activities, such as snorkeling, scuba diving, SUP and kayaking and swimming with sea turtles to trekking through lush jungles and exploring the island’s unique geological caves.
But that’s not all this little island has to offer! There’s a great food scene, tons of tourist attractions, and more than 80 temples to explore!
Ready to discover the best things to do in Xiaoliuqiu? Let’s go! Here are my top recommendations!
Hit the beaches
Xiaoliuqiu is home to some of the best beaches in Taiwan. The beaches are beautiful, and the waters are warm and full of marine life. Here are the best beaches not to miss when visiting Little Liuqiu island.
Vase Rock (花瓶石)
Vase Rock is the most iconic tourist attraction in Xiaoliuqiu. It’s also an intertidal zone, so the beach is not all that big. Still, there is plenty of room to take a gentle stroll along the coastline. It’s worth checking the tidal schedules before you visit, though.
Secret Beach (厚石魚澳)
Despite its name, Secret Beach is no longer a secret. Still, it’s an incredibly beautiful beach neatly nestled along the Houshi Fringing Reef. The beach itself is not very big, but the water is warm, and there’s loads of animal life underwater. In fact, if you’re an independent snorkeler, this is the best place in Xiaoliuqiu to see colorful coral, all kinds of fish, and sea turtles.
Zhongao Beach (中澳沙灘)
Zhongao Beach, also called ChungAu Beach, is the largest beach on the island and a firm favorite among beachgoers and sun-seekers. The marine life is not as good as elsewhere, but it’s a great swimming beach. And since there’s lots of room, it’s the perfect spot to bask in the sun!
Beauty Beach (美人沙灘)
Located a hop, skip, and a jump from the Beauty Cave, this sandy beach is the stuff of postcards and brochures! The beach is not very big, but it’s a great place to chill and one of the best places to spot sea turtles. There are lots of coral fragments, so remember to wear water shoes or flip flops.
It’s also worth noting that mornings are usually quite packed with snorkeling tour groups. It’s best to come in the afternoon if you want to skip most of the crowds.
Geban Bay (蛤板灣)
Geban Bay or Venice Beach, as locals like to call it, is right up there with the most beautiful beaches in Taiwan. While the beach is only 100m long, the sand is soft, and the waters crystal clear! Gebanwan is the perfect spot for hunting ecological treasures in the intertidal zone, soaking up the sun, and relaxing in the warm waters.
***Geban Bay Beach is currently closed for construction work.
Shanfu Fishing Harbour (杉福漁港)
Shanfu is a natural harbor formed by coral rocks and one of the three fishing ports on the island. Nearby you’ll find several sea-eroded sights along the coastline such as potholes and pillars resembling giant mushrooms. While Shanfu is a popular place to go kayaking in Xiaoliuqiu, the small beach near the port is perfect for swimming.
Go Snorkeling with green sea turtles
While you don’t necessarily need to get your feet wet to see sea turtles in Xiaoliuqiu, a visit to this dreamy island would simply not be complete without a snorkeling adventure!
What’s more, the water is the perfect temperature year-round! There are quite a few popular snorkeling spots on the island, and it’s easy to join a guided snorkeling tour.
However, if you prefer to discover the underwater world independently like me, grab your gear and get ready for a fantastic adventure! Here are the best places to snorkel in Xiao Liuqiu.
- If you are not a good swimmer, the tidal pools at Vase Rock are perfect to see sea turtles up close without going in too deep.
- Secret Beach is the best snorkeling spot in Xiaoliuqiu, and you’re guaranteed to see quite a few turtles. If you are not a strong swimmer, don’t go in too deep as the water on the eastern side of the island can be quite choppy with stronger currents.
- Beauty Beach is another excellent snorkeling place in Liuqiu. I spotted seven sea turtles here. If you are a good swimmer, don’t be afraid to venture out a bit further past the tidal pools. The underwater world is surreal here and full of pink, blue, and purple coral, not to mention bountiful sea turtles and colorful fish. Just a heads up, though, unless you are freediving, I wouldn’t recommend swimming out to the fishing cages as a shiver of sharks was spotted there a while back.
- Zhongao Beach is another popular snorkeling spot, but it’s mostly packed with guided snorkeling tours and kayakers. If this is your first time snorkeling, it’s a good place to start, but you should know the coral life isn’t as vibrant as elsewhere on the island.
Travel Tips: Xiaoliuqiu’s green sea turtles are endangered, and it’s strictly prohibited to touch them. In fact, you can get a harsh fine (up to NT$300, 000) if caught doing so. Always stay 5m away from them, use reef-safe sunscreen, and remove your makeup before heading into the water.
Go on a semi-submarine cruise
If you are a non-swimmer or simply prefer not getting your feet wet, the best way to discover the treasures below is on a glass-bottom boat cruise. Klook has a fun 1-hr sunset tour, which will allow you to watch the stunning sunset and soak up the underwater scenery without getting wet!
Take a selfie at Vase Rock (花瓶石)
Situated right below the impressive Lingshan Temple, you’ll find Xiaoliuqiu’s most iconic sight and probably the most photographed, too – Vase Rock.
Shaped by decades of sea erosion, Vase Rock is quite a peculiar coral limestone formation. With its thin body and big head covered with lush plant life, Vase Rock is a firm favorite among sunset chasers, beachgoers, and photographers.
During the day, the tidal pools are perfect for playing in the water or snorkeling. If you don’t feel like swimming, kick off your shoes and take a gentle stroll along the beach.
Explore Beauty Cave (美人洞風景區)
Beauty Cave, located along the northwest coast of the island, is one of the three natural caves in Xiaoliuqiu and a huge must-visit.
The 700m trail is cut in half by the Round-the-Island Road and offers a fantastic glimpse into the island’s unique geology. Along the way, you can duck into hidden caves, get a closer look at the limestone formations covered in fossilized shells and corals, and spot hundreds of butterflies and birds.
After exploring all the little paths head to the Tranquility Pavilion for one of the best views over the Taiwan Strait. Just a tip, though, come early to beat the heat and skip the crowds!
Travel Tips: There is a small entrance fee of NT$120, but it’s worth every penny! Don’t lose the ticket as you can use it to enter all of Xiaoliuqiu’s natural attractions. These include Beauty Cave, Black Devil Cave, and the Bamboo Ecology Pond.
Walk the Wild Boar Trench Trail (山豬溝)
The Wild Boar Trench Trail is a beautiful trek that takes you through a lush jungle filled with towering banyan trees and incredible tropical plant life. Since the trail is mostly covered with a thick jungle canopy, it’s the perfect place to escape the harsh rays on a hot summer day. What’s more, there are plenty of benches where you can take a breather and admire the uplifted coral reef rocks covered in lush vegetation.
It’s quite an extensive trail with several noteworthy stops along the way, but if you’re pressed time, make sure to follow the main path to the sea view pavilion. The view won’t disappoint!
Visit Black Devil Cave (烏鬼洞風景區)
Black Devil Cave is another geological wonder with a fascinating history not to miss when visiting Little Liuqiu. It’s also and one of the best Xiaoliuqiu things to do!
There are quite a few whispers about the cave’s complex history, but legend has it that a group of slaves was abandoned on the island by the Dutch. Later, after being found living secretly in the cave, they were massacred.
If you’re brave enough, squeeze through the extremely narrow passage to explore the inside of this collapsed cave. Afterward, follow the circular route for a closer look at the limestone formations, century-old banyan trees, lush jungle, and mind-blowing seaside views.
Drive along the Houshi Fringing Reef (厚石裙礁)
Liuqiu boasts varied landscapes shaped by thousands of years of sea erosion. Houshi Fringing Reef on the southeastern shores of the island is one of the best examples of the sea’s brute force to reshape nature.
The extensive reef between Dafu Fishery Port and Haizikou stretches along the coast, and the unique platforms featuring rough, uneven ditches are indeed a phenomenon to witness firsthand.
Along the way, there are several coral formations to keep an eye out for. These include Guanyin Rock named after the Goddess of Mercy, Indian Rock, and Mouse Rock.
Walk the Sanfu Ecological Path (杉褔生態廊道)
Sanfu Ecological corridor used to be a military bunker. Today, it’s free to explore the inside of this military shelter and it offers a quick glimpse into the past. Next to the massive outdoor viewing platform, there’s a cute little pavilion where you can sit back and watch the waves come and go. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a sea turtle or two playing in the water!
Catch the sunset at Sunset Galley (落日亭)
Watching an epic sunset is the perfect way to end a day exploring Xiao Liu Qiu island. Sunset Pavilion on the western side of Xiaoliuqiu is the best place to do just that, and the large deck is the perfect spot to watch the setting sun over the Taiwan Strait. Interestingly enough, the area was once a landfill. Today, however, Sunset Pavilion is one of the most popular places to visit on the island and gets crowded quickly. Be sure to come a bit earlier to grab a spot.
Stop by White Lighthouse (白燈塔)
The White Lighthouse is 11.6 meters tall and was built in 1929 during the Japanese occupation. It’s the only lighthouse on the island and helps guide ships through the Taiwan Strait and Bashi Channel.
While you can’t go inside, it’s still worth a quick pitstop. Plan on spending between 5-10 minutes here. That way, you can snap a few photos, walk around the Lighthouse, and admire the lush jungles surrounding it.
Drop by the Century-old Banyan
A short drive from the White Lighthouse, you’ll find the oldest tree on Liuqiu island. This massive tree is more than 100 years old and is perfect for a quick photo stop. But that’s not all! Most travelers to Xiaoliuqiu don’t know this, but right behind the banyan, there is a tiny footpath that leads to the BEST view of Houshi Fringing Reef! Tread carefully and watch your head as the vegetation is quite dense. Once you reach the cliff, you’ll be rewarded with a bird’s-eye view of Secret Beach, the reef, and verdant greenery to the sides.
Seek out the wildlife at Lobster Cave (龍蝦洞)
Lobster Cave is a popular spot among photographers and Instagrammers. Unfortunately, you can’t go into the cave, but you can still enjoy the incredible view from the walkway bridge. It’s also worth walking to the end of the trail. From here, you can get a close-up look at the rocky reef coast, potholes, and ditches.
More adventurous travelers can scramble on top of the reef platform for a gentle walkabout. If you’re lucky, you might spot a few lobsters, crabs, or sea turtles!
Watch the sunrise at Sunrise Pavilion
If you’re spending a few days in Xiaoliuqiu, it’s worth getting up early to catch the sunrise. Sunrise Pavilion is located on the eastern side of the island and offers lots of room to watch the golden hour. It’s a great spot to enjoy your morning coffee, but remember to check the sunrise timings the day before.
Where to stay in Xiaoliuqiu
Despite its small size, there are heaps of choices when it comes to Xiaoliuqiu accommodation, no matter your budget.
Begin Inn (check rates here) is a newly built gorgeous guesthouse that will make you forget all your worries from the get-go. The rooms feature beautifully modern decor, and the breezy decks that gaze out over the Taiwan Strait are the perfect spots to kick back and unwind after a day out exploring the island. What’s more, stunning Geban Bay is just around the corner!
Outline Hotel (check rates here) offers stunning ocean views with clean and bright interiors. During the day, you can cool off in the spacious pool, and at night, gaze at the stars while you listen to the sounds of crickets and frogs from your balcony.
Hide & Seek Inn (check rates here) is a bit of a splurge, but it’s worth every penny. The rooms feature beautifully decorated Scandinavian finishes with bright, modern interiors. The glimmering pool and breezy outdoor area is just the place to kick back and enjoy Liuqiu’s sights and sounds as the day unwinds.
Need more help finding the perfect hostel, B&B, or hotel in Xiaoliuqiu? Check more listings here with Agoda!
What to eat and drink in Xiaoliuqiu
Seafood: Fresh seafood is easy to find on the island no matter where you go. What’s more, there are loads of barbeque places where you can enjoy an ice-cold beer as you barbeque your own seafood for as little as NT$250 per person.
Sesame twisters: One of Liuqiu’s specialty snacks and a must-try! Sesame twisters consist of twisted dough that is fried or baked and sprinkled with flavorings such as caramel, seaweed, brown sugar, plum, black pepper, coffee, and more. There are lots of vendors in town, and bags usually go for NT$80 a pop.
Dried cuttlefish: Cuttlefish is a typical Taiwanese snack. There are many variations on the island (salty and sweet, flattened, or shredded), so if you’re feeling adventurous, give them a try!
Mango cheese smoothie: You’ll be missing out if you didn’t try Macu‘s delicious mango cheese smoothie! This refreshing layered drink consists of chewy green tea jelly, fresh-cut mango pieces, topped with a smooth cream cheese foam. It’s a great drink, especially on a hot summer day!
Haigui Beer and Captain Beer: Don’t miss Xiao Liuqiu’s own two craft beer varieties because you cannot buy them anywhere else!
Xiaoliuqiu might be small, but there’s plenty to keep you busy for a few days. If you have anything to add to this ultimate guide to Xiaoliuqiu, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. Feel free to share your tips on the top things to do, places to stay, the best eateries, and anything in between.
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