A Guide To Hualien & Taroko National Park
When I was researching where to go in Taiwan, Hualien was the first place on my list. Why? Because the Taroko Gorge is very close to Hualien! There is an impressive mass of cliffs, a stunning blue ocean, marble mountains, canyons, and green jungle surrounded by this laid back city. Perfect for nature lovers like me!
My girlfriend and I spent 3 days in Hualien and used this relaxed city as a base to explore the famous Taroko Gorge and the gorgeous Qingshui Cliffs.
Get To Hualien
There are several ways to travel to Hualien. You can fly or take a bus, but the train system in Taiwan is so efficient so it’s better to take the train. From Taipei, you can take the express train, a ticket costs around 440 NT and the journey takes just about 2-3 hours. There are many options depending on the type of train.
We actually traveled to Hualien from Kaohsiung by a railway train, which takes about 4.5 hours. We bought the train tickets at the convenience store. You can actually buy the tickets at any convenience stores, like 7-11, Family Mart, Hi-Life or OK Mart. Altogether, It was a very comfortable trip.
Booking of TRA train tickets: http://www.railway.gov.tw/en/
In Hualien, there is a shuttle bus from Hualien Train Station about once every hour until 3PM and stops at all the major sightseeing places inside the park. You can purchase an all day bus ticket for NTD $250 at the bright orange building at Hualien Train Station.
Things To Do In Hualien
Try and make it to all the sites! I would recommend spending at least three days around Taroko and Hualien. Though you can squeeze in almost all the entire park in one day (except if you want to do longer hikes), it will be a long and exhausting day.
Whale Watching is a popular attraction in Taiwan along the Eastern Coast. Thanks to WoW hostel for arranging this tour and informed us of the best time to set out is early in the morning to spot the whales. We went around 8AM. The ferry service picked us up promptly from the hostel and brought us to Hualien port. According to the captain, there is generally a 10-20% chance of seeing a whale and about a 70% chance of seeing wild dolphins. I was hoping to see some whale action!
The boat went out into the open water. Within 5 minutes, we already saw dolphin jumping out of the water and quickly disappearing! It was amazing to see dolphins in their natural environment. After the dolphins swam away, the boat circled a few areas for almost 1.5 hours without any sighting. I was disappointed that I didn’t see any whales (I think?), but that’s why they say whales are considered rare sightings anyway.
If you do go for this activity, I recommend bringing some sea-sickness pills if you are prone to getting seasick, as I did witness some people throwing up during the trip. Yikes.
This place reminds me of the stairways in Hawaii called Haiku Stairs. You can take beautiful pictures for Instagram!
Seeing the pictures of Taroko National Park on google, I knew I needed to visit and explore Taiwan’s beautiful nature. Entrance to the national park is free!
Shakadang Trail (Mysterious Valley): The first thing I did when getting off the shuttle bus was doing an easy and beautiful walk along the very blue Shakadang River. One of my favorite leisurely activities in the national park.
Time required: 3-4 hours round trip. However, I do not personally recommend completing the trail as there is not much to see at the end. The most beautiful view of the trail is at the beginning to middle. I even saw many people just stopping at the middle and headed back.
Water Curtain Cave (水簾洞): This is a spot for people who love water. It’s located at the end of Biyang Trail.
Quingshui Cliff (清水斷崖): This is one of the most popular and iconic spot in Taroko National Park.
Chingxi Suspension Bridge (清溪吊橋): This is the longest suspension bridge in Taroko National Park.
Eternal Spring Shrine (鐘樓): The shrine is one of Taroko’s most iconic images. Rightfully so! If you love photography, I recommend you bringing a long len so you can take photos of the temples afar.
Swallow Grotto (燕子口): The path here provides exceptional views of the river and a narrow gorge.
Zhuilu Old Trail (錐麓古道): This is off the beaten path! It’s a trail that allows you to walk on the cliff path 500 meters in altitude.
Where to Stay in Hualien
Hualien WOW Hostel! This was my favorite accommodation in Taiwan because of the staffs! They were very friendly and helpful. They even made sure that I have an amazing time in Hualien by recommending us their favorite restaurants, helped us with directions and rent a bicycle. The location is perfect: right across the train station and close to all Hualien attractions.
The rooms are spacious and minimalistic with a super comfortable bed. The bathroom is modern with an excellent shower. Not to mention, the hostel has all the facilities needed: free breakfast, kitchen, big common area, computers, and laundry service. The decor is edgy and unique.
• Duration of our stay: 4 nights.
• Price: $16 USD per night.
• How to book: check Hualien WOW Youth Hostel (洄瀾窩青年旅舍) on Agoda, Hostelworld, and Booking.