Hualien is a smaller city of 100,000+ people on the east coast of Taiwan. Sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and Taroko National Park, it is a great base from which to explore some of the finest natural beauty Taiwan has to offer. That said, here are five things to do in Hualien!
Drive Through Taroko Gorge
Let’s get the obvious thing out of the way first. If you go to Hualien and don’t at least pop into Taroko National Park for a quick look-see, you’re crazy! The entrance is a short drive from the city, and the views start almost immediately upon entering the park. The most jaw-dropping scenery is near Swallow’s Grotto and is easily accessible — you can even drive along the viewing path.
Pressing further on will take you to elevations of up to 3000 m. and give you amazing views of the cloud forest in the upper reaches of the park. This area was my favorite part of the park, as the crowds were wonderfully absent, and the scenery was absolutely stunning. Read more about my drive through Taroko in this post!
Visit Chihsingtan Scenic Area
On the northern edge of Hualien is Chihsingtan Scenic Area. The highlight here is a 40+ m. tall bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. A beach lies below, and the azure waters roll up on it and send clouds of sediment swirling. Viewed from above on a sunny day, it’s fun to see just how many shades of blue you can spot. You can even see the mountains of Taroko National Park as a backdrop to it all.
Chihsingtan has some great walking trails and bike paths, making it one of the best natural options for entertainment in the city. Just keep an eye out for obstacles, as typhoons frequently roll through and cause all manner of mischief.
Check Out the Sea Goddess Temple
On the western edge of the city, right at the base of the mountains, you can find the Sea Goddess Temple. Mazu, or Matsu, is one of the most popular deities in Taiwan, and temples to her dot the island. Hualien’s temple is stunning and has a number of amazing carvings and sculptures you can check out.
I love temples for a number of reasons: the colors, the art, their usual integration with natural beauty… But perhaps the thing I love most about temples is the smell of incense which permeates the air. I love it. And at the Sea Goddess Temple in Hualien, you can smell incense just about everywhere on the grounds.
Hike in the Mountains!
Being tucked between the mountains and the sea, Hualien has a lot of hiking opportunities, even outside of Taroko National Park. I did a short hike near the Sea Goddess Temple which is marked as ‘佐倉步道 Sakura Train’ on Google Maps. At only 4km one way, it’s not too challenging as far as distance goes, but it is a near constant climb to the top. Luckily, my knee held out and I was only limping a little after the hike. But the best part? Monkeys.
A troop of Formosan macaques can frequently be seen near the upper parts of the trails — keep an ear open for them crashing through the trees. Formasan macaques are unique in that they are the only native primate to Taiwan (outside of humans, that is). Say hi, just don’t get too close and DON’T feed them.
Walk Along the River and Watch the Sunset
Hualien has a number of great walking areas, including Chihsingtan, but I think the river-walk is one of the nicest options. Not only does it go through the heart of the city, but if you happen to be walking west on a clear day when the sun is setting, you can get some absolutely stunning views of the mountains.
Of course, there are many more awesome things to do in Hualien (river tracing is one!). Have you been to Hualien? What did you think? Did I miss anything? Leave your thoughts and any additional recommendations in the comments below!