Hualien is a city located on the beautiful east coast of Taiwan. We spent 3 days in Hualien and used this relaxed city as a base to explore the famous Taroko Gorge and the gorgeous Qingshui Cliffs.
Besides these impressive natural phenomena, there are lots of other fun things to do in Hualien. Stroll around the night market and sample the local cuisine, visit Nanbin Park and explore the East Coast National Scenic Area.
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The best things to do in Hualien: travel guide
What to do in Hualien in 3 days
The east coast was my favorite part of Taiwan. Taiwan’s East Coast is also home to steep cliffs, a stunning blue ocean, marble mountains, and dense green jungle.
Furthermore, this area of Taiwan is much less populated than the rest of the country, only 4% of the Taiwanese live here!
When I was researching where to go in Taiwan, Hualien was the first place on my list. Why? Because the Taroko Gorge is a very popular day trip from Hualien and the pictures on Google made it immediately clear this place was a must-see!
But that wasn’t the only reason to visit Hualien, because besides the amazing Taroko Gorge there were lots of other things to see and do in and around Hualien!
Things to know when planning a trip to Hualien
In general, November until April is the best time for a trip to Hualien and the Taroko Gorge because these are the driest months.
December to February receives the least rain but temperatures are also a bit lower (21-22 degrees Celsius).
We visited at the end of May and as I mentioned earlier in this post: this is the start of the monsoon season and not the best time to visit if you don’t like rain.
The official currency in Taiwan is the New Taiwan dollar (NT$). Here you can find the current exchange rates, at the time of writing €1 is approximately 34NT$ and $1 approximately 30NT$.
There are several ways to travel from Taipei to Hualien. The fastest way is to take the express train, tickets are 440NT and the journey takes about 2 hours. However, these tickets are often sold out.
We traveled to Hualien with a combo-ticket, you can buy this ticket at the Taipei bus station. From Taipei, we took a bus to Luodong and at Luodong we boarded the train to Hualien.
A combo ticket costs 222NT and the trip takes around 3 hours. Altogether it was a very comfortable trip and in my opinion, the lower ticket price is worth the extra travel hour.
For our sightseeing activities, we rented a scooter. As I explained in my Kenting National Park post, it isn’t easy to rent a scooter in Taiwan as a foreigner. You either need a Taiwanese license or an International Drivers License which clearly states you can drive a motorcycle.
However, in Hualien, we were in luck because the friendly owner of Honey B Trip B&B helped us! She went with us to the scooter rental company and talked with them in Chinese. I am 100% certain we wouldn’t have gotten a scooter if she hadn’t vouched for us.
But don’t worry if you cannot get your hands on a scooter (or don’t want to drive one), you can still visit Taroko Gorge!
Taiwan has excellent public transport and there are several buses a day from Hualien to Taroko Gorge. More information and the bus timetable can be found on this site.
Alternatively, you can also visit Taroko Gorge via a tour from Hualien or a tour from Taipei.
Where to stay in Hualien: Honey B Trip B&B
This was our favorite accommodation in Taiwan because of the cute Bee theme design! Our room was very big with a super comfortable bed. We even had a sofa and a small desk. The bathroom was modern with an excellent shower.
The hotel also has a really cool family room with a castle, I can imagine it must be a dream come true for little children to sleep there. I don’t have a picture of this room but you can see it on Agoda.
On the 2nd floor, there is a hot and cold water dispenser, plus any additional items you might need during your stay (towels, toiletries, water bottles, maps of the area, bus schedules, etc). WiFi was very fast.
Hualien 3 day itinerary: map & attractions
What to do in Hualien
- Drive the scenic coast road
- Marvel at the amazing Qingshui Cliffs
- Visit the famous Taroko Gorge
- Hike the Shakadang Trail
- Hike or drive the Swallow Grotto trail
- Have lunch in Xiulin Township
- Check out the Eternal Spring Shrine
- Make a stop at Nanbin Park
- Explore the East Coast National Scenic Area
- Check out Liyu Lake
- Eat your way around Hualien
Hualien itinerary day 1
The weather forecast hadn’t been great for this day (unsurprising since monsoon season was about to start), but we were very lucky: blue skies and only a bit of rain at the end of the day.
Drive the scenic coast road
After picking up our scooter (read about transportation to and around Hualien below) we drove to Chisingtan, then turned north and followed the scenic road along to coast. In the distance, we could already see the famous Qingshui cliffs…
Marvel at the amazing Qingshui Cliffs
And the views kept getting better and better… I couldn’t stop marveling at the beautiful color of the ocean. And the impressive steep cliffs of course!
Visit the famous Taroko Gorge
After peeling our eyes away from the breathtaking cliffs we turned our scooter around and drove to Taroko Gorge, one of the nine national parks of Taiwan. We picked up a map of the area at the Tourist Information Center and entered the gorge.
Hike the Shakadang Trail
Our first stop in Taroko Gorge National Park was the Shakadang Trail. This easy trail leads along the Shakadang River, it was a fairly busy trail but still very nice!
Hike or drive the Swallow Grotto trail
Next up was the Swallow Grotto trail (pictured above), you can either drive this path or walk (20 minutes one way).
Have lunch in Xiulin Township
We had lunch in Xiulin Township (beef noodle soup, of course, a Taiwanese specialty;-) before turning around and driving back the same way, all the while admiring the steep marble cliffs around us.
Check out the Eternal Spring Shrine
On our way back we quickly stopped at the Eternal Spring Shrine, but by that time it had started to rain and we quickly drove back to Hualien to relax in our cozy hotel room.
Want to get off the beaten track in the Taroko Gorge? Check out this post about hiking to a secret tribal village.
Hualien itinerary day 2
The next day we hopped back on our scooter and instead of driving north we went south.
Make a stop at Nanbin Park
We passed Nanbin Park where I had a lot of fun taking the picture below. ‘Too bad’ I’m already married, it would have been an original way to propose;-).
Explore the East Coast National Scenic Area
Via the bridge at Ji’an we entered the so-called ‘East Coast National Scenic Area’ and scenic it was! We drove along the coast and came along the Farglory Ocean Park. We didn’t go in but it looked like a lot of fun!
At the tiny village of Shuilian, we turned inland, a very adventurous drive! The road kept getting bumpier and muddier so we drove very carefully… But the views along the way made it worth the effort!
If you decide to drive this road, be careful and make sure you have enough petrol. We didn’t come across any other people and the road didn’t look like it was used a lot.
Nevertheless, we had a lot of fun driving this deserted road and eventually made it to the West side of the peninsula.
Check out Liyu Lake
Via the Yuemei bridge, we crossed back to the mainland and drove to Liyu Lake, our final stop of the day (because it started to rain again). I really liked this Southern loop because, unlike the Taroko Gorge, there were very few other tourists!
Hualien itinerary day 3
Eat your way around Hualien
Unfortunately, it rained almost the entire day, but we made the most of it by sampling the local cuisine. We found the best baozi and located Hualiens famous onion egg pancake (see pictures below, exact location marked in the map at the start of the post).
I’m a huge coffee addict, but every once in a while I try to mix things up. In the cute Seven Beans coffee shop, I tried their signature hot chocolate which was divine and perfectly suited for the rainy weather. We also found a great Japanese restaurant serving big bowls of steaming ramen, nomnom…
And of course, we couldn’t skip the famous Dongdamen Night Market! Luckily the rain stopped around 6 pm and we sampled several delicious snacks at the market.
Hualien travel budget
I mentioned this in my other Taiwan posts as well, but traveling in Taiwan is surprisingly affordable! During our 3 days in Hualien, we spent approximately €68 per day (for us as a couple, so €34 per person).
This budget includes the scooter rental (and petrol), transport from Taipei to Hualien and back to Taipei, our accommodation, and all the costs for food.
Hualien itinerary: in conclusion
That’s everything about our 3 day trip to Hualien! You can download the Hualien things to do the checklist below.
Do you want to read more about traveling in Taiwan? Also check out these posts:
- Best beaches in Taiwan
- Taipei day trips
- Taiwan travel budget
- Things to do in Kaohsiung
- Things to do in Taichung
- Things to do in Tainan
- Things to do in Taitung
- Where to stay in Taiwan on a budget
This post was updated in February 2020.