Hualien is a city in the north-east of Taiwan which might not be as popular as Taipei among the foreign visitors but is a famous holiday destination for the locals.
I have been staying in Hsinchu in Taiwan for sometime now. Having visited the touristy Taipei, I wanted to go to a place that was away from the usual hustle bustle, that looked a little less on the organised, prim and proper side and had somewhat unruly and casual ambience.
I found my answer in Hualien.
Hualien has big buildings and touristy places but unlike Taipei and Hsinchu it has a very laid back feel to it!
Wondering how to reach Hualien? Scroll down towards the end of the post to see the relevant information.
Hualien is a place where you can walk around leisurely, stop at shops and cafes in between and go to visit a scenic area nearby.
In this post I have covered the 7 things you should not miss to experience when in Hualien.
- Taroko National Park- Hiking trails, cliffs, streams, flora and fauna.
- Pine Garden- Japanese style colonial structure with pine trees and garden.
- Pacific Park- Lush green landscape and bike riding along the coast.
- Hualien Cultural and Creative Industries Park- Buy some souvenirs and gifts.
- Qixingtan Beach- Wipe off your blues with the blue sea and sky.
- Night Market- Budget shopping and local street food.
- Adventure sports- Paragliding, Kayaking for some adventure stories
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Let us explore the places to visit in Hualien in detail.
Taroko National Park
While searching online about places to visit in Hualien, Taroko National Park popped at the top.
Though we are not very enthusiastic hikers but we both like to spend time close to nature. So we decided to visit this place.
Taroko National Park is like Grand Canyon of Taiwan. It is a protected area which is haven for the local flora and fauna. A section in this national park is known as Taroko Gorge.
‘Taroko’ or ‘Truku’ is the name of one of the officially recognised aboriginal tribes of Taiwan. You can choose tour operators for pre-planned tours to Taroko National Park or plan your visit yourself.
FEES: There is no entry fee for Taroko National Park except for Zhuilu Old Road.
You need to pay a fee and obtain entry permit for this area. Taroko National Park has no barriers on it’s boundaries and is open to public on all days all time.
The Visitor Centers, Exhibition Halls and Service Stations are closed on certain Mondays and on the eve of Chinese New Year.
Best time to Visit: National Winter (November to February) and Spring (March to May) is a good time to visit Taroko Park. One should check for weather updates and latest news regarding Taroko National Park before visiting as earthquakes and typhoons are common in the area.
You can choose to stay in Taroko National Park but you need to make arrangements for it in advance.
Our host helped us in arranging a day-trip for Taroko Gorge. We were dropped at a shop that looked like a tour and travels office.
There was a long queue outside. We asked a guy about it who apparently didn’t understand English. Thankfully, Google translate came to the rescue. We joined the queue to book our trip for Taroko. After some time we were asked to join a group of around 4-5 people in a van for our trip to Taroko.
During our journey, I realized that this place is way too huge than our expectation to visit in a day.
It covers an area of more than 920 square kilometers. It has many hiking trails, mountains, waterfalls, cliffs, streams, and bridges.
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It is a place in the Taroko National Park where most of the visitors stop for relaxing and refreshments. It is divided into upper terrace and lower terrace. It is a habitable area in the national park and has a hotel and hiking trail on the upper terrace. Visitors Centre and Taroko Exhibits lies in the lower terrace.
This is a place where our driver stopped and told us that we can roam around and should be back at a particular time in the parking. It looked like an establishment of a few cottages between lush green hills.
The place was swarmed by tourists.
Young, middle-aged, couples, families, all. I like this thing about Taiwan that people here like to travel as if it is a part of life, not a luxury.
It a common scenario to find kids, older people, teenagers, families traveling around at all sort of places be it museums, night markets, parks, streets, art centers.
We went to the restaurant and souvenir shop. I noticed that almost every souvenir shop in tourist places in Taiwan has a collection of beautiful picture postcards and stamps related to the place.
We were taken to Shakadang trail and Xiaozhuilu trail.
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We chose to stay around and not go far. We strolled just around the place, walked to the nearby tunnel and the bridge.
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It is one of the famous scenic areas of Hualien city. The clear blue sky, deep blue sea and colourful pebbles on the beach added to the beauty of the place. It looked clean and was not much crowded.
We took a taxi from our stay to beach.
I was surprised when we arrived there as this was not the kind of beach I was expecting.
Instead of sand, there were pebbles of various shapes and colors on the beach. Water appeared bright blue in color.
Many people had piled up one stone on another making various structures. It looked like some ritual or something meaningful when I noticed some other people doing it. I tried it too.
This was our favourite place in Hualien.
There were many people around but everyone seemed occupied with their own things. Chatting, playing, lying down, running towards the waves, clicking pictures.
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Another green and peaceful place where you can spend some quality time with you loved one or family is Pacific Garden.
It is located right next to the Pacific Ocean.
Located right next to the coast, it is a beautiful place for sightseeing, walking and riding a bike. It is quite peaceful and has lots of greenery around. There is no entry fee for this place.
The day we went to this place, the weather had turned from clear and sunny to hazy. Soon, it started drizzling. It didn’t hamper anything but rather added to the mood.
There are lush green lawns, trees, plants, benches to stroll and relax. There is a road that runs parallel to the ocean where kids were playing and riding their bicycles.
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It is a garden complex with Pine trees, lawns, shops, cafe and exhibition center. If you like photography, you can visit this place for some good pictures. It stays open from 9 a.m to 6 p.m and has an entry fee of NT$50.
Do visit the old military structure that has been well-preserved.
Currently, it is used for art, exhibitions and cultural activities. There is a cafe, Museum, souvenir shop and a small wishing pond. We didn’t find much to see around here.
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Hualien Cultural and Creative Industries Park
It is located at the centre of the Hualien city and frequented by the locals and visitors for various exhibitions and events that are organised here.
The buildings in this park used to be factory warehouses which are now used as creative industry hub. Entry to this place is free.
The day we had to check out from our stay, we had some time till afternoon that we didn’t want to waste sleeping in late.
So we looked at the map given to us by our host and found a Cultural Park which was located at walking distance. I was expecting to see something about Taiwanese culture at this place but this place was filled with various sorts of shops and cafes.
It is spread over a large area with lots of buildings and open areas. It looked like a place that one can visit to look at and buy various types of things under one roof.
There are lots of options for gifts and souvenirs like candles, soaps, perfumes, books, artifacts, jewelry, bags etc
Almost every city in Taiwan has night markets that come alive from evening till late night.
It is the go-to place for the locals to shop for all kinds of goods ranging from cloths, bags, mobile accessories, jewelry, trinkets, toys, local art and of course, food.
Dongdamen Night Market is very famous in Hualien.
I bought some jewelry and cloths in the night market.
We were not able to explore much food options in the night markets because of the strong smell of the non-vegetarian food being cooked there.
We are both vegetarians and that limits the options for us to eat.
Secondly, I am yet to get comfortable with eating on the stall where non-vegetarian food is being cooked right in front of me.
Also, I am scared of offending the person at the stall just in case I don’t like the food.
Hence, we often end up having bubble tea or Ice cream.
There are stuffed buns, dumplings, stinky tofu, bamboo rice, seafood, Oyster omelette, scallion pancakes, Coffin toast, sausages.
You can relish a variety of tastes in the night market without spending much as most of the items cost NT$50-100.
Night markets also serve as a place for local artists and musicians to display their talents. You can find such performances being held there.
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In addition to hiking in Taroko National Park, Hualien has a lot to offer to the adventurous people. You can rent a scooter or bike and explore the city yourself.
While sitting on the beach, I noticed some people paragliding near a cliff. Until then I was unaware of adventure activities in Hualien.
After this I researched and came to know that you can go for paragliding, dolphin watching and boating also. If you are into adventure sports, you can enjoy it in Hualien.
How do I get to Hualien?
Train (TRA) is a very efficient, clean and convenient mode of transport in Taiwan. You can also take bus, taxi or travel by air from Taipei to Hualien. You can take bus from Taipei bus station to Luodong and from there take bus to Hualien. You can also hire a taxi but that would cost you around NT$4000 and above.
Direct flight is operated twice everyday by Uni Air between Taipei Songshan Airport and Hualien Airport that takes around 50 minutes. It would cost you around NT$3130 for a round trip.
Total land area of Taiwan is 32260 square kilometer which is not too big.
Travelling from one place to another is quite easy considering its economical and efficient public transport system.
Understanding the train system in Taiwan
This is very convenient and cost-effective way.
Many trains run daily between Taipei and Hualien from 6 am to 10 pm. Express Train would take a little over two hours to cover the distance of 119 km from Taipei to Hualien and would cost NT$440.
Other trains can take longer, around 3 to 4 hours and cost NT$340. You can book advance tickets two weeks before the day of journey.
If you are planning to travel on weekends or holidays, it is better to book well in advance.
- There are three types of trains that run in Taiwan- High Speed Rail (HSR), Normal Train(TRA) and Metro (MRT).
- In case you plan to travel directly from Taipei to Hualien, you’ll have to travel by normal train (TRA).
- HSR doesn’t cover Hualien area yet.
We chose to travel to Hualien from Hsinchu by train. The train took around 4 hours to reach Hualien from Hsinchu and costed NT$618 per ticket.
We booked the tickets online.
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How to book Taiwan Train Tickets online?
For online booked train tickets, you have to show the text message at a convenience store like Seven-Eleven, Family Mart or Hi-Mart and take your tickets (printed) from there.
Places to stay in Hualien
We chose this place for our stay in Hualien. The host was very kind and helpful. He came to pick us up from Train Station and helped with our travel plans. The just loved the place and its colors.
It is actually painted purple and white and looks very cute. Underwater life was the theme of the decor of our room. I loved staying here. For Latest cost, availability and reviews of Purple Cottage click here (my affiliate link).
It is a popular choice due to its prime location. It is located near Cultural Park, at 10 minutes walking distance from Dongdamen Night Market. Owners are very helpful.
Free bikes are provided for the guests. The rooms very spacious and clean. For Latest cost, availability and reviews of View Hostel click here (my affiliate link).
This property is located close to the seashore providing some sea-facing rooms. It offers free bikes and free wifi access in all areas. Staff is very friendly and helpful.
With a rating of 9.5, guests recommend it for its cleanliness, comfort, good breakfast and homely feel. For Latest cost, availability and reviews of Angel Inn click here (my affiliate link).
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