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Best Things to Do in Hualien: 1 to 4-Day Hualien Itinerary without a car for first-time visitors

Before going to Hualien (花蓮), I had no clue what to do in Hualien or what the city has to offer. I only knew Hualien is the gateway to Taroko Gorge National Park (花蓮太魯閣國家公園), one of Taiwan’s biggest tourist attractions and nothing else. Moreover, I thought I would need a car to see all the attractions in Hualien County.

But after spending a few weeks on the east coast of Taiwan, I can confirm that it is possible to see many parts of Hualien on your own and without a car. Plus, you can see the best of Hualien in only 4 days.

I compiled a solo Hualien itinerary for independent travellers going to Hualien for one to four days. If this is your first time visiting Hualien, keep reading and find out how you can travel in Hualien without a car and see all the best attractions on your own.

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What you need to know before starting the Hualien itinerary

Before visiting Hualien, check out my post on all the best tips for travelling to Taiwan. I included information like how to get a Taiwan prepaid SIM card, transportation around the country, etc.

Here are a few quick tips for travelling to Hualien:

  • Hualien is a safe city for solo female travellers.
  • There are a few bicycle rentals and many scooter rental places if you decide to rent two-wheels and zip around Hualien on your own.
  • Buy a rechargeable smartcard called EasyCard or iPass for taking the bus around Hualien. You can also use it for other public transportation in Taiwan. They are available at any major train station and convenience store in Taiwan.
  • Plan your visit to Hualien with the following festivals and events:
    • Harvest Festival of Amis Tribe (June) – a sacred festival for the region’s major tribe.
    • Hualien Joint Aboriginal Harvest Festival (July) – celebrations for the indigenous people in Taiwan.
    • Hualien Stone Sculpture Festival (October) – see different stone exhibitions which will be part of the Stone Sculpture Museum in Hualien.

How to get to Hualien Taiwan

Air

Hualien Airport is only 4.5km north of the city centre. However, most travellers will probably fly to Taipei Taoyuan International Airport because few airlines fly to Hualien.

Train From Taipei to Hualien

The train is the best option for travelling to Hualien after arriving in Taipei. There are also long-distance buses, but the train is the easiest and most predictable.

First, take the commuter train to Taipei Main Train Station (35 minutes; NT$150), then the Taroko Express or Puyuma Express train to Hualien (2+ hours; NT$440).

Check the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) website for schedule and cost. 

How to travel around Hualien without a car

Many travellers visiting Hualien may want to travel by car because you can easily visit other areas outside the city centre.

However, if you don’t want to bother with car rental, don’t have a driver’s license, or don’t want to bother with driving and finding parking spots, then I have good news for you. It is possible to travel around Hualien without a car.

Walk

Hualien is a relatively small town. Walking is the best way to see the city centre of Hualien. And it is possible to walk to most places between the centre and the train station. It’ll take about 20 minutes or so.

Bus

The attractions outside Hualien city centre mentioned in this post are accessible by bus. There are several bus lines in Hualien, but these are the ones you need to know:

  • Bus 310 – starts at Hualien Bus Station and goes to Qixingtan Beach and Taroko Park. Bus fare costs between NT25-140 (EasyCard or iPass) for individual trips. Or buy an unlimited for one or two day with a bus pass online (NT$250 1-day pass and NT$400 2-day pass) or at Hualien Bus Station.
  • Bus 303 & Bus 1139 – starts at Hualien Bus Station and goes to Liyu Lake and Mukumugi Valley. Bus fare costs between NT25-66 (EasyCard or iPass).

Check iBus Info website for more information on bus schedules and cost.

How many days in Hualien as a first-time traveller

If you are wondering how many days you should spend in Hualien, you’ll have to see my summary below.

You can technically see all the best highlights in Hualien in one day. The city is quite compact; you can walk to all the attractions within a day.

But I highly recommend staying a few more days to explore other areas outside of Hualien, especially when Hualien is known for excellent outdoor activities and hikes in Taroko Park. And it is possible to see all these places without a car.

Hualien itinerary without a car: 1, 2, 3 and 4 days

Here is how to use this Hualien itinerary guide.

If you are only in Hualien for one day, follow the 1 day in Hualien itinerary.

And if you are in Hualien for two days, follow the itinerary for the first two days. And continue until the fourth day.

Here is a quick summary of my 1 to 4 day Hualien itinerary:

1 day in Hualien: best things to do in Hualien (red pins)

  1. Explore Hualien city centre
  2. Discover other areas in Hualien
  3. Try Taiwanese food and Aboriginal food at Dongdamen Night Market

2 days in Hualien: easy hikes in Taroko Park and Qixingtan Beach (purple pins)

  1. Taroko Gorge National Park – easy hikes
  2. Qixingtan Beach

3 days in Hualien: other hikes in Taroko Park (blue pins)

  1. Taroko Gorge National Park – other easy hikes or challenging hikes

4 days in Hualien: other things to see in Hualien County (orange pins)

  1. Liyu Lake
  2. Mukumugi Valley

Hualien itinerary: best things to do in Hualien in one day

Hualien is a compact city which means you can see all the best of Hualien in just one day. So wear your most comfortable walking shoes and explore the city on foot.

1. Explore Hualien city centre

Most Hualien attractions are concentrated in the centre of the city. There are many places to buy souvenirs and food. Plus, there are interesting cultural places where you can see what life was like in Hualien back in the day.

While you are in Hualien City centre, look for these highlights:

  • Hualien Xingxiang Shopping District (花蓮形象商圈) – the area around Zhongshan Road, the main street in Hualien, and Suhua Hwy, is the centre of the shopping district. There are many shops on these main roads and smaller streets as well.
  • Zonghe Market (綜合市場) – the city’s earliest traditional market. Vendors sell clothing, food and all types of trinkets.
  • Hualien Railway Culture Park (花蓮鐵道文化園區) – see what the old Taiwan East Coast Railway looks like and other train-related relics.
  • Hualien Cultural and Creative Industries Park (花蓮文化創意產業園區) – 26 renovated warehouses converted into public exhibition spaces. It was previously an old winery complex but is an art and cultural centre today.
  • Old Railway Pedestrian Area (舊鐵道行人徒步區) – 18m of the decommissioned railway is transformed into a pedestrian-only zone. The street is lined with shops, and the area comes alive at night.

2. Discover other areas in Hualien

Depending on when you start your day tour around Hualien City or when you arrive in the city, you could have a bit of time to discover other areas outside of the city centre.

East of Meilun River, there are a few tourist attractions that you might want to check out:

  • Hualien Martyrs’ Shrine (花蓮忠烈祠) – the shrine was built in the northern Chinese-style and has a wonderful view of Hualien City.
  • Manor House (將軍府) – a former Japanese-style dormitory for the military and a historical landmark.
  • Jinghua Bridge (菁華橋) – a red pedestrian bridge over the Meilun River in Meilunxi Riverside Park
  • Pine Garden (松園別館) – one of the best-preserved buildings from the Japanese colonial period. It was a military building, but it is now a cultural centre. Both the building and the garden were neat, but not many exhibits while I was there. But the view of Hualien City was quite nice. The entrance fee is NT$60.

3. Try Taiwanese food and Aboriginal food at Dongdamen Night Market

Visiting the Dongdamen Night Market (東大門夜市) has to be one of the things to do in Hualien at night. The massive market has all the typical Taiwanese dishes you may want to try, like stinky tofu, meat skewers, and bubble tea.

And you can try some of the aboriginal dishes you can only find in Hualien, like bamboo rice.

There are many food stalls at Dongdamen Night Market, but these are some of the more popular ones:

  • Yuan Xiang Bamboo Rice (原香嘟論竹筒飯) – try savoury or sweet bamboo rice
  • Chiang Family Coffin Toast (蔣家官財板) – Taiwan’s version of a bread bowl
  • Fried Crab (螃蟹王) – deep-fried crab with seasonings
  • Mashed Potato Omelet (強蛋餅) – egg crepe with mashed potato and other ingredients

2 days in Hualien: easy hikes in Taroko Park and Qixingtan Beach

Since Hualien is the gateway to Taroko Gorge National Park (花蓮太魯閣國家公園), one of Taiwan’s biggest tourist attractions, you must at least visit the park while you are in Hualien.

On day two of the itinerary, hike some of the easy trails near the entrance of Taroko Park and finish the day with a quick visit to Qixingtan Beach before returning to Hualien.

How to get around Hualien on day 2: get an unlimited one or two day hop-on-hop-off bus ticket for Bus 301, which takes you from Hualien bus station to various stops in Taroko National Park, Qixingtan Beach and back to Hualien.

1. Easy hikes in Taroko Gorge National Park

Most people visit Hualien to see Taroko Gorge National Park to see the beautiful park. With 19km of cliffs, clear turquoise rivers, traditional Chinese temples, Taroko Gorge and hikes of various difficulties, this national park is not to be missed.

There are several easy and scenic hikes near the entrance of the park. Even if you have never hiked before, you will have no issues hiking them on your own.

Get one of the Taroko brochures if you haven’t already, and look for these hiking trails:

  • Taroko Terrace Trail (太魯閣台地步道) – 1km trail around Taroko Terrace
  • Xiao Zhuilu Trail (小錐麓步道) – 0.6km trail along Liwu River
  • Shakadang Trail (砂卡礑步道) – 4.1km one-way trail along the turquoise Shakadang River
  • Changchun Shrine Trail (長春祠步道) – an intermediate trail that is 2km long. See the Eternal Spring Shrine and Changuang Temple

2. Qixingtan Beach

Qixingtan Beach (七星潭) is one of the most beautiful beaches in Taiwan. It is part of the Chishingtan Scenic Area (七星潭風景區), which is a favourite spot for tourists because of the mountainous backdrop, beautiful palm trees and expansive outdoor space.

Seeing the pebble beach after a full day of hiking is the perfect way to end the day. This is not a swimming beach, though, which is okay because you already had a long day of hiking. So relax and enjoy the serene environment.

3 days in Hualien: other hikes in Taroko Park

On day 3 of your Hualien trip, return to Taroko Park and continue to explore other areas of the park. Alternatively, try hiking some of the more challenging hikes in Taroko.

If you plan on hiking the harder trails, plan ahead and apply for a permit before you go.

How to get around Taroko Park on day 3: the unlimited one or two day hop-on-hop-off bus ticket for Bus 301 can take you from Hualien bus station to various stops in Taroko National Park.

1. Other hikes in Taroko Gorge National Park

If you return to Taroko Park to see more of the park’s beautiful scenery, you can explore a few more places.

Other easy hikes in Taroko Park

  • Buluowan Trail (布洛灣景觀步道) – 0.9km trail in the forest and bamboo grove
  • Yanzikou Trail (燕子口步道) – aka Swallow Grotto, see the marble gorge on this 1.3km trail. Borrow a hard hat from the park.
  • Tunnel of Nine Turns Trail (九曲洞隧道) – more marble gorge scenery on this 0.7km trail
  • Lushui Trail (綠水步道) – 2km trail around Tianxiang Recreation Area. See Xiangde Temple and Tianfeng Pagoda.
  • Baiyang Trail (白楊步道) – 2.1km trail near the rock shelter tunnel

Mountaineering hike in Taroko Park

Zhuilu Old Road (錐麓古道) is 10.3km, and it scales along the side of the steep mountain at the edge of Zhuilu Cliff. This is a hike for advanced hikers. For those of you who are afraid of heights, think twice before you hike this trail. The trail is 550 metres above the gorge.

Make sure to dress appropriately (hiking shoes, warm clothes, waterproof jacket) and bring enough food and water. 

And most importantly, apply for an entry permit from Taiwan’s National Parks website before your hike. Bring your printed entry permit to the ticket booth (NT$200 entry fee) and check-in area at Yanzikou Trail.

4 days in Hualien: Other things to do in Hualien County

Day 4 is about choices. You can visit Liyu Lake or Mukumugi Valley or visit both places on the same day (both attractions are on the same bus line).

How to get around Hualien County on day 4: Bus 303 and 1139 go to Liyu Lake and Mukumugi Valley. Ensure your EasyCard or iPass has enough money for your bus rides for the day.

1. Liyu Lake

The area between Taroko Gorge and Taitung City is called Huadong Valley, aka East Rift Valley. And one of the highlights of the East Rift Valley is Liyu Lake (鯉魚潭).

You can rent a swan pedal boat (NT$300/hour) in the largest lake in eastern Taiwan, or you can walk or rent a bike (NT$100) and cycle around the natural lake.

If you visit around April or May, you can see thousands of fireflies hovering over the lake during the evening. The entire lake lights up! Or if you are visiting in June, you can see the races for Dragon Boat Festival.

How to get to Liyu Lake: take bus 303 or 1139 from Hualien bus station for Liyu Lake.

2. Mukumugi Valley

Another highlight in the East Rift Valley is Mukumugi Valley (慕谷慕魚), located 13km from Hualien City.

Once you get off the bus at Mukumugi Tourist Info Centre, walk 40 minutes to the police station and get your entry permit. Only 600 visitors are allowed to be in the valley each day. And bring your passport because you will need it for the permit.

Then continue hiking towards the valley until you see the clear turquoise pools of water and smooth white rocks. Swimming in the blue lagoons and seeing the waterfalls might be the perfect thing to do for the rest of the day.

How to get to Mukumugi Valley: if you are going to Mukumugi Valley only, take bus 303 or 1139 from Hualien bus station directly to Mukumugi Tourist Info Centre. If you are continuing from Liyu Park, both buses can also take you directly to the tourist info centre.

Where to stay in Hualien as a solo traveller

Many budget hostels and hotels are in the city centre and near Hualien Train Station. Both locations are optimal for visiting the city and Taroko National Park.

Here are some options for staying in Hualien:

What to eat in Hualien Taiwan

Besides all the usual Taiwanese food, there are a few specialties in Hualien that you should look for:

  • Scallion Pancakes – crispy green onion pancake with an oozy egg yolk inside. 老牌炸蛋蔥油餅 (Blue Truck) is one of the most popular ones in Hualien.
  • Steamed pork buns – fluffy soft buns with seasoned pork. Both Gong Zheng Bun Store and Zhou Jia Xiao Long Bao Steamed Dumplings both equally make good buns.
  • Bamboo Rice – rice cooked inside bamboo. You have to crack open the bamboo to eat the rice inside. Many restaurants and night market has this specialty. Check out Yuan Xiang Bamboo Rice at the night market.
  • Wanton Soup – a Chinese dumpling made with a silky flour wrapper and filled with different fillings. Hua Lien Xiang Bian Shi is very popular.
  • Mochi – a chewy glutinous dessert made with rice flour and millet and filled with various fillings. Many food souvenir stores in Hualien sell this specialty.

Are you going to follow this itinerary for Hualien?

I certainly hope so! I put a lot of thought into creating the best Hualien itinerary for anyone travelling in Hualien without a car.

You can see the best highlights in two days, but I highly recommend staying for 4 days to really get to know the city.

Let me know in the comments how many days you will be in Hualien and if you like this itinerary or have any suggestions to make it better.

Thank you for reading my Hualien itinerary

You might also like these other posts on solo travel in Taiwan:

Introduction to Taiwan
Eastern Taiwan posts

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About Author

Hi, my name is Queenie, and I've been a solo traveller for 20+ years and currently based in Hong Kong. Follow me on my adventures through Instagram and my blog!

11 Comments

  • Kelvin
    November 18, 2018 at 8:57 pm

    Hi, Queenie. In your post, I saw that you mentioned permit is required to explore certain area in Taroko National Park. May I know which attraction locations are prohibited?

    Reply
    • queenie mak
      November 19, 2018 at 1:21 pm

      Hi Kelvin, as far as I know, the Zhuilu Old Trail requires two permits: one from Tarako National Park and another from local police. Limited number of permits are available each day. Trail is opened from 7am to 10am and you have to exit by 5pm. Hope this helps!!

      Reply
  • Reah
    February 18, 2019 at 11:13 pm

    Hello! How did you do the Taroko hikes? Alone or with a tour? If you did a tour, do you have any recommendations?

    Reply
    • queenie mak
      February 20, 2019 at 10:25 am

      Hi Reah! I did the hikes by myself. I bought the unlimited two day ticket for $400NT so I can hop on and off the bus. It is quite easy to navigate – getting to the park and within the park. I did it myself and lots of travellers are hiking solo too! There are many tour operators around Hualien and especially near the train station. Your hotel should have some recommendation too. Sorry I cannot be more specific about the tours because I did the hikes on my own.

      Reply
  • Dave
    September 19, 2019 at 6:04 am

    Heslo. I am travelling to Taiwan in November and I am planning to visit the Taroko park. Is it safe to hike on my own? Are there not any dangerours animals?

    Reply
    • queenie mak
      September 21, 2019 at 1:51 pm

      Hi Dave, I hiked in Tarako on my own and I went in February. I felt completely safe – there were people around me so I didn’t feel alone. I didn’t see any animals other than the birds at Yanzikou Swallow Grotto Trail. Wear comfortable shoes, bring water and maybe some snacks for the day. There is an info centre at the entrance of the park if you want to check it out before you hike in. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  • Mark
    November 1, 2019 at 12:20 pm

    Hi! I’m hiking Taroko in November solo too, I’ve read in some blogs that the bus going around the park is quite unreliable so I tried booking a Zhuilu old trail tour, but ran out of permits on the day I’m going. However, you said that going around the park using their service bus seems manageable? I’m hoping to hike most of them, starting very early and a, hoping that I can rely on the bus system within the park!

    Reply
    • queenie mak
      November 3, 2019 at 12:30 pm

      Hi Mark, I took the 2-day hop on hop off bus and didn’t have any issue. There were some road construction and one of the trails was closed but nothing unusual. I hope you enjoy your trip 🙂

      Reply
  • Min
    October 1, 2023 at 4:25 pm

    Hi queenie, how do i travel from yilan to hualien as a solo travel (and possibly with a big luggage)

    Reply
  • Min
    October 1, 2023 at 4:26 pm

    if i have a couple of days to spare after hualien (before returning to taipei), where would you recommend i go, as a solo traveller? thank you.

    Reply
    • queenie mak
      October 2, 2023 at 6:44 pm

      Hi Min,
      The easiest way to travel from Yilan to Hualien is the fast train. There are a few places you can get on the train in Yilan (Toucheng, Jiaoxi, Yilan City, etc).
      There are buses from Yilan to Hualien too and the buses have luggage compartment under for your suitcase. Depending on where you are in Yilan, different bus companies go to Hualien.
      If you have a few days to spare after Hualien and before returning to Taipei, assuming you already been to Yilan by the time, I would either go to Taitung (south) or somewhere around Jiufen. There are a few hikes and towns to see around Jiufen. Alternatively, you can go to Taipei early and do day trips from there. There are many to choose from.
      Hope this helps! Enjoy your trip to Taiwan!

      Reply

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