Known as the prettiest city by the sea, Hualien (花蓮) is a gorgeous city where rugged mountains serve as the backdrop. Located on the northeastern coast of Taiwan, the city is easily accessible via air or train. And it was the start of my Taiwan solo trip!
While the city is full of charm, Hualien is known as the gateway for Taroko National Park (花蓮太魯閣國家公園). As one of the eight national parks in Taiwan, Taroko is known for its dramatic marble gorge, narrow valleys and clear turquoise water. Along with the 34 species of mammals unique to Taiwan, 144 species of birds and different types of flora and fauna that can only be found in the park, Taroko National Park is indeed one-of-a-kind.
Despite earthquake activities in this area, many travellers continue to visit this region of Taiwan. With a landscape that is unique to its country and friendliest people on earth, I can understand why many people love Hualien because it is one of the most beautiful places in Taiwan! So make sure to add Hualien to your itinerary!
Related Post – The Ultimate 3-week Itinerary for Taiwan
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Before you visit Hualien in Taiwan
Before you visit Hualien, take a look at my post on all the best tips for travelling to Taiwan. I included a lot of information, including getting a Taiwan prepaid SIM card, transportation around the country and much more.
Here are a few quick tips for travelling to Hualien:
- Hualien is a safe city for solo female travellers.
- At Hualien Airport, there is a booth that sells Chunghwa Telecom prepaid SIM cards. If you want convenience, definitely purchase a SIM card right away. I bought a SIM card with unlimited data for 30 days for NT$1,000.
- Also, at Hualien Airport, there is only one ATM. Get some cash before you go to the city.
- There is a currency exchange before you exit immigration at the airport. Remember, it is always good to bring some USD cash with you wherever you are travelling because most currency exchange places will change money for you. So exchange some money after you pick up your luggage.
- The best way to get around Hualien is on foot. It takes about 15 minutes to walk from Hualien Train Station to the centre of the city.
- There are bicycle rentals if you want to be on two wheels.
- And if you want to rent a scooter, that is also an option but you will need to rent one with a proper license. There are many scooter rentals near the train station.
How to get to Hualien Taiwan
From Taipei to Hualien
The majority of travellers will fly into Taipei Taoyuan International Airport in Taipei (台北) because there are a lot more flights flying into Taipei than Hualien. As soon as you pick up your luggage, take the commuter train to Taipei Main Train Station then a high-speed express train to Hualien.
- MRT: from Taipei Taoyuan International Airport to Taipei Main Train Station
- Time: 45 minutes
- Cost: NT$160
- TRA Train: from Taipei Main Train Station to Hualien Station
- Time: 2 hours 11 minutes (direct train via Puyuma Express)
- Cost: NT$440
- Check Taipei to Hualien train schedule and cost
From Hualien Airport to Hualien
There are a limited number of international and domestic flights flying into Hualien Airport. From the airport, take a taxi or train to your accommodation.
- TRA Train: from Beipu Station to Hualien Station
- Time: 33 minutes
- Cost: NT$15
From Taitung to Hualien
And some of you may be travelling from other parts of Taiwan. For example, if you are coming from the south, you may be coming from Taitung.
- Taitung Station to Hualien Station
- Time: from 1 hour 40 minutes
- Cost: NT$343
- Check Taitung to Hualien train schedule and cost
Where to stay in Hualien
Staying in Hualien is very economical. There are many budget hostels and hotels in the city centre and near Hualien Train Station. Both locations are optimal for visiting the city itself and visiting Taroko National Park.
- Phoenix Hostel (雙鳳大旅社) ($) – Located in the heart of Hualien, get a bunk bed in a dormitory room, a compact single room or a double room in this minimalistic hostel. The common area is spacious and is an excellent spot to work as well.
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
- Mini Voyage Hostel (小旅行迷你公寓) ($) – For budget-conscious travellers, stay in the dormitory room where you will sleep in one of the bunk beds with privacy curtains. The place does not feel cramped at all; it is spacious and clean. And if you are travelling as a pair, you can book one of the double bunk beds! Private rooms are also available. Super close to the train station.
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
- Meci Hotel (回然慢時旅居) ($$) – Located near the train station, the modern hotel has small guest rooms and a welcoming lobby. Since I planned to visit Taroko on my own (via the hop-on-hop-off bus option), staying near the train station was a no-brainer. And the town is only 15 minutes on foot.
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
- Silks Place Taroko Hotel (太魯閣晶英酒店) ($$$) – Although it is not necessary to stay in Taroko to enjoy the park, this high-end hotel is one of the best in Hualien. The five-star mountain-side hotel has spacious modern guest rooms, gorgeous outdoor swimming pools, and spa facilities. You can relax in the executive lounge or enjoy a meal at the restaurant where you can see the majestic mountains in the background. Indeed a one-of-a-kind hotel in Hualien.
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
Things to do in Hualien
Hualien is a small pedestrian town with a lot of character. You can walk to almost everything between the town and train station.
All the attractions in this post are pinned in the interactive map. You can find more information about each attraction by clicking on the individual pin.
1. Taroko Gorge National Park (花蓮太魯閣國家公園)
While there are things to do in Hualien, most people visit Hualien to see Taroko National Park. It is Taiwan’s biggest tourist attraction. With 19km of cliffs and clear rivers, traditional Chinese temples, and hikes of various difficulties. This national park is not to be missed.
How to get to Taroko Gorge from Taipei
It is easy to get from Taipei to Taroko Gorge. Follow the above directions from Taipei to Hualien. Once you are in Hualien, you have a few choices. See below.
How to get to Taroko Gorge from Hualien
One of the best ways is to rent a scooter and meander through the windy roads yourself. However, you will need to provide a valid motorcycle license to rent a scooter. Otherwise, you can rent an electric scooter to boot around town and in the park.
If you are venturing on your own, go early to avoid the rush of tour buses. Another way is to purchase an unlimited one (NT$250) or two (NT$400) day hop-on-hop-off bus ticket which takes you from Hualien train station to various stops in Taroko National Park. If you go with the bus option, make sure you pick up a brochure at the station and check the bus schedule.
Look for these suggested trails and attractions along the route:
2. Shakadang Trail (砂卡礑步道)
The path is 4.4km/2.8miles one way. It is an easy and leisure walk along the Shakadang River.
3. Changchun Shrine Trail (長春祠步道)
The trail is 1.35km/0.85mile. The Eternal Spring Shrine (長春祠) is Taroko’s most iconic image and can be found on this trail. You can also find Changuang Temple Bell Tower (禪光寺鐘樓), Guanyin Shrine (觀音洞) and of course, the Changchun Shrine (長春祠).
4. Yanzikou Swallow Grotto Trail (燕子口步道)
The trail is 1.37km/0.83mile. The steep marble cliffs over the Liwu River is quite impressive. Wear a hard hat as small debris may fall from above.
5. Zhuilu Old Trail (錐麓古道)
The entire trail is 10.3km/6.4mile, and it scales along the side of the steep mountain at the edge of Zhuilu Cliff. For those of you who are afraid of heights, think twice before you hike this trail. The trail is 550 metres above the gorge.
Also, the trail requires two permits; one from Tarako National Park and another from local police. A limited number of permits are available each day. The path is opened from 7 am to 10 am, and you have to exit by 5 pm. It takes about three to five hours to complete the trail.
6. Jiuqudong (Tunnel of Nine Turns) Trail (九曲洞隧道)
The trail is 1.9km/1.2mile. You will see the incredible view in the gorge through this windy trail.
7. Baiyang Trail (白楊步道)
The trail is 2.2km/1.2mile one way. There are numerous tunnels throughout this trail and the Water Curtain waiting for you at the end. Bring a flashlight or use the flashlight feature on your smartphone.
8. Chishingtan Scenic Area (七星潭風景區)
The scenic area is a favourite spot for tourists because of the mountainous backdrop, beautiful palm trees and expansive outdoor space.
You will find Qixingtan Beach (七星潭), one of the most beautiful beaches in Taiwan at the north end. With white pebble beach and turquoise water, what’s not to love?
Chishingtan Scenic Area is just north of Hualien City. The best (and the most fun) way to get there is by bicycle. The 15km Hualien City Coastal Bikeway connects Hualien City to Chishingtan and other places.
9. A-Zone Hualien Cultural and Creative Industries Park (花蓮文化創意產業園區)
Within a large old complex in the middle of Hualien City, the A-Zone has 26 renovated warehouses converted to public exhibition spaces. It was previously an old winery complex, but it is an art and cultural centre today.
Depending on which day you visit, you may see different activities from live concerts, art performances, etc. Pick up some souvenirs here or simply enjoy the space.
10. Huadong Valley (East Rift Valley) (花東縱谷)
The East Rift Valley stretches from Taroko Gorge, passing Hualien City and reaches all the way to Taitung City.
The valley is blessed with fertile soil where you will find fields of gorgeous flowers and rice paddies. The area has hot spring villages too!
Even though the valley is known for its agriculture, there are numerous hiking paths and bicycle trails. It is a perfect spot for those of you who enjoy outdoor activities. Both Mukumugi Valley and Liyu Lake are part of the East Rift Valley.
From Hualien City, you can either take a public bus or train. But for convenience, renting a scooter or car is a better option. Or you can always pick up a bike from one of the bike rental shops.
11. Mukumugi Valley (慕谷慕魚)
Not many people know about Mukumugi Valley. Located just 20km from Hualien City, you will find blue lagoons, and waterfalls flowing into Qingshui River.
Only 600 visitors are limited to visit Mukumugi Valley each day. You have to get an entry permit at the police station.
The best way to get there is by scooter. After a half-hour ride on your scoots, park your scooter at the parking lot and hike 40 minutes into the valley. It will be worth the hike to see the turquoise pool of water intermingling with the smooth white rocks.
12. Liyu Lake (鯉魚潭)
After visiting Mukumugi Valley, scoot on over to Liyu Lake as it is just nearby.
You can do a bit of light-boat sailing in the largest lake in eastern Taiwan, or you may want to stroll or bike around the lake.
And if you visit around April, you can see thousands of fireflies hovering over the lake during the evening. The entire lake lights up – it’s quite a scene!
13. Try different Taiwanese food at Dongdamen Night Market (東大門夜市)
Visiting the Dongdamen Night Market (東大門夜市) has to be one of the things to do in Hualien at night. The market is massive, and it has all the typical Taiwanese dishes you may want to try like stinky tofu, meat skewers, mashed potato omelette and bubble tea. They have everything!
14. Eat your way around Hualien City
Eating in Hualien is very affordable. Your stomach will be very happy with these budget options. You can find more information about each location in each pin in the attached google map (see above).
Note: some of these restaurants do not have an English name. I described it as much as possible and included the Chinese name of the restaurant. And check hours of operation for the restaurant before you go. Some restaurants only serve breakfast and will just open during breakfast hours.
- Gongzheng Baozi (公正包子店) – you can order as many xiao long bao (steamed pork dumplings) as you want! Super delicious when eaten with soy sauce and hot sauce. Unlike the little soup dumplings that you may be familiar with, these dumplings have a thicker skin and are steamed to perfection. They are one of the best Hualien food you can find in the city!
- Miao Kou Black Tea (廟口紅茶) – they serve typical Taiwanese breakfast (egg crepe, sandwiches, etc.). Their tea is poured out of a tap like beer. They also have a soda biscuit which is pretty good too.
- Liming Black Tea (黎明紅茶) – they also serve Taiwanese breakfast like egg crepe and black tea with milk. Go really early or late to avoid long queues.
- Oil Rice (阿桂油飯)– I bought take out from their rice cart. A small portion of the oily rice is quite filling.
- Scallion Pancake (炸彈蔥油餅黃車) – this is a very famous spot for scallion pancake. There are always people waiting to buy these delicious pancakes every time I walked by. I only went there a few times! Ha!
- Zhoujia Steamed Dumpling (周家蒸餃) – another great place for xiao long bao. You can never run out of xiao long bao in this city!
- Hotpot (鍋神日式涮涮鍋) – I love individual hot pot in Taiwan! They give you your own pot to cook all your meat and vegetables. The meal includes free drinks and desserts.
- Soave Plan (浮室) – the simple and minimalistic coffee shop is an excellent spot for latte and cake.
- Ding Go Bubble Tea (叮哥茶饮) – get a classic milk tea with tapioca (pearled tapioca made with starch) at this local joint.
- Presotea (鮮茶道) – they have many tea flavours. Order one with or without milk but definitely add tapioca! It is like a dessert in a cup!