A Detailed Hualien Itinerary for 1-4 Days

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Most people visit remote Hualien on the wild and stunning east coast of Taiwan to visit Taroko Gorge. But Hualien has so much more to offer!

If you’ve already had a look at my 40 recommended things to do in Hualien, you may be overwhelmed with choices. That’s why I’ve taken the best of the best and organized them into the perfect Hualien itinerary, whether you plan to spend one, two, three or even four days in the area. This is a tried-and-tested itinerary, as I have been to the area many times over the last 10+ years.

To see how Hualien should fit into your full trip, make sure to also have a look at my general Hualien guide, Taiwan east coast road trip guide, and suggested itinerary for traveling all the way around Taiwan.

Now, let’s get right to it!

Quick Hualien Tips:

Buy your train tickets to Hualien up to 28 days in advance. They often sell out!
– Use Klook to find travel discounts. Sign up with this link for a TWD100 credit!
– Read my guide to traveling in Taiwan and 55 favorite places in Taiwan.
– Find the best Hualien hotel deals on Booking or Agoda
or see my Hualien hotel recommendations here.

Hualien 1 Day Itinerary: Taroko Gorge

Taroko Gorge in winter

Taroko Gorge is Hualien’s prime attraction, and you really can’t miss it.

Now, doing justice to Taroko Gorge really requires one full day, from early morning until late afternoon. However, since you’ll need 2-3 hours to get from Taipei to Hualien, there are different ways you could do this:

1. Taroko Gorge as a day trip from Taipei

I wouldn’t really recommend this, as you’ll need to get up super early and spend 4-6 hours on the train in one day. But if you really want to, it surely is possible. You can shorten the time by flying from Taipei to Hualien, arranging your driver in advance, or taking this day tour by car from Taipei.

If you do come by train, make sure to get off at Xincheng/Taroko Gorge station, which is much closer to Taroko Gorge than Hualien Station. This will saving you a 30-minute drive from Hualien City on either side. At Xincheng station, you can rent a scooter (IDP needed) or hire a driver to visit the gorge.

2. Travel to Hualien the day before

A less rushed way to visit Taroko Gorge is to travel from Taipei to Hualien the day before, check into your hotel, then wake up the next morning to spend the whole day at Taroko Gorge, whether you rent a scooter in Hualien, hire a driver, or take a popular Taroko Gorge day tour like this one.

If you do this, you can stay in Hualien City, where there are more hotels to choose from and things to do at night, including Hualien Night Market.

3. Spend the night in Hualien after your visit

If you’re an early bird, perhaps you won’t mind taking a super early train before you spend the whole day at Taroko Gorge.

But then, instead of rushing back to Taipei in the evening, check into a Hualien hotel and spend the night, before returning to Taipei the next day. This will give you a chance to see more things in Hualien the next day.

If you take the first train of the day, you can make it just in time for joining this tour.

What to See on Day 1

Whether you are visiting on your own or as part of a guided tour, here is the logical order of places you could visit on your Taroko Gorge tour. Find even more ideas is my guide to Taroko Gorge.

Taroko Gorge Entrance Gate: It’s worth stopping for a quick click!

Shakadang Trail: One of the best and easiest hikes in Taroko Gorge, featuring amazingly clear, blue water of the Shakadang Creek.

Eternal Spring Shrine: The most famous site in Taroko Gorge, a beautiful shrine built to honor those who died while building the highway through the gorge.

Eternal Spring Shrine, Taroko Gorge, Hualian, Taiwan
Stunning Eternal Spring Shrine

Swallow’s Grove: A mandatory roadside stop with dramatic views and tunnels.

Tunnel of Nine Turns: More tunnels with some of the best views in all of Taroko Gorge.

Baiyang Trail and Waterfall: A second hike worth considering, to a beautiful waterfall and a cave you can run through while water pours down on your head.

Wenshan Hot Spring: A secret hot spring if you have extra time. Here’s how to find it.

The above are the main sights in Taroko Gorge that you should include on the first day of your Hualien itinerary.

However, there are two more sights outside of Taroko Gorge that you should be able to squeeze in as well, and I would strongly recommend doing so.

Day tours like this one usually include a stop at one of, if not both of the below sights, usually depending on time:

Qingshui Cliffs, Hualian, Taiwan
Beautiful Qingshui Cliffs

Qingshui Cliffs: About 10 minutes’ drive along the coast north of the entrance of Taroko Gorge, this series of dramatic coastal cliffs are breathtaking.

Qixingtan Beach: About 15 minute’s drive south of Taroko Gorge toward Hualien city, this is a highly scenic pebble beach. If you’re staying in Hualien City, it only makes sense to stop here on the way back from Taroko Gorge.

Hualien 2 Day Itinerary: Hualien City

Adding a second day to your Hualien itinerary will allow you to experience more of Hualien beyond Taroko Gorge, and you surely won’t regret it. This could involve either enjoying one of the many nature-oriented activities which take off from Hualien City, or enjoying the culture and sights of the city itself.

Find even more ideas is my Hualien City travel guide.

Nature-focused activities in Hualien

The following are some amazing outdoor activities in Hualien that you can arrange and depart from in Hualien City.

Dolphins jumping out of sea on a whale and dolphin watching tour in Hualien
Spotting sea mammals from a boat off the coast of Hualien

Whale and Dolphin Watching Tours: Hualien is one of the best places in the world to see many different species of whale and dolphin. Boat tours like this one take off from Hualien City, and are best from May to October.

Culture-focused activities in Hualien City

Culture-loving travelers may choose to spend their second day entirely in Hualien City, where there find loads of sights and activities to choose from. These may include:

Aboriginal food in Hualien
Taiwanese aboriginal cuisine

Aboriginal cooking course: Learn how to make aboriginal food from members of the Amis, Taiwan’s largest tribe. You’ll also get to taste aboriginal millet wine. Book your cooking course here or here.

Hualien Martyr’s Shrine: One of the most beautiful and tranquil building’s in the city, dedicated to those who died WWII.

Hualien Pine Garden: For a taste of Japanese colonial history in the area.

Hualien Railway Culture Park: A railway museum built in an original Japanese-built train station.

People dining in the Hualien Shipping Container Store, one of the coolest Starbucks in Taiwan
One of the coolest Starbucks in all of Taiwan

Starbucks Shipping Container Store: Iconic Starbucks branch built out of 29 recycled shipping containers. It’s located at the southern end of the city. One way to get there is by joining this half-day tour.

Hualien Night Market: Finish your day at Hualien’s best night market, which includes a whole section of aboriginal food. To find out what kind of food you can expect, see my Taiwanese street food guide!

Hualien 3 Day Itinerary: Road Trip to the South

If you add a third day in Hualien, this will likely involve traveling south from Hualien City toward Taitung county in the southeastern corner of Taiwan. This is a remoter and less traveled region of Taiwan with few people and incredible scenery. Find out how to plan your Taitung itinerary here.

There are two parallel highways you could follow. Coastal Highway 11 will require you to rent a car or scooter, or to take this day tour from Hualien City.

Inland Highway 9 follows the East Rift Valley, a highly scenic valley filled with rice paddies and flanked by mountains on either side. The closer you get to Taitung, the more beautiful it gets. Learn more about both of these routes in part 2 of my Taiwan east coast guide.

What to See on Highway 11

View of the east coast of Taiwan from Baqi Rest Stop in Hualien
Stunning coastal views along Highway 11

If you spend a whole day driving Highway 11 from Hualien to Taitung, this is the logical order of sights you’ll see along the way, but you’ll need to have your own wheels. This drive may not seem that long, but the road is slow and winding.

Farglory Ocean Park: An ocean-themed amusement park, if that’s your thing. Learn more about Taiwan’s amusement parks here, and find discounted tickets online. You can also spend the night at Farglory, which is Hualien city’s best resort.

Baqi Rest Stop: One of the best views along the coast (see above photo)

Jiqi Beach: One of the few places you can (usually) swim on the east coast.

Fengbin Skywalk: A death defying coastal walkway with glass floors (closed at the time of writing)

Platform of the Three Immortals (Sanxiantai), Taitung
Sanxiantai (Platform of the Three Immortals) in Taitung

Xinshe Rice Terrace: Rice terraces overlooking the sea with quirky sculptures and swings made of straw.

Shitiping: Coastal park with rocky pools of water to explore.

Sanxiantai: Incredible bridge to an offshore island (actually in Taitung County)

Final stop: Dulan, Taitung (see day 4)

What to See on Highway 9

If you choose inland Highway 9, you’ll have the option of riding a scooter, taking this day tour, or hopping between towns on the train. At each town, you can rent a bicycle or scooter to explore the area. Here is the logical order of sights you would see (I’ll mention which are train accessible).

Liyu (Carp) Lake: A pretty lake a short drive from Hualien City. Carp lake is also included on this day tour.

Fenglin: Get off at this train station to try paragliding over the East Rift Valley.

Boats reflecting on Carp Lake (Liyu Lake), one of the most beautiful places to visit in Hualien
Pretty Liyu Lake

Ruisui: Take the train to Ruisui station to spend a night in a hot spring hotel or to go white water rafting on the Xiuguluan river.

Tropic of Cancer Marker: Stop for a photo if you’re driving!

Final Stop: Yuli (see day 4)

Hualien 4 Day Itinerary: Dulan or Yuli

For your fourth day in Hualien, hop on a bicycle or rent a scooter in Yuli to get to know one rural area better. You may very well find this to be your most memorable day on your Hulian itinerary.

Exploring Dulan on Highway 11

A surfer on Dulan beach in Taitung in winter
Dulan, an off-the-beaten-track surfing spot year-round

If you chose to travel down Highway 11 by car or scooter, then the best place to spend the night, with by far the most accommodation options, is Dulan. This aboriginal village in Taitung County is a popular hangout for surfers and artists. Spend a day chilling out or surfing on the beach, exploring the area by scooter, or hanging out at Dulan Sugar Factory, the focal point of the local arts scene.

See my detailed guide to Dulan for all the information you need. After Dulan, you can return to Hualien, or continue south to Taitung City to catch the train or if you plan to make a full circle around Taiwan.

Exploring Yuli on Highway 9

Taiwan train crossing Kecheng Iron bridge in Yuli, Hualien

Yuli is smack in the middle of the stunning East Rift Valley and is a great place to base yourself while exploring the area. Ride a bicycle or scooter to impressive Nan An Waterfall and walk the first section (which doesn’t require a permit) of the incredible Walami Trail.

By scooter, you can easily travel as far awesome Sanxiantai on the coast or Sixty Stone Mountain to see fields of tiger lilies in summer. At the end of the day, take a hot spring bath at nearby Antong Hot Spring.

Find my recommended places to stay in Yuli in part 2 of my east coast guide. If you are continuing on to Taitung, then you can also consider spending the night in the towns of Chishang, Guanshan, or Luye, which all have a similar vibe to Yuli and aren’t much further away. Luye is a great choice in summer, during the incredible Taitung Hot Air Balloon Festival.

Well, that brings us to the end of my proposed Hualien itinerary. I’d love to hear from you, whether you are planning to follow this itinerary or already have, so let me know in the comments below!

15 thoughts on “A Detailed Hualien Itinerary for 1-4 Days”

  1. Hi Nick,
    First of all, thank you so much for your blogs, I got a lot of information.
    We are going to visit Taiwan in April with teens.
    I am bit confused about how to put the places we would like to visit in order. Our plan is
    3 nights in Taipei (with day trip tour to Juifen, geo park etc)
    1 night in Hualien (with 1/2 day tour to Taroko Gorge then HSR train to Taichung, do you think it will be too tiring? It is about 3-4 hours, right?)
    2 nights in Taichung (with day trip to Khaosiung)
    1 night in Taipei, flying back home

    Or should I add extra night in Hualien, then Taichung 1 night (and forget about Khaosiung) ?
    Or 2 nights Taichung, 1 night Khaosiung and forget Hualien?
    Or do you have another suggestions?
    Thanks in advance
    Alex

    Reply
    • Hey Alex, for Hualien to Taichung, there’s no HSR. The HSR only runs down the west coast of Taiwan from Taipei to Zuoying (Kaohsiung). So from Hualien, you can ride a regular train all the way to Taichung, and yes, it takes about 4 hours on the fastest train, the Puyuma Express. This train is the most popular and sells out fastest, so it’s important to buy the ticket as early as possible (up to 28 days in advance). Another option is to take the same train but get off in Taipei, then transfer to the HSR for Taipei to Taichung. Then your total travel time would only be about 3 hours, but it will cost more. And since you need to factor in time for transferring, and for getting from the Taichung SHR station into the city, it won’t even save you much (or any) time. I don’t think it’s too tiring, but it all depends on getting train tickets at a suitable time. There are usually only 1 or 2 Puyuma express trains per day. If you can’t get that one, other train types will take longer, like 4.5 to 5.5 hours. If you’re only spending two nights in Taichung, and planning a day trip to Kaohsiung, it doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for actually seeing or doing anything in Taichung, considering you’ll be arriving there late on your first night. You might consider cutting out Kaohsiung, unless you’re OK with that.

      Reply
      • Hi Nick,
        Thank you very much for your Taiwan travel blog. It is very useful.
        We (five adults) will be travelling to Taipei for 11 days in early June, Upon arrival in Taipei Taoyuan Airport at 6am, travel to Kaohsiung for the first day. Starting from Kaohsiung, travelling upward to Taipei.
        2 nights in Kaohsiung
        1 night in Tainan
        2 or 3 nights Taichung (We intend to go to Sun Moon Lake and Hualien for 1 day trip each). Is it better to go to Hualien from Taichung or Taipei?
        3 or 4 nights in Taipei
        1 night in Keelung/Jiufen
        Do you think we should just stay in Taipei and travel to Keelung and Jiufen for a day trip?

        We are thinking of buying the
        a) 3 days Taipei Unlimited Fun Pass (Choose one out of the Four City Impression Experience to enjoy: Yoshan Tea – Century-old Taiwanese Bubble Tea DIY, Pingxi Sky Lantern, Tea bag DIY in Maokong, The Grand Hotel Taipei Western Secret Slide (Choose 1 from 4. Which would you suggest?)
        b) either THSR 3-day pass/THSR Flexible 2-Day Pass
        c) or 5 Day Joint Train Standard Pass (THSR+TR)/5 Day Joint Train Express Pass (THSR+TR)
        d) Day trip THSR Ticket
        What would you suggest? Should we get the THSR pass or 5 day joint pass or day trip THSR or combination. Do you think we need to buy an EasyCard also?
        I am grateful for any suggestions.

        Thanks.
        Theresa

        Reply
        • First, you can’t travel from Taichung to Hualien without passing through Taipei. Yes, there is a road across the mountains, but it is very slow, no buses, and it is often closed due to landslides. Currently the road is destroyed in 3 places from landslides in 2022, and they are still fixing them. So instead, go back to Taipei by HSR (1 hr) then express train to Hualien (2 hrs). If you have time in your schedule, it’s better to spend a night in Hualien, but if your schedule is tight, then a day trip from taipei works too. It’s very easy to do Jiufen and Keelung as a day trip from taipei. You could easily add one more stop. Many people do Shifen Waterfall, Jiufen, then finish at Keelung Night Market for dinner and train back to Taipei. Whether to buy the EasyCard is a complicated decision. I wrote a whole article to help you decide if it’s worth it (please search on my site). Basically, it’s a tourist pass and it’s only worth the money if you do most of the attractions and ride the MRT a lot. Otherwise, it’s easier to just not buy the pass and pay for things as you go. Then you won’t feel pressure to try to visit all those attractions just because you bought the pass (some of them are top attractions, but some are places you most likely won’t visit). If you get the Fun Pass, it works like an EasyCard for the MRT in Taipei, but only for the number of days you choose (1, 2, or 3). If you don’t get the Fun Pass, then yes, you should get an EasyCard, as this is what almost everyone in Taipei uses for riding the MRT. You can also use it for other city buses and MRTs across Taiwan (Kaohsiung, Taichung), for taxis, for convenience stores, and some food stalls. So it’s super convenient. For the HSR/TRA passes, these passes are only worth the money if you plan to take many train rides is a short period of time. To figure out if it’s worth it, first calculate the price of your train rides with no pass. Check the TRA sites for the TRA prices. They have no discounts. For HSR tickets, you can check the official site and maybe get up to 35% early bird discount if you book them early enough, or you can get a 20% discount anytime by booking individual rides on Klook. So just add up all your TRA ride costs and HSR ride costs with 20% discount, then see if it’s cheaper or more expensive than the price of the pass. This is the only way you can figure out if it’s worth buying or not.

          Reply
  2. Hi Nick, Thank you so much for the itinerary. The suggested places in Hua lien are amazing.
    I am going to visit Taiwan in April next year with my family of 4 (with two elderly)
    My plan is once I touch down at Tao Yuan Airport, we will take the HSR train to Kao Hsiung (Zuo Ying)
    Spend 4 nights in Kao Hsiung
    Trip to Hualien (do you have suggestion on how to go about from Kao Hsiung to Hua lien)
    Most probably spend 3 nights at Hualien
    Then back to Taipei for 4 nights.
    Would love to get your suggestion on how should I rearrange or am I spending too much night at certain place?

    Regards,
    Shirley

    Reply
    • From Kaohsiung to Hualien, you can take a regular (TRA) train, not the HSR, from Kaohsiung Station to Hualien Station, which takes about 4 hours. https://tip.railway.gov.tw/tra-tip-web/tip How much time you spend in each city really depends on your interests. A lot of travelers will only spend one night in each place and make many stops, like Taipei, Taichung, Sun Moon Lake, Alishan, Kaohsiung, Taitung, Hualien and back to Taipei. But if you prefer to spend more time in each place, then your itinerary is fine too. It it were me, I would probably spend less than 4 nights in Kaohsiung and less than 3 nights in Hualien, and then add one or two more places. 2-3 nights in Kaohsiung is enough for seeing the main sights in this city and 2 nights is enough for seeing Taroko Gorge in Hualien. You can consider then to add a stop for one night in Taitung, for example Chishang village for cycling in the rice paddies. Or many add a 1 or 2 night stop in one of the other places I mentioned above.

      Reply
  3. Hi Nick,
    Thank you so so much for your detailed and very informative articles on Taiwan. My husband & I are planning for 4 weeks trip in March 2024. May I ask:
    1) I can’t find any rental car available for pick up at Taipei and drop of at the South (Taitung, Fang-Liao station or Kaohsiung)
    2) My next options: Train to Hualien (2-3 Nights), do you have contacts where I can have private transfer from Hualien to Yuli (2N), and private transfer again from Yuli to either Luye or Taitung (2N). We will then take train from Taitung onward to the West.

    -At Yuli we will rent Scooter to visit wonderful places you mentioned: Sixty Stones Mt, Chishang, San-Hsien island, Walami trail
    -I am hopeful with private transfer we will be able to have stops at Baqi—Xin she Rice Terrace; I am not sure from Yuli to the South which route we will take the coast or inland through East riff Valley (probably inland) of course with stops and detour will have added compensation

    3) Same as with Hualien, we would like to rent scooter: it is possible to go to Qingshui cliff with scooter correct? also is it possble to drive scooter to Taroko park, to drive and park along the way through the Park to do some of the hiking trails?
    Thank you very much for your time
    Vananh

    Reply
    • For car rentals, have you tried Klook? You can also try contacting Steven Hsieh (search his name in my Facebook “Taiwan Travel Planning” group. He can arrange drivers and car rentals. You can also ask him about the Yuli transfer. If that doesn’t work, you can also book point-to-point trips anywhere in taiwan on the Tripool website. Yes, you can explore all of Taroko Gorge with a scooter. It’s even better than a car because you can easily park anywhere. And yes, you can go to see the Qingshui Cliffs by scooter too. There are a few different places along the highway where you can stop to view them. Just be very carefully when driving along there and parking, as some cars may come along quickly.

      Reply
      • Thank you very much Nick,
        Yes I found car rental form Klook on another article of yours and they do have car rental from Taipei and drop off at Taitung (quite expensive) I will try Steve Hsieh and see which route works best. We are very excited to visit the East coast and using scooter at villages

        Reply
      • Hi Nick,

        I really hope that Alishan has no booking available for March 2024 due to reservation dates are not out yet and not because the hotel is fully booked [for reference I checked much further down the line after March all come back with no availability, but Alishan has some dates still available for October 2023. Just in case if I can’t book at Alishan, my other alternatives would be 2-3 nights at Shizhuo. I just like to get your opinion since there are many buses from Shizhou to Alishan ~ 40 minutes. Bus to visit Fenqihu is more limited, do you think it is easy to arrange transfer back to Shizhou [in case I miss the bus for Fenqihu visit]. 2nd question would be it is still the best route to take bus from Shishou to Alishan to catch the 1pm bus to Sun Moon Lake correct?
        Thank you very much
        Vananh

        Reply
        • Several hotels at Alishan only release their rooms 2-3 months in advance, so it is normal that nothing is available if you look so early. I suspect some will probably release their rooms for the new year around January 1 (just my guess though). It is best to just keep checking again and again until you find something. If you do stay in Shizhuo and visit Fenqihu, then no, there are no taxis or private transfers available there. These are tiny villages in the mountains. But you could actually walk from Fenqihu to Shizhuo in about 1 hour, slightly downhill. And yes, that would be fine to bus from Shizhuo to Alishan for catching the 1 PM bus to SML. Just make sure to arrive at Alishan maybe 30 min or 1 hr before the bus departs to secure your spot in line.

          Reply
  4. Hi Nick,
    Your website is amazingly informative & current !
    Extending from similar posts above, may I clarify most “efficient route” from HuaLien to KaoHsiung?
    By “efficient”, I mean (a) takes least time, (b) hopefully as less costly as possible. I researched following options & really surprised to have been told that Option B (by car) takes so much long ! (more than 2 times longer!)

    ** OPTION 1 **
    By Train = about 4.5 hours to at most 7 hours

    ** OPTION 2 **
    By Car or Van (for 7 of us) = 10 to 11 hours

    Reply
    • Yes, the train is often much faster than traveling by car in Taiwan because there are many tunnels through mountains, while cars have slow, winding roads and traffic. So if getting there fast is your priority, take the train. Only drive if you want to make a road trip of it, with many stops along the way.

      Reply
  5. Hi Nick
    Thank you for your informative blogs. We plan to have a self drive trip in Taiwan for 8D7N in December. What would be your recommended itinerary? We will arrive in and depart from Taipei, both in the afternoon.
    Thanks in advance for your advice.
    Regards

    Reply
    • Please search “Taiwan itinerary” on this site and you’ll find my article with recommendations for 1 week itinerary. The exact itinerary will depend on so many factors though, like what kind of places you want to visit and activities you like, the season, the budget, fast or slow, etc.

      Reply

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