Dear reader: This article contains links to products and services that I may be compensated for, at no extra cost to you.
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.
Now, let’s get right to it!
Hualien 1 Day Itinerary: Taroko Gorge
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 with flight from Taipei to Hualien.
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 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 one of these popular Taroko Gorge day tours. 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.
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 full 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.
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 these sights, usually depending on time:
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.
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.
Sea Kayaking below the Qinshui Cliffs: One of the most spectacular outdoor activities is kayaking below these mighty cliffs, especially if you didn’t have a chance to see them on day one of your Hualien travel itinerary. You can book this activity here.
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:
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.
Starbucks Shipping Container Store: Iconic Starbucks branch built out of 29 recycled shipping containers.
Hualien Night Market: Finish your day at Hualien’s best night market, which includes a whole section of aboriginal food.
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.
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
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. Book your tickets online here.
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)
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. You can even go stand-up paddleboarding on the lake.
Fenglin: Get off at this train station to try paragliding or taking a scenic flight over the East Rift Valley.
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
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
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 villages 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!