Taiwan with Kids: How to Plan a Round-Island Trip

When I first moved to Taiwan, I never imagined I’d end up staying here for 10 years, marrying a Taiwanese, and having two kids. Sage (now 4) and Lavender (3) were born and raised here.

I also never planned for my travel site to become focused on traveling in Taiwan with kids. However, my article on things to do in Taipei with kids is currently the most popular page on my site, so I’m following it up with this post on how to plan your entire Taiwan itinerary with kids. There are really so many great things to do in Taiwan with kids!

For more trip ideas not covered in this article, see my list of the 50 best things to do in Taiwan.

 

The high speed rail, first step in the fastest way from Taipei to Alishan
Here’s my article on traveling in Taipei with kids!

 

Our kids have already explored this island more than most visitors ever do. Before Lavender was one, she had already traveled from Taipei to Kenting on the southern tip of Taiwan for Spring Scream festival, and many places in between. Most recently, we did a father-daughter-son week-long round-island trip while my wife Emily was working abroad. I’m going to combine all our best experiences traveling with kids in Taiwan, and give you the perfect kid-friendly Taiwan itinerary for 1 and 2 weeks.

In this article I’ve included some links to Klook, which is a discount online booking service for tickets and activities in Asia. We use it all the time traveling around Taiwan. If you sign up with my referral link, you’ll get NT100 off your first activity! I’ll also make lots of kid-friendly hotel reservations below, but note that you can find some great properties in Taiwan on AirBnb. If you’ve never signed up before, use this link to get NT1100 off your first AirBnb booking!

 

The gorgeous east coast of taiwan with my kids Sage and Lavender
Exploring the gorgeous and wild east coast of Taiwan

 

Why Taiwan is Awesome for Kids

My kids Sage and Lavender in front of our home in New Taipei, Taiwan
Sage and Lavender in front of our New Taipei City home, about to go on a trip

 

I’ve been all over the world, and I’m convinced that Taiwan is one of the best countries in Asia for traveling or living with kids. I also consistently hear positive reports from other parents who visited or live in Taiwan with children. Traveling Taiwan with a baby is even very doable. So what makes Taiwan so suitable for traveling with kids?

For starters, Taiwan is one of the safest countries in the world. Second, Taiwan prides itself on being the land of convenience. There’s a 7-Eleven on every corner (highest concentration in the world!), where you can heat up a bottle, take a rest in the AC, grab a treat, book a train ticket, etc.)

Taiwan’s incredible transportation system is praised by everyone who uses it for its speed, cleanliness, comprehensive coverage, and politeness of passengers, who on the MRT (metro) will ALWAYS let parents with young kids sit. Buses, trains, and the HSR (high speed rail) can get you to just about anywhere in the city or country, quickly and comfortably.

But the one thing that will stand out the most during your trip to Taiwan with kids is the sheer kindness and hospitality of locals. Most visitors to Taiwan rave about it, and it’s something I’ve become used to after living here so long, but I’m still often taken aback at how locals are EVEN friendlier when you’ve got kids. Many Taiwanese are curious about foreign people in general and especially kids. Our kids are basically famous in our neighborhood people always go out of their way to help us.

One thing you should be aware of is that this kindness and curiosity sometimes takes the form of little gifts, so we do receive a lot of cookies and candies from strangers. I don’t really mind, but some parents might. The most “Taiwanese” way to deal with this would be to accept these gifts and say thanks and then later do what you want with them, rather than politely rejecting the gifts and possibly causing offense.

Also, some locals may photograph your kids, with or without your consent. Again this doesn’t bother us, but I know it does for some parents.

 

Getting Around Taiwan with Kids

Taiwan High Speed Rail with kids
Riding the HSR (High Speed Rail) with kids.

 

Children under 115cm or under 6 travel free on the Taipei MRT. Parents should purchase an EasyCard for ease of swiping in and out and for discounted fares. Dark blue seats on all MRT cars are designated for the needy, including pregnant women or passengers with young children, but even if they are occupied, people in the regular light blue seats will likely give up their seats for you.

Parents should consider getting an Unlimited Fun Pass, which includes unlimited rides on the MRT and entrance to many major attractions. Kids under 6 don’t need it, but for students it may still be worth it, since they pay adult fares on the MRT and and get slight discounts at many attractions.

When riding the TRA (intercity Taiwan train) with kids, children under 115cm or under 6 are also free. However, if you want a seat for your child, you need to buy a children’s ticket for him or her. Children 115-150cm or under 12 pay half price for a seat. Above 150cm and 12 years old pay full fare (above 150cm but still under 12, or vice versa, is still half price).

To share an experience, when I recently took my two kids around the country, I cheaped out on one four-hour train ride, from Taipei to Taitung. Both my kids are under 6, so I only bought a ticket for myself. Sometimes in Taiwan trains have some empty seats (more likely on weekdays), in which case you can sit in them until a person with a ticket comes. However, this train ended up being fully booked. My kids shared our one seat, and I stood in the aisle beside them. This could have been a disaster, but ended up going smoothly. I wouldn’t recommend doing this though.

 

Taiwan trains with kids
Riding the regular Taiwan train with kids. Bring lots of stuff to do!

 

You can buy train tickets from the ibon machine in 7-11, but I found it incredibly difficult (even on the English system, or with help from the 7-11 staff) to book a children’s ticket. Therefore, I would recommend that you go to the train station to book children’s tickets, or even better, reserve them online before your trip.

Trains often sell out in Taiwan, especially on popular lines like Taipei to Hualien, and ESPECIALLY on weekends or holidays. Online reservations open 14 days before the date of travel, at exactly midnight. So if you want to travel on the 14th, book right after midnight on the 1st, that is, 12 AM on the night of the 31st. If I ever need to buy a ticket for a weekend or holiday, I try the minute they go on sale, since they sometimes sell out in minutes.

Note that even when a train sells out, you can still always buy standing tickets (except on Puyuma or Taroko express trains) and stand anywhere or sit on the floor between train cars. With kids, we’ve done this for very short trips (under an hour), but I wouldn’t suggest doing it for longer. On weekends, trains can be uncomfortably packed.     

The same age/price/seating rules apply for taking the HSR/Taiwan High Speed Rail with kids. Reserve the HSR 5-28 days in advance to get the early bird discount of 10, 20, or 35% off, but for us, we usually just show up and buy a ticket at the station at the last minute, even on weekends. Cars 10-12 are always non-reserved, and we almost always get a seat. You can also save money by booking your HSR tickets on Klook.  

Even during Chinese New Year, by far the busiest time of year, we showed up at a station and got a non-reserved ticket. There was a long line for the train, so we didn’t get on the first one that came, but only had to wait 30 minutes for the next one and got on. The high speed rail is a much faster and smoother ride, but note that (besides Taipei) most stations are located quite a distance from the city center.

 

Taiwan’s Taoyuan Airport with Kids

Baby playground at the Taoyuan airport, Taiwan
Emily with Lavender in one of the Taoyuan Airport’s many children’s play areas

 

The Taoyuan International Airport, where you will likely arrive in Taiwan, could definitely be regarded as one of the best family friendly airports in the world. If you depart from T2, don’t miss the Hello Kitty check in counter for Eva Airlines (even if you aren’t flying with Eva) at the back of the check-in hall. Both terminals have great kids play areas with playgrounds, and there is a skytrain connecting the two terminals.

Riding the new Taipei Airport MRT with kids is a fast, cheap, and easy way to get to Taipei Main Station. However, if you’d like to have a car waiting for you to go directly to your hotel, this private car from the airport is only NT799, cheaper than what most taxis end up costing.

A common question in the Taipei Parents group on Facebook is how to get a car with child seat. Well, the answer is that the above private car deal on Klook comes with one if you ask for it! Note that in Taiwan, nobody cares if you don’t use a children’s car seat.

 

The Eva Airlines Hello Kitty check in counter at T2 of the Taoyuan Airport, Taiwan
Don’t miss the Hello Kitty check in counter at Terminal 2! (Sage pictured with G&G from Canada)

 

Baby playground at the Taoyuan airport, Taiwan
Emily and Lavender in one of the many children’s areas and playgrounds at Taoyuan Airport.

1 Week Taiwan Itinerary with Kids

If you’ve only got 1 week in Taiwan, I would honestly just stick to doing Taipei and Hualien. You could spend the first 3 days in Taipei, then 3 days in Hualien (including getting there and coming back) to see Taroko Gorge, Taiwan’s most impressive scenic attraction, then your final night in Taipei before flying out. I’ve seen several parents come to Taiwan and do exactly this, and be very happy with their trip.    

To plan your time in Taipei, see my list of things to do in Taipei with kids, and my Taipei 2 day and 3 day itinerary for more information on how to put it all together. I’ve also included several recommendations for best hotels with kids in those articles. The 3-day itinerary also includes my suggestions for day trips from Taipei. If I could only do one day trip from Taipei with kids, I’d probably choose the cat village!

 

Houtong, the Taiwan Cat Village, with kids
Taiwan’s Cat Village. See my 3 day Taipei itinerary for more details!

 

2 Week Taiwan Itinerary with Kids

With 2 weeks, it becomes more feasible to travel all the way around Taiwan with kids. This is how I would map it out (based on traveling to all of these places multiple times with my kids). I’ve actually made it a little longer than two weeks, so you can pick and choose according to how many days you’ve got.

 

Days 1-3: Taipei

Hell Valley, Beitou, Taiwan
Steaming Hell Valley, Beitou

 

After arriving and checking in on your first day, spend a few days exploring this fascinating, bustling metropolis with your kids. Use my Taipei with kids article and Taipei 2 day or 3 day itineraries (all linked to above) to plan your trip.

Consider hopping on this double decker tour (kids under 6 or 115cm free), or make everything easier with this flexible tour by private car.

See the end of my Taipei with kids article for kid-friendly hotels in the city. There is also a huge number of Airbnb properties in Taipei and Taiwan. ‬If you haven’t signed up for AirBnb yet‭, ‬please use my sign up‭ ‬link to get‭ $NT1100 ‬off your first AirBnb stay‭! ‬

 

Days 4-5: Hualien and Taroko Gorge with Kids

Taroko Gorge with kids
My sister with Sage at the entrance to Taroko Gorge, Taiwan most impressive scenic attraction

 

Taroko Gorge, the “Grand Canyon of Taiwan,” is arguably the country’s most dramatic natural attraction. It is an absolute must-see, and nobody leaves disappointed. See here for my full articles on Taroko Gorge and Taiwan’s stunning East Coast.

The fastest and most convenient way to get there is to buy this flight from Taipei to Hualien, which departs from the Songshan airport right in Taipei City.

Is Taroko Gorge suitable for kids? Yes! We’ve taken ours twice now. There are several scenic stops along the narrow gorge that require very little walking, so even if you’ve got a baby in a carrier, it’s quite doable. If you are brave enough to take your kids by scooter like we did, you can rent scooters at Xincheng or Hualien train stations for around NT400/day, license required.

The safest and easiest option with kids is to charter a private car for the day. That way you can pick the most suitable spots for kids, and stay at each for as long or as short as you’d like. You can also join a mini-bus tour, but then you’d have less freedom. Taking the infrequent local bus severely limits how much you can see and do.  

 

Riding a scooter in Taroko Gorge Taiwan with toddlers
Emily at the front with Lavender in a carrier, and Sage standing at the front of my scooter. When in Taiwan!

 

From Taipei, you can travel to Xincheng or Hualien City by train. Xincheng (Taroko Gorge) station is one stop before Hualien. It is a small town much closer to the entrance of Taroko Gorge (about 10 minute drive, vs. 40 minutes from Hualien). However, staying in Hualien may be more convenient for you because there are more choices for restaurants, hotels, and other amenities.

Taipei to Hualien is one of the country’s most popular train routes, and getting tickets can be tough, especially for the faster Puyumu/Taroko Express. Try to go on a weekday, and make sure to reserve your train tickets in advance!

On day 4 you can arrive and check in, and visit Taroko Gorge on day 5. If you can manage to fit it in, our kids really liked playing with the pebbles at scenic Qixingtan Beach, in between Hualien City and Taroko Gorge, which is usually included in Taroko Gorge tours, or can be added if you ask. 

 

My daughter Lavender on Qixingtan beach, Hualien, Taiwan
Lavender on Qixingtan Pebble Beach near Taroko Gorge

 

Hiking in Taroko Gorge with kids
Emily with both kids on the Shakadang Trail, an easy but very scenic walk in Taroko Gorge

 

Family friendly hotels in Hualien

For Xincheng, I would highly recommend Taroko Lodge (read reviews / see prices). The super friendly owner speaks English and will pick you up at Xincheng train station. There is a large grassy yard with gorgeous mountain views and accommodation in charming, homey cabins.

The best hotel for kids in Taroko Gorge is Taroko Village Hotel (read reviews / see prices), featuring huge aboriginal buffets, while Silks Place Resort (read reviews / see prices) in Tianxiang, the tiny village at the head of the gorge, is the most luxurious accommodation in the greater Taroko Gorge area.  

In Hualien City, Hualien Inn (read reviews / see prices) is a full-on kids hotel, with Transformers, Star Wars, and Jurassic Park themed rooms. Book early, as it’s very popular and conveniently located right by the train station. Another choice with child-pleasing designs is Fun Kids B&B (read reviews).

Good choices for regular hotels in Hualien for kids are Moon House B&B (read reviews / see prices), Mr. Buster B&B (read reviews / see prices), and Dropby B&B (read reviews / see prices).  

 

Day 6 to 7: Taitung with Kids

Rice paddies in Taitung with kids
Checking out the rice paddies (Lavender wanted to eat go eat rice noodles after this…)

 

For a taste of rural Taiwan, your next stop is Taitung County, the remotest corner of Taiwan and the country’s bread (OK, rice) basket. The gorgeous East Rift Valley, through which the train passes, is covered with rice paddies and pineapple farms. The small towns of Guanshan or Luye both make great stops.

Guanshan is known in Taiwan for its town circuit path, an easy bicycle ride that takes in gorgeous rural scenery. They have all kinds of bikes on offer, including kids’ bikes, motorized bikes, and entire family bicycles. For quality bikes, there is a Giant shop connected to the train station, while the many shops east of the train station on Longsheng road, near the start of the cycling path, have a greater variety of bicycle types. See my full article on Guanshan for Travel in Taiwan magazine.  

It takes 1h15 min to 2h45 min to get from Hualien to Guanshan, depending on which train you get. Also find information on Guanshan in my Hualien to Kenting roadtrip article.  

 

A family bicycle on the Guanshan bicycle path, Taitung, Taiwan
Family bicycle on the Guanshan Town Circuit Bicycle Path

 

Getting to Luye Highland
Riding a scooter up the Luye Highland

 

Luye is another great choice to experience Taiwan’s countryside, but it’s really spread out and not walkable, so I would only choose here if you are willing to explore the area by scooter or just get picked up by your hotel and spend most of your time relaxing there.

If you happen to be visiting in summer, the Taitung Hot Air Balloon Festival, which takes place on the Luye Highland 20 minutes drive above town, is an awesome activity for kids. See here for my full article on our recent trip to Luye and the Hot Air Balloon Festival. Luye is 1h50min to 3h from Hualien by train.

You can also return to Taipei quickly if necessary on this Taitung to Taipei flight.

 

Taitung International Balloon Fiesta in Luye, Taiwan
Watching balloons taking off at the Taitung International Hot Air Balloon Festival

 

My kids watching the awesome display of hot air balloons, Luye highland, Taitung
Super close-up spots for the show

 

If you don’t plan to do the whole loop around Taiwan, but want to spend more time in Taitung, Dulan is a great little beach town that is less than an hour’s drive from Luye. We spent a few days there after attending the hot air balloon festival and loved it. Here’s my full article on Dulan beach town.

To get from Luye to Dulan, you can take a short train, bus, or taxi as we did (20 min, approx. NT500-600) to Taitung train station. Then you can travel up highway 11 on the coast by scooter or bus. Dulan town isn’t right on the beach, so you need transportation or a long walk to access it.

 

Dulan Beach, Taiwan
My kids playing on Dulan Beach. We were some of the few people there…

 

Family Friendly Hotels in Taitung

Tea Tian Villa (see prices) is the best hotel for kids in Guanshan. It’s right by the train station, room balconies overlook rice paddies, they serve delicious Western style breakfast, and rooms come with children’s toys.

In Luye, we stayed at Kai Tai B&B (see prices) on the Luye Highland, a small quiet guesthouse with an incredible view and surrounded by pineapple farms and tea fields. It’s a 20 minute drive uphill from the train station. We found this perfect for visiting the Hot Air Balloon Festival nearby. The Luminous Hot Spring Resort & Spa (read reviews / see prices) is the only luxury option and place with a pool in town. They offer pick-up, and you can sometimes see hot air balloons going by right from the rooms. See my Luye article for other B&B options and info for renting a scooter in town.

In Dulan, we stayed at the Song of Eagle B&B (read reviews / see prices),  but again you’d need your own transportation to get here. There are several other hostels and B&Bs in and around town; see my Dulan article for more hotels for kids in Taitung. 

 

Song of Eagle guesthouse, one of the best places to stay in Dulan, Taiwan
Lavender at Song of Eagle guesthouse

 

Day 8 and 9: Kaohsiung with Kids

I think that Kaohsiung, Southern Taiwan’s largest city, justifies a spot on your Taiwan itinerary with kids for its handful of child-friendly activities. The city is revitalizing is river and harbor front area, with the newly opened light rail providing access to the Pier 2 Art Center, fun for exploring with kids.

Our kids quite enjoyed Kaohsiung Zoo on Shoushan (Shou Mountain) next to the city. Unlike Taipei’s zoo, it has a petting zoo, water fountains the kids can play in, and little cars they can drive. It is also possible (well, pretty much guaranteed, if you go to the right spots) to see wild macaques on Shoushan and connecting Chaishan.

I’ve seen monkeys there several times with friends, but hilariously, when we tried to take our kids to see them, we got in a cab and asked the driver to “take us to the spot with the monkeys,” so he  took us TO THE ZOO. We found out after, though, that it is often possible to see macaques near the zoo’s entrance. Sage was also intrigued by the fact that security guards in the zoo carry paintball guns to shoot intruding macaques.

 

Kids' cars at the Kaohsiung Zoo
Sage and Coco

 

One of the best things to do in Kaohsiung with kids is visit Taroko Park (aka Suzuka Circuit Park).Taroko Park is a child-oriented department store slash amusement park. We aren’t much of a shopping or amusement park kind of family, but this place is quite incredible, and we went there specifically so that our kids could try children’s bowling in the mall next to the park. You can buy your Taroko Park day passes here and order your Go Kart tickets for the full sized Go Kart track here.   

There is a ton of stuff to do here for kids of all ages, from toddler play centers and rides for very young kids to a full size go-karting track and wilder rides for older kids and even adults. See my full article for Travel in Taiwan magazine on Taroko Park for all the details, including where to find the mini bowling alley.

There is another huge and very popular theme park in Kaohsiung called E-Da Theme Park. You can get a HUGE discount by ordering your tickets online here.

If you spend more time in Kaohsiung with kids, you could consider going to Meinong to see the Hakka paper umbrellas or Foguangshan to see Taiwan’s largest Buddha. Here’s a day tour that includes Foguangshan.

 

Children's bowling at Taroko Park in Kaohsiung
Bowling for kids at Taroko Park in Kaohsiung

 

Family Friendly Hotels in Kaohsiung

We stayed in this great little AirBnB apartment because of its awesome location by the river. It has a really cool design, mostly made of recycled materials, bunk beds (exciting for kids) and our own little private terrace. If you haven’t signed up ‭, ‬use my sign up‭ ‬link to get‭ $NT1100 ‬off your first AirBnb visit! ‬

 

A great hotel for kids in Kaohsiung
Another place the kids loved (they love anywhere we go…)

 

I don’t know of any other hotels in Kaohsiung that are specifically great for kids, but use this link to search for great Kaohsiung hotels for kids, and consider that location very close to a KMRT or light rail station is important. We found that walking distances in Kaohsiung seemed longer than they looked on the map, and it wasn’t as easy to get a taxi as in Taipei.

We loved the area near the Love River because it was great to stroll along the river in the evening with the kids and see all the city lights. We also highly enjoyed this quick fry restaurant beside the river and ate there every night. It’s not the best food in town (still decent!), but we loved the location, atmosphere, and they have a great selection of foreign beers (unusual for this style of restaurant).   

 

Day 10: Fenqihu Mountain Village or Shizhuo Tea Farm

Yes, I am skipping Tainan, Taiwan’s cultural and former capital. There’s no way my kids could handle all the walking or care about all the temples and historical sights in this city, but without kids I would consider it a must!If you are interested in a wilder (and totally NOT kid-friendly) experience in Tainan, check out my article on the Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival!

Instead, I’d like to suggest you get off the beaten track and enjoy a more natural experience with your kids on the way up to Alishan National Scenic Area, Taiwan’s most famous mountain resort.

Catch an early train or HSR from Zuoying (Kaohsiung) to Chiayi, then a bus or the Alishan Forest Railway (here’s all the Alishan transportation info, including how to reserve your tickets in advance) from Chiayi to Fenqihu. If that seems too rushed for one morning, you can consider spending the night in Chiayi and getting the bus or train the next morning (as we did). See my complete guide to Alishan for good hotels for kids in Chiayi.

 

My kids at the Fenqihu Raiway Museum near Alishan
Alishan railway museum at Fenqihu, half way up to Alishan

 

Fenqihu, a small mountain village halfway between Chiayi and Alishan is currently the terminal end of the Alishan Forest Railway, because the remaining section from Fenqihu to Alishan was damaged in a typhoon in 2009. Taking the small train from Chiayi to Alishan is really fun with kids, and preferable to the winding bus ride. However, it can be tough to get tickets for it, so do plan in advance.  

I think Fenqihu is a great, cute little village to spend a relaxing night. Also see my Alishan guide for more info and pics of Fenqihu. In spring, you can see fireflies here in the evening, and there are some great hikes through bamboo forests around town (would be a little tough for younger kids). My kids also liked seeing the old trains in the mini train museum. Before I had kids, I once stayed in the Fenqihu Hotel (read reviews / see prices) and my kids would have loved their cute little wooden bath tubs:

 

Fenqihu Hotel bath
Miniature bathtub in our room at Fenqihu Hotel

 

Alternatively, you can stay on a tea farm in Shizhuo, just south of Fenqihu. The owner of Cuiti, the guesthouse where we stayed (read reviews / see prices) picked us up in Fenqihu and dropped us off at the bus stop the next day to get to Alishan.

Staying in a tea farm was one of my best experiences ever in Taiwan, simply because the grounds are so gorgeous, and we also saw an amazing sunset over the tea farm from right in front of our hotel. After seeing that great sunset, I didn’t feel so bad about missing the sunrise when we stayed at Alishan next. (Alishan is famous for its sunrises and most tourists get up well before dawn to take the small train up to a viewing point to see them, but I didn’t want to torture my kids like that).

See my Alishan article for other tea farm accommodations in the area.

 

Visiting an Alishan tea farm with kids
Tea farm near our guesthouse in Shizhuo. And yes, Sage wanted to wear his shirt inside out and backwards.

 

I had my kids convinced that we were staying in dragon territory, with all the misty forests and terraced tea fields, and we loved doing a short, easy hike to another tea farm.

Be aware that the guesthouse owners don’t speak much (or any) English, and you need to bring food to prepare for dinner. If you really do stay where we stayed, get in touch with me and I could give you more specific information about staying here and hikes near the guesthouse, or help you to translate messages with the hosts.

 

Hiking in Taiwan with kids
An easy hike from the tea farm where we stayed to another one

 

The bus from Fenqihu (1 hr) or Shizhuo (45 min) to Alishan, is extremely winding, but is your only choice. Many people on our bus puked, and while our kids (who both usually experience car sickness) were suffering, they managed not to get sick. Have plastic bags ready and try to sit closer to the front.

 

Day 11 and 12: Alishan with Kids

Riding the Alishan Forest Railway with kids
A real live choo-choo train!

 

Visiting Alishan (Mount Ali) with kids on our recent round-Taiwan father-son-daughter trip was probably our most challenging but also most rewarding stop. The bus ride up was rough, and visiting the area involves lots of walking, but the kids loved it and so did I.

I think the most exciting part of Alishan for the kids was riding the small sections of the Alishan Forest Railway (a real “choo choo train”) that are still operating within the Alishan National Scenic Area. The trains seem to appear out of the mist that often engulfs Alishan. Some cars are made entirely of wood and smell wonderful inside. 

 

My son Sage on the Alishan Forest Railway
Sage looking out into the Alishan mist

 

My son riding the Alishan Forest Railway from Alishan to Zhaoping (Chaoping) Station. See here for the Alishan Forest Railway times (Alishan train times)
Sage on the train at Alishan Station

 

My daughte Lavender on the Alishan Forest Railway
Lavender too!

 

Wooden car on the Alishan Forest Railway, the best way to get around Alishan!
Visiting Alishan with kids on the wonderfully scented wooden Alishan train car

 

The main hiking trails through ancient, spooky forests in Alishan were easy enough for my kids (I had to carry Lavender sometimes), even with the light rain that we experienced some of the time. We didn’t do the sunrise, something which most tourists do when they visit Alishan. I don’t think my kids would have cared enough to justify waking them up that area, and often the sunrises are not even visible at Alishan.

Make sure to bring warm clothes (even in summer), as it can get quite chilly at this elevation, and rain gear. They do sell kids’ jackets, other winter gear, and ponchos there if you forgot them like we did.

 

Getting some rain while hiking in Alishan, with Shouzhen temple behind.
We came unprepared, but bought these hoodies and rain jackets at Alishan.

 

Hiking in Alishan with kids
She looks like a trooper, but I carried her half the time…

 

Family Friendly Hotels in Alishan

Hotels in Alishan are mostly old, run down, and overpriced for what you get. Most of them are located on a curving road behind the tourist village. None of them really stood out to me as good for kids, so we just chose the cheapest one, Mei Li Ya (see prices). It was run down, but the clerk was really friendly, the beds had heated sheets, and the room had a huge dehumidifier, which dried all our wet clothes and shoes in no time.

If we went again, I would choose a hotel that offers free pick up from the bus station, such as Shermuh (read reviews / see prices), which was right next door to ours. It was quite a walk from the bus station to our hotel carrying our luggage and dragging my two kids, in the rain of course.

The nicest hotel in the scenic area is Alishan Hotel (Alishan House) (read reviews / see prices). It is located away from the tourist village but closer to the walking trails. They also offer free pickup and the location is more scenic, but you also lose easy access to the 7-11 and other amenities in the tourist village. There is a good deal on this 2-day tour from Chiayi that includes a stay at Alishan House.

 

Day 13 and 14: Sun Moon Lake with Kids

Riding the Sun Moon Lake ropeway with kids
Riding the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

 

Sun Moon Lake is one of Taiwan’s three major scenic attractions, along with Taroko Gorge and Alishan. I took my kids there on a solo trip (again while mommy was abroad) a few years ago. Lavender wasn’t even 1 yet and Sage was 3. It is a very special memory for us that we still talk about today.

It was my first time to try traveling overnight with the kids on my own, and it is Sage’s earliest memory to date. He still remembers the colors of the cable cars we rode, an experience that really blew them both away at the time. Sun Moon Lake is quite touristy, but I still think it deserves a spot on your Taiwan itinerary with kids if you can fit it in.

 

Our kids on the shore of Sun Moon Lake, Nantou, Taiwan
When you finally get to the main attraction and one kid falls asleep…

 

It’s important to note that there are no beaches and you can’t swim in Sun Moon Lake. The main tourist village on Sun Moon Lake is called Shuishe, but it feels like tour bus central, and we strongly prefer the small aboriginal village of Itashao/Itathao on the other side of the lake. While the vibe in Itathao is still a little touristy, this is a legitimate village of the Thao tribe, one of Taiwan’s most recently recognized and endangered aboriginal tribes.  

Itathao has a great and not too tacky day and night market, boardwalks and docks on the lake that our kids loved running around, and it is within walking distance of theSun Moon Lake Ropeway.

 

Playing on the docks at Itathao, Sun Moon Lake
My kids loved running around the docks at Itashao

 

On the docks at Itashao, Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan
On the docks at Itashao

 

The Sun Moon Lake Ropeway commands truly impressive views over Sun Moon Lake. At the top, you can transfer to another ropeway that goes down into the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village, which is actually a huge amusement park combined with aboriginal culture center that has musical and dance performances. We went out of curiosity but could have missed it. The views from the first gondola ride were absolutely worth the trip though!

You can find out more details about all these places in my complete Sun Moon Lake guide. Also see my articles about deciding whether to get the Sun Moon Lake pass, and the best Sun Moon Lake tours.

 

Riding the Sun Moon Lake cable car
The ropeway section between the top and Formosan Aboriginal Village

 

Formosan Aboriginal Culture Museum, Sun Moon Lake
Ride at the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village

 

The bus from Alishan to Sun Moon Lake takes three hours and is very winding. From Sun Moon Lake back to Taipei, the fastest way is to take the bus from the visitor’s center in Shuishe to Taichung HSR, then HSR back to Taipei. See my Alishan transportation article for all the departure times. 

 

Family Friendly Hotels at Sun Moon Lake

A great Sun Moon Lake hotel for kids
We loved this AirBnb cabin right by Sun Moon Lake

 

When I took my kids to Sun Moon Lake, we stayed in this awesome Airbnb cabin (they also have this one and this one) a 5-minute walk up a small forest road from Itashao Village and bus stop. Please use my referral link to sign up for Airbnb and receive NT1100 ($36) off your first stay at any Airbnb!

The three brand new wooden cabins here are in natural surroundings away from the tourist scene at Itashao, but close enough that you can easily walk in to eat, visit the lake, or get to the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway.

On our most recent (2018) trip to Sun Moon Lake with our kids, we stayed at Itathao Vacation Hotel (read reviews / see prices). I chose it because it was cheap, had balconies with lake views (in the distance), and the owners were friendly. To be honest, our expectations were low because usually hotels of this price are very old or low quality in Taiwan, but the room was very new and we were impressed. The beds were quite small, but we asked for more blankets and made a bed for the kids on the floor.  

I also considered Shuiyang Boatel Hotel (read reviews / see prices), which is more expensive but each room has large windows with incredible lake views, and is in a quiet corner of Itashao. Shuian Lakeside Hotel (read reviews / see prices) is a similar but more popular one that has a prime spot right on the main market street and dock of Itashao.  

 

Day 15: Back to Taipei

Well, that completes your two week tour of Taiwan with kids! If you are flying directly out, you can get off the HSR at Taoyuan, with regular shuttle buses to the airport.

 

Riding the HSR in Taiwan with a baby

 

Other Cool Spots for Kids in Taiwan

There are a few other great places for kids in Taiwan that I left out of the above itinerary because they aren’t so easy to get to, but I still want to mention them here so that you can consider visiting them if you have enough time.

The first spot is the Xitou Monster Village, a Japanese-styled village up in the mountains that has recently become a tourist hot spot for local families. It’s best to visit by car and easy to combine with a trip to Sun Moon Lake, but there are also buses that go up there.

See my full article in the link above for more details on the Monster Village.

 

Xitou Monster Village, Nantou
The Monster Village is a quirky site for kids if you’ve willing to make the journey

 

Another cool themed village to visit with kids is the Rainbow Village in Taichung. Here, an elderly Chinese man has painted his entire home with bright, cartoonish colors to save it from destruction.

The Rainbow Village is in Taichung City, and also not the most convenient to get to by public transportation, but certainly doable, and very easy by taxi or car.

See my full article on the Rainbow Village linked to above for all the details.

 

Rainbow Village Taichung with kids
Rainbow Village is a bit out of the way, but worth the stop with kids if you’ve got the time!

 

Looking for fun things to do in Taiwan with kids? Here's a Taiwan itinerary for kids, including best hotels in Taiwan for kids! #taiwan #taiwanwithkids #taiwanitinerary #taiwanitinerarywithkids #travelingwithkids

 

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19 thoughts on “Taiwan with Kids: How to Plan a Round-Island Trip”

  1. Great and very thorough post. Thanks for sharing. I really want to visit Taroko Gorge one day. My girls are a bit older than this but you’ve done quite a few things I haven’t heard of before and would love to see. I had no idea Taiwan had a hot air balloon festival.

  2. I never would have thought of Taiwan for kids but between the Hello Kitty check in, the trains and all the sites it sounds amazing. I want to go to the hot air balloon festival!

  3. When I saw how young your children were, I wasn’t sure it could be easy to travel with them anywhere, but then you convinced me. Lots of surprises in your article, actually. I had no idea you could book train tickets at 7-11’s or that strangers would be so generous with your children. Thanks for all the tips and important details, too.

  4. Wow Nick, this was one of the most informative well written blog posts on a destination i’ve ever read. Awesome. I also loved learning about the benefits of traveling this beautiful country with kids, and how friendly the locals are to you guys. Makes me smile!

    • Well, that’s great to hear! My kids are my life, and they were born and raised in Taiwan, so this article is massively important to me because it basically represents my life!

  5. First of all, your kids are adorable!! Second, it’s great to learn about a country that is so kind and helpful towards families! I think a lot of families don’t travel or hesitate to travel because they think it will be too difficult, but this post proves that it is doable. Especially when transit systems, hotels, and the people in general are so helpful.

  6. Wow! What a thorough post! I love all the information that you share! And while I do not have children myself – you’ve convinced me to travel to Taiwan if/when I do! Haha 🙂 I absolutely love that the people are friendlier when you’ve got kids, that is just awesome. And I can’t decide whether I love the Hello Kitty check-in counter or the little wooden bath tub more! P.S Your kids are ADORABLE!!

  7. What a wonderful and thorough post. I love that you experience everything (and have photos to prove it). I think what I am going to remember is the Taiwan is the land of convenience and the 7-11 even sells rail tickets.

  8. I’ve heard only good things about Taiwan and reading this article confirms that. It’s so wonderful to see how easy it is to get around and the services available for parents. It’s easy to see why you love living there. It’s my goal to visit Taiwan soon and I’m looking forward to it!

  9. I keep hearing Taiwan is amazing (both to visit and to live). I don’t have kids but this would still be an appealing itinerary for me — especially nice that the public transit is so easy to use. One question on the scooter/motorbikes — do you drive them in Taipei too, or did you rent them when you were out in the more rural areas like the Taroko Gorge? I’m not a super experienced motorbike drive and am fine in remote places, but don’t love urban traffic.

  10. Let me begin by saying – your kids are adorable! I found your post interesting for several reasons. Firstly, I don’t know anyone who has been to Taiwan and I haven’t read a lot about it either so it was quite helpful for me as an introduction to a country I don’t have much knowledge about. Secondly, I hadn’t heard of cities beyond Taipei and I loved reading what kind of places there are to see and things to do! I don’t have kids but even as an adult, I think Taiwan makes for a god off-beat travel plan. Thanks for this!

  11. This was great reading and gave me loads of information I needed. We (my wife , myself and our two daughters) have planned a 2 week trip to Taiwan for July. We have roughly planned the places we would like to visit but are not sure yet of how to get there. Hiring a car is an option, probably an expensive one, but we prefer the convenience of public transport. However reading your story trains seem really busy, so is taking a coach a good alternative? what type of transport would be your recommendation. Do you know if there are any festivals during this period.
    Thank you so much

    • Hi Faith, and thanks for your message! Could you tell me which places you plan to visit, as that will really affect the answer. As far as I know there aren’t any festivals at that time, but you should also be aware that the weather will be extremely hot and humid, which can be a challenge for traveling with kids, depending on what kind of weather you are used to. Even though it can be crowded, the public transportation in Taiwan is really great (and air conditioned), but again it depends entirely on where you are going.

      • Hi Nick,
        Thanks for the quick reply. I appreciate the weather warning. Unfortunately July would be, at least for the moment, the only time we could travel as it is our school holidays then. However a year and a half ago
        (also in July) we took the girls with us to Singapore and Malaysia to visit family and they loved it.
        Anyway the flights are booked and we are really excited. We would like to spend a few days in and around Taipei and maybe visit places like Beitou, Wulai and Jiufen. Then travel to Hualien and visit Taroko Gorge then make our way to Kenting and possibly if enough time visit Taitung. Then travel to Tainan and Sun Moon and maybe Lukang.
        Not sure if we are trying to squeeze in too much, what do you think and if so what is best to leave out?

        Once again thank you for your advice

        Eddie

        • Hey again,
          I would day for your time in Taipei, definitely you can do that very easily and comfortably by public transportation. The hassle alone of trying to find parking in those place could make it difficult. For your remaining plans, it does sound like a lot to squeeze into your trip, especially considering you will spend at least a few days of your two weeks in Taipei.
          For your round island trip, certainly having the car would make it easier. If I were you, I’d consider taking the train to Hualien then renting your car there. The train can be faster, and you can skip the hassel of trying to drive out of Taipei, and the coastal route from Suao to Hualien that some consider a dangerous road to drive along.

          You said “Taitung if we have enough time” but you would literally have to drive through Taitung to get to Kenting. If I were you, I’d spend a night or two in Taroko/Hualien, then drive down to Taitung and spend a night there. After that, I’d consider skipping Kenting altogether. I mean the beaches are decent, but not amazing compared to many other countries in Asia, and it’s quite a ways off the main route around the island. Tainan has lots of history and temples, but I wouldn’t really consider a must with kids. My kids wouldn’t be old enough to appreciate it. I think once you map out your route, you can use Google to figure out the number of driving hours for each day between cities. You don’t want to spend too much of your trip in a car. I remember the first (and only) time we drove down the east coast in a car (with my parents), we were surprised at how the distances seemed short, but the drive felt much longer, perhaps because the roads can be really winding and slow moving.

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