3 days in Hualien | Taroko Gorge,East Coast, East Rift Valley

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Hualien, just 2.5 hours train ride from Taipei, gives you a great look at the natural beauty of Taiwan. It was a week long trip to Taiwan where I squeezed in 2 nights to travel and explore Hualien.

The most popular transportation from Taipei to Hualien would be by train, which only takes 2.5 hours. TRA releases their tickets online for reservation 14 days prior to the date of travel. We've been advised by our airbnb host to login early to purchase the tickets to ensure we get the good tickets and good timings. It's highly recommended to book your tickets in advance. Even for us, we did not manage to get our ideal tickets despite logging on early.

Upon arrival, we went to get our rented car. We've decided to do road trip for Hualien, exploring the scenic areas, taking on the drive by ourselves. We dropped by the information center to get some ideas on where to visit too since we did not fully finalise our itinerary.

We ended up with this plan for the 2.5 days we had in Hualien.

Day 1:
Taroko Gorge National Park

Day 2:
East Rift Valley National Scenic Area
East Coast National Scenic Area

Day 3:
Qixingtan Beach
Qingshui Cliff Scenic Area

Day 1: Taroko Gorge National Park

Most people would cover Qixintan Beach and Qingshui Cliff together with Taroko Gorge since they're along the way, further up north of Hualien city. We've realised that most of the tours would do Qingshui Cliff before lunch and then move on to Taroko Gorge after lunch. Thus, to avoid the tour crowds, we decided to just head straight to Taroko Gorge before lunch.

It was quite easy to navigate our way from Hualien city to Taroko Gorge since there were plenty of signs leading you to the entrance. The first stop is the Taroko National Park East Entrance Arch Gate. Grabbing a quick photo of the entrance before moving on.

We've also made a couple of impromptu stops to admire the beauty of Taroko Gorge. We've intended to do Shakadang Trail, Changchun Shrine, Swallow Grotto Yanzikou Trail, Lushui Trail, and Baiyang Trail. Unfortunately things did not go as planned because we kept missing the exits and stops.

When we managed to get to the Swallow Grotto Trail, we actually drove through it with our car and did not stop at the information center, where we were supposed to get safety helmets. As a result, we did not mange to walk the entire trail. Though, we did make stops to grab a couple of photos.

We ended our drive at our final stop at Tianxiang before making a u-turn to return to all the places we have missed along the way. We also faced several traffic roadblocks on our drive in Taroko Gorge because the roads were either one-way or under repair. Each wait would be as long as 30 minutes so we spent a lot of time waiting in the car.

We ended our first day at Dongdamen Night Market, grabbing our dinner there.

Day 2: East Rift Valley

Our second day began really early because I wanted to be ambitious, covering both East Rift Valley and East Coast drive.

Our first stop was Liyu Lake. There are plenty of things you can do here at Liyu Lake - water activities, bicycling, and even some walking trails.

The next stop on our list was Danongdafu Forest Park. The drive in was pretty amazing because we were greeted with endless flat land, with mountains in the background. The place itself was huge. We got ourselves rented bicycles to cycle the Forest Park. While the skies were scorching hot, we found shade in the Forest Park, which made the cycle enjoyable.

Liushishi Mountain is home to the daylilies, blooming from August to September. Unfortunately, we were not there for the daylilies blooming season. Nevertheless, the view was still amazing.

However, the drive up and down Liushishi Mountain was really tough. The roads were rocky and narrow. We've driven in so many different places before but the roads to Liushishi Mountain has ought to be one of the most challenging ones.

After leaving Liushishi Mountain, we headed East to the ocean drive.

Day 2: East Coast Scenic Drive

While I would not advise to complete both the East Rift Valley Drive and the East Coast Scenic Drive on the same day, we did not have enough days in Hualien to split the trip up. If I were to do this again, I would definitely choose to stay in a B&B in the East Rift. 

The entire stretch of road is lined right next to the Pacific Ocean and it's a really refreshing road to drive. Hearing the waves splashing against the rocks, smelling the sea, and letting the wind run through your hair.

Shitiping was the most memorable stop for us on this road trip. It was crowded with people, especially since we've reached there close to sunset. But the view was amazing and we even climbed up the rocks.

We made a couple more stops along the way as there are many places where you can park the car to explore.

Day 3: Qingshui Cliff, Qixingtan Beach

They say the sunrise at Qixingtan Beach is beautiful so we forced ourselves out of bed early in the morning to make our way there. By the time we are there, the sun was already slightly up. But it was still a stunning view.

The beauty of Qixingtan Beach is not just the sunrise, but the fact that it is a pebble bay.

And if you head further north, you will find yourself at the famous Qingshui Cliff. You can't say you've been to Hualien without seeing this landmark. We managed to capture a couple of drone shots there and the beach looked really inviting. We saw a couple of people kayaking in the pristine waters but we never quite figure how to get down to the beach at the Qingshui Cliff.

And that ended our 3 days in Hualien as we caught the afternoon train back to Taipei.

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