24 hours in Hualien and Taroko National Park in Taiwan

Oh, Taiwan. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways! Taiwan is known for its mouthwatering food and unparalleled hospitality. Visitors rush to see the iconic Taipei 101, but there’s more to Taiwan than just Taipei. The true beauty of this island country lies on the east coast, where plains are forever green and where mountains meet the sea. 24 hours in Hualien and Taroko National Park doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but it’s totally doable (without being rushed) if you plan carefully.

Kollecting Koordinates - 24 hours in Hualien

24 hours in Hualien – How do I even get there?

Chances are, you’re heading to Hualien from Taipei. Cities and counties in Taiwan are connected by the Taiwan Railways Administration, with the fastest being the Tze-Chiang Limited Express trains. Taroko Express and Puyuma Express are both reservation-only Tze-Chiang Limited Express trains that run from Taipei to Hualien. Duration and fares are the same- they’re just owned by different companies.

Tip: Buy your tickets ahead of time; you can do so up to 2 weeks in advance. The Puyuma line is very popular and sells out quickly, especially on weekends and national holidays. You can pick up your tickets at a post office or at any convenience store (7-Eleven, Family Mart, Hi-Life, OK Mart); make sure you have your passport with you.

Read more: Social responsibility at its best – Horizon Inn Taipei

How do I get around in Hualien?

If you’re only interested in checking out Taroko National Park, there are tours and hop-on hop-off buses that do just that. However, I strongly advise against them because let’s be honest- ain’t nobody got time for that! Rent a moped instead and explore the gorge on your own. You’ll be able to go at your own pace and stop whenever, wherever you want.

If you’re in a group of 2-4, aren’t comfortable with scootering around, or are pressed for time… just hire a private driver! We’re all about efficiency here so I highly recommend this option. This allowed us to customize our own itinerary and visit sites outside of Taroko.

Tip: Our driver no longer offers services but there are plenty of recommendations on Tripadvisor. The rate for an English-speaking driver is fairly standard at around $3,000NTD/day (around $100USD).

Kollecting Koordinates - 24 hours in Hualien

What can I see and do within 24 hours in Hualien?

Qixing Beach

QiXing means ‘seven stars’ in Mandarin. Once a thriving fishing village, this area is now home to Qixing Beach and the Hualien Air Force Base. If you visit at night you can even star-gaze! Visitors are able to see all seven stars of the Big Dipper (hence the name).

You won’t find any sand here- this pebble beach is considered one of the most beautiful in Taiwan. The waves and currents are too strong for a swim but the bike trail is perfect for a beach-side cruise. We spent half an hour here and watched in awe as an F-16 figher jet took off.

Kollecting Koordinates - 24 hours in Hualien

Kollecting Koordinates - 24 hours in Hualien

Qingshui Cliff

20 minutes away from QiXing Beach is the QingShui Cliff, arguably one of the most stunning sights in Taiwan. Dropping vertically into the Pacific Ocean, the cliff is over 3,000 feet high and stretches more than 12 miles along the Suao-Hualien highway.

Tip: There’s an observation deck once you exit the Chongde Tunnel. Here’s your chance to snap that IG-worthy shot!

Kollecting Koordinates - 24 hours in Hualien

Shakadang trail

Also known as the ‘Mystery Valley’, this was once a narrow path used only by aboriginals- the Taroko people. When Taiwan was under Japanese rule in the 1940’s, the Japanese broadened the trail to transport equipment in order to build the Liwu Power Plant. Marvel at the marble stones and Shakadang River as you explore the past of the Taroko tribe.

Tip: This is by no means a strenuous hike; it’s more of a stroll stretching more than 4km that’ll take you 3-4hrs round-trip. You won’t miss out on much even if you turn back before you reach the end.

Kollecting Koordinates - 24 hours in Hualien

Kollecting Koordinates - 24 hours in Hualien

Lushui and Baiyang Trail

If you’re interested in more easy hikes check out the Lushui and Baiyang Trails. The scenery is more or less the same as Shakadang Trail.

Eternal Spring Shrine

Modeled after a famous temple from the Tang Dynasty, this shrine commemorates 225 veterans who lost their lives constructing the Central Cross-Island Highway. Visitors can’t enter the shrine; you can only view this picturesque landmark from afar.

Kollecting Koordinates - 24 hours in Hualien

Swallow’s Grotto

Weaving in and out of a mountain, this trail overlooks a deep gorge and powerful stream. Your driver will drop you off at the entrance while you make your way to the other end on foot. A safety helmet is not required but just put it on anyway. It’s free! This area is prone to falling rocks; better safe than sorry!

Kollecting Koordinates - 24 hours in Hualien

Dongdamen Night Market

This humongous night market will probably be the highlight of your 24 hours in Hualien. Come hungry! The food scene in Taiwan is like no other and I wrote about this in another post. You’ll be able to cross some dishes off that list at this night market.

Dongdamen Night Market has a section dedicated to traditional Taiwanese snacks, another featuring aboriginal cuisines, and a third with foods from mainland China. There’s even another smaller night market within Dongdamen… nightmarketception is a thing.

Tip: Listen to your Taiwanese homegirl and try these 3 stands: stinky tofu sticks, deep fried egg scallion pancake, and a variety of barbeque skewers- all pictured below because none of it is in English. If you see anything with signs in English, assume it’s a tourist trap.

Read more: The Ultimate Food Guide to Taiwan

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Kollecting Koordinates - Hualien 18

Where should I stay in Hualien?

Echo Villa is where it’s at! You’ll see what I mean by Taiwanese hospitality once you meet the host. Situated right next to a forest, this glass house is the perfect hideaway. I wish we spent more than 24 hours in Hualien because I adored our little B&B so much. There are only 5 rooms, each tastefully decorated with a style of its own.

Homemade breakfast is served in your room every morning. Echo Villa is 20 minutes from city center but trust me, once you’re here you won’t want to leave. There’s also a short trail (20-30min walk) leading you to a hidden waterfall.

Tip: We were in the Stellar Attic and loved it. It’s almost always sold out due to its popularity. Booking opens 2 months in advance so get on it!

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24 hours in Hualien – sample itinerary

7AM   –   train from Taipei to Hualien
9AM   –   arrive in Hualien, head to QiXing Beach (七星潭)
11AM  –   stop by the 7-ELEVEN before the Taroko National Park entrance for a quick lunch
Noon  –   QingShui Cliff (清水斷崖), Shakadang Trail (砂卡噹步道), Eternal Spring Shrine (長春祠), Swallow Grotto (燕子口)
4PM   –   check in at your B&B, wash up and rest before dinner
6PM   –   pig out at Dongdaemun Night Market (花蓮東大門觀光夜市)

Don’t miss Mukumugi Valley and Sixty Rock Mountain if you’re able to spend more than 24 hours in Hualien. They’re a bit out of the way so you’ll need an extra day or two.

Kollecting Koordinates - 24 hours in Hualien

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Kollecting Koordinates - 24 hours in Hualien

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33 thoughts on “24 hours in Hualien and Taroko National Park in Taiwan

  1. Wow so beautiful! I just love these dramatic and lush green mountains. That cliff viewpoint is incredible! Definitely looks like a highlight of the day. The Swallow’s Grotto also looks like an adventure. And finishing the day off with a feast at the market sounds perfect. Love this beautiful hotel too!

  2. HuaLien is where I really fell in love with Taiwan, and I’ve just gotta say Ivy that your beautiful photography does amazing justice to her gorgeous pristine nature. This does remind me a couple days ago in Sydney where I was trying/dying to get some Taiwanese photo and after all the travel across the city found out the shop had just closed! What the! It just isn’t too plentiful up here in northern Australia, so I guess it’s time to plan my next trip back to the golden island!

  3. The night market in HuaLien looks like so much fun! I’m also a sucker for trying street food, so this is something that I could definitely see myself doing! I love your photos (especially with you and the boo!) and how beautiful everything looked! Could I be the only one that hasn’t been to Taiwan yet?! I’m having some serious FOMO

  4. Your pictures certainly paint a beautiful picture of Taiwan. I am also interested in visiting this country because Martin Scorsese’s “Silence” was filmed there. Thanks for the itinerary tips!

  5. Our friend is moving to Taiwan soon so I definitely want to go back and see more than just Taipei101! I’ll definitely have to ask you for more recommendations the next visit we go, but this place definitely looks like a great start!

  6. I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never been to Taroko!! I know. I wanted to go there last December but there were too many places to visit and we couldn’t fit it in. I should really have the east coast the focus of my next Taiwan trip! Neither I nor my husband can ride a scooter… so our only choices would be to rent a taxi or join a tour. I think renting a taxi will give us more flexibility to visit all the above places!!

  7. This looks absolutely amazing. I love the thought of going to the Swallow’s Grotto. Any place you have to wear a helmet is pretty good but the driver setting up a through hike for you is fantastic. The whole area looks like it’s a beautiful balance of nature and culture.

  8. The views from the cliff are amazing. Oh! I am so much in love with Hualien just looking at your photographs. The Qixing beach is so pristine and with the road running by just parallel to it makes it much more blissful. Hualien is right-away added to my travel bucket list. Hope I see all these very soon. Thanks for sharing.

  9. To be honest I have never heard of Hualien and Taroko National Park. I suppose that I have only ever really thought about visiting Taiwan but now I think you have defiitely changed my mind. What a beautiful place and to think you can do in 24hrs is something I like. I just love your room at Stellar Attic and I can definitely see why it would book out.

  10. What a gorgeous looking place! I’d love to go! I admit I don’t know much at all about Taiwan, so thanks for sharing this post with lots of nice pictures too. The food looks very good as well, do the people there speak English? How would an English speaker get around to ordering food, etc…is it difficult to communicate?

  11. Whenever I think of China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Taiwan, the first thing that comes to mind isn’t beaches or greenery, just big huge cities. So every time I see a post like this, showcasing the best of nature, it really does make my jaw drop! Any kind of accommodation with a hidden waterfall sounds perfect to me 😉 What is the food in the bottom left photo in the food section?? It looks amazing!

  12. I have been in Taroko Gorge and used the hop on hop off buses, and we didn’t have any problems with them. Just grab a timetable, so you know the exact schedule. It was easy to adjust your walks/hikes to them. Otherwise the place is really great 🙂

  13. The views and greenery are so gorgeous. The cliffs and the coast are beautifully captured in your photo. I never knew this side of Taiwan! I’ve always pictured it to be a modern city vibe kind of destination. This is such a welcome change!

  14. I loved Taiwan and you’re right, the people there are so nice and friendly. I also got to spend the day in Hualien and totally enjoyed it. The beach was rainy when I went though. And I would have lovwd to check out the night market. Looks so yummy!!

  15. I feel like Taiwan is a really up and coming destination this year, they are even going to legalise gay marriage. Stargazing at Qixing Beach sounds dreamy, but I had no idea it had no sand. It’s nice that the Eternal Spring Shrine is kept sacred from visitors, such a nice monument.

  16. I have never been to Taiwan but this city is absolutely gorgeous, how could someone not appreciate the scenery, I’d probably take it for granted. The water off the cliff, stunning. I can only imagine how calm and peaceful it is to live there. I know everyone place has its issues but still..beautiful.

  17. As someone who just loves the peace, beauty and serenity of being in nature, I found this option of getting away from the city to be just fabulous. Your photos really show off the stunning beauty of this place. I previously lived in Japan for a while and have visited a number of countries in Asia but have never been to Taiwan. When I finally get there, I now have an idea on where to spend my time.

  18. I like the idea of a private driver to explore the island! Those are some prestine beaches and hidden spots! But the main attraction for me would be the night market. Yammiiieee

  19. That coastline is so impressive! Qingshui Cliff is something I need to see. And the hiking looks so beautiful too – I feel like I could wander for hours with those views!

  20. Hualien is definitely a beauty. I would like to visit one day those picturesque sites. So, did you have any language difficulties in Taiwan? Sometimes it is the language which I find most challenging when someone’s go abroad.

  21. Loved reading about this beautiful place. Comes as a breath of fresh air. These places are new to me and seem to relatively untouched and retain their purity. We do not get too many posts about Taiwan and this place also is not much heard of. The landscapes look like a slice of Paradise, would love to get lost in these lovely environs.

  22. National Parks are amazing places, aren’t they? With depleting natural resources, I hope more efforts are taken to preserve the nature. I didn’t know Taiwan has such beautiful national park until I read this blog.

  23. I bet it would hurt if a rock landed on your head, even with the hats on, they make for cool pictures though! I agree that Echo Villa looks like the place to be. Your photos are wonderful, the food looks delicious.

  24. I had no idea Taiwan looks so pretty! Lovely pictures! All the food looks amazing too. Echo villa is so cool!

  25. This looks like a gorgeous place! I love how there are so many outdoor things to do! It looks like the perfect place for hiking and gorgeous views. Also, your tips are really helpful! Definitely good to know how much a driver typically costs.

  26. I have to admit that I dont know much about Taiwan but oh my are those pictures gorgeous! And I am madly in love with QINGSHUI CLIFF! You put together a great itinerary for 24 hours that I am bookmarking for my future travel reference 🙂

  27. 24 hrs well spent! The pictures are awesome. Swallow’s Grotto looks like paradise. I love that you explored a national park. The natural beauty of countries is something that we focus on. I really think you get the best feel for a country. If we are lucky enough to get to the area we will be stayed at Echo Village!

  28. Incredibly beautiful scenery. The seaside scenery (cliffs and beaches) remind us of similar vistas in Northern Luzon in our own Philippines. The massive cliffs are gorgeous; we would like to climb there someday. Are there rock climbing/via ferrata adventures there? We can see you wearing climbing helmets.

  29. Hualien and Taroko National Park look incredible! Really unspoilt and those views are just so pretty and I’m sure unrivalled in the area. The sea looks so much bluer in that part of the world (coming from Europe I’m not used to seeing such bright, light and airy colours!)

  30. Such a beautiful national park. And Stellar Attic sounds like such a wonderful way to experience a stay amidst nature. I will need to check out eco villas when I head here. Taiwan has such amazing places to explore!

  31. Wow! What beautiful terrain, and the hikes don’t seem too strenuous. I’m all for hiring a driver. The cost may be higher, but the ease in navigating and time saved, it is well worth it.

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