We ended up in Hualien purely by chance. However, once we were there, we just couldn’t seem to leave. Apparently, there is a saying in Taiwan that “the soil in Hualien is very sticky” which refers to the fact that once you set foot in Hualien, you will find it very hard to leave! We ended up spending 2 full weeks in Hualien and stayed in 3 different areas.
Hualien is very laid back, has the most beautiful pebble beach at Qixingtan (swimming is however prohibited) and is a great place to explore the East Coast Area and Taroko National Park from. Just note that the weather is rather unpredictable and even in the ‘dry’ season, it can rain more days than not. Just be sure to always carry an umbrella with you – when you are not using it for rain, you will use it for sunshade!
Pros and Cons of the areas we stayed in:
Near Train Station – Our first week was spent at Arch Inn, just 550m from the Hualien train station. This location was perfect for us arriving by train as we could simply walk to our accommodation. It was also a very convenient location to rent a scooter from and/or catch a taxi. There were plenty of local eateries nearby of which our favourites were:western-style
Ba Fang Yun Ji Dumpling – The most delicious steamed and fried dumplings and soup. This place is always packed with locals and it is completely understandable why.
Jason’s Fried Chicken (池上便當) – Despite the name, this place served the best braised pork rice dishes. Just be aware, once they sell out, they close for the evening so get there early!
Cup&Cino (萬佳鄉-聯盛店) – Great place for a slightly more western-style breakfast but still with a local twist. We had breakfast here almost every morning and can highly recommend the radish cake which comes with meat and fried egg as well as the scallion cake which is indescribably good!
Jiachang Beef Noodle – For an experience eating with the locals, you should try this small local restaurant. Note that they often sell out of the fried rice, so come early to get the first choice of the menu!
Qixingtan – We moved to Rainbow BnB in Qixingtan wanting to be closer to the beach. Which we were, and it was great to run and walk along the coastal trails. However, we were further away from everything else! This meant having very limited options for food (no night market in walking distance!) and we often ended up having to grab something from the 24hr Family Mart to eat. During the day there are food stalls at the Qixingtan Scenic Area, but they only seem to arrive between 10-11 am and pack up again by 6 pm. There are a few restaurants in the vicinity should your budget allow. Also, note that although the beach is stunningly beautiful it is not a swimming beach! Great for an overnight stay and the stunning scenery, but we would not recommend this area for a prolonged stay unless you have your own transportation.
Downtown Hualien – Lastly, we spent a few nights in downtown Hualien just opposite the Dongdamen Night Market at Xiang Pin. This was a fantastic location to walk down to the Night Market to grab a different tasty dinner every night. During the day there is plenty of activity in the nearby downtown area ranging from small local artsy shops to more trendy and fashionable name-brand stores. Zhongshan Road together with all the smaller side streets of the downtown area are great for walking and grabbing a bite to eat. Nanbin and Beibin Parks are also within walking distance where you can get close to the beach and relax in nature. The downtown area is only 2.5-3km from the train station and a taxi will cost about NT$200 (2019). This is probably the best place to stay if you will be exploring Hualien by foot and/or want to experience the lively vibrance of the city.
Things to do and see in and around Hualien:
Taroko National Park & Gorge – This is most likely what has brought you to Hualien in the first place! Taroko National Park and Gorge can easily be visited from Hualien either by arranged tour, public bus or by your own transportation. See our thoughts on each of these options…
Rent a scooter and ride south from Hualien on the winding 193 to get away from the crowds and enjoy the beautiful rural scenery.
Ride along Coastal Highway 11 and enjoy the scenic spots along the way such as the Niushan Scenic Area and Shihtiping, where nature has carved out rock steps.
Liyu Lake – During the day, you can relax alongside the lake with a bit to eat from local vendors or if you are feeling active, you can rent bicycles to cycle the extensive path around the lake or paddle boats to traverse the lake with. Visit in April and enjoy a marvellous sight as hundreds of fireflies come out in the evening, making the whole lake shimmer with lights!
Ecological park (清水溪) - A scenic place to go for a peaceful hike and swim along the river without many tourists.
The Villa Community Garden (花蓮雲山水夢幻湖) – Such a picturesque garden and lake perfect for taking those Instagram pics! There are a few overpriced coffees and ice-cream shops but we suggest just visiting for the beauty and uniqueness of the place. You have to park outside and walk in, but entry is free.
Enjoy beautiful scenery and beaches such as at Niushan Huting, Qixingtan / Chishingtan Scenic Area or anywhere else you may find along the coast.
Danongdafu Forest Park – An area where you can relax and enjoy the beautiful natural scenery or take a cycle around the park. It has its own different charms depending on the season.
Fuyuan Forest Recreation Area – Beautiful area to be amongst nature, with hiking trails, forest monkeys and a “butterfly room”. There is an entry fee, however.
Enjoy strolling the streets of downtown Hualien, along Zhongshan Road and the surrounding side streets and be sure to try some local foods along the way.
Dongdamen Night Market – With a variety of food stalls and entertainment to keep you busy for hours, you really can’t go wrong at this night market. You might not be able to try everything, but be sure to at least have a Gua Bao (Taiwanese burger), some soup dumplings and a peanut ice-cream roll.
Local culture & craft stalls (石藝大街) - Just opposite Dongdamen night market, there is a free performance of Aboriginal dance every evening at 19:30. There are small shops selling jewellery and other crafts.
Hualien Railway Culture Park – Close to Dongdamen Night Market, this small area with coffee shop displays restored 1932 railway depot structures. The old railway lines are still visible along Lane 551, Zhongzheng Road, where there are small craft and food stalls to either side of the alley.
A-Zone – This is a creative space and park where you can browse the artistic craft shops, take part in craft making yourself or just hang out and watch people.
You can use the Yellow Bikes scattered around Hualien for free by downloading the Obike App. However, you'll need to register and a deposit will be charged to your credit card which is refundable.
Tropic of Cancer Marker Park – This spot is included in a few of the tours so expect waves of tourists trying to take their photo with the marker!
Paragliding – If you are seeking adventure, there is paragliding available from Hualien. The landing spot is just north of Hualien, on the way to Taroko NP.
Whale & dolphin watching – There are plenty of tours available, however, depending on the season. We did not do this as we heard that the likelihood of seeing whales is rather slim.