For those looking for a real escape from the cities of northern and western Taiwan, they will want to look east. The land of the east coast is dramatic; mountains end sharply at the coast where clear waters crash against cliffs.

Here the native Taiwanese persisted, maintaining much of their culture through the imperialism of various nations, western and eastern. This area is home to beautiful hikes, imposing views of the Pacific, and some of the most sustained natural beauty Taiwan has to offer.

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Just off the coast are the Islands Green Island (Ludao) and Orchid Island (Lanyu). These islands are home to the native culture that reminds one that the Native Taiwanese descended from a Polynesian heritage.

Hualien: A Little Bit Of Everything, And Easy To Reach From Taipei

The easiest of the major East Coast destinations to reach from Taipei, Hualien has a little bit of everything and one of the most famous destinations for any hiker or naturalist, Taroko Gorge!

Taroko Gorge

A thirty to forty-five-minute taxi ride, or a slightly longer bus ride, out of the main part of the city, Tarako Gorge is really a series of many hikes that branch off the main road that carves its way up the center of the gorge along the river. It's fairly easy to hire yourself a taxi for the day. Having a personal taxi to ferry you between hike locations is quite convenient.

  • Taxi to Taroko Gorge - 1,000 NTD ($35.27 USD, One Way)
  • Taxi for whole day - 3,000 NTD ($105.82 USD)
  • Bus to Taroko Gorge - 300-400 NTD, 90 minutes ($10.58-$14.11 USD, One Way)

Dongdamen Night Market

This night market is set up in a way that is reminiscent of fairgrounds back in the States. It handles its crowds quite well and is easy to make your way through. It is also located near the majority of Hualien’s hotels, not too far from the coast, on the eastern side of the city.

Qixingtan Beach

This long crescent-shaped beach offers a clear and open view of the Pacific. Hotels dot its shores, and it has many access points. If you can communicate with your taxi driver, they will probably know the one with lesser crowds. A popular activity here is stacking stones, your will likely see many little stone towers along the beach.

Qingshui Cliffs

Just beyond the threshold of the mountains to the north, the Qingshui Cliffs offer a scenic view of the mountains ending at the edge of the Pacific Ocean. You even get to look down at the train tracks, where the trains come in and out of the tunnels cutting through the mountains.

  • Taxi Ride - 1,000 NTD or less, forty-five-minutes from Hualien City ($35.27 USD)
  • Public Transit - Not accessible by public transit

Related: Explore Northeast Taiwan: Mountain Towns & Seaside Cities

Taitung: Home To Taiwan's Seaside History

One of the most out of the way of Taiwan’s major cities, Taitung is a quiet town right on the coast. The moment you walk out of the train station you will see that the traditional history still has a great deal of importance here.

Xiaoyeliu

This coastal park is a short ride out of the city and offers up a beautifully maintained natural setting before you reach the rocky coast. You may see that the easily accessible areas are a little crowded with tourists, but if you aren’t afraid of a little climbing you can find some photogenic and unoccupied coast.

Taitung Forest Park and International Landmark (Seaside Park)

As they are right next to each other, it makes sense to do both as part of the same outing. You can even take the bike you rented from the Taitung Forest Park to the Seaside Park and ride along there. The Forest Park is a very pleasant casual ride through gardens and ponds. The Seaside Park is small but scenic with a few food stands set up as well so you can grab a bite along with some photos before heading back into the Forest Park.

  • Bike Rental - 300 NTD for three hours (10.57 USD)
  • Electric Bike Rental - 600 NTD for three hours (21.13 NTD)

Green Island: Volcanic & Scenic

This small volcanic island was originally inhabited by the aboriginal Amis people. Green Island (Ludao) has an interesting history including being used as a penal colony during Taiwan’s martial law period when the R.O.C. first fled to Taiwan. Now it is primarily a tourist destination with its beautiful coast and natural setting.

  • Scooter Rental - 400 NT per day
  • Car Rental - 2000 NT per day
  • Standard Accommodation - 2000 - 4000 NT per night

Niutoushan

Follow the wooden pathway up most of the way, then follow a short trail the rest to reach a beautiful vista that overlooks the entire Island. The blue sea and stunning landscape are not sights you will regret experiencing.

Lyudao Lighthouse

Built in 1939 after the SS President Hover struck the island, then destroyed by Japanese bombing in 1948, it was eventually restored and opened as a tourist destination. The lighthouse overlooks white sandy beaches on the northwestern tip of the island.

Chaikou Snorkeling Area

Chaikou Snorkeling Area has grown in popularity so arrive early. A diving instructor will take a group, a maximum of ten, under the waves to view the beautiful carol reefs and the sea life that inhabits them.

  • When to Go: Late April, May, and early June (After the rainy season and before typhoons become likely)

Orchid Island: A Beautiful Retreat

Orchid Island (Lanyu) is located off the southwest coast of Taiwan separated from the Philipines by the Bashi Channel of the Luzon Strait. Settled by the Tao people 4,000 years before the present, the island has been claimed by the Qing Dynasty, the Japanese, and then the R.O.C. Now Orchid island is a beautiful natural retreat full of history.

  • Goshare (scooter rental) - 15 or 25 NT for the first 6 minutes (depending on model), and 2.5 NT per minute afterward.
  • SKRT (scooter rental) - 400 NT - 1200 NT per day depending on the model
  • iRent (scooter rental) - 10 NT for the first 6 minutes, and 1.5 NT per minute afterward, with a daily maximum rental payment of 300 NT.
  • WeMo (scooter rental) - 15 NT for the first 6 minutes, and 2.5 NT per minute afterward, with a 24-hour rental fee of 350 NT.

Related: 10 Of The Best Beaches (& Dive Spots) In Taiwan

Datianchi

A scenic hike of moderate to high difficulty, and you will need to make sure you wear the proper hiking shoes. Otherwise, the landscape is stunning and well worth the physical effort put forth to make the climb

Dongqingwan 東清灣

A popular hike that offers fantastic coastal views and access to cool swimmable lagoons. It is recommended to come here early in the mourning as the views are better with sunrise and it will be less crowded.

The Green Green Grassland

Yes, there are two greens in the title. It deserves the name. This is a hike best saved for viewing the sunset. From here you can catch the stunning view of the grasslands that stretch far across the island. Come here to relax and watch the sun descend in the distance.

Next: 'Taipei's Backyard': Meet Yilan, A Touristy Taipei Alternative