Taiwan is becoming internationally reputed as a world-class touristic destination, serving up picturesque sights, attractions, and underwater seascapes that rival many of the most popular destinations in Asia. Taiwan isn't exactly known for being a beach-holiday hub over other Asian nations, but this idyllic little country does offer some spectacular sandy stretches, beautiful coastlines, and seaside towns. And it doesn't stop at the shore, either - for Taiwan's underwater scene is just as magical as many other scuba and snorkel sites around the world.
Below the waves, divers in Taiwan have it all - from historic wrecks and dramatic topography to kaleidoscopic corals, colorful reefs, friendly turtles, majestic mantas and sharks, and even cute macro critters. Plus, the year-round warm water means that Taiwan's main dive regions are teeming with life throughout the seasons. So, to help aspiring Taiwan travelers, here are some of the nation's most stunning beaches and incredible dive spots to pick from.
10 Beach: Qixingtan Beach
From Taipei to Kaohsiung City at the island’s south, the vast majority of Taiwan's entire west coast is built upon. However, head to the east and travelers can see the nation's more untouched side where snowy peaked mountains, forests, gorges, and rivers embellish the rich scenery. If this kind of dramatic landscape is of peak interest, then visitors will love Hualien's incredible plunging cliffs that drop into the Pacific, and that are complemented by beautiful sandy bays. And, this is where Qixingtan is found - a one-mile stretch of picturesque coastline near Hualien that attracts tourists for that perfect beach day out, and dreamy Instagram-worthy shot.
9 Dive Site: Longdong
First up amongst Taiwan's top dive locations is one of the nation's most convenient places to get wet. Longdong - located in New Taipei City’s Gongliao district - is the perfect diving spot for those based in Taipei, and is the largest bay on the country's northeast coast.
The irresistibly clear water is prime for scuba diving and snorkeling, with hoards of colorful tropical fish, crabs, shrimp, starfish, anemone, dazzling corals, and more all putting on spectacular underwater shows. From small macro critters to larger species, this impressive dive site is full of life. The area also boasts Longdong South Ocean Park, where curious underwater enthusiasts can pay a visit to the educational center to learn all about marine ecology.
8 Beach: Waiao Beach
Waves are powerfully kinetic and huge at Waiao beach thanks to the fact that there's nothing between the USA and Taiwan at this stunning surfer's section of sand and sea. Only an hour from Taipei on Taiwan's northeast side is one of the country's best surfing hubs, with a designated surfer area right at the south end. Cafés and surf shops abound here, where visitors can buy and rent all manners of surfing gear and goods for their epic day out on the waves. Plus, those who aren't interested in wave-riding will love the pretty beach anyway, along with the area's marked-out beginner's zone lined with buoys.
7 Dive Site: Kenting
Kenting National Park is situated on Taiwan’s southern side and is home to pristine white sands and bustling coral reefs that are particularly noteworthy for beginner scuba divers. Dive here, and it's possible to see over 80 species of coral (representing around 60% of the world's hard and soft corals) and more than 1,000 fish species - a significant portion of which are endemic - all of varying colors and sizes.
The Kuroshio Current in this area delivers warm water full of nutrients, which in turn also invites larger swarms of sea creatures like schools of barracuda, eagle and manta rays, green and hawksbill sea turtles, and even massive ocean giants like whale sharks, bull sharks, and the occasional humpback whale. What's more, some of the 20 or so dive sites in this zone possess several diveable shipwrecks to add to the ever-growing list of unbelievable unwater sights to see.
6 Beach: Qianshuiwan
Taiwan's west is also home to gorgeously unique beaches with photography-worthy sunsets. While this side of the island nation isn't as typically rugged and wild, it does make up for it with its postcard sandy stretches that are akin to a computer desktop wallpaper. Amongst the prettiest is Qianshuiwan - nestled in the northern suburbs of Taipei. It's a fun place to visit boasting grassy spots, comfy benches on which to rest and absorb the scenery, and a lovely seafront promenade. The sandy stretch is rather narrow, however, come sunset, it's the ultimate place to be (make sure to have a camera ready as the deep reddish-orange sun sets into the East China Sea!)
5 Dive Site: Xiaoliuqiu (Lambai Island)
This favorite year-round dive spot situated off the southwest coast has multiple names, including Lamay Island, Lambai Island, Xiaoliuqiu, and Little Liuqiu. This island itself is one of a small few surrounding Taiwan, so it's no surprise that it's such a special attraction. Perfect for both snorkeling and scuba diving, the area is peppered with lots of water sports stores, dive shops, and tour operators all offering fantastic day trips across the island.
Underwater, divers here are greeted by an intense diversity of fish species, and the region's rich and prosperous coral reefs are almost unimaginable, playing host to seemingly infinite species of fauna and flora right off the beaches. There are also several wrecks to explore in the area too, however, the most iconic showstoppers here are the friendly sea turtles who seem to have gotten used to divers and remain somewhat unbothered by their presence. It's thought that the resident turtles (over 100 of them estimated to reside in the waters here) enjoy the island's protected ecosystem, in which they happily dine on reef plants and creatures. These adorable mammals even breed here - it's possible to spot adult females nesting on the shore in the summer.
4 Beach: Baishawan Beach
It's common to see mighty Pacific waves and grey sands at most of Taiwan's beaches, however, head to Baishawan, and travelers will see that this golden sand coastline bathed by calm turquoise ocean breaks all the rules. This protected cove near the small town of Hengchun is uncharacteristically representative of Taiwan's most beautiful beaches, more closely resembling those in Southeast Asia's tropical paradise islands than mainland Taiwan. The area benefits from lovely warm, sunny weather for most of the year, which adds to the serene seaside vibe and is the perfect excuse to enjoy the seafood restaurants here no matter the season.
3 Dive Site: Green Island
Just off the coast of Taitung is the famous Green Island, which is part of the Shilang Diving Area. It's one of Taiwan's most interesting dive spots for a number of reasons. The fringing reef is decorated by diverse soft and hard corals and boasts over 200 coral species as well as more than 300 species of fish. Divers can encounter all kinds of creatures, from macro critters like nudibranchs and pygmy seahorses to reef favorites like moray eels, tuna, and even larger giants like manta rays, passing humpbacks, and sperm whales on occasion.
However, that's not all that divers come here to look out for - Green Island is home to the world’s deepest underwater mailbox that is fully functioning. At just 11 meters deep, the cute 1.8 meter-high mailbox is shaped like an adorable pygmy seahorse, and is one of the most famous (and photographed) underwater attractions in this memorable dive zone. To make things even more fascinating, divers can buy waterproof postcards designed by local school children and post them in the mailbox. Local dive centers then collect the postcards several times a week and send them to their destinations around the world.
Further on the island's southeast corner near the notable sulfur and saltwater hot springs is Shark Point, where strong currents bring in hundreds of scalloped hammerhead sharks between January and March. The high season on Green Island is summer (between June and October) thanks to hot, sunny weather and calmer seas. However, for fewer crowds and milder temperatures, spring and autumn are said to be better.
2 Beach: Laomei
Laomei is another pretty piece of coastline well known for its aged volcanic rocks battered by waves, and its lush green troughs and trenches that merge with the sea. Beach-goers who want to see the green algae that produce the colorful contrast between sand and sea should visit From April to May, although the troughs are still mind-blowingly beautiful without the green stuff during other seasons. Being on the beach itself is a breathtaking sight to behold, but for even more beautiful coastal vistas (as well as a scenic stroll) visitors can follow the pathway to and from Fuguijiao Lighthouse on Taiwan's northernmost tip.
1 Dive Site: Orchid Island
The mesmerizing Orchid Island off the south coast is often cited as one of Taiwan's best and most important dive and snorkel sites. This rich volcanic island is home to beaming coral reefs featuring exceptionally dramatic topography, with divers being able to explore decorative rock formations, superb caverns, fun swim-throughs and even an awesome shipwreck split into three pieces - a large Korean freighter that was swallowed by the sea during a typhoon in 1983, now resting between 20 and 40 meters deep. The wreck is encrusted by corals, crinoids, and nudibranchs, while large schools of jacks and dogtooth tuna stalk nearby the rusting structure. Ripe for exploration, the sunken vessel serves up multiple swim-throughs for wreck-certified divers to enter.
Overall the entire diving hotspot of Orchid Island is heaving with life, made even better by crystal clear visibility for most of the year, which means all the sea turtles, stingrays, sea snakes, tropical fish, and colorful corals can be observed as far as the eye can see. The luckiest of divers may even be treated to a passing whale shark or humpback whale on rare occasions (so keep one eye out into the blue at all times!)