Located on a strip of land between the Pacific Ocean and the Central Mountain Range, Hualien is considered one of the most pleasant cities in Taiwan. Many tourists visit the city to enjoy the scenery and fresh air and also to tour the famous Taroko Gorge, which is a few kilometers north of the city.
- 1 Visitor Information Center (in front of Hualien Station (right side)), ☏ . It is hosted by Taiwan Hospitality and Tourism College, that has been authorized, by the Hualien County Government to operate and manage the Visitor Information Center (VIC) at Hualien Airport and the Hualien Railway Station. These two centers provide general services such as tourism guide and tour bus information, home-stay information, bi-lingual traveling brochure, travel inquiry, emergency handling and so on.
There are frequent trains from Taipei, and depending on the type of train, the journey can take from two to four and a half hours. Express trains (Taroko Express) take 2 hours and cost NT$440. The train follows the coast for part of the journey, and the left side of the train offers the best views.
During peak travel season, train tickets are sometimes are hard to get. It is recommended to book your trip early to ensure your seat. There is also the option to take a bus to Luodong and switch to the local train to Hualien. Combined tickets for bus and train can be bought at the Kamalan counter at Taipei bus station and the Capital bus counter at City Hall Station. The trip costs around NT$220 and buses and trains are frequent, so there is no need to book in advance.
- 1 Hualien Airport (HUN IATA). Domestic airlines connect Hualien with all of Taiwan's major cities. It a 30-minute flight to Hualien from Taipei's Sungshan Airport. There are regular flights between Hualien and Hong Kong offered by HK Express. Flights on this route tend to be cheaper than between Taipei and Hong Kong.
The city center is small and easy to navigate on foot, although scooters are available for rent several places around town for about NT$400 a day. Pony rental near chin yen hotel (across from the train station) is the only rental agency that will rent scooters to foreigners. Getting around by scooter is the best way to see the gorge.
Hualien is a small city without an extensive public transport system, and so it is worth considering taking taxis to areas outside the city center. Hualien station is at least a 30-minute walk from the center of town.
- 1 Chishingtan Scenic Area (Qixingtan Scenic Area / 七星潭) (north of Hualien City; follow the bike path from Nanbin Seashore Park), ☏ . One of the most popular attractions of Taiwan, although maybe not the most spectacular one. Crescent bay and clear blue waters with a beach full of colorful agates. This used to be a small fishing village but has now multiple scenic trails, pagodas, beach pavilions, and a star-gazing square. Excellent vistas of the ocean, delicious seafood, friendly people and a restaurant specializing in goat milk coffee. The beach is not popular for swimming as the tides and currents are quite dangerous, the bottom drops off steeply, and doesn't have much sand (mostly pebbles). It is important to stay near the coast.
- The Abode of Still Thoughts. This small Buddhist temple at the foot of Mount North Jialiwan is the original facility of the world-famous Tzu-zhi Buddhist foundation. In keeping with the foundation's ideals, the temple is very simple, and incorporates a Japanese style garden. Information on Tzu-chi's international activities is also available at the temple.
- Yenpin Prefectural Temple (Near Zhongyang Road, sec 4.). Established in the Qing Dynasty, this is the oldest temple in Hualien.
- Pine Garden (Zhongmei). A peaceful garden with 63 pine trees.
- Hualien County Stone Sculpture Museum (At the Hualien County Cultural Center). Daily 09:00-17:00. Displays traditional and contemporary stone sculptures. NT$20.
- Beibin Seashore Park, Nanbin Seashore Park and Meilun Seashore Park. A scenic area of palm trees and landscaped greenery that runs the full length of the city's foreshore. The views over the Pacific Ocean are especially spectacular at sunrise.
The activities in and around Hualien include mountain hiking, beaches, hot springs, river tracing, whale and dolphin watching and a lot of other wild places. Ask around with the local travel companies.
- Hualien Ocean Park. M-F 09:00-17:00, Sa Su 08:30-17:00. Hualien's biggest man-made tourist attraction. As well as ferris wheel and cable car, the park contains eight zones showing different aspects of marine life. Children, in particular, will have an enjoyable time but for the more adventurous or those wanting a more local experience, there are many places that are much cheaper and provide a better experience of Taiwan. Adults NT$890, children NT$790.
- Woven cloth. Hualien is a good place to pick up hand woven cloth in traditional aboriginal designs.
- Stone Hualien's stone market is near the old bus station on Mingyi Road, and they sell everything from jewelery to tea-pots all carved out of stone.
- 1 Dongdamen Night Market (Hualien Night Market) (from the railway station south, following the main road towards the beach, 40 min walk). Not quite as spectacular as other larger cities night markets, the Dongdamen Night Market still exudes a fun and frenetic vibe and offers a huge number of activities and culinary treats. The back lane is dedicated to indigenous aboriginal vendors and features live music and dance performances on weekends.
- Zhu tung fan (竹筒飯) - rice steamed in a bamboo tube is a specialty of the local aborigines.
- Muaji (麻薯) - In Europe also known as Mochi, are glutinous rice filled (or sometimes covered) with various flavors, such as peanut, sweet red and green bean paste, sweet sesame paste, coconut or fruit.
- Wonton (餛飩) - Hualien's wontons are very famous throughout Taiwan
- Laguardia. Good breakfast cafe across from the big post office near the train station on Chung Shan Rd. Amazing Hamburgers. Try the bacon cheese beef burger or the cod burger.
- 2 Country Side (accross the library, near train station.). A breakfast restaurant serving a big range of burgers, omelettes, toasts. English menu available.
- Tosca Pasta, 95-7 Jung Mei Road. European restaurant with European prices.
- Irrawaddy Myanmar Restaurant, 11-1 Min Chuan Rd, ☏ . Popular with many foreigners in Hualien.
- Kalilaska Belarusian Cuisine (白俄羅斯餐廳~傳統菜餚), 花蓮市大同街54號, ☏ . Daily 12:00-21:00. Serves traditional Russian and Belarusian food.
Hualien has an abundance of tea houses, cafes and bars, and also many stores specializing in locally produced tea.
- Cafe Jade (璞石藝文空間), ☏ . M-Th 08:00-18:00, F-Su 08:00-22:30. 8 Ming-li Road (花蓮市明禮路8號). A spacious and very pleasant art cafe offering regular live music and art exhibitions.
- Wang Ji Tea House, 565 Jong-Shan Road.
- Bon Appétit (邦娜比堤), No.1, Ln. 176, Mingren 2nd St., Ji’an Township, Hualien County, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 08:00-21:00. Serves espresso, spaghetti, handmade waffles and other brunch items.
- Amigos Hostel, No.68, Guolien 2nd Rd. (國聯二路68號), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Free WiFi, close to train station, complimentary sandwich breakfast, friendly and helpful staff. Dorms: NT$450.
- 1 Big Bear Hostel, No. 16, Guomin 9th Street, Hualien City, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Cheapest hostel in the city, but smelly toilet and three level bunk beds. However, the common area is nice. You probably have to book online to get the best price. FB. Dorm bed from NT$221.
- Chan Tai Hotel (east of the train station, on the first corner past the Visitors Centre), ☏ . The more expensive rooms have a/c, TV, refrigerator ADSL and are double, with en-suite. They are very clean. Advertises with "as cheap as nearby hostel", which of course it is not, so do not fall for that. 24-hr reception. Double from NT$1,000.
- Colorful Taiwan Hostel, No.121, FuQiang Rd (富強路121號), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. (west [rear exit] of the train station, about 7 minutes' walk). Staff is very friendly, helpful and able to give tips about Hualien (transport included), that are the most economic for backpackers. Rooms are very clean and spacious, with bright & colorful decoration. Dorm rooms from NT$520, with long stay discount.
- Formosa Backpackers Hostel, 206 Jian Guo Road, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 600 books in English library, beautiful Art Deco living room with exhibition show all year around, a room with tropical garden, friendly staff. Twenty minutes walking distance from the train station and conveniently located in the city. Free WiFi, tea, etc. Don't let the "clean" look deceive you, there is a bed bug problem. NT$400 (Student NT$350).
- Hualien Student Hostel, 40-11 Kungyuan Road, ☏ . Offers dorms and twin rooms.
- Hualien Monkey Surfing Backpackers Hostel (猴子衝浪背包客棧), No.5-1, Jinfeng Street (台灣 花蓮市 進豐街5-1號) (bars area, Downtown, near the 7-Eleven (No.258, Linsen Road), along a quiet street on Lin-Sen Road), ☏ . Hostel is peaceful, spacious, clean and cozy. Beds are safe with sturdy wooden bed frames instead of metal. Every room has a private toilet equipped with strong shower jets. Dorm bed per night NT$498..
- 2 Mini Voyage Hostel, No. 103, Guolian 1st Rd., Hualien City (out of the railway station, take the main road to the right for about 80 m), ☏ , , ✉ email@example.com. Overall great ratings and even if they have a 16-bed dorm, it is far less scary than you think. New interior and great common area. One of the cheapest options in the city. Near the railway station. Dorm bed from NT$240.
- Police Hostel, 15 Shuren Street (behind the main police station), ☏ . Officially for officers of the law, this clean and pleasant hotel is also open to the public. Twin room - NT$1,000, double bed with single bed - NT$1,300.
- Sleeping Boot Hostel, No.73, Jinfeng St (about 10 min walk from the train station; watch out for the house number 73, the hostel is not obviously visible), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. This hostel offers free Wi-Fi, internet PC, kitchen, lobby with TV plus a very helpful and friendly owner who knows his way around the city. Dorm rooms for NT$430.
- Yihua Daily Accommodation (in Downtown, 10 minutes to Nanbing Night Market), ✉ email@example.com. Clean and convenient room type. Contact: Jackie. Single/Twin: NT$1,000; Double bed: NT$1,200.
- Ching Yeh Hotel, 83 Kuolien-1 Road, Tel:833-0186. Near the train station. From NT$1,300.
- Hua Tong Hotel, 165 Minkuo (Minguo) Street, ☏ . A pleasant and centrally located hotel.
- Your majest B&B (King Hotel), No.13, Jieyue St, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Quirky rooms decorated in individualistic styles. Close to night market and general downtown. Deep bathtubs good for soaking sore muscles. All rooms have ethernet, but wifi is limited. Friendly, helpful staff - if you have a Mandarin speaker in the party. Mid-week rate from NT$1,500 do not include breakfast.
- Fuyuan B&B (The Rosestone Inn), 48, Haibin Avenue, ☏ , , ✉ email@example.com. Built in the style of a traditional Chinese house with courtyard.
- Fisherman's Inn, 10 Chong Shan Rd, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. # Sec. 1, Lane 115, Jian, Contact: Zac Harper. Weekend and weekday prices are the same, NT$2240/2640 for two-person rooms, and NT$3040 for a 4-person room.
- Sheep house B&B (hualien minsu), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Country style guesthouse with a beautiful garden and the lovely cottages in the site of the Sheep House, within 10 minutes you can also get to all the famous sightseeing spots in Hualien by car. BBQ area, bicycle and motorcycle rental, free breakfast, Wi-Fi, free shuttle service to train station. Room rate NT$1,800-3,000.
- Bellevista Hotel, 18 Shanling, Yanliau Tsuen, Shoufeng Shiang, ☏ , fax: . A sprawling resort-style hotel offering spectacular views over the Pacific Ocean.
- Parkview Hotel, ☏ . 1-1 Lin-Yuan. One of Hualien's most luxurious hotels.
- Area code: The Hualien dialing code is 03. For calls made from overseas, dial: +886 3 XXXXXXX
- Taroko Gorge – An impressive 19-km-long canyon, and the name, Taroko, means the "magnificent and splendid" in the language of Truku, the aboriginal tribe residing in the area.
- RueiSuei – Famous for its Hot Springs and the Siouguluan River Basin.
- Hehuan Mountain – A fantastic journey through the wonders of Taroko Gorge and past, ending in a treeless, absolutely different ecosystem.
- River Valleys – The might of typhoons and heavy rains have, over millions of years, carved out of the soft bedrock magnificent river valleys. If you find a river valley (Mugua RIver, for example) and follow it and hike along some tributaries, you are in for a wonderful adventure. No gift shops or 7-Elevens here, just the wonders of Taiwan.
- Tongmen – South of Hualien City, between Jian and Liyu Lake, lies Taroko's little brother.
- Highway 11 – Rent a scooter and hit the road. The beauty of the coastline in Hualien can be enjoyed from this gorgeous stretch of highway. Although many buses and cars are also drawn here and many cite this as a cause for safety concerns, this is by most accounts false. Take care, drive responsibly, and always be careful when around traffic, but do not let anyone deter you from this drive. Pack a lunch and picnic on the coast with the turquoise ocean lapping at the coastline below. Buses and taxis will take you along this road also. Taxis are more personable (they will stop when you say 'stop') but buses are much cheaper. However, both pale in comparison to the experience of driving yourself.