Yes, Hualien is a city, but it’s also a place where – if you’re prepared to travel the wider county – nature can steal the show. After all, it’s here that you’ll find one of Taiwan’s most beautiful National Parks, Taroko. Indeed, many visitors choose to skip town altogether and disappear into the countryside. Yet this relaxed coastal city offers plenty of attractions to make for a memorable stay. So the next time you find yourself on Taiwan’s East Coast, hang out in Hualien City for a while, using our guide to help you get the most from your stay.
Naturally sculpted stones have been venerated in China since ancient times and were classified according to their beauty as far back as the 7th century, during the Tang dynasty’s reign. It’s still common to see Gong Shi or “scholars rocks” outside temples and smaller stones in family shrines, often sitting on a bespoke-carved rosewood pedestal. This modern museum and garden are devoted to Gong Shi and to artificially carved stone, including hardstone carving (which is one of China’s oldest arts) and contemporary work.
With its oceanside location, its running path and its cycleway, central Nanbin Park is a godsend for locals seeking recreational downtime. Top tip: it’s at its best early in the morning, when the sun rises golden over the sea. The park, dotted with sculptures depicting daily life and marine animals, is bordered by a long grey beach, with coarse sands perfect for ambling along, making those calf muscles work. For more sunbather-suitable sands head north of town, near the Qingshui Cliffs.
The Taroko Gorge is a canyon measuring 3km (2mi) deep, forged by the foaming Liwu river through the mountains west of Hualien. Speckled with shrines and temples, it’s a beautiful place for a drive-by visit or a more adventurous river-bed hike. It’s a fun challenge, clambering over boulders, wading through smaller streams, swimming in icy pools and hot springs and disappearing into the beauty of the landscape. Top tip: come without valuables, as you’ll get wet. In winter months, it pays to overpack warm clothes, as things can get chilly here.