Taiwan may not boast the beach-holiday reputation of certain other Asian destinations, but there are many stunning stretches and amazing coastal towns on this beautiful island. From Baishawan to Shanshui, here are the most breathtaking beaches in Taiwan.
Taiwan’s western coast is built up all the way from Taipei to Kaohsiung City at the island’s southern tip. But the east is almost empty. Mountains drop from snowy peaks to craggy, forest-covered ridges, broken by steep gorges and cut by winding rivers. Nowhere is the scenery more dramatic than around Hualien, where cliffs plunge into the Pacific, beside creamy bays of soft, grey sand. And the most beautiful of them is Qixingtan, a convenient 2km (1mi) north of downtown Hualien.
There’s nothing between Taiwan’s wild eastern seaboard and the United States except the Pacific, which means big waves and great surfing. Reachable in an hour from Taipei, Waiao in the northeast is one of Taiwan’s top spots, with a designated surfers-only area at the southern end. Surf shops and cafes line the road behind the sand, so it’s easy to rent a board, and the beach is suitable for all-comers, right down to a beginner’s area, marked out clearly with buoy lines.
Western Taiwan has beaches too, and what they lack in wildness and waves, they make up for in sunset views. Qianshuiwan, just beyond the northern suburbs of Taipei, is as much a park as a strand – with grassy knolls, benches and a seafront promenade. The sandy area is narrow, and couples flock here in the evenings to sip bubble tea together, watching the blood-orange sun drop into the East China Sea.
Most of Taiwan’s best beaches are goose-down grey and pounded by powerful Pacific surf, but at Baishawan, a sheltered cove in the far south near the little town of Hengchun, golden sand is lapped by gentle turquoise waves. It’s the closest that mainland Taiwanese beaches get to the Southeast Asian idyll – long, broad and sunny for much of the year, and protected as part of Kenting National Park. Best of all, there’s little development beyond a few seafood restaurants and a campsite.
Once the site of a notorious political prison, this tiny island off the southeastern coast of Taiwan is now a tourist hotspot. It’s empty during the week but packed at the weekends with the thousands of visitors who roll up for a couple of days of easy adventures. The best of these include hiking a few kilometres into the uplands for sweeping ocean views and snorkelling over the reefs. A lazier but just-as-fun option is flopping on the sand-and-shingle strands, or relaxing in the thermal seawater springs on the beach at Jhaorih.
This broad, grey-sand bay on the edge of Kaohsiung – southern Taiwan’s biggest city – feels like a secret. It is squeezed between the Sun Yat-sen University campus and the monkey-populated Chaishan hills, with forest-covered ridges that separate northern Kaohsiung from the sea. There’s just one hotel, and the sands only get busy late in the afternoon, when students gather to chat and take in the most spectacular sunsets.
Popular among a younger crowd, Fulong Beach is a long stretch of golden sand, some of it partitioned off as a private area, which anyone can use for a small fee. (This also covers use of showers and changing rooms.) If you use the public beach, you’ll be fine – it’s clean and wonderfully scenic, with pathways through the dunes and grasses. The village of Fulong hosts an annual Sand Sculpture Festival, which attracts large crowds. Be at the beach as early as possible – you’ll get some fantastic sunrise photo opportunities. The beach is at the mouth of the Shuang River, which divides it into two parts. You can cross between the two via the pedestrian “rainbow bridge” – access to which depends on the tide, which submerges it in places.
Back in the day, this beach was reserved for the sole use of guests at the Chateau Hotel. Now the pristine sands are open to everyone, and it is an extremely popular place for a quiet day: despite the continuing presence of a five-star resort, the crowds never become excessive. Unfortunately, swimming is prohibited due to strong currents, although surfing and other water sports get the thumbs-up, so long as you’re wearing buoyancy gear.
Want to see more of this beautiful country? Book one of the best farm stays in Taiwan with Culture Trip.
Ciaran McEneaney contributed additional reporting to this article.
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