Most people know about Lyudao and Lanyu, the islands off Taiwan’s East Coast, but what you might not know is that Taitung isn’t only a jumping off point for the islands. It’s also got some great scenery in its own right, all accessible within a few easy bus rides.
First Stop: Taitung Bus Station
The first place you should stop before taking any day trips from Taitung is the bus station. That station has stacks of English brochures and most of the assistants speak English, so its a wonderful resource for foreigners trying to navigate the local area. If you don’t know how to get somewhere, simply go in, ask, and you’ll be directed to the correct bus. It’s great.
1. Jhiben Hot Springs and National Forest Recreation Area
Taking a soak in warm mineral waters on a winter’s day is an absolute must in Taitung. I recommend taking the bus to Ayawan hotel (just stay on for a few more stops after the bus announces you’re in the hot spring area). It’s only a few hundred NTD to stay as long as you want in the wonderful waters.
After your soak the entrance to the forest area is right next to the Ayawan hotel bus stop, so you can go for a stroll in the woods.
2. Sanxiantai Scenic Area
When we arrived at the famous wavy bridge, I wasn’t impressed with the destination. It was hot, filled to the brim with tourists, and I was starving with nowhere to eat except one instant noodle joint near the entrance that had a line which seemed to go on forever. Be sure if you go, to pack a lunch.
However, once you climb over the bridge and get onto the island, things start to get interesting. There are signs pointing to a cave and lookout, if you follow them, the narrow, slightly dangerous trails lead you farther and farther away from the crowd towards beautiful tidepools and fishermen going about their day.
If you make it to the cave, you’ll be rewarded by one of the darkest, deepest, creepiest caves I’ve seen in Taiwan. We even spotted a sea snake.
And the back half of the island is the most special of all, climb towards lookout point, up narrow stairs and you’ll reach a beautiful secluded view point surrounded on all sides by sea. It was magical. If you go to Sanxiantai, bring good walking shoes and don’t be afraid to walk the paths less traveled.
This stop is a quiet one that makes a good additional stop before or after the Sanxiantai Area. It’s filled with interesting rock formations and makes for great photos in the early morning or late afternoon.
5. Doulan Town and Old Sugar Factory
I’d read on several blogs that people love this town, and it’s easy to see why. Doulan is filled with cute coffee shops and restaurants, lined on one side by mountains and on the other by beaches and cliffs.
On our hike on the mountainous side of the town we found an old tomb and there were apparently even more archaeological sites, but I was content with the scenery we discovered.
On the beach side we found shocking views of dangerous waves and cliffs.
We had an amazing lunch at Dulan Indian Cuisine. There were tons of signs in the mountainous paths, pointing towards the restaurant and it was delicious.
And after you’ve hiked enough you can head to the old sugar factory which apparently plays music on Saturday night. We were there on a weekday and the craft shops and stalls kept us entertained for a good long while.
It’s just an excellent artsy, seaside town, and I can see why so many people love it.
There’s so much to see in the Taitung area that I didn’t actually get to see it all. The following are other sites of interest accessible by bus or train which I did not get to see in my short time there.
6. Fugang Fish Harbor – This is the jumping off point for the island ferries, but apparently seafood can be found here, and it’s possible to catch a whale-watching boat from here.
7. Wulu Gorge and Tianlong Suspension Bridge – This is a scenic area with a suspension bridge placed over a deep gorge.
8. Luye Goatai -If you are in Taitung around the July Hot Air Balloon Festival, then go see the tea farm and ride a balloon. It’s also possible to go paragliding here, but not in the winter.
9. East Coast National Scenic Area – This is a hiking area.
10. Jinlun Hot Springs – Here’s another hot springs option.