Hualien to Tainan
Sanxiantan Dragon Arched Bridge - Taiwan East Coast
Hi, my family of 5 will be in Taiwan in Dec and we would like to travel to Tainan from Hualien via hwy 9 or 11 (hope to get a driver). Any idea how long would that take? and with stop over at some attractions? Any recommendations for the attractions and mid-point overnight stay if need to?
Hi, I drove a few times from Hualien to the west coast, trough Taitung, Taimali, the Capricorn Highway (interesting name, isn’t it?) and Pingtung. It takes about 6 hours to Tainan of no-stop driving.
What about the choice between Highway 9 or 11? Mountain or seaside?
Depends on your family preferences. Both these roads offer plenty of interesting spots and some of the best scenery in Taiwan.
Highway 11 runs for about 170 km alongs the sea between Hualien and Taitung, in the “East Coast National Scenic Area”. It is one of the best sections of the East Coast, dotted with small aboriginal fishermen villages and beaches.
It will take at least 3 hours to go from Hualien to Taitung - the road is mostly good but speed limits are enforced and, indeed, half of the pleasure is to leisurely drive along this road. This not taking in account the several stops you will have along the road for sightseeing or dining - fresh seafood of course is king here, the places you will find are mostly small local eateries.
The main attractions along Highway 11 are:
- (Km 9) - The National Scenic Area Visitor Center at the northern entrance of the Scenic Area, just 10 minutes drive from Hualien along the beginning of Highway 11. Here you can pickup maps and discover more about the interesting spots to visit. This Visitor Center, coming from Hualien, is on the right side of the road, just 200-300 meter before the FarGlory Ocean Park Hotel.
- (Km 38) - Jici (or Jiqi) Beach: a long and wide beach surrounded by green hills. In summer the sand normally is golden color, in winter, when erosion prevails, the beach color turn black. There are many facilities in summer, some of them might be close in winter.
- (Km 65) - Shihtiping: coral rocks, small cliffs, tidal pools. A great place to explore and look for sea creatures. There is a Visitor Center too.
- (Km 78) - Baxian (Eight Immortals) Cave: a network of small caves along a cliff facing the ocean. A network of easy trails connects them. These caves were inhabited by prehistoric times. A few Chinese shrines had been built in the caves in much more recent times. Nice place but not the best in my very personal opinion.
- (Km 111) - Sanxiantai: probably the most famous spot along Hw 11. It is a small island connected to the mainland by a fantastic looking dragon arched bridge. You can also walk around the little islet and, besides the tourists, meet some local people that come here to pick up sea weed. A very nice place.
I actually like Highway 9 very much, more than Hw 11. Of course this is a personal preference, I always liked the mountain more than the seaside, since my childhood.
As you may know, Hw 9 runs along Taiwan Rift Valley. It is is a wide tectonic valley between the imposing Taiwan Central Range, on the West, and the smaller Coastal Range on the East.
I would not say that the Rift Valley itself is as bucolic as many tourist advertisements claim (there are several settlements and a railway, too), but a lot of places, just at a very short distance from the main Hw 9, definitively are. I have very fond memories of idillic summer days in the Rift Valley.
These are some of the places we enjoied:
- (42 km from Hualien) - Lintianshan Forestry Center: at the beginning of a valley on the west side of the Rift Valley, it was an important logging settlement from the japanese time. Part of this wooden village has been carefully restored
- (70 km from Hualien) - Fuyuan Forest Recreation Area (also called Butterfly Valley Resort). You will find almost no butterflies in winter but is a gorgeous old camphor forest with hiking trails. This private recreation area is 19 hectares large.
- (105 km from Hualien) - Sixty Stones Mountain (Liushi Dan Shan) is a vast expanse at 800 meters of altitude, overlooking the Rift Valley. The site is famous for day lilies, which are blossoming at the end of the summer. But this place is really beautiful (and much quieter) all over the year. A network of short footpaths connects to a few pavillions. The view on the valley and the Cross Central Range is wonderful
- Just a little bit further on the Highway 9,still on the east side of the Rift Valley, you can find Luoshan Recreation Area nested in a green valley. It is a very nice place to explore, lush and green, with a waterfall and a couple of mud volcanoes. The local people believe that toufu (bean curd) is better if prepared with the alkaline water from the mud volcano. Indeed in a little farm house in Luoshan, nicely renovated as a small restaurant and run by a young lady, we ate one of the best toufu in our life.
- Chihshang is one of the major towns in the Rift Valley. This place is known by all the taiwanese as the homeland of “Chihshang Fragrant Rice”. A real Taiwanese delicacy are the tasty lunch boxes (bian dan) garnished with this special high quality rice. They were traditionally sold in Taitung train station. Of course you can try them in Chihshang too.
Not far from Chihshang, in the countryside, a good place to stop overnight is the Papago Resort.
- Just a little bit further and closer to Taitung, you can find the green terrace of Luye. There are tea gardens and it is a nice place to try some Taiwanese tea.
After Taitung, where Hw 9 and Hw 11 join together, another nice place, recommended for an overnight stay, is Zhiben (or Chihben or Jiben, fortunately Taiwan is adopting Hanyu Pinyin at last). Zhiben is among the most known hot spring sites in Taiwan. The village itself is quite overdeveloped and not very impressive.
But, at the very end, the Royal Chihpen
provides a very nice stay and hotsprings.
If you have the next morning available I suggest you to walk in the Chihpen Recreation Area just beyond the hotel. It is a very gorgeous area with huge banyan trees. There we spotted an unaware muntjac deer jus a few hundred meters from the road.
Regarding accommodation, the East Coast and Rift Valley have many of the best B&B and home-stays in Taiwan. One we can recommend is Wisdom Garden Home Stay
. This home-stay is in the Rift Valley, in Dayu Village, Yuli. It is located very close to the main Hw 9 (km 289.4 marker Hw 9) but in a quiet and secluded location.