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 located a few miles north of the city.
The Visitor Information Center for the Hualien area is located in front of Hualien Station (right side). Tel: 886-3-8360634, it is hosted by Taiwan Hospitality and Tourism College, that has been authorized, by the Hualien County Government since December 2004, to operated and manage the Visitor Information Center (VIC) at Hualien Airport as well as 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 440NTD. The train follows the coast for part of the journey, and the left side of the train offers the best views.
Domestic airlines connect Hualien with all of Taiwan's major cities. It a thirty minute flight to Hualien from Taipei's Sungshan Airport.
There are currently (Dec. 2009) also irregular (charter) flights to Yonaguni Island and Ishigaki Island in Okinawa (Japan), possibly the only international service from this city, and a regular service to Ishigaki Island is being planned.
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. The Giant bike shop in front of the train station offers daily bicycle rentals for as low as 100NTD during the off-season. This is another great way to navigate the city and the coastline if you are unable to ride a scooter.
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. NB: Hualien station is at least a thirty minute walk from the center of town.
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-Chi 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. edit
Yenpin Prefectural Temple, (Near Zhongyang Road, sec 4.). Established in the Qing Dynasty, this is the oldest temple in Hualien.edit
Pine Garden, (Zhongmei). A peaceful garden with 63 pine trees.edit
Chi-Hsing Tan (七星潭), (North of Hualien City. Follow the bike path from Nanbin Seashore Park.). Excellent vistas of the ocean, delicious and cheap seafood, friendly people, and a special goat restaurant specializing in goat milk coffee. Great place for leisure cycling and walking. The beach is not popular for swimming, though, 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.edit
Hualien County Stone Sculpture Museum, (At the Hualien County Cultural Center.), . 9AM-5PM. Displays both traditional and contemporary stone sculptures.NT$20. edit
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.
Hualien Ocean Park, . M-F 9AM-5PM, Sa-Su 8:30AM-5PM. Hualien's biggest man-made tourist attraction. As well as ferris wheel and cable car, the park contains eight zones that introduce different aspects of ocean and marine life. Kids, in particular, will have great time here but for adventurous travelers or people wanting a more viable experience, there are many places one can go that are much cheaper and provide a better experience of the 'real' Country of Taiwan.Adults NT$890, children NT$790. edit
River Tracing and Hiking in the Hualien area (Hualien Outdoors), 2 Guo Lian 3rd Street, Hualien City (Near Train station), . Hualien has one of the best terrains in the world for river tracing and hiking. Ample rain and deep river valleys make it an outdoor enthusiast's playground. Several wild hot springs also make the area a great place to get into the woods and mountains. Hualien Outdoors(www.hualienoutdoors.org) is based in Hualien City and offers trips to some of the wilder places. They also offer help with hiking permits and do river tracing equipment rentals.edit
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), 8 Ming-li Road (花蓮市明禮路8號) Tel:+886 3 834-5968. A spacious and very pleasant art cafe offering regular live music and art exhibitions. Open:Mon-Thurs 8AM-6Pm Fri-Sun 8AM-10:30PM
Wang Ji Tea House, 565 Jong-Shan Road (中山路565號).
Farmers' Kitchen, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Farmers-Kitchen-%E6%9C%89%E6%A9%9F%E8%94%AC%E9%A3%9F%E6%97%A9%E5%8D%88%E9%A4%90/145007772323862 (Refer to the map on their facebook page), ☎ 03 824 6820, . Tues-Sun 7am-2pm. Delicious vegetarian brunch cafe stocked by a co-op of organic farmers. They also bake their own whole wheat bread and have fresh organic produce for sale every day. Full English menus and friendly English-speaking staff!100-200NTD. edit
Amigos Hostel, No.68, Guolien 2nd Rd. (國聯二路68號) Tel:+886 3 8360243, Email: email@example.com, . Offers dorms - NT$450. Free WiFi, close to train station, complimentary sandwich breakfast, friendly and helpful staff.
Colorful Taiwan Hostel No.121, FuQiang Rd (富強路121號) (west (rear exit) of the train station, about 7 minutes walk) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org . Tel:+886 955703456. 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.
Chan Tai Hotel (east of the train station, on the first corner past the Visitors Centre). Tel: 886 3 8330 121/3. The more expensive rooms have a/c, TV, refrigerator ADSL and are double, with ensuite. They are very clean. 24h reception. NT$500-800.
Formosa Backpackers Hostel, 206 Jian Guo Road. Tel: 0913-810828, email email@example.com. 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. NT$400 (Student NT$350).
Hualien Monkey Surfing Backpackers Hostel, No.5-1, Jinfeng Street (Bars area, Downtown , near the 7-11 (No.258, Linsen Road)台灣 花蓮市 進豐街5-1號) 猴子衝浪背包客棧 +886-938921330. located 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.
Police Hostel, 15 Shuren Street (behind the main police station). Tel:886 3 834-9433~5. 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. phone: +886-978-093-273 email: firstname.lastname@example.org This brand new hostel (2011) offers free WiFi, internet PC, kitchen, lobby with TV plus a very helpful and friendly owner who knows his way around the city. Dorm rooms from NT$430.
Yihua Daily Accommodation, located in Downtown, 10 minutes to Nanbing Night Market. Clean and convenient room type. Single/Twin room -NT$1,000, double bed - NT$1,200. Contact: Jackie Email: email@example.com
Hotel Bayview(七星潭渡假飯店) , 10 Mingtan St, Sincheng Township, Hualien County 971. Tel: 03-8232345. firstname.lastname@example.org. NT$2,000 to NT$5,500
Lovely boutique hotel at Chi-Hsing Bay/Beach (七星潭), with rooms having fantastic view of the ocean. It has a free bicycle rental service, allowing you to cycle leisurely along Chi-Hsing Bay.
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, Tel:+886 3 834-7568. A pleasant and centrally located hotel.
Your majest B&B (King Hotel), No.13, Jieyue St., Tel:+886 38 322-666, Email: email@example.com, . Opened in January 2008, featuring 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.
The Rosestone Inn, 48, Haibin Avenue. Tel:+886 3 854-2317, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, . Built in the style of a traditional Chinese house with courtyard.
Fisherman's Inn, #10 Chong Shan Rd. Sec. 1, Lane 115, Jian, Contact: Zac Harper Tel:+886 9555-37142, email: email@example.com, . Weekend and weekday prices are the same, NT$2240/2640 for two person rooms, and NT$3040 for our 4 person room.
Sheep house B&B (hualien minsu) phone:+886-931-297-277 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org,  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, WiFi, free shuttle service to train station. Room rate between NT1800-NT3000.
To Taroko Gorge, frequent buses from Hualien train station will take you directly to the gorge's major sites. If you purchase an unlimited day-pass for 250NTD (or a two-day pass for 400NTD), you can hop on and off buses at all stops throughout the gorge all day. Be aware that the last buses from Hualien depart early (about 1.50pm), and the last buses leave the gorge at about 5.00pm. The distance to Taraoko Gorge is not very large, but buses usually take 2 hours at least to Tianhsiang, due to frequent stops and low speed inside the gorge.
RueiSuei Hot Springs and the Siouguluan River Basin - Rueisuei's pristine natural beauty is a must to experience during a trip to Hualien. Rueisuei Hot Springs originated from the upper stream of Hongye Stream. The water from Rueisuei Hot Springs is alkaline sodium carbonate, perfect for osmosis detox and cleansing, with a pH ranging between 6 and 7. The high altitude of Rueisuei Hot Springs offers a magnificent view of the surrounding mountains and plains. Rueisuei Hot Springs have helped boosted tourism in Rueisuei, and Rueisuei Organic Farms, especially the dairy products, is loved by all who visit. Rueisuei is of course the most famous for its hot springs; however, there are tons other things to do as well. Soak in the Hot springs for an evening, then wake up in the morning and River Raft down the incredibly beautiful Siouguluan River basin down to Big Harbor, where you can then hop on a yaght at #96 Shi Ti Bay and head out whale and dolphin watching. The seafood in Shi Ti Harbor is the freshest in Taiwan, caught twice a day by local (mostly aborigines) fishermen and delivered fresh to your plate!
Hehuan Mountain - About a four hour drive fron Hualien City, it is a fantastic journey through the wonders of Taroko Gorge and past, ending in a treeless, absolutely different ecosystem. Hiking available ranges from easy to hard, and can be hiked on one day or multiple days, depending on the route you choose. English literature is available but very basic. It is possible to just set out on a trail and see where it takes you. Being a (mostly) treeless environment, it is difficult to get lost, but beware of the dangers of high altitude hiking - most peaks are above 3000 meters.
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 7-11's here, just the wonders of Taiwan.
Tongmen - south of Hualien City, between Jian and Liyu Lake, lies Taroko's little brother. It is a village along the Mugua River, and boasts a 'scaled down' version of Taroko, but with scaled down geology also comes scaled down tourists and people. It is a very pleasant way to spend a day or weekend, and there are excellent swimming opportunities not available in Taroko. A lot of it is paved, or cement, so it is drivable. Stop at the entrance where there is a police guard (friendly and happy to see foreigners enter the pride of their village) show your passport and pay a fee (at this time it was about $150) no matter how big or small the group, and they wil direct you on your way. The road forks - one takes you to the Tongman hydro plant, the other takes you to a scenic and more rustic river valley where swimming and adventure await. Both are, however, well worth your time.
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 flexible (they will stop when you say 'stop') but buses are much cheaper. However, both pale in comparison to the experience of driving yourself.