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I’m going to cover three different route options below: the inland highway #9, coastal highway #11 through the East Rift Valley, and a lesser-known alternative route. These three routes will all meet up in Taitung City, from where you’ll again have two route choices for the final leg to Kenting.
I’ve done the trip from Hualien to Kenting multiple times by train, car, and scooter, and I’m excited to share all that I’ve learned about how to plan this awesome adventure along Taiwan’s famed east coast.
General Tips for Traveling Down the East Coast
When to Visit
This east coast road trip can be done in any month of the year. Some people (myself included) will find summer too hot, not to mention that chance of typhoons. You definitely don’t want to be anywhere near the east coast when a typhoon is coming!
Also heads up that if you’re visiting Taiwan in June, the plum monsoons can bring more rain to the east coast, while July, August, September, and October have the highest chance of typhoons, especially the middle two months.
See more information in my guide to the best time to visit Taiwan.
Getting to Hualien or Taitung
For planning your time in Hualien, see my recommended travel itinerary for Hualien.
If you want to start your trip in Taitung instead, or return quickly to Taipei once you get there, you can get there by regular train in 3.5 to 5 hours, or you can take this flight from Taitung to Taipei.
Renting a Car, Scooter, or Bicycle
Few people would disagree that the best way to travel down the east coast of Taiwan is by scooter. Maybe of the best cultural and scenic attractions are found off the main away or between cities, so you really need your own wheels. Moreover, driving is the only way to travel down the coastal highway (highway 11), as there is no public transportation, as well as the backroads route from Taitung City to Kenting.
You can rent a scooter at Xincheng (Taroko Gorge) train station or at Hualien Station in Hualien City. For something more exhilarating, you can travel through the region by motocross (a kind of motorcycle).
Renting a car can be pricey in Taiwan, and it’s not always so convenient, but if that’s what you prefer, you can rent a car here in Hualien. If you don’t feel comfortable driving yourself, you can also chartering a private car with a driver.
If you want to cycle the east coast of Taiwan, this is not my specialty, but you can find loads of info here, here, here, or here. These are just a few of many blogs out there on this topic, so I’ll leave it to the cycling experts.
Using Public Transportation
There’s no public transportation running all the way down coastal highway 11. However, the TRA train line runs along highway 9 from Hualien to Taitung through the East Rift Valley. So if you’re planning to rely on public transportation only, trains will be your best friend! That are some local buses between some towns, but the train is more convenient and reliable.
To get from Taitung City to Kenting, the train crosses over to the west coast of Taiwan. You’ll get off at Fangliao station, from where you can catch a bus (1 hour) for the final leg to Kenting.
Another option is to catch the train between major towns, then hire a bicycle or scooter once you get there for exploring the area. For example, you can rent a scooter in Guangfu, Fenglin, Ruisui, or Yuli.
Approximate Train Times and Prices
- Taipei to Hualien: 2 hours (NTD 440) (this is the fastest train, some take 3-3.5 hours)
- Hualien to Yuli/Guanshan (towns I recommend as halfway stops between Hualien and Kenting): 1/2 hours (NTD 189/274)
- Yuli/Guanshan to Fangliao: 2/2.5 hours (NTD 377)
- Fangliao to Kenting (by bus): 1 hour (NTD 150)
If you are looking to join a tour, this four-day east coast tour covers a lot of ground in four days, traveling from Hualien to Taitung on Highway 11 and back on Highway 9 (see below), then north to Jiaoxi and back to Taipei, visiting many spots mentioned in this article.
To just get a taste of the east coast (coastal highway 11), you can take this east coast day tour from Hualien City, while this tour provides access to the southern portion of highway 9 in the East Rift Valley from Taitung City.
Time Needed to Travel from Hualien to Kenting
In part 1 of this guide, I recommend visitors to budget one day for traveling from Taipei or Yilan to Hualien, one full day for visiting Taroko Gorge, and 1-2 more days for seeing the sights in Hualien City and/or doing some outdoors activities in the area. This means you need 3-4 days for Part 1 of this guide.
In this article, Part 2, you’ll need another 1-4 days to travel from Hualien City to Taitung or Kenting at the far southern tip of Taiwan. In theory, you can ride a scooter from Hualien City all the way to Kenting in 1 day, and I’ve done this before. It’s a long day on the road, and you won’t have much time for stops.
It’s much better to spend two days making this trip, spending the night somewhere in southern Hualien County or Taitung along the way. And if you want to fully experience both of the main highways, the coastal highway 11 going down, and return to Hualien on the inland highway 9, then two days for each, or four days total, would be much better. Below, I’ll cover all the best places on both highways to spend the night.
If you live in Taiwan, you could easily make countless weekend trips to this part of Taiwan, only focusing on one smaller area in Hualien or Taitung each time. With express trains making the journey from Taipei to Taitung in a mere 3.5 hours, weekend trips to the southeast have become all the more feasible.
Here is the route (in blue) covered by parts 1 and 2 of this guide, from Su Ao in Yilan County to Kenting in the far south.
And here are the two main routes covered in this guide: highway 11 in blue, and highway 9 in gray.
Highway #11 splits off from the #9 just south of Hualien City then follows the coast, with the two meeting up again in Taitung City. From Taitung to Kenting, the #9 continues south to Pingtung County, where it crosses to the west coast and meets up with Provincial highway 26 for the final leg down to Kenting.
The awesomeness of this is that you can take one highway down, and the other one up. There are also multiple roads connecting the two highways. Some are a straight shot, and others are slow, winding roads that take you through remote aboriginal territory.
To give you an idea of distances by scooter, when we recently traveled from Hualien to Kenting, we broke it up into two days but took some slower alternative routes (see below). We traveled about 8 hours each day, including several short stops. On the way back, we scootered all the way from Kenting to Hualien in one day, staying on the main highways mentioned above, with few stops, and did it in 10 hours.
It felt rushed but it was certainly doable, and this wasn’t a problem for us since our main goal was to spend several days in Kenting. If you actually want to see more of the stops along the way, I wouldn’t recommend this. I would break it up into at least two days in each direction.
Route #1: Highway 9 through the East Rift Valley
Provincial Highway 9 paves a way through the incredibly scenic East Rift Valley, officially the “Huatung (Hualian-Taitung) Scenic Area” (花東縱谷國家風景區). If you are traveling by public transportation, this route will be your only option.
This wide, rice-paddy and plain filled valley was formed by the collision of the Eurasian and Philippine tectonic plates, and is flanked by peaks of the Central Mountain Range and Coastal Range on either side. It stretches 180 kilometers from Hualien to Taitung and is the basin for several rivers spilling down from the highest peaks of Taiwan in the Central Mountain Range to the sea.
The below sights are arranged in the order that you will encounter them after departing from Hualien City.
Liyu (Carp) Lake (鯉魚潭)
Nearby, Chinan Forest Recreation Area (池南國家森林遊樂區) is another pretty stop with green surroundings and fresh air. There are some platforms with views looking down on Liyu Lake.
Because it’s quite close to Hualien City, you could also do this as an easy day trip from Hualien.
Next you will enter Fenglin township, which was chosen as one of the world’s best “slow living” destinations by Cittaslow, and Italy-based organization (2 others are located in Miaoli and one in Chiayi). Explore the area or spend the night in a local guesthouse to find out what makes it so laid back.
In Fenglin, you can check out Fenghuang Waterfall (鳳凰瀑布), good for a swim in summer. Just south of the waterfall, Lintianshan Mountain Forestry Center (林田山森林業文化園區), a ghost village and forestry center. Other activities in the area include taking a scenic flight or paragliding.
You can rent a scooter in Fenglin here.
Guangfu and Fuyuan National Scenic Area
Next up, you’ll pass through the township of Guangfu (光復鄉). There are a few forest and wetland recreation parks in the area, but none really blew me away. A lot of travelers stop in at Guangfu Sugar Factory (光復糖廠冰棒) for their famous ice cream.
Fuyuan National Forest Recreation Area (富源國家森林遊樂區), in neighborhing Wanrong Township, is famous for its swarms of butterflies, which can be seen here in spring in summer. However, we didn’t have much luck when we visited in early spring one year, so I would only suggest coming here in late spring or summer.
Ruisui Hot Spring
Further along, you’ll reach Ruisui Hot Spring (瑞穗溫泉), which, like most hot spring towns in Taiwan, is mainly a collection of hotels offering a variety of bathing facilities. It’s a great experience to spend the night in a hot spring hotel with your own private tub. This is a great place to break your journey, or a fun place to stay if you’ve come to town for the rafting (see below)
Rafting at Hsiukuluan River (Xiuguluan River or 秀姑巒溪 )
Some of the best white rafting in Taiwan can be had at Hsiukuluan River (秀姑巒溪) near Ruisui. This rafting tour offers pickup from either Hualien City or Ruisui.
Yuli, as well as the next three towns in Taitung County (Chishang, Guanshan or Luye) are great options for breaking up your journey from Hualien to Kenting and spending the night. If I could only choose one on a short trip to Taiwan, I’d probably go for Chishang, but all describe all four towns below.
Yuli itself is a small countryside town. Some of the best places to visit around it include the spectacular Nan An Waterfall (南安瀑布), and just beyond that you can walk the first few kilometers of the Walami Trail (瓦拉米古道) without a permit.
You’ll need one to follow the multi-day trek which connects all the way to Yushan National Park in Central Taiwan. When we hiked the trail, we encountered a huge troupe of macaques!
If you’re exploring the area by scooter, you can even go as far as Sanxiantai (an amazing bridge on the coast) on coastal Highway 11 in one day, which we did one time. Just follow Highway 30, which connects highway 9 with the coast.
Antong Hot Spring
If you’re spending the night in Yuli, it’s a quick hop over to Antong Hot Spring, on a small highway connecting highways 9 and 11 on the coast.
If you’re spending the night in Yuli, it’s a quick hop over to Antong Hot Spring, on a small highway connecting highways 9 and 11 on the coast.
Sixty Stone Mountain (Liushishishan or 六十石山)
A short ride south from Yuli on Highway 9 will also bring you to the entrance to Sixty Stone Mountain (六十石山), a 952-meter peak that is covered with tiger (day) lilies from August to September. The road up the mountain can be clogged with traffic when the lilies are in bloom, but it wasn’t actually too bad when we visited on a summer weekday, and was definitely worth the detour.
If you don’t have your own wheels, you can hire a chartered car from Hualien to Sixty Stone Mountain or take this tour from Taitung City.
Tropic of Cancer Marker Park (北回歸線標誌公園)
The final stop you’ll make along highway 9 before crossing the border into Taitung County is the Tropic of Cancer Marker Park, where you can make a quick stop for mandatory photo ops.
Lisong Hot Spring
Wild hot spring lovers will want to make a detour up the South Cross Island Highway (Provincial Highway #20) to seek out remote Lisong Hot Spring, one of the best hot springs in all of Taiwan.
However, you’ll need to budget a whole day for the adventure, including driving time and the 3-4 hours (return) needed to hike to it.
Chishang (池上鄉), Taitung
Chishang is the first township you will enter after crossing the Hualien-Taitung border. Along with Yuli (above) and Guanshan and Luye (below), it’s another great place to spend the night in the beautiful East Rift Valley. You can read my more detailed guide to Chishang and Mr. Brown Avenue here.
This is probably my top recommended choice for people visiting Taiwan for a short time. However, if you prefer to avoid touristy spots, you might choose one of the others instead .
Chishang is especially famous for its cycling paths amidst the rice paddies. Mr. Brown Avenue, or Brown Boulevard (池上伯朗大道) is the most famous of them all, and people come from all over the country to cycle there, mainly because a famous EVA airlines commercial was filmed there. You can also cycle around Dapo Pond (大坡池) in town.
After Chishang, the township of Guanshan (關山) features similar scenery, and is yet another place you could spend the night for exploring the area. These days, Guanshan is overshadowed by Chishang as a cycling destination, but Guanshan was actually had Taiwan’s first dedicated cycling path, the Guanshan Town Circle Bicycle Path, which was built in 1997.
This very easy 15.2 kilometer path takes in the bucolic scenery that you’ve come for and features the aisle of betel palms, a section flanked by areca palms on either side of the path. While Chishang is trendier among young people these days, some Taiwanese families or older people still prefer Guanshan.
Luye (鹿野), Taitung
Luye (鹿野) is the final stop worth considering spending the night in to break up your journey from Hualien to Kenting. Luye is famous for its hot air balloon festival, the Taiwan International Balloon Fiesta (台灣熱氣球嘉年華), which will take place there every summer. Read my dedicated post about Luye and the Taitung International Balloon Festival for more details.
Even if you don’t catch the balloon festival, Luye is an interesting area to explore anytime of year. The area around the train station is mostly rural. A grid of roads divide fruit and tea plantations, and it’s a gorgeous and laid back area to explore by bike or scooter.
The Taitung hot air balloon festival doesn’t take place there, but up on the Luye Plateau (鹿野高台), which is also beautiful and perfect for going for a ride. By scooter, you’ll need about 15 minutes to get up there. During the hot air balloon festival, there are shuttle buses from town.
Bunun Leisure Farm
Bunun Leisure farm is also a good place to participate in the Bunun Ear Shooting Festival. See more info in my guide to Taiwan’s traditional festivals.
Route #2: Highway 11 Along the Coast
The second option for traveling from Hualien to Taitung is by taking Highway 11 along the coast. This winding, scenic drive offers plenty of coastal views, but there is no public transportation available covering the whole route.
In Ji’an Township (吉安鄉), south of Hualien City, highway 11 splits off from highway 9. Just across the Hualien Bridge is the official start of the East Coast National Scenic Area (東部海岸國家風景區) and almost immediately you’ll be driving right along the coast. The following are the sights that you will encounter along the way.
Starbucks Container Store
As you drive south out of Hualien City on Highway 11, don’t pass up the chance to stop at Taiwan’s most unique Starbucks, built with 29 shipping containers. It’s just off Highway 11 in Ji’an township, before the highway reaches the cost. Search for 星巴克 (洄瀾門市) to find it on GoogleMaps.
Farglory Ocean Park (遠雄海洋公園)
Just after Highway 11 reaches the coast, you’ll reach Farglory Ocean Park, the largest of Taiwan’s theme parks that has a marine focus. Although it’s not my cup of tea, and I’d rather sea dolphins in the wild such as on this dolphin and whale watching tour, Farglory is quite popular.
You can save money on your tickets if you book them online.
Baqi Observatory (芭崎休息區)
Dashibishan Trail and Qinbuzhizi/Fengbin Skywalk
Dashibishan is a series of wooden stairs out on a cape looking out over Jici beach. Fengbin Skywalk with a terrying coastal walk with some sections with glass floors. Unfortunately, both of these walkways are marked as closed at the time I write this.
Xinshe Rice Terrace (新社梯田)
Xinshe is a area of picturesque terraced rice fields backed by the sea. They weren’t there yet in the picture taken above, but today Xinshe has become a new hot spot with the addition of some large statues, huts, and even a swing made of straw.
No Instagramer passes by here without some mandatory shots sitting on the swing, with the fields and ocean in the background.
The Shitiping Scenic Recreation Area (石梯坪遊憩風景區) is the perfect spot to stop and actually get out on the rocky coast, with lots of pools and crevices to explore. See what kind of ocean creatures you can spot in the pools of water!
Platform of the Three Immortals (Sanxiantai or 三仙台), Taitung
The first place that you can actually visit, and absolutely can’t miss, is the Platform of the Three Immortals. This 320-meter curving bridge to a small volcanic island is touristy but visually stunning, and you could easily spend an hour or two here admiring it from different angles on the rocky beaches or walking along the bridge itself.
Xingang Fish Market, Chenggong
Just south of the Platform of the Three Immortals, Chenggong township (成功鄉) features the daily Xingang Fish Market (新港漁市場) in the early afternoon (usually starting at 1-2 pm). For a very traditional experience, you can watch fisherman auction their catches right on the docks of Xingang Harbor (新港漁港).
Spring (March to June) and October are especially busy times, when the currents bring huge amounts of fish past this part of Taiwan.
While passing by Chenggong, you can also consider stopping at the Amis Folk Center in Xinyi Village, dedicated to Taiwan’s largest aboriginal tribe.
Dulan Surfing Beach and Artists’ Village
Dulan to Taitung City
You’ll also pass Fugang Harbor (台東富岡漁港), from where ferries depart for Green Island (see below).
Taitung City (台東市)
Highways 9 and 11 reunite in Taitung City. As much as I love Taitung, the real beauty of the county is in the countryside. Taitung City is small, spread out, and not particularly easy to explore with your own reals. Personally, I’d much rather spend the night in any of the rural villages I mentioned above, such as Chishang, Guanshan, Luye, or Dulan.
Other places to visit in Taitung City include Liyushan Park (鯉魚山公園), Taitung Art Museum (臺東美術館), the National Museum of Prehistory (千禧曙光紀念園區), and International Landmark Seaside Park (
The Offshore Islands
Two of Taiwan’s most compelling offshore islands are found off the southeast coast of Taiwan: Green Island (lüdao or 綠島) and Orchid Island (lanyu or 蘭嶼). Both islands require at least a few days to visit and some extra planning, and you’l want to avoid visiting them in winter, when most amenities shut down.
Green Island (綠島)
Green Island is easily one of my favorite places in Taiwan. It’s small enough that you can ride a scooter (rent your scooter here) all the way around it in 1-2 hours, but with all the beaches and breathtaking lookout points you could easily spend a whole day doing it. It offers some of the best scuba diving in Taiwan, and the gorgeous seaside Zhaori Hot Spring is one of only three saltwater hot springs in the world, and in my opinion is worth the trip itself.
I also must say that the 7-11 on Green Island, with it’s seaside balcony offering views of the mountains of mainland Taiwan on the horizon, easily has the best 7-11 view I’ve ever enjoyed. Like it or not, you’ll probably end up patronizing 7-11s multiple times during your Taiwan travels.
Orchid Island (Lanyu/蘭嶼)
Orchid Island is one of the most remote corners of Taiwan and home to Yami (Tao) tribe, the most isolated and removed from Taiwanese mainland culture of Taiwan’s indigenous tribes. They are famous for their beautiful carved canoes, underground homes that protect them from typhoons, and Flying Fish Festival, which takes place for several months in spring. You can even taste flying fish in Orchid Island’s only night market, definitely one of the more difficult items to check off this bucket list of 101 Taiwanese foods to eat!
Planning a trip to Orchid Island can be a little challenging, but I have all the information you could possibly need to plan your trip in my complete guide to Orchid Island, including where to stay there and how to rent a scooter on Orchid Island.
The easiest way to get to Orchid Island is to take the train or fly from Taipei to Taitung, then take the 3-hour ferry from Taitung or Kenting, or a short flight on DailyAir (you can only buy tickets 2 months in advance and they sell out quickly; site is mostly in Mandarin). To save the hassle or trying to arrange everything, you can take advantage of this convenient and reasonably priced 3-day Orchid Island package deal.
Route #3: Off-the-Beaten Track on County Road 193
Route #1 from Taitung to Kenting
For some, Taitung City may be the end of their east coast journey. But if you want to extend your trip all the way to the beaches of Kenting National Park at the southern tip of Taiwan, there are two ways to go about it.
Route #1 is the faster one, which involves following Highway 9 along the coast and then across to the west coast of Taiwan for the final leg down into Kenting. The route is the same if you take the train from Taitung to Fangliao, then transfer onto a bus to Kenting (1 hr). Route #2 (see next section) is a slow route on small roads, suitable for scooter riders only.
South of Taitung City
Highway 11 end when it rejoins with Highway 9 just south of Taitung City. Highway 9 then contiues south along the coast.
This whole area south of Taitung is famous for the custard apple (釋迦), also known as sugar apple or Buddha’s head fruit, and you can also look out for the Taiwanese hybrid pineapple custard apple (鳳梨釋迦). The flesh of this ultra sweet, pudding textured fruit literally melts in your mouth. They go for up to NTD100 for a single large one, but are so worth it. You’ll see them for sale EVERYWHERE, and you may even see a custard apple mascot or two.
Chihpen/Zhiben Hot Spring (知本溫泉)
A small detour off just before the point where highways 9 and 11 meet will bring you to Zhiben Hot Spring and National Forest Recreation Area.
There you’ll find the usual assortment of hot spring hotels if you’re in need of a hot soak. Cheng-Ping (see on Booking / Agoda / TripAdvisor) is an excellent choice for an overnight stay. The National Forest Recreation Area didn’t impress us when I visited with my family many years ago, but we made up for it by riding some local wildlife (see above photo).
Taimali Beach (太麻里)
Next up, Taimali Beach (太麻里) is an insanely long stretch of beach that usually has few to no people on it. You’ll need to hunt around to find a way to get down to it.
After that, you’ll pass turnoffs for Jinfeng and then Jinlun Hot Springs. We explored up both roads by scooter but only found a few rustic developed hot spring resorts. We asked around about the natural springs mentioned in the Lonely Planet but didn’t have much luck finding them, though a comment on this blog indicates they might be destroyed. I would say give this a miss in less you are truly interested and have the time.
Duoliang Railway Station (多良觀光車站)
Duoliang is considered one of the most beautiful railway stations in all of Taiwan, backed by the sea at the southern end of Taimali beach, and luckily it’s right beside Highway 9 so it’s easy to stop for a picture.
Final Leg to Kenting National Park
Route #2 from Taitung to Kenting
A second option for getting from Taitung to Kenting is the slow route that mostly sticks to the east coast. This is a remote drive for motorcycles or scooters only. You’ll pass very few settlements, and see almost no people, but the road itself is very smooth the whole way, making for gorgeous riding. Note that this route will take you into Kenting National park from the east side, while route #1 will take you in from the west side. This can make a big difference, as the national park is quite large, and it depends where you plan to stay in Kenting.
This route is definitely a few hours slower, especially since there aren’t many notable stops on Route #1. By scooter, it’s going to take you a solid 4.5-6 hours to get from Taitung to Kenting on this route, while route #1 should only take about three hours in total.
So if you are in a rush to get to the beach, skip this one. But if you want to enjoy 3-4 hours (after the turnoff described below, as opposed to 1-2 remaining hours to get to Kenting on the main route) on an incredibly beautiful, traffic-free road, and see some sand dunes (!) and some amazing views on the final approach to Kenting, then I would highly recommend this route.
To begin, follow the main route south from Taitung on Highway 9 outlined above, but then about 10-15 minutes up Highway 9 after it veers inland from Daren, watch for the little turnoff to County Road 199甲, which also happens to be right on the border between Taitung and Pingtung (屏東縣) counties. There is some kind of derelict building right at the turnoff which seemed to be an attraction worth stopping at for local tourists but we couldn’t figure out why. It is now labeled Shouka Biker Rest Stp (壽卡鐵馬驛站) on GoogleMaps.
After you turn left onto the 199, the road winds its way down to the sea, meeting yet another wide open beach with nobody or nothing on it. The road changes into the 26 along the coast, and then the 200 when it veers inland again.
Kenting National Park
Congratulations! You’ve made it to the southern tip of Taiwan, Kenting (墾丁), the nation’s premier beach resort and home of the legendary (but now all but dead) Spring Scream Rock Music Festival, which used to take place here every year in early April in Taiwan. Also see here for more info on visiting Taiwan in spring.
If you arrived on highway 9 (route #1) coming in from the west, then you’ll first pass a beach popular with locals, South Bay, before getting to the main strip of Kenting Village, the party town, night market, and tourist center of Kenting.
If you arrived on the backroads route #2 coming in from the east, shortly after Longpan Park, you’ll hit the Eluanbi Lighthouse at the Southern tip of Taiwan. After that, you’ll pass a great beach at Sail Rock before reaching Kenting village.
Well, that brings us to the end of my (probably far too long) east coast Taiwan guide. If you’ve read this far, then congrats! You receive a gold star. Please feel free to comment below with any updates, questions, or to share your experiences visiting the east coast of Taiwan!