Hiking Through Taiwan's Toroko Gorge

 

Taiwan was never a bucket list destination for me. In fact it wasn’t even on my radar when I was researching places to travel while studying in Asia. So when my friend Adam invited me along on a trip there I had to do some serious research. This little island country took me by surprise. I scoured the internet and found incredible black sand beaches, breathtaking national parks, and vibrant city life. Taroko Gorge quickly made it to the top of my list of things to do in Taiwan. I was drawn to the stunning marble mountains and rushing waterfalls.

Taroko Gorge Park was declared a national park in 1986. The park spans an impressive 920 square kilometers and includes some incredible natural beauty. Besides the gorge itself, the park consists of twisting hiking trails, beautiful cascades, tunnels, shrines, and a huge suspension bridge.

Taroko Gorge is actually really easy to get to. There’s a bus from Hualien that leaves daily from 6:30am to 1:50pm. The bus is a very reasonable NT250 ($8) for unlimited hop on/hop off throughout the day of purchase. The bus takes about an hour to get from Hualien to the park headquarters. There is no fee to enter the park, although some areas require a special permit to hike in.

Adam and I sat next to a group of German travelers on the bus ride there. One of the guys in their group was an English teacher in Hualien and had been to the park several times. Their group had dedicated several days to exploring the park because of how vast it is. Adam and I only had a day to hike so we wanted to make the most of it but had no idea where to start. Luckily they allowed us to tag along with them on the trail.

There are a ton of trails throughout the national park. Every one of them will blow you away. We walked along the edge of the river, passing under tunnels and up and down through the gorge.

We saw several places to stop and get a snack. At the end of our trail there was a local vendor selling grilled meats wrapped in leaves. My stomach was growling but being vegetarian I couldn’t indulge, so I bought a fruity milk drink.

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We stopped about a million times to take pictures and got some cool shots beyond a “do not pass” sign that we took as a suggestion. At the very end of the trail there’s a large river bank with plenty of boulders to sit on. The area was fairly crowded with picnicking locals. We managed to find a pretty secluded spot and stopped to rest and enjoy the view. The Germans had with them some local flavored grain alcohol. We took turns drinking and sharing stories. Some of the guys went out into the river and balanced rocks on the boulders jutting out.

I don’t remember any of their names or stories but I’ll never forget the little moments we all shared that day.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Surfing in Taiwan

 

Taiwan is one of my favorite countries I have ever visited. This little island nation is the perfect mixture of bustling cities, mouthwatering local cuisine, and incredible natural beauty. During my short visit I explored the capital Taipei, hiked the marble mountains of Taroko Gorge, climbed Elephant Mountain to get the best view of Taipei 101, and soaked in healing hot springs. Read on to find out about my experience surfing in Taiwan with Rising Sun Surf Inn.

Unless falling on my ass in various Pilates classes counts as a sport, I won’t be winning any Olympic medals anytime soon. I spent years trying to do a cartwheel and never succeeded. The one time I went skiing I got too scared to jump off the ski lift. They had to stop the whole thing and send someone to get me off. I never went out for any sports in high school. I could keep going but I’m sure you didn’t come here to read about my athletic failures. My point is that I’m not the sportiest traveler.

Naturally, when my travel companion mentioned he wanted to try surfing in Taiwan I was a bit hesitant. I honestly didn’t even know you could surf in Taiwan.

Surfing in Taiwan

Surprisingly, Taiwan is known for some world-class waves. One article actually called it the “New Hawaii”. There are tons of little towns dotted across the coastline that are year-round surf destinations. The three main spots on the East coast to shred some gnar are Yilan, Dulan, and Kenting. We only had one day free so we chose Yilan which is the closest to Taipei. It’s easy to reach by public transport because the train station is right in front of the beach.

Rising Sun Surf Inn

Neither of us had ever surfed before so we were on the lookout for some beginner lessons. Rising Sun Surf Inn was the easiest to find from the train and also offered lessons for newbies. The vibe is very chilled out. The lobby area is a small room with beanbag chairs and a counter where you can order food and sign up for surf lessons. We chatted with the owner a little bit and it turns out she doesn’t surf or even know how to swim! Luckily their instructors are much more experienced and made us feel super safe and prepared the whole time.

Included in the price for a lesson is the board rental, rash guard rental, and photos of your lesson. The instructor swims out with you and will even hold your board for you while you flop around like an idiot trying to get on it.

The Inn is located on the beautiful black sand Wai’ow beach. There are incredible rock formations just off the coast but the area you surf in is far enough away to not send you hurling into the boulders. The scenery was so picturesque I would visit just for the views.

My Experience

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So how did I do? Safe to say I lived up to expectations. I did not get up on both feet a single time that day. My friend Adam had a sprained ankle and hopped on both feet within minutes of getting out onto the water. If that doesn’t sum up my athletic career perfectly I don’t know what does. Despite my absolute failure I felt incredible the whole time. The adrenaline rush pushed me to keep trying again and again and I was proud of myself for not giving up.

I probably swallowed twice my weight in fish pee and the salt stung my eyes but I had the time of my life.

I walked away from the experience vowing that I would surf again. Or for the first time since I don’t think I ever technically surfed. But hey — I have a picture standing next to a surfboard now. Close enough.

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More Information

Getting to Rising Sun Surf Inn is incredibly easy. You take the local train from Taipei to Wai’ao station. When you get off the train you walk across the road and turn left at the boardwalk. That’s it.

We chose the 1 Day Surf School package and loved it. For one person the price of this package is NT 1500 ($50 USD) but if you go with a friend you will only pay NT 1400 ($46 USD). This package includes:

  • 2-hour instruction and all day surfboard rental

  • Full day rental of a rash guard or wetsuit

  • Photos taken during your lesson

  • Free use of the common areas – toilet, changing facilities, etc.

This post was not sponsored by Rising Sun Surf Inn — although they did give me two free stickers when I was there. I genuinely enjoyed my experience and wanted to share it with my readers. All opinions and athletic failures are completely my own.