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Cycling East Coast – Hualien Adventures

Cycling East Coast

Cycling from Hualien to Taitung

The route described starts from Hualien City, goes along Highway #9 and County Road #193 along the east rift valley, through the rice fields all the way to Yuli, then crosses the coastal mountains on Highway #30 and ends up along the coastline on Highway #11.

DAY 1: From Hualien to Yuli, 120KM

It is better to get going early, since the weather gets really hot around noon. The first ten kilometers are cycling out of the city so if you start early in the morning, there will be a lot less traffic to manage. 20 kilometers outside of Hualien, you’ll arrive at Liyu Lake, the first attraction along the way. Liyu means carp in Mandarin, and the lake is the largest one in Eastern Taiwan. Every year around April, thousands of fireflies buzz above the lake, making the water shimmer with light. If you are not in a hurry, you can cycle on the bicycle route that goes around the lake and encounter some local people doing their early morning exercises.

Next, the bicycle route takes you through small villages, where you can see local people sitting by the road and cheering when you go past them. After around 30 kilometers of cycling you will reach Lintianshan Forestry Cultural Park. It is a large park and recreation area with hiking trails and museum exhibitions detailing Taiwan’s forestry traditions. Walking down the trail, you can explore the old houses and gardens looking for traces of the prosperity in the old days.

Provincial Highway #9 paves a way through the scenic East Rift Valley. This wide, rice paddy and plain filled valley was formed by the collision of the Eurasian and Philippine tectonic plates and is lined with peaks of the Central Mountain Range and Coastal Range on either side. It stretches 170 kilometers from Hualien to Taitung and is the basin for several rivers that spill down from the highest central Taiwanese peaks into the sea.

If you’re already sweating, it’s good to take a break at Hualien Sugar Factory. There you will find a large frozen products department which serves up to 30 types of popsicles and ice cream. Try these cooling delicacies or just simply take a lunch break.

There are only 20 kilometers more to pedal before reaching Ruisui, a small town famous for its hot springs. If you are tired, you can spend the night in one of the Ruisui’s hot spring hostels. They offer accommodation at quite affordable prices. A dorm bed with access to their hot spring costs around NT$700. If you don’t want to spend a night in Ruisui, many hot springs offer public facilities where you can take a short dip too.

If you want to get off the main highway and like to have the road entirely to yourself, then County Road #193 is for you. This winding road runs though the lower hills of the Coastal Mountain Range between Highways #9 and #11, sticking closer to the former road in the southern half.

On County Road #193 there is less traffic compared to Highway #9, but the road is more hilly, more challenging, and there are also less food supplies available. Beware of the wild dogs that might bark at you just for fun! The best part of County Road #193 is definitely from Ruisui to Yuli, where you can enjoy the lush green rice fields all around you.

The ending point of the County Road #193 is Yuli, an excellent place to stay put for a day or more if you have the time. The town of Yuli is famous for Walami Trail, Yufu cycling path, Day-Lily Mountains, and Antong hot springs. Many cycling paths in the East Rift Valley are for bicycles only so you don’t need to worry about cars. Yufu cycling path, for example, is an old railway that was repurposed to a bike trail. It offers the perfect mix of freedom and serenity.

On our way, we stayed in a nice place in the mountains called New Life Hot Spring Resort. A bed in a dorm room costs NT$800, but the price included a visit to the hot spring and breakfast. It was nice to go to a hot pool after day of cycling to relax our muscles! The hotel offered dinner too, but if you’re on a budget it is recommended to bring your own food since it a bit out of town, and there are no stores around.

In Yuli you can hike the famous Walami Trail. Walami Trail is quite easy, and you can spot lots of wildlife on it. Check our blog for more details if you’re interested!

It’s also possible to cycle to the top of the Day-Lily Mountains in Yuli, but it’ll be very challenging and will take at least a couple hours. When you make it to the top you will be rewarded with stunning views, especially if you go in August or September when the Day Lilies are in bloom.

Day 2: From Yuli to Dulan, 70KM

The second day starts by climbing up the mountains. The road is not too steep, but you will need to work a bit more than the previous day to make it up to the top. Still, the hard work will pay off once you reach the summit. After a long tunnel, the ride is just a short downhill ride along the coast. You should stop once or twice along this path. You simply shouldn’t go on without taking a moment to admire this amazing view.

The Highway #11 goes along the coast and offers quite nice vistas of the Pacific and the palm trees surrounding the highway. After reaching the highway, there is only about 15 km to pedal before reaching, Sanxiantai Arch Bridge, one of the most popular landmarks on this route. This 320-meter curving bridge to the small volcanic island on the other side is 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. Make sure you take the detour through Sanxiantai Cycling Path to enjoy the relaxing ride next to the coastline without any traffic.

After enjoying a refreshing break by the seaside, continue straight to Dulan, which is a charming small town on the coast. In Dulan, there are couple of backpacker hostels on the main road where you can stay the night, one of which is Travel Bug. There you can get a decent dorm bed from NT$400, which includes a breakfast. Travel Bug is a hostel based on art and music, and the atmosphere is quite laid-back and relaxing.

For budget travellers, there is also an option of staying on the campground of a local police station where there will be access to clean drinking water, a public toilet, and showers.

In Taiwan there is such an impressive infrastructure for cyclists. The police stations serving as pit stops are densely located along the cycling routes, and they are offering toilets, showers, water and sometimes even campground for cyclists. It is completely free for cyclists to rest, wash up and recharge their batteries. The stations offer also simple bike maintenance such as air pumps. We even enjoyed a cup of freshly brewed coffee in one pit stop!

In Dulan, you can spend the rest of the day on the beach. This town is known for its vibrant artistic community, and it’s home to Sintung Sugar Factory, which is an old cultural center. There you can attend live music events on Saturday nights. You can also find few foreigner-run restaurants, a local craft beer company, and local art exhibits.

Day 3: Cycling to Taitung, 24KM

You only have 20 kilometers left before reaching Taitung on the following day. The road goes along the coastline, and the views are pretty nice. When you get a chance, take a break and head to the nearest beach. Usually the waves are pretty strong and you’ll see only surfers, but the views will be quite amazing.

Taitungs railway station is a bit far away from the center. If you don’t have an opportunity to return your bicycle in Taitung, you can always take the bike with you on the train. You will need to buy separate tickets for you and for your bike. Make sure to choose a ticket for the train type that carries bicycles. Read our blog “How to take your bicycle on the train?" for more details.

Remember to bring warm clothes with you as well, since the air-conditioning can get cold, and the train ride to Hualien takes almost four hours.

Cycling is the best way to explore east Taiwan if you have enough time and the courage to challenge yourself a little bit. The route from Hualien to Taitung is simply an amazing and relaxing experience. The beautiful mountain peaks along the East Rift Valley, the glistening Pacific Ocean, and the lush green rice paddies surrounding you will make this cycling trip unforgettable!