Cycling Taiwan’s East Coast: On the Road Again

This post was last updated on August 6th, 2014

Bikes and I haven’t always been the best of friends. Don’t get me wrong—as a child, I had a bike like any other little girl, complete with tassels on the handlebars and a basket on the front. It was probably pink. But then, somewhere between being six and sixteen, I kinda forgot how to ride a bike. I know. You’re thinking the one thing ‘they’ say is that you never forget how to ride a bike. In all honesty I still knew how, I was just severely out of practice. So severely that I pretty much just wobbled around whenever I tried to pedal, spending the majority of my time swerving back and forth across the street. Yea, this was in high school. Kinda embarrassing.

And then there was this time in Italy. I was teaching at an English camp in the small city of Piacenza, and staying with a lovely host family. They gifted me with a beautiful bike to borrow for my brief time spent at their home, which I was thrilled about, because something about quaintly biking around a picturesque Italian piazza sounded perfect. However, the host family wasn’t so thrilled when I actually got on the bike and put my skills-or lack thereof-on display.  They were so nervous about letting me loose on my own that they insisted all of us take a biking expedition together—with their four-year old daughter leading the way—so I could practice a little more. Once they felt I had finally passed their biking lessons, they hesitantly let me loose to go fulfilling my romantic visions of exploring the city independently. Unfortunately the ending was a little bit less than ideal when later that day I got hit by a car. Not as dramatic as it sounds since neither of us were really moving, but there was still definite impact between bike and vehicle, leaving me with a lovely scar on my left leg and the bike a bit bent out of shape. Really embarrassing.

So with my snapshots of biking in mind, it’s probably a little hard to believe that Dan and I just biked 131 miles, primarily in two days, from Hualien to Taitung. No falls. No accidents. And only one broken bicycle that wasn’t actually any fault of mine. (That story is coming later.)

A Cruising Couple cycling Hualien

Hualien Train Station: The beginning of our journey

Cycling 131 Miles

Odometer in Taitung

What’s more, cycling from Hualien to Taitung is one of our favorite things we’ve done during our entirety in Taiwan.  The route is extremely popular because of the beautiful surrounding landscapes, but I have to say I underestimated how truly stunning the East Coast is.  We were blessed with amazing weather-quite possibly a first for us in Taiwan-and slightly overcast skies kept us cool while still allowing divine views. Dramatic peaks and gorges of the East Rift Valley towered on our left, the glistening Pacific Ocean stretched on for miles on our right, and verdant green rice paddies surrounded us on either side.  Needless to say we were entertained by the beauty around us, which also helped to distract us from the intensity of riding so far.

A Cruising Couple Cycling East Rift Valley

Cycling In the East Rift Valley

East Rift Valley Taiwan Tree

East Rift Valley

East Rift Valley Taiwan

East Rift Valley Rice Fields

A Cruising Couple Cycling Taiwan East Coast

East Coast of Taiwan

Rice Fields Taiwan East Coast

Rice Fields on the Coast

We followed a route we found here. In our opinion it is the most scenic option, as it includes the popular Highway 11 (along the coast), Highway 9 (through the East Rift Valley), as well as Route 193 and Highway 30. Be forewarned though, this isn’t the easiest route as it includes some pretty steep climbs in the mountains for a lot of the trip. But if you have the stamina, it’s totally worth it. There is one particularly steep climb on the 30 that seems to stretch on for ages. But when you finally make it to the top, sweat-drenched and praying for an end to the vertical ascent, you’ll come to a long tunnel. On the other side of the tunnel is the most incredible part of the whole cycling trip: a bird’s-eye view is the reward for the ridiculous climb, as well as twenty minutes of downhill coasting that takes you past striking snapshots of the Pacific as it collides with the adjacent mountains. Ahhh-mazing.

A Cruising Couple Cycling up a Mountain

Top of the Mountain

Cycling along Taiwan East Coast

Downhill Section on the East Coast

A Cruising Couple Taiwan East Coast

Scenic Overlook After the Tunnel

We split the trip up into three days; however, if ending in central Taitung, the trip could easily be done in two. The biggest advantage of taking three days to complete the route is that it allows you to stay the night in Ruishui and Dulan—two cities we would love to explore further in depth. Ruishui is a scenic little town primarily visited for its Japanese-style hot springs. Dulan is a small beach town about 20 kilometers outside of Taitung City, filled to the brim with surfers and hippies, most of whom are expats.  If you want to add some surfing to your cycling trip—like Dan did—Dulan is the best place to stay.  If we could do anything differently, we would have gotten an earlier start the first two days of our trip, allowing more of an opportunity to explore these two places.

Dulan Beach Taiwan

Dulan Beach

Dan and I like to think we’re in relatively good shape, but after three days of cycling, our thighs were on fire. That being said, if you are pretty fit, then you can totally handle cycling from Hualien to Taitung. Additionally, staying on Highway 11 the whole way does make the trip a bit more manageable.

Cycling Hualen to Taitung

Cycling Lane on Highway 11

If going on a cycling trip, there are absolutely two things you must invest in:

  1. Biker shorts. The spandex isn’t that sexy, but the padding is seriously worth it. Trust me, you will thank us later.
  2. Tire patch kit. Turns out this wouldn’t have actually fixed the problem with my bike, but it might have helped. There are quite a few areas from Hualien to Taitung that taxis don’t frequent and towns are few and far between.

Other than that, don’t bring much. You’ll really feel the extra weight pulling you backwards on those hills.

We aren’t naïve to the fact that 131 miles isn’t actually that far; after all, tri-athletes practically cover that distance in a couple hours and it’s just a third of the race. But if you had told me in high school that I was going on a multi-day biking trip, I would have laughed in your face. Now, after doing it once, I’m already thinking about doing it again. Even through the sweat and hard work, all I could think during our trip was how lucky we were to be cycling around such a beautiful country. There’s definitely a sense of fulfillment in knowing your own body is what powered you to get from point A to point B, no matter how far that might be. Plus, cycling is a great way to discover a new place, as it allows you to travel slowly but efficiently while really taking in the surrounding scenes. It’s eco-friendly, locals love to cheer you on, and you’re forced to travel light. Not to mention, beer tastes a heck of a lot better after you worked all day for it. We are totally inspired to take another cycling trip on a larger scale.  Now we just need a new destination-any suggestions?

A Cruising Couple Cycling Finished

Mission Accomplished!

There is the whole scenario of the broken bicycle and how it practically took everyone on the East Coast to help us get the situation sorted. That story to come later this week…

Hualien To Taitung Taiwan Cycling Route

46 Comments

  1. LOVE your pink cycling gear!!

    Reply
    • Thanks!!! Gotta be a little girly still :-)

      Reply
  2. We have been to some of those places to in Taiwan but we didn’t cycle. It looks great and I guess you get to experience the places you go through in a completely different way.. you should think about cycling too!
    Great post! :)
    Franca recently posted…Our Guide to Bangkok’s Rod Fai Vintage MarketMy Profile

    Reply
    • Thank you so much! It’s definitely true-cycling brings a whole new element into travel! Maybe if you make it back to Taiwan again :-)

      Reply
  3. Hi Casey,
    I just wanted to let you know the May edition of the Byteful Travel Carnival is out. I’ve included this article, “Cycling Taiwan’s East Coast: On the Road Again,” and have listed it as one of my top 3 favorites.
    Please take a moment to stop by and take a look at the other articles in this edition.
    Byteful Travel Blog Carnival

    Be sure to share it with your social media. Tweeting, Stumbling, or Liking this will help spread the word and multiplies the reach of this blog carnival, which in turn helps more people discover your article and site.

    I’d love to hear from you, so if you can leave a comment, I’ll be sure to reply.

    Thanks,
    Jim
    Jim Liston recently posted…Byteful Travel blog Carnival #18My Profile

    Reply
    • Wow, thank you so much for including us in your list of top three favorites! We’ll be sure to spread the news on our social media outlets, and we feel honored to be included. Can’t wait to stop by and learn about some new writers and bloggers as well. Thanks again!

      Reply
  4. Thank you your posts were helpful for me in deciding what ride to do. I rode from Hualien, tried to stay on 193 but got lost and ended up on some offshoot of 11, ended up on hwy 9. Rode it to Guangfu, then over the pass on 30 (I think), down to 11, and back to Hualien. A few notes for anyone riding in this area:
    – The guy at the Giant shop in Hualien (I rented) was great in terms of directions and mechanical ability; and he told me there is no Giant shop in Ruisui anymore
    – I inquired and it seems the wind on the coast is generally from S to N, so riding back to Hualien on 11 is the way to go. I could not have made it back to Hualien in a 15mph headwind. But the wind in the rift valley was not noticeable.
    – I rode in early June and it was HOT, I am from Washington state in the US and was not ready for the sun and humidity (though I knew about it); just factor that in if you are not used to riding in that weather.
    – I found plenty of places to either buy water/tea or fill my two water bottles; make sure you drink a lot!
    – Kind of near the top of a big pass on 11 near Boci is a great viewing site where the tour buses stop; I got a passion fruit jelly and white gourd with lemon drink; just what the doctor ordered at that point in the ride when I was running out of gas/glycogen.
    – I waved to everyone I saw but the only people that waved back to me were other bikers, maybe there is a cultural piece I missed…
    – 11 is much hillier than I expected!

    Thanks again for the great info!
    JP

    Reply
    • Thanks for all the detailed information! I’m sure it will be very helpful to future readers, especially as we only did the trip one-way! That’s a shame about the Giant store in Ruisui… I hope it does still exist as we never would have made it without them! Do you have any more cycling trips planned, perhaps when it isn’t so hot? :-) Thanks again for the informative comment!

      Reply
  5. Hi, no cycling trips planned for Taiwan but next time I visit I wouldn’t hesitate to go again! One thing I loved were the bike/scooter lanes…almost everywhere, and respected by cars/buses!
    JP

    Reply
    • The bike lane really is brilliant and we were surprised we didn’t have any problems with traffic our whole ride. If only every country had a lane designated for 2 wheels! :-) I hope you get the chance to cycle next time you’re in the area.

      Reply
  6. Hi, I just wanted to let you know that the 19th edition of the Byteful Travel Blog Carnival will be on JimsGotWeb.com on July 31st. Be sure to go to BlogCarnival.com and submit your travel posts by July 27th to be listed in the Carnival.

    I look forward to reading all of your interesting travel articles. See you at the Carnival!

    Jim
    Jim Liston recently posted…Byteful Travel Blog Carnival AnnouncementMy Profile

    Reply
  7. Hi there! We’ll also be using the suggested route that you guys went for! :D

    Anyway, just wanted to inquire about the places that you guys stayed at at both Ruei Suei and Dulan!

    Thanks in advance! :)

    Reply
    • That’s great! You’re going to love it :) Let us know how it goes for you! A Taiwanese friend of ours helped us book the hotel in Ruisui…it was more like an extra bedroom in a house than a hotel and I couldn’t tell you what the name was. Depending on your budget there are a lot of nicer hot spring hotels in the area though! In Dulan we stayed at the Jailhouse Hostel. I highly recommend it-very clean, extremely friendly owners, and in a great location. The jailhouse theme is a little overdone in our opinion, but we definitely enjoyed our night there. There are a handful of other surfer bars/hostels along the main (only) road in Dulan where you might be able to find something as well!

      Reply
  8. hey if your still looking for interesting places to cycle, i hands down reccomend NZ! go in teh summer months, jan-mar is when i went. and it is absolutely spectatcular! i’m doing taiwan now, started from taipei and i’m at taroko gorge now, so i’ve got some good views ahead of me it seems! thanks for mentioning your route, i think i’ll follow it!! cheers!
    cat

    Reply
    • That’s so awesome you’re cycling Taiwan!! I hope you have as much fun as we did! Be sure to let us know how it goes. :-) Dan has been dying to get back to NZ. Maybe we’ll try cycling there when we have the chance, this time with less stuff :-p

      Reply
  9. Hi there!

    I’m visiting Hualien for a few days next week. I want to do a solo day-long cycling trip of the East Rift Valley. Do you think this is possible? I’m planning on doing a bit more research tomorrow. Any advice/information would be greatly appreciated!

    Reply
    • Thanks for asking! We managed to get from Ruishui to Dulan in one day through the East Rift Valley. You should be able to take your bike on a train to Ruishui and start from there toward Dulan. It will be a long day but the views are spectacular. Good luck!

      Reply
    • Thanks Bridget! It was super fun. We cycled through Vietnam too, from Hanoi to HCMC- talk about an adventure! haha

      Reply
  10. Thank you for your article. I’m doing the same thing as you did in 2 weeks! I was wondering if you went to the Green Island and if it was worth it?

    Thank you,
    Sarah

    Reply
    • Hi Sarah! Hope you enjoy your trip! We didn’t make it to Green Island, but we wish we would have had the time. It is supposed to be very beautiful, and has one of the only natural salt hot springs in the world :) Best of luck!

      Reply
  11. Hi! Great adventure! I will do the same as you when I visit Taiwan! Thanks for sharing!

    I was wondering if you rented form Giant, did you rent the helmets too? Was the odometer included?

    Reply
    • We did rent from Giant, and a basic odometer and helmets were included. Let us know if you have any other questions- you can also email us for a quicker response time :)

      Reply
  12. Hi Casey!

    I’m working in Taiwan and have a week off at the end of August. I would love to do this but I’m not finding much information about bike rentals. How and where did you and Dan rent the bikes, and what was your budget for accommodation and food during your trip?
    I’m thinking I will go from Hualien to Taitung and give myself four or five days to complete it, predominantly along highway 11 although I do intend to swap onto highway 9 at least once. Any advice you can offer?
    And well done on the cycle, good for you :)

    Reply
    • Thanks Don. We actually heard it by word of mouth that you can do one-way rentals and when we spoke to Giant over the phone they said it was possible. I’m not sure why they don’t publicize it more online as it seems like a really amazing idea. We just went to the Giant bike shop next to the Hualien train station. For our budget we didn’t spend more than 25 dollars a day per person. Best of luck on your trip!

      Reply
  13. Wonderful blog! Do you have any tips for aspiring writers? I’m planning to start my
    own blog soon but I’m a little lost on everything.
    Would you propose starting with a free platform like
    Wordpress or go for a paid option? There are so many choices out there that I’m totally
    confused .. Any suggestions? Many thanks!
    part Time Degree recently posted…part Time DegreeMy Profile

    Reply
    • Great questions. Feel free to send us an email and we can discuss more :-)

      Reply
  14. i rode to Hualien from Taidung by myself in one day. Thanks for the photos…I didn’t have a camera, this was 10 years ago or so. Vegan and limited cash I made it from Tainan to half way through Taroko Gorge.

    Reply
    • In one day! That is mighty impressive :-) Glad we could bring back some fond memories Joslin!

      Reply
  15. Hey, did you rent your bikes or did you own them? If you rented, where did you rent from?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Kyle,
      There is a Giant shop beside Hualien station. Alternatively you can rent it from Giant shop beside Taichung station.

      Reply
  16. Also! Could you give me the names of the places you stayed along the route? Thanks!

    Kyle

    Reply
    • I honestly can’t recall where we stayed except for the Jail hostel in Dulan (that one was pretty memorable.) Other than that we just rocked up to town and asked around for a fair priced hotel/hostel. When you’re on bikes and have a GPS it’s not hard to scope out a few different options :-)

      Reply
  17. Hi, anyone done it in December during winter? Wonder if it will be too cold to cycle.

    Reply
    • wondering the same thing sebastian! I’m going in december as well, think of doing hualien-tainan.

      Reply
      • December you might be ok as long as you are dressed for the part. Taiwan is notoriously rainy so it’s best not to get cold as you may also be wet, making the situation worse. Not a reason not to go, just something to keep in mind.

        PS From what I found the average temp for Hualien in Dec is around 20 C but if you take the East Rift Valley into the mountains it will be colder.

        Reply
  18. Hi there,

    Thanks for a great blog/story. My friend and I are hoping to ride some of Highway 11 in a few weeks. Do you see any problems with going South to North? Starting in Taitung and ending in Hualien? Would that route be uphill? Also, my friend is a beginner cyclist, so I’m wondering if 40km a day would be better for her – if we only have time for two 40km days, or two 60km days, what part of the route between Taitung and Hualien would you recommend?

    Thanks for all your help on my bazillion questions!

    -Rita

    Reply
    • Hi Rita!

      I’m so excited for you’re upcoming adventure! You can cycle either way, it don’t make much difference at all. We found the most beautiful coastal sections to be closer to Hualien so if you wanted to shorten the trip we would recommend starting in Hualien :-) Hope that helps and have a fantastic trip!

      Reply
  19. Hey, thanks for the post – chanced upon it researching this particular bike trip. We normally travel with the kids but this bike ride we are having for ourselves ;)
    Ling Tan recently posted…Hard Rock Cafe SentosaMy Profile

    Reply
  20. Hello Casey!

    Wow, your trip is so exciting! my partner and I we are planning to do the exact same thing! however, we are concern about the bicycle rentals. the thing is, if we rent it from Hualien train station, do we have to return it back at hualien train station? or could we return it at taitung and return back to hualien to get our bagpacks (which are really large).

    earlier in one of the comments, you mentioned “…We actually heard it by word of mouth that you can do one-way rentals and when we spoke to Giant over the phone they said it was possible. I’m not sure why they don’t publicize it more online as it seems like a really amazing idea. We just went to the Giant bike shop next to the Hualien train station….”

    So would that mean that you and your husband returned it at taitung?

    Look forth to your respond! thank you!

    Reply
    • Yes we were able to do one way rental. We picked up the bikes in Hualien and dropped them off in Taichung, then took the train back home :-) I hope you enjoy your trip!!

      Reply
  21. Hi dan and Casey
    We’ve just arrived in Taipei and planning to cycle the east coast. Any suggestions on where to rent bikes, get cycle head etc?
    Thanks ciara!
    Ps- your trip looks awesome ??

    Reply
  22. Good information. Lucky me I found your blog byy accident (stumbleupon).

    I’ve book-marked it for later!
    Dayboro recently posted…DayboroMy Profile

    Reply
  23. Hi Casey, just wondering if you happen to be in Taiwan at the moment. We have some business inquiry.

    Reply
  24. Hi guys !
    I’m currently planning my two weeks trip to Taiwan, and would like to include some cycling on the eastern coast.
    I can’t seem to be able to get your roadmap from mapmyride, do you happen to have it somewhere ?
    Thanks !

    Reply

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