It’s shameful that I just made my first trip to Taitung after living in Taiwan for thirty years. It’s always been one of those places that I’ve meant to see but somehow never managed to get there.
Even this weekend I had my doubts whether I would actually make it there after the main railway line was buried by a landslide between Ruifang and Houtong stations. Fortunately, we were able to get tickets for the high-speed, and surprisingly luxurious, buses that can now whisk you along the new highway from Taipei to Hualien in just three hours and then take the train down to Taitung.
Taitung is more of a stopping-off point for nearby attractions than a destination in itself. As you travel along Highway 11, you can find great beaches, stunning coastal views, and interesting little towns to enjoy. With its colorful arts, restaurant, and bar scene centered around the old Sintung Sugar Factory, Dulan is probably the pick of the bunch. It even has a small but lively surfing culture emerging thanks to the great waves coming in from the Pacific Ocean.
The mountains around Taitung are just as stunning as the beaches and the sea. The air is clean and fresh and the silence is soft and soothing. There are plenty of great hiking trails to choose from at all levels of difficulty in the area.
A wide variety of hotels and guest houses at multiple price points are available in Taitung and the surrounding area. We stayed at the Century Hotel in the old hot springs resort of Zhiben (Jhiben), which is a thirty-minute drive away from Taitung City. Nestled deep in a lush river valley surrounded by towering mountains, Zhiben is in a stunning location. It’s just a pity that judging by the number of shuttered stores and property for sale signs, the resort is in decline.
If you’re in search peace and quiet, I would have no hesitation in recommending that you stay in Zhiben. But if you’re looking to enjoy the beach and the ocean, I would suggest you look at staying in Dulan or nearby coastal towns.