Donghe 東河, in Taitung County, is one of my top 3 beach destinations in Taiwan. I almost want to claim that it’s my favorite place on the whole island, but I won’t say that, because it may give you expectations that could be too high.
Why is Donghe so hot these days?
Donghe is quickly becoming the next coolest spot in Taiwan for nature-lovers, artists, hippies, vagabonds, people who hate the city, and of course, surfers! I can say that it has officially replaced Dulan as the nicest off-the-beaten-track destination on Taiwan’s laidback Southeast Coast.
Most Taiwanese know Donghe for its super-famous “baozi” 包子 a type of bun or bread-like dumpling that can be filled with vegetables or meat. But this page is not about the Donghe’s famous baozi… I’m here to tell you about the beaches, surf, cafes, restaurants, nightlife, and other cool stuff to do around here.
Is Donghe Remote?
It’s worth mentioning that the main reason why Donghe still has a laid-back vibe and is not madly over-crowded with hordes of tourists is due to its location. For most Taiwanese from Taipei, Taichung, and even Kaohsiung, it’s faster and more convenient to go to Kenting than drive all the way to this somewhat “remote” part of Taitung County.
Where exactly is Donghe?
Donghe (which by the way means East River) is situated on the east coast of Taiwan, just north of Taitung City. From Hualien, it takes about 2 hours to get here by car or scooter, and from Taitung City, more or less 20 minutes. Dulan is about 7 minutes away to the south. By car, Donghe is 7 hours away from Taipei. It’s pretty much the farthest place you can travel to on the island from the capital.
Things to Do in Donghe
These days, it’s simple – Donghe brings mainly one word to mind for most people: SURFING!
But 10 years ago, the answer to this question would have been different. At that time, most people who ended up in Donghe were either here because all the B&Bs were fully booked in Dulan, or to buy a bag baozi 包子. Yes the Taiwanese have no problem to travel hundreds of kilometers, or dedicate an entire road trip to reach a place for a “famous local food”. And in Donghe, the famous snack is without a doubt the baozi!
Following Dulan’s extreme popularity since 2010, cafes, restaurants, and homestays have sprung up all over the Donghe area this past few years. Some see it as a bad thing, they want to keep the area quiet with as few tourists as as possible. Some people have even tried to discouraged me from publishing anything about their place. “Please Ugo, don’t talk about it, we don’t want Donghe to become the next Kenting!”
That’s just not gonna happen.
Surfing in Donghe
Over the past 5 years, Donghe has become extremely popular for it’s world-class surfing. Waves at Jinzun Beach, Duli, river mouth, and the mega “Taiwan’s Uluwatu” are attracting surfers from all over the world these days. In 2018, the Taiwan Open of Surfing even held the World Longboard Championship at Jingzun Beach just outside Donghe.
Most surfers agree: Donghe (and Chenggong) have the best surfing waves in Taiwan. Beach break, reef break, point break, massive barrels, the area has got something for every level, from very beginner to pro.
For surfing lessons or just a day-trip out on the waves with a local, I can only recommend one place: Yolo Surf House! It’s located on Donghe’s quiet street (aka. Old Street).
Yolo Surf House is also a B&B / Hostel where you can spend the night in a very clean and comfortable dorm for as little as 600NT$ per night. Surf lessons are given by Leslie, a very kind and funny Taiwanese guy who knows the area very well.
If you are a beginner, he will most like take you to Douli (Duli) Beach, about 10 minutes north or Donghe. The waves there are very suitable for learners who might be intimidated at Jinzun. A 2-hour surf lesson with Leslie costs 1500NT$. That price includes a surfboard and transportation to the beach.
It’s possible to surf in Donghe year-round. From October to March, the North East winds (dong bei ji feng 東北季風) bring consistent swells to the entire south-east coast of Taiwan, from Hualien all the way to Taitung and beyond.
The summer months bring typhoons, where conditions can become challenging for even the most seasoned surfers. Before, during and after those storms, waves can be head-high and sometimes even double-overhead.
Taiwan Open of Surfing
Each year, the Taiwan Open of Surfing National Championship is held at Jinzun Beach. In 2020, the event celebrated its 10th-year anniversary. It was held between November 18 and 22. If you are planning to visit the area during this event, you should book your accommodation well in advance.
Restaurants & Cafes in Donghe
You would expect a small place like Donghe to have very little options for eating. Nope! The area has quite a few good restaurants and very interesting little cafes. Here are my favorite places to eat and drink:
Secret Cafe by the Old Bridge
This place is not on Google map. It’s not in any guidebook. The owner actually doesn’t even seem to want you to know that she’s there. But the setting is super cool. It feels like a tree house, but it’s at ground level. I found this place by pure luck, as I was looking for a path to go down to the river.
I asked if they were opened, she said no. Then the conversation went a bit like this:
(me) – Is this a cafe?
(her) – Yeah, kind of…
– What time will you open?
– Not sure.
– Will you open today?
– Yeah… Probably…
– What time?
– Around 1. Maybe.
– Ok, I’ll be back at 1 then.
– So… you want coffee…?
– Yes, I’d love to have an Americano. Hot.
She FINALLY made me coffee, it was around 11am. I sat for few minutes trying to understand why she seemed to hide that this was a cafe. Then I learned that some businesses in Donghe which may not be 100% legal had been given massive fines the previous month.
Some B&Bs had to pay fines up to 150,000NT$ for lack of proper permit. Maybe she thought I was an inspector or a spy… I had a cup of dark roast, syphon, and it was good. While waiting for your coffee to be made, you should check out the old bridge, which is 20 meters away.
Low Pressure Surfer’s Kitchen
Low Pressure is such a nice place to sit down and chill for an hour or two. Or an entire afternoon, or evening. Both the outside and inside sitting areas are well decorated with aboriginal furniture and art.
The food is slightly more expensive than other restaurants in the area, but you definitely can feel that the quality is there for ingredients, cooking skills, and service – which is very professional. I really like their salad, I wish I could show you a picture, but I ate it as soon as it was put in front of me.
The staff is very nice and you can tell they really care about their customers. It’s very obvious that Low Pressure Surfer’s Kitchen is here to stay and its reputation will only keep on getting better and attract visitors from all parts of Taiwan. Their reviews on Google, Trip Advisor, and Facebook are near perfect, and I guess that’s why you pay a little more here.
On the menu, you’ll see burgers, sandwiches, curry with rice, aboriginal set meals, french fries, soup, breakfast items such as bacon and eggs, beer, wine, REAL coffee… The menu is quite big.
Phone: 08 989 6738
Mayhow Cafe is also located on the Old Street and it offers a comfortable and simple space to sit down and enjoy seriously good coffee, and super-tasty sandwiches. My favorite one is the tuna sandwich! Staff and owner are friendly and will make you feel at home right away!
Donghe Hao Hao Noodle Shop 東河好好麵店
Popular dumpling and noodles shop, on the main road. One of the best options in town to fill you belly without breaking the bank. Some favorites are sesame paste noodles, wonton noodles, and yongchun noodles.
Donghe Bun Shop
One of the two shops in town that sell baozi. You can’t really miss it as it’s on the main road and there’s always a bit of chaos in front of the building as people try to find a parking spot and traffic slows down to a trickle. The baozi are indeed very yummy.
Nightlife in Donghe
There is not much in terms of nightlife in Donghe. Some B&Bs and hostels sell beer and might organize small private parties or live music event on big weekends, but usually, the town is quiet at night. The only place with a proper bar and a good selection of beers is Taitung Surf Shop and Hostel.
Taitung Surf Shop and Hostel
This is one of the original and most popular surf hostels in Donghe. The place is owned by a friendly lady who will happily make you cocktails, serve you beers, and chat with you. She’s an interesting woman and has lots of interesting stories. The place gets packed with local surfers and backpackers on weekends. If you want some action and meet people during your stay in Donghe, this is the place to go. I always go there at night for beer when I’m in the area.
Accommodation / Hostel / Guesthouse
The area is now packed with B&Bs, guesthouses of all types, and cute hostels that cater to the ever-growing number of international and local tourists. Here are my favorite two places:
Camping in Donghe / Jinzun
Safolo Campground in front of Jinzun Harbor is popular with surfers who travel on a budget. The piece of land is quite big and overlooks the mountains. You can set up your tent on a beautiful lawn so it’s quite comfortable. Showers / toilet / BBQ facilities available. Safolo also serves aboriginal food.
Yolo Surf House & Hostel
Yolo Surf House and Hostel is a nice little place that backpackers will love for the following reasons: it’s cheap (600NT$ per night for a bunk bed), it’s run by two lovely, friendly people, it’s on the quiet side of Donghe, and they sell beer!
As I already mentioned earlier, Yolo Surf House also offers surf lessons and day-trips at the various beaches in the area, all the way to Dulan and Chenggong.
Address: No.242, Nandonghe, Donghe Township, Taitung County
Phone Number: 0981 369 550
What’s app : +886 981 369 550 or +886 913 690 110
I was told, by highly trustworthy sources, that Jacaranda House must be mentioned on this website, because it’s such a cool place!
Actually, the name Jacaranda has been coming back again and again in conversations with locals and expats who visit Donghe regularly. So in November 2020, I decided to go check it out and spend a night there. All I can say is what a place!
My room was big, clean, and already set at the right temperature when I walked in. The king-size bed was on the hard side, but comfortable. The sofa was oriented so I could see the waves crashing as I sipped on a cold beer.
The location is perfect and the view quite unbeatable – right in front of the ocean! 7-11 is 5 minutes away on foot. The owner is humble and friendly, and his staff is well-trained. Everyone there could speak English when I visited, so that’s a plus if you can’t speak Chinese.
The breakfast was the biggest surprise – but it shouldn’t have been, as many people rave about it on booking sites. It was delicious and made with love. The coffee was obviously made from good beans, and it was so enjoyable that I had three cups to kick off the day.
The bathroom had a small bathtub surrounded by windows overlooking the ocean, a fancy shower, and a modern sink on top of a wooden cabinet. It all felt so luxurious, and it was!
Jacaranda House is now without a doubt one of my top 3 places to stay in Taiwan, and I cannot wait to go back. I highly suggest you to stay there if you’ve got that kind of cash. My room was 3400NT$ for a night.
Address: 959, Taitung County, Donghe Township, 東河村北東河1號
Getting to Donghe
Getting to Donghe is quite straightforward. You can take the train all the way to Taitung City, then hop on a tourist bus. At Taitung Train station, the signs are clearly labeled in English and it’s a breeze to find the platform to take the bus to Donghe.
Getting to Jinzun Beach
The bus stop Jinzun will not drop you anywhere near the beach. That stop is next to a parking / rest area up high on the main road. This is a tourist spot that overlooks the Jinzun Bay. To get to Jinzun beach, you’ll want to get off the bus in Donghe village, by the 7-11. The road that will take you down to the beach is called Jinzun Industry Road and is clearly shown on Google Map.
Taipei to Donghe
From Taipei Main Station, take a train to Taitung City. You want to take a fast train. The fastest trains are called Puyuma and Taroko. The Taroko train can get you from Taipei to Taitung in as fast as 3 hours and 30 minutes and costs 783NT$. The Puyuma train is only a little bit slower and the cost is the same. The Tze-Chiang Limited Express train takes about 4 hours, 45 minutes and also costs 783NT$.
Check out the following train timetable and fare to travel from Taipei to Taitung City:
Kaohsiung to Donghe
From Kaohsiung, take a train to Taitung City then take a tourist bus to Donghe.
You can get on a train at both Kaohsiung Main Station, or Xinzuoying Station. The cost for Tze-chiang Limited Express train from Kaohsiung to Taitung City is 362NT$ and travel time is 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Taitung City to Donghe
From Taitung Train Station, I would recommend you check the next bus to Donghe through Google Maps. There are many buses and it would be too long to list them all here. You basically want to board a bus that goes all the way to Chenggong or Hualien.
Alternatively, you could get on the free shuttle bus to Dulan, then hitchhike to Donghe, which is only 10 minutes away by car.
Hsinchu and Taoyuan to Donghe
From Hsinchu, Zhubei, Taoyuan, Miaoli, take a HSR or normal train to Taipei, then take train to Taitung, then bus to Donghe.
Taichung, Tainan, Chiayi to Donghe
From Taichung, Changhua, Tainan, Chiayi, take a HSR or normal train to Kaohsiung or Taitung, then take a bus to Donghe.
More cool stuff along Taiwan’s East Coast…