Taitung, Chinese for “East Taiwan”, is in the Southeastern corner of Formosa. Though few people visit the city itself, it often serves as a stopover point for those on their way to Green Island and/or Orchid Island, which is what you will find if you draw a line directly east from Taidong. Both of these islands are part of Taidong County. It is the 11th-largest city in Taiwan.
Being one of the southernmost cities in Taiwan, Taitung is at about the same latitude as Hong Kong or Honolulu. In spite of its being one of the poorest cities in Taiwan, it has a rich aboriginal history outside of Chinese influence that you can’t find in places like Taipei in the North. The area was the last of Taiwan’s major areas to be colonized by Chinese immigrants.
Tourism in Taitung surrounds the area’s natural offerings as well as exploration into its aboriginal heritage. One of its main attractions is the Museum of Prehistory, the go-to place to explore the long history of the indigenous peoples of Taiwan. Taitung is also a great starting point for cyclists, as the East coast’s number of mountains seems to outnumber sparsely-populated humans.
Taitung Attractions / Things to do in Taidong
Visit Green Island (Lyudao)
Green Island is a small island that’s 33km to the east of Taitung City, in the Pacific Ocean. This little Taiwanese paradise offers world-class scuba diving and snorkeling, decent hiking, cycling, swimming, and lots of seafood restaurants.
Dulan is popular for three things: its incredible beach (great for surfing at times), the Saturday night live music at the old Sugar Factory, and its lively A-mei aboriginal population. You can get to Dulan by bus (free) from Taitung Train Station.
Taitung’s National Museum of Prehistory
Archaeologists based out of National Taiwan University underwent the excavation legwork to bring this museum to life, uncovering tens of thousands of artifacts. As a testament to the wealth of the Taiwanese government, the museum was designed by epically-famous American architect Michael Graves. The museum uses archaeological artifacts to pull you through the history of Taiwan all the way from the island’s geological formation to the development of its aboriginal culture.
Taitung’s Beinan Cultural Park
A wide-open park area with lush scenery, this park doubles as an extension of the Museum of Prehistory. It was one of the archaeological sites excavated in the original discovery, with artifacts on display for those curious about the people who lived here thousands of years ago.
Taitung Railway Art Village
Taidong’s government had the ingenious idea of converting its old rail station into an art space for contemporary work being done in the city and elsewhere in Taiwan. The “village” also has some exhibitions displaying artifacts related to the original railway, juxtaposed with modern art.
Cycling in Taitung County
The east coast of Taiwan is sparsely populated, with gorgeous mountains, making it an ideal location for the serious cyclist. Popular routes take you north from Taidong to Hualien, and further to Taroko Gorge if you’re willing to make it. If you have even a remote interest in cycling, we recommend you take this opportunity as it’s a great way to see some of the last accessible and untouched mountain beauty the world has to offer.
Getting Around Taitung / Local Transport
As Taitung is something of a real city, travelers with an International Driver’s License may want to rent a car or a scooter near the train station. This also makes exploring the surrounding mountains more accessible. Bicycle rental is also widely available. If none of these options are for you, you’re unfortunately stuck with hard-to-navigate buses and cheap taxis. Hitchhiking is also a viable option along the East Coast of Taiwan.
Eating in Taitung / Restaurants
Taitung’s food offerings are various thanks to the heavy influence of a number of indigenous specialties. Southeast Asian cuisine also makes its due appearance, thanks to immigration from those countries to the city.
Kasa Cafe and Restaurants
Possibly a misspelling of the Spanish, “Kasa” offers Western favorites that you might be surprised to find so far away from their home, such as Tex-Mex, bagels and pizza.
No. 102 Heping St. Taidong City, Taiwan
A small shop with an attractive name, Seaweed has fresh and well-done versions of local favorites such as noodles, light soup and dumplings. The shop’s namesake also features in many of the dishes.
No. 205 ZhongShan Rd., Taitung City, Taiwan
A bit like those creepy theme restaurants in Western countries, IWAWNA takes the marketability of aboriginal culture to its limits. Indigenous cuisine is mixed with an area for tribal dance that you can watch while eating.
No. 187 Xingan Rd., Section 2, Taitung City, Taiwan
Taitung Nightlife / Drinking in Taidong
The best place to go out to listen to music and get wasted in Taitung is not in the city itself – it’s in the village of Dulan, about 30 minutes south of Taitung (by car) on Highway 11, where most of the action happens on Saturday nights.
Otherwise, if you’re looking for some fun during the week in Taitung City proper, well… good luck! I’ve been around Taiwan for many years and there’s only one place on this island where locals were able to rip me off on booze (like charging me 2-3 times the normal price for beer) in the middle of the night and it was here, in Taitung. And not just one one occasion.
Your best bet for a normal evening (by Asian standard) is at a convenience store that’s located within crawling distance from your hotel. Cheers!
Taitung Sea Art Hostel – Highly Recommended!
This cheap Taitung hostel / BnB is actually located in the mountains behind Dulan, not too far north from Taitung City. The Sea Art Hostel is by far my favorite accommodation in Taiwan. It’s one of the only hostels in Taiwan where you feel like you’ve left the island for another world. It feels absolutely disconnected from civilization even though it’s only minutes away from Dulan Village. The owners are amazingly friendly, and the price is more than reasonable.
Taitung Aboriginal Culture Hotel
Rooms here are quite cheap and the decoration does its best to introduce you to the aboriginal aesthetic. Double rooms start at under NT$950 during off-peak times.
No. 10 ZhongShan Rd.
Formosan Naruwan Hotel
This resort is on the higher end of the financial spectrum, but lavish travelers to Taidong will be more than comfortable here. It offers facilities that cheaper options won’t, such as a swimming pool, arcade, gym, sauna, etc.
No. 66 , Lien Hang Rd.
Visit HotelsCombined.com to get more options for hotels and hostels in Taitung or anywhere else in Taiwan. On that website, you can check availability, room rates, make reservation, and get discounts for accommodation in Taitung.
Getting to Taitung / Transportation
You will most likely be taking a train from other big travel hubs in Taiwan, such as Taipei or Kaohsiung. Be warned that the trip is a bit far from Taipei, clocking in at under six hours (unless you take the HSR – High Speed Rail). Taidong also has a humble airport, and planes are available from Taipei and/or Kaohsiung. Long but inexpensive buses can be taken, and are a good option if you are coming from somewhere more nearby such as Hualien.