Dulan is a small, peaceful, coastal town located 20km north of Taitung city, along Taiwan’s east coast. It is without a doubt one of my favorite travel destinations in Taiwan.
This tiny community of Ami (Taiwan’s largest aboriginal tribe) is nestled between mountains and sea along Highway 11. Dulan boasts awesome coastal scenery, one of the quietest stretches of beach in Taiwan, a thriving local art scene, live music on Saturday nights, aboriginal festivals, and lots of cool little cafes.
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Things to Do in Dulan
Old Sugar Factory
The old sugar factory has been converted into handicraft shops, a cafe, and what looks like a gallery. In all honesty, last time I visited (November 2020) it seemed like it was in need of some serious love. No one was around, the place was a bit of a mess, and the rooms were kinda disorganized. It just felt like an underfunded B-class museum.
That being said, you simply can’t go to Dulan without stopping by. The art movement / artist migration that started here in the early 2000 was deeply connected with the old sugar factory and the nearby cafes / bars around the parking lot. This place was the setting of something very unique at the time, a sort of peace and love era where free spirit laowai were seen roaming around bare feet alongside the Ami locals, celebrating the pre-iPhone East Coast lifestyle in all its beauty and purity.
Today, the old sugar factory is still here. And so are the artists. And so are the free spirited weirdos who never left. Many decided to make Dulan their home, because it once was such an amazing raw place, before the masses came from all over Taiwan. It’s still beautiful, definitely still worth going, but as all places, it has changed, developed, and morphed into a destination that is more geared toward the casual tourist than the hardcore backpacker.
Dulan beach is the perfect place to shake off the likely headache you’ll wake up with on Sunday morning if you spent the previous night at one of the cafes / bars near the Old Sugar Factory. The brown sand is fine and clean, and the waves – when there are any – are perfect for beginner surfers.
The most people I’ve ever seen at the beach in Dulan was around 1 to 5, me and my friends included. Taiwan is one of the only places in the world where you can enjoy such a formidable stretch of coastline in peace, without the hordes that typically crowd beautiful beaches.
Water Running Up (Tourist Trap!)
Water Running Up is a geological oddity which attracts hundreds of Taiwanese tourists every weekend. This popular attraction is nothing more than a hill with a walking path that goes alongside a tiny canal in which the water seems to be flowing upwards. I’m including
I went to have a peek and it was a big waste of time. I have a picture of it, but I won’t even bother to post it here. It simply isn’t worth your time. Tourist trap.
Restaurants and Cafes in Dulan
The amount of good places to eat and drink in Dulan is truly impressive. Over the past 15 years, expats, misfits, artists, adventurers, and retires have moved here to start their own creative business. The result is one of the most vibrant foodie community on Formosa. You could spend quite a lot of time here without being able to scratch beneath the surface.
Zheng Ji Donburi Restaurant 鄭記食為天
My #1 pick is this little eatery that sells Donburi rice bowls set meals on the main road. I always take the chicken and egg donburi 130NT$ with two or three appetizers from the self-serve fridge at the front. This place is never empty, which is a good sign for quality and freshness.
From outside, it looks like just any other random Taiwanese restaurant. The xian su ji 鹹酥雞 cart at the front is actually misleading, as it gives the place a night market stall look. Walk inside, and you’ll be surprised to find a clean and inviting dining area. There’s a fridge at the back where you can get beer by yourself. My favorite table is the one outside at the front, where you can eat, drink, and watch locals and tourists walk and ride by.
Dulan Little House 都蘭小房子
If you make a trip to the Old Sugar Factory, you will undoubtedly come across Little House, as it’s right there in the parking lot. This place has been forever popular for its burgers, quesadillas, and burritos. It’s also a fine spot to grab a craft beer, and just stand there, sipping your bottle by the parking lot, acting like you actually belong here for a moment, wishing you were.
I can personally recommend the House Special Beef Burger (180NT$), and the Jalapeno Cheese Quesadilla (120NT$). As you know me, I never leave a place without trying the coffee, and I can safely vouch for the quality of their hot Americano (70NT$).
It’s so easy to find cafes that all look the same these days. It seems like (as of 2020) all restaurants and coffee shops are geared toward Youtubers, Instragram queens (aka 網美) and soulless “influencers”. Maybe Coffee Box is like that. Maybe not. For you to judge. What Ugo says is that the concept is cool and original. These guys brought a red TRAIN CAR (yeah!) in the middle of a field outside Dulan and converted it into a cafe! Chapeau! Worth Youtubing about.
As I drove by on my way back from the beach, I had to stop for an espresso. Because from my van, the sight of this red railroad beast sitting there in the middle of a field between mountain and sea, begged for investigation.
The inside is smartly designed with recycled wood pallets that’s been painted in a turquoise-blue-brown color scheme. At both ends of the Barista station are tables where you can sit and enjoy your latte with a quiche, cake, or brownie. Pastries are all homemade by the lady behind the counter, who’s most likely the owner as her face is painted on the menu!
Cape Cafe 都蘭海角咖啡
Gorgeous location, mountains on one side, ocean on the other, Cape Cafe is most likely THE most popular restaurant / cafe in Dulan these days. It’s owned and operated by a Spanish guy, and that’s why Spanish tapas and paella are on the menu. I visited Cape Cafe to fly my drone, as there is a very large and vast lawn at the front, from where you get a great sea view.
I was there on a random Wednesday afternoon, and the place was packed with people taking pictures on the lawn. Coffee was good, but the guy behind the counter could not have been more indifferent. No smile, not a word, not even eye contact. Just cold attitude, which is OK as I did not go there to make new friends. I’m just mentioning this because I saw a couple of comments online which mention the same thing I experienced – not the best service.
Obviously Dulan Cape Cafe is popular for the view it offers! And what a view it is. Walk to the edge and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
Accommodation in Dulan
Travel Bug Bistro Inn (Hostel)
I once stayed at Travel Bug Bistro Inn as I was traveling between Hualien and Kenting. My memory is not great, so I don’t remember all the details… What I do remember is that the girl who was working there was very friendly, my room was comfortable, cheap, and quiet. I had the double room and I believe I paid 900NT$.
The best part is obviously the common area on the first floor. There’s a couple of tables and sofas where you can chill and chat with other travelers. I cracked a bottle of wine open and just sat with my book all night there, surrounded by a couple from the UK, two Taiwanese cyclists, and the lady who was in charge of the place. Great vibe, very chill, no frills, but all you need to fee like you’re on vacation! Definitely recommended if you’re a backpacker or low-budget traveler.
Double Room: 950NT$
Dorm Bed: 360NT$
Wa Ga Li Gong (aka Dulan 89)
Wa Ga Li Gong is located in the middle of town and is likely the cheapest hostel in Dulan. It’s one of the most popular places to sleep if you’re a surfer, want long-term stay, or are looking to meet fellow backpackers. It is rustic and basic, and that’s why it’s cheap. You don’t go there for the service, as there is almost none. You go to Wa Ga Li Gong Hostel in Dulan for the atmosphere, not the comfort.
That being said, it is perfect for the kind of free spirit travelers who just want a place to chill and meet fellow vagabonds and exchange road stories. If you’re the kind of person who will give a 1-star review because there’s an insect on your bed, don’t go. Wa Ga Li Gong also offers SUP / surfing lessons.
Bunk bed: 380NT$
Double Room: 880NT$
Quadruple Room: 1100NT$
Taitung to Dulan
By Bus: There’s a Tourist Shuttle Bus that runs along the east coast between Taitung Train Station and the Dulan Sugar Factory. When you exit the train station, turn right and you’ll find a row of bus stops. Look for a big red sign that says “Tour Taiwan” or “Taiwan Tourist Shuttle Service”. Buses leave every 40 minutes. If my memory is good, the bus for Dulan is at platform #3.
Car / Scooter / Hitchhiking: From Taitung City, head north on Highway 11. If you don’t have your own wheels and you don’t feel like taking the bus, you can always hitchhike. Hitchhiking on Highway 11 is a breeze and it’s a great way to meet people.
Taipei to Dulan
By Car: From Taipei, take Highway 5 all the way to Ilan, then switch to Highway 9 to Hualien. From Hualien, take Highway 11 all the way down to Dulan. DO NOT drive too fast, stick to the speed limits as there are lots of speed cameras along the way.
By Train: A fast and comfortable way to get to Taitung or Dulan by train from Taipei is to take the HSR (High Speed Rail) all the way down to Kaohsiung (the station is actually called Xin Zuoying), then take the normal train (TRA) from Kaohsiung to Taitung. You can travel between Taipei and Taidong in as little as 4 hours if you catch the right train between Kaohsiung and Taidong. You want to get on a Tze Chiang train – the fastest of the normal trains. Expect to pay around 1700NT$ one way.
Note that the railroad doesn’t go through Dulan. You have to first make it to Taitung, then take the free shuttle bus.
Another (cheaper) option is to take the normal train from Taipei to Taitung, along the east coast. You want to make sure you take the fastest one – train no.1079 – which leaves from Taipei Main Station at 9:55 and arrives in Taitung at 14:42 (total travel time is 4h 47m).
From Other Taiwanese Cities
If you want to travel to Taidong or Dulan from Taichung, Tainan, Hsinchu, Taoyuan, Chiayi, or any other cities along the west coast of Taiwan, I recommend you first go to Kaohsiung, from where you’ll be able to take the train to Taitung.
From Hualien, you can either take the bus or the normal train. The Hualien Bus Company has a bus stop right outside Hualien train station. The advantage of taking the bus is that you don’t have to make it all the way down to Taitung, you can ask the driver to let you off in Dulan.
Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any question about Dulan, or about anything else concerning your Taiwan vacation. Have a safe journey!