Beaches may not be the first thing you think of for a vacation in Taiwan.
The tiny island is well known for its night markets and vibrant hiking in subtropical climates that make for great city-breaks, allowing both locals and travelers alike to escape the city grind. Yet, whilst hiking is an unofficial national sport where locals tackle more than 260 peaks over 3000m-high (9842ft), weekends are often spent by the sea too with residents jumping on a high-speed train for a quick dip in pristinely cool waters.
With more than 1600km (995 miles) of coastline, there are golden and black-sand beaches in Taiwan’s north which are best for swimming, sunbathing and canoeing; whereas to the east, surfers find themselves in paradise without having to fight for gnarly waves. Whether you are looking for family-friendly beaches with a resort feel, surf spots or snorkeling activities, Taiwan’s beaches are well worth traveling for. Here are the best.
1. Fulong Beach, New Taipei City
Best beach for families
If it is your first time in Taiwan, you will surely be based in the capital city of Taipei. If you feel you have spent enough time roaming the night markets and concrete city walls of the city, jump on the train for 1.5 hours and find yourself at Fulong Beach. A popular destination on weekends, Fulong is best on weekdays so that you have more than 3km (1.9 miles) of golden sand seemingly to yourself for a quiet swim or sunbathe. The calm waters also make the location an ideal place for windsurfing, canoeing and kayaking where the Shuangxi river flows out to the ocean. During the months of May to July, the Fulong Sand Sculpture festival is a fun, family event drawing in thousands of people. Beware of the sweltering heat though – summer is hot in Taiwan!
2. Wai’ao Beach, Yilan
Best volcanic beach
Sitting on the northeastern side of the island, Wai’ao Beach is an ideal place for vacationers to visit and experience some of the excellent things that Taiwn is known for. Just 45-minutes by train from Taipei Main Train Station, Wai’ao beach is located in Yilan county, which has waterfalls, mountain biking trails and the Jiaoxi hot springs all within a short distance of each other for a fun-filled weekend away from the city. The beach itself is unique because the sand is made from black volcanic ash – so soft that it makes for the perfect landing spot for paragliders and kite-surfers who miss their mark. This is also a great beach for beginner surfers with many classes available. If you’re hoping to spot dolphins, take a visit to nearby Turtle Island.
3. Kaohsiung beach and Cijin Island
Best beach for foodies
Everyone in Taiwan is a closet foodie and it is no secret that Kaohsiung in the south is one of the best destinations for seafood – particularly giant crab which is served over noodles. A very touristy vibe can be found in the old town, which I tend to avoid unless I need to cool off during the summer with a giant bowl of shaved ice served up with sweetened red bean paste. Otherwise, it’s best to spend your time by the beach with a giant umbrella, sunbathing and just chilling out to your favorite tunes. There are a lot of great places to eat surrounding the beach and you can choose from local-frequented seafood restaurants, fusion restaurants and my favorite, family-run places serving simple and nostalgic home cooking. Slightly farther afield off the coast of Kaohsiung is the tiny island of Cijin, a cool place to visit for its sandy black beaches.
4. Gangkou Beach, Kenting
Best for evening surf and pretty sunsets
The populated commercial districts of Kenting Night Market and Baisha Bay are frequented by travelers looking for lively nightlife, but if you prefer to find your own space by the water or have a quiet evening of surf, head out to Gangkou Beach to admire the sunset. Taiwan’s surfing community favors Jialeshui on Hengchun Peninsula for its scenic waters on the country’s southernmost point. Surrounded by forested mountains, the beach is like Fulong Beach with a river intersecting, but the coolest thing is that one of the breaks flows back and makes for a weird experience trying to get back on your board. When the swell picks up, you get barrels too, but on smaller days, the breaks are great for longboarders with glides back towards the beach. Under Star Lab is a nice place to warm up after your surf.
5. Nanwan Beach, Kenting
Best beach for water sports and activities
Nanwan Beach in Kenting is one of Taiwan’s favorite beaches purely because it is regarded as the “prettiest” surfing beach in the country. There are a lot of crowds who love to take pictures of the turquoise blue waters so expect to fight for your own space if you happen to go on a weekend. The beach is ideal for families and day-trippers who venture out to the east end of the beach to hire banana boats and jet skis, but if you are serious about surfing, the west end is where you should go where the swell is tamed, yet, probably too easy for many pros.
While you’re here, you really must try local seafood. Piccolo Polpo is a nice place for fresh seafood with an Italian twist or if you want something more Taiwanese, it has to be Ashing Restaurant for a winning dinner with locals.
6. Laomei Beach, New Taipei City
Best unusual beach
If you happen to be in Taiwan between April and May, head straight to Laomei beach for one of the most unusual beach experiences you can find on the tiny island. A beach combined with a reef, Laomei was created millions of years ago when the Datun Mountain erupted and formed volcanic rocks on the beach. Only visible during low tide at that time of year, the algae attached to the rocks creates large green ripples rising up over the sand, contrasting with the cerulean waters. It’s worth a photo even if you don’t have an Instagram account to make your friends jealous. Around 8km (5 miles) away is Yangmingshan National Park is one of the most revered hiking, walking and cycling areas for Taiwanese residents and a great place for peak to peak hikes.
7. Jinzun Beach, Donghe
Best beach for serious surfers
Located in Donghe, Jinzun Beach is Taiwan’s unofficial surf capital (pro surfers prefer Jin Le Shui) with the beach hosting Taiwan’s National Surf Competition every November. This is not a place for beginners though because the break from the shore tends to be pretty short and you need to be confident in manoeuvring your board. Professional surfers love the daring waves during the winter, which are pretty cool, even compared to big surf beaches around the world like those found in Hawaii and Australia. Beyond surfing the small fishing village literally translates as “golden goblet” and the 3km (1.9-mile) stretch of beach is excellent for seaside cliff walks, fishing and just admiring the gorgeous beach.
8. Zhongao Beach on Xiao Liu Qiu, Lambai Island
Best beach for diving and snorkeling
The clear waters surrounding many of Taiwan’s little inlets and islands make for great snorkeling and diving adventures. One of the best is the volcanic island Xiao Liu Qiu located 15km (9 miles) off Taiwan’s southwest coast. Take a ferry ride from the mainland, and on a dive or snorkel excursion, sightings of green turtles and unique species of fish are almost guaranteed. Zhongao Beach is the biggest on Xiao Liu Qui island and is popular for other activities such as kayaking and paddle boarding. If you stay for more than one day be sure to also visit Vase Rock, an unusual rock formation shaped like a mushroom.