In the depth of many surf forums we read about the tropical island of Taiwan and were intrigued by what we learned - chinese culture but not china - great food - tropical climate - warm water - hot springs - green lush mountain ranges - low criminal rate and tons of surf spots with no crowd. So after surfing in Java we flew to Taipei, where we stayed with some friends and planned our trip from there.
Getting around - renting a car
After talking to the locals and hearing about their transportation system we decided to rent a car. This gave us much more flexibility to explore the island. We don't have to rely on trains (bullet trains won't let you transport a surfboard) and buses. And at every surf town we stayed we wouldn't have to rent motorcycles to get to the surf spots. Most surfspots are hidden from the main road so it's necessary to have some kind of motorized vehicle. After driving around and surfing for more than three weeks in Taiwan we can 100% say that renting a car was the best decision ever. It just made everything much easier and we saw so much more of the country. Here are some picture.
We rented a Nissan Livina from vipcar.com.tw. Their drop and pick-up service is priceless and they were laid-back when we wanted to extend our rental period. Our surfboards - a 6`2 and a 6`4 as well as our backpacks fit into the car.
With our car we got on our way to surf the waves of Taiwan. From Taoyuan, near Taipei we drove to the east coast and from there we headed south. Here you can see the route that we went. For navigation we used Google Maps but driving on the east coast is fairly easy. Just go straight down. Follow the signs for highway 9 and/or 11.
While driving down the east coast of Taiwan in November we identified three main surf hot spots.
1. North Taiwan - Yilan / Wai'ao
We are not particularly fond of Wai'ao, while we were there it rained and there was such a strong current at the beach break that it made it impossible to surf. So overall not the best experience - but that's part of surfing. Before we surfed there we checked out Fulang as well, but due to the strong wind it was unsurfable. Yilan / Wai'ao is popular with Taipei crowd as it's easy to reach from the city by public transport. There is a train station right in front of the surf spot.
We stayed at the Rising Sun Surf Inn, in front of the surf spot. Here is our review on Tripadvisor. For one night in the private room we payed 2000.
2. Central Taiwan - Dulan
This is our favourite place in Taiwan. Dulan is a chilled little surfing village, there are numerous surfing spots in the area - so its a great place to get a comfortable bed and explore surf spots up and down the coast. We loved it here and will definitely come back.
We stayed at the Wagaligong. Loved this place! Here is our review on Tripadvisor. The prices vary depending on the room - for a 4bed dorm we payed 1600 for two beds and in the private room we payed 2000. It was always shared bathroom.
Their are many restaurant to choose from. Something for every taste. The local restaurant next to Wagaligong was often our stop for lunch. We would also recommend the Wagaligong, the Vietnamese restaurant and the pizza place on the other side of the bridge. The mexican food in the Dulan 89 hostel was alright. We didn't like the japanese restaurant on the parking lot very much. We wanted to try out the french bakery but it was just never open.
While we were there the swell was good but not really big. We found alot of spots just from driving up and down the coast. In most cases you can't see the waves from the main road so you just have to try your luck and take a side road down to the ocean. Most spots we found were just not working - they needed more swell. However we had a great time surfing the spots that were working:
15 minutes drive north from Dulan is the Jinzun Harbor Spot. If you get into the town of Donghe there will be a road to the right that goes to the harbor.
They held an ASP contest, as well as national contest here. And in the course of these contest they built facilities such as showers, parking lots, toilets there.
It's easy to find and well known - so crowd factor is higher. To get into the lineup and back we found it difficult with the rocks. The waves keep crashing onto the rocks. Just watch where the locals go in and time your entry and exit according to the sets. It's a right hander wave and a wind protected spot - so if all the other spots in the area are blown out most surfers come here and it gets crowded.
Apparently there is a left hander wave on the left side of the small bay and another point at the end of the harbour pier that start working with bigger swells but we did not experience this.
Driving north through the town of Donghe you can't miss this spot. Before passing the bridge there is a small side road on the right and at the end is a small parking lot with surfers. If you cross the bridge you can see the waves - if you pass a big surfer statue at the end of the bridge - you’ve gone too far.
There are three points at this rocky beach spot. Before the river mouth, at the river mouth and behind the river mouth. Its a pain in the ass to walk over the rocks from the parking lot to get to the shore. So we would suggest to walk with flipflops (thongs). This is the most consistent spot in the whole area and therefore also very popular. But people are very chill and there is a good vibe in the line-up. The locals told us that the parking lot changed the waves, it used to be just one wave but now it's divided into these three sections.
If you drive north out of Dulan. There is a small road on the right side just after the bridge. On the opposite side is a pizza place. Follow this road and at the end take a left and you're at the beach. This is more of a beginner spot and we surfed here only once and the conditions were not very good. But you can walk here from Dulan or ask the board rental staff (from Wagaligong or others) to drive you there.
The locals know lots of spots and there is much to explore. Overall in Taiwan surfers are very secretive about their surf sites. If you ask them about spots they always have a smirky smile on their face and often direct you to the popular hangouts. We had the privilege that a resident of Dulan told us about this Secret Spot. We surfed here many times. In the lineup the locals often told us to keep this place a secret. And so we will. Sorry if you're reading this. Get a car and drive into every road that may lead to the ocean and you might find this secret spot or another great spot.
3. South Taiwan: Kenting / Jialeshui
The town of Kenting is at the southernmost point of Taiwan and it's a very touristy town. But if you go up north a bit on the east coast you will come the Surf “town” of Jialeshui. Jialeshui is not much of a town - just some accomodations and a few places to eat.
There are surf camps, hostels and hotels next to the Jialeshui Surf spot. All the places we checked were really expensive and nearly all were fully booked on weekends. We went to the "Food Corner" for lunch and asked them if they knew a room. And lucky us they rented out rooms on the other side of the Jialeshui Bay with view of the surf spots. It was much cheaper but had the same or higher standard as the expensive places. We had a private room with bathroom, hot water, AC, wifi and cable TV. On saturdays we payed 1200, on sunday 1000 and during weekdays 800. Great deal. This are the coordinates from the place: 21°58'36.2"N 120°50'37.5"E. Google Maps There is no sign. Just go there or to the "Food Corner" and ask for Doris.
During the day there are two or three places to eat, like the "Food Corner". During the night you can eat at the surf hotels or drive to Kenting (15-20minutes away) or to the city of Hengchun (15-20minutes away). There isn't any place that stood out. Try the local food or the Pizza Food Trucks at the side of the road in Kenting.
We mostly surfed in Jialeshui or went to the protected bays of Kenting when the swell got too big.
Location: 21°59'20.5"N 120°50'46.6"E Google Maps
This is a consistent beachbreak and also well know that's why there can be some crowd. However like everywhere in Taiwan surfers are very friendly and chill. So don't be put off by the crowd. It's not Bali. At the spot is a parking lot, toilets and showers.
There is a left hander on the left side of the bay. The waves are a bit smaller there, it's mostly surfed by beginners and longboarders. In the middle of the bay there is a right hander in front of the river mouth. It picks up more swell and waves are bigger and fiercer than on the left hander. Mostly we surfed there - it's also far less crowded. However the lefthander is more protected and keeps working when the winds pick up. While we were there the swell from the taifun started to roll in and it was amazing.
Location: 21°57'35.1"N 120°45'41.7"E Google Maps
The taifun waves hit the east coast hard. Waves were gigantic. Nobody surfed - everybody was just standing at the shore on Jialeshui and watched the waves crash. We moved to the protected bay around Kenting and found this beach break in Nanan. Im guessing this was the only place around that was working as it was quite crowded. It a very fast right hander beach break. The water was crystal clear but also the cooling water from the nuclear power plant next door flowed back into the ocean at this spot. Not our favourite spot - very fast and close outs were often the case. But it was our last day surfing in Taiwan so we just went for it.