We woke up early to beautiful sunny weather and drove a short way to Taroko National Park’s visitor center. We picked up a map and planned out a couple of hikes we could do on the drive through the gorge.
Our first hike was the Shakadang Trail. The trailhead was only a ten minute drive from the visitor’s center, and when we arrived around eight there were almost no cars.
The sign at the beginning of the trail warned of a four to five hour hike but only eight kilometers of distance along flat, mostly-paved ‘trails’. It ended up taking us a leisurely two hours to complete the full loop. By the time we got back to the car around ten-thirty, the once-empty parking lot was full of tour busses and taxis.
We continued on our way up the gorge to Swallow Grotto. We never ended up finding the trailhead, but we walked along the cliff-side road for an hour or so and stopped for a snack before driving the last twenty minutes to our hotel.
We’d booked a room at the Silk’s Place Taroko; it was a bit of a splurge at US$300 per night, but wasn’t so bad split three ways and definitely ended up being worth it.
The hotel was nestled about halfway up the gorge and was surrounded by mountains on all sides. The hotel’s biggest selling point by far was its rooftop amenities: a pool, several hot tubs, a fire pit - all with a stunning view of the surrounding mountains.
We arrived at the hotel in the early afternoon. Theresa decided to have a massage and Ana and I set out in search of some scenic coastal driving.
We drove back out of the gorge the way we’d come and drove north along the coast. We’d read that there were some beaches and cliff-side views in the direction we were driving, but we had no particular destination in mind.
The roads in this relatively rural part of Taiwan were very well maintained, and driving along the winding, cliff-side roads in our quick, little hatchback was a blast. We stopped at a few overlooks, and made our way down to a completely empty beach just in time for the sunset. The day’s tourist traffic had subsided, so the drive back to the hotel was quick.
When we arrived back at the hotel, we took a quick jump in the pool and changed for dinner. The hotel’s restaurant was actually quite good and reasonably-priced; we split a bottle of wine and five or six family-style dishes for around US$120. After dinner we changed back into our swimsuits and spent the evening hanging out in the pool and hot tub.
The next morning we woke up relatively early, had breakfast at the hotel, and packed the car.
We stopped at a beach on the way back to Hualien and took a few photos. We dropped the car off and hopped on the noon train back to Taipei.