Monday, April 16, 2018

Green Island

rocks ocean green island taiwan


              Green Island might not be a lot of people’s to-do list when visiting Taiwan, but it is certainly deserving of a top spot as one of Taiwan’s most beautiful places.  It’s great for a short get away from Taiwan’s hustle and bustle and offers some great attractions and sights that you will find no where else in the country.  Some strong words seeing that the first day there was possibly the worst experience I’ve had since being in Taiwan (more about that here).



penal colony green island taiwan
Part of the penal colony on Green Island


              Green Island is a small island off the southeast coast of Taiwan infamous in Taiwanese history as serving as a penal colony for political prisoners during a time known as the Kuomintang, and especially in the White Terror.  Though that time is long past, the island still holds a prison on its shores who’s walls once housed Taiwan's most dangerous criminals and gangsters.  


green island taiwan map


              Today, Green Island is a small peaceful place that, in the height of tourist season, brings in thousands of tourists.  When I say small, I mean that it is really small.  The road that circles around the shores of this island is only 19 km long.  The entire island can be circumnavigated by scooter in about an hour (with no stops, but what is the point in that!) and you can hike across its center in about 1.5 hours.  With it being so small you can easily see all of the sites in just a day, but I suggest spending two nights on the island so you will have an entire day free to explore (plus you don’t want to experience the ferry twice in a day). 


How to Get There



walkway niutou mountain green island taiwan
Walkway up Niutou Mountain


The best time to go to Green Island is during the height of tourist season, April – October.  We went during the first week in March and it was like a ghost town.  Being dead had its pros, like our views being mostly people free and getting good deals on scooters and hotels, but the con was that many of the restaurants were closed so it was hard to find food.  There are two options of travel to Green Island; by plane or bus/ferry.


By Air


              To fly to Green Island, you will first need to make your way down to Taitung Airport, which can be done by plane or train.  There is only one airline, Daily Air, that makes the hop to Green Island, so you will need to book your flight well in advance if you hope to use this option.  The flight only lasts 15 minutes and saves you from the worst ferry ride known to man, but that all comes at a cost.  You can use this Skyscanner widget to find the cheapest flights!



By Ferry



ferry green island taiwan
The ferry ('Vomit Comet’)


              The second option of transportation to Green Island, and most frequented, is the ferry.  The ferry ride is always an adventure (it didn’t get the nickname ‘The Vomit Comet’ for nothing), but getting there can be too if your time is off.  


xiaoyeliu campground taitung taiwan
Xiaoyeliu campground in Taitung


              You can take the train to Taitung, and then from the station catch a taxi or bus to the Fugang Harbour.  This trip takes about an hour.  Once at the harbor you can buy your ticket for the ferry.  You will want to make sure that you don’t get there to late, especially during the off season, because there are not many options for hotels near the harbor.  There is a campground just above the harbor though, so if you travel with a tent like we do you can stay there for cheap.  

              The ferry has a fierce reputation for being a really rough ride, even more so during bad weather, but it is by far the cheapest option.  The ferry costs 420 TWD/14.32 USD one way and is about a 50-minute roller coaster ride. 


Where to Stay



view ocean from little great wall green island taiwan
View of the ocean from the Little Great Wall


              There are many options for accommodation by the harbor and around the island; including camping.  Our first night we stayed at Green Island XD B&B, which I wholly do not recommend.  On our second night we moved to a different hotel in town, who we also rented our scooter from, and it was very nice.  It also had the added benefit of being in the middle of town.  There is a campground in the southeast of Green Island with wooden platforms, but it was closed for construction when we were there.  I have also heard of people just setting up camp on open patches of earth around the coast. 


How to Get Around



scooter little great wall green island taiwan
My scooter at the Little Great Wall


              There is only really one wat to get around Green Island and that’s by scooter.  I have also heard of people walking or biking the whole thing, but the scooter is much more convenient.  As scooters go, you can rent either an electric or gas scooter.  The electric scooter comes with a second battery that you can change out whenever needed meaning that you won’t have to buy gas, but I have seen them quoted as much as 600 TWD/20.46 USD per day.  A gas scooter should run you about 350 TWD/11.94 USD per day with gas costing you around 100 TWD/3.41 USD.  We were able to barter ours for 300 TWD/10.23 USD, gas included.  That being said, there is only one gas station on the island and it is in town.  So, if you need gas, make sure you buy it before you leave.  


scooter moto green island taiwan
My scooter on Green Island


              Before going I read a lot about them being strict about driver’s license, but that wasn’t my experience.  The lady never asked to see my license, for a deposit, or if I even knew how to drive a moto (which, incidentally, was about to be my first time ever driving one). 


Where to Eat



noodles dumplings food green island taiwan
Noodles and dumplings on Green Island


              The large majority of restaurants on Green Island are in town.  Being a tourist location, many of the restaurants are more expensive then what we were used to, but we were able to find a few local spots to fill our stomachs.  As I mentioned earlier, we went to Green Island during the off season so many of the places were either shut down or closed early.  This made it exceedingly hard to find food in the evenings.  There is a 7/11 in town though, so at the very least you can always get food there.  Unlike other 7/11’s, this one doesn’t take credit cards, so you will either need cash or your Easycard. 


 Money



me little great wall sleeping beauty rock green island taiwan
Me at the Little Great Wall view point


              I never thought I would have to write this about a place in Taiwan, but this was a huge problem for us on Green Island.  You will want to take as much money with you as you think you will need, because there is only one way to withdraw money and it’s expensive.  There is only one ATM on the island, but it doesn’t take foreign cards (so no luck there).  The Post Office does exchange cash but is very picky about the bills it will take (even turning away bills of the same denomination that they accepted).  7/11, unlike all the others, also doesn’t accept credit cards.  The only place I was able to withdraw money is from one of the larger hotels who charged a 20% fee!


What to Do



deer niutou mountain green island taiwan
Sika deer on Niutou Mountain


              There are so many things great to see on Green Island; from historical sites to amazing scenery, and even one of the worlds few saltwater hot springs.  I recommend taking your scooter around the island in a clockwise motion so that you see everything and end at the hot spring.


Lyudao Lighthouse



lyudao lighthouse green island taiwan
Lyudao Lighthouse


              The lighthouse, located in the northwestern corner of the island, was our first stop on our tour of Green Island.  The island was built in 1938 with funding from the United States government after the sinking of the cruise ship SS President Hoover just off the coast.  The lighthouse is still in use today so you can’t climb to the top, but you can still walk around its grounds and see the amazing views from the area.  The lighthouse and all other buildings and walls are all whitewashed; creating a stark difference between them and the surrounding nature. 


Green Island Human Rights Memorial Park



green island lodge prison human rights memorial park green island taiwan
The 'Green Island Lodge' prison

human rights memorial park green island taiwan
Human Rights Memorial Park


              Green Island Human Rights Memorial Park represents a dark chapter in Taiwanese history.  An Isolated island of the southeast coast of Taiwan, Green Island was once used as a prison for those who did not share the same ideology as the reigning regime.  The old prison, known as Green Island Lodge, still exists and can be toured for free.  Instead of prisoners there are now just information boards.  Don’t get this confused with the actual prison that is still in operation as we did.  They won’t let you in, nor would you want to enter.  There is also a park further down the road to commemorate the history. 


Niutou Mountain



view niutou mountain green island taiwan
View from Niutou Mountain


Niutou Mountain is easy to miss if you aren’t looking for it.  Located just as you top the hill above the New Life Correction center, it is not a place you will want to miss.  Walking up the hill towards the top is a peaceful experience and you may even see a few Sika deer along the way.  


wwii bunker view niutou mountain green island taiwan
View from within the WWII bunker on Niutou Mountain


As you make your way to the top you will pass an old trench and see a bunker from the WWII era looking down on you.  Both of these can be entered; giving you a firsthand glimpse at the view those that occupied them during times of war would have seen.  (On a side note: it’s actually fairly cool inside so it’s a great place to get out of the heat.)  


view loumen rock niutou mountain green island taiwan
View of Loumen Rock from Niutou Mountain

goats mountain climbing green island taiwan
Goats climbing some rocks on Niutou Mountain


Passing the bunker and continuing to the top will take you to the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  This is an amazing view!  From this point you can look out on the waves breaking against Loumen Rock or watch goats climb across the cliffs. 


Little Great Wall



little great wall green island taiwan
The Little Great Wall


              Out of all the sites Green Island has to offer, the Little Great Wall was what I was looking forward to seeing the most.  When we arrived, I was a little disappointed.  I was expecting a wall, if only a small one, but this wasn’t the case; it’s just a railed pathway leading out to a point.  To give it a little credit though, it does look a little like a small Great Wall when you look down upon in from the top of the point.  All of the being said, I still highly recommend going out to the point for the view it gives you of the Pekinese Dog and Sleeping Beauty Rocks, as well as the surrounding area.  The view from this point might be the most beautiful in all of Green Island.


Pekinese Dog and Sleeping Beauty Rocks



pekinese dog sleeping beauty rocks green island taiwan
Pekinese Dog Rock (left) and Sleeping Beauty Rock (right)


              Pekinese Dog and Sleeping Beauty Rocks are simply just that; rock formations that look like a Pekinese dog and Sleeping Beauty.  They are beautiful to see, along with the dark blue waters of the Pacific Ocean as they crash against them.  I mentioned above that the best view of these two rocks is by walking down the Little Great Wall to the point, but you can also take a trail to the beach below if you want to get closer. 


Zhaori Hot Spring



zhaori hot spring green island taiwan
Aerial view of Zhaori Hot Spring


              Zhaori Hot Spring is a great experience to end your day.  It is one of only a very few saltwater hot springs in the world.  The fee to get in is only 200 TWD/6.82 USD and well worth the price.  Upon entering, there are showers for you to rinse off and change before getting in the pools.  There are a few different pools to choose from, each at a varying level of heat.  The hottest pool is set off by itself and is extremely hot.  There are also waterfalls you can turn on if you wish the hot water to rush over you.  I was told that you can also boil eggs in the hot springs by the ocean, but these were not open when we were there.  The main pool was also empty when we were there; possibly due to it being the off season.




              Just outside the hot spring is a large hill that you can climb if you wish.  It gives you a great aerial view of the Zhaori Hot Spring and of the surrounding area.  My drone flies higher than the hill so I didn’t go up there (note for those with drones: there is a No-Fly Zone over most of Green Island so you can only get so high before your drone tops off). 


boat harbor lyudao lighthouse green island taiwan


Have you been to Green Island? Drop a comment here if you have and share this with your friends that you want to visit Taiwan with. Check out my other posts for more ideas on things to do in in Taiwan.


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