Known for its breathtaking rock formation and lush vegetation, Tarok National Park 太魯閣國家公園 in Taiwan is a fun place to visit for a day or two for the family. Here I share some travel tips on places to stay, things to do and what to eat for the visit.
Last night I got to meet one of my Instagram idols, Pei Ketron (@pketron) in person when she shared her story and photos at the San Francisco Apple Store. Meeting her in person and hearing how she goes about her projects was really exciting!
Because of a photo she took at Taroko National Park that she had shared on her Instagram, it inspired me to visit the park as well during my last family trip to Taiwan in November. I guess social media marketing does work!
Traveling and Staying at Taroko National Park
Taroko National Park was the fourth national park established in Taiwan, and one of the nine national parks. The region and the park is known for its amazing rock formation and marble. The unique rock formation that seems to rise into the sky like skyscrapers were formed by the tectonics plates crashing into each other, and still growing today.
How to Get There
There are several ways to get to the park. If you are coming from Taipei, the train is probably the most relaxing way. You would take the train from Taipei to Hualien which takes about 2.5 – 3 hours, and then you can hire a car to take you around the park.
You can also drive there from Taipei but it’s quite a long drive with unpredictable driving conditions, and could take close to 5 hours.
From Mr. JOC’s parents’ house in Kaohsiung to the park, it would also take 5-6 hours of driving, or 10 hours by train, so we opted to fly instead. It was a quick 1 hour flight to Hualien and we were picked up by the hotel’s shuttle bus.
You can find all the detailed transportation info and options here.
Places to Stay
In the area, there are many hotels in Hualien where you can stay at. However, as you get closer to the park, the options become less and less.
Within the park itself, there are actually only 2 choices for spending the night. You can either camp and pitch a tent, or stay at the Silk Place Hotel, which is the only hotel within the national park and it’s about an 1-hour drive from the airport. For this trip, our family stayed at the Silk Place Hotel and the hotel review is toward the end of the post.
The Hualien Airport to The Hotel
The ride to the hotel was quite exciting, as you pass many beautiful scenic spots along the way.
Shortly after we entered the national park, our shuttle came to a complete stop. The driver explained that there was a major landslide in 2013 that had shut down the main road, and the hotel was actually closed for 2 months because of the landslide. As they are repairing and making the road wider again, there is traffic control so we’d just have to wait for a bit.
As we drove by the landslide, he pointed out to the gigantic boulders size of cars that came crashing down that had settled in the river. It was fortunate the landslide was expected and no one was injured.
The road to the hotel had many tunnels, most of them are pretty new and there are more tunnels still being built. This allows cars to travel safely even during storms. The road in the park is quite narrow and there isn’t too much room for cars passing each other. As I look outside the window I can see the cliff right next to the door, yikes! It was an exhilarating ride.
Touring in the Taroko National Park
The Silk Place Hotel offered 2 different tours (Chinese only), one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Since we arrived too late in the afternoon we couldn’t sign up for the afternoon tour and opted for the morning tour only.
The tour was not bad, but the driver could only stop in the set destinations, and we end up just driving through at some of the spots which I had wanted to stop at. If I had known, I would have hired a private car to take us instead. Since there were 5 of us the cost would have been about the same, but then I would have had more flexibility.
Luckily, the tour did stop by 2 good spots, which are Chang Chun Shrine and Swallow Grotto Trail.
Chang Chun Shrine
Chang Chun Shrine was built as a memorial for the workers who had lost their lives building the road that crossed central Taiwan. The shrine is built at the bottom of a majestic hillside, and you have to walk through rock tunnels to reach the shrine.
Swallow Grotto Trail
The Swallow Grotto Trail is one of the most popular tourist destination, with over 6,000 visitors a day. To visit the area, due to falling rock it’s highly recommended that you wear a helmet that’s provided free of charge.
The trail we took is roughly 1 mile and definitely worth the hike. At the beginning of the Swallow Grotto Trail, there’s a bridge that leads to Old Jhuilu Road Entrance. A special permit is required to cross this bridge and to hike on the Old Jhuilu Road. The trail is about 6.5 mile (10 km) and requires between 8-9 hours to complete. You can see the scenery of the hike here.
Why the name Swallow Grotto? There used to be a lot of swallow nesting in this area; however during the building of the roads, the use of dynamite had scared most of the swallow away so there aren’t many in the area anymore. As you walk along the trail, the view are breathtaking and definitely a bit scary as you get closer to the edge. The sides of the trail are usually right above a cliff.
The last stop we made was at Cimu Bridge and viewed the famous “frog” rock. Can you spot it below?
Silks Place Hotel Taroko National Park
Silks Place Hotel has a long history, originally built in 1961 and named Tien Hsiang Lodge. It was built to encourage tourism to the area as well as where Taiwan government officials hosted foreign dignitaries.
The hotel was completely remodeled in 2009 and even though the structure is still the same, both the interiors as well as the exteriors are quite new modern.
The staff was super friendly and the service was excellent. Our family absolutely loved the hotel.
The hotel itself is right in the Taroko National Park, and you can enjoy quite a bit of scenery around the hotel.
Within the hotel, there are many amenities and they were all well maintained and clean. There is a gym, tennis courts, 1 outdoor and 3 indoor pools, ping pong, indoor toddlers’ gym, and video games for the kids.
At night, there is outdoor singing performances by A-Mei Tribe singer and they serve hot ginger tea that was really delicious!
My children especially loved the pools as there were hardly anyone else in them and they had a special children’s pool filled with hundreds of rubber duckies!
The Hotel Rooms
Since there were 5 of us, we stayed at a suite this time vs. a standard room. All the rooms at the hotel either face the gorge right next to the hotel or face the indoor court. The suites are roughly twice the size of a standard room, and you get the additional benefit of relaxing in the 4th-floor lounge. The lounged served complimentary afternoon tea and snacks, as well as a free happy hour between 5-6 pm. Inside the suite, all the items in the mini-bar were free, in addition to the standard coffee and tea you get in most hotel rooms.
When we came back from the singing performance at night, we found chocolate desserts waiting for us in the room.
The lounge & Afternoon Tea Snacks
All the mini desserts served at the afternoon tea in the lounge was superb. They were so delicate and delicious.
The package we had purchased included dinner and breakfast for everyone. There are only 2 restaurants inside the hotel, 1 western and 1 Chinese. We opted for the western dinner and breakfast, and had lunch at the Chinese restaurant.
The western dinner is buffet plus an entree of your choice. The buffet is pretty typical for Taiwan restaurants, with overwhelming choices of food. The quality was decent considering that the closest food source to the hotel is at least 1 hour away. However the entrees were all pretty disappointing. We tried the smoked pork ribs, lab chops, risotto, and the fish, and all of their quality was disappointing. Good thing the buffet had plenty of options.
For lunch the next day, the Chinese restaurant was quite delicious. The food wasn’t too oily and all the dishes were very flavorful. If you aren’t a fan of the buffet, I would recommend eating at the Chinese restaurant for dinner as well.
If you are interested in visiting Japan or Taiwan, don’t forget to checkout my travel posts. The next place we’ll share is Hakodate (函館) in Hokkaido (北海道), Japan!
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