Words by Rik Glauert
Nestled on a quiet spot along the East Coast of Taiwan just north of Taitung is Dulan. This chilled-out beachside village is sandwiched between the Coastal Mountain Range and the Pacific Ocean. Its remoteness means it was one of the last places on the coast to see Han Chinese immigrants in the 19th Century. The area is still home to indigenous Amis people, and Dulan is a hub for aboriginal artefacts and culture. (Read more: Six Spots in Taitung Worth Visiting)
In the last few decades, Dulan’s raw beauty and choppy seas have attracted surfers, artists, and creatives to settle in the village. With them, a trendy hostel and dining scene flourished. But, despite its many draws, Dulan still has that off-the-beaten-track vibe that really lets you settle into a holiday. And, there’s enough culture, shopping, outdoor activities and great food to entertain any traveller for days. Here’s how to make the most of it:
What to Do in Dulan
The seas off Dulan’s black sandy beaches host some of the best surfing on the East Coast of Taiwan. During the calmer summer months, it is a great spot for beginners, as long as there’s no typhoon. You’ll find surf and stand up paddle boarding (SUP) shops along the highway that runs through the center of town. Donghe Taitung surf shop and WaGaLiGong are well-established options. (You might also like: The Taitung/Zhiben Region is a Rich Bounty of Scenic & Healthy Exercise Adventures)
You can also appreciate the wet and wild coastline while straying dry. Dulan has plenty of palm-lined clifftop tracks and trails just east of the highway. It is easy to find a hidden spot to enjoy a romantic sunrise. To the west is Dulan Forest and Mount Dulan. The mountain’s fast-rising slopes trap vapour from the Pacific, giving the forest particularly luscious vegetation.
In the middle of town, Dulan Sugar Factory is the center of Dulan’s art and culture scene. By day, the old factory hosts trendy cafés and workshops and stalls showcasing local handicrafts and artwork. By night, there’s live aboriginal music and craft beer on tap. Wednesday and Saturday nights are the most fun.
Where to Eat in Dulan
For such a small village, Dulan has a plethora of dining options taking in both local and global cuisines. A highlight is Dulan Cape Café. A little out of town, the café serves up authentic and delicious Spanish tapas and seafood Paella. The venue boasts a huge lawn flanked by the ocean and the mountains. With craft beer, sangria, and even a swimming pool, it is the perfect place to while away a lazy afternoon. (You might also like: Travel Deeper in Eastern Taiwan: Hualien and Taitung)
Other popular eateries line Highway 11. There’s A Mano Pizza, perfect for Western travellers fancying some comfort food. There’s a casual Vietnamese place serving up classics including pho and banh mi. Dulan Institute of Creativity is where to head for some of the fanciest food in town. And, on the opposite end of Dulan to the Cape Cafè is the Dulan Big Courtyard Barbecue, which delivers exactly what its name suggests.
Where to stay on the East Coast
For travellers wanting to dive straight in to Dulan’s backpacker scene, there’s plenty of wallet-friendly hostels along Highway 11 and in the center of the village. Favourites include WaGaLiGong and LiHo house. Up the hill towards the forest are some more up-market options. Stone Party has exceptionally-designed rooms, verdant grounds, and sweeping views of the village and the ocean. For a truly unique stay, try Dulan Cape Café. At the end of the café’s lawn, just meters away from the beach, a container snuggled into the cliff face hides two rooms with panoramic sea views.
How to get to Dulan
Dulan is about a half-an-hour drive north from Taitung. Plenty of buses head up the East Coast from the train station. Public busses 8101, 8102, 8103, 8109, 8119 and 8120 all pass through Dulan. Tickets will cost you less than NT$100. Best to tell the driver where you’re heading before boarding. A taxi should be slightly quicker and cost about NT$500. Taitung is a four-hour train ride, or a one-hour flight, from Taipei.
If you’ve got time on your hands and access to a car, you might want to make Dulan the focal point of an East Coast road trip. The route down from Taipei should take about six hours. You can easily break up the journey with other East Coast highlights such as Yilan and Hualien. You could also take in the East Rift Valley and stop off at the Chishang rice fields before popping over Mount Dulan to the coast.
Whichever way you get there, Dulan is a must-visit. It is the perfect antidote to Taiwan’s bustling big cities. It is the epitome of laid-back East Coast living and has a bit of everything that makes Taiwan so great: natural beauty, unique culture, fantastic food. A visit will leave you refreshed in body and in mind.