Taiwan might not be one of the first Asian countries that come to mind when you think of a beach break – it's more well known for its culture-rich cities and technology companies. Yet this island nation – surrounded by the Taiwan Strait to the west and the Pacific to the east – has some pretty good sandy stretches. Not only that, but Taiwan also has great diving spots, especially in the waters around its outlying islets, plus a burgeoning surf scene. In the main, the best beaches in Taiwan are located along its northern and eastern coasts, with the exception of those around Kenting in the south.
With 3km (1.9 miles) of golden sand, Fulong Beach is the most popular strand in northern Taiwan. It's a great place for swimming or sunbathing, and you can try your hand at windsurfing and canoeing too – the Shuangxi river flows out to the ocean here and is well explored by kayak. Fulong hosts a Sand Sculpture Festival every year during May-July, with huge impressive and elaborate sand sculptures of people, buildings and other scenes. Like many beaches in the country it's only open for swimming for part of the year (May-October).
Baishawan’s name gives away its main characteristic, meaning White Sand Bay in English. Its white sand and clear waters make it one of the north’s most attractive beaches. You'll also find hiking trails nearby and and a bike-friendly boardwalk. The waters here are becoming popular with surfers, and boards can be rented from shops on the beach. Baishawan is close to Taipei, and makes an easy escape from the city. Regular buses make the journey from Taiwan in less than an hour. The beach is officially open to swimmers from May to September.
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On Taiwan's tropical southern tip, Kenting's bright waters are warm all year round. It's the most popular beach resort of choice for the Taiwanese and is home to some of the best beaches in Taiwan.
There are several lovely beaches to choose from in Kenting National Park – we recommend Nanwan for buzzy beach vibes and Kenting Baishawan (different to the Baishawan in the north) for something quieter. The main Kenting town beach (also known as Dawan) is perennially popular with locals, and has an amusement-park atmosphere. Bear in mind that swimming is prohibited at Dawan due to strong currents.
If you want to do more than just lie out in the sun, Kenting has several coral reefs ideal for snorkelling; one of the most popular spots is towards Ho bi hu harbour.
Facing the Pacific, the east coast boasts some of Taiwan’s best scenery, but serious currents mean that several of the most picturesque beaches are closed to swimmers. Of course, you can still enjoy a scenic walk on the beach. Conversely, the strong waves also mean the best surfing in Taiwan is found here, especially during the winter months. If you do fancy a dip, the following beaches all allow swimming.
Located in northeastern Yilan County, Wai’ao Beach, also known as Wushigang is Taiwan’s top surf beach, and great for swimming too. There are plenty of local surf outfits where you can rent boards and pick up some lessons. The ocean is divided into surf- and swimmer-only sections, so keep your wits about you. Wai’ao Beach is open all year round.
The crescent-shaped Jici (sometimes Jiqi Beach), located in Hualien County is another popular swim-and-surf spot. It's also one of the most beautiful beaches in Taiwan, with great views of the coastal cliffs and mountains that surround it on three sides. There are hiking trails and camping areas nearby, so there's enough here for an extended stay.
Dulan Beach, located in bucolic Taitung County, is a pebble beach that is good for swimming and surfing. Perhaps because it has pebbles instead of sand, the beach is never crowded and is one of the most tranquil stretches of shoreline in all Taiwan. Surf shops on the beach rent boards or offer lessons. The nearby town of Dulan has a growing arts scene so you might not have the beach all to yourself for very long.
A tiny island located 20 miles (33km) off of Taiwan’s southeast coast, Green Island's beauty belies its past as a prison for political prisoners during the martial law period (mid 20th century). The water around Green Island features beautiful coral reefs with great visibility of up to 100 feet (30 metres), making for fantastic diving. The area is a designated marine reserve, so there's plenty of healthy aquatic life including rays, eels, sea snakes and of course, tropical fish. More experienced divers can dive to deeper sites to try and spot the mighty hammerhead shark. Getting to Green Island requires either a short flight or a boat ride (which can be quite rough depending on the waves) from mainland Taiwan.
A volcanic island located 9 miles (15 km) off of Taiwan’s southwest coast, Xiao Liu Qiu offers good snorkelling and diving, and the chance to spot green turtles. You'll need to take a ferry from mainland Taiwan to get there, but it's worth the effort.
An archipelago situated in the Taiwan Strait, the Penghu islands have pleasant beaches and shallow coral reefs ideal for scuba diving. There are also several good sites for drift diving (for more experienced divers). You can take a plane or ferry from mainland Taiwan to get there.
Top image: Beach in Kenting, Taiwan © Tim Warren/Shutterstock