“Beautiful”- who wouldn’t want to live in a country whose former title literally means “beautiful”?! Taiwan was formerly known as Formosa, which is derived from the latin word “formosus”, which means beautiful. Never has a country been so appropriately named. Upon learning that Taiwan is the 17th most densely populated country in the world, however, one might question how a place that’s so packed with people could be described as beautiful- is there any space left for nature? The answer is an overwhelming yes. With the sea on all sides and imposing mountains jutting down the middle of the island, there are boundless opportunities to get out and be one with nature. Taiwan’s landscape lends itself to having an abundance of some of nature’s greatest gifts; waterfalls, hot springs, natural pools, and beautiful beaches.
Now, in my humble opinion, one of the best parts about visiting waterfalls, aside from getting shots for the gram, is being able to go in them. Shifen Waterfall; The Golden Waterfall; these are great if all you want to do is take pictures and continue to sweat. But, to me, going to a waterfall and not being able to take a dip is like going to a restaurant to merely look at the menu.
In Taiwan we are not only fortunate to have a ton of waterfalls and (almost) year-round waterfall weather. We are also very fortunate to have someone- I will henceforth refer to him as the Waterfall God of Taiwan– who has actually put together a website compiling and mapping out over 200 waterfalls and hot springs, as well as beaches and lakes, around the island. This website- the Waterfall Bible of Taiwan- www.followxiaofei.com
On Follow Xiaofei, it’s all there for you. I use it as often as possible to find my next adventure. Using the Map utility on the website, you can pair visiting a waterfall with any trip you go on. For example, if you’re heading down to Kenting on the southern tip, you can look for a waterfall that’s not too far off the highway and add it to your itinerary.
Here are a few of my favourite places that’ll make you forget all about the hustle and bustle of the work week. Think sunshine, butterflies escorting you on the hike to your destination, and pristine turquoise water. This is what’s waiting for you just a few kilometers off that highway exit!
Dexing Waterfall 德興瀑布
Dexing Waterfall is a big, beautiful, two tiered waterfall in Nantou, Lugu Township. It’s about 30 minutes off the highway, and from the parking area it is only a 2 minute walk. It is possible to swim in both the lower and the upper tier of this waterfall. Swimming in the second tier is not for the faint of heart, as there is nothing preventing swimmers from going over the edge of the second tier, into the first- which makes it way more exciting, right?! As mentioned on Follow Xiaofei, the effect of swimming in the second tier is similar to that of an infinity pool. Just don’t go to the edge of this infinity pool for your selfie.
Ocean God’s Pools 海神宮
For these, the title God’s Pools would have sufficed. If the gods did come down to Earth for a dip and to rock a couple cannonballs, I wouldn’t be surprised if they chose this spot to do it at. These sublime natural pools are located in Pingtung County, Sandimen Township. From the parking area, it takes about 15-30 minutes ,depending on how quickly you’re moving, to get to the first pool. Whereas bushwacking and fighting your way through stinging nettle and poison ivy might be the price to pay to get to some waterfalls, for these, the trek up the river to get to the pools is fairly painless and actually part of the fun. There are three particularly beautiful pools here, the third one being the most spectacular. Once you’ve had your fun at the first pool, swim across to the rock formation on the other side. Climb over that, then jump into and swim up the river towards what looks like a scary rapid, but is actually not so terrifying once you’ve swam up to it. Grab the rope on the left hand side, and pull yourself up onto the side of the small rapid, and continue to trace up the river for about 10 more minutes to get to the main pool. Although everything is detailed for you on how to get there, upon actually completing the river trace to these pools, you get the feeling you’ve just made some magical discovery like you’re Leonardo DiCpaprio in the film The Beach. Bring a dry bag, a speaker, some food and beverages, and kick back and enjoy the fruits of your labor at these glorious gifts of nature.
Dragon Cave Cliffs 龍洞岩場
Diving boards are cool, but jumping off a 20 foot cliff into the clear blue water, in a place that looks like it’s literally taken right out of a fantasy film, is the way to go. Dragon Cave Cliffs, located in Longdong Bay, Gongliao District, New Taipei City, is a ridiculously fun and beautiful place to hang out. From the parking area, walk for about 10 minutes over the boulders. You’ll know when you’ve arrived because you’ll think to yourself, “how does nature make these perfect things happen?” The boulders flatten out into even bigger, longer rocks and you’ll find yourself high above the clear shimmering water of Longdong Bay. Climb down the boulders and jump into the water; then swim across to the other side to reach the popular spot for jumping. Once you’ve swum the 30 or so meters across, look for the ropes to help climb up out of the water and onto the cliffs. With towering lush mountains as your backdrop and the deep blue to your front, all you need to add for a grand time is some good music and friends.
The only problem you might encounter using Follow Xiaofei, is the sheer volume of choice you have. You will go from being unaware that there is a waterfall in your backyard, to looking at this map of over 200 scattered all over the island and thinking “how the hell do I decide which one to go to?” It’s like the Netflix of waterfalls: you might spend almost as much time trying to choose a waterfall as it takes to get to one.
Continuing with that analogy: I am a pretty anal retentive person when it comes to choosing movies on Netflix. I need to first see that the film looks good on Netflix itself, then cross reference the movie on IMDB to see if it is at least a 6.8/10 or higher on there, read up on it some more, add it to a list of prospects, and continue, until I’ve got 5 or so solid movies to choose from. Similarly, I believe there is a reliable method of filtering through the overwhelming amount of choice on Follow Xiaofei, and being confident that the one you go to will be a memorable and enjoyable time.
What’s the best waterfall in Taiwan?
When deciding which waterfall to go to, here are some things to keep in mind:
- How long does it take to get to the waterfall from the parking area?
- How difficult is it to get to?
- Will recent weather affect my chances of being able to swim/ is it worth taking the time to go to if it will be dangerous?
- How jumpable/swimmable is this waterfall?
Keeping the above questions in mind, you can filter through the choices and then decide which one looks like the most fun. Then, cross-reference the waterfall you’re interested in with a quick Google search and see what people are saying in the latest reviews in case there are some more things about which you need to be aware. Keep in mind not to let the party poopers’ 1 star reviews dissuade you from your adventure- take these reviews with a grain of salt.
To be fully prepared for your next day trip, here are a few items you might consider picking up at the local sporting goods store/ Decathlon.
- A dry bag. Cell phone, camera, towels, speakers, food- if there is anything you’re bringing with you that you want to keep dry, a dry bag is an essential item to have with you.
- Water shoes. Water shoes, or old running shoes that you don’t mind completely submerging in water, again and again, are a must. Tracing up rivers and even just getting out of a waterfall is much easier if you’re not worried about stepping on something that might hurt your bare feet.
- Rope. It’s always a good idea to have a rope with you. If, for example, you want to swim in the second tier of a waterfall but wish to be certain that you will not go over the edge, you can confidently enjoy swimming near the edge while holding onto a rope that is safely anchored nearby.
- A garbage bag. The golden rule of going anywhere in nature is that you should always leave a place cleaner than you found it. Even if it means picking up a single item of trash more than what you brought. Let’s all play our part.