This article briefly covers the local environment, weather, transportation, and attractions, as well as all the other essential details you need to go Surfing in Wai’ao (福隆), Taiwan.
Introduction to Wai’ao (外澳)
Wai’ao Beach (外澳沙灘) is a picturesque black sand beach located in Toucheng Township (頭城鎮), Yilan County (宜蘭縣), on the northeastern coast of Taiwan. Since the opening of the Snow Mountain Tunnel (雪山隧道) in 2006, this sleepy fishing village has been transformed into one of the most popular beach destinations in Northern Taiwan. While surfers have been making the trip to surf the waves here for many years, the improved access to the beach has made the waters here much busier.
Apart from surfing, visitors from Northern Taiwan flock to the Wai’ao on the weekends to enjoy the awesome beach vibe. Wai’ao Beach has a vibrant surfing culture that has developed over many years and the area now has many surf shops and rental locations, surfing schools, hostels, cafes, B&B’s, and restaurants.
The beach at Wai’ao stretches a few kilometers and has dark, almost black, sand that gets pretty hot on a sunny day. There are umbrella and chair rentals available at the south end of the beach. Rocky outcrops on the northern part of the beach, as well as the imposing Coastal Mountains of the east coast and the impressive Turtle Island (龜山島) just off the coast make this a really pretty place to spend the day.
Surfing in Wai’ao (外澳)
Wai’ao Beach offers consistent beach break waves, making it suitable for all levels of surfers. The average swell size varies, but it can range from 2 to 6 feet. It’s primarily a right-hand break, and the beach is known for its gentle and forgiving waves, making it perfect for beginners.
Located just north of the town of Toucheng, Wushi Harbor is probably the busiest surf break in Taiwan, especially during the summer. It’s a good spot for beginners, if you’re able to avoid the other surfers. For the more experienced surfer, you might be better off waiting for the larger swell, when the crowds are smaller. As a combined destination, Wai’ao and Wushi Harbor are probably the busiest surf break in Taiwan, especially during the summer.
As the waves here have a tendency to closeout here when the swell (and sandbar) isn’t ideal, this a good spot for beginners. For the more experienced, you might be better off waiting for the larger swell, when the crowds are smaller. Swimming isn’t permitted near the surf closest to the harbor (the southern end of the beach). This does make things more manageable for surfers, as there is no need to keep an eye out for swimmers (just other surfers!).
While it can get crowded, particularly during the summer months (mostly weekends), Wai’ao has a pretty positive surf vibe. There is little to no “locals only” mentality, something unique to many surfing spots in Asia. Be respectful in the water and locals are typically super friendly.
Where to Go Surfing in Wai’ao
The best surfing in Wai’ao occurs along the southern section of the large beach. This is closer to the large outer wall of the official Wushi Harbor.
Best Time to Go Surfing in Wai’ao (外澳)
While the most popular time to surf at Wai’ao Beach is during the summer months (June to August), it may not be the best time. The weather and water are warmer and the vibe at the beach is great, but the waves typically are less when the consistent waves and warm waters create ideal conditions for surfing. However, spring and autumn are also great for milder weather and fewer crowds, making it a year-round destination for surfers.
Weather at Wai’ao Beach (外澳沙灘)
- Spring (March to May): Spring offers pleasant weather with temperatures ranging from 18°C to 26°C (64°F to 79°F). Rainfall is moderate, particularly with the seasonal Plum Rains. During the early Spring, surfers may wish to use a thicker wetsuit (3/2mm). As the weather warms, a good wetsuit choice for Wai’ao would be one with 2mm thickness.
- Summer (June to August): Summers are warm, with temperatures between 25°C and 31°C (77°F to 88°F). It’s the peak surfing season with consistent waves and water temperatures around 28°C (82°F). No wetsuit is needed at Wai’ao, or anywhere in Taiwan, during the summer months.
- Autumn (September to November): Autumn is ideal for surfing with warm temperatures ranging from 22°C to 30°C (72°F to 86°F). Rainfall starts to increase toward the end of the season. During the early Autumn, surfers may not need a wetsuit. As the weather cools, a good wetsuit choice for Wai’ao would be one with a 1 mm or 2mm thickness.
- Winter (December to February): Winters are cooler, ranging from 16°C to 24°C (61°F to 75°F). Waves are less consistent, but it’s a quieter time at the beach. During winter, a good wetsuit choice for Wai’ao would be one with a 3/2 mm thickness.
How to Get to Wai’ao Beach (外澳沙灘)
How to Get to Wai’ao (外澳) by Car from Taipei
From Taipei Main Station, Wai’ao Beach is about 55m south east of Taipei. With no traffic, the trip would take approximately 1 hour to drive. You can expect this time to increase on weekends or holidays and during rush-hour traffic. There is both free and paid parking options in the area, however, the paid option is plentiful and most convenient.
If you’re traveling by car from Taipei to Wai’ao Beach, use this as the Google Maps reference. Start by heading south on the National Freeway 5 (國道5號). As you drive through Pinglin on an elevated highway, you’ll drive through several tunnels. Each of these tends to be a bottleneck for traffic. The largest of these tunnels is Xueshan Tunnel (雪山隧道), which can slow traffic significantly on weekends, holidays and during rush hour. Delays going in both directions can increase travel times anywhere between 30 minutes to 2 hours. Take the first exit, Toucheng Interchange (頭城交流道), after arriving in Yilan. Follow Taiwan Provincial Highway 2 (台2線) to Wai’ao.
Free parking in Wai’ao at a number of small parking lots.
- Probably the most popular free parking for Wai’ao is located just north of this restaurant. At different locations along this road, there are small spots to park. It’s the first lot to fill up, so come early if you’d like to park here.
- Located on the oceanside of Taiwan Provincial Highway 2 (台2線), there are also a number of small, free parking lots. One across from Wai’ao Train Station here and another just a bit north of this coffee shop. Each have a capacity for about 15 cars. These fills up quick, but worth checking if you’re trying to save money. Each have stair access to the beach close by. It is about a 10- or 15-minute walk to the best location for surfing in Wai’ao.
Paid parking in Wai’ao is available
There is paid parking in Wai’ao here. This is accessbile for scooters and cars and costs NTD$50/hour. This is where a large majority of beach goers will park due to limited free parking available. There is parking for about 100 cars here. The lot is very accessible to the beach public washrooms and paid showers located in the basement of the Wai’ao Visitor Center (外澳遊客中心). The visitor center shares a building with the No.9 Cafe at the Beach (九號咖啡外澳館)
How to Get from Taipei to Wai’ao by Train (and bus)
Take the Taipei Metro (MRT), bus, taxi, or bike to Taipei Main Station (台北車站). From the station, visitors will have to transfer to the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) system. From here you have two choices:
1) Take the TRA local train to Wai’ao Train Station and walk 15 minutes to the main surfing area. Or
2) Take the TRA fast train to Toucheng Station (頭城車站) and take a bus to Wai’ao Beach. The total journey takes approximately 1.5 hours. Trains from Taipei to Toucheng will cost visitors approximately NT$.
From Toucheng Station, walk less than 10 minutes from the station to this bus stop and get on Bus Number GR19. This bus ride takes about 10 minutes, has two stops, and costs NTD$20 one-way. This bus comes every 90 minutes starting at 8:14am. Here is the route description on Google Maps. Visitors can use an Easycard or pay in cash.