Cover image: Winter on Flickr
Surfing in Taiwan
This small island located in East Asia is situated between Japan to the north and the Philippines to the south and China to the east. The popularity of surfing in Taiwan has grown tremendously in the past 20 years, however, even with a population of 24 million, Taiwan still remains one of the least crowded surfing destinations in Asia.
The coastlines in Taiwan vary and provide differing surfing experiences for those getting into the water with their boards. Whether it’s at the convergence of the mouths of some short, but strong rivers that run into the Pacific ocean, the white sand beaches of Ping Tung County and Kenting township, to the blacksand beaches of Taitung and Yilan Counties and the boulder-lined coastlines, Taiwan has a fun variety of surfing experiences. This means both Taiwan features both powerful beachbreaks and pointbreaks.
There’s no way to sugar coat this, but Taiwan doesn’t have any world-class waves. There are great waves, but the two negatives to Taiwan’s surfing scene is the size and consistency of the waves. That said, there is a lot of fun to be had on the swell in Taiwan.
Waves can be found mostly on the East, South East and South West Coasts where there’s everything from river-mouths, boulder-lined beaches, sandy beaches, the odd reef and reeling points. While the waves around Jinzun Harbour are the most commonly used in local and international surf competitions in Taiwan, there are many other (and some would argue better) waves to be had.
The user-friendly nature of the waves, the incredible mix of Chinese and Japanese culture and the amazing food, hot springs, markets, diving and cycling add further spice to a unique surfing destination that is a real undiscovered gem.
In the grand scheme of things, surfing hasn’t even been legal in Taiwan for all that long.
During the 1960’s, while the rest of the globe was seeking an endless summer, Taiwan and its residents were smack dab in the middle of Martial Law. As a component of Martial Law in Taiwan, the coastlines were deemed important to national security and getting into the water was forbidden. There are stories and rumours that American soldiers stationed in Taiwan during the 1960’s began introducing surfing to Taiwan. Since the lifting of martial law in Taiwan, the surfing scene has slowly been gathering steam and while some beaches are extremely popular for beginner surfers, there are plenty of waves to be had with few surfers on them.
What’s great about surfing in Taiwan? The whole experience.
The country has a range of surfing conditions and waves suitable for all levels of surfers from beginner to advanced (unfortunately, there is no big wave surfing found in Taiwan). It’s also a pretty friendly environment for surfers in Taiwan with few complaints about unfriendly surfers. Be respectful in the water and the behavior is generally reciprocated. While surfing has been around for a while now in Taiwan, there is still a feeling of an emerging surfing scene here. That said, here’s a great interview with the founder of the local tour operator, Surf Taiwan, who talks about his journey and life living and surfing in Taiwan for decades.
Finally, like all outdoor activities a lot of the fun happens off of the bike, off the trail and out of the water. Taiwan has a ton to do besides surfing including great food and markets, a ton of other outdoor activities such as wild hot springs, hiking and mountaineering, snorkeling, scuba and free diving, mountain biking, etc. Taiwan is a perfect surfing holiday destination and can be rounded out with amazing adventure, cultural and culinary experiences.
Surfing Destinations in Taiwan
Surfing conditions in Taiwan, just like the rest of the world, can change throughout the year based on wind and sea swell. We suggest keeping an eye on your local break by checking in with one of these great surfing resources that are very useful when looking for up-to-date Taiwan surf forecasts:
Over the coming months, Taiwan Outdoors will be putting together dedicated articles into each of these surfing spots across Taiwan and will link them back to this Ultimate Guide to Surfing in Taiwan. The below destinations are by no means all of the surf spots in Taiwan, but is a good start for anyone wanting to travel to Taiwan or travel in Taiwan with a surfboard. Thanks for the patience as we get these pages up online. As promised, are some of the more popular surfing spots in Taiwan:
- SURFING IN North & Northeast
- Surfing in New Taipei City (新北市)
- Baishawan (白沙灣) – This is arguably one of the most beautiful beaches in northern Taiwan. Located just over an hour north of Taipei, this beach offers all the amenities and decent free and paid parking. This beach is one of the busier beaches in Northern Taiwan and while surfers can spread out the crowds are always present. Early morning breaks are your best bet to try and beat the crowds and mid-day winds.
- JinShan (金山) – The closest break to Taipei, Jinshan is located about 45 minutes to 1 hour north of Taipei. Prior to the 2000’s, Jinshan was once one of the more popular surfing destinations in Taiwan and certainly after 2006 when Highway 5’s Xueshan Tunnel opened and drastically reduced the travel time from Taipei to Yilan. Jinshan Beach gets busy in the summer, but offers an accessible break close to Taipei early morning with both a left and right break.
- Fulong (福隆) – Fulong beach is a surfing destination primarily suited for both beginners and, when the surfing conditions are good, for experienced surfers. This Taiwan surf spot is located about 1 hour by train from Taipei, which makes it one of the more accessible surfing destinations from the capital of Taiwan. There are essentially two beaches that make up the larger, beautiful white sand beach that totals about 2km long. The best and most consistent surfing spot at Fulong is located close to the temple. The break here can be inconsistent with the sandbar shifting at the whim of the Shuang River. There is however both a left and a right break here. The left is a short ride, but allows for an easier paddle out. When the surfing conditions are right, the right break can produce a longer ride.
- Surfing in New Taipei City (新北市)
- Surfing in Yilan County (宜蘭縣)
- Daxi (大溪) – Honeymoon Bay (蜜月灣) has been a popular surfing destination in northern Taiwan for decades and the crescent shaped bay offers some of the best and most consistent surf breaks along the east coast of Taiwan. It’s slightly more difficult to get to than some of the more popular surfing destinations in Yilan County, but well worth the trip. The area has plenty of surf hostels and rental locations in the small village of Daxi. The main access to the water can be reached by train to the Daxi Train Station (大溪車站) and then walking for about 10 minutes.
- Wushi Harbour (North/South) – With the opening of the Xueshan Tunnel in 2006, the sleepy village of Wai’ao (and burgeoning surf haven) was transformed into a bustling beach community with a massive influx of hostels, surf shops, cafes and restaurants. With this transformation, came a lot of beginner and novice surfers. 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, you might be better off waiting for the larger swell, when the crowds are smaller.
- Wai’ao Beach & Double Lions (外澳沙灘) – There are essentially two beaches north of the Wai’ao Train Station. Wai’ao offers a slightly less crowded experience for surfers with left and right breaks, however there are rock outcrops and even hidden boulders during high-tide. Ask a local where the best surf spot is here before paddling out. Double Lions is further north and offers a decently consistent left and right beach break all year round. This surf spot is serviced by a lot of great surf shops, hostels and inns as well as beachside cafes and restaurants. If you’re looking for fewer crowds, go mid-week. It can get busy on the weekends.
- Surfing in East Taiwan
- Surfing in Taitung County
- Chenggong (成功) – While believed to be one of the best surfing spots in Taiwan, Chenggong is also one that is best suited for experienced and very experienced surfers. This left point break closes near shore and over a coral reef. Coupled with a strong rip current, Chenggong can be dangerous. That said, it is considered by many as the best left-hander on the island. Chenggong is located in the northern part of Taitung County, closer to Hualien City than Taitung City.
- Baxiandong (八仙洞) – This Taiwan surf spot is suitable for the more experienced surfers only. Strong rip currents, short breaks and boulders make this a surf spot that requires caution. Baxiandong means ‘Eight Immortals Cave’ and is a left-handed point break that develops with the adjacent river-mouth. Please, use your best judgement on your skills and always surf with a companion. Be very careful when surfing at Baxiandong
- Jinzun (金樽) – Hands down, one of the best surf destinations in Taiwan and located in the absolutely stunning Donghe Township of Taitung County. Located approximately 10 minutes north of the popular town Dulan, this surf break has been made famous by the World Surf League event held here every November. The competition is called the “Taiwan Open of Surfing,” and attracts surfers from all over the world to compete. There are two breaks at Jinzun, a right point break (where the surfing competitions are held) and a right one. Fun little fact: This is the only place in Taiwan that has a growing ‘Tombolo’.
- Surfing in Taitung County
- SURFING IN SOUTHERN TAIWAN
- Surfing in Pingtung County
- Jialeshui (佳樂水) – Meaning “Water falling from high ground, this beach is known as “Taiwan’s Surf Town” and is located about 30 minutes north east of Kenting. The black sand beach features a nice beach break that typically offers decent waves for all surfing levels. If wind and swell are working the waves can get fast and powerful. Jialeshui (佳樂水) is preferred by longboarders, but you’ll find riders of all kinds out on the water throughout the year. There are lots of small inns and hostels in the area as well as public bathrooms, showers and decent parking facilities right by the breaks.
- South Bay / Nanwan (南灣) in Kenting – Located out the western side of the township of Kenting on the edge of the region’s southernmost bay, Nanwan features a slightly more refined surfing experience than other, more difficulty to get to surfing destinations on the stunning Hengchun Peninsula. The right break here can develop and move quickly if the swell and wind are working. If you’re bringing a crew of non-surfing buddies, this beach is actually much more suitable for hanging out and swimming. It can get a bit busy with holiday-goers, but the beach and break are worth it.
- Other Breaks – The southern and southeastern coast boasts countless smaller bays and remote beaches with decent breaks. Other surfing locations in Kenting and Hengchun Peninsula definitely exist and the swell and wave quality are less consistent and depend on the conditions at the time.
- Surfing in Pingtung County
- SURFING IN WESTERN TAIWAN
- There are a few locations along Taiwan’s west coast that offer opportunities for surfers in Taiwan to catch a wave or two, but these are typically inconsistent and insignificant. With great winds, shallow shores and decent water surfaces, kiteboarding, standup paddle boarding, windsurfing and skim-boarding are the water sports of choice on the west coast of Taiwan. We will, however, be adding relevant surf spots in Western Taiwan shortly.
If we missed one of your favorite surfing spots in Taiwan (and you think it should be listed here), feel free to send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get the information online for other surfers in Taiwan.
Best Time To Surf in Taiwan
The surfing season in Taiwan is actually decent all year round, especially along the east coast. From April until November, the water warms up nicely and can reach up to 86 fahrenheit (or about 30 degrees Celsius. You’ll be fine with a rash guard and board shorts. It’s hot in Taiwan and the sun is powerful, be sure to bring sunblock and your preferred wax. This time of the year is also considered Typhoon season too. Located smack dab in the middle of the Pacific Ocean’s Typhoon Alley and most typhoons hit Taiwan during the summer months, between July and September.
During the Winter season (say November to March), the water stays above 20C but you might need a 2/2 or 3/2 wetsuit to protect yourself from cold air as the air temperature dips to 15C. The further south one travels in Taiwan, the warmer the air goes. In Ping Tung and Kenting, warmer winters days are more the norm than the exception.
The best time to surf in Taiwan is actually in the autumn and early winter months. This is due to the consistent surf generated from the northeast monsoon winds, which bring chest- to head-high swell. It’s cooler during this time of the year, but well worth it as the monsoons bring swell almost everyday with potential 8-10ft peaks.
While surfing is banned during the Typhoons in accordance with the Disaster Prevention and Protection Act (and has been since 2011), periods just outside the 24 hours immediately before and after a Typhoon still produce moderate wave swell and decent conditions for surfing. Please respect the power of nature and the rules of the country. Also, be sure to always tell someone you are getting into the water and where you’re going. It’s suggested to surf with a buddy.
How to Get to Surf Destinations in Taiwan
If you don’t have a car, getting to some of the surf breaks in Taiwan range from pretty convenient to straight-up difficult. It also depends on where you live and whether you’re bringing your own board or needing to rent. We’ve put together a few notes on how to travel in Taiwan with a surfboard. Here are some of the things you can and can’t travel with your surfboard:
Go Surfing in Taiwan by Train
Please note that, passengers’ personal belongings on the Taiwan High Speed Trains cannot be longer than 150cm (59 inches) in length per piece, or 220cm (86 inches) in total length, width and height per piece. They also can’t be heavier than 40kg in total weight. So unfortunately, while bagged, folding bicycles are allowed on the high-speed train network in Taiwan, you cannot travel on Taiwan’s High Speed trains with your surfboard. Here is the latest information provided by Taiwan High Speed Rail. Take solace in the fact that the Taiwan High Speed Rail doesn’t connect directly with the best surfing destinations in Taiwan. So if you’re looking to be surfing in Taitung or elsewhere on the east coast, you don’t have too much to worry about.
Some hostels rent scooters with surf bars attached. If you can’t get your hands on one, perhaps you could catch a lift with a local surfer.
If you don’t have a car, the best bet to access the east coast of Taiwan with your surfboard and the great surfing destinations in Yilan, Huelian and Taitung is using a combination of the Taiwan Railway Administration (or TRA) and, if needed, local transportation options. The TRA permits personal baggage and luggage items that have a length of up to 2 metres (200cm or 78 inches) or weight exceeding 30 kg (or 66lbs).
Wonder what size of a board you should ride based on your height, weight and experience surfing? Check these tables for your preferred size and shape of surfboard.
With these restrictions in mind, the TRA network in Taiwan is both affordable and pretty surfer-friendly. Head to TRA’s English website and explore the routes and timetables that might fit with your schedule.
Traveling with a Surfboard on the Taipei Metro aka MRT (subway)
On Taipei’s MRT (their subway network), carry-on surfboards may not exceed 180cm (70 inches) on the longest side. Tail rudders, foot ropes, and other protruding items must be removed and stowed away during the journey. Surfboards between 165cm (65 inches) and 180cm (70 inches) long are only allowed on the Taipei Metro during public holidays. Passengers with surfboards should travel on the first and last carriages only, and should not use the escalators.
Renting a Car or Minivan
You might be asking, can foreigners rent a car in Taiwan? Yes, they can and renting a car in Taiwan may be one of the best transportation decisions you’ll make. If you have the finances to cover the costs, We’re big advocates of public transportation (which is fantastic in Taiwan), but you can experience a whole lot more of Taiwan if you have a vehicle. Car rental dealerships are found in or next to the major airports in Taiwan and within all major urban centres. Increasingly they are found at the High Speed Rail stations, but they are not commonly found at local train stations. Renting a car in Taiwan would run you around $2000/day, but we’ve heard of cheaper prices at local dealerships. Prices are discounted if you rent for more than one day or during the week.
No, you don’t have to have a local drivers license to rent a car in Taiwan. It’s recommended that you do get an international driver’s permit before coming. This will make renting a car a more sure thing. If you don’t have an international driver’s permit there is a chance the dealership won’t rent you a car. Call ahead with the dealership to confirm the required documentation.
Renting a small van may be another option if you are travelling with others or perhaps you just like to stretch out. These are readily available through car rental dealerships and through private rentals as well. Inventory is not large for these, so we’d suggest calling ahead to reserve.
If you are a foreign resident and are looking to get a local Taiwanese driver’s license, we suggest checking out this guide on getting a driver’s licence in Taiwan here.
Taking your Surfboard in a Taxi in Taiwan
Frankly, one of the best and surprisingly affordable ways to travel with a surfboard in Taiwan is to rent a taxi. Taxi meter rates vary depending on each city in Taiwan. Most drivers do not speak English, however. We advise that you ask a friend or maybe even a hotel staff member to call ahead and request a vehicle you can put your surfboard in. Local taxi operators do have larger vans that could fit a 10-11 ft longboard but it’s better to ask ahead of time. Also write down the destination you want to get to in Mandarin and request the estimated charge first. You don’t have to really worry about being over-charged or driven around in circles, but it’s good to have an idea of the costs first. Keep a note of the information of your hotel or wherever you are staying in Mandarin, too.
Not uncommon, many people will hire a taxi in Taiwan for a full day to get down from Taipei to the south. For rates for hourly or daily rentals, check out Ding Taxi. If you’re in Taipei or New Taipei City, you can always connect with english-speaking Taxi Drivers, who have passed an English qualification exam set by the Government. In addition to English, these taxi drivers can also speak Japanese. Check out their special hotline of Information for Foreigners: 0800-024-111(toll-free number 24 hours a day with English and Japanese services).
Does Taiwan have Uber and can I bring my surfboard?
Yes and maybe. Uber exists in Taiwan, but travellers should know that it’s just as expensive as a Taxi. The ‘maybe’ refers to whether you can bring your surfboard along. We’re going to go out on a limb and say the average Uber driver won’t permit it, unless they have the space. Also, your driver may only speak Mandarin, Uber. Again, call ahead and confirm before ordering your uber to avoid disappointment.
Can I Car-Pool or Hitchhike in Taiwan?
There are some great Facebook Groups about Travelling in Taiwan. There are also a few Facebook Groups that offer opportunities to ride share or carpool, even some that are dedicated to people interested in surfing. These are great chances to meet some new friends too (don’t forget our next section – Meet your tribe!)
- 衝浪共乘 Taiwan surf Carpool – While the content shared here is primarily Mandarin, we suggest clearly outlining your needs in a succinct post with dates, times, locations, needs. This Facebook Group is very active and you could get the ride you need!
- Taiwan Rideshare – For people driving around Taiwan with space in their car, and for those looking to catch a ride.
- 順路到東部 / Taiwan east coast rideshare – (This looks a bit old and unused. Be sure to connect on their well before you need your ride.)
- Search on Facebook for ‘Traveling in Taiwan”, and post your request into these communities. There are a lot of amazing people who are more than willing to share other resources they may have.
Hitchhiking along Taiwan’s highways is illegal and is not recommended. In addition to the legal context, it is dangerous with a high volume of vehicles and high speeds. In the cities, this is also not out of the question and many people get picked up. It’s considered unsafe and not recommended. With that said, we’ve heard that hitchhiking in Taiwan is easy, safe and convenient. It occurs, but you must consider the law and the safety of others and yourself. The added challenge with hitching a ride is how you’ll fit in your shortboard or (more likely in Taiwan) your longboard into someone else’s car!
Find your surf tribe in Taiwan
While surfing is primarily a solo sport and, in most cases, the fewer numbers in the line up the better, it’s always great to meet other surfers in and out of the water. Not surprisingly finding and connecting with other surfers in Taiwan is most likely to take place on the beach and in the surf. So our first suggestion is to get out on the beach and into the water. Local surfers (both Taiwnese and foreigners) tend to be welcoming to new surfers. Be respectful in the water, as one should always be and the feeling is generally reciprocated.
There are a few other places that you can possibly meet other surfers in Taiwan:
- Facebook Groups
- Staying at Surf Hostels – We’ve listed below a few surf hotels and surf hostels in popular surfing spots in Taiwan. Typically, these places are quite social and a good place to meet other travelers and locals who are exploring surf destinations in Taiwan. If you’re looking to meet other surfers in Taiwan, staying at these types of accommodations are a good start.
- Joining Surfing Camps and Lessons in Taiwan – If you’re just starting out, we’d suggest considering joining a surf camp or signing up for a local surfing lesson in Taiwan. You’ll likely be participating with others in the same boat as yourself. (See next section)
We also recommend dropping a post and request to connect with other surfers in our Taiwan Outdoors Facebook Group, where we’ll try and get you connected with other surfers in Taiwan. That’s what this outdoor community is meant to be used for.
Where to Stay, Learn How to Surf and Rent Surfboards in Taiwan
Frankly, one of the best ways to meet surfers (if you’re just starting out) is to join a surfing camp or lesson at one of the more popular surfing spots in Taiwan. There are dozens of operators who offer surfing lessons and surfing camps in Taiwan. Many of these are associated with local surf shops and rental locations across the island of Taiwan. There are simply too many to mention in this post, so we’ve just highlighted a few locations that can be found in the major surfing destinations of Taiwan. We’ve bunched together the places to stay on your surf journey in Taiwan, with places to learn and rent surfboards too.
Renting surfboards in Taiwan is pretty common and relatively affordable. Surfboard and gear (e.g. wetsuits and leashes) rentals are most commonly found close to popular surfing spots in Taiwan and are available from dedicated surf shops and accommodations as well. We recommend calling and reserving in advance as the more popular surfing destinations in Taiwan also draw a big beginner crowd. In many cases, rentals come free with your accommodation if you stay in popular surf hostels. Some accommodations even offer shuttle buses to the local surf breaks too. We’ve just added a few to our lists here, but remember these surfing rental shops will be location specific, so make sure you’re booking with the shop that
Here are some of the more prominent ones:
- Where to stay, learn and rent surfboards while surfing in Kenting / Jialeshui
- Where to stay, learn and rent surfboards while surfing in Taitung
- Where to stay, learn and rent surfboards while surfing in Yilan County
In addition to these, and many many other other, surf lessons and surf camps and surf schools throughout Taiwan, the Chinese Taipei Surfing Association also offers surfing lessons, in-depth surfing classes and water safety courses across Taiwan and throughout the year.
**A full article and list of Surf Lessons and Surf Camps in Taiwan, as well as a full article and list of where to buy and rent surfboards and surfing gear in Taiwan will be coming out soon!
Surfing Events in Taiwan
The most prominent surfing event in Taiwan is the Taiwan Open of Surfing. 2020 marked the 10th Anniversary of this event, which takes place each year (2022 dates not released yet) in Jinzun in Taitung County on the east coast of Taiwan. This event has arguably been fundamental in putting Taiwan on the global map for surfers.
Other regional surfing events take place in Taiwan throughout the year and information is available in Chinese and in English (occasionally). The CTSA keeps an annual event calendar updated, which boasts, among other events, the 2022 Chinese Taipei Surfing Association Surfing Championships.
**A full article and list of surfing events in Taiwan will be coming out soon.
Getting Inspired & Other Great Resources about Surfing in Taiwan
This wouldn’t be much of an ultimate guide to surfing in Taiwan if we didn’t showcase some of the great write-ups about the surfing scene and experiences from others traveling to the wonderful island
- Monster Children’s – A Surfer’s Guide to Taiwan
- Taiwanese Secrets’ – Surfing in Taiwan
- Lay Back Travel Surfing Magazine
- UK’s Stormrider Guide to Surfing in Taiwan
Had enough of reading text? Here are some top Taiwan surfing-related Instagram accounts to follow and get inspired: