Hua Island: truly off-the-beaten-track in Taiwan

In Coastal Scenery, Cultural relics, Geological curiosities, Natural history, Outlying Islands, Penghu County (Penghu archipelago) by Richard7 Comments

Hua Island Lighthouse

Hua Island Lighthouse

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Hua Island village

Hua Island village

Hua Islander collecting wild beans near the island's north coast

Hua Islander collecting wild beans near the island’s north coast

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Hua Island (花嶼), with no airport and only three weekly boats connecting it with the outside world, is probably as far off the beaten track as you can go in Taiwan, short of walking several days into the high mountains. It’s the westernmost island in the Penghu archipelago (and is often quoted as being the westernmost point in Taiwan; in political talk Matsu and Kinmen belong to the ROC but are not part of Taiwan itself – look it up!). Quickly moving away from a highly sensitive subject, I think we can all agree that given it’s lack of connections with the rest of the world, Hua Island is something of a backwater.

The Hua Island boat, at Magong harbor on the main island of Penghu

The Hua Island boat, at Magong harbor on the main island of Penghu

The arrival of the thrice-weekly ferry signals a flurry of activity at the harbor, as locals arrive to help transport provisions etc bought in the big city at Magong off the boat to the village

The arrival of the thrice-weekly ferry signals a flurry of activity at the harbor, as locals arrive to help transport provisions etc bought in the big city at Magong off the boat to the village

On the south coast

On the south coast

Little Whale Cave, just along the coast from Hua Island village

Little Whale Cave, just along the coast from Hua Island village

On the north coast, near the Cat's Tail

On the north coast, near the Cat’s Tail

One of the surfaced tracks that cross the island

One of the surfaced tracks that cross the island

A temple in the island's interior

A temple in the island’s interior

Since the island is one of the places in my upcoming book, I can’t really spill all the beans and give the complete info on getting there on this blog. In any event, it’s now too late in the year to enjoy a trip, since all of Penghu gets pretty cold, rainy and (especially) extremely windy from November until April, and there’s a big chance of being stranded on-island for days if the wind picks up. Some basic info though. Small boats depart from Magong three times a week (presently on Monday, Wednesday and Friday) for Hua Island. The trip takes about an hour, and boats leave Hua Island around 9 am and return from Magong to Hua Island around 2 pm (as you can see, they’re laid on so that islanders can go to the city for the day, rather than for tourists). There’s no official accommodation on the island at preset, so you’ll have to stay with an islander. The island Head rents out a couple of simple rooms (with A/C – absolutely essential during the killingly hot summers on the island) for the occasional tourist. Food is eaten at the village store (which has basic provisions and a fridge with cold drinks including  – yessss! – cold beer!). The village Head’s wife will cook cook three tasty meals (which always seem to include fish), or you can put together survival rations for lunch if you head off round the island for the day. It was so hot when we were there in August though that we returned to our A/C-cooled room for a long siesta each day.

The epicenter of Hua Island's social activity (and the place we ate all our meals): the village shop!

The epicenter of Hua Island’s social activity (and the place we ate all our meals): the village shop!

In Hua Island village

In Hua Island village

The road between the harbor and the village

The road between the harbor and the village

Entering the village

Entering the village

Hua Island village

Hua Island village

A few traditional Penghu houses made of coral, with decorative air vents

A few traditional Penghu houses made of coral, with decorative air vents

Preparing our dinner...

Preparing our dinner…

The island has just one small village, 5 minutes’ walk from the harbor. It’s a picturesquely shabby kind of place, from where narrow concrete tracks radiate out to other parts of the island. It only takes about 20 minutes to walk across the island, but there’s loads and loads to explore. Away from the roads, paths are few, and it’s rough-going around the rocky coastline, but absolutely beautiful, and on the shortest possible, three-day stay (in which case you’ll actually only get one full day on the island, and two nights) it’s a challenge to explore even the main ‘sights’. One thing you probably won’t see during your exploration though is other tourists – Hua Island is still rarely visited by tourists, and as a foreigner you’re likely to become a figure of great curiosity, and will get to know many of the villagers, even during a short sojourn!

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A Thread of Sky, on the south coast near Hua Island village

A Thread of Sky, on the south coast near Hua Island village

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Sunset at the Guanyin Rock, west coast

Sunset at the Guanyin Rock, west coast

A fishermen's glass float, discovered on the north coast and now gracing my living room at home in Guandu...

A fishermen’s glass float, discovered on the north coast and now gracing my living room at home in Guandu…

On the northeast coast

On the northeast coast

Northeast coast

Northeast coast

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On the east coast, looking south towards the lighthouse

On the east coast, looking south towards the lighthouse

Hua Island village

Hua Island village

Enjoying the setting sun on the west coast

Enjoying the setting sun on the west coast

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Comments

    1. Author

      Good point! It would be a paradise for camping, but you’d have to get permission from the village head. We meant to ask before we left, and forgot…

  1. Richard I love reading your blog – it’s great to be able to find out more about somewhere I fell in love – hope you are well and life is good shirleex

  2. Hi Richard, I am planning to visit Hua Island during my upcoming Taiwan trip but I can’t seem to find other information on this island. Would just like to check how do I go about booking the tickets to get there and at the same time, is the booking of accommodation done when I’m there or do I do it beforehand? 🙂 hope to hear from you soon, cheers!

    1. Author

      Hi Emily, thanks for writing! The only thing you can really do in advance for Hua Island is contact the village head (who offered the only place to stay when we were there) at 0937-474-039 and make sure they have room (likely!) when you want to go. At the same time you can check the boat schedule, which was Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoon, but might change. The boat can’t be booked – just turn up at Magong harbor an hour before and buy your ticket. Have a great trip!

      1. Hi Richard, thanks for the prompt reply and information! 🙂 about what time is the ferry at Magong to Hua Island, and will the boat from Magong arrive at Hua Island usually? Thank you so much, your posts helped me in my planning!

        1. Author

          The boat should leave at 2 pm unless the schedule changes of course. It’s cancelled if the weather is bad (typhoon, fog etc) so you should build in a bit of time either side just in case.

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