By Rick Charette
My wife and her family, good Taiwanese folk, are passionate hot-spring soakers. New and/or untried resort destinations are often the focus of extended-family trips of up to 20 people and three generations. In my 20-plus Taiwan years I’ve sweated away many hours in this land’s steamy waters and I here present you with Taiwan’s very best hot-spring destinations.
Wulai is one hour by car south of Taipei, its hot-springs area at the mouth of a deep and picturesque gorge. This is the northernmost settlement of the Atayal Tribe, one of Taiwan’s largest indigenous groups, and tribal cuisine can be enjoyed here, as can traditional song-and-dance performances and good museum facilities. The mineral waters are a sulfur-carbonate composition, odorless, colorless, and transparent. There’s a cluster of hot-spring hotels, in all price ranges, but my favorite attraction is the three Wulai Outdoor Hot Springs pools, right by the river’s side – public, 24 hours, and free.
Ruisui Hot Spring is 77 km south of Hualien City in eastern Taiwan, in a rift valley at the foot of the Coastal Mountain Range. Its waters have a metallic quality – this is one of Taiwan’s few chloride-carbonate hot-spring spots – low-alkaline and with a murky yellowish look from the abundant iron. Locals believe these are notably good for the spawning of baby boys. The resort, opened in 1919, has a Japanese-style hotel, public bathing area, and open-air pool. Facilities include wooden tubs, family-use porcelain tubs, and group pools. The area has numerous tea plantations with retail outlets, but the big draw for me is that Ruisui is also launch-point for Taiwan’s best white-water rafting on the Xiuguluan River, creating a wonderfully convenient destination for soaking-rafting outings.
Zhaori Hot Springs, on Green Island off the southeast coast, are one of the globe’s three known seawater-fed springs. Three large pools give you three temperature options, for the cooling tides wash gently over each, the pool furthest from the beach receiving the least “coolant.” A separate spa pool has also been developed. The facility sits right at sea’s edge on a beach of exposed coral-rock; “Zhaori” means “facing the sun,” and the pools indeed face the morning sun over the sea. Enhancing this unique experience are scenery-rich trips around the island’s coastal loop road, by rented scooter, bicycle, or taxi. (There’s also a tourist shuttle-bus service.)
Guguan is in the central mountains not far from Taichung City. Developed as a hot-spring resort by the Japanese during the 1895-1945 colonial era, it achieved particular fame when Emperor Meiji, it is said, was granted a son following a soak here, bringing the “male child springs” moniker still heard today. The bicarbonate waters, clear, odorless, and slightly acidic, are also suitable for drinking. Numerous hotels and inns offer private bathing, water provided through in-room taps. The resort area straddles the boulder-strewn upper Dajia River, in a lovely, rugged valley setting of superb views at 800 meters.
Tai’an Hot Springs in Miaoli County, is one of Taiwan’s lesser-developed hot-spring resorts, home to just a cluster of hotels simple and straightforward in character, surrounded by mountain and pristine forest. The clear, odorless waters are mildly carbonic-acidic. Beyond the superb natural scenery, the great attraction here is Tai’an Village’s unique concentration of Han-Chinese Hakka and indigenous Atayal-tribe residents, creating a compelling cultural mix.
English & Chinese
Atayal Tribe 泰雅族
Coastal Mountain Range 海岸山脈
Dajia River 大甲溪
Green Island 綠島
Ruisui Hot Springs 瑞穗溫泉
Tai’an Hot Springs 泰安溫泉
Wulai Hot Springs 烏來溫泉
Xiuguluan River 秀姑巒溪
Zhaori Hot Springs 朝日溫泉