Unleash Your Inner Adventurer in Taiwan’s Outdoors

Freediving, paragliding, canyoning, and rock climbing are exhilarating and easily accessible ways to discover more of Taiwan.

Taiwan offers plentiful natural beauty. You can drink in the green just about anywhere here, whether by hiking up a mountain or glancing up at one from the city streets. But if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, many exhilarating ways are available to get into Taiwan’s environment while improving your fitness and mental acuity. 

Whether you want to fly, climb, take in waterfalls, or jump into the ocean this summer, there are plenty of activities that can get your pulse racing or slow things down. So get off the couch, put your phone down, get outside, and immerse yourself in this island’s gob-smacking natural wonders. 

Rock climbing 

Scaling a cliff, desperately seeking toe holds, and hoping you’re excused from the laws of gravity might seem daunting at first. But with the right safety equipment and expert help, it can be a fun game of mental and physical chess, stresses Kelly Khiew of The Bivy Taiwan Rock Climbing Guides, a popular climbers’ center in New Taipei City.  

“Climbing requires both physical and mental fitness and strength, self-awareness, climbing techniques, flexibility, and coordination,” she says. “It’s a blend of dancing, gymnastics, and problem-solving in sometimes high-stress situations.”  

Using the sea-hugging cliffs of Long Dong (龍洞岩場, or Dragon Cave) on Taiwan’s northeast coast, Khiew coaches climbing techniques and guides various routes. The Long Dong cliffs feature cracks in which climbers can place their gear to prevent falls. As one of the few locations in the region to offer this style of ascent, Long Dong is a popular climbing destination.  

“Long Dong offers a unique climbing experience that is wild, adventurous, and athletic,” says Khiew. “It is made up of Sziling sandstone, one of the most ancient and hardest rocks in northern Taiwan, making it an ideal rock-climbing spot. Spring (March through May) and fall through early winter (September through mid-December) are considered the best times to climb in this area.  

Long Dong offers numerous routes for both beginners and experts. Beginners are advised to start low and slow, gain altitude, and attempt trickier routes as their confidence builds. Part of rock climbing’s allure is that it’s achievable. There are many ways to ascend a rock face, and with time and training, your skills will improve. The feeling of getting to the top of a route, grasping the solid rock, breathing in the fresh sea air, and drinking in the view, is a prize worth striving for.  

Website: www.taiwanrockclimbing.com/ 


Paragliding will see you floating through the sky, relaxing in a comfy cloth chair suspended by a thousand slender strings under a billowing parachute or paragliding wing while watching the world below from a blissful distance.  

At least that’s what I told myself while strapped into a harness, perched on a cliff, looking at a lush green valley below. A long way down, I could see the landing area. “At least the grass looks soft,” I thought. I looked over at my relentlessly grinning instructor. He gave the signal to go, and we started running toward the cliff edge. We were locked into a harness together. It’s not like I could back-pedal. Believe me, I tried. Still, after leaping and finding I wasn’t plunging to my death, a mixture of excitement, calm (let’s call it adrenalZen), and the sheer thrill of living in the moment swept over me.  

Chasing thermals to gain altitude, you can soar, swoop, and bring out your inner eagle. Paragliding has a low learning curve and the equipment is light. Taiwan has roughly a half-dozen locations suitable for paragliding. Near Taipei, these include the coastal towns of Yilan and Wanli. In eastern Taiwan, Taitung’s Hualien and Luye offer coastal and mountain areas suitable for paragliding. Puli is an excellent choice in central Taiwan, and Pingtung’s Saijia Township is also a viable option farther south. The coastal areas are perfect during summertime, offering stellar views and smooth sailing. In winter, when the coastal winds are stronger, inland spots are better options.  

Those are the recommendations from instructor Chris Yeh of Fly Taiwan Paragliding. He was one of the first to paraglide in Taiwan, qualifying for his license more than 25 years ago when he was based in the U.S. with the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association. 

Yeh also offers tandem lessons near Jiqi Beach (磯崎海水浴場) south of Hualien, where the launching point is 450 meters above sea level and coastal views greet you from below. You’ll end your flight by landing on the beach. It’s hard to find a better place in Taiwan for a touchdown. 

While clipped in and standing at the mountainside, you might question what you got yourself into. But as you run and jump, the wing inflates, and you find yourself hanging in the air. You’re now airborne in a silent world, enjoying views few get to experience with an enormous smile on your face. 

Website: www.flytaiwanpara.com/ 

Canyoning and river tracing 

Wading across streams, clambering over rocks and boulders, and checking out waterfalls along with lush nooks and river-carved crannies is what canyoning is all about. As one of the most mountainous destinations in Asia, complete with towering peaks, tropical forests, and plunging valleys, Taiwan offers a fantastic landscape for wild waterways.  

Many of Taiwan’s canyons are easily accessible, and canyons can be found in every county. Beginners can –  with accompanying guides – jump into pools, slide down natural water slides, and rappel beside waterfalls.  

There are several options for canyoning in northern Taiwan, including Yi-Hsing Creek (義興溪) in Taoyuan – known for its three abseiling pitches (routes that can be climbed using just one rope), a waterfall, and a swimmable waterhole. In northern Yilan County, there’s Shipan Trail (石磐步道), which hosts a waterfall as high as 20 meters with six pitches. A little farther south, also in Yilan, the crystal-clear Lu-Pi Creek (鹿皮溪) boasts a rockslide, numerous rock pools to swim in, and plenty of easy climbs. The most accessible canyoning route finishes at the spectacular 50-meter Jinyue Waterfall (金岳瀑布). With a six-meter jump into deep water, it’s particularly popular in summer.  

Due to their topography, Hualien and Taroko Gorge offer some of Taiwan’s most stunning locations to explore these raw, water-carved river canyons.  

One of the most accessible spots is Emerald Valley (翡翠谷), which can be reached via a Japanese-era pedestrian tunnel and a riverside path that takes you straight to an artificial waterfall. If you head farther up the track to a natural waterfall by jumping from rock to rock, you can find a refreshing pool to swim in. You can also enjoy views of Hualien’s mountain ranges along the way. Be aware that Emerald Valley can be busy on weekends, so arrive early. 

Hiking in the summer heat isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, but it’s an adventure worth embarking on when the benefits include being immersed in nature and swimming in cool, forest-lined pools. Canyoning allows you to de-stress and leave urban life behind for a little while.  

Be aware that regardless of the location you choose or the route you take, river tracing can be as challenging as it is wet. Always go with experienced guides who know the area well and are attuned to any potential dangers, be it surging waters or slippery rocks. If required, you’ll also be supplied with safety equipment like a helmet, life jacket, wetsuit, or river trekking shoes. 


For northern Taiwan: www.shawatw.com/en/ 

For Hualien area: www.hualien-adventures.com 


It’s as simple as taking a breath, being able to swim, and believing in yourself. If you’ve got these abilities, you’re ready for freediving – the art of diving on a single breath. The silent, underwater world is there for you to experience, going as deep as you feel comfortable. 

On the physical side, freediving is a gateway to a healthier lifestyle. Your joints experience less pressure when underwater, and as it’s an activity with no impact, unlike running, freediving lets you increase your endurance and vitality with fewer injuries. It also helps strengthen your lungs through exercises that improve oxygen capacity. As you gently push your body’s physical boundaries, you’ll also test your mental strength. 

Unlike almost every sport on the planet, where the goal is to get your heart racing and increase adrenaline levels, the goal of freediving is the complete opposite. A relaxed body performs better.  

There are numerous breathing techniques that help prepare the body for going on an underwater dive. Many are related to yoga and feature a combination of belly, diaphragm, rib, and chest expansions and contractions. The most important thing is always to do these exercises with  someone beside you, and taking courses with professionals is essential to learn the correct and safe way to breathe, stay calm, and lower your heart rate. 

For freediving, you ideally want a dive site that’s clear, calm, and easily accessible. Thankfully, Taiwan has an abundance of these. Kenting and the surrounding Hengchun peninsula are recommended in the south. Green, Orchid, and the Penghu Islands also have good locations, although winds are an issue come winter. Taichung’s 21-meter deep purpose-built pool DiveCube is another option.  

The crown jewel of freediving in Taiwan is Xiaoliuqiu, off the coast of Pingtung. Comprised of coral, the island offers various dives and depths a short swim from shore, and it’s warm year-round – or at least warm-ish. During the winter, a standard 3mm wetsuit is enough to keep most people toasty. Xiaoliuqiu’s geographic location also naturally protects it from winter winds. For these reasons, freediving instructor Raymond Ko of Freedive Nomad Taiwan has made this island his base. 

While scuba diving, which requires mastery of equipment, is more common in Taiwan,  freediving requires mastery of your mind and body. If you want to progress, you likely need to change your lifestyle. Ko believes adding meditation, stretching, fitness training, breath work, and even diet changes are ways to improve your life and diving ability. “They say scuba diving is for those who want to see outwards, and freediving is to see inward,” he says. 

Together with Adam Stern, one of freediving’s best-known educators, Ko is also the organizer of Taiwan’s first Deep Week, to be held on Xiaoliuqiu November 18-25. It’s the first time an event of this caliber has been held in Taiwan. The week-long freediving festival is open to all. 

Website: www.freedivenomadtaiwan.com