Green Island is a small island located about 30 km off the eastern coast of Taiwan. The closest mainland city to Green Island is Taitung. The island is a major tourist destination for foreigners and Taiwanese residents alike due to its pristine coral reefs, diving spots, and beautiful scenery.
When it came down to us actually getting to the island and finding a place to stay, we didn’t find many websites to be too helpful. I am writing this post to serve as the most recent instructions on the web for for backpackers to have a successful trip to Green Island, Taiwan.
From the Taitung train station:
We took a train from the city of Hualien to Taitung Station. From the station, the goal is to get to Fugang Fish Harbour. That is where the ferry departs for Green Island and Orchid Island. Once we arrived at the Taitung station, we walked over to the bus stop across the street. Many of the maps at this bus stop say that certain buses go to the harbor, but when we asked those buses they told us that they didn’t. What we had to do (as did everyone else who was going to the harbor did) was take the “Ding Dong Bus” from Taitung train station to the Mei E Restuarant Stop (20NT). This is the closest bus stop to the harbor. From there it is a quick 10 minute walk down to the harbor.
(You could obviously just take a taxi from the train station to the harbour, but that will cost around $10 usd. The bus costs about $0.60 cents.) #budgettravel
Once you are at the harbor you have to go inside the main building and ask for tickets to Green Island. There are several booths selling tickets, but you will be pointed to the right one for Green Island. There were three trips being made to the island that day (July 18th, 2017). The departure times were 11:30, 13:30, 15:30. We arrived at 11:00 am and the 11:30 ferry was already sold out. They start selling tickets one hour before each departure, so try and be first in line when that time comes. A one way ticket to Green Island cost 460 NT/person ($16 usd) At 30 minutes before boarding time, we walked out of the front of the building and turned left to go down to the docks to wait in line. There aren’t assigned seats and people are rude and disorderly when forming a line, so hold your ground if you want to get a good seat. The ferry ride takes about 1 hour to get to Green Island. Apparently a lot of people get really sea sick on the ride, but it was no worse than riding any city bus I felt.
Can I book accommodation on Green Island online?
We checked Airbnb before anything else and found that, out of the few offerings there were on the island, none of them were even close to our price range. There were only a about 5 listed and the prices were from around $65-$150 usd/night.
The lowest priced anything (hostel, B&B, hotel, etc.) on Booking.com for Green Island is $47 usd/ night. After that, the prices go up exponentially. Most rooms are $85 usd and up, INLCUDING TWO OF THE HOSTELS ON THE ISLAND!!
Can I just wait and find accommodation once I get there?
When you get off the ferry there aren’t but one or two hotels close by. You have to walk down the road into the main part of town to find much. There are some guest houses and small B&Bs there, as well as one backpacker hostel. We thought if we just walked through town there would be plenty of options and people trying to recruit us to stay in their hotels, but that really didn’t seem to be the case. Most people that arrive on the island are on a package deal trip, made by a travel agency for them. So a lot of the hotels aren’t expecting walk-ins and many aren’t even equipped to accept anyone that isn’t apart of a group. I am sure if you asked around you would eventually find a place with better prices than if you booked something online. It just didn’t happen as easily as we had expected for us.
Okay, so can I camp on Green Island?
Now we are getting to the good stuff. That was all we wanted to know too. Is there camping on Green Island, Taiwan? Well the answer is YES! There are basically three ways to go about camping on Green Island:
There is only one official campground that is marked on the maps on the island and its called Zihping Campground. You do have to pay to camp here. They have 9 sheltered wooden platforms for tents. Sadly, they charge per person for some reason, even though you are using the same amount of space regardless so groups of two or more are pretty heavily penalized. At last check it was about 600 NT ($20 usd) /person too, so still not cheap at all. You can also sleep in a small RV that they have permanently parked there that are apparently really nice from what I’ve read, but at 9,000 NT ($300usd) a night they are definitely a tourist trap and not an option for the budget traveler.
There is an area right behind the Chai-Kao diving spot that is FREE for camping. There are outdoor showers and bathrooms on site and it is right by the beach. I was told that most people pitch their tents in the flat grassy area between the bathrooms and the covered pavilion. However, due to the proximity of the spot to the road and street lights, we opted to pitch our tent just below the designated camping area on the beach itself. There was no one else camping during the 4 days we stayed, but again most people are visiting the island as a part of a large guided tour. Camping in this spot is definitely your best option because it is free, legal, and safe to be there.
- The third option was our back up plan and after spending time on the island I am positive it would work without a catch. The whole island is so laid back, that honestly, as long as you waited until after dark to pitch your tent and took it down before too late in the morning, you could literally camp on any of the beaches on Green Island. The Chaikoa spot is clearly the best option but in my opinion you wouldn’t have any problems camping anywhere on the island as long as you kept it minimal and stayed out of plane site.
Getting around Green Island
The best way to get around the island is obviously by scooter. None of the shops cared that we didn’t have an international drivers license or not when we were there. We paid 500 NT ($16 usd) for a 24 hr scooter rental. Some places have a cheaper rate if you rent for several days. There are plenty of places to rent them though. The island is super easy and fun to drive around on a scooter. It’s a great way to cool off with the wind in your face and go see all of the different beaches and trails. Many people ride around late into the night to stargaze at different spots, shoot off fireworks, and eat at the restaurants. There is a shuttle bus that runs around the island, but we didn’t ever get on it. We walked from the ferry to the beach where we camped and rented a scooter later. Hitchhiking works pretty well too for just one person.
Things to do on Green Island
The main road circles around the entire perimeter of the island is about 22 km. Along that route there are 3 beaches that are absolutely amazing for snorkeling. We brought our own snorkel gear so we didn’t have to deal with any of the tour groups and by the looks of them we definitely didn’t want to. A lot of people go to dive there, in which case you just have to talk with one of the many dive shops in town. There are a few hiking trails and some great lookout spots. There is a shrine inside a cave that is pretty cool as well. There are a number of good restaurants in town too where 350 NT gets you all you can eat (all you can cook) at a grill your own BBQ place. Deer meat is really popular but there is also fresh fish and plenty of veggies.
Getting off of Green Island
If you came to the island on a one way ticket, you will have to go buy a return ticket the day of your departure. We had some trouble figuring out where to buy them at first. You have to go to the back of the Duty Free store. Don’t actually go inside the Duty Free, but go to the back of that building and it has the ticket office. You can’t buy them in advance either, so you just have to show about about an hour before you want to depart. The times when we were there were 8:30, 10:30, and 12:30. The ticket back to the mainland was less than the ticket there and only cost $420 NT. Once again, there are no assigned seats and the crowd getting onto the boat can get pushy.
Go see the island and the coral reefs while they are still there. The tour groups and even many of the locals do not respect the land. I saw so many locals throw trash on the ground and even right into the ocean. The tour groups take hundreds of people a day out onto the reefs, where they literally WALK RIGHT ON THE LIVE REEF to go out. The guides allow and even encourage people to touch the coral and break pieces off to take with them. We saw witnessed guides letting tourists take live starfish out of the water. We camped at a dive spot for 4 days and watched every single tour guide that brought a group flick cigarette butts into the ocean and then litter the bread bag they bring to feed the fish right into the water. I was appalled that none of the Chinese tourists new better than to walk on the reef and touch the coral, but it absolutely blew my mind to see that the local tour guides themselves perpetuate it so much. The reef will be ruined very soon if they keep it up.