Shihtiping (石梯坪, or shi ti ping) is a little coastal scenic spot in Hualien County, Taiwan (台湾花莲县), about 67Km to the south from Hualien City. It is lesser known to many travellers who keep to big cities. But for locals and travellers who get out of the cities and off the beaten paths, Shihtiping is the next getaway recreational spot — much better than beach resorts.
Shihtiping sees lesser tourists than most attractions in Taiwan. It is a lot more quieter and still packs a number of fun-filled activities that can last visitors for at least 2 to 3 days at this slow-pace spot.
Let's see the list of exciting activities that can be done at this little coastal spot.
1. Explore Shihtiping Scenic Area
Shihtiping gets its name from the unusual coastal rock formations that are constantly being shaped by the pounding waves from the Pacific Ocean. "Shi ti" (石梯) means "rock ladder or steps" literally. The "steps" are naturally carved out by the erosion of the gigantic rocks by destructive ocean waves.
The big waves pounding the rocks and sending water sky-high are great sights to observe and hear their roars. But do not get too close to the coast line, the waves can rise as high as 6 metres (much higher on stormy days) after striking those rocks and wash everything into the ocean.
The geological scene is almost similar to the landscape in Yehliu Geological Park (野柳地质公园) to the north but without the more exquisite works of nature like the Queen's Head. Nevertheless, Shihtiping Scenic Recreation Area (石梯坪游息风景区) is still a great area to explore for its own spectacular scenes.
And no entrance fee!
To get some ideas how big the rocky outcrops can be, compare it to the two girls standing above that "rock". And check out the marvelous lines and curves on the rocky surfaces and unique pot holes. It is amazing how Mother Nature can be so patient in creating these natural artworks with winds and water over many centuries.
And if you are thorough enough, find some of these "ogre" or "orc" heads on a cliff face. Hint: they are looking out to sea.
2. Appreciate Driftwood Art
While the rocky outcrops fronted the shoreline, some structures and artworks that are erected using drift woods can be seen just behind the shore. The drift woods are tree branches or fallen tree logs that drifted to the shores off Shihtiping or nearby and are salvaged to put into better uses.
The artist that created driftwood art in Shihtiping is from the Amis aboriginal tribe (阿美族).
Apart from driftwood artworks as public exhibits that can be seen around Shihtiping, the little shed above is also constructed from logs. It is such a beautiful hut that many visitors regarded it as an artwork too. Some accommodations in the area will also make use of drift woods for indoor decorations.
3. Stroll among Paddy Fields
Hualien's coastal areas are not as flat as the western side of Taiwan, but there are still numerous patches of rice paddies around — mostly due to lesser pollution from factories. Just inland from Shihtiping's rocky shore are glistering greenish paddy fields behind the houses (mostly home stays). Most of the rice consumed in the region came from these fields.
Strolling pass the paddy fields and waving at the farmers (most of them are Amis people) at work made it both pleasant and relaxing while exploring the area around Shihtiping.
Update: The house at Shihti 118 is now Adagio Reindeer Hualien 118 (缓慢寻路石梯湾118), a budget version home stay from the more luxurious Adagio Shihtiping (缓慢石梯坪民宿) (just a short distance away). It will feel very peaceful to stay at Adagio Reindeer.
4. Taste Grilled Flying Fish
During the flying fish season, normally from April to October, flying fishes appear in abundance off the coast of Taiwan and aborigine fishermen will lie in wait for them. The local specialties being served at most eating places during this period will be grilled or smoked flying fishes.
There are different species of flying fishes at different periods and cooking-styles may vary depending on the species. It will be best to leave it to the Amis people to prepare their specialties.
One of the most aboriginal places in Shihtiping to try grilled flying fish is this Amis-ran 升火工坊 or Yina's Flying Fish (依娜的飞鱼). What if you are there outside the season? Try other Amis specialties too — I'm sure you can't taste them outside Taiwan.
If staying at Adagio Shihtiping, they may serve grilled flying fishes too during the season.
5. Visit Shihti Fishing Harbor
A short walk towards to the north of Shihtiping, about 1Km, is Shihti Fishing Harbor (石梯渔港), where catches of fresh seafood are bought in from the ocean. Get a splendid view of the harbour, the ocean and the mountains while taking a hike there from Shihtiping Scenic Area.
In the harbour, check out the blue fishing boats with some simple and unusual designs. The hulls of the boats are made with plastic tubes that were tied together to keep the boats light and afloat.
And one of things that are usually associated with fresh ocean catches are seafood restaurants and eating outlets located right beside the harbour. They served the freshest sashimi from the day's catch.
6. Go on Whale-Watching Tour
Shihti Harbor (石梯渔港) is also the first place in Taiwan that started whale-watching. Visitors can sign up for one of the tour boats to go out to sea and watch different species of whales, dolphins and flying fishes (during the flying fish season only).
Whale-watching tours are seasonal and available almost every day from April to October — except during stormy days. Between November to March the following year, the tour boats may set sail only if the weather forecast is good. Tours will be suspended during the typhoon seasons, which is unpredictable but usually in the period of July to September (the low-peak season in Taiwan).
On days when there are few visitors, you can just get to the harbour in the morning, with your personal identification documents for inspection, and get a boat ticket. Be prepared for the hot sun and keep hydrated. Make sure your footwear won't slip on the deck.
There are also night trips out to sea to go fishing for squids.
7. Put Up at a Homestay
There are a handful of home stays around Shihtiping and it is a great chance to experience the hospitality of the locals by staying in their homes. Staying for a couple of nights also allows more time to explore Shihtiping and enjoy all the wonderful activities mentioned above. It is also good to stay overnight and watch the sunrise over the Pacific Ocean early the next morning.
A search on the Internet shows about 6 homestays in Shihtiping but not all can be booked online from overseas. We will recommend Adagio Shihtiping (缓慢石梯坪) since we had stayed and enjoyed the great experience there. You may want to try others but take a peep at what Adagio has to offer first.
There are more activities for those seeking adventures in Shihtiping.
1. You can camp at the official campsites in Shihtiping with wooden huts provided as reinforcement shelters for tents. Each hut can accommodate up to two 2-men tents. (More details on their Camping website — Mandarin only.)
2. Go river-rafting along Xiuguluan River (秀姑巒溪). However, take note of dry season when the water is lesser and weak, but a slow powerless drift down the river allows more time to take in the scenic sights along the river. Check with the staff at your accommodation for more information before signing up.
How to Get to Shihtiping?
Take Hualien buses (花莲客运) that ply the routes between Hualien and Taitung (台东). Alight at Shihtiping scenic spot directly. If you are not familiar with the area, ask the bus driver to inform you when the bus is reaching the destination.
From Hualien, take Hualien Bus 1127 or Bus 1140 outside Hualien Train Station towards Taitung. The journey is about 2 hours.
From Taitung, take Hualien Bus 1127 from Taitung Train Station (about 2.5 hours) or Bus 1145 or Bus 9101 from Chenggong Township (成功乡).
Planning the next trip to Taiwan? Get out of the cities and enjoy the countryside scenery of Shihtiping.