Beach-goers headed to Taiwan most often make a pilgrimage all the way to the island nation’s southern tip to pay a visit to Kenting National Park, but with time tight on my own exploration – Kaohsiung would be the southernmost stop on my 13 day exploration.
With the Chinese summer back in Nanjing in full swing and Taiwan not a whole lot cooler, I was in dire need of some fun in the sun.
Thankfully for me, the staff at Kaohsiung Backpacker’s Inn were only too happy to make a recommendation. Nearby Cijin Island (sometimes known as Cixin or Cijin Beach) was the cure for what ails me.
Getting to Cijin Island
It’s surprisingly easy to get to Cijin Beach.
Taiwan, unlike the Mainland, does not make things arbitrarily difficult for foreigners.
You can either take a taxi/Uber to Gushan Ferry Pier, take bus 248 from the Kaohsiung Main Station, or take the MRT to Station R01.
Once at the ferry terminal, a ticket is around $15 NTD. The ferry ride is a short, ten-minute journey over calm waters.
Things to do on Cijin Island
Cijin Island is a popular day escape from big and bustling Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s second largest city. When the weather turns muggy on the ‘mainland’, it’s not uncommon for locals to make the short trip over to Cijin for some time on the beach and some of the cheapest seafood in Taiwan.
A popular way to explore the island is to rent a bike. A number of bike rental options are close to the ferry terminal, although I didn’t avail myself of these myself.
Like in other tourist destinations, bikes can be rented for a modest amount of money. You leave your driver’s license/passport with them as security.
Upon arrival, you’ll be confronted by a bustling market street in which seafood vendors and souvenir sellers vie for your attention.
This is where you’ll find some of the best and cheapest seafood in the country, but press on through the crowds and you’ll soon come to the beach.
With distinctive dark sand and some pretty sweeping panoramas, Cijin Beach definitely brings it on the visual appeal front.
Large swathes of the beach were covered by set up for some kind of festival when I visited, but a short stroll down the perilously hot sands saw me at a small patrolled beach where a few other brave souls were swimming.
The water was deliciously warm and, for reasons that are beyond me, the entire swimming area was roped off to protect us from the non-existent current.
The beach proper isn’t all white sand and pristine sunbathing conditions, but it does offer up some impressive views.
I was also lucky enough to visit during a sand sculpture festival, so there were some rather impressive bits of art scattered about the beach.
With it being around noon and the sun seeming intent on baking the skin from my bones, I decided it was time to seek out a cold drink and a bite to eat.
There are a few packed streets connecting the beach side of the island to the ferry terminal, and you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to seafood restaurants.
Signs everywhere promise that everything you see can be add for $100 NTD per plate. Shrimp, squid, a variety of fish, vegetable dishes, and more can all be had for $100 NTD per plate.
I opted for the shop whose friendly owner shouted at me in English, helped myself to some squid and fish, and had a couple of ice cold beers.
The heat on the island was intense, and with plans to meet up with a friend later in the day, I had to cut my day trip short.
Had I had more time, I’d definitely have liked to snap some photos of the temple and the famous Cijin Lighthouse, but I guess that’s just incentive to return in 2017.
Where to Stay in Kaohsiung
I was lucky enough to stay in the Kaohsiung Backpacker’s Inn for my two nights in the coastal city, and it really did make for a great base of operations.
With its cool robot themed exterior and its trendy interior, it was a far cry from the cramped and grungy hostels I’ve stayed in in the past.
Their rooftop hangout area with honor system beers gets a special mention. Great place to watch the sunset.
I spent a night in a dorm and a night in a private room, and both were very comfortable.
Their four bed dorms feature double-bed bunks with privacy curtains, lockers, and individual charging stations and reading lights. A great combination of privacy and affordability that I really appreciated.
The shared bathroom is a bit dated and clunky, but nothing I couldn’t deal with.
The private rooms are what you’d expect to find in a modestly priced hotel, and the private shower and TV were a nice touch.
I especially liked the friendly staff and the bagel and smoothie breakfast offered at the attached cafe each morning.
My stay at Kaohsiung Backpacker’s Inn was complimentary, but all opinions are my own.