Green Island (Lǜ Dǎo) certainly lives up to its name, it is hugely lush, covered in dense green forest and surrounded by gleaming ocean.
The small volcanic island sits off the east coast of Taiwan, so is of course accessible by ferry, or as its been termed elsewhere “a vomit boat.” Armed with motion sickness tablets, I boarded the boat that travelled as fast as a hovercraft without any of the grace – an hour’s ride from Taitung harbour.
Once you arrive and find your way out of the bustling harbour, the island has a lot to offer with quirky shops, a few cafes and eateries, BBQs, very tiny beaches, an old lighthouse, short walks and little pavilions, snorkelling, scuba diving, and perhaps the most magnificent: one of only three saltwater hot springs in the world.
Get Around: by electric bicycle and keep Green Island green. I’ve read since that it’s free to hire one from the Visitor’s Centre but many hotels also include hire in their package and charge the battery for you. It only takes 90 mins to get round the whole of the island by bicycle, so scooters are somewhat unnecessary, not to mention that they cost more, queues at the one tiny petrol station are outrageous, and they pollute the island.
Relax: at Zhaori Saltwater Hot Springs. Out on the ocean in the south of the island, these hot springs are best enjoyed in the evening when the air is a bit cooler.
Snorkel: or if you’re more experienced/intrepid, scuba dive. It’s boasted to be Taiwan’s best spot for it, and it is pretty awesome. The water is clear and the coral reef juts out high enough that even if like me and my mum you’ve never done it before, you can see plenty!
On a side-note, don’t hitch a snorkelling adventure with Green Island Adventure run snorkelling people, SSI. My mum and I were totally inexperienced, and when we turned up for a group snorkel we were thrown a dirty snorkel and sent off in the direction of the harbour by a casual summer worker there. With no wetsuits our backs and legs got burnt in the water, and with no flippers we had a tremendous amount of work to do. After a little time we got the hang of not swallowing mouthfuls of saltwater and saw some beautiful clown fish colonies, but we unexpectedly encountered a large jellyfish floating and frantically swam off!
Drink: some fruit ice. There’s a handmade ice cream shop on the edge of Gongguan Village selling heaps of ice cream from green tea to passion fruit, as well as fresh fruit blended with ice, such as pineapple, mango and dragonfruit.
Eat: at the diver’s café in Gongguan Village. Outside is a three-teired sign reading “Eat, Drink, Dive” in block rainbow colours. They’re super busy at lunchtime but much quieter in the evenings. You can ask for veggie noodles, which are deliciously herby.
Don’t Eat: As a Vegetarian, I have to say, don’t eat deer meat.
Sleep: at 70 Corner (70腳落). It’s a lovely, comfy little guesthouse, run by a woman and her three or four sons, situated only a minute’s walk from the harbour. It’s a good price for a summer room at $2800 per night Sunday – Thursday. You can translate the webpage to English on Google Translate.
Read: about the history of the island as a place of exile for political prisoners during the 1940s right up until the 1980s. The Taiwanese have a strange approach to the history where, combined with the consuming of deer meat on the island, many eateries and gift shops make a joke out of jail bars and cartoon deer in inmate clothing.