I never really understood why the Portuguese referred to Taiwan as Formosa, or “beautiful island.” The pollution, traffic and combined chaotic mess of Taipei and Taichung make you easily forget that Taiwan is, in fact, an island.
However, a trip to Green Island quickly remedies this situation, and it could very well be Taiwan’s best-kept secret.
It isn’t exactly convenient to travel to Green Island, and perhaps that’s how the island maintains its relative pristine nature. From Taipei, you can train down to Taitung; however, the trip can take 6-7 hours, and is best if you’re doing an entire East Coast tour. The high-speed rail only runs on Taiwan’s west coast, so this is not an option. From Taitung, you can hop on an hour-long boat – notorious for seasickness, but I was blessed with calmer waters and had an enjoyable time.
My companions and I purchased a min su, or guesthouse package. For a one-night stay, motorbike rentals, snorkel gear with a guide, breakfast coupons, night tour, and the boat ride to and from, we each paid less than $60 USD. What a steal! Additionally, we visited on a summer weekend, and were surprised to see how few tourists the island housed.
Green Island offers many activities, but keep in mind that they’re geared toward the mainland Taiwanese tourist. We went snorkeling with a guide, which turned out to be an awkward situation due to the fact that most Taiwanese can’t swim.
The snorkeling company was insistent that we wear wetsuits and life vests and grab onto buoys tied together by ropes. After much persuasion that we could swim, they finally allowed us to take off our vests but insisted on keeping watch for the entire duration. Green Island is home to beautiful luminescent tropical fish, crabs, coral, sponges and other undersea oddities.
I recommend renting a motorbike and exploring the island by yourself. There are no other modes of transportation besides biking, and the humid weather is not forgiving. By motorbike, you can drive around the entire island in 30 minutes, stopping to soak in the hot springs, swim in the coral beds, and climb up Confucius Rock to take in the views.
End your night by relaxing on the white coral beaches and stargazing with some friends. Allow three days on Green Island and you’ll return a rejuvenated person.