Fei Cui Valley (翡翠谷)

Nature makes us happy. It’s why we seek the outdoors, and look for untouched wilderness. Lonely Planet’s coverage on hiking to wild hot springs as the latest trend has been picking up much interest amongst visitors to Taiwan, though these activities of finding paradise are of no secret to the island’s residents.

Natural Taiwan is really as good as it sounds. While some secret gems require a world of effort to get to, others are surprisingly accessible. It’s not everyday you come across newly uncovered rock pools and a waterfall metres away from a road, minutes from other popular attractions. Fei Cui Valley (翡翠谷) has been incredulously overlooked.

A couple of trips to Hualien (花蓮) ago, I wrote about magical Mukumugi (暮古墓魚), a pristine place to swim and relax in despite its increasing popularity. Those yet to make a visit however, will be disappointed to discover that due to damages from last year’s typhoon season, the area is closed for rehabilitation. Before you cross off all plans to visit Hualien though, minutes from Mukumugi is a place just like it – if not better.

Fei Cui Valley follows the Fei Cui Stream (翡翠河), just 1.5km east of Mukumugi Valley in Xiulin Township (秀林鄉). But unlike Mukumugi, it requires no permit to enter. At the time of my visit which was November last year, the valley remained known to only a few locals and even less to visitors. But to no surprise, it has gained more visitors since. Still, this place is very much untouched, and if it were not for the intrepid individuals of Taiwan Adventure Outings, which I had the pleasure to travel with, Fei Cui Valley would have remained eluded from me.

We hired scooters from central Hualien, and barely half an hour later we were taking the scenic route, zipping around local farms towards Fei Cui. The entrance to Fei Cui is actually a tunnel, so a short hike through there and some shrubbery later is all it takes to arrive at the stream’s edge (see below for details and map). We traced up the river and enjoyed lunch a beautiful rock pool before going for a dip in its perfect, crystal green waters.  Fei Cui (翡翠), by the way, means emerald.

Our lead guide, Ryan, took us past the first rock pool to see what else was waiting in Fei Cui’s wake. The ascension may take roughly 40 minutes, but the beauty that lie beyond the first main pool made every effort worthwhile.

We climbed like monkeys around and over giant boulders; slid on rocky crags as though they were natural slippery-dips; and swam in more shimmery pools of green, some deep enough to dive into. Our grand prize for the long journey was a small but lively waterfall. As I later found out, this is the aptly named Zi Mu (子母) or, Child Waterfall.

All in all it was so much prettier than what these photos could make you imagine. I sometimes think back to the adventures I get up to in Taiwan, and it is always being in the outdoors that bring the biggest smile to my face. Fei Cui Valley is one of my favourites –  it’s that hidden outdoor sanctuary you need without the difficult access, which makes it all the more fascinating.

Beautiful, untouched Taiwan could be within an arm’s reach, all you have to do is be adventurous and venture just a little further!

Check out the whole TAO expedition of Fei Cui, thanks to fellow explorer, Guang-hui Chuan:

Getting there

It’s easy getting to Fei Cui Valley. A 30 minute scooter ride from Hualien is all it takes to get to the entrance. We didn’t choose the fast route, and went through small roads to see farmlands, which made our trip even more beautiful!

Once you’ve parked around Banyan Road (榕樹路), head towards the trail which hugs the river. It leads through a dark tunnel or bat cave (apparently bats make a home out of it in the winter). Continue through it and on to Fei Cui Stream. There are a few spots to enter the stream at the beginning, but we chose to hike in the jungle a bit before veering off to the left over a water way. Most locals will stay in the man-made waterfall area at the beginning. Go past that before hopping into the stream to start your trace.

This is where you’ll require to do more work. Trace up until you see the really beautiful swimming pool which you see here. After that there is a 10 minute jungle trail to the waterfall, or, you can continue tracing another 40 minutes or so to Zimu waterfall as described above.

Taiwan Adventure Outings

Be adventurous.

That’s the tagline of Taiwan Adventure Outings, or TAO, as its creators Ryan Hevern and Dustin Craft like it to be known. They’re all about bringing out that adventurous spirit in everyone whilst exploring Taiwan. What started out with two guys as a means to get outdoors and meet people became much more than a hobby group.

Apart from connecting travellers with small-scale local tourism initiatives, TAO ensures they give back to the community by hosting free monthly beach and forest clean ups. They hope that TAO travellers not only appreciate Taiwan’s beauty, culture and adventures but are also given the opportunity to contribute towards maintaining these well-loved locations. In fact, they are the brains behind Taiwan National Clean Up Day, launching this May 20, which is a collaboration with long-term hikers, other activity groups and local communities to make Taiwan more beautiful.

As mentioned, my enviable experience at Fei Cui is not mine alone and I owe it to these guys for showing me the way. If you like to explore Fei Cui with company too, TAO is organising another trip for the long weekend of May. For more information on these events, the friendly guys at TAO would be more than happy to help you out!