While Taiwan itself is an island, the country has more than 150 outlying islands.
Some of Taiwan’s offshore islands are my favorite places in the country. Just to name a few highlights: saltwater hot springs, some of Taiwan’s best beaches, blue luminescent algae, houses made of coral, and incredible scuba diving opportunities. And there are few things I love more than riding a scooter around one of Taiwan’s small islands!
Below I’ll introduce 10 of the best islands of Taiwan and what makes each one special. Relatively few foreign visitors make it to most of them, as they do require a little more time and planning. But if you put in the effort, they could easily become the most memorable part of your trip!
Tips for Visiting Taiwan’s Islands
- Several of the below islands have no ATMs, or only a few unreliable ones. Bring cash.
- Spring is the best time for visiting most offshore islands. Summer and early fall are fine too, but it will be very hot, crowded with locals, and typhoons can cause ferry and flights cancelations. In winter, many tourist amenities close and it can be very windy.
- Nearby islands like Cijin, Turtle Island, Keelung Islet, and Anping & Yuguang can easily be incorporated into your itinerary as day trips.
- Xiaoliuqiu, Green Island, Penghu, and Orchid Island are further away and better to visit for 2-3 days. They all have ferries, but I recommend flying to Penghu from Taipei‘s Songshan Airport/Taichung/Kaohsiung or to Orchid Island from Taitung.
- Kinmen and Matsu are the furthest, so flying is best. They are close to China than Taiwan.
- The largest islands are best explored by scooter, but you’ll need a Taiwanese motorcycle license or IDP (+ sometimes a motorcycle license from your home country). Bicycles are also a good option on the smaller islands.
Islands of Taiwan Map
Here’s a map showing the Taiwanese islands I’ll cover in this article.
The Best Islands in Taiwan
Here are the top islands or island chains in Taiwan. They’re in no particular order, except I’ve put my favorite ones closer to the top. For the two closest to China, those are in a separate section at the end.
Penghu (澎湖 or Pescadores Islands) is my favorite island, or rather collection of islands, in Taiwan. The Penghu archipelago consists of around 90 islands in the middle of the Taiwan Strait (the waterway between Taiwan and China) and is one of the 13 counties of Taiwan.
There are four main islands in Penghu, connected by long bridges. The capital, Magong, is on the largest one. It has the country’s oldest temple, Penghu Tianhou Temple.
Some highlights of Penghu include the incredible Penghu Fireworks Festival in spring, unique cuisine like vibrant purple cactus ice cream, volcanic basalt columns, fish weirs in the shape of hearts, traditional Chinese houses built of coral, temples covered in banyan trees, and excellent snorkeling. In winter, Penghu is super windy but good for windsurfing.
Find all the details in my Penghu guide.
Green Island (綠島 or Lüdao/ Lyudao) is a tropical paradise and holiday island which, ironically, used to be a prison island. It is a single island off the southeast coast of Taiwan and a part of Taitung county.
My absolute favorite thing about Green Island is Zhaori Hot Spring (朝日溫泉), one of only three saltwater hot springs in the world. The spa includes some seaside pools where waves from the sea sometimes splash in, and you can gaze at stars at night.
High value package deals like this include everything you need – ferry ticket from Taitung, scooter rental, snorkeling, accommodation, and BBQ dinner.
Orchid Island (蘭嶼 or Lanyu), also in Taitung county, is home to Taiwan’s most isolated aboriginal tribe.
The Dao people (達悟族) are known for their traditional white loincloths, stunning hand-carved canoes, underground houses, and Flying Fish Festival. While the festival is not easy to attend, you can at least taste or see flying fish if you visit in spring.
While there’s a ferry to Orchid Island from Taitung or Kenting, it’s a long and seasickness-inducing ride, so I recommend catching a flight from Taitung. Most hotels and amenities close in winter and there are few ferries/flights at that time.
This is Taiwan’s only inhabited coral island. Its biggest draw are the 800+ giant sea turtles living around the island’s coast. Go snorkelling or scuba diving and you are pretty much guaranteed to see them. We even saw some in the harbor from our hotel window! The island also has some fine beaches and cool caves.
Xiaoliuqiu is within day tripping distance of Kaohsiung, but it’s better to stay for at least a few nights. It’s a short ferry ride from Donggang, which has an amazing seafood market right next to the harbor.
Here’s my Xiaoliuqiu guide.
Cijin (旗津 or Qijin) is just barely off the coast of Taiwan. This long and skinny island is in Kaohsiung City and encloses part of Kaohsiung Port, the largest port in Taiwan.
Cijin is easily incorporated into your Kaohsiung itinerary. Spend half a day cycling around the island before visiting other attractions nearby like British Consulate at Takow and Pier 2 Art Center. The ferry ride from Kaohsiung only takes 10 minutes!
Cijin has a long black sand beach on its far side. Don’t miss Cijin Sunset Bar, one of the few legit beach bars in Taiwan, and the Cijin Black Sand Festival (a sandcastle event) in summer. Ride your bike to the art installations on the coast then take in the views from Cijin Fort.
Read all about it in my Cijin guide.
Turtle Island (龜山島 or Guishan Island) is a turtle shaped island off the coast of Yilan on the east coast of Taiwan. You can’t miss the island from just about anywhere along the Yilan coast, and it really does look like a turtle.
This island is totally uninhabited, not to mention it’s an active volcano. Once used by the military, the island was closed for a long time, and still sometimes closes for months for environmental protection.
When open, you can visit it on a half-day boat tour. You can expect to see dolphins (and if you’re very lucky, whales) on the way.
The island has offshore hot springs, volcanic fumaroles, military tunnels, and you get to climb to the island’s highest point.
Keelung Islet (基隆嶼) is another volcanic island, but so small that it gets the title “islet”
This one is just offshore from Keelung Port, the second largest port in Taiwan. From many places in Keelung (see my Keelung guide), you can see its dramatic peak rising beyond the port cranes.
A boat tour to Keelung Islet only takes a few hours. It includes stopping on the island, walking to its lighthouse, and sailing past Shen’ao Elephant Trunk Rock on the mainland.
Anping & Yuguang Island
It’s possible to visit Anping Island (安平島) without even realizing you’re on an island. The only reason this Tainan city district qualifies as an island is because Anping Canal goes all the way around it.
Technicalities aside, Anping is one of the most historically rich places in Taiwan. It was here that Europeans first arrived in Taiwan. The Dutch built Anping Fort, while Anping Old Street and Anping Treehouse can’t be missed. At the tip of the island, a large statue of Matsu, goddess of fishermen and the sea, faces Anping Port.
From Anping Island, you can cross abridge to another island, Yuguang Island (漁光島). The ocean side boasts a long stretch of black sand, with some of the best sunsets on the west coast of Taiwan.
See my guide to Anping here.
Taiwan Islands Near China
Several more Taiwan islands are located off the coast of China in the Taiwan strait. These are grouped into two counties: Kinmen county and Lienchiang county, which is more commonly known as the Matsu Islands.
These are former battle frontiers between Taiwan and China, long occupied by the military. Some of them are so close to China there is even talk of building bridges to them.
Kinmen (金門 or Jinmen) consists of a main island just off the coast of Xiamen city in Fujian province. Next to it, Taiwan’s Yanyu island is a mere five kilometers off the Chinese coast.
Unsurprisingly, there are several military relics in Kinmen which are now tourist attractions. These include a rows of anti-landing spikes on the beach and even a tank half-buried in the sand.
Kinmen is also synonymous with Kaoliang (高粱), a sorghum-based spirit. It contains up to 58% alcohol and is favored among locals across the country.
The Matsu Islands, or Lienchiang county (連江縣) are another frontier of Taiwan. These are 36 islands also off the coast of Fujian province, but further north then even the northermost point of mainland Taiwan.
The Matsu Islands are named after Matsu (媽祖), goddess of fishermen and the sea. Matsu hailed from the Chinese island of Meizhou further down the coast.
Besides its remote beaches and fishing villages, Matsu Islands’ biggest claim to fame, especially in recent years, is the blue phosphorescent algae that lights up the islands’ coasts in spring and summer. Taiwanese call it the “blue tears” of Matsu (馬祖藍眼淚).