Last Updated on 7 June, 2020
I love Taiwan for its abundant hot springs and have spent many an hour soaking in their various hot springs all over the country. I just love soaking in a hot bath and coming out feeling like I’ve sweated all the toxins out my skin. But while I was exploring Yilan in the northeastern end of Taiwan, I discovered something completely different – a rare mineral cold spring with carbonic acid water that’s 21ºC throughout the year. Here’s what you need to know about the Su’ao Cold Spring 蘇澳冷泉 and how to visit.
To set some context, I first visited Su’ao in 2016, and again in 2018 where I found it undergoing renovation. It has since been reopened so some of my earlier pix of the Cold Spring Park are a little outdated, but otherwise I have updated the information as much as I can to date.
If you are planning a trip to Yilan, check out all the other places you can visit in the southern half of Yilan, covering things to so in Su’ao as well as Luodong, Wujie and Dongshan.
21ºC Cold Spring water
At the Su’ao cold springs, the water is a perpetual 21ºC throughout the year, no matter the season or the weather. Most people are used to hot springs in Taiwan, but cold springs are pretty invigorating as well.
The water in Su’ao is carbonic acid water and when you immerse in it, it feels like you’re soaking in 7-up or sparkling water would be more accurate. The water is fizzing with carbon dioxide bubbles that cling to your skin in the water.
In Su’ao, the water is believed to have beautifying properties and you are encouraged to put it on your face. It is also drinkable – I wouldn’t drink the water directly from the pools people soak in, but you can drink it from the tap or buy the carbonated water drinks that are sold around the park.
A popular cold spring delicacy that’s unique and famous in Su’ao called Yokan or Yang Geng in Chinese. It translates literally to Goat Soup, but is really a sweet jelly-like dessert that’s made with the Su’ao Spring Waters. Check out this post to get the lowdown on what on earth Yokan really is, and maybe bring some back when you visit Su’ao in future.
Su’ao Cold Springs
Su’ao Cold Spring Park 蘇澳冷泉公園 [Renovated]
The Su’ao Cold Springs are recently renovated and you can see some new pix at this Chinese blogpost. There are 3 red sulphur cold spring pools here that you need to wear swim gear and a swim cap to enter, and there are shower and locker facilities as well.
If you’re curious about what it used to look like before, these are some pix from 2016.
Opening Hours: Daily 9am – 7pm (last entry 6pm)
Cost: 100NTD per pax (there is apparently free entry till July 2020)
Need swimming gear + swim cap
Private Baths 個人湯屋
When I visited, I shelled out for a private bath cabin for a cold spring soak. It would have been cheaper to use the public baths, but I hadn’t really planned to visit Su’ao that day so while I did have a towel with me, I did not have my swimming gear. With a private bath I could strip down without having to worry about that. The ticket stated that I had an hour, but I was told I had just 40 minutes to enjoy my soak in the cold water and someone would come to knock on my door. It sounds like a short time, but honestly, it is sufficient – you’ll see why in a bit.
My little private cabin had a small pool of cold 22ºC cold spring water, a little wooden bench for my stuff and a pail for the old school bath experience. There was a bench in the water so I could just soak my lower half, or I could sit/kneel on the floor of the stone covered floor for a total soak.
I stripped down and hopped into the little bathing pool, or well more accurately I gingerly lowered myself in because that first plunge was COLD. 22 degrees doesn’t sound so bad, but remember this is almost half your normal body temperature so the cold really pierces through your body. There were some very muffled squeaks from me as I inched my body into the water. I do surprisingly well with cold temperatures considering I’m very much a person of the tropics, but it still took a while before I could get comfortable.
It’s like when you are soaking in a hot spring and every movement you make sends sharp heat waves along your skin where the ripples touch you. In this case, it’s cold waves. Some people just do the cannonball and get it done and over with – also very much not me. I usually get stuck when it comes to my chest area – dipping into a cold bath makes your lungs feel like they shrunk or something.
Still I was pretty happy for my good soak – I popped in and out of the water every few minutes to prevent myself from getting too chilly, and by the time I was done I was feeling super refreshed and my skin felt pretty soft as well. I saw this video from Heels to Wheels where she had a hot tub in her cabin. I kinda wish I had one too.
Opening Hours: Summer (May – September) 830am – 7pm, closed on last Thursday of the month / Winter (October – April) 830am – 5pm, closed every Thursday
Cost: 150 NTD for 1pax, 200-400 NTD for 2-4 pax for private room / 70 NTD per pax for common pool
Need swim gear for common pool only
Cold Springs Experience Area 冷泉體驗區
If you venture further along the road from the Cold Spring Park, you’ll find the Experience Area next to the open-air carpark. It’s a cute little stream covered with a beautiful rainbow canopy of umbrellas. This stream draws from the same cold spring mineral water source as the Su’ao Cold Spring.
It is also completely free. Hooray!
Look out for Old Mr Xiao around the stream area. He was one of the people responsible for building this free cold springs! I first met him in Su’ao back in 2016, and these days he mans a drinks cart on a motorbike and remains a fountain of knowledge on everything to do with the Su’ao Cold Spring.
Local residents that I chatted with attest to his expertise – one older gentleman told us how he had consulted Mr Xiao when constructing his own private cold spring pool nearby and generously invited us to check it out. See those pix of the private cold spring pool in My Favourite Taiwan Hot Springs post.
Opening Hours: 24 Hours
things to see in Su’ao
I definitely had a great afternoon in Su’ao, but all the cooling benefits of my cold soak were probably washed away by the very long and rainy afternoon hike I did to nearby Nanfang’ao later on. Check out this post on all the things you can do in Nanfang’ao, including eat super fresh seafood and get an amazing coastal view.
How to get to Su’ao
From Luodong train station, I hopped on a train to Su’ao for 20 NTD and arrived in Su’ao in just half an hour. You could also take Kuokuang buses #1766 and #1791 from Luodong Bus terminal and stop in Su’ao.
The Su’ao Cold Springs are really easy to find – they are just a short walk from the Su’ao train station.
If you are taking a day trip from Taipei, you can take the train from Taipei Main Station to Su’ao, but it will take about 2.5-3 hours. Alternatively, the Kuokuang Bus #1879 from Taipei’s Yuanshan Station to Su’ao will take you less than 2 hours.
Where to stay in Yilan
There’s not that much to do in Su’ao itself so for my Yilan explorations, I based myself out of Luodong near the train and bus station, and also near the famous Luodong night market. Read this post on my favourite luxury hostels in Taiwan, or see what accommodation options in the Su’ao region from my Nanfang’ao post.
Luodong – Yilan Inspiration Hostel
This hostel is located in a residential area about 15 minutes walk or 5 minutes drive from Luodong train station, and about 20 minutes walk to the Luodong Night Market. I picked it for the cute themed dormitory rooms – I stayed in the 6-bed tent room. You can read more about Yilan Inspiration Hostel in this post.
Check out Yilan Inspiration Hostel on Booking.com [affiliate link]
Wujie – Delise’s House
Delise’s House is a little out of the way if you don’t have your own transport – you can take a bus, but riding a scooter or driving is much more convenient. The house is located in Wujie, about 10 minutes drive from Luodong train station and the room I stayed in was very pretty and clean, and I wish I had more time to spend in the room.
Delise is an excellent host who speaks English as well as Chinese and had lots of good recommendations for me on what to see in Yilan. She prepared breakfast in the mornings and even helped me make bookings via the phone.
Check out Delise’s House on Booking.com [affiliate link]