Xiaoliuqiu is a Taiwan offshore island made entirely out of coral and famous for its abundant sea turtles. Though it is one of the smaller islands, Xiaoliuqiu’s proximity off the shore of Pingtung makes it a very popular Taiwan weekend trip with its perpetual sun, sand and sea. Here’s my guide on things to do on Xiaoliuqiu as a solo traveller and tips on what to check out.
Taiwan‘s offshore islands are some of my favourite places to visit and Xiaoliuqiu was my first stop on my Taiwan island adventure that included Penghu and the Matsu Islands. Check out my IG highlights to see some photos and videos from my Xiaoliuqiu trip.
Where is Xiaoliuqiu located?
Xiaoliuqiu is part of Taiwan’s southern Pingtung county. It’s one of Taiwan’s offshore islands located to the south of Kaohsiung City. It also has many different names which you will see online and on maps – Lambai Island, Ryukyu Island, Little Liuqiu, Liouchiou, though Xiaoliuqiu 小琉球 is the name that I found most commonly used by the Taiwanese.
Best time to visit Xiaoliuqiu
Xiaoliuqiu is in the southern part of Taiwan which generally makes its weather milder in comparison to the rest of the country. We’re talking temperatures averaging around 25-35ºC even in the winter months, so you can visit it any time of year.
However given its island vibes, summers (June to August) are when Xiaoliuqiu is at its busiest as locals and tourists alike flock to its lovely waters and beaches. I visited in May which is before the peak season and it was HOT. Like 30ºC++ with no clouds type of hot. Definitely very beach-friendly weather.
How to get to Xiaoliuqiu
Xiaoliuqiu is easiest to get to if you’re already in Kaohsiung, but even if you’re in Taipei or coming from Taoyuan International Airport, it’s not difficult to hop on a High Speed Train to get there.
1) HSR to Zuoying Station 左營高鐵
If you’re flying in to Taoyuan Airport, the easiest way to get to Kaohsiung is to first hop on the airport train to Taoyuan HSR Station 桃園高鐵 (20-30 mins, 25 NTD on easycard) and then take the high speed rail down to Zuoying Station 左營高鐵 (about 1.5 hours) [Google maps] – the HSR ticket I pre-bought via Klook [affiliate link] costs about SG$45 (Standard ticket at the HSR station is 1,330 NTD/S$58). Pre-booking means you can reserve a seat online as well (no need to squeeze in non-reserved cars or stand)
2) Tourist Shuttle Bus 9127-D to Donggang Ferry Terminal 東港渡船碼頭
At Zuoying HSR Station, look for the ticket booth and you can buy a bus ticket for the Dapeng Scenic Area to alight at Donggang Ferry Terminal 東港渡船碼頭. Seat reservation is required! Even if you intend to pay by Easycard on the bus, you still need to pop by and ‘reserve’ a seat because no standing is allowed on the bus and if it’s full, you’ll have to wait for the next bus. It’s a large coach and you can put your bags in the luggage area if you need to.
The bus ride takes just under an hour and costs 120 NTD (106 NTD if you use your Easycard). More on Taiwan Tourist Shuttle Bus 9127-D. You can also refer to this video by Freedive Nomad for a Youtube video showing you exactly where to go.
Shared Taxis: There may also be shared taxis going from Zuoying Station to Donggang Ferry Terminal, but it does depend on when you arrive and they wait for a certain minimum number of pax before they leave. It’s easier for find these at the Ferry Terminal to get back to the HSR Station. You can book this shared transport via Klook [affiliate link] connecting you to Zuoying HSR, Kaohsiung Railway Station and downtown Kaohsiung.
Kaohsiung Airport: Singapore doesn’t currently fly direct to Kaohsiung Airport (KHH), but I had to get from Donggang Ferry Terminal to Kaohsiung Airport to catch my flight to Penghu. The car service recommended by my guesthouse quoted me 800 NTD, but at the ferry terminal I found a taxi driver who quoted me 700 NTD for the 1-way ride (we had a nice chat and he even gave me a sesame bun).
3) Ferry to Xiaoliuqiu
Donggang Ferry Terminal has several companies selling ferry tickets to Xiaoliuqiu. My guesthouse had arranged my tickets for me via Tungliu Ferries 東琉線 and I just had to pop by the ticket window with my name/phone/booking number and passport to retrieve my tickets. There was no fixed timing for the tickets, I just took the next available ferry. There is a ferry schedule to give you a rough idea of when the ferries leave.
The ferry ride takes about 20 minutes and the round-trip ferry tickets from Donggang to Xiaoliuqiu cost 400 NTD/S$17. You can pre-book your Donggang-Xiaoliuqiu ferry tickets via Klook for Tungliu Ferries and TF Shipping [affiliate links] – the ferry tickets also include an option for shared taxi transfer from Zuoying/Kaohsiung train stations for an extra $7-8 which is pretty cheap and you don’t have to worry about the bus. This Tungliu ticket has a QR code so you don’t even have to worry about picking it up, just go straight to the ferry.
The public ferries dock at Baishawei Harbour 白沙尾漁港 on the northeastern end of Xiaoliuqiu. Baishawei is pretty much Xiaoliuqiu’s downtown area and bsides a nice big duty free shop at the harbour for last minute buys, you can also walk to the main town area where the guesthouses, scooter rentals and activity shops are located.
There is another harbour at Dafu 大福 on the eastern side of the island [Google maps] that private ferries go to that leaves from Yanpu Harbour 鹽埔港 which is just north from Donggang Harbour [Google maps], but Dafu is much less busy than Baishawei so you might have problems if you don’t prebook a scooter of transfer to your hotel. Check out Dafuliuqiu 大福琉球航運 or this link on Klook that sells Dafuliuqiu ferry + e-scooter packages [affiliate link] for more.
How to get around Xiaoliuqiu
Xiaoliuqiu is a pretty small island that’s about 6.8sq km large with about 12km of coastline. That translates into you being able to circle the island in about 30 minutes on scooter if you rode nonstop. There is a main ring road 環道路 that follows the coastline where most of the attractions are located, as well as 2-3 other larger roads that run from north to south through the center of the island.
Xiaoliqiu is relatively flat though there are a few slopey bits – e-scooters (which don’t require a driving license) can still manage these though there is one particularly steep road up to the lighthouse/old Banyan tree lookout that they don’t recommend e-scooters take because that is a real steep incline.
Alternative modes of transport
There is a public bus 601 that follows the main ring road around the island of Xiaoliuqiu (601A cuts through the centre road), but it’s pretty infrequent (every hour or so) so plan well if you want to use this.
Things to do in Xiaoliuqiu
Baishawei Harbour is located in the north of the island and where downtown Xiaoliuqiu with the most shops and amenities are located. Most people tend to go anti-clockwise because the island’s more famous sights are located on the west coast, so that’s what I’ll do for this Xiaoliuqiu guide to show you what you can see along the way.
Most people do a day trip to Xiaoliuqiu, but I think it’s worth spending at least one night here to enjoy the island after the crowds leave – the last ferries depart between 5-6pm. I spent 2 nights here which was plenty of time to go around the island several times.
Vase Rock 花瓶石
One of Xiaoliuqiu’s most iconic sights, Vase Rock is a popular spot for photographers, as well as snorkelers and scuba divers as there are many sea turtles to be found around here.
Just be prepared for it to be perpetually crowded. I came here in the evening when the tide was low to enjoy the sunset and there were lots of people milling around. The next morning I scuba dived off the shore here and there were lots of snorkelling groups around.
Vase Rock – Huaping Shi 花瓶石 [Google maps]
Beauty Cave 美人洞
Further along Meiren road is a slightly elevated area called the Beauty Cave or Meiren Dong. Beauty Cave actually consists of 2 parts – 1 bit stretches along the coast offering some sea caves to walk through and coastal views, while another bit is inland on the opposite side of the road.
This is a ticketed area and there are 2 booths (1 on each end of the cave stretch) to buy tickets to enter. The ticket includes entry to Wild Boar Trench and Black Devil Cave (more on that below).
The paved paths along the shoreline involve some stair climbing and lead through some interesting caves and rocks. If you’re feeling adventurous, hunt down the 13 scenic view points found here.
The inland area is more of a forest path above the rocks and trees. There are a bunch of Rocks of Significance to see along the way along with some pavilions, but basically it’s a nice scenic walk to enjoy nature. Tickets normally cost 120 NTD and I’m not sure if there was some off-peak promotion happening but I only had to pay 100 NTD when I visited.
Beauty Cave – mei ren dong 美人洞 [Google maps]. Open 7am-6pm (summer Apr-Oct), 730am-5pm (winter Nov-Mar). 120 NTD for combined ticket for Beauty Cave, Beauty Beach, Wild Boar Trench and Black Devil Cave.
Beauty Beach 美人沙灘
This cute little beach is right next to where the Beauty Cave trail is – you can see it from the Beauty cave coastal trail but the entrance to the beach is a little further down the road. Lots of snorkellers out on the beach that day having a wade in the shallows.
Beauty Beach – mei ren sha tan 美人沙灘 [Google maps] – see Beauty Cave for ticket details
Shanfu Ecological Walk 杉福生態廊道
This viewpoint further down the road from Beauty Beach actually seems quite nondescript at first – there’s a stone marker here, but follow the path next to it and you’ll find yourself descending along a stone path into an old military bunker which opens up to a sea view.
You can wander around this disused bunker which still has old military signage painted on its walls, and enjoy the coastal views while you’re here.
Shanfu Ecological Walk – shan fu sheng tai lang dao 杉福生態廊道 [Google maps]
Wild Boar Trench Trail 山豬溝生態步道
Also part of the paid ticket, the Wild Boar (Sanzhu) Trench Trail is a nice forest trail where you can take a stroll amidst greenery. Lovely coral rock formations with some very large and old banyan trees growing out of them amidst a thick jungle canopy.
This place is great for some short hikes and not a bad option when it’s hot because the thick foliage makes it a bit more shady. Expect some stair climbing but the wooden boardwalks are generally easy to walk and well maintained.
No wild boars spotted here despite its name!
You can find a row of small food shops at the entrance of the Sanzhu Trail. Here’s where I ate a really cute turtle-shaped ice cream, just one of the many turtle-shaped foods I would encounter here in Xiaoliuqiu.
Wild Boar Trench Trail – shan zhu gou sheng tai bu dao 山豬溝生態步道 [Google maps]
Venice Beach 威尼斯沙灘
Also known as Geban Bay Beach 蛤板灣, Venice Beach is a rare sand beach as most of Xiaoliuqiu’s beaches are made of coral. No ticket is needed to access this beach which has some interesting shallows that make for good intertidal walks, and its west-facing makes it a popular sunset spot as well.
Venice Beach – wei ni si ya sha tan 威尼斯沙灘 [Google maps]
Black Devil Cave 烏鬼洞
The very ominous sounding Black Devil Cave is the last attraction on the paid ticket with Beauty Cave and Wild Boar Trench and is really a lovely coastal forest area for a stroll. There are some shops outside the entrance as well though I didn’t get the chance to check them out.
The actual cave is a very narrow stairway leading down into a rock crack – it seems to have caved in so you can’t really shimmy your way through the cave though you can follow the stairs to emerge out another spot along the path.
I liked the seaside paths best! Xiaoliuqiu’s west coast is stunning.
Black Devil Cave – wu gui dong 烏鬼洞 [Google maps] Open 730am – 5pm
Sunset Pavilion 落日亭
Sunset Pavilion is on the southwestern tip of Xiaoliuqiu and given its name, is supposed to offer some of the best sunset views on the island. Unfortunately I was there on a rather gloomy afternoon and had to run from the rain after these shots, so I guess I’ll have to come back again in future to see if it’s true. Lovely sea view though, with benches to sit around on and admire the view.
Sunset Pavilion – luo ri ting 落日亭 [Google maps]
There seems to be more things to see on the western side of the island compared to the east, but the island is small enough that you should be able to make a few round trips easily if you wanted to.
Guanyin Rock 觀音石
Along the southeastern coast is a small stretch of Rocks of Significance – the Guanyin (Goddess of Mercy) Rock seems to be the most famous but for the life of me I can’t see Guanyin in any form, maybe I’m just not that divine.
There is also a Toad Rock which I missed, but I spotted the rather rodent-like Rat Rock 老鼠岩.
[Google Maps] The Guanyin, Toad and Rat rocks are located in pretty close proximity to each other along the Huandao Road right after you pass by a small temple on the left.
Liuqiu Lighthouse 白燈塔
Located up a very steep slope, the lighthouse is usually one of the best places to get a view as it’s on high ground, but manage your expectations because Liuqiu’s 10m tall lighthouse is surrounded by trees so you can’t see the coast at all from the base of the lighthouse. You can’t enter it either.
Liuqiu Lighthouse (White lighthouse) – bai deng ta 白燈塔 [Google maps]. Take the small road left right after the Toad Rock and go all the way up the slope.
Hundred Year Old Banyan Tree 百年老榕樹
While the lighthouse view is disappointing, there is another spot very close by which offers some great views. Follow the signs to the Old Banyan Tree and you’ll find a small clearing with a little temple underneath a massive banyan tree with sprawling branches.
The interesting bit is actually located behind the Banyan Tree, where there is a small path the leads past the trees…
Look at the view of the east coast of Xiaoliuqiu! Perhaps a nice sunrise spot if you can get up. That’s Secret Beach below. I made a fun short video about this find that you can watch on my Instagram.
Hundred Year Old Banyan Tree – bai nian lao rong shu 百年老榕樹 [Google maps]
Secret Beach 秘密沙灘
One of those secrets that’s not really hidden, Secret Beach is a very picturesque little sheltered cove amidst the rocks that seems like a popular spot for kayakers and SUPers. And it’s also popular with snorkelers and turtle spotting.
Secret Beach – mi mi sha tan 秘密沙灘 [Google maps]
Lobster Cave 龍蝦洞
Up on the northeast corner, I stopped at Lobster Cave to see what it was all about, but this seemed to be more of a snorkeling spot when you walk out onto the rocks. There was a place where you can clamber down some rocks to get to the beach to see the actual Lobster Cave (more like a split in the rocks) but I didn’t bother.
Lobster Cave – long xia dong 龍蝦洞 [Google maps]
Scuba Diving in Xiaoliuqiu
I did have a chance to go Scuba Diving in Xiaoliuqiu which was arranged through my acccommodation. I’d originally booked a group scuba diving session via Klook [affiliate link] but unfortunately there were not enough people so it got cancelled.
My guesthouse booked me a private diving session with Ocean Home 海之家潛水店 for 2,000 NTD (S$85) which included equipment rental + photos/videos – Not the cheapest, but it was a pretty last minute booking and also a private guide. This dive shop also has classes for those looking to take their Open Water courses, or non-divers looking to just do the Experience dive.
We got all set up at the dive shop and I hopped on a scooter behind my dive guide and we headed over to Vase Rock (it was high tide that morning) and did a shore dive from there. The water was quite clear and while not the most interesting perhaps in terms of sea life, there were a bunch of turtles all around. I had one swim up quite close to me.
What to eat in Xiaoliuqiu
Looking for places to eat on Xiaoliuqiu? While this is a small island, it gets pretty packed on the weekends so make sure to make reservations for popular spots and foods. Many of the food stalls and restaurants can be found in the town area in the north, but there are eateries scattered all around the island.
Sì bù huò Sushi 肆不惑 壽司．丼
The name of this sushi restaurant translates into something like ‘Don’t be confused’, and this is one of the most popular Japanese sushi restaurants on Xiaoliuqiu. It’s so popular that the restaurant doesn’t take walk-ins and they can be booked out weeks in advance. I lucked out because I happened to find their page the day after they opened their bookings, so I sent in a request to eat here and see whether it’s worth all the fuss.
It’s a sushi restaurant that serves donburi, sashimi and sushi. I ordered a Caterpillar Roll 毛毛蟲捲 which is a rice wrapped around seaweed, crab stick and egg and topped with avocado and fish roe and was fresh and yummy. Miso soup is served as a side and also very good.
I also ordered a Chawanmushi (steamed egg) which in most Japanese restaurants is served in a small cup, but this one was a full rice bowl portion which surprised me. Again, nice and tasty and a lovely warm silky contrast to the sushi roll.
I even ordered some freshly prepared sushi, and unfortunately I can’t tell you what this meat is because I just asked the chef at the counter to recommend me stuff, but the one on the right so so soft and delectable. I’m not usually a fan of raw fish but in places where they do it fresh, it’s just so good.
I spent 360 NTD in total, about S$15 for some pretty stellar sushi.
How to book: Book via Facebook Messenger on their Facebook page. Bookings open for the following month on 25th of the previous month (e.g. May bookings open on 25 Apr). Drop them a Facebook Message with the date/time/no. of pax/name/phone number (there are instructions that you can Google Translate in their FB posts), and wait for them to send you a calendar for confirmation.
Sibuhuo Sushi 肆不惑 壽司．丼 [Google maps]. Closed on Mon. Open for dinner 6pm – 9pm (Lunch 1130am – 2pm on Tue, Fri-Sun)
Yoyo Cheese Roll 起司捲
Yoyo cheese roll is another food that I kept seeing pop up in my Xiaoliuqiu searches, and I happen to chance upon the stall while driving around on my second day. I didn’t make a booking but just popped by to see if there was any chance to pick some up.
While it’s call Yoyo Cheese Roll, the Pie 派 is actually the famous thing to eat here, not the Roll 卷. And since this is an island, you’ll want to get the tuna which is their speciality. I didn’t know any better and they only had rolls left, so I picked up a chicken roll (70 NTD) but even that was pretty scrumptious.
Yoyo 起司捲 [Google maps] Open 11am – 430pm. Check their Facebook page for closures and if you want to make an order, call (or ask someone to call) them directly.
Mizi’s House 蜜仔琉部 餐館
Mizi’s House is an Instagrammers dream, a beautiful 2 storey house near the port adorned with plants all over its exterior and interior. It even has its own greenhouse of sorts. Their menu (which has some English) mostly consists of fusion pastas and pizza.
Again, I tried my luck walking in quite early (before 6pm) and managed to get a counter seat without any bookings.
My order was the spaghetti with shrimps, garlic, mushroom and white wine (380 NTD) which was tasty and filling, and paired that with a Xiaoliuqiu craft beer with an orange flavour profile and a cute turtle label – tasty but pretty gassy~
I chanced upon Sea Daze located near the Shanfu Ecological Walk and it’s a lovely beach bar complete with sand… on top of the hill. It’s a very pretty spot and while I intended to chill out there for some sunset beers, it turns out that they had a party the night before and were still not quite ready to open when I popped by at their opening time, ah well island life.
Still they let me sit by the sea without having to order anything as they prepped the bar and I got to enjoy the view for free. Would be a great place to hang out at night as they only close past midnight.
Tiantaijiao Ice Shop 天台角冰店
I ended up at this shop while looking for a place to wait out a sudden downpour that started while I was at the Sunset Point nearby. I passed by earlier and doubled back to this spot and got myself a nice refreshing ice cream to cool down and wait for the rain to clear.
This little dessert shop has a cute cottage vibe and they do a lot of shaved ice desserts but those looked way too much for lil’ me, so I settled for a vanilla ice cream topped with black sugar which was a perfect way to cool down in the humid weather.
Tiantaijiao Ice Shop 天台角冰店 [Google maps]. Open 11am – 5pm. More on their facebook page.
Ocean Looking Ice (Haizhaobing) 海找冰
The weather on Xiaoliuqiu was so warm and tropical that I ended up taking a lot of ice cream breaks, and one of my favourite spots had to be Haizhaobing. Located at Houshi right after the Rat Rock, this artsy little dessert spot has great views of the shallow rocky shoreline along the east coast.
Cooling down with a mermaid tail ice cream! Such a fun dessert, but I really enjoyed being able to chill by the shoreline and the low tide view. This place apparently gets very crowded so there’s a minimum 100 NTD order per person and a time limit of 90 minutes.
Liubing Hand Made Popsicles 琉冰手作冰棒
Xiaoliuqiu’s warm weather means there are plenty of reasons to indulge in iced desserts, and Liubing’s hand made popsicles are perhaps the prettiest that I’ve seen on the island.
This dessert shop makes their own popsicles with lots of fruit and colour – these sticks are ridiculously instagrammable but also pretty tasty to boot.
Where to stay in Xiaoliuqiu
Easy Stay 尹居民宿
I picked a guest house called Easy Stay for their reasonably priced rooms and central location near the main town area.
I had a room on the 2nd floor and the room itself is quite basic and while I didn’t really have any view, it was good enough to relax in after long days outside. The only thing is that the air-conditioning was right above the bed so it could get a bit cold but other than that it was great.
The staff at Easy Stay was very friendly and accommodating. What was great about talking to Easy Stay via LINE instead of through the booking platform is that they created a whole package for me that included my ferry tickets as well as scooter rental along with the room package so I didn’t have to worry about booking all these things separately.
On booking.com I would have paid 4,104 NTD for a double room for 2 nights. I ended up paying a package price of 5,200 NTD which also included scooter rental (800 NTD) and my ferry tickets (400 NTD). Normally the Taiwanese way is to transfer a deposit to confirm your booking, but because I’m a foreigner and Taiwanese banks are a real pain to transfer money to, they’re usually ok to receive payment in cash/card when you arrive.
The scooter they provided was well maintained, and they also helped me to arrange my scuba diving session pretty last minute too, overall I was very satisfied with their service.
Easy Stay is a good guesthouse if you want a simple, no-frills place to rest after all your activity around Xiaoliuqiu. Not the fanciest if you want luxury or views, but it has a convenient location (FamilyMart right opposite and the Baishawei port a few minutes away by scooter, or walking if you really needed to) and good service.
Other accommodation options I considered:
- Pin Shuian Inn on booking.com [affiliate link]
- Lixia Hostel on booking.com [affiliate link]
- GOOD B&B on booking.com [affiliate link]
Have you been to Xiaoliuqiu? Let me know if there is something cool that I missed out on so I can hopefully see it in future! In the meantime check out some of the other Taiwan offshore islands that I’ve visited: