Xiaoliuqiu Island 小琉球 is a small island off the cost of Taiwan just below Kaohsiung. Although it is probably one of the least well known of Taiwan’s smaller islands, it is the easiest to access and quite a nice weekend away.
Little Liuqiu is located 14km off the coast of the port town of Donggang, itself located about a hour’s drive south of Kaohsiung. It’s total land mass is only about 6.8km, and about 13,000 people live there permanently. Xiaoliuqiu is uniquely located in an area that protects it from rough seas and northeasterly monsoons. It’s climate is generally dry and warm, and it is the only coral island located near Taiwan.
Little Liuqiu is a fantastic weekend get away from almost anywhere in Taiwan. One could easily take the HSR from Taipei to Kaohsiung, rent a scooter, and be on the island by noon on a Saturday.
Once there, one could spend the weekend exploring the several natural sites, or while the day away on it’s three small beaches.
Flower Vase Rock
Flower vase rock is a natural oddity much like the geology at Yeliu Geopark. The symbol of Xiaoliuqiu, Flower Vase Rock sits neat the main port of Baishawei, just below the Tourist Information Center.
If visiting the island’s natural attractions in a counter-clockwise direction as advised, Beauty Cave will be the first of the three sites you have to pay for. There is a $120 ticket that gives entry to all three sites sold here. I actually thought that this was the least impressive of the three, but it’s still worth a visit. Stretch your legs on the narrow paths as they wind through narrow passages and old coral caves.
Shanfu Ecological Corridor
I don’t actually understand why this is called an ecological corridor, because all I saw was an old military bunker. But history and military aficionados might like exploring the old gun bunkers.
Wild Boar Trench
Probably my favorite site on the whole island, the Wild Boar Trench is the second of the pay sites, and probably the most interesting. It is a maze of well kept trails winding though a lush jungle of old banyan trees and coral caves. Besides the nice walkways, there are a few trails that go off into the more narrow passages. The tourist pamphlet calls these “Threads of Sky” due to the fact that you can only see a small slice of the sky while inside.
This is probably the beach you want to head to if you want to do some lounging. It’s small, quiet, and beautiful. If you plan on swimming, take some protection for your feet and swimming goggles… There is some nice coral just off shore that is both beautiful, and sharp!
Black Ghost Cave
The story behind the Black Ghost Cave is that some stranded Portuguese sailors hid out in this cave as they stole from the British who now controlled the island. When the British discovered they were hiding there, they burned them alive inside the cave. You can now squeeze your way through the extremely narrow passage. Be sure to take a flashlight and expect to get a little dirty.
One big attraction of Little Liuqiu that I must talk about now is the abundance of green sea turtles in its waters. The corals that surround the island are in great shape and have rich aquatic life, especially the very large green sea turtles. I saw the beautiful creatures feed at several places along the shoreline, but none better that the coastal observation deck located on the trail behind the Black Ghost Cave. There are several companies that offer snorkeling on the island, but you can only expect to be taken a very short distance off the beach and given little leeway to explore on your own (So it’s best to take you own equipment and do it on your own!).
Biyun Temple and Bamboo Grove
The oldest temple on the island is the Biyun Temple, located in the middle of the island. I actually only mention it because I though the small pond and bamboo grove just below it was quite beautiful.
If I wanted to visit Xiaoliuqiu in a weekend, I would rent a scooter from near the train station in Kaohsiung and drive to Donggang, an hour south of Kaohsiung. There, the private ferry makes trips to the island every 1.5 hours or so. It’s $420 round trip, plus $100 for the scooter. Or if you’re driving a car, park it at the ferry and rent a scooter on the island, at the port.