The Ultimate Travel Guide to Taiwan’s Most Exotic Island

Orchid Island, or Lanyu (蘭嶼), is one of Taiwan’s offshore islands created by a volcanic eruption. It is best known for a stunning natural beauty untainted by human development and the livelihood of Tao indigenous culture and tradition nowhere else to be found.

The exotic island may be only two-hour away by ferry from Taitung. But being geographically, culturally, and economically isolated from modern development in mainland Taiwan, it feels like a world apart. And that makes the trip to Lanyu quite a desirable adventure. 

Like other hidden gems in Taiwan, visiting Orchid Island can be challenging. This post will share everything I learned before and after visiting Lanyu to help you plan an unforgettable trip.

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Orchid Island (Lanyu) Taiwan Guide: Scuba Diving, Tao Indigenous Culture & Flying Fish Festival | #OrchidIsland #Lanyu #TaiwanTravel #TaiwanIsland #ScubaDivingAsia #IslandsInAsia

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Is it worth visiting Orchid Island?

Many Taiwanese considered the Orchid and Green Islands as the most beautiful destinations in Taiwan. Oddly enough, no one I talked to has been to Lanyu in person, whereas more have traveled Green Island. This anecdotally shows the psychological and physical distance to Lanyu.

Both islands have been on my bucket list for a while. This summer, I finally decided to visit them. (Long story short, I made it to Lanyu; however, my trip to the Green Island got canceled due to the lockdown.) 

When it comes to Orchid Island, getting there is half the game. Booking and planning took quite the work as well. This was primarily due to the lack of detailed information and mass tourism, but partly due to other unpredictable factors. Despite all these inconveniences, is it worth visiting Orchid Island, you may ask?

Orchid Island is for you if: you appreciate pristine nature and exotic cultural experiences. You wouldn’t mind a bit of inconvenience and can overlook the lack of infrastructure. And you are flexible with your time and itinerary.

Orchid Island is NOT for you if: you dream of a luxury oceanfront resort on a white sand beach. You expect access to all modern conveniences available in the city. (e.g., fast, accessible Internet and transportation, convenience stores everywhere, use of ATM and credit cards, etc.) Any last-minute changes will not make you happy. 

With a bit of luck, I was blessed with the perfect weather. My flights did not get canceled. I got to enjoy many other things this island had to offer. And diving experience alone made it so worth it for me to visit Orchid Island. 

I will be honest, though. I can see how Orchid Island would not be a perfect destination for others. But who knows? Maybe you will change your mind after reading this post. 

Orchid Island Weather

Orchid Island is warm and humid all year round. It has an average temperature of 26°C (79°F). Rainfall is expected in tropical rainforest climates. Typhoon frequently hits the island.

The high season is between May and September, when the ocean is calmer. As it is still an off-the-beaten path, you will get to enjoy an uncrowded island and have lots of options to do, eat and stay.

Personally, I think the best time to visit Orchid Island is May. Statistically, May has the most pleasant weather, hence less chance of canceled trips. It also is in the middle of the famous flying fish season (March-June) when your experience on the island is as exotic as the island can get.

How to Get to Orchid Island

Your journey to Orchid Island starts in Taitung. Wherever you are in Taiwan, first get to Taitung via flight (UNI Air or Mandarin Airlines), train (ticket), bus, or drive (rental car). 

Orchid Island Taiwan Lanyu Flight

Orchid Island by Flight

From Taitung Airport, fly to Orchid Island (Lanyu) on Daily Air. The ride takes less than 30 minutes. My roundtrip fare was about NTD2,700 (a little short of USD100), almost the same as ferry fares.

The ticket sales open up precisely two months in advance and sell out quickly. When sold out, put your name on the waiting list. Daily frequency depends on the season. (When I traveled in May, a total of 8 flights operated daily.) The propeller planes can carry a maximum of 19 passengers; however, some seats are reserved for the island residents, which may open up at the airport if not filled. Check the flight schedule here.

The Daily Air website is in Mandarin only. But you can use Google translate toggle function if you need. Or, ask your guesthouse or local friends to help you book the flight.  

Insider’s Tip: Flights get canceled more often than you think. And no matter how you book, a refund is only made at Taitung Airport.

Orchid Island Ferry at Kaiyun Harbor

Orchid Island by Ferry

From Taitung Fugang Fish Harbor, hop on a ferry to Lanyu (NT2,460 roundtrip). The trip takes 2 hours. You may bring your scooter on board at an extra NTD400. >> Book your ferry here (option to rent a scooter).

From Kenting Houbihu, the ferry ride to Lanyu (NTD2,460 roundtrip) takes about 2.5 hours. Note that this route only operates between April and September. >> Book your ferry here (option to rent a scooter).

A ferry ride to Orchid Island is notoriously choppy. From what I hear, most people experience seasickness. Be prepared with motion sickness medicine (e.g., Dramamine). Alternatives like Sea-Band wristband or ginger chews alone might not prevent you from barfing but may help with the drug.

Due to the unpredictable weather, ferries can get canceled at any time. It is just the way of life there, so have some flexibility in your schedule.

>> My friend was already at the Taitung ferry terminal when her ferry unexpectedly got canceled due to a typhoon. With the last-minute change of her travel plan, she hired a private charter to explore Taitung.

How to Get Around Orchid Island

Lanyu Map

Image Credit: Taitung Tourism Website

 

Does the Orchid Island resemble the Queen’s Head Rock in Yehliu Geopark? One main road circles around the island, and a hilly path cuts through the Queen’s neck.  

The best way to get around Orchid Island is by riding a scooter. Your guesthouse can book a scooter for you, so you can pick it up at the airport or harbor. The average rate per day is NTD500, including helmets. 

Typically, scooter rentals require an international (or local) motorcycle license, although my guesthouse never asked for one. However, if you don’t know how to ride a scooter, please don’t take the risk, especially not on the remote island. Instead, rent a car for NTD2,000 (5 seats) or NTD2,500 (7-9 seats) daily.

Orchid Island is not huge, but I cannot imagine getting around without a scooter or car. I saw many groups of road bikers and asked my guesthouse where I could rent one. But apparently, they have brought their bikes to the island. If you want to rent one, you have to request it before getting there, so I was told. (I am not sure why!)

Insider’s Tip: Orchid Island has only one gas station, which is located near the Kaiyun Harbor [Open Google Map]. Make sure you calculate your daily usage and fill up your tank accordingly. If you don’t plan well, you might have to travel across the island just to put gas.

Checklist: What to Bring to Orchid Island

Keep in mind that Lanyu is a remote, undeveloped island. Although I am all for packing light, I highly recommend you bringing everything you need with you.

1. Cash

The island has two 7-Eleven stores with ATMs. Here is the kicker. It does not always work. (If you have a Taiwanese bank card, you can use an ATM at the post office in Hongtou Village.) And many local establishments and tours only accept cash. I’d recommend bringing some extra money, in case you are stranded on the island due to the bad weather.  

2. SIM card 

Only Chunghwa Telecom (中華電信) works on the island. If you use other carriers, buy a tourist SIM card BEFORE you leave mainland Taiwan. 

3. GoPro 

Bring GoPro to your underwater activities because it is so gorgeous down there! If not convinced, at least get a waterproof cell phone case. Although you can’t bring your phone down under, it will protect your phone from other water/beach activities.

4. Towels & Toiletry

Businesses on the island strive to stay eco-friendly. As part of the effort, some guesthouses won’t provide any towels or disposable toiletry. This fast-drying towel came in handy for bath and beach uses. (I even used it to cover my legs on a scooter to prevent sunburns.) Hotels in Taiwan usually provide disposable toiletry, but not on Orchid Island. Bring your basics such as shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste, cotton swabs, body wash, body lotion, etc.

5. Water shoes

Lanyu is a volcanic island surrounded by rocky shores with coral reefs. You will be glad to bring water shoes with a firm sole. Also, you can wear these for the night tours, which require you to wear closed-toe shoes for forest and rocky beach hikes.

6. Sun Protection

The sun in Orchid Island is really strong. Wear sunscreen SPF 50 and up. If you are prone to get a sunburn, prepare aloe gel. To prevent sunburns, I highly recommend wearing a rash guard. I threw it on top of a wet swimsuit (no shower booths or public toilets to change) and wore it when I was riding a scooter under the sun. Needless to say, it’s wise to prepare sunglasses, a hat, and a swimsuit.

7. Bug spray

Hate mosquitos? Bad news. Lanyu has regular mosquitos and even more vicious, invisible tiny black mosquitos (小黑蚊), usually found in bushes and forests. When the latter attacks, you may experience a severe allergic reaction that requires medical attention. I kid you not.

Don’t let those tiny mosquitos scare you off, though. I am a mosquito magnet, but I escaped unscathed. Wearing long sleeves in forest helps. Also, spray a mosquito repellent and a small black mosquito repellent. (No, the regular one won’t work for the vicious little monsters. You can buy it at drug stores in Taiwan.) If you still get bit, rub this tiger balm on it. I swear it soothes out the bug bites almost immediately.

8. Medicines 

Whether you are taking a ferry or not, prepare motion sickness medicine. Why? Because flights are frequently canceled, and you might have to take the ferry at the last minute.  

Also, bring any critical medicine you regularly take (e.g., insulin shots, inhalers, etc.).  Prepare some extra in case you are trapped on the island for a few more days. 

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15 Things to Do in Orchid Island (Lanyu) Taiwan: Scuba Diving, Tao Indigenous Culture, Flying Fish Festival & More | #OrchidIsland #Lanyu #TaiwanTravel #TaiwanIsland #ScubaDivingAsia #IslandsInAsia

What to Do in Orchid Island

Orchid Island (Lanyu): Best Scuba Diving Destination in Taiwan | #ScubaDivingAsia #OrchidIsland #LanyuTaiwan #TaiwanTravel #IslandsInAsia

#1. Lanyu Diving

The volcanic island is surrounded by unpolluted coral reefs and inhabited by green sea turtles and tropical fish. Diving enthusiasts praise Lanyu as the best diving site in Taiwan over Green Island and Kenting because of its incredible visibility and stunning underwater scenes. Needless to say, scuba diving is the most popular thing to do on Orchid Island.

Keep in mind, whether you are in for scuba diving or free diving, Lanyu is best for more experienced divers. My trained diver friend explained that the sea bed here dips suddenly, making it challenging for inexperienced divers.

Well, Lanyu might not be the best place to get your scuba diving license. But don’t miss out on the fascinating underwater world here just because you have never done scuba diving! If you do not have proper certification, book a scuba diving discovery class (one-on-one lesson with equipment rental) or fun diving experience (excludes equipment rental) led by licensed instructors. My friend also recommended taking a one-on-one session where a certified diving instructor leads (read: hand-carries) an individual to a diving spot. And I had so much fun!!!!

Hey, by the way, no need to pee inside your diving bodysuit here. Someone told me that I needed to pee to keep my body warm inside the water. So grossed by the concept, I asked my instructor. He laughed and said that Lanyu water is so warm that it is totally unnecessary. Good that I asked!

Note: During the flying fish season, you are prohibited to randomly jump into the water whether you dive or swim. Apparently, there are sites you can still go in, which you need to ask locals.

#2. Orchid Island Tour

Orchid Island is untainted by mass tourism. Guesthouses are the most reliable sources to find tours led by local residents, who share their local knowledge and personal stories. Unfortunately, these activities are only available in Chinese.

The following three tours are absolutely worthwhile: 

Flying Fish Night Boat Tour (NTD 700/person): You may get lucky to go fishing to learn about the traditional way to catch flying fish. Only available on the limited festival weekend.  (See #3 below)

Orchid Island (Lanyu) Taiwan: Tao Indigenous Culture - Underground House Tour | #OrchidIsland #LanyuTaiwan #TaiwanTravel #TaiwanAboriginal

Underground House Tour (NTD 300-400): While most people live in modern houses now, you can still see these traditional residences scattered around the villages on the island. It may be tempting to peep, but it’s best to join a tour. Trespassing or photographing underground houses without permission can get you in trouble. (See #4 below)

Orchid Island (Lanyu) Taiwan: Night Owl & Intertidal Tour | #OrchidIsland #LanyuTaiwan #TaiwanTravel #IslandsInAsia

My tour guide caught (and released) snails on the trek, a poisonous water snake and other creatures on the beach at night.

Owl Watching & Intertidal Tour on Scooter (NTD 600): Did you know Orchid Island is home to the rare Horned Owl? But it is almost impossible for an amateur bird-watcher like me to spot this nocturnal animal on the treetops (impossible to capture on camera!). Take the expedition to the deep forest in the peach dark to find the island’s horned owl and other unique flora and fora. The tour usually ends in the intertidal zone to learn about diverse offshore creatures. Wear long sleeves and closed-toe shoes as you will be attacked by all sorts of jungle bugs (arrrrrg!) Oh, don’t forget to close your mouth.

Orchid Island (Lanyu) Taiwan: Tao Indigenous Culture - Tao Canoe | #OrchidIsland #LanyuTaiwan #TaiwanTravel #TaiwanAboriginal

#3. Tao Canoes & Flying Fish

Orchid Island is home to the Tao tribe (達悟族 or Yami). Perhaps due to the isolation, the Tao have kept their custom and tradition for generations to this day. And that makes this island so exotic and attractive to travelers.

The most distinctive characteristic associated with Orchid Island is beautifully decorated wooden canoes. These are actually fishing boats (called chinurikuran and tatara) used to catch flying fish traditionally. You can spot these canoes on display on the beach, making it an iconic site most photographed on the island.

Orchid Island (Lanyu) Taiwan: Tao Indigenous Culture - Flying Fish Festival | #OrchidIsland #LanyuTaiwan #TaiwanTravel #TaiwanAboriginal #FlyingFish

Flying fishes are preserved through drying in the sun and ocean breeze. (Don’t touch them!)

During the flying fish season, it is taboo to touch these boats. You may think it’s ok to get on a canoe for two seconds to take a quick photo. Please don’t. It is not only disrespectful behavior but also you will get yelled at by the locals. (Yup, they are watching you!)

#4. Tao Underground Houses

edtheThe Tao people traditionally lived in underground dwellings for protection against typhoons. The underground houses are designed to withstand strong winds and to prevent from flooding. A large cluster of these traditional houses can be found in Yeyin Village.

Orchid Island (Lanyu) Taiwan: Tao Indigenous Culture - Underground House Tour| #OrchidIsland #LanyuTaiwan #TaiwanTravel #TaiwanAboriginal

I hired a local guide who invited us into her family home. (I reserved through guesthouse, but you can book this package, which is less than what I paid for.) The first to catch my eyes next to the entrance was the kitchen. Whenever her grandma cooked, the entire house would get so smokey that she had to go outside. 

Inside the house is one small room for the entire family. It was completely dark (before she turned light on) and darn hot! My research suggested that they stay cool in summer and warm in winter. However, my guide told me that it gets very stuffy in summer, so the islanders usually spend the day in a private pavilion above the ground. 

Orchid Island (Lanyu) Taiwan: Tao Indigenous Culture - Underground House Tour| #OrchidIsland #LanyuTaiwan #TaiwanTravel #TaiwanAboriginal

The walls are armored with tribal decor made from fish and livestock bones. Traditionally, only the rich own goats and other livestock. The rest relied on fishing. The goat got slaughtered only on the festival or celebration days. It must be shared with every single family in the village. Whether or not to receive which parts and how much depended on the mercy of the goat owner. So the rich family held power in the ancient society. 

Orchid Island (Lanyu) Taiwan: Six Tao Villages | #OrchidIsland #LanyuTaiwan #TaiwanTravel #TaiwanAboriginal

Coastal towns in Orchid Island are located facing the ocean and a mountain on the back. Typically, traditional Tao houses are behind the colorful modern buildings.

#5. Six Tao Villages

Orchid Island has six Tao villages along the coast. Clockwise from Kaiyuan Fishing Harbor, they are Yeyou (椰油部落Yayo), Langdao (朗島部落Iraralay), Dongqing (東清部落Iranmilek), Yeyin (野銀部落Ivalino), Hongtou (紅頭部落Imorod), and Yuren Village (漁人部落Iratay). 

Most commonly, you will circle around the island on a scooter and get to visit all six villages. You might find it helpful to know that most traveler-friendly restaurants and facilities are in Yuren and Langdao villages

By the way, you may see some old men wander around in a loincloth in their village. Don’t be alarmed. They are simply wearing their traditional costume. 

Orchid Island (Lanyu) Taiwan: Rock Formation - Dragon Rock | #OrchidIsland #LanyuTaiwan #TaiwanTravel #IslandsInAsia

Guess the name of this rock?

#6. Rock Formations along the Coast

Like other offshore islands in Taiwan, Orchid Island features unique rock formations along the coast. Hunt for rock formations and appreciate the scenery!

Each rock has an imaginative name: Mantou (饅頭岩), Crocodile (鱷魚岩), Jade Girl (玉女岩), Roasted Goose (燒鵝岩), Twin Lions (雙獅岩), Frog (青蛙石), Warship (軍艦岩), Elephant Trunk Rock (象鼻岩), etc.

Orchid Island (Lanyu) Taiwan: Rock Formation - Lover’s Cave | #OrchidIsland #LanyuTaiwan #TaiwanTravel #IslandsInAsia

Lover’s Cave (情人洞) features a giant natural stone arch. Unlike other rocks immediately visible from the road, you have to walk into a park to see it on the shore. I enjoyed hearing the echo created by the incoming wave hitting the cliff. Don’t miss this magnificent site.

By the way, a local guy made small talks with me here. He tried to lure me into a tiny slit on the cliff, supposedly a path to a secret cave. Once I peeked into the dark entrance out of curiosity, he quickly said he would “only” charge me NTD100, but my “boyfriend” (sitting in the distance) could not enter. It immediately raised a red flag, so I left. Creep!

Orchid Island (Lanyu) Taiwan: Rock Formation - Dragon Rock | #OrchidIsland #LanyuTaiwan #TaiwanTravel #IslandsInAsia

Dragon Head (龍頭岩) is my other favorite rock on the southeastern corner of the island. Photos don’t do justice. I saw it in awe as I was approaching this majestic rock. The resemblance to the dragon and its scale is uncanny. I heard this is also the best spot to photograph the stars at night.

Orchid Island (Lanyu) Taiwan: Gorgeous ocean view from Harbor & Lanyu Light House | #OrchidIsland #LanyuTaiwan #TaiwanTravel #IslandsInAsia #Oceanview

Look at this gorgeous view! Isn’t it so peaceful?

#7. Kaiyun Harbor & Lanyu Light House

If you come to Orchid Island on a boat, Kaiyun Harbor is the starting point. This small pier welcomes you with parked boats on emerald water. Surprising for a harbor, the area water is so clean that you can even dive in a nearby site.   

Orchid Island (Lanyu) Taiwan: Gorgeous ocean view from Harbor & Lanyu Light House | #OrchidIsland #LanyuTaiwan #TaiwanTravel #IslandsInAsia #Oceanview

From Lanyu Light House, you can see Mantou Rock. It gets super windy. Hold onto your hat!

Don’t forget to walk over to the old Lanyu Light House. It gets very windy, but the scenery is beautiful.   

Kaiyun Harbor

Location: [Open Google Map]

Orchid Island (Lanyu) Taiwan: Goats on Rock | #OrchidIsland #LanyuTaiwan #TaiwanTravel #IslandsInAsia

#8. Goats on Rocks

Goats are everywhere! They are on the rocks, road, fence, and literally all over the island. You won’t miss it. But I think the best place to spot them is near Langdao Secret Cold Spring. 

At first, I found it odd not to see goats on the menu in local restaurants. As my underground tour guide explained, perhaps that is because goats are a valuable commodity only to be feasted on a special occasion. 

On the island, I saw all sorts of livestock like chickens and pigs freely roaming around the street. 

Orchid Island (Lanyu) Taiwan: Chill at the Pavilion | #OrchidIsland #LanyuTaiwan #TaiwanTravel #TaiwanAboriginal

Do you see a typical Lanyu pavilion in the middle of the photo?

#9. Chill at the Pavilion

The islanders know how best to appreciate the stunning nature given to them. They built various shapes and sizes of pavilions along the coast. These humble huts offer the best ocean view, shades under the blazing sun, and cool ocean breeze. 

When the desire to pedal your moped soars, remember you are on vacation. Time to slow down. Enjoy what nature has presented to you as how islanders do, like taking a nap at the pavilion.  

Note: Take your shoes off when you enter the pavilion. 

Orchid Island (Lanyu) Taiwan: Take in the slow island life | #OrchidIsland #LanyuTaiwan #TaiwanTravel #IslandsInAsia

#10. Take in the Slow Island Life 

​If the no-frill outdoor pavilion is not exactly in your book, here is another fancy(?) way to take the simple pleasures of slow island life. Grab a book and head over to an oceanfront cafe.

The afternoon sun in May of Orchid Island was brutal. As I was looking for a shelter, a cute cafe overlooking sandy beach caught my eyes. At Rover [Open Google Map], I rocked a colorful hammock with mango smoothie in one hand and just enjoyed the ocean view the entire afternoon. It was the perfect place I would imagine to chill on the island vacation!

The beach in front of Rover looked very nice. I was told that it is usually open to the public, except for the flying fish season. 

Orchid Island Taiwan: Lanyu Souvenir | #OrchidIsland #LanyuTaiwan #LanyuFood #TaiwanTravel

By the way, stop by the souvenir shop next door. This shop has modern and artsy crafts only found on this island.

#11. Watch Sunrise at Dongqing Bay

Orchid Island locates at the southeastern end of Taiwan territory, which means it is the first place in the country to see the sunrise. There are many sunrise spots on the island, from Dongqing Bay to Weather Station on the mountain top.

Orchid Island (Lanyu) Taiwan: Sunrise on Dongqing Bay | #OrchidIsland #LanyuTaiwan #TaiwanTravel #IslandsInAsia

The sunrise from my room in Dongqing

Not an early bird? See it from your room. I saw a gorgeous sunrise behind the Warship Rock in the comfort of my room in Dongqing. (See “Orchid Hostels” below for more info.)

Orchid Island (Lanyu) Taiwan: Sunrise on Dongqing Bay | #OrchidIsland #LanyuTaiwan #TaiwanTravel #IslandsInAsia

Another spot I recommend is a breakfast joint in Dongqing village [Open Google Map]. This cafe has a shaded oceanfront deck. Enjoy your breakfast with the view.

#12. Swim in Secret Cold Springs

During the flying fish season, island beaches are off the limit. (See “What Not to Do” below.) But don’t be disappointed. Orchid Island has several “secret” cold springs for swimming and snorkeling. As the name suggests, these cold springs stay icy cold even in the summer heat!

Each village has a pocket of natural ocean pools formed by rocks. The size and depth vary by site; some are appropriate for dipping feet while others are good for snorkeling.

Orchid Island (Lanyu) Taiwan: Swim or Snorkel in Secret Cold Springs | #OrchidIsland #LanyuTaiwan #TaiwanTravel #IslandsInAsia

My favorite was Yeyin Cold Spring (野銀冷泉Open Google Map), which I found by accident on a round-the-island scooter ride. The spot has multiple pools connected by rough-edged slippery rocks. (I cannot stop talking about the versatility and durability of these water shoes!) If you look close, tiny fishes swim in this super clean water.

Orchid Island (Lanyu) Taiwan: Swim or Snorkel in Secret Cold Springs | #OrchidIsland #LanyuTaiwan #TaiwanTravel #IslandsInAsia

Langdao Secret Pool (朗島秘境Open Google Map) is my second choice. Many people bringing their own snorkeling gears to see tropical fishes under the water. I also saw a group of goats on the huge rock (see #8) grazing and gazing.

Another spot you may want to check out: Dongqing Secret Pool (東清秘境; Open Google Map).

Orchid Island (Lanyu) Taiwan: Standup Paddling | #OrchidIsland #LanyuTaiwan #TaiwanTravel #IslandsInAsia #SUP

#13. SUP

No one told me I could do Stand-Up Paddleboarding on Orchid Island (darn!). When I was passing by Longmen Port on the southern tip of the island, I saw a group of people having a blast on SUP. The port would have been a perfect place to learn SUP (on my bucket list forever) as the closed site looked safe. 

It was my last afternoon on the island, and I had to pass. If I had known earlier, I would have found a way to sign up for it. (This is the only offer I can find online but you may ask your guesthouse for other options.) You don’t have to miss it because I’m telling you now!  

#14. Lanyu Hiking Trails

The middle of Orchid Island is pretty much an untouched forest and rugged mountain. Naturally, hikers can find many beautiful treks, including Datianchi Lake (大天池Open Google Map), Green Green Grassland (青青草原Open Google Map), and Hongtou (Red Head) Forest Hiking Path (紅頭森林步道Open Google Map).

By the way, the island hosts a variety of flora and fauna, including 35 tropical plants only found on the island. I can imagine it would be super tricky to find these on your hike unless you are an expert. If you are determined to see them, it is probably wise to join a hiking tour (ask your host): Datianchi Lake (4 hours, NTD 400) and Red Head Forest (2 hours, NTD 600). 

Attention hiking enthusiasts: you should not miss out on Taiwan’s Marble Gorge! I recently trekked many trails in Taroko National Park and wrote a detailed guide. Enjoy the marvelous hike! >>  

Orchid Island (Lanyu) Taiwan: Lanyu Museum | #OrchidIsland #LanyuTaiwan #TaiwanTravel #IslandsInAsia

#15. Lanyu Museum

Lanyu Museum is a cultural place to learn more about Tao history and life on Orchid Island. It was closed while I was on the island, so I can’t say much about the exhibit there. However, I would say this is ok to skip if your time doesn’t work out. The Tao culture is very much well-reserved even today, so you can make your observation around the island. You may join one of the cultural tours to hear more life stories from a local guide (see #2 for my recommendation).  

Hours: 8:30 am – 12pm, 1:30-5pm (Wed & Thurs closed)

Location: [Open Google Map]

What NOT to Do in Orchid Island

I would not typically list out what not to do somewhere. Given the unique culture in Orchid Island, I feel compelled to share a few Lanyu taboos you should be aware of. Keep in mind that the Tao people take their culture and custom seriously. Some of them may sound superstitious to you, but please put your judgment away and respect their way of living. 

Take photos of aboriginals without their consent

The Orchid islanders do not like to be photographed by strangers (understandably so!). If you are used to mainland Taiwanese’s friendly nature to foreigners, you better not expect the same level of welcome here. Even Taiwanese are “foreign” on this island. Your intention – whether innocent curiosity or not – does not matter. Do not take photos of them without their consent. (I have seen some young Taiwanese Instagrammers got yelled at by the locals.)  

Trespass residences without being invited

I might be preaching to the choir here. But it is common sense not to trespass someone’s house, right? For some reason, some people apparently feel ok to take a peek at underground dwellings. Please don’t! Instead, take an underground house tour (here).  

Enter the private pavilion

I recommend chilling at the pavilion (see #9). Let me clarify, I was only referring to those public ones. How do you know which is public vs private? Most likely, the small pavilions next to underground houses in the village are privately owned. The ones along the coast out on the road are likely shared for public use. 

Touch sun-drying fish

I’ve seen flying fish, squid, and other fish being hung dry all over the island. It’s okay to take photos, but do NOT touch them. I mean, would you like to eat fish every passer-by touched? It also brings bad luck to fishermen, so it would upset the locals who rely on fishing for a living, especially during the flying fish season. 

Touch or get in Tao Canoe

Oh, that iconic Orchid Island scenery. I get it, you are tempted to take photos with the Tao canoes parked on the beach. Taking photos are acceptable. But you cannot touch or get onto the fishing boat. The Tao people believe that brings bad buck to fishermen, too. You may think the boats are unattended, but believe me, someone is watching you and ready to kick your butt. 

Jump in the ocean during the flying fish season

Generally speaking, beaches are closed for any water activities during the flying fish season. HOWEVER, you will still find some spots you can swim, snorkel, or even scuba dive. Do ask your hotel or locals where to go. (Also see #12). Don’t jump in the random water.

What to Eat in Orchid Island & Where

Flying Fish

From March to June, you can find flying fish in abundance on the island. Many local restaurants prepare flying fish in many ways, mostly fried, braised (“hongshao”), steamed, flaked, etc.

Orchid Island Taiwan: Lanyu Food - Flying Fish | #OrchidIsland #LanyuTaiwan #LanyuFood #TaiwanTravel #FlyingFish

A famous breakfast joint even makes flying fish rice balls (飛魚飯段). It is so popular that you need to get in line around 5:30 am, way before opening the door at 6 am. It sells out quickly. (I never got to taste it!)

A Li Gei Breakfast Restaurant 阿力給早餐店

Location: [Open Google Map]

Hours: 6-11 am

Orchid Island Taiwan: Lanyu Food - Flying Fish | #OrchidIsland #LanyuTaiwan #LanyuFood #TaiwanTravel #FlyingFish

I like deep-fried flying fish the best. It has a delicious crunchiness and preserves the beautiful flying fish in its most artful form. Driftwood Restaurant has the best flying fish in town. Their fish roe spaghetti is well-balanced and tasty, too. I loved their creative menu and drinks so much that I went there twice. (More on the drinks below.) 

Driftwood Restaurant 蘭嶼漂流木餐廳

Location: [Open Google Map]

Hours: 8 am – 5 pm (closed on Tuesday)

Orchid Island Taiwan: Lanyu Food - Flying Fish | #OrchidIsland #LanyuTaiwan #LanyuFood #TaiwanTravel #FlyingFish

Another popular spot to enjoy flying fish is Wenwen Taro Ice. It is an eye-catching cafe that sells a set menu, taro ice cream and a variety of small souvenirs. I found the ice cream below average, but the lunch menu was on par.  

Wenwen Taro Ice 雯雯芋頭冰

Location: [Open Google Map]

Hours: 9am – 8pm

Taro Shaved Ice

Orchid Island Taiwan: Lanyu Food - Taro Shaved Ice | #OrchidIsland #LanyuTaiwan #LanyuFood #TaiwanTravel

Taro is another specialty produce of Orchid Island. You may try various taro drinks and desserts here. But I highly recommend getting a bowl of taro shaved ice. 

A tiny shop in Langdao village has the best on the island. Order and take it to the colorful pavilion in front. Enjoy icy cold taro desserts with the view.  

Taro Ice (芋頭冰)

Location: [Open Google Map]

Hours: 10 am – 9 pm

Breakfast with Sunrise

Orchid Island Taiwan: Lanyu Food - Breakfast with Sunrise | #OrchidIsland #LanyuTaiwan #LanyuFood #TaiwanTravel

Breakfast toast with condensed milk is popular at this breakfast joint overlooking Dongqing Bay. Be there early, and you can get the best seat in the house to enjoy the sunrise (see #11). 

Dongqing No. 33 東清三十三號

Location: [Open Google Map]

Hours: 6am – 2pm

Dongqing Night Market

Orchid Island Taiwan: Lanyu Food - Dongqing Night Market | #OrchidIsland #LanyuTaiwan #LanyuFood #TaiwanTravel

I forgot to take photos when the night market was open. Here is the quiet scene during the day.

Dongqing Village has the only night market on the island, and it’s worthwhile to check out. As the dusk set in, the food stalls start opening one by one. This night market is not big yet offers a diverse menu from night market classics to local specialties such as fried flying fish. 

Dongqing Night Market (東清夜市)

Location: [Open Google Map]

Drinks

For a tiny offshore island, Orchid Island has many cute cafes and bars. But some places are tricky to predict business hours as Google map information is not always correct.

Orchid Island Taiwan: Lanyu Food & Drinks | #OrchidIsland #LanyuTaiwan #LanyuFood #TaiwanTravel

Not to be missed are the best coffee and smoothies in town at Driftwood Restaurant. In two separate visits, I tasted six different drinks. From espresso to tiramisu latte to millet coffee, I can tell they put lots of thought into creating a unique coffee menu here. I loved taro and mango smoothies – classic Taiwanese summer drinks but so much better! The restaurant also offers Orchid Island’s craft beer (人之水).

Orchid Island Taiwan: Lanyu Food & Drinks | #OrchidIsland #LanyuTaiwan #LanyuFood #TaiwanTravel

Another place I want to recommend for smoothies and alcoholic drinks is Rover. The beach cafe oozes out Bali vibes with colorful hammocks and cushions thrown on the wooden deck. Besides western meals (but lower your expectation), it offers decent smoothies and cocktails. Although I was infatuated with the delicious coffee aroma in the air, their coffee did not impress me much. Nevertheless, this cafe/restaurant/bar is a perfect beachfront place to spend a lazy afternoon on the island. (See #11 above)

Rover (蘭嶼旅人)

Location: [Open Google Map]

Hours: 10:30 am – 10 pm (closed on Wednesday)

Orchid Island Hostels

Orchid island only has hostels or guesthouses, called Minsu (民宿). As the island is pretty much undeveloped, you cannot expect any fancy resorts or hotels. But that’s the beauty of this island.

Due to the limited supply, these hostels are not cheap, nor is it easy to book. There are a few on booking sites. But you may need to call individual hostels to check availability. Booking may require a deposit or full payment upfront through bank transfer. (Many hotels only accept cash.) Therefore, if you don’t speak Chinese, you may need help from a local friend.

I cannot emphasize enough: Book as soon as possible. Good ones get snatched very quickly!

Also, note that it is common that hostels in Lanyu don’t provide amenities and toiletry. Make sure to check my “what to bring to Orchid Island” list above.

Insider’s Tip: Check the cancellation policy before making payment. Not all lodging refunds your deposit even if you cannot make it due to the bad weather. Flights tend to get canceled more frequently than ferries. Some hostels may refund only if ferries don’t operate.

Mermaid B&B

Mermaid B&B (海人魚民宿&餐廳) is a modern cozy en-suite bed & breakfast. Locates in the most developed area on the island, it would have been my first choice. Besides its stylish room and restaurant, this place has fantastic reviews.  

Location: [Open Google Map]

Phone: +886-(0)933-798-538

Mr. Fish Hostel

Mr. Fish Hostel is another lodging in Yuren with great reviews. This clean, modern stay offers both private and bunkbed dormitory-style rooms. 

Location: [Open Google Map]

Phone: +886-(0)989-094-444

Blue Ocean House

If your main goal on the island is to dive, Blue Ocean House Dive Resort may be your best bet for the lodging+diving all in one experience. Spacious suites accommodate two to eight persons. And PADI-certified instructors offer various diving trips from beginners to advanced open water experience to licensing training programs. 

Location: [Open Google Map]

Phone: +886-(0)988-331-116 (or email: boh06082000[at]gmail[dot]com) 

>> Hey, having trouble getting a room in Yuren? Lanyu Blue Capsule is a dormitory-style hostel with a shared bathroom. It might not be the best, but you may have better luck via Booking [book here]. 

Banai Homestay

Fancy ocean view from your room? Banai Homestay is a clean, simple bed & breakfast facing the ocean. It locates in Yeyou village between the airport and port. 

The huge advantage is that this homestay is listed on Booking. That means easier booking and cancellation, which is rare for Lanyu hotels. Book your stay here.  

That Day Hostel

That Day Hostel in Yeyou Village is a cozy dormitory hostel. Its concrete wall and modern decor appeal to young travelers. The best way to reserve is via Line (ID: that day) or email at service[at]fullinn[dot]tw. 

Location: [Open Google Map]

Phone: +886-(0)905-918-501

Lanyu IGANG

Lanyu IGANG is a beachfront hostel in Langdao Village. Although not fancy, this property has lovely rooms with comfy beds and excellent reviews on Booking. Book your stay here. 

No.16 B&B

No.16 B&B is a modern breakfast & bed located in Langdao Village. The cozy rooms feature an excellent ocean view from large windows. I called the reservation line multiple times to no avail. (You may have better luck.) 

Location: [Open Google Map]

Phone: +886-(0)988-905-333 

Orchid Island (Lanyu) Taiwan: Lanyu Hotels | #OrchidIsland #LanyuTaiwan #TaiwanTravel #IslandsInAsia

Hi Sea B&B

Housed in a bright yellow building, Hi Sea B&B (蘭嶼海堤驛棧) overlooks the Warship Rock in Dongqing Bay. It was the only decently looking (clean) B&B with a vacancy by the time I booked. Although it was not the first choice, I was satisfied with my stay despite its distance from the most happening part of the town.

The remote location has its own advantages. You can see a gorgeous sunrise right from your window. You can get to the owl & intertidal night tour site faster, which means a higher chance of seeing owls before they fly up to avoid people.  

Location: [Open Google Map]

Phone: +886-(0)905-805-772

Taiwan Islands to Go Next

>> Penghu: Taiwan’s Underrated Hidden Gem Island 

>> Xiaoliuqiu Island: Swim with Sea Turtles

>> Kinmen Island: Taiwan’s off-the-beaten destination with Military History, Kaoliang Liquor  and Ancient Architecture

>> Best Beaches in Taiwan: Thinking a beach vacation? Check out my list of the most beautiful and unusual beaches.

Bon Voyage!

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