Kaohsiung is a beautiful place with a romantic cityscape and many gems in its hinterland.
I’ve tried to summarise a comprehensive list of some activities you can do in Kaohsiung on a budget, with Google map links and selected photos and tips.
It’s not an exhaustive list but I hope it helps you plan your next Kaohsiung trip.
1. Travel within and in and out of Kaohsiung City on a budget
Kaohsiung City is conveniently accessible by:
– a short MRT ride from Kaohsiung international airport
– TRA trains from other cities in Taiwan
You can take a high speed rail or fly to Kaohsiung if you have money and no time, but if you’re wanting to save money on traveling costs, this is the post for you.
Getting around within Kaohsiung City is also easy. Taking the MRT is an affordable option, with ticket prices starting from NT20.
You can rent a motorcycle using your international licence from motorcycle shops near Kaohsiung Main Station. We found this shop 555 Scooter Rental that charges by the day, week or longer term. Prices start from NT350 a day or NT1500 a week. You’ll have to make a deposit (starting from NT4000) either via cash or PayPal and you can message their FB page for info.
Self-driving options give you more flexibility over your schedule and it’s not difficult to navigate roads using Google maps. Just be careful when turning right as you’ll have to look out for motorcyclists on your right who are crossing your path to go straight ahead.
2. Budget activities near MRT stations in Kaohsiung
Suzuka Circuit Park (costs nothing to walk around and window shop)
Singuang Riverside Park (there’s a large water feature and a double storey viewing platform)
You can also consider the following options (I haven’t visited them but they’re on my list for next time):
Kaohsiung Museum of History (and Peace Memorial Park)
Hakka Cultural Museum and park next to Love River
3. Budget activities that require a connecting bus ride, ferry, or a considerable walk from MRT stations in Kaohsiung
This is a very pleasant area to walk around, and visit the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas, Spring and Autumn Pavilions, and a couple of temples further down. No admission fees needed.
This zoo costs only NT40 per person and we spent 2 hours here. Come at 10am plus to feed the goats.
There’s a water playground for kids, 3 cafés and a tram (extra NT50).
My favourite place is the bird sanctuary.
Be careful of monkeys stealing your food, don’t carry around plastic bags or food too visibly.
Shoushan National Nature Park
This nature park has pretty good hiking trails, except some of them are poorly marked (as there are multiple junctions) and you can get lost.
Take photos of all the maps you see along the way and if you do venture into the smaller trails, be prepared for some climbing on all fours and a general lack of clarity where you’re going.
Some of the main paths aren’t roads, pavements or even stone paths, but simply dirt tracks or a running path next to a wall.
Try to follow the older folk if you’re a first timer because some of the hikers go so fast that you may not know which trail they took further up.
Monkeys abound so be careful of your food and hide your food and drinks in opaque bags, not plastic bags.
This park is totally not suitable for slippers, heels, prams, very young kids, anyone who can’t walk well on very uneven paths and who cannot afford the time to get lost in the park for a couple of hours.
Martyrs Shrine and Love lookout
Martyrs Shrine tells the story of how war destroys lives, there are English and Mandarin texts about Taiwan’s recent war history.
Love sign and the nearby lookout provide great views of Kaohsiung City and Cijin Island, look at this through a fresh pair of lens after visiting Martyrs Shrine.
No admission fee.
After taking the ferry to Cijin Island (yes you can also ride your motorcycle and bicycle on board the ferry), I suggest first going to the temporary carpark near Cijin tunnel.
Walk through Cijin tunnel first, check out the cliffs, then turn right to follow the path until you reach a flight of steps going up to the lighthouse.
After exploring the lighthouse, continue on to the fort (you’ll sort of enter the fort via the “back door”) then exit the fort through its “front door” and walk back to the carpark.
No admission fee to lighthouse and fort. Ferry charges apply (e.g. NT120 for 2 adults on motorcycle).
You can take your kids here to play in the sand pit, walk by the beach and check out the street snacks.
Visit the busy Qihou market for local seafood products. Vendors at the old street sell tourist wares, street food and drinks.
There’s a bakery that sells light cakes with filling, try the one with fresh cream and yam filling.
– Rainbow Church and chilling by the beach
Some couples like to hold their wedding ceremonies at Rainbow Church, and it’s not difficult to see why.
You have to queue up to take photos of the church, or you can skip the queue and walk around the side to take photos. No admission fee.
The beach has great wind and is relatively empty.
You can fly kites here (bring your own or buy from street vendors), enjoy BBQ Taiwanese sausages in the wind and take photos of the cute sea animal statues.
With an entrance fee of NT50 (for adults), it’s a relaxed place to take photos and read up on the history of ships. It’s not a big place, there’s a 3D movie at certain timings but I didn’t have time to check it out.
Other places you can consider (which are on my to-do visit list) are:
4. Budget Activities a 0.5-1 hour Drive Away
This place offers a few DIY activities for kids and adults (see photo for charges), and also a tour behind-the-scenes to see how their bricks and tiles are hand made (book in advance, costs NT50).
You can purchase some cute tile ornaments and have coffee/tea and tea eggs there too. Great for small and large groups.
Park at the nearby Dashu wetlands parking lot and walk down the path in the park towards the back end of the kiln until you come to a bridge. Cross the bridge and walk up the slope.
If you have only 2 hours, go straight to the Fo Guang Shan Museum. There’s a shopping centre (with Starbucks, a few eateries and souvenir shops) you’ll have to walk past before entering a huge compound with large pagodas flanking the left and right sides.
At the end of the compound lies a museum which has a few exhibits on Buddha and Buddhism, a central area for devotees to pray and obtain sacred water and there are volunteers you can speak to.
Take the lift to the third floor to see the large Buddha, and devotees can pray and write wishes on a wishing “wall”.
Please observe decorum, speak softly and don’t take photos at certain sacred places (there will be signs to inform you of no photography).
If you happen to have another hour or two to spare, you can visit the monastery and the mandala garden that lies in between the monastery and the museum grounds.
No admission fee, there are donation boxes throughout you can donate at.
Fruit picking at 大山元休閒農園
We got free fruit picking vouchers from the Taiwan Tourism Board office in Singapore and contacted this fruit farm on their Facebook page in advance to make an appointment.
As jujubes were in season, we could pick about 15 jujubes each to bring back (and eat all the jujubes we want on the spot). I’ve never eaten a jujube before, it’s like a green apple with a big seed in the middle like a crunchy plum.
Near the fruit farm, there’s a reservoir you can take a run around (about 6.8km) and take photos at a suspension bridge nearby.
Tardy-Hill Nature Park
This nature park is set in a pretty obscure location, but it’s perfect for a short pitstop in between Kaohsiung and Tainan.
FLOMO has a museum (NT100 for adults) and various DIY activities (starting from NT50 for eraser, notebook or marker) that you can participate in. You can choose either museum or DIY or both. There’s also a shop you can buy stationery souvenirs at.
5. Budget Activities a 1-2 hours Drive Away
Maolin Scenic Area (Purple Butterflies)
From November to March, you can visit Maolin to admire the purple butterflies. You can ask for info at Taiwan tourist visitor centre (e.g. there’s one at Kaohsiung international airport).
If you’re renting a motorcycle to travel to Maolin from Kaohsiung city centre, try to rent at least 125cc and above.
It’s a doable ride with one or two rest stops in between (we stopped over in Pingtung’s Rose Garden 大花農場which has rows of roses you can walk through, a café and a shop selling rose products; look out for their red sign which leads to a dirt road, turn right at the electrical tower).
Walk further uphill to reach the entrance of the park.
Check out the Purple Butterfly Pavilion first before moving onto Maya Pavilion (great views of the Maolin valley but a tiring half hour climb), then continuing onto the purple butterfly trail. Don’t hurry through the trail. There are a couple of spots where you’ll see the butterflies congregating, but none after that. The map trail below looks easier than the actual trail (just like Shoushan National Nature Park).
After descending the trail path, turn right when you reach the road with houses and you’ll end up back at the park entrance. We spent about 1.5 hours here. No admission fee.
– Duonagao Suspension Bridge and Duona Glass Bridge
Then turn back and walk along the boardwalk till you come to a tar road, walk down to reach the suspension bridge. Cross the bridge to admire the views, there is a rest area on the other side. Motorcycles are not allowed to cross the suspension bridge but we saw a few doing so. Then enjoy the boardwalk exercise back to the carpark. No admission fee.
You can visit these other attractions in Maolin Valley:
These are some other places to check out in the rest of Kaohsiung:
Night markets in Kaohsiung
Here’s a list of night markets you can visit for your dinner or supper cravings. Some night markets don’t open every day so check in advance.
Liuhe Tourist Night Market – my favorite
Ruifeng Night Market – very crowded, very narrow aisles between stalls
Laborers’ Park Night Market (劳工夜市） – open Mondays, very happening
Kaisyuan Night Market – can’t comment much, we went on a rainy day and many shops were closed
ZihQiang Night Market – mostly food
I haven’t been to the following night markets yet but listing them here:
Also published on Medium.