Xiaoliuqiu (aka Little Liuqiu, Lamay Island, or Lambai Island) is a small island paradise off the southwestern coast of Taiwan. The island is known for its clear water, amazing coral reefs, white sand beaches, and quiet laid back atmosphere. Only a short half hour boat ride from the Taiwan mainland, the island is easily accessible. In addition, the island is small enough that you can round the entire island by scooter in a matter of minutes.
In 1622, a Dutch ship crashed on the island, two years before the Dutch began to rule Taiwan, and all but one of the crew members were killed by the aboriginal tribe living on the island at the time.
In retaliation, the Dutch sent a force to massacre the natives on the island. 300 men, women, and children were suffocated alive in a large cave, and the rest of the people were put into slavery by the Dutch. This was known as the Lamey Island Massacre. Later Chinese people began inhabiting the island in 1645.
Later the island fell into Qing, Japanese, and ROC rule.
Currently the island is a township of Pingtung County with a population of over 10,000 people. Most of the people on the island rely on fishing and tourism for a living.
The island also has one of the largest concentrations of temples in Taiwan.
Xiaoliuqiu started to become a major tourist destination after 2004, reaching over 400,000 tourists per year.
in 2015 restrictions were placed on the inter-tidal zones in Xiaoliuqiu so that only those with a licensed guide could visit them and swimming is prohibited. These restrictions apply specifically to the Dafu Harbor inter-tidal zone (north of Dafu Harbor), Yanziping Beach, and the Shanfu Harbor Inter-tidal zone (north of Shanfu Harbor). Although there are other inter-tidal zones, these are not regulated.
How to get there:
The only way to get there is via ferry from Donggang's Dongliu Ferry Terminal. The ferry ride takes about 30 minutes. There is a ferry leaving from Donggang roughly every hour from 7 AM to 5 PM.
Parking: There is free scooter parking and paid car parking at the fishing harbor (30 NT per car), but the fishing harbor does not allow overnight parking. Overnight parking near the fishing harbor can cost up to 180 NT per day, so consider parking further away if you want to save money on parking.
Public transport: There are many shuttles to and from Zuoying HSR station that leave hourly. The cost is about 200-300 NT per trip.
Ferry ride: about 410 NT per round trip, about 30 minutes. The public ferry goes to Dafu Fishing Harbor (大福漁港), and private ferries go to Baishawei Fishing Harbor (白沙尾漁港). There are ferries that leave at least hourly from about 8 AM to 5:00 PM.
Scooter rental: about 300 NT per day. There is a gas station on the back side of the island.
Snorkeling: about 300 NT per hour
Scuba diving: around 2500 NT for 2-3 hours
You can purchase a tickets at Donggang Fishing Harbor (東港漁港), or through a tour agency such as My Taiwan Tour or a similar website.
When to go:
Anytime! Xiaoliuqiu is a tropical island that has warm water and temperatures (above 25 degrees Celsius) year round. However it is a little cooler and more windy during the winter, and you should be sure to avoid Typhoons during summer (ferries will be cancelled if there is a Typhoon).
However, it can get really crowded during summer break in July-August, so go during the off-season to avoid the crowds.
Map: Please see below:
Places we will cover in this blog:
We have visited Xiaoliuqiu three times, once in 2014, once in 2016, and once in 2020. I'm going to try to blend all these trips into one blog post.
When we first drove to Donggang 東港 in May 2014, we were not quite sure which boat to take to get there. Parking was cheap, only 30 NT per day (no overnight parking), which was fine because we only came for a day trip. We ended up taking the private ferryboat over. While buying tickets, a lady asked us if we wanted to rent scooters, and set us up with her friend who rents scooters on the island. We paid her right then, which seemed shady but it worked out.
In October 2016, we visited for two days, and drove a scooter to the ferry dock. We parked our scooter near the ferry with no problems. We bought tickets and rented scooters when we got there with no problems.
In September 2020 we visited for four days. We drove by car to the ferry dock. I learned on the spot that the cheap 30 NT parking was not allowed overnight. So I went to the nearest parking garage which was 180 NT per day, but a nice man there at the entrance talked me into parking in his driveway for 500 NT for four days. We barely made the ferry on time, which for some reason was late 30 minutes (usually the ferries are always on time). We booked our ferry ticket and scooter together with 999 scooter rental (Mandarin skills required), so it was a total of 1950 NT for two adult round trip tickets, a child round trip ticket, and scooter rental for four days. I thought it was a good deal.
In 2014 The boat ride was crowded and somewhat slow, but we made it to the island safe and sound. Right when we got off the boat, the scooter rental people found us and took us to our scooters. It was 300 NT per scooter, which is very cheap for scooter rental. The scooter people didn’t even look at our licenses, and they said themselves that helmets were not required. However, the second time we visited the rental shops all required us to wear helmets because the police had recently cracked down on tourists. We rode around the island on our scooters and saw everything from the shops to the beaches to more beaches and some restaurants. The weather was great every single time we went! Be aware that a few places require an entrance ticket. Also some restaurants can be little more expensive than one would expect in Kaohsiung, but some are cheaper too.
Xiaoliuqiu has some of the best snorkeling (浮潛 Fú qiǎn) in Taiwan. There are snorkeling rental shops and tours all over the island, the usual price being 300 NT for an hour tour per person. If you don't know where to go, ask your hostel owner and they will be able to hook you up.
Our snorkeling session in 2016 only lasted 30 minutes, but it was an unforgettable, once in a lifetime kind of experience. We went to Meirendong (美人洞), a beach we will cover further in this blog.
We just chose a random snorkeling shop near the center of town (there are snorkeling shops literally everywhere on the island). A typhoon had just passed through so we were afraid that there would be an ocean warning, but luckily we were able to get in the water and snorkel.
And of course we saw a sea turtle! In fact, you will probably see one too. Xiaoliuqiu has some of the highest concentrations of sea turtles in the world. But don'e get too close to them or touch them, because you could face a hefty fine. These are endangered animals.
Our guide fed bread to the fish to keep them close.
More fish, including some clown fish.
After only an hour of snorkeling I got a little sea sick. We were holding onto a life raft and bobbing up and down with the waves, which did not sit well with my stomach, so we hit the beach.
The lesson here being is find a day with calmer waters to go snorkeling especially if you get sea sick easily.
The best beach on the island is Gebanwan 蛤版灣, which has perfect white sand. There is also some cheap showers next to the small temple in the picture above.
We first visited Gebanwan in 2014 and it was the highlight of our trip. Later in 2015 restrictions were placed on the inter-tidal zones in Xiaoliuqiu so that only those with a licensed guide could visit them and swimming is prohibited. This is to protect the sea creatures in the inter-tidal zones. Although Gebanwan is an inter-tidal zone, it is not regulated, but in general it is not very safe to swim here. It is a really nice beach though.
Snorkeling in the crystal clear water at Gebanwan.
Soaking in the rays.
Later a group of Taiwanese tourists came, and in typical Taiwanese fashion walked into the water with all of their normal clothes still on.
I could count the people who actually brought swimwear on one hand. This is because Taiwanese people are afraid of tanning and showing skin.
View to the north of the beach.
Two fisherman fishing just off shore.
Another fisherman looking discouraged.
We forgot sunscreen.
Small lobster in the sand.
Container ships looming in the background.
White Lighthouse 白燈塔
There was a nice lighthouse at the top of the island but not much of a view. All in all we had a fun time.
"The White Lighthouse also called Liuqiu lighthouse stands on the top of a hill in southwestern Liuqiu at 22' 12'48' north latitude and 120' 21'55' east longitude. It was built in 1929. The lighthouse is white in color and round in shape, and is made of concrete. It is 10 meters tall from base to tip, and flashes each 2.2 seconds day and night. The light can be seen up to 20 nautical miles away. Like the lighthouse at Eluanbi, it helps guide ships navigating through the Taiwan Strait and the Bashi Channel, and is thus an international lighthouse. Under the bright sun, the white lighthouse stands out vividly against the blue sky, presenting a very different impression from its bright flashes of light at night."
View from the top of the lighthouse.
Some bamboo had fallen over in the latest typhoon, blocking the road to the lighthouse.
Hundred Year Old Banyan Tree (百年老榕樹)
The hundred year old banyan tree (百年老榕樹) near the lighthouse.
Fisherman trying to make a living on the rocky coral shores of Haizikou Harbor (海子口漁港). There is not really good swimming or snorkeling here, but some nice views.
More fisherman on one of the island's many piers.
Shanfu Fishing Harbor (杉福漁港)
The three of us in 2014, which has become the blog's logo. There is a nice swimming spot there called Shanfu Fishing Harbor (杉福漁港) with a small beach and showers, that you can see in the background.
I think the most fun part about that island was us just randomly driving all around on those scooters, and going full throttle down the streets.
Broken down fence after typhoon Nepartak in 2016.
Same fence repaired (or removed) in 2020.
Fallen trees after Nepartak.
There is also interesting geology along the coastline, as you can see from the sign above.
We can get close to the cliffs now, right?
Waves beating against the cliffs on the north side of the island.
Map of the ocean base points around Taiwan
Artwork destroyed by Nepartak.
More coral coastline. There is a special teapot rock that a lot of people take photos of near here, but I did not take a picture.
Sunset pavilion, the best place for seeing the sunset on the island.
Looking back to the Taiwan mainland from the sunset pavilion.
Sunset over the Taiwan Strait.
Sun peaking out of the clouds.
View of Kaohsiung from Sunset pavilion.
View of mainland Taiwan at night.
Ships passing in the night.
One place that stuck out to me was a mango ice place that served their ice in sea shells, as well as providing sea shell spoons (海の家貝殼海藻冰 address: No. 61, Minsheng Rd, Liuqiu Township, Pingtung County, 929). They also had savory seafood flavored ice, which was weird. Also there was the usual street markets that you would expect to find in Taiwan with any Taiwanese food you could ask for.
We almost got lost trying to find the port home; there are three different harbors on the island, and it took us a while to find the third one. But we eventually made it back, wishing we had stayed longer.
For more, check out this blog by JSB, or go check out the island for yourself! You will not regret it.
We are US Expats that have extensive experience living, working, and travelling in Taiwan. In our day, we had to learn many things about Taiwan the hard way. But we have come to learn that Taiwan is one of the best places in the world for Foreigners to live. Our blog does not represent the opinions of every foreigner in Taiwan. We are just trying to help others learn more about this beautiful country.