Hualien (花蓮, Huālián) is eastern Taiwan's second largest city and one of the more pleasant small towns in Taiwan. Many travellers like to base themselves here even when Taroko Gorge is their interest as the range of food and accommodation is greater. Budget travellers will find everything they need near the train station. Head east to the Meilunshan Park (Měilúnshān Gōngyuán) and harbour area for wide streets, landscaped parks, bike lanes and ocean views in addition to boutique hotels and pricier restaurants.
Hualien means 'eddies' in Hokkien (Taiwanese) and the story goes that Qing-dynasty immigrants gave the region this name after noticing the swirling waters off the coast. Though much of the city's wealth comes from tourism, local deposits of limestone have also made Hualien the cement capital of Taiwan.
Road signage in Hualien is a mixed bag. Don't be surprised if Jung Shan is written Zhongshan, Jung Jeng as Zhongzheng, and Jung Hua as Zhonghua.