Hualien (Huālián) is eastern Taiwan's largest city and is the capital of Hualien County. Though much of the city's wealth comes from tourism, local deposits of limestone have also made Hualien the cement capital of Taiwan.
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 blessed with few sites of interest, Hualien is arguably the most liveable small city in Taiwan, and traffic aside, a chill-out kind of place. Many travellers prefer to base themselves here even if Taroko Gorge is their main interest.
Hualien sprawls out but budget travellers will find everything they need near the train station. Head a few kilometres 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. Downtown is clean and orderly for a Taiwanese town (again, traffic aside), with walkable pavements along which to stroll from cafe to restaurant to traditional snack shop.