Penghu, also known as the Pescadores Islands, is an archipelago of 90 islands and islets in the Taiwan Strait, situated off of Taiwan’s West Coast. With a small population of just over 100,000 people, this white sand beach and turquoise blue water paradise often seems deserted, with few tourists visiting outside of peak season. Read below to know when to go, what to eat, and what to see for a slow, enjoyable vacation.
If you want to enjoy miles of soft, white-sand beaches to yourself, go before the crowds start to arrive!
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
When to go to Penghu
How long you should visit Penghu
How to get to Penghu
How to get around Penghu
Where to stay in Penghu
What to do in Penghu
How to get to Qimei island
The best beaches in Penghu
How to get to Jibei Island
What to eat in Penghu
When to go to Penghu
The high season starts every year on the first day of Dragon Boat Festival (late-June) and continues until August. Also, Penghu is known for its fierce winds that make it a kitesurfing heaven. The high wind season lasts from October until March, so if you’re not into kitesurfing (or don’t want sand blown into your eyes) the best time to go to Penghu is from April to late-June, or September.
How long should you visit?
A 3-day trip to Penghu is enough to see the main attractions, but 4 days will really allow you to soak in the beauty of the island.
How to get to Penghu
Taiwan’s main island provides domestic flights and ferries to the archipelago.
By plane: Flights to Magong Airport (MZG) depart from Taipei (Songshan airport), Tainan, Taizhong, Chiayi, and Kaohsiung and take 35-50 minutes. Click below to find all flights available:
By ferry: Ferries leave from Kaoshiung Harbor (a 4-6 hour ride) and Chiayi’s Budai Harbor (a 1.5-hour ride). You will need to be able to read some Chinese to read the timetables and book ahead.
How to get around Penghu
The best way to get around the island is by renting your own car or scooter. Given the limited English ability of Penghu’s locals, it is advisable to ask for assistance from your hotel ahead of time. For example, the hotel can help you hire a taxi from Magong airport and arrange a scooter or car rental.
Renting scooters and cars in Penghu as a foreigner:
Taiwan rental car companies accept international driving permits for renting cars. Legally, a scooter license is required for renting scooters, but local Penghu shops are known to be a bit lenient, especially the outlying islands.
Electric scooters in Penghu do NOT require a Taiwanese license, and if you tell them you know how to ride scooters they will usually unlock the bike and allow you to go up to 55 kilometers, instead of the 30-kilometer limit.
Where to stay in Penghu (to avoid the crowds!)
Magong City is where the airport, best restaurants, and “nightlife” of the island are located. But if you’re looking for a quiet getaway, Xiyu, one of Penghu’s three main islands, offers beautiful beaches away from the crowds.
What to see and do in Penghu
Qimei Island 七美鄉
Qimei Island is Penghu’s #1 tourist attraction, mainly because of the photogenic stone weirs that resemble 2 hearts, know as the Twin Hearts Stone Weir (雙心石滬):
The Twin Hearts Stone Weir, like all of Penghu’s stone weirs, was originally used to catch fish. Qimei’s iconic Twin Hearts Stone Weir was deemed a cultural landmark in 2006. As a result of the beautiful photo opp and Penghu county’s marketing efforts, Qimei Island is often a crowded destination. Furthermore, because of the limited ferry schedules and the 2-hour travel time (one-way) to reach Qimei, most visitors miss the true beauty of this island and are rushed during their visit. Here is how to make the most of your trip to Qimei Island:
Tips on visiting Qimei Island, Penghu:
1. Book your ferry tickets in advance
The Qimei ferry schedule is available in Chinese. During high season, it is nearly impossible to get tickets the day of; even if you arrive first thing in the morning, local travel agents will usually be there before you, each prepared to buy dozens of tickets for their tour groups. Some hotels can help you get tickets in advance, but don't count on getting tickets the day of. Note that you can also book a 2-minute flight from Magong to Qimei (Search : 澎湖 (MZG) - 七美 CMJ) here).
2. Plan on staying overnight
If you take the 9:30 AM ferry, you will first stop at Wangan Island and won’t arrive at Qimei until 11:35 AM. And with a return ferry of 1:30 PM, you will only have about 2 hours to explore the island. So why not stay the night and have an entire island to yourself from 1:30 PM on??
NOTE: In case you miss Qimei during this trip, there is also an alternate ferry (on Fridays only) that travels to Qimei from Kaohsiung and then ends in Penghu! There is also a Qimei ferry that ends in Kaohsiung on Thursdays.
Click here for more information about exploring Qimei island.
2. Paradise Road
This unique, off-the-beaten-path destination looks just like what it sounds like: Paradise. Located on an old ship port in the Beisha township, Paradise Road leads into the sea with an S-curve, making for the perfect Instagram shot with blue waters all around.
TIP: Go during an off-hour, such as lunchtime, to avoid the crowds and lines of people snapping photos on the walkway.
Snorkeling is a popular activity in Penghu, given its crystal clear waters, vibrant underwater ecosystem, and rare corals. Just like Taiwan’s Green Island, Penghu has an underwater mailbox that you can actually send mail from! English speakers can book snorkeling tours here.
4. Erkan village
Erkan Village was designated as Taiwan's first traditional settlement preservation area by the Ministry of the Interior in the 1990s.
The first settlers in Erkan village were family members and descendants of the Chen clan (Mr. Chen Yanyi crossed the sea from Kinmen to Penghu and set up an agriculture and fishery business). Erkan village was later developed during the Daoguang period of the Qing Dynasty by settlers from Hokkien-speaking areas of China. After the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895, many young people had to leave their homes from this settlement and work in Taiwan, and the village gradually declined. However, the ancient houses have been restored in recent years by the Erkan Settlement Association and developed into a local cultural attraction.
Visitors can visit the original home of the Chen clan, the Erkan residence - a large family home with many wings and classic Southern Fujian style features - try traditional almond tea (杏仁茶), and even eat classic tofu pudding (豆花) while walking back in time through this well-preserved settlement.
Best beaches in Penghu
Beaches in Xiyu County
Neian beach is located in Xiyu county and is one of my personal favorites. It is a white sand beach tucked behind rolling green hills with crystal clear blue waters. There are spacious pagodas to drop off your stuff, and clean restrooms, changing areas, and showers at the entrance on the top of the hill. Because it’s quite far from the city center (a 40-minute drive from Magong) there are usually fewer tourists here. It’s a romantic spot to view the sunset, either in the water (at which point it will be low tide) or from the paved walking paths in between the hills.
Dream beach is also located in Xiyu county. It gets its name from its fleeting presence; Dream beach is only accessible during low tide. Columnar basalts, or rocks formed from volcanic lava, line one part of the beach’s U-shaped coastline.
Beaches in Magong County
Although located on Pengu’s main island, Shili beach is located 15 minutes away from Magong city in a sleepy village. It’s a very quiet beach with shallow and mellow waters.
This beach is hard to find, which is a good thing if you’re trying to avoid tourists :) Longmen beach is about a 20-minute drive from city center. Once you enter Longmen Village, you will need to continue to drive through narrow country roads without much signage. It’s past the first secluded, rocky beach you might find. You’ll know when you’re there once you see pure, white sand and azure waters with perfect swimming conditions.
Although not as picturesque as the above-mentioned beaches, Aimen beach is worth a visit to appreciate the efforts of Penghu’s locals. Before the residents stepped in, the beach’s coastline was slowly eroding. Thanks to their conservation efforts, Aimen beach now serves as both a place for water activities (banana boats, jet ski’s, snorkeling) as well as a secluded beach separated from tourists in front of Lintou Park. A beautiful cafe called Gilly Primavera (及林春咖啡館) sits next to the quiet part of the beach and serves light meals and coffee.
Shanshui beach is Penghu’s most popular beach for swimming, and its convenient location attracts a large number of tourists. It’s located next to some restaurants, so it’s not a bad idea to visit if you’ll be dining nearby.
Beaches on Penghu’s outlying islands
Jibei Beach Park, Jibei island
Jibei is a less popular island when compared to Qimei. As a result, same-day tickets can usually be purchased on local boats (be ready to practice your Chinese!) or you can book in advance from the tourist center.
Jibei’s Beach Park is a white sand beach that is blessed with a 1500 meter sandbank at the south end known as the “Sand Spit” or “Sand Tail.” While water sports are conducted on the north end of the beach, you are likely to get this white sandbank all to yourself if you go off-season.
How to get to Jibei, Penghu
A 15-minute boat ride from the Chihkan port or a 40-minute boat ride from the Houliao Visitor Centre in Baisha will take you to Jibei. You can tour the island in one day, and the locals are even more relaxed about renting scooters to tourists. But please wear a helmet!
Jibei is also known for its stone weirs, with more than any other island (over 80) in Penghu.
Wangankou beach, Wangan Island
If you want to outsmart the crowds going to Qimei, get off at Wangan Island (望安島; wàngān dǎo), the first stop along the boat ride to Qimei. Chances are you will have the Wangankou Beach, a white sand beach all to yourself.
Check out all of Penghu’s other beaches here.
What to eat in Penghu
1. Best brunch in Penghu: Addict Restaurant 癮餐廳
So far, Addict is not just my favorite brunch in Penghu, but my favorite brunch in all of Taiwan. It's a very small restaurant that is so popular that it requires at least a 2-day prior booking. Plan your trip around this restaurant; you won't regret it:
2. Tapas by the beach: The Garden Tapas & Bar 菜宅裡的小酒館
The Garden Tapas & Bar is run by brother-sister duo Richie and Elyn, Taiwanese locals who have both lived in Spain. While they serve drinks, their parents do all the cooking, preparing authentic tapas right next to Shanshui beach.
The restaurant provides alfresco dining and bar seats connected to the upcycled storage container that serves as both kitchen and bar. The restaurant's herb garden is placed right in the middle of the seating area, where guests can watch Richie cutting mint for his handmade cocktails.
TIP: ALWAYS make a reservation, as seating is limited. Plan to have an early dinner, then walk to the beach for a romantic sunset.
3. Penghu's real cactus ice cream: 可口冰城
Although dozens of stores in Magong will claim to have cactus ice cream, the locals know that there is only one store on the island that has the real thing. And it's located closer to Xiyu island.
While imitation stores use dragonfruit for their "cactus" ice cream, this store sells real cactus ice cream, using all parts of the plant. Visitors can try cactus leaf ice cream, cactus meat ice cream, and cactus flower ice cream. The store even sells ice plant ice cream!