Cold weather is a luxury in Taiwan, a subtropical country dominated by high temperatures and humidity for much of the year. So when the mercury dips between November and February, fluffy jackets come out, hot pot restaurants get busier, and hot spring resorts fill with people taking advantage of the crisp weather.
Taiwan has wild pockets of hot springs all over the island, thanks to its location on a tectonic fault line with frequent volcanic activity. While Indigenous groups enjoyed Taiwan’s hot springs for millennia, they went largely undeveloped for commercial purposes until 1893, when a German businessman established the island’s first hot spring spa. In 1895, when Taiwan became a Japanese colony, the colonial government began promoting the construction of hot spring hotels and bathhouses all around the northern Taiwanese district of Beitou, inspired by thousands of similar establishments in Japan known as onsens (in Mandarin Chinese, hot springs are called wēnquán). People flocked to these new bathhouses for their therapeutic effects, which were thought to cure everything from arthritis pain to constipation.
At one point, there were more than 100 bathhouses on the island—until many of them were banned by the Taiwanese government in the 1970s for doubling as places of prostitution. In the 1990s, after outlawing and cracking down on prostitution, the government began to promote hot spring spas anew across the island and emphasized their role in traditional Taiwanese culture. They quickly became a major attraction for both domestic and international visitors.
Taiwanese hot springs patrons are usually required to bathe in the nude, but if that isn’t your cup of tea, there are plenty of options that offer private accommodations or that have public baths where guests can wear bathing suits. Many hotels have on-site restaurants where guests can sip a warm cup of Taiwanese high mountain green tea, tuck into a sticky cinnamon bun after a bath, or in one case, book a fine dining meal featuring French Taiwanese cuisine.
From retreats hidden in the mountains to easy-to-reach hotels near Taipei, read on for five of the country’s best hot spring retreats.
1. Pause Landis Resort Wulai
Location: Wulai, New Taipei City
Best for: Travelers seeking hot springs close to New Taipei City
Anchored by the emerald Nanshi River in New Taipei City (a municipality that neighbors Taipei proper), Wulai is about a 40-minute drive southeast from Taipei and is known for its deep Indigenous Taiwanese roots as well as its hot springs. Pause Landis is arguably the most luxurious hot springs resort in Wulai. The 30 guest rooms feature a sleek, minimalist design (platform beds, floor-to-ceiling windows, and inset lighting) and private, en suite soaking tubs; many also have riverside views.
For those who are day-tripping rather than overnighting, there are several types of public tubs at Pause Landis Resort. There’s one made of iron that resembles an enormous hot pot, a Japanese-style ofuro tub, and one outdoors underneath the shade of beech trees. After a long soak, head to the hotel’s teahouse—which offers views of the surrounding mountains through its picture windows—for a hot cup of Taiwanese green tea and freshly baked scones.
2. Onsen Papawaqa
Location: Tai’an, Miaoli County
Best for: Those who really want to get away from it all
Located in the mountains of Miaoli, Onsen Papawaqa is one of few hot spring resorts on the west coast of Taiwan. The highlight of the 68-room property is an open-air hot spring pool surrounded by rolling, tropical green hills on all sides. Each of the contemporary-feeling hotel rooms, with their plush beds and wood flooring, are equipped with individual hot spring tubs for maximum privacy. In April and May, when temperatures are still cool enough to enjoy a soak, the forest surrounding the hotel fills with fireflies at dusk, making a delightful evening show.
3. Chuang Tang Spring Spa Hotel
Location: Jiaoxi, Yilan County
Best for: Families with children
Situated in northeastern Taiwan and famed for its mountainous landscape and idyllic farms, Yilan is a favorite weekend getaway destination for many Taipei residents who take the hour drive southeast of the capital. In the small town of Jiaoxi, the 121-room Chuang Tang Spring Spa Hotel is a whimsical public hot spring with tubs scented with aromas such as green tea, milk, and lemongrass—there’s even a sauna that smells like sweet potato. Some people may consider this place a bit gimmicky, but it’s especially popular with families with younger kids who glom onto the novelty of scented tubs. And for those feeling brave, Chuang Tang also has a pool where guests can get the dead skin on their feet eaten off by a school of goldfish.
In addition to the scented public baths, there are private (and unscented) springs at the spa and in several guest rooms. Though there are “normal” accommodations at Chuang Tang decked out with wooden flooring, coffered ceilings, and blackout curtains, there are also several themed rooms geared toward a younger crowd, like the outrageously pink Princess Room, the soothing green Forest Room, and the African Safari Room decorated with murals of wildlife.
4. Water House
Location: Beitou, Taipei City
Best for: Hot spring enthusiasts looking to get the most bang for their buck
In northern Taipei, on the edge of Yangmingshan National Park, Beitou is one of Taiwan’s most popular hot spring towns, thanks to its proximity to the capital. It can be reached via Taipei Metro by taking the red line to the Xinbeitou stop. The Water House is a Japanese-style hot spring hotel in Beitou with both a public hot spring area and private rooms. Behind the Water House’s brutalist facade, travelers will find a smart, minimalist design and spacious rooms with hot springs–fed tubs that face the surrounding forest and smoking sulfur vents of Beitou Thermal Valley.
The 24 private rooms at the Water House are typically booked for 90-minute increments, but they can also be reserved for overnight stays. Bathe in the steaming waters for an hour, take a nap, and take in the green views of the city’s foliage. The on-site restaurant serves Western cuisine, offering omelets for breakfast and pastas for dinner. It’s also a perfect spot for afternoon tea after a soak.
5. Grand View Resort Beitou Hotel
Location: Beitou, Taipei City
Best for: Foodies and spa lovers
If you want to really splurge, the Grand View is the place to go. Situated on a quiet hill in Beitou, the hotel was designed by Taiwanese architect Chu-yuan Lee, known for dreaming up Taipei 101, which at the time of its 2004 debut, was the tallest building in the world. Inspired by Eastern Zen philosophy, the 66 rooms in the hotel seek to bring the beauty of the outdoors inside, with their large floor-to-ceiling windows and earth-toned color palette. All the rooms are outfitted with private soaking tubs fed by the local spring in Beitou.
The Grand View has three in-house restaurant options, the most notable among them C’est Bon, a French-meets-Taiwanese fine dining restaurant where a progressive menu features hearty dishes like steak and scallops with black sesame and an Indigenous peppercorn. For those who are day-tripping to Beitou from Taipei, the hotel has public pools surrounded by manicured trees. The Grand View also excels in spa treatments, which range from aromatherapy to full body massages. Book a Taiwanese-style acupressure session at Li Yang Spa, which prides itself on using organic products.
Clarissa Wei Clarissa Wei is a Taiwanese American freelance journalist and video producer. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and VICE.