Forest Baths in Jiaoxi Hot Springs Park

A few weeks ago I took a day off from work to spend with a good friend who was visiting from Australia.  It was a beautiful, early spring day so we decided to head for the hot springs town of Jiaoxi (also spelt Chiao-hsi or Jiaosi), near Yilan (also spelt Ilan).  Jiaoxi is only a short 45 minute drive from Taipei, yet it feels like another world.  Ever since our day-trip I have been raving non-stop to anyone who will listen about our hot springs bathing experience.  I believe we have found the best Japanese-style hot springs bathing house.  And the best thing is that hardly anyone knows about it — yet.

Jiaoxi Hot Springs Park

There is no shortage of hot spring bathing opportunities in Taiwan.  There are 129 hot spring areas in Taiwan, and most of them have multiple upmarket resorts vying for competition.  Most (but not all) of Taiwan’s hot springs are sulphur based, but Jiaoxi’s unique hot springs are odourless and colourless. The hot springs looks like normal water, yet it is rich in minerals.  I was amazed how smooth my skin and hair felt after a soak in the Jiaoxi hot spring waters.

The Senlin Fenglu (森林風呂), which literally means ‘forest baths’ in Japanese, opened in January 2011.  It is part of the Jiaoxi Hot Springs Park complex that includes the Tourist Information Centre of Chiao-hsi, near the Evergreen Hotel.  There are three different hot spring baths within the Hot Springs Park.  The first are a collection of thermal pools right near the Tourist Information Centre where you can stick your feet in for free.  This is lots of fun, especially if you don’t have a lot of time, and there are usually several groups soaking their feet.  But this is not the penultimate hot springs bathing experience.

A traditional style house, located in the Jiaoxi Hot Springs House

Wander past the foot pools to the base of the Hot Springs park, and you will see a fence separating an outdoor thermal swimming pool complex.  The entrance is only NT70 (cheaper for those entitled to discounts), which makes it popular with locals and young families.  There are also some nice, natural looking rock settings in the thermal pool complex, whichare also featured on the tourist centre’s website.  While these pools rival those of many resorts, the park has another hidden secret that is even better.

Small creek flowing through the Jiaoxi park

Continue past these pools, walking up a slight incline in the direction of the lush, green hills.  Follow a path that meanders up along a little creek running through a formal oriental-style park.  Before too long, you will come to a wooden boulevard which hides the Senlin Fenglu bathhouse.  Walk along the wooden path, and eventually you will see the entrance.  It costs NTD150 to enter the Japanese-designed baths.  They are separate male and female baths, and unlike the usual practice for Japanese-style segregated bathing, patrons must wear bathing suits and bathing caps.  (My husband told me that the male baths have an ‘experimental’ nude section, which is enclosed to ensure privacy.)

Wooden boulevard leading to the Senlin Fenglu baths

The thing I liked about these baths was their natural beauty.  The pools are set amongst subtropical gardens, and from the main pool I could gaze undisturbed on the verdant hills rising up behind Jiaoxi.  The Japanese-themed wooden architecture was classic and uncluttered, with only a few natural-style jets that complemented rather than distracted from the relaxation theme.   Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos because they prohibit taking shots inside.  But I promise it is really beautiful.

Senlin Fenglu sets a limit of 80 patrons at a time to each bathing house.  Yet it rarely gets that busy.  When I visited, my friend and I had the place virtually to our selves.  It was a weekday, but staff told us it is usually very quiet on weekends, too, because most visitors have not yet heard of these baths, or mistake them for the other, more open baths.  The Yilan Government has not yet developed a website to promote the baths, although there are some pictures if you search hard enough on their website devoted to local scenery

And food options for afterwards?  The staff at the bathing house said Evergreen does a good quality lunch buffet for NTD500, and a good value afternoon tea coffee and cake combo for NTD160.  But if you are after something more local, do what we did and try hard-boiled eggs cooked in hot spring water or thick noodle soup (geng).  There are also some park benches and seats inside, so you can take some snacks with in case the hunger pangs hit during a long hot-spring bathing session.

View from the boulevard over the park

Edited to add that we returned back to the baths again for an afternoon soak on 7 July.  Once again, there were hardly any people there — despite it being school holidays.  Here are some more pictures that we took in the near-empty baths.

Entrance to the women's bathing section

These baths were the deepest, and also hot at 39.2 degrees

A shallower pool that Austin, my toddler, enjoying playing in

Lights that came on during twilight

I loved the Japanese-designed architecture

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About taiwanxifu

‘Taiwanxifu’ (pronounced ‘shee foo’) means ‘Taiwan daughter-in-law’ in Chinese and has been my nickname ever since I married my Taiwanese husband, Sam. I love sampling Taiwanese food, even local specialties such as stinky tofu, pigs blood cake and Taipei beef noodle soup with offal. But there are many other options on the menu. Promise!
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30 Responses to Forest Baths in Jiaoxi Hot Springs Park

  1. Pingback: Afternoon tea at Evergreen Hotel, Jiaoxi | Taiwanxifu

  2. Billie says:

    Great post, pictures look great. Thanks for providing useful information for traveling in Jiaoxi, in English. Will love to visit this forest bath when I’m coming in Jiaoxi.

    • taiwanxifu says:

      I really like Jiaoxi. It is so convenient and easy to get to, yet it has a totally different feel that Taipei. You can get there by train, or else take a bus (coach) from the Taipei City Hall long-distance bus station (from memory number 1572). It used to take over two hours to drive to Jiaoxi, but now there is a tunnel going through the mountain range so you can be in Jiaoxi in under 40 minutes. Besides soaking the springs, I really recomment a visit to the Mary Leu Fine Art Carving Gallery (www.lml.com.tw). Her sheer commitment to detail is amazing.

  3. Billie says:

    Hi there, just been back from Jiaoxi. I did pay a visit to the Mary Leu Fine Art Carving Gallery. It was quite a spectacle what she has done. Thanks for your recommendation.

    • taiwanxifu says:

      Thanks so much for stopping by to let me know. I am always thrilled when I hear that someone has actually been somewhere that I recommend. I think the Mary Leu Fine Art Carving Gallery is a hidden gem. It is so intimate and her dedication to detail is so inspiring. I am yet to blog about it, in part because they do not allow people to take photos inside. Soon, soon.

  4. Stephen C says:

    Thanks so much for this post! I’ll be spending the first weekend in March at my favorite minsu in Wai-ao, and was looking for something different to do. I think I scooter down to Jiaoxi to visit this Japanese hot spring; it sounds perfect. I just hope it’s still as “undiscovered” as last year!

    • taiwanxifu says:

      Good friends visited on Boxing Day, 26 December, and reported that it still remained and tranquil experience. There are now more people visiting (including I suspect several who have read my blog post — it has been popular), but it was around half capacity when they visited. They also commented that because of the design it still felt as if there were hardly any people there. Still, try to visit during the week if possible. And please note that it closes at 3.00pm for one hour for cleaning.

  5. Stephen C says:

    Oh, and thanks for the detailed explanation on how to find the place :-)

  6. I believe this hot spring was featured in a Taiwanese drama called “huayang xiaonun xiaonu”. I was wondering when I watched that show and now I found it thanks to your marvelous photos! 😀 I’m looking for more detail information on how to get there from Taipei. Thanks for the post!

    • taiwanxifu says:

      Didn’t know the hot springs were in a drama but I am not surprised because they are very good. You can get there by train, but the quickest way is a bus, e.g. from the Taipei City Hall long distance bus station, which takes around 45 minutes. Bus is quicker because it goes through the tunnel in the mountain.

  7. Hiya, can I just check a thing about the total cost to the forest bath spa? Is that right that I pay 70NTD for the entrance fee to Jiaoxi Hot Spring Park and again 150NTD more to enter the Japanese spa? Thanks for the info! 😀

    • taiwanxifu says:

      Entry to the Jiaoxi Hot Spring Park is free. It is basically a visitor’s center next to a public park, with a water feature and a space where you can stick your feet in the hot springs for free. If you want to enter either of the two spa baths you need to pay.

  8. Andy says:

    Hi, read what you have wrote about the forest bath, shed some light on the hotsprings in Yilan. I’m planning to go during November and wondering whether I should book a hotel that include with hot spring facilities in a room or a hotel/hostel without any hot spring facilities and then I should visit the Forest Bath instead. Not sure what will be the pros and cons.

    • taiwanxifu says:

      Most accommodation in Jiaoxi will have hot spring water piped into your room. But of course you can still visit these Forest Baths hot springs. The hotels and bath houses will also allow you to pay to use their hot spring facilities, so you can soak even if you are not staying there.

      • Andy says:

        Thank you for your information. To add more information to your reply, A bath house will be more economical if you do not plan to stay in the hotel for most of the day and enjoy the facitlies.
        Just done some research, Evergreen and Hotel Royal Chiao Hsi are the top 2 hotels in Chiao Hsi. : -)

  9. Stephen C says:

    A little update: I’ve been to the Forest Baths (森林風呂) three times now since reading about the place on this blog. I highly recommend it.

    Note that it’s a nude hot springs (at least the men’s side is) and that you’re required to wash thoroughly in the wash area–à la the Japanese style–before entering the pools. But the place is so relaxing that you’ll soon stop worrying about modesty.

    • taiwanxifu says:

      Thanks for raising the clothing issue. My husband, who has been to the men’s side, tells me that there is a semi enclosed section that is for nude bathing, but the rest is not. There is no corresponding modesty section in the women’s baths. Apparently, the baths were originally intended to be nude but then apartments were built nearby and there was a concern about privacy. Anyway, I noticed not many women wear bathers, either, but management are really strict about people wearing bathing caps. So clothing optional, but please leave your cap on.

      • Stephen C says:

        I’m curious, when was your husband there? I ask because every time I’ve gone to Senlin Fenglu (the most recent trip being October 2012) the entire men’s area was nude; I’ve never seen one person with a swimsuit on. And, surprisingly for me, I’ve never seen a man wearing a bathing cap there either, although this rule seems to be strictly enforced in other public pools–even for those of us who are bald on top!

  10. Xylia Tay says:

    I am from Singapore and intend to go Forest Bath from Ximending 西门町,can I go by MRT?

    • taiwanxifu says:

      There is no direct MRT to Yilan/Jiaosi. You can take the train, but it is a long (but scenic) journey as it goes the long way around the coast. The best and easiest way is to get a bus. There is a long distance bus station near the Taipei Main Railway Station. Or else, take the MRT to the Taipei City Hall station and then from the long distance bus station there take the 1570 bus. It takes around 45 minutes to get to Jiaosi. From there it is a short taxi ride, or refreshing walk, to the baths.

  11. Barbara says:

    Just curious, read your posts and curious if dinner at the local seafood restaurant your mentioned in wao’ao would be possible to visit during the Lunar Chinese New Year. We are planning to come in from HK and want to do wao’an and jiaoxi.

    • taiwanxifu says:

      Hi, I don’t know what the restaurant’s opening hours would be over Chinese New Year. But I would assume that they would probably close for a few days as many places in Taiwan do. As Jiaoxi is a tourist town, and given that it does its best business during the colder months, I think you would have better luck with things being open there. You could always drive up the coast, though, and see what you can find that is open!

      Enjoy your holiday,

      Taiwanxifu

  12. ks ng says:

    After reading your blog about 2 yrs ago I’ve since been there 2 times. Thanks for making known this very nice ‘onsen’ which I find easily accessible from Taipei and yet feels secluded.
    About the bathing cap thing I also did not notice anybody using it when I was there.

  13. russandt@ymail.com says:

    i was wondering if you’d advice on single mum taking 2 boys – 6 and 9 year old, will they be allowed to share the spring with me ? Is there a family area? Or we have to be separated.

    • taiwanxifu says:

      Hi, I think they are pretty strict about the gender segregation especially because not everyone wears clothes. But there is another, open-air, bathing-suit required bathing facility lower down in the same park. That could be a good option. Several of the larger hotels in Jiaoxi also have bathing-suit places suitable for all the family (but not as cheap as this one, though!) Or else, you could rent a private room at one of the hotels or bath houses.

  14. Jastina Ng says:

    Hi, looking for a hotspring in Yilan for our tour group of 3 families. Any idea is there hotsprings that must wear swim suit? Cos we are still shy with non clothing type. haha
    Thanks in advance.

    • taiwanxifu says:

      A good way to check is pictures in the hotel lobby. Generally if you have to separate into different male and female areas, it is a non clothing bathing area. A lot of big hotels will have both: the swim suit wearing variety are really family friendly.

  15. Peter Tung says:

    we saw your blog on the outdoor hotspring in Jiaoxi ( 森林風呂) but unfortunately the hotspring was closed by the local city government until end of november, 2016. Not sure why but there were signs posted at the ticket booths that said it was due to non-payment of water and electricity bills…

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