One of the main attractions of Hualien and Taitung is the indigenous culture that has managed to survive to this day. Unfortunately, there is also a danger that increasing tourism may end up destroying this culture.
There are several indigenous tribes on the east coast: the Paiwan, Amis, Puyuma, Bunun, Rukai, Sakizaya, Kavalan, Truku, and Tao. These ancient cultures are still influencing life to this day. Their festivals are widely celebrated, especially the Amis Harvest Festival that is held in July or August. It is celebrated in each Amis village and represents a cultural rite of passage where boys become men. The festival itself is a grand celebration with dancing, singing, drinking, and eating.
To this day, the Bunun people still speak their own language. They were the only tribe to develop a calendar using icons. They too celebrate a harvest festival that includes the singing of the Pasibutbut or "prayer for an abundant millet harvest" The Bunun also hold an "ear-shooting ceremony" which emphasizes the teaching of hunting skills to young boys. It takes place every April.
The Tao live on Lanyu (Orchid Island) in Taitung County. They are well known for their carved boats, silver items, and pottery. Since they live on an island that is fairly far away from Taiwan, it has been easier for their culture to survive. However, they are still affected by the modern world. The Tao people traditionally lived in underground houses until the government started a program to move them into concrete houses in the 1960s. Unfortunately, a concrete house is not as well suited to the climate as the traditional houses. Traditional houses were very good at keeping out the heat in summer and the cold in winter.
There are many ways to enjoy indigenous culture on the east coast. Hualien is home to an indigenous woodcarving museum. In Taitung, there is the annual Festival of Austronesian Cultures which tries to bridge the gap between local indigenous and Austronesian cultures. There is also the National Museum of Prehistory in Taitung. This museum explores early indigenous and Taiwanese prehistory before the arrival of the Europeans and Chinese.