Hualien occupies the central part of East Taiwan and, with 4628 km², is the largest of all 22 counties and cities. It borders Yilan County in the north, Taichung in the northwest, Nantou County in the west, Kaohsiung in the southwest, Taitung County in the south, and the Pacific in the east.
The largest part of the district is occupied by the central mountain range of Taiwan, which reaches north-east to the sea. There is the Taroko Gorge, one of the greatest natural sights of Taiwan, dug in the mouth of the river Liwu. The ravine is the main tourist attraction of the Hualien County and nestled in the Taroko National Park, which covers almost the entire north of the county.
Due to its secluded location, Chinese settlers reached the Hualien District only in the middle of the 19th century, later than other parts of Taiwan. Today the mountainous county is one of the most sparsely populated regions of the island, but it is the main settlement area of the Amis. Nearly 80,000 native people live in Hualien, most of them belonging to the Ami tribe, but also members of the Atayal, Bunun, Truku, Sakizaya and Kavalan are here.