Legend has it that the Kavalan arrived by sea from the east and that when they saw the stunning beauty of this location, they decided then and there to settle this bountiful land. The newly arrived Kavalan fought many battles against the local Atayal people, and in the end the Kavalan tribe drove the Atayal tribe into the mountains — true to their name "Kavalan", which means "flatland people". That name subsequently morphed into "Hamalan", ultimately yielding the modern-day "Yilan City". They were referred as 36 Kavalan tribes (蛤仔難三十六社), although there were more than 60 tribes. In the past, tribes north of the Lanyang River were called Sishihfan (西勢番) while those south of the river were Dongshihfan (東勢番).
The earliest record of Kavalan in history was in 1632, when a Spanish ship went astray to this area by a typhoon. More clear record came in 1650 by Dutch East India Company (VOC). Reportedly, at some point there was a Spanish province of "Cabarán" in the area. Han Chinese tried to settle in the area as early as 1768. However, the settlement did not succeed until 1796, when Wu Sha (吳沙) established the first village (now Toucheng). Eventually, many more Han Chinese entered this area and the life of Kavalan was forced to change. Many of them moved to Beipu Village (in Sincheng Township of Hualien County) between 1830 and 1840.