There is no better way to up the passion for affection than travelling together.
Valentine's Day appears to have become a lavish day-long outpouring of affection, but we all know that lasting romance takes a lot more than that. Overpriced roses and fancy dinners are nice, but travelling with a significant other is a much better investment, especially for young couples. As the saying goes, “Don’t marry someone until you have travelled with them.”
Travelling with a significant other is something that can be done any time of year. With that in mind, accommodations aggregator Agoda.com has compiled a list of five destinations from around the region that are great for couples to visit, starting with Pulau Gaya, which is closer to home.
Pulau Gaya, Kota Kinabalu
Private beach holidays are always a favourite and the secluded island resorts on Pulau Gaya offer just that. Gaya Island Resort and Bunga Raya Island Resort are two of the luxurious, five-star resorts on Gaya Island that are great for couples looking to splurge a little on a beach holiday in Malaysia.
Gaya Island Resort boasts a tranquil Spa Village set amidst mangrove trees, offering treatments using only the finest local ingredients. And Bunga Raya Island Resort offers dreamy romance packages for honeymoons and anniversaries.
Both resorts feature authentic Bornean architecture, with villas that are built sustainably in order to blend in with its natural surroundings. Another similarity shared by both resorts – guests usually find it hard to leave at the end of their stay.
For couples keen on venturing outside the resorts, Pulau Gaya is covered in dense, virgin rainforest with 20km of hiking trails to explore. There are also several dive sites within the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, the most interesting being the Gaya Wreck located west of Pulau Gaya.
The island is easily accessible via a 10-minute boat ride from Kota Kinabalu.
Khao Yai, Thailand
A popular choice among young Thai couples, the Khao Yai National Park is a Unesco World Heritage Site that covers four provinces in Thailand with the highest peak of 1,351m. Khao Yai is famous for its beautiful waterfalls, vast greenery and stunning mountainous scenery.
Couples can embark on various nature-themed activities, from biking through Khao Yai’s very own vineyards, namely the GranMonte Estate and the PB Valley Khao Yai Winery, to bird-watching along its many hiking trails. Come nightfall, simply kick back in a private villa and take in the sounds of nature in the highlands.
Khao Yai is only accessible by car, and is one-and-a-half hours away from Bangkok. Two nights in Khao Yai during the Thai winter (November to February) would be ideal for an idyllic nature-themed romantic escape.
As for accommodation, the Muthi Maya Forest Pool Villa Resort (five-star) is recommended for a truly luxurious stay. Each of its 64 nature-enveloped villas comes with a large patio and a private pool. For something more affordable, Sasima Moonlight Villa (three-star) also offers villas with private pools. Both accommodations have “Fantastic” review ratings on Agoda.com.
El Nido, Palawan, the Philippines
Travellers who have been to Palawan describe it as being magical, with captivating lagoons, turquoise green waters, hidden caves, enchanting dive sites and more. Couples looking for a romantic alternative to the increasingly popular Boracay should look no further, with El Nido in Palawan being described as “paradise” by even some of the most cynical travellers.
From full-day island-hopping tours to romantic dinners on the beach, there are various activities for couples. Besides the usual island itinerary, couples can go kayaking to explore the many coves, lagoons and caves, or diving off cliffs into the shimmering waters below.
Getting to El Nido is not too difficult, with Cebu Pacific flying from Kuala Lumpur to Puerto Princesa via Manila. What follows is a five-hour shuttle ride to El Nido from the airport, which most travellers find completely worthwhile when they arrive.
Agoda.com lists over 100 hotels and other accommodation types, with the five-star El Nido Resort Lagen Island being one of the most sought after. Alternatively, travelling couples can consider the three-star Cadlao Resort and Restaurant, which offers privacy and comfort minus the frills.
Nantou is the only county on the island of Taiwan that is surrounded by land, offering picturesque mountainous landscapes, lush flora and rustic charm. It has earned the moniker of “The Alps of the East” and is a haven for holidaymakers looking for a getaway in the countryside.
The Sun Moon Lake, with ethereal scenes of nature, is a well-known spot for wedding photography. Definitely a must-visit.
There are also many hot springs around Nantou where couples can enjoy a refreshing dip, while Hehuanshan (Hehuan Mountain) is the go-to place to witness a truly magnificent sunrise.
Nantou is fairly easy to access from Taipei. Travellers can take the Taiwan High Speed Rail to Taichung and hop on a bus to Cinjing or Puli. As for accommodation, couples can experience local countryside living by staying at the many minsu homestays in Nantou.
The Sun Moon Lake Secret Garden Villa in the Yuchi Township and The Cotswold Villa in Cinjing are highly rated on Agoda.com.
Gili Trawangan, Indonesia
Gili Trawangan is the most popular of the three Gili Islands which are located off the coast of Lombok in Indonesia. While Gili Trawangan is close to Bali, the island is culturally different, with a predominantly Muslim population. It was also rated as the best island destination in South-East Asia for budget travellers, in TripAdvisor’s TripIndex Sun report in 2014.
Perfect for couples who enjoy lots of activity, there is much to explore on Gili Trawangan. Cheap local food and trinkets can be found at the local night market. The island’s nightlife is vibrant, with bars frequently packed with friendly backpackers.
There are also various couple activities to indulge in, such as yoga lessons by the beach or cooking lessons to get acquainted with the bold flavours of Indonesian cuisine. Top it off by witnessing a glorious sunset with the view of Mt Rinjani on the horizon.
Getting to Gili Trawangan is a breeze, with direct flights from Kuala Lumpur to Lombok via AirAsia. Various boat services are available from Lombok, with speedboats being the quickest option. As for accommodation, Villa Nero and Wilson’s Retreat come highly rated on Agoda.com.