If a candlelit dinner alongside dozens of other couples won't cut it, look further afield
From romantic vistas to high-octane drives, these Valentine-inspired ideas won't be forgotten
One thing’s for sure on Valentine’s Day: owners of chocolate stores, flower and greetings card shops will definitely be smiling.
But for most, it’s not so easy to guarantee success on the day when tradition dictates overt romantic gestures.
If roses, truffles and a candlelit dinner alongside 60 other couples won’t cut it, it can pay to look further afield.
Here are some of the most unusual ways to let that special someone know how much they really mean to you.
Volcano-gazing in Guatemala
At Lake Atitlan in Guatemala is Casa Palopó, an exclusive retreat hidden away with only seven rooms.
This boutique hotel was previously a private home, and has been converted in style with an infinity pool and jacuzzi.
Best of all, the views over Lake Atilan’s volcanoes and Mayan villages are breathtaking.
Casa Palopo’s private boat gives tours of the lake in comfort, while couples can even enjoy a Mayan Shaman blessing to help ensure their relationship continues to blossom.
Casa Palopó, Santa Catarina Palopó, Solola, Guatemala; +502 7762 2270
Race car driving in Australia
For thrills of a more high-octane nature, visit a race driving course in Western Australia.
Though driving together has historically been known to split some couples up, Arise Racing promises that the open-topped Radical SR3 car will get hearts racing over the course of 20 laps.
The Radical SR3 is the world’s fastest production race car, reaching 62 miles per hour in 3.1 seconds.
Continue your training to become an “arrive and drive” participant in the Formula 1000 State Championship by perfecting the bends in style.
Now there’s a Valentine’s surprise your beloved won’t be expecting.
Arise Racing, Barbagallo Raceway, 440 Wattle Ave E, Neerabup WA, Australia; +61 402 771 776
See lovebirds in the Serengeti
Take a romantic safari in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park.
Tick off the usual animal sightings, then focus on the “romantic seven” – the park’s most affectionate souls.
The resident naturalist at the Four Seasons Safari Lodge has searched high and low for the Casanovas of the animal kingdom, so it’s no surprise that the mini-parrots called lovebirds are top of the list.
Klipspringers are monogamous small antelopes who rarely stray more than a few feet from their mate, while male weaver birds build intricate nests before the females then inspect them and choose the best constructed as their mate.
Now that’s love.
Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania; +255 768 982 100
Romance on the water in Cornwall
Literary inspiration comes next in the form of “Frenchman’s Creek,” a swashbuckling work by the romantic novelist Daphne du Maurier set in southwest England’s Cornwall.
Set on the beautiful Helford River, where oak trees line the water and kingfishers abound, there’s no better or more romantic way to experience the secluded area than via a kayaking or riverboat tour which leads to the scene of the novel’s most famous tryst.
Then head back to stay at the very romantic Budock Vean, a country house on 65 acres complete with subtropical gardens and a spa.
The Budock Vean Hotel, near Helford Passage, Mawnan Smith, Falmouth, Cornwall, UK; +44 (0) 1326 252100
Classical musical cruise, Myanmar
The luxury Strand Cruise in Myanmar runs on the Southeast Asian country’s Ayeyarwady River and features a special musical cruise.
Meander slowly from Bagan down to Mandalay, with eight classical musicians on board for serenades.
Performers from the legendary Opéra de Paris will perform a series of intimate concerts with sunsets, pagodas and starry skies as the backdrop.
Life on board is romantic in itself, with elegant suites, a pool and a well-stocked wine cellar to keep guests happy as the countryside drifts by.
Country cooking in Italy’s Abruzzo Mountains
Even on the 364 days of the year when it’s not Valentine’s Day, Italy isn’t exactly short on romantic inspiration.
Take your Valentine to the beautiful hills of Abruzzo, which come alive in February with the aromas of Italian cuisine for a special Valentine’s break.
The Abruzzo region lies to the east of Rome and features an Adriatic coastline and the Apennine Mountains as well as amazing produce.
Kitchens, markets, flavors and ingredients are all on the agenda with numerous outings, lessons and meals through Italy4Real.com.
Guests learn local and national dishes so they can return home and recreate the delicious taste of Italy.
Canada’s romantic bay
Newfoundland and Labrador is Canada’s easternmost province, where romantic place names abound… not to mention a town called Dildo.
The historic fishing port in Trinity Bay, about an hour from the capital St John’s, is home to the picturesque Inn by the Bay.
To get there means driving through Cupids in Conception Bay, Heart’s Content, Heart’s Desire and Heart’s Delight.
Once in Dildo, snowshoeing or hiking in the wilderness are one option, or curling up with a bottle of wine overlooking the ocean is another.
The Inn by the Bay’s motto is “expect the unexpected.”
Inn by the Bay, 80 Front Road, Dildo, Canada; +1-888 339 7829
Havana city break
Cuba’s lively Havana is increasingly on the radar as a short city break destination.
Valentine’s Day provides the perfect opportunity to take the pulse of one of Latin America’s most beguiling spots.
Two days can include a classic car ride through the city, walking tours and discovering the old town, or “Habana Vieja.”
Romantic nights out include: walks along the Malecon waterfront, drinks at the legendary Hotel Nacional, dinner at a repurposed oil factory (now a restaurant called Cocinero) and a salsa show at any one of the hundreds of clubs and bars with live music.
Golden Eye Experience, Monaco
If cost is not a issue, drop $12,000 on your beloved with the “Golden Eye Experience” – guaranteed to bring out the best James Bond in guests – in Monaco.
The Hotel Metropole in Monte Carlo offers this tour for guests staying in their penthouse suite, which has panoramic views of the Mediterranean and Monaco.
Kick off with a private tour of Monte Carlo Casino, as seen in numerous Bond films, before taking off in an Aston Martin, complete with Bond music, to head off to a helicopter trip.
Lunch follows at Joël Robuchon’s only Japanese restaurant, Yoshi, before a car tour of the French Riviera.
Return to the hotel for a massage, vodka Martini, dinner, cigars and a spin in the casino.
Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo, 4, avenue de la Madone, MC 98007 Monaco; +377 93 15 15 15
Feel like a king or queen in Wales
Wales is proud of its 600-plus castles, and some allow visitors seeking their inner knight.
Roch Castle was recently named Wales’ finest hotel and offers five-star luxury in 12th-century surroundings.
It overlooks the breathtaking Pembrokeshire Coast National Park with sweeping views over to the Preseli Hills.
You can feel like king or queen of this castle as there are only six suites.
Breakfast is made to order and served in your room, featuring local delicacies including laverbread made with seaweed.
Roch Castle, Church Rd, Roch, Haverfordwest SA62 6AQ, UK; +44 1437 725566
Picnic by Porsche, Hawaii
Maui’s landscape is already beautiful enough to set hearts aflutter, but a beach picnic safari in a 1957 Porsche 356 Speedster will take romance levels to new heights.
You can feel the wind in your hair cruising the roads before choosing from scores of secluded beaches, coves and inlets.
The perfect picnic includes gourmet treats from Hotel Wailea’s award-winning restaurants, including fresh sashimi, vibrant healthy salads and decadent desserts to share.
It’s best time to enjoy the drive back with views of the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean and exploding with color.
Hotel Wailea, 555 Kaukahi St, Kihei, Hawaii; +1 866 850 5139
Heart-shaped atoll, Tahiti
A heart-shaped atoll in the South Pacific, Tupai is understandably best seen from the sky.
A helicopter jaunt from the Intercontinental Hotel is the ultimate way to do it.
Next, a stop at a lagoon with a guided boat and swimming with friendly sharks amongst beautiful coral formations.
Lunch follows in a private inlet, served on a table in the water with grilled meat and fish, local fruits, vegetables and fresh coconut.
You can toast your experience with local beers, wine or Champagne.
Motu Piti Aau, Bora Bora, French Polynesia/Tahiti; +689 40 607600
Vietnam Valentine’s cruise
Set sail on a special journey aboard the Genting Dream five-night round trip cruise from Hong Kong to Vietnam.
While at sea, options include a Cupid party, dance classes and a Zouk nightclub, in addition to a huge array of entertainment and dining options.
The bustling city of Da Nang is the first stop in Vietnam, a perfect hop-off for the charming ancient town of Hoi An with its canals, shophouses and temples.
Sail next to Halong Bay, which woos with its iconic limestone formations rising up from the still waters of the Gulf of Tonkin.
A day trip to Hanoi is also an option for those wanting some urban fun.
Take a letter-writing workshop in Toronto
Sometimes it’s the simpler pleasures in life that spark romance.
In Toronto, the historic Mackenzie House (formerly the Mayor’s home) offers a group letter-writing workshop amongst other activities.
You can learn to write poetic letters, add a Valentine stamp from their original 1850s cast-iron press, then seal it with wax.
Share words with other participants over refreshments – or keep them private for a special Valentine.
Cost: $15 per person.
Mackenzie House, 82 Bond Street; +1 416 392 6915
Chris Dwyer is a Hong Kong-based food and travel writer and communications consultant. Follow him on Twitter at @chrismdwyer or visit www.finefooddude.com.