Whatever the season, Hualien’s stunning views always inspire romance. You'll find couples reading poems at Pine Garden while gazing out over the Pacific Ocean, or lovers drinking tea in the Lotus Garden while admiring the lotus. In spring, plan a romantic trip to Yu-Shan Theological College & Seminary to see the spectacle of thousands of cherry blossoms. Or plan an autumn escape to discover the best-kept secret at Yun Shan Shuei Ecological Farm – the golden bald cypress.

    If you want a more leisurely pace, visit Dashibishan Trail for a relaxing stroll on the wooden walkway. Prefer a more thrilling adventure? Head for Fengbin Skywalk. The Shimen Twin Hearts and Sunward Plaza, full of Southern European charm, are two top choices for some great photos. Don't forget to grab a glass of refreshing craft beer at Hualien Distillery to round off your day. The best part is that all these experiences are there for everyone to enjoy, not just couples.

    1

    Dashibishan Trail

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    Visiting Hualien by car and driving along Coastal Highway 11, you'll find yourself surrounded by gorgeous mountain and sea landscapes. At the 23.9-mile (38.5 km) mark on Highway 11, near Jiqi Beach, Dashibishan Trail is the best scenic spot overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Consisting mostly of a wooden stairway, the trail has a total length of 0.6 miles (910 metres) and an elevation change of 492 feet (150 metres), and can be easily completed within an hour. Climb up the stairway to enjoy the panoramic views of Highway 11 gently weaving its way through the mountain range and the small coastal villages.

    The observatory pavilions on the trail offer superb views. Right after the second pavilion, the trail begins a seemingly endless descent towards the coast, giving you a breathtaking vista and amazing opportunities for taking photos. Once you've reached the highest point, you'll find yourself overlooking Jiqi Bay as well as Baji, Shuilian and Niushan on the other side of the bay. Take some time to relax and listen to the soothing chant of the ocean waves. There are various plants and insects along the trail, including native ferns that are not commonly seen in Taiwan. It's a perfect hike for families and couples.

    Location: At the 23.9-mile (38.5 km) mark on Provincial Highway 11, Fengbin Township, Hualien County, Taiwan 977

    Open: Outdoor space: 24/7

    2

    Sunward Plaza

    Next to Hualien Fishing Port you'll find Sunward Plaza. Dubbed "Little Europe" by the locals, it's full of colourful Southern European-style houses painted in blue, white, red and yellow. The 3D murals on the exterior of the houses mostly feature themes relating to the ocean, seafood and coffee to showcase what the shops are selling. Treat yourself to nigiri sushi and freshly caught seafood delivered directly from the port.

    When you want to take a break from cycling, stop for afternoon tea at Binhai Cycle Path rest area. Sit back and watch the fishing boats bob on the waves as fishermen draw in their nets and collect the catch of the day. Take a photo in front of the 3D Dolphin Love Mural with your date before climbing the towers on the plaza to take in the magnificent mountain and ocean views. Sunward Plaza is next to the whale-watching wharf. If you're planning to come and watch the whales, make sure to arrive before dawn and then wait quietly for the first light of sunrise from the Pacific.

    Location: No. 35-1, Gangbin Rd., Hualien City, Hualien County, Taiwan 970

    Open: Outdoor space: 24/7; hours vary by business

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    3

    Hualien Fengbin Skywalk

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    Taking part in stimulating activities during a date is said to promote the production of endorphins and make you feel happy. The skywalk in Fengbin Township was voted the most thrilling skywalk in Taiwan by netizens. Although just 164 feet (50 metres) long, it's guaranteed to give you an instant adrenalin rush. The skywalk is constructed from hanging steel beams secured to the vertical cliff face.

    Although perfectly safe, stepping on the tempered glass and walking alongside the cliff will make you feel as if you're floating over the sea and turn your legs to jelly. If you're feeling brave, take a deep breath and hold on tight to the handrail before looking down to the bottomless ocean where the waves crash against the shore under your feet. Make sure you've an extra-firm grip if you've a fear of heights! After all that excitement, stop by Xinji Tunnel and restore your inner calm with a cup of tea.

    Location: At the 25.8-mile (41.5 km) mark on Provincial Highway 11, Fengbin Township, Hualien County, Taiwan 977

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 5 pm

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    4

    Qixingtan Scenic Area Tourist Centre

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    A date at a visitor centre may not sound appealing, but Qixingtan Scenic Area Tourist Centre is worth making an exception for. Besides getting tourist information, you can also enjoy the sunrise and sunset here. Right in front of the visitor centre, a magnificent landscape opens up where the mountains meet the boundless Pacific Ocean. The sunrise on the beach will take your breath away. Sometimes you can also see rows of military planes from Hualien Airport criss-crossing the sky.

    Qixingtan is a pleasant fishing village where most of the residents rely on fishing for their livelihood. In the afternoon, the fishermen return to shore with a full catch and you can buy freshly caught seafood directly from them. The beach in front of the visitor centre comes to life in the evening. Local residents often come here for a walk with their families. Obscured by the mountains, the setting sun shines over the sea, lending it a subtle and graceful glow. Such moments of pure happiness are meant to be shared with someone special.

    Location: No. 32, Qixing Street, Xincheng Township, Hualien County, Taiwan 97143

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 6 pm (closed on Tuesdays)

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    Romantic tour of Pine Garden

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    Pine Garden was built in 1942 during World War II as a military command office for the Japanese Army. It's now the best-preserved Japanese military structure in Hualien County. Hidden in a century-old pine forest, the main building of the restful Pine Garden is two storeys high, with Baroque-style arcades, a roof covered with Japanese tiles, and the discreet but elegant exterior in grey concrete. The interior features wooden truss beams and Japanese-style wooden windows that provide excellent ventilation.

    Today, Pine Garden has left its wartime past behind to become a popular cultural destination for young people. Famous Taiwanese poets gather here every year to attend the Pacific Poetry Festival held from October to November. Pine Garden also hosts poetry camps and exhibitions from time to time. Located at the foot of Meilun Mountain, Pine Garden is at a naturally commanding height. Take a leisurely stroll in the pine forest and enjoy the panoramic views of Hualien Port as well as Meilun River flowing into the Pacific Ocean.

    Location: No. 65, Songyuan St, Hualien City, Hualien County, Taiwan 970

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 6 pm (closed on the second Tuesday of every month)

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    Liancheng Lotus Garden

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    Nestled at the foot of the Central Mountain Range, Liancheng Lotus Garden is a delightfully tranquil refuge. Take some time out to admire the beautiful lotus and enjoy a cup of tea ‒ just like you would if visiting a friend's house The hospitable host is mainly engaged in research on lotus species and doesn't run the garden for commercial purposes. He generously opens the garden to the public for free and offers visitors complimentary lotus tea. The lotus garden is irrigated by the water coming down from Qilai Mountain. There are at least 60 to 70 kinds of lotus flowers with a variety of fragrances and colours here. You can see lotus blossoms all year round, especially in summer, making it a popular spot with photographers.

    With the Central Mountain Range as a backdrop and the magnificent blue sky mirrored on the lotus pond, the king lotus with its giant leaves is a subject much loved by photographers. Visit early in the morning to see the lotus blossoms in full bloom and the dew glistening on the lotus leaves as they sway gracefully in the soft morning glow and the gentle refreshing breeze. You can also buy a bouquet of lightly scented lotus flowers to impress your date.

    Location: No. 66, Nanhua 5th St, Ji’an Township, Hualien County, Taiwan 973

    Open: Daily from 8 am to 6 pm

    7

    Cherry blossom viewing at Yu-Shan Theological College & Seminary

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    Situated near Liyu Lake, Yu-Shan Theological College & Seminary in Eastern Taiwan is famous for its cherry blossoms. Every year from January to March, the 5,000 cherry trees on the campus burst into full bloom, attracting visitors from all over the world. Here you can find Japanese cherry (prunus serrulata), double-flowered cherry and Taiwan’s native white cherry (Formosa blossom), which is often mistaken for plum blossoms of the same colour. Yu-Shan Theological College & Seminary is where the Presbyterian Church trains indigenous clergy.

    Constructed along the hillside, the red and white school building looks simple yet dignified. Cherry trees line the path leading to the seminary. The passing wind carries swirling cherry blossom petals to all corners of the campus. Walk up the steps of the seminary building and enjoy the beauty of Liyu Lake. When it's cold and humid, a veil of mist lingers on the lake, making the mountain's gorgeous red look even more dramatic. Be sure to check the exact flowering times as the cherry has a short blossom season. It's also important to follow the seminary's regulations for visitors.

    Location: No. 28, Section 1, Chinan Rd., Chinan Village, Shoufeng Township, Hualien County, Taiwan 974

    Open: Outdoor space: 24/7

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    8

    Explore the secret land of Yun Shan Shuei

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    Hualien has many bald cypress trees. One of the best places to see them is Yun Shan Shuei. Initially this was just a homestay, but as pictures of its beautiful scenery gained traction online, it began attracting more and more visitors and is now open to the public. Yun Shan Shuei covers an area of almost 60 acres (24 ha), including a 10-acre (4 ha) artificial lake surrounded by palm trees and bald cypress. In spring and summer, the lakeside iris flourishes in full bloom, a lovely sight to behold against the blue sky and green trees mirrored in the lake.

    In winter and summer, when the bald cypress turns from green to yellow, the shades of red, yellow and green of the surrounding trees are reflected in the clear water, making you feel as if you've just stepped into a landscape painting. The lake water comes from the Central Mountain Range. You can walk up to the source to skim stones, listen to the gurgling water and see the bald cypress swaying in the water. In the mornings, the park is less crowded and the lake is veiled by a mist that makes it look like an otherworldly paradise. It's worth spending the night in a homestay around Yun Shan Shuei so as not to miss out on the spectacular early-morning views.

    Location: Lane 2, Section 2, Fengping Rd., Shoufeng Township, Hualien County, Taiwan 974

    Open: Outdoor space: 24/7

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    9

    Hualien Distillery

    From Qixingtan Cycle Path, you can see the distinctive white grain silos of Hualien Distillery. In recent years, many distilleries have begun developing a range of new and unique products. Most famous for its "golden whiskey", Hualien Distillery even has a wall glamorously decorated with 99.99% pure gold in its exhibition area. Golden whiskey with gold leaf doesn't come cheap, but if you visit the distillery you can sample it for free.

    Taiwan beer is another must-try here. Craft beer from Hualien Distillery tastes very different from commercially available draught beer. Brewed with water from Shapodang River in the Central Mountain Range, this handmade wheat beer is pure in quality, rich in aroma and sweetness, and has no bitterness. It's especially popular amongst women. And if you're the designated driver, there's also an alcohol-free barley drink for you to enjoy. There's a display featuring various alcohol labels from over the years. The distillery also lets you create your own exclusive label. Pick your favourite bottle, stick on your own label and take it home to add to your collection.

    Location: No. 6, Meigong Rd., Hualien City, Hualien County, Taiwan 970

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 5 pm

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    10

    Take romantic photos with Shimen Twin Hearts

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    The Shimen Twin Hearts are two beautifully curved stone sculptures that sit on the coast near Shimen Banshaojiao Recreation Area, a delightful place to stop on Highway 11. It's easy to miss when driving, but you can recognise it by the pretty lighthouse that marks the entrance. This place may not be big, but Internet celebrities and tourists flock here to take photos of the twin hearts.

    From a distance, the Shimen Twin Hearts look like a pair of butterfly wings flying towards the ocean. If you look through the middle of the hearts you'll get an incredible view of the Pacific Ocean. The amazing shapes of the sea-eroded terrain on the Shitiping coast and the sound of the waves crashing on the shore provide the perfect backdrop for a romantic date. In the evening, the area looks like the set of a photoshoot as photographers set up their tripods to capture the star trails whirling around the twin hearts under the beautiful night sky.

    Location: Shimen Banshaojiao Recreation Area, at the 37.3-mile (60.5 km) mark on Highway 11, Fengbin Township, Hualien County, Taiwan 977

    Open: Outdoor space: 24/7

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