It's al fresco dining season again, and hotels are getting creative with their outdoor setups. From a rustic-elegant arrangement overlooking the Spanish hillside to a romantic beach tryst on a private South Sea island, here are 10 over-the-top ideas that take picnicking to a new level.
|Mountain Top Picnic, Kenya|
Elevating the African bush picnic to new heights, quite literally, safari camp operator Cheli & Peacock Safaris now offers picnics on top of Mount Kenya. Helicopter up to the summit, where a healthy lunch and South African wines are arrayed on a blanket. In the course of the afternoon, guests will be treated to the sight of rare Kenyan wildlife in a setting that typically even the most intrepid bush explorers never reach.
|St Regis, Atlanta|
When it comes to packing a basket, the St. Regis hotel in Georgia's sassy "Real Housewives" city takes care of business. An entire "picnic basket menu" features such items as fried green tomato sandwiches on pumpernickel and Fluffernutter sandwiches with homemade marshmallow creme and almond butter. There's no single set location to eat this picnic. The hotel assumes that guests will be exploring around the Blue Ridge, along the Chattooga River, or in another of the wonderfully scenic drive destinations nearby Atlanta.
|St. Regis, Bora-Bora|
Sometimes location is everything. Case in point: This St. Regis South Seas jewel. The menu hardly matters when the setting is a white sand lagoon in tropical paradise. It's offered as part of the St Regis Bora Bora's "romance menu" (no surprise there) that's geared toward new-marrieds, but is available to any guests who wants to create their own magical moment in paradise.
|Central Park Picnic, Peninsula Hotel, New York|
Foraging hasn't caught on in Manhattan -- for fairly obvious reasons -- but the Peninsula Hotel Group has managed to locate a forager based in New York's most popular borough and engage his services for a very special enrichment experience. He takes guests through Central Park on a mission to locate and identify all sorts of edible produce that exists right under people's noses. The picnic that follows is not park-foraged (no one could be that bold), but it's delicious all the same.
|Peninsula, Hong Kong|
Another very special al fresco adventure available by request from Peninsula Hotels is a beach picnic on the secluded Sai Kung Peninsula. If you're one of those people who think that Hong Kong is nothing but skyscrapers, noodle shops and aggressive merchants, then you're in the majority -- but you're wrong. The island has huge expanses of parkland and white sand beaches like Tai Long Wan, pictured. The catch is that this beach has no road access, so the Peninsula brings guests by heli, James Bond-style.
|Spa Cuisine picnics from The Oaks at Ojai, Calif.|
Wellness-focused SoCal resort the Oaks at Ojai will pack a picnic for guests who want to spend the day hiking or just walk across the street from the property to the Libbey Bowl for the annual June concert series. This special service is included within the regular pricing package, and items like pita sandwiches or chicken and veggie salad can be ready for pickup at any time if guests give the kitchen notice in advance.
|Fairmont Chateau Frontenac, Quebec|
Quebec, Canada, may be known for its snowy winters, but summer in the province is lengthy and glorious, thanks to the locals' love of outdoor sport, live entertainment and great food. Chateau Frontenac has a full picnic menu of baguette sandwiches and fresh veggie salads for guests who want to venture forth and explore the heritage sites of the old city, or the lakes, undeveloped islands and hiking trails of the region.
|Reserve Picnic at Hong Island, Thailand|
Leave the crowds behind and have a stunning Thai beach pretty much to yourself with this bespoke excursion by Phulay Bay, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve. No whirlibird transfers for this one; instead, guests skim over the seas on a traditional long tail boat, arriving at a secret lagoon for a day of sunbathing and picnicking on the sand.
|Sandos Caracol, Riviera Maya, Mexico|
The underground rivers and cenotes, AKA swimming holes, of Mexico are an endlessly compelling attraction for visitors, and resorts lucky enough to have a cenote on-property usually build some kind of visitor experience around it. All the better if it's swimmable. Sandos Caracol in the Riviera Maya has a particularly lovely limpid green-blue cenote, which is not only a special-occasion picnic site, but also the backdrop for quite a few destination weddings.
|Big Sur, Hyatt Carmel, Calif.|
Plenty of visitors drive the dramatic twisting Big Sur coastline, but only a few could be savvy enough to position themselves above it, getting an eagle-eye perspective on the curving roadway, the cliffs and the sea far below. This summer, the Hyatt Carmel Highlands engages idiosyncratic local expert guide Stephen Copeland to lead guests along those quasi-secret trails. As part of the package, a gourmet picnic lunch comes in a keepsake backpack.