5 Exotic Thanksgiving Options for Those Who Want to Ditch Tradition

There is a myth about the Caribbean - that farm-to-table dining doesn't exist there.

But in fact it does exist, and in some places, it's thriving -- a fact that comes in handy when contemplating Thanksgiving options this year.

If you're not necessarily a fan of tradition, football or dedicating a day to the art of being a couch potato, there's an increasingly sophisticated variety of options to make Thanksgiving something slightly more colorful and adventurous.

From a candlelit Thanksgiving dinner at a luxury lodge in the Belize jungle to chartered yachts with gourmet chefs onboard preparing your holiday feast in the British Virgin Islands, there are countless unorthodox options. The only limit is your sense of adventure (and your budget).

Which brings us back to that myth about the lack of locally cultivated fruits and veggies, a misconception that actually applies to far more than just Caribbean island countries. It really encompasses all tropical destination dining and our preconceived notions about what such meals might include.

An increasing number of islands around the world are now touting their organic gardens and locally sourced food as a major selling point.

At the Ka'ana Luxury Resort in Western Belize, for instance, the Thanksgiving meal will include ingredients freshly harvested from the property's two-acre organic garden. (Add to that the resort's setting, amid a magnificent jungle and a stone's throw from ancient Mayan ruins, and you've got a holiday filled with culture, style and adventure.)

Le Soleil d'Or, meanwhile, bills itself as the Cayman Islands' first and only farm-to-table destination and is inviting families to escape the chores of Thanksgiving this year. Instead it asks guests to sit  back, relax and enjoy the resort's organic offerings.

Locally sourced meals on tropical islands, however, are just one of many memorable possibilities to consider.

Also among the most intriguing is dining al fresco in Okavango Delta. This option, offered by Rothschild Safaris, is organized by Chitabe Camp in Botswana, and includes a traditional Thanksgiving dinner (for as many as 16 of your nearest and dearest) served family style under the stars, in one of Africa's last remaining great wildlife habitats.

Experiences this unique may even bring your family closer together.

"There's nothing I love more than spending time in the African bush with my family," says Leora Rothschild, founder and president of Rothschild Safaris. "While the holidays are always a time for love and gratitude, sometimes getting away with the ones we love most, lends a unique perspective on everything for which we have to be thankful."

While the holiday is just a few weeks away, it's not too late to break from tradition and try something different this year. Think about it, Thanksgiving is a long weekend - four full days to add to a getaway...Why not make the most of it?

Here's a look at some additional Thanksgiving options that combine a picturesque location, with a Thanksgiving meal to remember.

A Month of Thanksgiving, Turtle Island, Fiji

On the ultra luxurious Turtle Island, Thanksgiving, and the celebration of abundance, will not be confined to a mere week. This year, the island is starting a new tradition - a month-long Thanksgiving celebration.

Each week between November 10 and December 10, the 500-acre, private island resort will host a different, high-profile chef from around the world who will be tasked with using locally grown produce and seafood caught from surrounding waters to create a memorable holiday feast.

An example of farm-to-table at its finest, and a pioneer in sustainable hospitality, Turtle Island has three acres of gardens (which were a large part of the owners' inspiration for the month-longThanksgiving festivities).

"When each of the chefs arrive, I will be spending a day with them, exposing them to our local markets - both fish and fruit and vegetable markets - so they can taste all of these things and imagine how they might put them into new combinations," says Turtle Island's Monica Laurence, who came up with the idea to host a new chef each week for a month.

"On Turtle Island we have an abundance of seafood," Laurence continues. "Every day fisherman come to our dock offering the catch of the day - everything from Spanish mackerel or lobsters that have just come in, to octopus...There is so much interesting opportunity for food on the island, even the snails are wonderful eating."

Is your mouth watering yet?

The four guest chefs will draw upon the local seafood, meat, fruit and vegetables to create their own unique take on Fijian cuisine and Thanksgiving.

Guests at the exclusive resort, which includes accommodations for just 14 couples, will be able to interact one-on-one with the chefs, participate in cooking classes and demos and communal meals, which will take place in various locations around island, from the staff kitchen to a beach to a cliff-side outdoor dining venue. There will also be many food-related activities, such as clam digging on nearby islands, fishing and of course gathering vegetables from the island's expansive gardens

"Turtle Island is a place that brings your heart alive," adds Laurence. "When you come here you feel like you've come home, between the beauty of the place, the smiles and laughter of the Fijian people and newfound friends around table."

Private Chef and Chartered Catamaran, British Virgin Islands

Say goodbye to turkey and hello to fresh-caught lobster, sunshine and plenty of pampering.

The Moorings, a Florida-based company, specializes in providing vacations aboard chartered yachts that, depending on the size you rent, come complete with chef and crew. The company has more than 400 yachts that it sails to some 20 destinations around the globe.

Among the most popular Thanksgiving offerings, says Moorings Assistant Marketing Manager Jennifer Covington, is a cruise around the British Virgin Islands with a personal chef.

"The chef will make five-star meals, anything you request," says Covington. "We can prepare a turkey, or a less traditional seared tuna, grouper and lobster. You can escape the crowds on a boat, you're not at a resort with all these other people dining, you're on your own catamaran in an intimate setting, where you can relax, enjoy and let someone else do all the work for you."

In addition to indulging in a fabulous holiday meal on a yacht, you will wake up in a new anchorage every day, with the extremely difficult chore of deciding whether to go diving, snorkeling or sunbathing.

The yachts can accommodate parties from two people to ten.

"Why spend your time in the kitchen, when you can spend it on a boat?" adds Covington.



Banquet Dinner while Glamping, El Capitan Canyon, California

Located among 300 acres of undeveloped foothills, El Capitan Canyon offers yet another take on Thanksgiving worth considering. Here, the holiday involves a lavish, banquet style dinner complete with all of the classics, in a creek-side setting that includes luxe, furnished safari tents or cedar cabins.

Just 20 miles north of Santa Barbara, guests here can relax with family under sycamore and oak trees, indulge in massages, go hiking or make s'mores around the campfire (if you're not too full from the turkey.)

"We've been hosting people in some form or another for about 10 years," says Resort MangerTerri Bowman of the Thanksgiving celebration. "We do a very large, traditional Thanksgiving buffet. It's grown to be quite an event... It looks like a Thanksgiving wonderland, with all of the fall foliage and things we gather from the canyon."

And like many of the other locations on this list, at El Capitan Canyon there is a substantial organic garden, from which much of the holiday meal will be plucked.

Meanwhile, other activities in this pristine nature setting include yoga, star gazing and movie night.

"Thanksgiving is a really beautiful time of year here," adds Bowman. "The sycamore leaves are turning, even in these dry years, and we're surrounded by 2,500 acres of state and national park."


Farm-to-Table Feast, Cayman Islands

If you're reluctant to completely forgo all of your family's Thanksgiving traditions, Le Soleil d'Or may have just the solution.

The Cayman Island resort is inviting visitors to work with its chef to incorporate a little piece of home into its tropical island holiday meal. And with an impressive 20-acre organic farm, there will be plenty of ingredients on hand to create Le Soleil's farm-to-table feast.

Capitalizing on the Caribbean farm-to-table theme, the Thanksgiving opportunity here includes a tour of the Le Soleil d'Or farm, a family cooking class, and a holiday spread for up to ten people.

"The resort owner is of Mediterranean descent and grew up on a farm herself," says Le Soleil's Sharon Lee Thony, of the resort's enormous garden, which remains largely atypical in this part of the world. "In the Caribbean it's hard to grow fresh produce, but eventually one tomato plant became two and it kept growing, to what is now a 20-acre operating farm. And every morning the staff harvests everything from fresh chicken eggs, to citrus fruits, to things you wouldn't find there, such as Italian eggplant."

When not feasting, guests here can snorkel, kayak, take group fitness classes or slow it down with a spa treatment.


Thanksgiving Picnic, Aruba
One last option for those looking to ditch the dining room table and give thanks another way this year. The Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino will create a Thanksgiving picnic for you and your family at one of the island's many iconic and picturesque locations.

Perhaps the most basic Thanksgiving offering on this list, the resort will provide turkey sandwiches, a decadent cheese spread, potato salad, croissants, fresh fruit and more . Also, to get the atmosphere right, the resort will spread a blanket for you at a historic lighthouse, an old Dutch windmill, or perhaps a glittering lagoon.

"Not everyone wants to do traditional turkey for Thanksgiving," says Arianne Valentino, the resort's director of sales and marketing. "So we came up with this picnic basket idea, and we will take you wherever you want to go and when you're ready we'll come back and pick you up."

This opportunity focuses on exposing guests to areas of the island they might not otherwise see, says Valentino, taking them beyond the resort's confines to explore Aruba's varied topography and history. The suggested picnic locations include a beach frequented by locals, the Ayo Rock formations near Ayo village and even the island's historic oceanfront gold mine ruins (which date back to the 1800s).

"You will still have some of the elements of the traditional Thanksgiving," says Valentino. "But it's not an actual sit down at the table. You get to enjoy a different side of Aruba, and something different then you would if you were eating at the hotel or at home."

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