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Exceedingly desirable hotel properties have traditionally been destinations unto themselves, with beautifully appointed gathering places, centralized courtyards and landscaped gardens all conscientiously cultivated to encourage interaction between guests.

Today, as part of a renaissance that began the elevation of hotel lobbies, hotels and resorts are once again focusing attention on their outdoor common spaces in order to create organic opportunities for guests to mingle. By introducing sexy new open-air lounges, renovated terraces with plenty of seating and lush garden retreats that offer tasty ways to dine and sip alfresco, the chicest places offer real-world opportunities to get social—no smartphone or logins required.

"The key to turning an outdoor space into the heart of the property is paying close attention to how guests might actually want to use it—and who they've come to experience it with," says Mary Crowe, general manger at La Playa Carmel in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California.

After adding pathways meant to draw visitors into an interior garden courtyard, Crowe's design team at La Playa Carmel added group-focused elements (a life-size chessboard, communal tables) and pairs of Adirondack chairs tucked within secluded spots filled with flowers. Because local wines and artisanal appetizers are available to order from anywhere in the garden, guests never need to interrupt their fun or personal time.

Other places on our list, from Venice to the British Virgin Islands to Tokyo, have adopted the same spirit. Visit one and you may quickly forget that you’re not already among friends.


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