There are few experiences more genuinely relaxing than staying in a private villa with the owner's personal staff in attendance. The terrace at sundown. Hummingbirds hovering around the bougainvillea as you're served a martini or late afternoon tea. Ah to read, chat, play backgammon, or just snooze. A bell tinkles, dinner is ready. Candles flicker, tree frogs chatter, the surf swishes. No crowds, no cares—just you and the family.
After nearly two decades of writing on the Caribbean, I have my own select checklist of rental villas, ranging from Jamaica to St. Barths to that quintessential private island of one's dreams, Mustique. Most of these have a gourmet kitchen, swimming pool, air conditioning (a few of the most coveted still depend on louvers, ceiling fans, and trade winds for cooling), and much more. Tennis and a gym? Try Temenos on Anguilla. Racquetball? Bon Vivant in Barbados. Nine-hole golf course? Shogun on Mustique. Need a helipad? Silent Waters in Jamaica. If I were planning a vacation in the Caribbean this season, here's where I'd start:
The Latest Superstar
The newest villa—or, rather, complex of villas—is Temenos on Anguilla. Spread over 2.2 acres next to Long Bay Beach are three exquisite two-story houses: Sand, Sky, and Sea. The first two feature four bedrooms, the third has five. Temenos is Greek for "sanctuary" and there is a remarkably appropriate sense of well-being in the design and decor here. The color schemes harmonize with the names of the villas; master bedrooms have indoor-outdoor bathrooms; skylights filter light down on high-ceilinged living rooms with panoramic windows and curving walls. Each villa has its own infinity pool, formal dining room, and casual pavilion for outdoor dining. Upstairs there's an atelier office complete with laptop, Internet access, printer, and fax machine. The three villas share a beach pavilion, a gym, and three lighted tennis courts. They also share a polished staff, including several chefs and a tennis pro.
Temenos, Long Bay, Anguilla; $30,000-$35,000 for four to five bedrooms; staff of 22; 264-222-9000; fax 264-498-9050; www.temenosvillas.com.
The Chic of Mustique
Mustique, in St. Vincent-Grenadines, may be the ultimate villa vacation—1,400 private acres that are both rural and grand. There are no crowds, no peddlers, no paparazzi, and no cruise ships. There's also no traffic. In fact, there's nothing at all to distract you. But this island does have its surprises, which include a remarkably well stocked public library of 4,000 books, even a clinic and medical staff.
Of the 89 private houses on the island, 55 are available for rent. They are one-of-a-kind, their designs and locations often quite dramatic. All have live-in staff (who overnight in mini-villas on the premises), and each zealously guards its privacy and seclusion. Yet they are all within a short drive of two very sophisticated little inns with restaurants and a couple of fairly lively nightspots. But that's it. This is not St. Barths. One eats at home, and for the most part, home (assuming that you have the proper staff, especially a cook) can be very, very delicious. Nor, surprisingly, is Mustique as pricey as St. Barths. In fact, rates on this toniest of tony islands compare favorably with much less glamorous hideaways.
Last year ten new villas entered the rental pool and a few more reemerged from major renovations. The most glamorous renovation has been at Les Jolies Eaux, the villa-estate-compound that once belonged to Princess Margaret. She, of course, made the island famous. Translated as "Beautiful Waters" and built overlooking Gelliceaux Bay, the estate was a wedding gift from English aristocrat Colin Tennant—always referred to as Lord Glenconner—who developed Mustique in the late sixties. Margaret's son, Viscount Linley, recently sold it to an American couple who have completely redone the villa in very grand style. The property, which overlooks both Caribbean and Atlantic, leads down to a heavenly clifftop pool with a cabana on one side and a freestanding bedroom-cottage on the other.
Hilltop Serenissima, a four-bedroom Balinese-style villa, overlooks Macaroni Beach—perhaps the best beach on the island because of its cool windward location and the absence of those dreaded little sandflies. Owned by a stylish Italian couple with children, it has the advantage of being both urbane and child-friendly. There is even a "rec" room downstairs, and one of the best-equipped kitchens on the island.
Point Lookout is one of the most satisfying beachside villas I've ever stayed in, sole occupant of a narrow headland with stereophonic sea sounds. L' Ansecoy Beach curves off almost from the front door, a tiny patch of sand awaits a few paces from the terrace, and a small circular swimming pool perches among the rocks at the end of the lawn. Beyond the elegant, if slightly untropical, facade of native stone and dark hardwoods is a leafy garden foyer that leads to a spacious open living room. Three of the four bedrooms are grouped in a wing, an arrangement better suited to a family than to four couples.
One of the villa's most inviting features is an octagonal dining pavilion facing the water, casual by day and just formal enough by candlelight to make family dinners special. After dark you won't see another light except for the occasional fishing boat. It is quiet, peaceful, and blissfully secluded—and yet a short, bumpy ride in the villa's "mule" (a cross between a golf cart and Jeep) will take you to a chic bar and as much socializing as you can handle.
Les Jolies Eaux, Gelliceaux Bay; $18,000 for five bedrooms; staff of five. Serenissima, near Macaroni Beach; $22,000 for four bedrooms; staff of six. Point Lookout, L'Ansecoy Beach; $10,200 for four bedrooms; staff of four. All of the villas come with a car or a "mule." 800-225-4255; fax 203-602-2265; www.mustique-island.com.
Billiards and Butlers
Three butlers and a private chef at your beck and call, and an excellent wine cellar with 1,000 bottles: You'll find them all at Anguilla's two-year-old Altamer. The architecture is ultramodern, with a four-story wall of glass facing the beach. The stylish interiors are filled with antiques brought back from Turkey and Russia (the owners are international bankers) and custom-designed Murano glass fixtures.
Take the elevator to the second floor and you can while away an hour or two at a custom-built billiard table. There's also a "communications center" with a computer, phone, and fax, a lighted tennis court, and an air-conditioned gym. The lap pool is practically on the beach (a ravishing crescent of white sand), and the trio of butlers will keep you supplied with chilled drinks and fresh towels ad infinitum.
Warning: This may be the last year of Altamer's coveted absolute privacy. A second villa is planned to go up 120 feet away.
Altamer, Shoal Bay West, Anguilla; $38,000 for five bedrooms, including food and house wines; staff of ten; 888-652-6888 or 264-498-4000; fax 264-498-4010; www.altamer.com.
Saba: Wild at Heart
Saba, one of the Netherlands Antilles, is not your typical Caribbean island. The peak of a volcanic cone, it shoots straight up from the sea to a height of almost 3,000 feet without the usual lowlands of beaches and palm trees. It's perfect for adventurers, with spectacular scuba diving and equally dramatic hiking through the rainforests. Notched into the side of Troy Hill, high above the village of The Bottom, Haiku looks almost like a birdcage among the mahogany and breadfruit trees. It's a setting of sublime serenity. The Japanese-styled exterior hints at its minimalist interiors by Jan des Bouvrie, one of the Netherlands' leading decorators: comfortable sofas, wooden rockers, and pencil-post beds, a teak dining table that seats 12, and a state-of-the-art kitchen by Siemens. There's a television and DVD player, but with its rustic post-and-beam construction, high ceilings, and panoramic views of forest, sea, and sky, it feels more like the ultimate luxurious treehouse.
Haiku, Troy Hill, Saba; $13,300 for three bedrooms; daily maid; 800-449-1553; fax 401-847-6290; www.wimco.com.
Gingerbread on St. Lucia
For southern comforts in a Caribbean setting, Manderley, in the northwestern corner of St. Lucia, is a gracious getaway. Although built in the 1980s, Manderley has the feel of an antebellum plantation great house: a pink-and-white confection of gingerbread fretwork with verandahs, turrets, and latticed-wood walls. Vases and urns of billowing bougainvillea accent the cool, airy white-on-white interiors. The three bedrooms have fourposter beds and traditional Antillean furnishings. A plunge pool overlooks the sea and historic Pigeon Island.
Manderley, on the Cap Estate, Castries, St. Lucia; $4,950 for three bedrooms; maid service daily; 758-450-0233; fax 758-450-0102; www.manderleyplantation.com.
Turks and Caicos Serenity
For people who really want to get away from it all, there's nothing quite as laid-back as a cottage at The Meridian Club on Pine Cay in the Turks and Caicos. More Cape Cod than Cap d'Antibes, the villas have a casual, outdoorsy atmosphere in keeping with the private island's 800 acres of unspoiled nature and beaches—two perfect miles of the whitest sand and the most crystalline waters this side of Bora Bora. Five of the member-owned cottages are available for rent. The largest is the 4,000-square-foot Pineapple, which has a covered deck and four bedrooms, each with en suite bathroom, a private stone terrace, and ocean views. The Meridian offers a clubhouse with a tennis court, a swimming pool, and lots of bikes. Best of all: Purists love the fact that Pine Cay doesn't have air conditioning, television, cell phones ("banned in perpetuity"), or children under 12. There's only one telephone in the whole club. When it's time to tackle War and Peace, this is the place.
The Meridian Club, Pine Cay, in the Turks and Caicos Islands; from $3,800-$8,500 for one to four bedrooms; maid service provided twice weekly; 866-746-3229; fax 770-476-4979; www.meridianclub.com.
A St. Barths Hillside
On a mountainous island like St. Barths, most villas are not by the beaches but on the hillsides. Visitors simply rent a convertible and drive to the ocean and local bistros when the mood strikes. Perched on a quiet slope in Pointe Milou, Walhalla has a lofty view of the sea below. In true Antillean style, it offers the best of indoor-outdoor living with a spacious dining gazebo, a poolside terrace, open-sided living room, and a warm, lived-in feel. The Italian owner has filled this breezy aerie with furniture and antiques from Provence, Asia and Italy. The look is informal but chic, with crisp white matelassé on the beds and cozy, comfortable couches. And since all four bedrooms are identical in size and facilities, it's a perfect choice for four couples.
Walhalla, Pointe Milou, St. Barthélemy; $11,000 for four bedrooms; maid service six days a week; 590-590-27-78-78; fax 590-590-27-78-28; www.icietlavillas.com.
On the Beach at Jumby Bay
Antigua's Jumby Bay, that ultraexclusive private-island retreat and luxury resort, has just one private villa for rent these days, and it's a charmer. Tir-Na-Nog occupies three acres on one of my favorite beaches, Pasture Bay, where you rarely see another soul. The 5,000-square-foot house revolves around a recently-renovated, high-ceilinged living room furnished with Burmese and Indonesian antiques and cooled by a louvered cupola above louvered doors. New additions include a surround-sound system by Bose, a flat-screen TV/DVD, and a chef's kitchen with top-of-the-line stainless steel appliances. A private golf cart will zip you around the island's 300 unspoiled acres to Jumby Bay's spa, watersports, tennis courts, and two restaurants—for those occasions when you don't want to dine alfresco on the patio and just listen to the surf.
Tir-Na-Nog, Jumby Bay resort, Antigua; $24,500, four bedrooms; staff of three; 303-938-0507; fax 303-381-2278; www.tirnanog-jumby.com.
Any Caribbean vacation is by its very nature romantic, but some villa owners add special flourishes. At the new L'Oasis on St. Martin ($35,000 for five bedrooms; staff of two; www.wimco.com), guests can adjourn to the rooftop "moon deck" after dinner and curl up on a lounger for two (just one lounger, thank you), while at Peter Bay Beach on St. John ($20,000 for three bedrooms; staff of one; www.wimco.com or www.lacure.com.) one can sip an evening glass of rum punch in front of a couple of fireplaces (yes, fireplaces). At Noble House on Jamaica ($10,000 for four bedrooms; staff of seven; www.jamaicavillas.com), four of the bathrooms feature sliding-glass walls beside large tubs overlooking a very private patio, discreetly lit for late-night swims. Trident Castle in Jamaica's Port Antonio ($52,500 for eight bedrooms; staff of 16; www.jamaicavillas.com) is a secluded 17-acre, over-the-top, nonpareil estate with its own private chapel.
Chic and Cheap
I fell in love a few years ago with this tiny house designed in vernacular French West Indies style. A wood-framed cottage just off much-photographed St. Jean Beach, it's a real find. The living room and kitchenette are on the patio, screened from passersby by high walls draped with hibiscus. Louvered shutters lead to the air-conditioned bedroom, casually done up in white and buttercup. It's the sort of spot romantics love—despite its jarringly unromantic computer code name, CHI. The beach is just a stroll away beneath the sea-grape trees, while the familiar bistros and boutiques are two minutes away in the other direction.
If you prefer something less dainty, right behind are BOO and DAD, two brand-new villas that are also done in local style, but with four bedrooms each.
CHI, St. Jean Beach, St. Barthélemy; $1,680 for one bedroom; maid daily except Sunday. BOO is $9,210; DAD is $8,500; 800-449-1553; fax 401-847-6290; www.wimco.com.
Anguilla Most Grand
For entertaining on a truly grand scale, Cerulean Villa on Anguilla is ideal: It sprawls over 13,000 square feet, with a 3,000-square-foot terrace, a huge (25' x 40') swimming pool, and a dining room that seats 16 with ease. The white two-story structure, all angles and turrets, has not one but two living rooms separated by a bar. The interior is playfully decorated with inlaid mosaics, colorful cushions, and handmade objets from Morocco and Mexico. Each of the seven 515-square-foot bedrooms has a private entrance; two come with private outdoor shower gardens. Should you tire of the books and parlor games in the well-stocked library, there's a TV and VCR with plenty of videos. There's even a meditation court where you can unwind to the sound of a soothing waterfall. Of course, there are outdoor diversions, too: kayaks, sailboats and a tennis court with a covered pavilion and bar. Service is on the same grand scale, with towels poolside (at a finger snap), cool drinks on the beach, and a house manager and private chef to make sure that your meals—as well as anything else—are just as you want them.
Cerulean Villa, Barnes Bay, Anguilla; $35,000 for seven bedrooms; staff of 13; 212-285-2070; fax 212-962-6470; www.cerulean-villa.com.
For the Moviegoer
Remember the scene in Dr. No when a bemused Sean Connery eyes Ursula Andress as she rises, Botticelli-like, from the sea? That very stretch of sand, now known as James Bond Beach, is yours when you check into Jamaica's Roaring Pavilion, just outside the northern seaport of Ocho Rios. Stroll down stone walkways past lily ponds to the lagoon-shaped pool. Spend the evening playing the grand piano, listening to Chopin on Denon surround-sound with Niles speakers, or watching Dr. No on a plasma screen. The staff of nine includes a masseuse, a chef who prepares first-rate European and Caribbean cuisine, and chambermaids who were trained at the Ritz-Carlton in Paris. Tell the majordomo you'd like a car waiting for you at the airport.
Roaring Pavilion, near Ocho Rios, Jamaica; $38,500 for four bedrooms, including meals and soft drinks; staff of nine; 800-387-2726; fax 416-968-9435; www.lacure.com.
Jamaica en Famille
Tryall Club, a former sugar plantation just outside of Montego Bay in Jamaica, may offer the best of two worlds for families: The luxurious villas here are private and well-staffed, and all the club's facilities are at your disposal, including golf, tennis, water sports, and restaurants.Teenagers love it, since Negril is just a few miles away. I have stayed here several times, sometimes in the inn, sometimes in villas. My favorite was Hart House—a villa so beguiling that the owners have decided to move in permanently. But there are dozens of other options: Heron Cove and Randolins by the beach; Bumpers Nest, Cielo, and Coo Yah among the hills and fairways (all with three or four bedrooms); and Mahogany Hill, a five-bedroom palace with not only one but two swimming pools. Bumpers Nest is especially child-friendly; it also has a private putting green and practice tee for guests who want to warm up before tackling the resort's championship course.
Tryall Club, near Montego Bay, Jamaica; $7,500-$12,000 for three to five bedrooms; staff of four to seven; 800-361-9949; fax 800-404-1841; www.tryallclub.com.
While grownups want a villa with style and refinement, kids prefer accommodations that are relaxed and not so fancy that they have to tiptoe around for fear of breaking something. Mango Bay in Barbados is the perfect balance, with an elegant four-bedroom main house, grounds that are landscaped with lily ponds and fountains, and a guest cottage on the southern lawn with two more bedrooms. The former home of the socialite diplomat Pamela Harriman, Mango Bay was recently renovated. It is a prime example of Barbados coral-stone architecture, designed by the legendary Oliver Messel—best known for his villas on Mustique. Evenings, the family can regroup in the property's lovely dining pagoda or, after dinner, in the study with its TV/VCR and Internet hookups. Be warned: the cottage is close to the road, which may be grating for adults—but it allows teenagers to frolic without constant reminders to turn the volume down. The beach is not ideal for swimming, but there are others just a few paces away.
Mango Bay, Barbados; $55,000 for six bedrooms; staff of five; 800-449-1553; fax 401-847-6290; www.wimco.com.
Over the Top
Terraced into a hillside overlooking Montego Bay, in Jamaica, Silent Waters combines the plantation styling of bygone years with the perks and comforts of the 21st century. And how—from lily ponds and spacious terraces to electronic security, fiberoptic telephones, ten bedrooms, and a helipad with a lighted windsock for people who like to slip in quietly in Jet Rangers. Scattered among the 18 acres are an infinity pool, an 80-foot reflecting pool, and 12 buildings, including a breakfast gazebo and the 900-square-foot Main Pavilion. The hand-carved teak doors are from Bali, the dining table is a 15-foot slab of Brazilian granite. Music connoisseurs will love the 200-disc programmable surround-sound audio system and the ultimate toy: an electronic baby grand piano, the Yamaha Disklavier (who can survive without one?) with a computer for composing and recording. Other diversions include seven massage tables, seven Scupper Pro ocean kayaks, a full gym, and a soft, knee-friendly Deca Turf tennis court with a ball machine.
Silent Waters, Great River, Jamaica; $29,150 for 10 bedrooms; staff of 19; 301-229-4300; fax 301-320-6963; www.jamaicavillas.com.
All about Sports
Most rental villas in the Caribbean come with a swimming pool, and those close to the beach are usually stocked with snorkeling masks and floats, too. On Barbados, Bon Vivant ($26,500 for eight bedrooms; staff of ten; www.lacure.com) has a lighted tennis court, air-conditioned racquetball court, a gym, trampoline, and an army of staff to keep your polo shirts freshly laundered; the Leamington Pavilion ($24,500 for four bedrooms; staff of eight; www.lacure.com) treats guests to afternoon tea on Wedgwood china after they've worked out on the villa's tennis court or in the private gym; Crossbow ($30,000 for six bedrooms; staff of eight; www.crossbowbarbados.com or www.wimco.com) throws in a 26-foot Boston Whaler Outrage speedboat and a guide who will take you for banana-boat rides or waterskiing—but don't try to celebrate your skills on skis with a fine cigar, since this is one of the few villas with a no-smoking rule.
For the Gourmand . . .
Although villa cooks will serve whatever you ask for, including dietary meals, on the whole it's better to forego beef Wellington and leave them to what they're most qualified to prepare. For most, that means family recipes using fresh produce and fish. When arts executive Wayne Lawson first checked into his favorite villa in Jamaica, his instructions were, "Cook Jamaican." Now his cook does Jamaican jerk, impeccable snapper Creole, and the like. "Every day she takes her scale to the water's edge to check the morning catch," Lawson says. "The local fishermen row right up to the villa."
For those gastronomes who insist on haute cuisine, look for a villa with a professionally trained chef. You'd expect St. Barths to be the leader in this field, since its restaurants are unparalleled; but in fact, Anguilla has more first-rate in-villa chefs. Among the best of those is Altamer's kitchen, once manned by and now supervised by Maurice Leduc. His Napoleon of snapper and tournedos of beef Rossini are in such demand that the villa's owners built a separate restaurant on the property to occupy him when he's not cooking for Altamer's guests. At Cerulean Villa, guests sit down to grilled Anguillan crayfish and roast duck with mango chutney prepared by Anderson Gumbs.
But the best deal of all may be reserved for guests at L'Ansecoy (www.mustique-island.com) on Mustique. Maguy Le Coze, owner of this exquisite villa, is also proprietor of the renowned Le Bernardin, which is where she sent her island chef to polish her technique. Lunch at L'Ansecoy was one of the best meals I've had in the Caribbean.
. . . and the Serious Cook
Private chefs can be wonderful, but there are those among us who enjoy cooking for themselves. And that's not always welcome in villas with their own territorial chefs. If your idea of heaven is a kitchen that is so spacious and well-equipped that you want to rush off to the local market, plunder the fish and vegetable stalls, and then fire up the range, the four-bedroom Grand Villa at Covecastles on Anguilla is culinary paradise. The appliances are top-of-the-line, pots and pans are sturdy Calphalon, and there are juicers and coffeemakers galore. And when the time comes to present the fruits of your labor, you'll find Buccellati flatware, Georg Jensen serving pieces, Royal Copenhagen china, and even hand-embroidered linens. Helena Bonham Carter had Christmas dinner here, prepared by Kenneth Branagh and Derek Jacobi.
Covecastles Villa Resort, Shoal Bay West, Anguilla; $21,000 for four bedrooms; maid service daily; 800-223-1108; fax 264-497-6051; www.covecastles.com.
Mountain Views and High Style
Refined St. Barths hideaway Byzance is a two-bedroom head-turner on the heights of Colombier, with grand views in every direction, from the broad poolside terrace to the glass-enclosed living room. Hand-painted murals cover walls and ceilings, the furnishings have a Balinese look, and the white interiors are accented with Oriental rugs and antique objets. One bedroom has its own sauna; the designer kitchen seems prepared to cater a banquet; and the collection of CDs—mostly operas and symphonies—will keep music lovers in heaven.
Finding A Villa
There are now so many rental villas in so many locations with so many variations in terms of facilities and amenities that anyone looking for the perfect villa had better sit down and do some prepping. Ask yourself a lot of questions: Which island? Beach or hills? Full staff or just a maid? Night watchman? Lots of diversions or total seclusion? Air conditioning throughout or just in the bedrooms? Do you need electronics to keep in touch with the office?
Some villas have restrictions on children, while others insist that you bring along a nanny. If you have a toddler, ask for a floor plan so that you can familiarize yourself with the location of swimming pools, stairways, roads and other potential danger spots. (And since few villas are truly childproof, you'd better bring your own plastic devices for outlets and faucets.) If you'll be bringing along teenagers, remember that not all villas have television or VCRs, and others are so isolated that they'll drive teens bonkers.
Good agencies will attend to any special requests ahead of time. Notes Linda Smith of Jamaica Villas, "I've been asked to install a grand piano for a Broadway composer, to boost the electricity supply for a rock group, and to find a nanny who swims." The top rental agencies in the United States and Canada send their people down to the islands regularly to assess and to stay in every villa on their rosters and to get to know the staff. They also have representatives on each island to keep an eye on day-to-day maintenance and to make themselves available to guests if anything goes wrong. Here are a few of the most reliable:
Rhode Island-based West Indies Management Company WIMCO has been around for 18 years. It's known mostly for villas on St. Barthélemy (it also represents villas and hotels on several other Caribbean islands and in Europe) and is the exclusive representative for a company called SIBARTH, based on the island, which manages 250 villas. Run by the able and efficient Brook Lacour, Sibarth greets each guest at the airport and is available more or less around the clock to tackle any problems. 28 Pelham Street, Newport, RI; 800-449-1553; fax 401-847-6290; www.wimco.com.
JAMAICA VILLAS by Linda Smith, based in Maryland, now represents 52 villas. Smith started the company 16 years ago when the two villas that she owned were renting so well other owners came to her for advice; now she advises owners on amenities and decor and, in many cases, hires and trains the staff. Her informative Web site recently introduced a system to help you work out the cost per head of the rental. Jamaica Villas clients include Paul McCartney, Harrison Ford, and Roger Ebert. 8029 Riverside Drive, Cabin John, MD; 301-229-4300; fax 301-320-6963; www.jamaicavillas.com.
LACURE, which is based in Toronto, has been specializing in upscale villa rentals on three continents since 1979. It represents villas on 16 Caribbean islands and actually owns Roaring Pavilion in Jamaica. 275 Spadina Road, Toronto, Ontario; 888-452-2873; fax 416-968-9435; www.lacure.com.
Ten-year-old ICI&LA is based on St. Barthélemy and handles only villas on that island, about 60 of them, ten exclusively. Its Web site is hard to navigate, arranging properties by location but without a map of the island. They personally meet guests at the airport, and they are available at all times for assistance. Box 219, Gustavia, St. Barthélemy; 590-590-2778-78; fax 590-590-2778-28; www.icietlavillas.com.
Connecticut-based SANCTUARE handles private-island resorts, including the 55 villas on Mustique. Agents have first-hand knowledge, detailed information, and an absolutely addictive brochure with very reliable photographs. 456 Glenbrook Road, Stamford, CT; 800-225-4255; fax 203-602 -2265; www.mustique-island.com.
What it Costs
Whether it's a one-bedroom cottage for $1,600 a week or a grand spread for 16 at $52,000, villa rentals are a surprisingly good value. For instance, a four-bedroom villa at $14,000 a week breaks down to just $500 a night per couple. That's about the going rate at a topnotch resort, but with so much more in the way of service and privacy (one of today's most expensive commodities).
Rates For the villas included in this article, rates are for one week during the high season (approximately mid-December 2002 to mid-April 2003). They do not cover Christmas and New Year's, when rates spike 50 percent or more. Unless noted, food and drinks are extra. During the holiday season there are also minimum-stay requirements, usually ten to 14 days. Although the rates listed are for a full week, some villas may be available, outside of the holidays, for a few nights only. Families traveling with children, who may have to schedule their vacations for spring or summer, get the best deals, because during those periods rates are even more reasonable. Note, too, that price is based on the maximum number of guests at each villa; a four-room villa, for example, may be available for less if only two bedrooms are being used.
What to Ask Give the rates careful scrutiny. First off, local taxes, service charges and tips: Are they included or are they extra? Do the rates include food and liquor, and if they do, is it all food and all liquor? If you pay for food and drink but decide to eat out a couple of nights a week, is there a rebate? What are the working hours of the staff? (Typical hours might be from early morning to après-dinner, or maybe from 8 a.m. to noon, then 2 p.m. to 9 p.m.) Do they work seven days a week, or are they given Sunday off? How much do you have to pay up front, and how much do you forfeit if you cancel? What can be paid with a credit card, and what has to be paid in cash? Is there a deposit for breakage or damage? If so, when is it repaid?
Ian Keown wrote about private jets in the May/June issue of Departures.