Travel Weekly’s Johanna Jainchill was in the Caribbean last week, staying in two vacation-rental villas and visiting several others. Her second dispatch follows. Click to read Johanna's first dispatch.
In spite of often carrying a high price tag, it is the value that often draws people to villa rentals.
Here in St. Martin, the three-bedroom Day-O Villa costs $1,429 per night (now through April) for three bedrooms, and with a free seventh night thrown in, it comes out to about $8,572 for the week. If booked with Villas of Distinction, a free car rental is thrown in, a $400 to $500 value for the week.
Per room, that comes out to less than $500 per night, with the private pool and a gate that opens right out onto the soft sand of Plum Bay Beach.
Additional savings villa guests get are obvious — Day-O’s open-air kitchen and dining area mean huge savings on dining out and buying drinks, especially when the cost of eating consumes such a large part of vacation budgets, particularly for people traveling with children.
For two American travelers in St. Martin who were experiencing a villa visit abroad for the first time, the value was clear. For the mother of four, having a private pool for the kids to play in, while she and her husband could lounge in the tranquility of the gazebo (and not have to share a common hotel pool) was luxury itself.
For another, the privacy factor stood out the most — the private pool, the near-empty empty beach, and not having to fight for the best spots at the common beach or pool.
All agreed that theses amenities came for far less than the cost of a comparable hotel or resort.
But this villa isn’t for everyone. At the Day-O villa there is no room service. And nobody to serve you pina coladas by the pool. If you wake up cranky, there is no coffee shop in the lobby.
And for those nights you do decide to go out, unless you want to pay for a taxi, someone will need to be the designated driver.
One antidote for that is a full-service villa experience, which Lisa Desbiens, reservations manager at Pierres Caraibes, described as being akin to a “private hotel.”
Anguilla’s Exclusivity is such a villa — it comes with an award-winning chef who serves three meals a day. Expect lobster, crab cakes and prime steaks on the menu, as well as any snacks guests would like.
An on-site concierge attends to guests’ needs, such as setting up beach chairs and an umbrella on the sand and offering cold drinks around the pool. Before guests ask, champagne and conch fritters are served as they gather outside to watch the sunset.
The concierge also acts as a designated driver and island guide, taking guests wherever they might need to go, which turns out not to be many places since Exclusivity seems to have it all and a remote location that offers a privacy that is difficult to come by in most parts of the world.
Naturally, Exclusivity and its amenities come at a premium to non-stafffed villas. Because it is full-service, Exclusivity charges per person, per week, beginning at $16,000 plus a service charge for two to three people, and up to $30,000 per week for 10 guests.
This includes not just meals and liquor, but a private tennis court, gym as well high-end mattresses, Lacoste towels and furniture imported from Italy.
A sophisticated music system pipes your songs into all the public rooms, as well as the garden and pool. And while this reporter didn’t need it, the house also has a private heli-pad.