I loooove hotels; few things make me happier than scoping out a new resort, or revisiting an old favorite to see how its changed. But hotels aren’t the only way to go for luxury travel — there are some spectacular villas out there, offering a different take on the luxury experience. For instance, Villa Manzu in Costa Rica comes with household staff and a garage filled with surfboards and kayaks, so guests can easily get out and play in the Pacific.
To me, the best villas offer a sense of place, with great views, beautiful views and outdoor space to enjoy the location, and unique furnishings and artwork that reflect the locale and the owner’s personal taste. Villas are ideal for smaller destination weddings (or larger ones, if the villa houses the bridal party or close family), or for travel with friends. They’re also great for families with children, giving everyone a central hangout space and also privacy when they want to retreat to their bedrooms, like this sexy master suite at The Private Reserve at Gili Lankanfushi in the Maldives, said to be the largest overwater bungalow in the world.
I also believe that luxury means great service, so I love villas that come with hands-on help, be it room service, nightly turn-downs or concierge services. So I was excited to get the chance to share some of my favorites with Architectural Digest. These beauties span the globe, from a five-bedroom villa at a private-island Caribbean resort to a one-bedroom enclave in Bali that would be perfect for pair of honeymooners. And they all come with all of the perks of a hotel stay — you just check in and chill out.
If you’re thinking of a high-end villa rental for a special occasion, keep these tips in mind as you research.
- Make sure it’s party-ready. If you’re thinking of holding a wedding or party there, make sure they accept private events. Many do, but some villas limit entertaining altogether, or charge a hefty fee to allow them.
- Work with a great concierge. Villas at hotels are ideal, because they come with everything the hotel offers, plus extra privacy. But there are great local concierge companies who can do everything from pre-stock your fridge to bring in a local chef for private dinners, or get you VIP access to local hot spots. Don’t do it all yourself; this is supposed to be vacation!
- Beware the security deposit. These are usually pretty hefty and designed to protect the villa owner, so you need to look out for yourself by taking photos of the space when you first arrive–especially if anything jumps out as possible damage or marks they could blame you for later.
- Get cancellation insurance. Due to their limited nature, most villas have stricter cancellation penalties than hotel rooms, which are easier to rebook if a guest is a no-show. I always advise travel insurance for villa rentals, just in case something unforeseen happens and you have to cancel your trip after the penalty phase kicks in (usually 30-60 days prior).
- Be wisely skeptical of the photos. This is where getting professional help is key. Anyone can photoshop out the peeling walls, or crop the image so you can’t see that the house is beside a busy highway. For a short trip, DIY rentals are fine, but for a special occasion, work with a company who will look out for you as well as the villa owner. And as always, if the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Are you thinking of a villa rental for an event or group travel? Let’s chat!