Maybe I’ve had it wrong all these years.
Like many folks, I’ve gazed over the years at those advertisements for shimmering villas on the shore of an equally shimmering Caribbean Sea and thought, “Yeah, renting one of those would be great. But it’s way out of my league.”
I’ve always been more of a hotel guy in my travels. But villas are arguably more popular than ever, as folks tuned into renting private homes discover a wonderful alternative to the same-old hotels in the same-old destinations. Not only are they often cheaper than a hotel of similar quality (sometimes FAR cheaper), but they also offer flexibility, a casual atmosphere without the need to dress up for a trip to the lobby and a great spot for gatherings of families or friends.
They’re also available around the world, from Barbados to British Columbia to Barcelona.
“We are continuing to see a strong trend within the travel industry where people are moving away from resorts and hotels,” said Brian Schwimmer, CEO of Rental Escapes. “Our guests value the privacy, intimacy, and ultimately the luxury of renting their own private villa. Once a guest experiences a villa vacation for the first time, they rarely go back to a hotel again!
“There’s nothing unique about staying in a hotel with 500 rooms in it,” Schwimmer said. “On the other hand, what is more unique than staying in a gorgeous, custom-built house on the beach?”
When I was on Anguilla recently, I stayed at a couple of nice hotels. I also ran into Bruce and Ron from Toronto, who had rented a villa.
“We love it,” Ron told me. “We have the freedom to do what we want.”
“Dining out can be expensive, so we cook in our kitchen a few nights a week and go out the other days,” said Bruce. “I also love just going downstairs for breakfast and not having to get dressed up. We can do what we want. We can hang out with other people or have the place to ourselves.”
The folks at Rental Escapes were kind enough to show me a couple of their villas when I was on Anguilla, which by the way is my new favourite Caribbean island; crystal-white beaches that go on forever, friendly
people, and water in shades of blue and green that the Crayola crayon people haven’t even dreamed of.
My first stop was called Villa Zebra; a beautiful pale gold-yellow home on a small hill overlook Meads Bay on Anguilla. The villa currently is set up for two bedrooms and rents from just $600 a night in summer and $1,035 for two bedrooms in winter or $900/night for one bedroom. That’s about $500 per night, which is in line with many top hotels and a lot cheaper than the $800 per night price I saw for the lovely Viceroy Anguilla in late March.
Don’t forget, that $800 doesn’t include meals, so you’d actually spend a great deal more than you would by renting Villa Zebra or another Rental Escapes property.
Villa Zebra features a truly stunning pool, complete with a small waterfall. It’s a short walk to the beach, perhaps three minutes, but you get lovely views of the ocean and a huge pool with shaded and sunny areas.The rooms are furnished in lovely, tropical style, with terra cotta floors and beautiful wood.
The kitchen was great; with a Cuisinart coffee maker, washer/dryer (very handy for week-long stays and for families), dishwasher, satellite or cable TV, a DVD player, a beautiful fridge/freezer unit and more.
It’s also a short walk to the Carimar resort or the posh Moulihana if you want to try one of their restaurants or bars.
I also had a tour of the super-casual, super-relaxed and tropical L’Embellie, which is on the south coast of Anguilla near the small airport; an area called The Forest. It felt like something out of a Somerset Maugham book; with a winding path to the main house that took me past a flowing garden with deep pink bougainvillea, towering palms and a beautiful swimming pool with a small footbridge over the top.
It has a bit of a Caribbean plantation feel, with casual furnishings and a huge garden that fronts a nice stretch of coastline. There’s not much of a beach, but there are tons of great beaches all over this relatively
small island. They also have a nice rooftop relaxation/patio area and a separate cottage with a small kitchen; ideal for a small family or folks who want privacy.
The area would be great for reading and snoozing in the shade, as well as kayaking in Anguilla’s brilliant waters.
Guide Jackie Pascher said there are actually more villa rental rooms on Anguilla than there are hotel rooms.
The usual minimum is seven nights but often folks will rent for five nights in this day or time-pressed vacationers.
“Lots of folks come down and rent villas here,” Pascher told me. “Robert De Niro comes down. Justin Bieber was just renting a place on the north shore and was hanging out at some of the bars and music places, playing for folks. Nobody bothers the celebrities, which they love.”
Here are a few links to some other great Rental Escapes properties:
St. Martin: http://www.rentalescapes.com/luxury-villa-rentals/105774/