A new wave of luxury homes is available for rent in the Caribbean. Ian Holmes rounds up the top 10 villas for the ultimate house parties.
“I suppose this is how poor people live,” Duff Cooper famously remarked when visiting Goldeneye, Ian Fleming’s Jamaican villa on the beach at Oracabessa, near Ocho Rios. Today Goldeneye, owned by Island Outpost boss Chris Blackwell, is let to such impecunious guests as Harrison Ford and Pierce Brosnan - for around 22,000 pounds a week. It is just one of a new wave of private homes for rent in the Caribbean that provide an alternative to luxury hotels and to the more traditional houses of Oliver Messel’s era. They are to be found not on the classic villa islands of Mustique and Barbados, but hidden away on St. Barts or Anguilla, where Sharon Stone recently honeymooned in one of at least six properties which let for more than 10,000 pounds a week.
It is hard for a hotel to match the privacy and individuality of a luxury, fully staffed villa. And, if shared with family or friends, the cost of renting such properties can compare well with hotel rates, often working out at as little as 100 per person per day. Bigger and better villa programmes from leading Caribbean operators Elegant Resorts and Caribbean Connection bear witness to the growing appeal of a home away from home. As one confirmed villa addict puts it, “When I’m on holiday, I want to be the one who controls the door policy.”
The 10 villas featured here range from a spectacular three-bedroom belvedere in St. John’s National Park to a house with its own spa in Jamaica. Also included is a closer look at a new private island in the British Virgin Islands, already previewed in Vogue . . .
LITTLE THATCH, BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS. Opened in October, this lush, 54-acre private island lies off the western shore of Tortola and is destined to be in hot demand for house parties. Inspired by Necker Island, where the British owners of Little Thatch spent their 25th wedding anniversary, it centres on a 350 ft.-high hilltop crowned by the Main House. The living areas have high roofs and open sides to benefit from the breeze, and astonishing views of pristine seascape. Stone steps lead down either to a sunset-facing infinity pool or through tropical gardens to five cottages done in simple Caribbean style, with outdoor showers and private terraces. The white powder-sand beach is visited by 22 species of seabird, the snorkeling is among the best in the BVI, and water sports are available. The resident manager, previously at nearby Guana Island, oversees the low-fat Californian/Caribbean cuisine. Maximum 10 people. 41,560 pounds per week. Overseas Connection, 001 516 725 9308; fax 725 5825.
GOLDENEYE, ORACABESSA, JAMAICA. You don’t have to be Harrison Ford to stay at Goldeneye - there are four new villas, known as Goldeneye Village, for rent with a less Hollywood price tag (but of course they are useful for bodyguards if you have them). Like the main villa, the original Ian Fleming House, these have their own private beach and a state-of-the-art entertainment room (for watching your favourite Bond movies, of course). For the definitive house party, the whole property, sleeping 22 people, if for rent at $10,000 a day. Ian Fleming House sleeps six, $21,000 per week, all inclusive (one-bedroom villa from $5,000 per week), plus tax and service. Overseas Connection, 001 516 725 9308; fax 725 5825.
HELIANTHUS, BEQUIA. A real discovery, this graceful villa, standing in nine acres of cedar trees on unspoilt Bequia, is holiday home to the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Helianthus (Latin for sunflower) opens out from the lily pond in its central courtyard, through terracotta-coloured colonnades, on to a shaded terrace with a pool and views to Mustique. Built two years ago, the villa has already hosted royalty and - the States’ equivalent - the Kennedy family. Maximum eight people. 5,625 pounds per week. Overseas Connection, 001 516 725 9308; fax 725 5825.
CAP PAVILION, ST LUCIA. Built in the style of an old colonial plantation house, this graceful, coral-stone pavilion, framed by stone archways and green louvred shutters, stands on a slight rise in the prestigious Cap Estate, on the northern tip of St. Lucia. Leading off a central palm courtyard, its white and airy rooms open on to broad, shady verandas and pretty, fretwork balconies, with views over both the windswept Atlantic and calmer Caribbean coastlines. A stone path runs down through lush gardens to the pool and a tiny gazebo surrounded by palms. Maximum 11 people. 4,045 pounds per week. Overseas Connection, 001 516 725 9308; fax 725 5825.
LOS LEONES, ST. BARTS. Taking its inspiration from the architectural styles of its owners’ favourite places - Greece, Italy, Morocco and Senegal - this chalk-white villa with its 10 pyramidal roofs resembles an ancient ziggurat, built around the rocks and trees of a windswept peninsula on St. Barts’ Atlantic coast. Eclectically furnished - antique beds from Africa, lanterns from Marrakech, kilims from Turkey - it exudes cultivated simplicity. Maximum six people. 18,750 pounds per week. Overseas Connection, 001 516 725 9308; fax 725 5825.
LA SERENA, ST. MARTIN. At the far end of the Baie Rouge beach, which is accessible only to a few houses, La Serena stands on a quiet, elevated site in what must be the most desirable location on the French side of St. Martin. Spacious and with an air of calm, it has white colonnaded rooms with terracotta floors, lofty ceilings and rattan furniture, and is decorated with Asian objets d’art. The villa is Moorish in inspiration, and its open-plan interior leads out on to an expansive terrace and pool, surrounded by white archways. These create picturesque frames for the views across gardens, beach and sea to distant Anguilla. Maximum 12 people. 11,250 pounds per week. Overseas Connection, 001 516 725 9308; fax 725 5825.
-Dougal D. Thornston; Joanna Davies; Cookie Kinkead-