Smart Deals: Rent a Caribbean Villa
It may sound disingenuous to be talking "villa" in recessionary times, but a villa in the Caribbean can save you money — sometimes a great deal — when compared with a hotel room. By villa, I don't necessarily mean a grand house. In the Caribbean, the term can mean a condo, a house or a cottage, as well as the beach side palaces that deserve the name.
Aquamare (above and below) is a classic example of the latter, a true luxury villa. In this case, it's a five-bedroom, 8,000 square foot beachfront home on Virgin Gorda in the BVI's (in fact, there are three such homes, side-by-side). There's an infinity pool, alfresco showers and a vast living and dining area that opens to the outside. From August 1 through December 16, 2009, it commands $13,750 a week, half of what it would cost you to rent the villa during the Christmas holidays. But divided by 10 people, it comes out to $196 per person, per night, far less than what a five-star resort would charge.
But many Caribbean rentals will cost you considerably less. The sweetest deals can be found directly from private owners who advertise on sites such as Vacation Rental by Owner (VRBO). While most rental prices on the site don't seem to have changed since the economy tanked, there's every reason to believe that you can negotiate a better price than the one that's listed, at least with private rentals. Better yet, we're heading into one of the best times of the year to get a deal in the Caribbean, the months of April and May, when prices traditionally drop and you've got eight weeks or so before the hurricane season officially begins on June 1.
There are thousands of homes and condos in the Caribbean, and many are on VRBO. For instance, La
Pompe (above) is a three-bedroom, three-bath, ocean-view home on Bequia that
starts at $131 per night.
A secluded three-bedroom, three-bath West
Indies-style home (above) with sea views on an eight acre beachfront lot in
Nevis is $1,650 a week. And a sea-view studio on St. Martin overlooking Nettle Bay is suitable for a couple and ranges from $800 per week.
WHY A VILLA
For a larger group, I'm a big fan of houses that offer multiple bedrooms, a kitchen, plenty of communal space and privacy. Ideally, a house should have a private pool, a good view and access to a beach. And the reasons to love a house in the Caribbean are legion. In a hotel for example, public spaces, including the pool, are shared. With a villa, you can take a dip in the pool at midnight or have breakfast with the songbirds at 5 a.m. There's no schedule.
From a cost standpoint, villas are ideal for a group of friends, a family or a multi generational group, because sharing the cost brings the price down to a point that's often lower than a comparable hotel. In fact, frequently you can stay at a house that is nicer than any hotel you could afford. And by cooking, you save on restaurants, the cost of which can quickly add up in the Caribbean.
WHERE TO FIND THE BEST
There are hundreds of villa rental companies, including WIMCO, which generally handles only blue-chip properties. But VRBO shines here, offering hundreds of villa rentals in the Caribbean, like Island Horizons on St. John, a three-bedroom, four-and-a-half bath home (above) with a pool on the side of Bordeaux Mountain overlooking the British Virgin Islands. Rates range from $1,540 per week. Or go for a secluded, three bedroom beach house that's literally on Cane Garden Beach (below) in Tortola, BVI, for $3,500 per week.
If there is a downside to house rentals, it's that there's no one to make your meals or bed (unless you hire a staff for a house, which is costly). House rentals shorter than seven nights are also hard to find. And you will often need to factor in the cost of a rental car, rarely a necessity at a large resort.
When you go shopping for villas, check out forGetaway.com and Zonder.com that list professionally managed rental properties. But you can also rent directly from tens of thousands of homeowners at sites like HomeAway.com and its subsidiaries, such as VRBO.com, VacationRentals.com, A1Vacations.com, GreatRentals.com and CyberRentals.com