July 2020 Our Guide to the World’s Best Luxury Villas

Our Guide to the World’s Best Luxury Villas

Dominican Republic distancing at Eden Roc Cap Cana.
Dominican Republic distancing at Eden Roc Cap Cana.
Close to home or far-flung: There’s a private stay for every type of travel.

As we dust off our suitcases and venture back into the world, there’s a certain peace of mind to be found from settling into a private villa. Luxury villas have always rocked the perks with 24/7 butlers, pantries stocked with local goodies, and concierges who know how to pull the right strings for a meaningful experience. But seen through the lens of present-day reality, they’re also private sanctuaries, a holiday in a secure bubble. “A private villa rental is a great way to have your next vacation with minimal social interaction, but still have an enjoyable getaway and much-needed escape,” says Virtuoso travel advisor Carl Henderson. “Work with your travel advisor to have the villa concierge prestock your favorite food and drinks so you’re ready to settle in and enjoy as soon as you arrive.” Virtuoso advisor Leanne Sheard notes that they’re a great option for families: “Escaping to a villa or private residence allows travelers to experience destinations while providing space and seclusion for the whole family to reconnect and recharge.”
 
Here, picks for villa life near and far.

Ranch living at Ladder Ranch House.
Ranch living at Ladder Ranch House.

Homes on the Range

New Mexico
Bison, elk, mule deer, mountain lions, and bears are at home in the grasslands and pine forests around Ladder, a Ted Turner Reserve, on 245 square miles of New Mexico wilderness. Four Rio Grande tributaries burble through the ranch, which includes a four-bedroom house Turner built for his family. Guests choose from activities such as horse-back riding, photography tours, and wildlife safaris that focus on ranch conservation efforts, such as bringing back the endangered Bolson tortoise. A private chef creates bespoke menus with ingredients from local farms, served in unparalleled settings – the big house among them, with a blaze roaring in its stone fireplace. Two-night minimum stay includes a private chef, a private guide, and all meals, beverages, and activities.
 
Montana
Unleash your inner cowpoke at The Resort at Paws Up, a 37,000-acre working cattle ranch in Montana’s Blackfoot Valley. Fly-fish with an expert guide, float over Glacier National Park in a hot-air balloon, or watch a horse whisperer calm a rescued mustang before settling into one of 28 lodge-style homes. One- to four-bedroom home rentals include private round-trip airport transfers, a bottle of wine on arrival, all meals, select beverages, use of a Lexus SUV on the property, and a $300 activity credit.
 
Annandale’s Seascape villa.
Annandale’s Seascape villa.
New Zealand
Situated on a working sheep and cattle farm on the Banks Peninsula, an hour-plus drive from Christchurch, New Zealand, Annandale has five villas (two with pools) ranging in style from a lovingly restored five-bedroom homestead to a jaw-dropping glass-and-stone one-bedroom, built into a hillside on a secluded inlet. Two-night-minimum villa rentals include in-villa breakfast and dinner provisions, and a $100 dining credit.

Wellness Retreats

Mexico
Healthy living is always in full bloom in the gardens of Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico, an hour’s drive southeast of San Diego at the foot of Mount Kuchumaa. Mountain hikes, salsa classes, aerial yoga, and organic farm-to-table meals are just a few of the reasons so many first-timers return. This year, the property unveiled two new spa tents offering a 90-minute treatment that draws from ancient Mexican ceremonies. The 86-casita, 4,000-acre property includes three private villas with wood-beamed ceilings and hand-painted tile work, saltwater plunge pools, hammocks, and outdoor showers. Seven-night-minimum villa rentals include breakfast daily, one 50-minute massage, and one 30-minute herbal wrap.
Super soaker: An alfresco bath at Gaia Retreat & Spa.
Super soaker: An alfresco bath at Gaia Retreat & Spa.
Australia
Not far from the mainland’s easternmost point, the 18-room Gaia Retreat & Spa, set in the verdant hills of the Byron Bay hinterland, exudes tranquility. Three one-bedroom villas (and one two-bedroom villa, new last year) with private decks, daybed cabanas, and saltwater plunge pools offer a touch more seclusion and extra space for private spa treatments. Two-night-minimum villa rentals include all meals, spa treatments, and daily retreat activities.
 
Arizona
Hit reset among the Sonoran Desert’s saguaro and mesquite at the 174-room Canyon Ranch Wellness Resort, a Tucson institution that has been setting the spa-vacation bar for four decades. New this year: The Reserve, which includes four one-bedroom suites set among waterfalls and a stream, a communal firepit, and views of the Santa Catalina Mountains. One-bedroom suites include all meals and a $160 spa credit per night.
Royal Belize seclusion.
Royal Belize seclusion.

Private Island Escapes

Belize
On a seven-and-a-half-acre cay dotted with palm and hibiscus trees, Royal Belize is a great jumping-off point for seeing the manta rays and trumpet fish of the country’s extraordinary barrier reef. Three tropical-chic villas, a roomy bunkhouse, and an open-air palapa await for the exclusive use of 10 to 16 people. Villa rentals include round-trip airport transfers, all food and beverages, and nonmotorized water sports.
 
Fiji
Fourteen-acre Dolphin Island is home to four elegantly appointed wood bures. Life on this private island in the Fijian archipelago is unhurried and unforgettable. (That goes double for a night spent in the open-air hilltop bure, lit only by lanterns and candles.) By day, guests take dips in the infinity pool, lounge on outdoor daybeds, snorkel among coral reefs, and visit nearby islands via paddleboard or sea kayak. At night, they dine on a lovo feast cooked on hot stones in an underground oven and accompanied by traditional song and dance performances. Two-night-minimum bure stays include breakfast daily, a Fijian cooking class, and a massage.  
 
Mozambique
There are more giant baobab trees than people on Azura Quilalea, a private coral island in a protected marine sanctuary off the coast of Mozambique. Eighteen guests max stay in nine thatch-roofed villas, including a clifftop retreat with a private plunge pool and stepladder access to a secluded alcove that’s a beach at low tide. Villas available individually or exclusively, including all meals and a guided snorkeling excursion or a $100 resort credit.

Serenity at Alila on Bali.
Serenity at Alila on Bali.

Beach Getaways

Bali
Perched on a limestone cliff overlooking Bali’s Bukit Peninsula, the 65 minimalist, one- to three-bedroom villas of Alila Villas Uluwatu have private saltwater pools, cabanas, and butlers who’ll set up local experiences. Watch a kecak dance performance at a clifftop temple; ride the country’s famed waves with a surf coach; learn traditional Balinese dance; or visit the R.O.L.E. Foundation, which provides housing, education, and health care for orphans. One more positive: Serious eco-friendly principles are at work here, in the form of sustainable and recycled building materials, water-conserving rain gardens, and wildlife-friendly vegetation. Villa rentals include breakfast daily and butler services.
 
Turkey
In the sun-soaked Turkish city on the Aegean Sea, the Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum is home to 13 villas. Revel in well-appointed solitude with private pools, alfresco dining areas, and – at the Alisya Villa – private beach access. Three-night minimum rentals of four- to seven-bedroom villas include breakfast daily and a $100 hotel credit.

Villa time at Paradise Beach Nevis.
Villa time at Paradise Beach Nevis.
Nevis
While Nevis, in the Leeward Islands chain, may be best known as the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton, Paradise Beach Nevis connects travelers to the laid-back isle’s more indulgent claims to fame. From its 13 villas and beach houses with private pools, guests discover black-sand beaches, volcanic hot springs, 900-pound leatherback turtles, and folk culture. Two-bedroom villa rentals include private round-trip airport transfers and breakfast daily.
Townhouse life in Manhattan.
Townhouse life in Manhattan.

Pieds-à-Terre

New York City
Villas of Distinction’s 7,000-square-foot, six-story Midtown West Luxury Townhouse, with a private garden and landscaped roof deck, gives guests a deluxe launchpad for exploring the city, from the High Line to the Whitney Museum of American Art. Five-bedroom townhouse rental includes a $200 concierge services credit.
A private Parisian retreat.
A private Parisian retreat.
Paris
Live like a well-heeled local at Maison Privée, a garden-ensconced, five-bedroom home in Paris’ Latin Quarter. Dating to the French Revolution and improved by smart updates, the Luxury Retreats home serves as an elegant base of operations. Birdsong and church bells provide a morning soundtrack to a breakfast of café au lait and fresh pastries next to the heated backyard pool. Nearby: the market street of rue Mouffetard, bookstore-for-the-ages Shakespeare and Company, and the leafy refuge of the Luxembourg Gardens. Five-night minimum rental includes a $200 services credit.
 
California
Designer Marcello Pozzi collaborated with California architect Ray Kappe to create five modern four-story residences at the 143-room Mr. C Beverly Hills hotel. The result: sleek Italian finishes (limestone countertops) paired with a West Coast aesthetic (clean lines and outdoor living spaces). One special touch in 1255 Edris Drive and two others: a hidden wine bar on the first floor. Residence rentals include breakfast daily and a $100 dining credit.
Chalet perks in Aspen.
Chalet perks in Aspen.

Mountain Pads

Aspen
Cuvée’s four-bedroom One Aspen Chalet comes with Warren Miller views in winter months, a fireplace and pool table, and outdoor dining spaces for bluebird days. A concierge dials in the privileges by landing hard-to-get restaurant reservations, hand-delivering lift tickets (for a lift just a block away), and hosting special events, such as an après-ski reception with craft beer, hot toddies, and hors d’oeuvres. Chalet rental includes one breakfast for the group on the first morning, a stocked bar (including a selection of wine and spirits) and pantry on arrival, chef-prepared hors d’oeuvres and cocktails upon arrival, and dedicated concierge services.
 
Vail
The 129-room Four Seasons Resort and Residences Vail’s 20 private residences combine the romance of lodge living with the amenities of a top-tier resort – all with views of the surrounding mountains. Two-bedroom private residence rentals include breakfast daily and a $100 dining credit per bedroom.
Borgo Finochieto.
Borgo Finochieto.

Vine Life

Italy
Borgo Finocchieto, a medieval farm town in Tuscany, makes an epic setting for a milestone celebration. About 16 miles south of Siena, the Borgo’s stone buildings center around a piazza and look out on hills that have remained nearly unchanged for centuries. The manor house, former barn and chapel, and other buildings (comprising five villas with 22 bedrooms and suites) have been restored by local artisans and decorated with finds from nearby antiques markets. Shared spaces include a formal dining room and terrace, living room with a grand piano, and winetasting room. There’s also a professional teaching kitchen, a 60-foot swimming pool, a fully loaded gym, and some 200 wineries within 15 miles. Three-night minimum rental of the nine-suite manor house includes breakfast daily and concierge services.
La Provençale Vineyard Villa.
La Provençale Vineyard Villa.
South Africa
Tucked amid grapevines and olive trees on the 325-year-old, seven-room Grande Provence Heritage Wine Estate in South Africa’s Franschhoek Valley, La Provençale Vineyard Villa is a sun-kissed, two-bedroom portal to the finer things in life, starting with the estate’s own destination winery, gourmet restaurant, and art gallery. Villa rental includes breakfast daily, one meal for two, and one winetasting session.

In the Club

California
The villa experience at the 332-room Resort at Pelican Hill begins before visitors set foot on what feels very much like an Italian seaside village, transported to a hilltop overlooking Newport Beach and the Pacific Ocean. The villa concierge and butler prestock the fully equipped kitchen with visitors’ favorite snacks and staples, make reservations for spa treatments, book tee times or surfing lessons, and set up a private dinner or pasta-making class. Guests of the 128 villas can dive straight into the fun stuff, including two 18-hole golf courses and five restaurants. Two-bedroom villa rentals include a $100 daily breakfast credit and a $100 golf or spa credit.
Finca Cortesin’s villa.
Finca Cortesin’s villa.
Spain
Scrupulously positioned for privacy and views on a 532-acre estate, each two-, four-, and five-bedroom villa (new last year) of the 67-suite Finca Cortesin on the coast of southern Spain has its own garden, pool, and dedicated concierge team. There’s also an 18-hole championship golf course and exclusive beach club. Villa rentals include breakfast daily, one 50-minute massage per person, and access to the spa and beach club.
Out for a ride at Elewana The Manor at Ngorongoro.
Out for a ride at Elewana The Manor at Ngorongoro.

Safari in Style

Tanzania
Classic opulence (wood-burning fireplaces in the bathrooms, for instance) defines the family-friendly, three-bedroom Stable Cottage at Elewana The Manor at Ngorongoro, a 19-room safari lodge on a lush coffee estate adjacent to Tanzania’s wildlife-rich Ngorongoro Crater. Best over-the-top moment: a formal lunch served on the crater floor, followed by a postprandial chill in a carpeted pillow lounge. Two-night-minimum Stable Cottage rental includes all meals and beverages.
A villa at One&Only Nyungwe House.
A villa at One&Only Nyungwe House.
Rwanda
Chimpanzees carom through the protected jungle that borders One&Only Nyungwe House, in the misty mountains of Rwanda’s Western Province. Spy members of East Africa’s last intact populations on a guided trek of Nyungwe National Park during a stay at the resort. The nine wooden villas in a tea plantation are decorated with local artwork and textiles, and designed to capture lush vistas. Engage with and support the communities around the park: Visit Banda Village to meet local craftspeople and participate in umuganda, the practice of monthly community service, such as planting trees and building schools. Two-bedroom villa rentals include all meals, select alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages, and two resort activities per person.
The kids club at Eden Roc Cap Cana.
The kids club at Eden Roc Cap Cana.

Bring the Kids

Dominican Republic
A family holiday needs two key elements: space for meaningful downtime and activities to ward off the dreaded “I’m bored.” Line up both with a private villa at Eden Roc Cap Cana, a 65-room beachfront resort and residential community at the Dominican Republic’s eastern tip. For the children, there are floating hammocks, adventure tent camping, and kayaking in a kid-friendly lagoon. Adults get a Jack Nicklaus golf course, fresh seafood at Mediterraneo restaurant, and a 12-treatment-room spa. Three- and four-bedroom villas (and, debuting next year, a six-bedroom oceanfront bungalow) each sport a private pool, a 24/7 butler, and chef service. Three-bedroom villa rental includes round-trip airport transfers and breakfast daily.
 
Saint-Martin
Sprawl out with the whole family in a beachfront villa at 83-room Belmond La Samanna on Saint-Martin, home to a sandcastle-ready beach, gecko-friendly gardens, and an infinity pool. The floor-to-ceiling windows, wraparound terraces, and spacious kitchens make mealtimes easy – and access to the resort’s tennis courts, fitness pavilion, spa, and four restaurants round out the experience. Three-night-minimum villa stays include breakfast daily, one lunch for two, and a fruit basket.  

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