I have always wanted to rent a Caribbean Villa.
It's a bucket list thing. It just sounds cool. But in search of my first Caribbean villa rental, I learned that depending on how many people you vacation with, it may actually make economic sense, too.
My wife and I have four kids ranging in age from 15 to 9. We don't fit well in hotels (or passenger cars for that matter, but that's a different story). This was especially true when they were younger. We also love to vacation with friends, and while it's ok to put each couple in a hotel or resort room and try to get them near each other, it's just a lot more fun to actually live together for a week - share a kitchen, have some common areas (indoor and out) just for your group.
So I started looking for alternatives to resorts/hotels and, as it turns out, Caribbean villa rentals are everywhere - almost every island has really nice, private homes for rent. Finding them takes a little work - not a lot, but some. You can search the Internet for terms like: Caribbean Villas, Caribbean Villa Rentals, Caribbean Villas for Rent. Or, if you have a favorite island, just substitute [island name] + villa for the phrase Caribbean Villa.
Another alternative is to search the vacation rental listing sites for Caribbean villa rentals. Most of the sites like VRBO, HomeAway, Flipkey and even newcomers like Airbnb allow you to search by geographic region. The downside of these sites is that they show you a whole bunch of stuff that would not remotely qualify as a villa - cottages, two-bedroom apartments, and the like. But, if you filter your results by bedroom count or a specific amenity, such as a private pool, you will end up with a pretty good list.
Aren't Caribbean villa rentals very expensive?
Well, the whole affordability thing depends on three factors:
- the villa
- the island
- its specific location on the island
And because there is a vast array of villas and islands and locations on islands, there is a stunningly wide range of prices for Caribbean villa rentals. Let's start with the obvious - an eight-bedroom, ten-bathroom villa with staff on a private beach on St. Barths will run you a bit more than the Marriott Courtyard in Teaneck, New Jersey. But the Caribbean is a big place - surprisingly big given the fact that most of these vacation rental listing sites I mentioned don't include the majority of the Caribbean Sea in their definition of the Caribbean.
That's right, there are a whole bunch of islands in the Caribbean Sea (same water, same color, same temperature) that have been largely ignored by the travel industry and media for decades. As a result, they don't get the same number of visitors as the more famous parts of the Caribbean despite actually being closer to most of the US and Canada. But they have certainly caught the eye of luxury home builders who found less expensive land, more pristine reefs and waters and unspoiled environments. So, the laws of supply and demand being what they are, Caribbean villa rentals on these islands trade at as much as a 50% discount to their counterparts in the Eastern Caribbean.
One of these islands is Roatan, Honduras.
On Roatan, you can rent a four bedroom, four bathroom, luxury home on the beach, looking directly over the Caribbean for as little as $3,000 a week (under $450/night which is just slightly over $100/night per bedroom). Not only is this dramatically less than Caribbean villa rentals on the more well known islands, it is much less than you would pay at a hotel or resort!
So, Caribbean villa rentals are no longer just for the rich and famous. There's a lot of Caribbean out there, and a wide range of villas in it. If you get off the beaten path a little bit and check out some of the lesser-known islands like Roatan, you will not only find "bargains", you will find a whole different set of economics that put bucket list-quality vacations in the range of people just like you and me.