Cost No Object: Caribbean Vacations For The One Percent
By Melanie Reffes, Special for USA Today
All travelers dream big, but only a handful can truly afford a six-figure vacation. With its world-class beaches, resorts and villas that exude exclusivity, the Caribbean is the primo perch for one-percenters who pay top dollar for privacy, plenty of space and top-shelf spoil-you-rotten amenities. Check out our big-bucks bucket list.
It’s not that easy to get to and can be pricey once you arrive, but the allure of Nevis is worth the effort. Skip the hordes on some of the other islands and head instead to the sombrero-shaped isle across the channel from St. Kitts. Anchored by a volcanic mountain, the petite enclave — 7 miles by 6 miles — is where jet-setting urban dwellers shell out big bucks to lie low in the lap of luxury. The birthplace of Alexander Hamilton also lures the moneyed like Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah.
Start with a grand entrance at the Yu Lounge at the Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport in St. Kitts, where for $200 you are picked up on the tarmac, expedited through immigration, poured a glass of chilled bubbly and driven to the pier for the short boat ride to Nevis. The top pick of the wealthiest one percent, AAA Five Diamond Four Seasons Nevis is swank-central with suites, villas and Beach Houses that are really houses on the beach, although no overnighting allowed (yes, naps are encouraged).
The cabanas fronting Pinney’s Beach have Wi-Fi, televisions, power outlets, servers delivering $20 Volcano Burgers with crispy hot peppers and $36 pitchers of pomegranate margaritas. Daily rates run $550, more than double during the December holidays. Go the distance with a Four Hands Massage ($320 for 80 minutes) and dinner at Coral Grill, where South African chef Tristan Baker raises the stakes with a 32-ounce $100 Porterhouse and a side mac and cheese gussied up with truffle oil. The priciest villa at the resort is also the priciest stay on the island.
Packed with panache, the five-bedroom , five-bathroom 3,400-square-foot Monkey Business Villa is designed with funky animal-themed décor, palatial pool, elegant dining area, a massive wraparound terrace and telescope to zoom in on the fabulous views of Nevis Peak. It also comes with a Villa Ambassador (aka butler) and a chef (for an additional charge). Spoiler alert: Nightly rates run $14,000 with no seasonal adjustment.
A few minutes from the Four Seasons and with a name that says it all, Paradise Beach Villas on Paradise Beach are a manicured collection of seven multi-bedroom villas each with pools and mesmerizing views. The four-bedroom stunner goes for $2,800 nightly. $950 buys a day on a sloop named Feisty with Captain Miles Denne at the helm. With pick-up at Oualie Beach and the pier at the Four Seasons, sunset sails priced at $550 are a big hit with newlyweds. “Couples register for a cruise which is a far more appreciated wedding gift than a tea kettle,” says Captain Miles.
Sky’s the Limit
All you need is five days away from the office, 10 pals and $250,000 (yes, that’s a quarter of a million dollars) to live like royalty in the Blue Diamond Villa at Altamer on the southwest tip of Anguilla. A super villa designed by architect Myron Goldfinger, whose work has been exhibited in New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the 13,000-square-foot five-bedroom villa is the newest of three Altamer villas, all striking with a geometric, stark white exterior.
Designed to look like a flower, creature comforts include meditation and massage rooms and a big outdoor tub that can host the whole gang at once. Upping the ante, there’s a pool, butler and yacht sails to St. Barts to sun on Nikki Beach. The outdoorsy play golf and tennis and for gamblers, staff set up a casino night. Perfect the fine art of chilling out with massages, breakfast in bed and cooking lessons with the chef.
If a resort stay is more your speed, check into a Beachfront Junior Suite at The Reef on Merrywing Bay Beach. Nightly rates start at $1,800 through April and $750 during the less-busy months. For a large brood, Beachfront Family suites at $1,500 nightly fit the bill. Rates include breakfast made healthy with the herbs and vegetables from the hydroponic garden at the next-door sister property CuisinArt Resort & Spa. Splurge for a Couples Rendezvous massage at the Venus Spa for $480 and a bottle of Veuve Cliquot and tuna poke at Breezes Beachfront Restaurant.
Also on the moneyed radar, Jonquil Suite at Cap Juluca goes for $5,865 per night through April, $3,285 in May and $2,620 during the summer, and comes with an oceanfront dining terrace, freshwater pool and marble Jacuzzi. Treat yourself to a $2,700 bottle of 1994 Pétrus (French red considered by many as the best in the world), dinner on the beach ($150 per person), Green Tea and Ginger Sea Enzyme Wrap ($205) and a half-day on the Juluca Pride yacht ($700 for four guests). Partnered with many of the island’s high-end resorts and villas, Tradewind flies from the U.S. in light jets that comfortably seat four to six big spenders. One-way fares from New York start at $25,000.
Princely and Pricey
The holy grail of extravagance, Jamaica’s Round Hill is where Prince Harry and his regal entourage camped out in March to celebrate a friend’s wedding. Eight miles west of Montego Bay, the storied hotel was built in 1953 and has long hosted discerning guests like John F. Kennedy, who penned his famous “ask not what you can do for your country” inauguration address in Villa 25. Spy novel writer Ian Fleming preferred Villa 3, and superstars Beyoncé , Sir Paul McCartney and other A-list names have checked into the posh retreat.
Smartly designed by Ralph Lauren, who owns two of the 27 villas, the top of the line is Villa 20 with six bedrooms, eight bathrooms and two pools. Nightly rates for the Instagram-ready lodging start at $8,539 through April 15, and $4,569 from April 16 – October. The “natural setting on a private peninsula … allows for exquisite privacy,” said Josef Forstmayr, Round Hill’s managing director.
At Sandals Royal Caribbean, villas built over the water come with butlers and nightly rates starting at $2,870. Add another $400 for a Sweet Ginger Couples massage in the Red Lane Spa. For adventurers staying in Ocho Rios, Island Routes offers private cocktail and canape tours onboard a comfy yacht for $1,800.
Hey Big Spender
There are no shortage of champagne wishes and caviar dreams in the Turks & Caicos Islands. Away from the fray on the more popular Grace Bay beach, The Shore Club on Long Bay Beach is the newest resort to join the Hartling Group that also includes The Sands at Grace Bay and The Palms Turks & Caicos.
Topping the live-rich list in Providenciales, the three-bedroom penthouse is 3,500 square feet with a wraparound oceanfront balcony, hot tub and an on-call chef and sommelier. Nightly rates through June start at $5,250, and should a splurge be in the cards for the December holidays, nightly stays jump to $11,000.
For high rollers in a villa or resort, Eden Charters offers day trips aboard a 60-foot yacht. From $5,500 for a full day, the all-inclusive sail includes scuba diving, deep sea fishing and stops at the bird sanctuary called French Cay and Little Water Cay, home to the indigenous rock iguana. Options include an overnight on the boat and dawn dives and champagne breakfasts. Day trip options in Turks & Caicos include excursions to Parrot Cay for head-to-foot pampering in the Japanese baths at the COMO Shambhala Retreat, where you might run into Donna Karan, Bruce Willis and Keith Richards, who own multi-million-dollar beachfront homes on the cay.
To snap the sunset, $1,200 buys two hours aboard the Atabeyra schooner named for the mythical goddess of the Lucayan Indians who arrived 500 years before Columbus. The Sun Charters tour starts at the Blue Haven Resort’s VIP dock and although the boat fits up to 50, sunset cruises are a favorite of honeymooning twosomes. If a yacht is more your style, book a day on the Sea Ray or Sea Dancer for $2700 or a sail on the Island Routes catamaran that goes for $3,500 for up to 25 of your best friends.
A week at Jade Mountain in St. Lucia is an Olympian-sized treat that comes with a “you-deserve-it” price tag. Designed by owner and architect Nick Troubetzkoy, the showpiece sanctuaries are grand sweeping spaces with nighttime illuminating floating platforms that are called mere infinity pools at other resorts, unapologetically sinful bathrooms and the signature fourth wall that opens to a commanding landscape.
Start with a helicopter ride from the Hewanorra Airport for $530 per person, one way. Check into to the 2,000-square-foot Galaxy Sanctuary — the resort’s largest — and kick-start a seven-day Tropical Tranquility package that goes for $28,232 per couple, through the middle of April ($25,208 through the end of May and $23,612 from June-October). Gratis options include spa treatments and champagne at sunset, plush bathrobes and your own comfy beach chairs on Anse Mamin Beach. A few extra shekels will buy an en-suite chef and sommelier who work their magic pairing fine wines with dry aged filet mignon and foie gras.
Overlooking what author James Michener called “the most beautiful bay in the Caribbean,” Capella Marigot Bay is ultra-chic in rooms, suites and the three-bedroom penthouse for $2,770 per night through Easter. Perched on a leafy hillside with views of Marigot Bay, the majestic 3,200-square-footer is super-comfy with a four-poster bed and high beamed ceilings, hot tub and big kitchen. Mix and match with massages at the Auriga Spa, sails on mega-yachts that dock at the marina, farm-to-fork dining and a nightcap at the Rum Cave. For $1,050 per couple, you’ll get a land and sea tour and for $895; adventuresome twosomes hike the Gros Piton at 2,619 feet above sea level.