What kind of holiday rental home costs $10,000 a day? Perhaps one set on a private Caribbean beach and kitted out with a personal fleet of boats and Wave Runners? An Alpine chalet, with postcard-perfect views of the Matterhorn from every window? Or maybe a personal spa, with a lap pool, hiking trails, a state-of-the-art gym--and an on-call personal trainer to make sure you use them?
The answer: yes, yes and yes. For today's new generation of well-heeled travelers--who are increasingly eschewing hotels for private rental villas -- the bar for luxe hideaways has reached dizzying heights. For a certain breed of jet-setter, home theaters, Ducasse-worthy kitchens and private bars stocked with top-shelf liquor are all de rigueur; what they're after are award-winning chefs ready to whip up personalized dinner-party menus or on-demand yachts with captains who know the best deep-sea fishing spots.
Somewhat ironically, this surge in over-the-topness could be considered a by-product of harder economic times.
"Before the global financial crisis there was a glut of high-end construction," explains Brian Sharples, founder of HomeAway, a network of villa rental websites representing 650,000 properties with prices ranging from a few hundred dollars up to $392,000 a week. "Many owners of luxury properties who were over-leveraged have now turned to rentals as a way to defray ownership costs."
The result is a super-competitive market where added extras like sports cars and ski equipment are as common as evening turndown treats in hotels.
While many of the world's most opulent villas lure guests with an array of cool toys (and we do mean cool -- how does recording studio equipment once used by John Lennon sound?), others deal in what may be the most coveted holiday-home currency: privacy. Is it any wonder that rock stars and royals duck the paparazzi by hiding out on islands like St. Barth and Mustique (particularly when there are homes like Shogun--set alone on a cloistered estate and reminiscent of a Japanese imperial palace, koi pond included)?
Of course, for those seeking true sanctuary, the right vacation villa is only part of the equation; the right staff is also key. (After all, a Viking stove isn't much use if you're a terrible cook; and 17,000 square feet seems like a lot, when you have to vacuum it yourself.) That's why many of the villas on our list come with phalanxes of personnel. Many also offer private transport--via luxury car, boat or helicopter--to zip guests anyplace they desire. But, really, when your home away from home is as outrageously opulent as these villas, why go anywhere else?