Above and beyond
Take the ultimate vacation by renting an entire island, town or castle, writes Vicki Williams
Once you have stayed in the finest, grandest hotels, at the plushest of resorts, and visited the chicest locations, what do you do next? You go beyond. Beyond what for you has become everyday and perhaps even boring, to the next level to seek a getaway experience that provides extreme exclusivity, decadence and indulgence with total privacy and customisation.
Like the famous and the powerful, as a discerning seasoned traveller you seek an ultimate luxury vacation by renting an entire tropical island, an intimate ski resort or a stately castle - all award-winning, of course.
Private Islands Online, a travel website that specialises in islands for rent - and purchase - has a portfolio of exclusive offerings that all come with stunning accommodation and the option for a full-service experience that includes a team of staff on hand to take care of every whim and desire. According to Chris Krolow, CEO of parent company Private Island, anyone who has spent time on a private island will attest there is something unquestionably magic about it. Two hot picks are Calivigny Island in the Caribbean and the Fijian island of Namale.
Located off the coast of Grenada is Calivigny Island, aimed at affluent travellers seeking to escape in style. Accommodation includes "The Beach House", a generous building with 10 suites featuring custom-made furniture from Oscar de la Renta and Richard Frinier, plus Balinese-inspired villas that can accommodate 20 guests - all with majestic ocean views. The designer interiors are palatial - think marble and rich, plush furnishings - plus all the modern conveniences one expects. There is a range of impressive features: a substantial freshwater swimming pool, an outdoor lounge bar, private Jacuzzis, a large terrace, a 4,000-litre exotic fish tank and a luxury yacht, not to mention the white-sand beaches and aquamarine waters. Prices start from US$25,000 per night, with a seven-day minimum.
Owned by lifestyle coach Anthony Robbins, Namale is another breathtaking island, with a resort and spa that has 19 villas spread over 212 hectares. Each features traditional Fijian architecture with exquisite interiors and are fully equipped, including a Jacuzzi, outdoor hot tub, wrap-around infinity pool or plunge pool. A maximum of 44 guests are allowed at any one time, which the resort says is done to ensure that the 120 staff are able to turn dreams into reality. Namale has been home to a host of celebs, including Donna Karan, Russell Crowe, Edward Norton, Meg Ryan, Mike Myers and Quincy Jones. Prices start from US$20,000 per night.
Not everyone enjoys island life, so if mountains, skiing or hot springs are more appealing, then hiring Dunton Hot Springs in Colorado is an option. The high-end resort was once a mining town and the rumoured hideout for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Christina Rossi, director of marketing, sales and public relations, says the experience is completely customisable and "the fact that the town belongs to the guest during their stay is one of the biggest wow factors, as it offers complete privacy and exclusivity". A full team of staff is on hand at all times.
She also believes that Dunton offers some fantastic activities. "We can arrange almost anything. In the winter, guests can go heli-skiing or dog sledding direct from the property. In the summer, guests can go rock climbing, horse riding or even take a helicopter tour through the nearby Monument Valley. There is also the natural hot springs [indoors and out] and a spa," Rossi says.
"We have our own vineyard [Sutcliffe Vineyards] an hour away in McElmo Canyon, and can arrange to have the winemaker come up and do a special gourmet wine pairing dinner prepared by our award-winning chefs. Everything is customisable."
The accommodation of 13 restored, hand-built wood cabins of varying sizes may appear rustic from the outside, but inside the use of premium materials and furnishings, distinct interiors and unique artefacts tell a different story - all have mountain views and some have river or waterfall views.
Dunton can be rented from US$27,000 per night, based on a minimum three-night stay, and can accommodate a maximum of 44 guests. These rates include exclusive use, all accommodation, meals and beverages (alcoholic and non-, with the exception of the reserve wine list).
The resort attracts its share of the rich and fabulous, some of whom are repeat guests who spend several weeks at Dunton each year.
There is also the option of being lord or lady of an estate, complete with landscaped grounds and a full team of staff to take care of every desire and make all arrangements. The Beautiful House has a portfolio of 40 luxury properties for rent in Britain, including manor houses, country mansions and the most exclusive - castles, of which there are nine.
While name dropping is not standard practice, company owner Chris Aldred did say that clients include movie stars, singers, celebrities and even royalty, with most guests coming from Britain. "We have not had any clients from Asia renting our castles yet," he says, which means a rare chance to be the first. Two castles with a high degree of privacy are Aldourie Castle and Walton Castle. The grandest is Aldourie Castle, located on the shores of Loch Ness. It dates back to 1626 and is set on 202 hectares, with its own private marina and golf course. The castle itself looks like something out of a fairytale and features 15 grand bedrooms and numerous entertainment and relaxation areas, and comes fully staffed. Prices start from £13,200 (HK$157,150) for two nights, accommodation only. "We expect the demand for renting a castle to grow, as it is truly a unique and memorable experience."