Few pleasures in life compare to the feeling of renting a fully-staffed villa. Knowing that all your cleaning, meals, and more will be attended to makes unwinding easy – plus, if you were a Fresh Prince of Bel-Air fan back in the day, you’ve probably always dreamed of having your very own Geoffrey (and maybe your own Uncle Phil to foot the bill, or at least bear the brunt of his sarcastic quips). Of course, not all villas have butlers – some don’t, but many have a butler leading a staff of 8 or more, dedicated to making your vacation a dream come true. Ultimately villa staff can come in a variety of forms. Since a housekeeper is par for the course, when most people think of staffed villas, they immediately think of in-villa chef services. While chefs definitely deserve the attention they get, though, a fully-staffed villa is often more than the sum of its parts. You may not think having a laundress or garden attendant is necessary, for example, until you get used to having your underwear ironed every morning and having the gardener take you on tours of the grounds, identifying every exotic plant, flower and fruit on the way. That said, some destinations are better than others when it comes to getting staffed villas. Here are our top 5 best places to rent a staffed villa, based on the quality of service relative to the cost:
5. Saint Martin
Unlike the other picks on this list, Saint Martin isn’t really a destination where you can expect most villas to have a full staff. With over 300 restaurants, though, Saint Martin is home to some of the best chefs in the Caribbean, and unlike other islands with great chefs (I’m looking at you, St. Barth’s), many are happy to provide in-villa chef services. Because of the cost, this isn’t something you’d want to do everyday (and also not something we suggest for simple meals like breakfast), but it’s definitely a must-do for at least one night. After all, how often can you really have a Michelin-star chef come over to your place for a private preparation of tuna tartar, lobster ravioli, and filet mignon brochettes?
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4. Punta Mita
The beauty of the staff at Punta Mita’s many luxury villas is that they’ve often been trained at nearby resorts like the Four Seasons and the St. Regis. The result is a level of professionalism you may expect to see in a 5-star resort, but not necessarily within the walls of your (temporary) home. Like in Saint Martin, this training also really highlights the distinction between cooks and chefs, which is much more than a semantic difference – a cook will certainly cook well, but a chef will prepare restaurant-caliber meals, so be sure to pay attention to how the staff is billed.
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3. Punta Cana
The great thing about the staff in Punta Cana is their cost and, especially for the chef, the access to ingredients they have. For $150/day or less, you can have a private chef make breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for you using local, high-quality ingredients, especially fresh fish, seafood, goat meat, and fire-roasted prok. Not only does this end up being cheaper than going to restaurants, it’s also much more convenient, which is why it’s not unusual for guests to start out by hiring the chef for only a few days, then booking the chef for every day of the entire trip after their first service.
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Now we’re getting into the fully staffed options. The west coast (i.e. Platinum Coast) of Barbados is known for having a high number of villas that come complete with a butler (who usually also functions as the head of the staff), chef, multiple housekeepers, etc. Best of all, the staff is usually included in the cost of the villa, especially in places like Sandy Lane. Sometimes guests don’t even realize that the villa includes staff until they get a call from one of our concierges to talk about their favorite meals. A most pleasant surprise indeed.
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This one wasn’t even close. With its high standards for food, funny and friendly locals, and long-standing tradition of amazing hospitality and service, Jamaica is the undisputed king of the staffed villas. It’s not unusual for villas to come with six or more staff, including a butler, multiple waitresses, babysitter, laundress, gardener, security guard, driver, and more. Because they’re so fun and friendly, they often end up becoming the highlight of the trip, with guests often commenting that they felt like the staff was actually part of the family (or that they were part of the staff’s family). We also consistently hear stories about how the staff went above and beyond on a nightly basis, surprising them by, for example, removing a stain on a shirt that they swore was permanent, serving every meal in a different part of the villa, making new drinks every day, taking guests with them on grocery shopping trips to ensure that they only make meals that the whole group will love, and much, much more.
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A Last Word on Staffed Villas
While all of these destinations handle staff slightly differently, they all have one thing in common – the staff’s compensation is tied to their tips. Unlike in most of Europe, tipping in the Caribbean is customary, and often staff depend on the tips to survive. The alternative to tipping would just be to have a gratuity fee added to the cost of the villa, however instead the tipping system incentivizes good service. This system depends on travelers making good on the unspoken agreement that excellent service will be compensated at the end the trip though, so rather than seeing it as just another travel expense, take it as an opportunity to show your appreciation to the staff.