If there was ever a time to plan a villa holiday, that time, undeniably, is now. Villas, as opposed to hotels, are a natural choice for social distancing. They are inherently secluded, and allow guests to spread out. They can often erase the need for babysitters and restaurants, since a personal chef can be one of the decadent perks of villa life.
However, finding the right villa can be a labor of love. It has to be the one with the optimal balance of indoor and outdoor living; the one designed with views in mind; and the one that has the perfect collection of ‘toys’ for the kids of all ages.
Super-luxe amenities are what makes a villa a good option…or an absolutely mind-blowing solution. These villa amenities can include a pool or beachfront location (or both); a built-in sound system; a stocked Sub-Zero wine fridge; a gym; or even a yoga sanctuary. The biggest compliment for a villa is that it is so tranquil, so thoughtfully laid-out, and so well-appointed, that no one wants to leave it, for any reason. Ever.
1. The Villas at The Mandarin Oriental Hotel | Marrakech, Morocco
The Mandarin Oriental Hotel is a short drive from the famous Medina of Marrakech. Yet, it feels like another world entirely once you are cocooned within its 20 hectares of jasmine patches, olive trees, and 100,000 fragrant roses. The hotel’s 54 private villas dot the property in a scenic serpentine route alongside reflecting pools and majestic, wavering palms.
The austere, one-bedroom pool villa is a modern-riad oasis. A rose-covered entry with an oversized, wooden door opens into a private courtyard. This is where a long, dramatic, pool welcomes guests like the red carpet at the Oscars. At its far end, the pool morphs into a sheltered hot tub, which nestles squarely against the sliding glass doors of the master suite.
Each of the villa’s rooms open onto the central courtyard, reinforcing the blurry edges of indoor and outdoor living. Contemporary Moroccan decor is captured in subtle ways through the soft Berber rugs, elaborate stone artwork, and even in the design details of lampshades. A hammam-inspired shower (an Arabic bathing ritual used for cleansing) is an added luxurious feature of the villa, and it poses yet another distraction from exploring the mesmerizing city of Marrakech.
An elongated, horizontal fire pit cuts into the courtyard wall. An outdoor kitchen and bar is complemented by the plush outdoor sofas, which makes the inside of the villa nearly redundant. It is just this combination of open-plan architecture, overlaid with the semblance of absolute seclusion, that makes this hotel villa so enchanting.
2. Casa Majani | Punta Mita, Mexico
Punta Mita is an exclusive resort community in Nayarit, Mexico. It has long been associated with understated, beachfront beauty, and is also the home to both the St. Regis and the Four Seasons resorts. Set upon 1500 swoon-worthy acres, and surrounded by the Pacific Ocean on three sides, the lure of Punta Mita is unmistakable.
There is no shortage of heart-stopping villas to be found on this gently manicured private peninsula in the Pacific Ocean. However, the serene undercurrent of Villa Casa Majani mimics the peninsula itself, with water as its defining feature.
Casa Majani boasts six seductive bedrooms, interconnected via garden-filled pathways, Manzanillo trees, and meandering reflecting pools. Suite Keili, one of two master suites, is best described as a ‘bedroom island.’ The infinity pools that surround the suite look on toward the ocean and often mirror the prismatic colors of the Mexican sky.
The architectural centerpiece of the villa is the enormous thatched-roofed grand palapa loft at the edge of the main pool. Infinitely breezy, it plays many roles: pre-dinner cocktail lounge, shady reading nook, or whale-watching perch. The natural hues and wooden accents are aligned with a modern Mexican aesthetic; and the touches of traditional colors like persimmon, fuchsia, and lime green artfully accent the decor.
On our visit, it only took a few hours for the seasoned staff to remember each of our names, as well as our caffeinated vices. Mini tacos with fresh guacamole appeared poolside before anyone’s stomach had the chance to rumble. Hand-crafted cocktails magically appeared at the first signs of dusk. A dedicated concierge helped facilitate our needs, whether organizing an on-site massage or setting up a group tequila tasting.
Casa Majani may be a destination unto itself, but should guests decide to venture off-property, you have access to the Four Seasons and St. Regis resorts, which includes Jack Nicklaus golf courses, a beach club, a tennis club, and a fitness center. Given that Casa Majani has its own yoga studio and gym, one should choose excursions wisely.
3. Village Home 33 at Montage Palmetto Bluff | Bluffton, South Carolina
Montage Palmetto Bluff is set on the banks of the May River in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, and on a staggering 20,000 pristine acres. A well-preserved river town is complete with idyllic marshlands, a bird sanctuary, and centuries-old live oak trees glistening Spanish Moss. Palmetto Bluff strikes the right blend of highly-curated activities, creative dining options, and varied accommodations to suit any group.
Village Home 33 is a Victorian-inspired five-bedroom, elegantly-appointed home that overlooks one of the many low-arching bridges that unite and define the property. A meticulously kept garden leads to the entrance, which is flanked by two welcoming front porches. A swinging outdoor daybed with cushions rich in patriotic colors beckons.
The open-plan layout has a large kitchen; multiple dining areas; a living room filled with books, games, a 50 inch flat screen television; and other creature comforts of home. The master bath is spa-like with layers of natural colors, along with a deep, white soaking tub.
Location, they say, is everything. Village Home 33 is walking distance to the property’s River House, where an intimate, yet lively bar awaits. This is also the destination for the nightly s’mores pit. The home is also near the Canoe Club, a thoughtfully created dining space with a club-like feel, and warm, low-lit atmosphere.
Although, it is the homespun village vibes that ultimately steal the show at Palmetto Bluff. Especially while basking in the glow of golden hour on the front porch, that idyllic time of day that conjures up memories of simpler times. A home away from home, indeed.
4. Villa Bramasole | Cortona, Italy
Villa Bramasole is a sweeping property just outside of the walled Italian village of Cortona, and is the home of Under the Tuscan Sun author, Frances Mayes. Guests of Bramasole have an opportunity to create their own Tuscan memories in her restored 17th century villa, which was the inspiration for the book and movie that we all love.
Bramasole means ‘to yearn for the sun’, which is something you may never do in this Villa since the property fully absorbs every ray of sunlight, both indoors and out. Three unique buildings are nestled within the manicured gardens: the Villa, the Farmhouse, and the Limonaia—ten ensuite guest rooms between them.
The buildings date back to 600AD, and part of the charm of Bramasole is the history that is sensed as you spend time exploring the grounds. The washed stucco villa with its sage green painted shutters changes color from a pale yellow to a rich gold over the course of the day. The stone-walled farmhouse has an outdoor dining area that overlooks miles of verdant Italian countryside.
Every outdoor path presents an endless number of stunning photo opportunities. A grand pool, a hot tub, and an organic vegetable garden complete the scene. Inside, guests will find a pool table, games room, and stocked wine cellar. The nearby village of Cortona might be calling, but it will undoubtedly be difficult to answer. We are obsessed with this option in Italy, and know you will love it too!
5. Villa Ixfalia | St Barths, French West Indies
The overgrown jungle-like entrance of St Barth’s Villa Ixfalia is deceptive. Perhaps, this is intentional—the drama of a velvet curtain opening at showtime. A wooden planked path leads guests through a wide threshold and into a vast, open-air living space.
Over twenty rattan lampshades dangle above in varying shapes, sizes, and heights. Yet, as mesmerizing as they may be, chances are you won’t notice them, as your eyes will be instinctively drawn ahead.
Cue the panorama. The only thing that lies between you and the Caribbean Sea is a glacial blue infinity pool. Perched several hundred feet in the air, you may feel you are swimming in the sky, with vistas that overlook the beaches of this swanky European-influenced island.
Rooms are designed in soft earth tones, and with natural textiles, all sea-facing. Some even have private outdoor showers. Bleached animal skulls, driftwood sculptures and gigantic white shells add to the nature-inspired villa vibe.
The master bedroom’s inviting king-sized bed faces floor-to-ceiling glass doors that open to the pool, and then onwards toward the sea. One feels miles above the world, both literally and figuratively. A welcomed distance from reality.
The pool and patio have tiers of large, double-wide sun loungers and captivating views of Eden Rock Resort far below. This is clearly the towering focal point of Ixfalia. Guests will find themselves in a constant conundrum of wanting to explore the island, but never wanting to leave the villa. With a dedicated butler and French chef on hand, there is virtually no need.
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