The latest travel industry trend is to get a taste of an exotic location—literally.
According to luxury travel expert Merilee Kern of the Luxe List, “Indigenous tourism and cultural immersion experiences—especially those with culinary components—are white hot.” She has quite a bit of evidence to support her claims as well. Citing data from Venngage, she notes that more than one-third of travel budgets go to food; and a 2015 study by Destination Analysts, Inc. shows that 62.7 percent of baby-boomers travel for purposes of food/cuisine alone.
Chew on that one.
Kern singles out one type of destination in particular that’s been gaining steam: private villas that come with a side order of gourmet food. Here are RealClearLife‘s picks for the best private luxury villas where food is the main course.
Casa Dos Cisnes – Puerta Vallarta, Mexico
This 10,000-square-foot, five-bedroom Puerta Vallarta villa exemplifies this new trend, according to Kern. What do you get for your money? A private chef prepares three meals a day for guests. These could include speciality dishes such as red snapper marinated with herbs, mushrooms, and sautéed watercress; filet of sole, with plum and red wine salsa; and tequila shrimp on a bed of huitlacoche (a type of edible corn fungus) and a creamy tequila and cilantro salsa. For more information on the villa, click here.
GoldenEye – Jamaica
This private villa in Jamaica is ground zero for James Bond fanaticism, as it was originally owned by creator Ian Fleming (it was even used as the name Pierce Brosnan’s first on-screen adventure as the British spy). The 20-suite villa’s now owned and operated by Island Records founder Chris Blackwell, who famously signed Bob Marley and helped launched the careers of countless other important rock bands. Guests have more than a few options food-wise, but by far the best is the Gazebo, a sort of treehouse restaurant that serves up local Jamaican flavors, as well as international favorites such as grilled lobster tail and seasoned rack of lamb. Also, look out for a deep international wine list. For more on the villa, click here.
The Aquila – Phuket, Thailand
Call it sweet seclusion. The seven-bedroom, cliff-top villa is surrounded by a tropical jungle, so guests are basically in the middle of nowhere—which, for the plugged-in jet set, is nothing short of paradise. (To reinforce the magic, guests can take in the Andaman Sea from an infinity pool overlooking it.) And when it comes to eating, the Aquila’s private chef and staff cook up a brilliant array of Thai flavors, using locally sourced fruits, vegetables, and proteins. For more on the Aquila, click here.
St. Bernard’s Hill House – Tortola, British Virgin Islands
This eight-acre private villa—with five bedrooms, suitable for up to 10 guests—sits atop a cliff facing the Caribbean. And while you could just stare off into the breezy distance for your entire stay, there’s great food to be eaten on the premises—and a lot of it. Guests get four daily courses of meals: a continental breakfast, two-course lunch, hors d’oeuvres, followed by a three-course dinner. All is prepared by a full-time private chef, and menus include everything from local favorites such as conch fritters to catch-of-the-day delights such as citrus-marinated grilled swordfish. For more information, click here.
Villa Turtle House – Turks & Caicos
A contemporary five-bedroom villa located in Turtle Tail, Villa Turtle House comes with its own fully equipped, gourmet kitchen. But you won’t have to spend a minute in it, because the rental comes with a full staff and private chef. Per the villa’s rep, Chef Aldin hails from the Philippines, and specializes in Asian cuisine (like the barbecued chicken see above). Also a favorite of guests? The chef’s onsite organic garden, which he dips into generously. (We’re guessing he can even pop you some popcorn, given that the villa comes with its own 12-person home theater.) For more information on the villa, click here.
Ani Villas – Sri Lanka
A 15-bedroom beachfront compound, Ani Villas Sri Lanka might work best as a getaway for a group or family reunion—and head chef Cyril will have no problem daily providing the South Asian banquet to fit the occasion. Some of his specialities include Jaffna-spiced curry chicken (a regional, spicy delicacy); traditional Sri Lankan kottu (a pastry-like bread, served with vegetables, meat, chilies, and local spices); and international flavors, such as Australian beef carpaccio. For more on Ani Villas Sri Lanka, click here.
Cerulean Villa – Anguilla
This nine-bedroom, beachfront villa might as well be its own, mini village. It comes packed with the amenities of a five-star resort—and a staff of 18, who are willing and able to make a stay there an unforgettable one. Alfresco dining is a must, with a patio area (and hot tub) overlooking the beach. The Cerulean’s private chef is also a master of local seafood favorites, including lobster, crayfish, mahi mahi, and grouper. (For land-lubbers there are dishes like tamarind-glazed hen and cassava-crusted duck breast, too.) To book a stay at the Cerulean Villa, click here.
Crystal Springs Estate – Barbados
Another luxury villa perfect for a larger group (or wedding), the 12,000-square-foot, 10-bedroom residence sits on just under two acres of property in its own private cove. Veteran private chef Rutha Headly prepares a mix of regional flavors, including her personal specialties, which include Spanish paella with a Bajan twist and the guest-favorite pan-seared “Conga leaf” fish served on a bed of spicy lentils, with spicy Indian papadum (a cracker-y bread). (Conga leaf fish is a local delicacy.) For more information, click here.
—Will Levith for RealClearLife
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