There are times you want a great rate on an Airbnb rental. You find a cool spread; you feel like a local.
And then there are times when you want access to a private chapel in the Umbrian countryside and your sea plane arriving at your private dock in the Caribbean and your own salt-water indoor pool overlooking the French Alps. Sadly, there are too few of these occasions. But when the need does arise, these are the outrageously extravagant, money-is-no-object villas where you'll want to lay your head. Oh, and since the butler, cook, and masseuse are included in the rate, feel free to invite the entourage.
Chateau St. Tropez
Location: St. Tropez, France The Digs: 8 bedrooms; sleeps 16
The Wow Factor: Ridiculous seclusion and luxury in your palm-tree lined garden within walking distance of St. Tropez.
Location: Venice, Italy The Digs: 11 1- and 2-bedroom suites; sleeps 42
The Wow Factor: A restored 16th-century aristrocratic villa with original frescoes and every modern amenity on Giudecca island across from St. Mark's. Guests have access to Palladio Hotel, garden, and spa and all Bauers restaurants.
The Spend: From €1,200/night for a 1-bedroom suite; from €55,000/night for the whole villa Book It:Villa F
Location: Le Miroir, France The Digs: 4 bedrooms; sleeps 8
The Wow Factor: Wear yourself out off-piste and heli-skiing through the French Alps with your own guide, then recover in your saltwater lap pool and with snacks served fireside by your French chef.
Location: Puglia, Italy The Digs: 7 bedrooms; sleeps 14
The Wow Factor: The owner's villa on the lovely Mediterranean estate filled with olive trees and lavender has an Olympic-sized pool and massaia who prepares all meals and spoils you like a loving Italian mamma.
Location: Perugia, Italy The Digs: 7 bedrooms; sleeps 15
The Wow Factor: An 11th-century castle, one of five on a vast estate owned by Napoleon’s great-granddaughter. Roam the manicured gardens. Pick your vegetables for dinner in the courtyard. Get hitched in the chapel. The Italian countryside is your oyster.
Location: A private tropical island in Bora Bora. The Digs: 13 suites; sleeps 20. (Bring the entourage.)
The Wow Factor: Cosmetics guru Francis Nars snagged this palm-fringed pile of sand in French Polynesia in 2000. The gorgeous grounds and thatched bungalows (two sweeping master suites, two regular suites, nine free-standing fares around the island) were designed by Christian Liaigre and a landscape architect from Versailles. A private chef and staff arrange Tahitian feasts, floating picnics, and starry barbecues on the beach.
The Spend: From $30,000 per night for up to 8 people
Location: Kilauea, Kauai, Hawaii The Digs: 4 bedrooms
The Wow Factor: A 15-acre Balinese spread on a working farm of palm and coconut and exotic flowers, situated above Secret Beach. A pond-side Central Pavillion houses the living and dining areas; three other pavilions are for sleeping. Ponder the Pacific from your infinity pool.
Location: Oracabessa, Jamaica The Digs: 5 bedrooms; sleeps 10
The Wow Factor: Look, it's the house where James Bond lived. Or at least where Ian Fleming wrote all his books. You can sit at the same desk— and finally finish your novel if you're not too distracted by your private beach, your private pool, your private screening room, and all the beach and activities at GoldenEye.
Location: Rio de Janeiro The Digs: 5 bedrooms; sleeps 10
The Wow Factor: Magnificient is right: You’re in a five-story retreat in celeb-filled Joa, a neighborhood on the beach. There’s a vertical garden, a waterfall, an expansive terrace, and a screening room. Though the glass walls and the views might distract you from everything else.
Location: Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer The Digs: 6 bedrooms
The Wow Factor: Ever wonder what it was like to live like Karl Lagerfeld? Here's your chance: This Côte d’Azur villa was his crash pad for a decade. The views are insane, the setting may as well be a park, and an on-site security guard ensures you have it all to yourself.
Location: Mustique Island, St. Vincent and the Grenadines The Digs: 5 bedrooms; sleeps 10
The Wow Factor: On an island that prizes discretion and serenity, this one may actually take the prize. The hilltop villa has a yoga studio and a bespoke spa program. The décor — safari style meets Balinese architecture — will speak to your global sensibilities.
Location: Old Town, Cartagena, Colombia The Digs: 7 bedrooms; sleeps 12
The Wow Factor: A charming, remodeled colonial mansion dressed in manicured greenery, sleepy hammocks, and natural light. The sparkling pool in the interior courtyard makes you forget you're in Cartagena's historic and cultural center.
The Spend: From $4940/night; minimum stay three days
Location: Randheli, Noonu Atoll, Republic of Maldives The Digs: 4 bedrooms; sleeps 8
The Wow Factor: Snorkel, sunbathe, and savor the fruit of the Indian Ocean. The hospitality team includes around-the-clock butlers, dedicated chefs, and something called "experience alchemists." It's a stay that's fit for royals. (Just ask Will and Kate.)
Location: Peninsula Papagayo, Costa Rica The Digs: 8 bedrooms; sleeps 20
The Wow Factor: Hammocks swing in the wind; monkeys cavort overhead. Chefs pair high-end fare with hand-picked wines and award-winning cigars. If you manage to escape the five-acre seaside sanctuary, drivers will escort you to nearby surfing towns, golf courses, fishing hotspots, and volcanoes.
Location: Lake Como, Italy The Digs: 9 bedrooms; sleeps 17
The Wow Factor: For starters, you need a boat to get there. Once you're "there," you can chill in the full-sized cinema, on the tennis court, and in the boat house filled with equipment for watersport. The villa itself has marbled floors, lots of fireplaces, and enough terraces to make you feel like lord of the lake.
Location: South Luangwa National Park, Zambia The Digs: Villas sleep 2; family villa sleeps 4
The Wow Factor: The all-inclusive safari camp combines modern amenities (yoga rooms, plunge pools, cooled bedrooms) with earthly pleasures (wildlife watching, riverside walks, shaded siestas). The villas are built with regional materials using indigenous techniques. Most impressively, they leave almost no environmental footprint.