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The Suite Life in a Villa

The view from the Rapture villa's porch.

I was recently invited by a friend to spend a week at a villa on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. It turned out to be a stunning, modern home called Rapture. It had a lush, hillside location that offered a panoramic view of the island’s harbor and the waters around St. Thomas.

The impeccably clean home boasts four bedrooms, Sub-Zero and Wolf kitchen equipment, satellite TV, Wi-Fi and a private pool. The big, covered porch is the very definition of living large. It’s available for rent during the winter high season for $11,000 a week.

At first glance, it looks like a big ticket—until you check out the nightly price of a room at the nearby Westin St. John Resort & Villas or the island’s iconic resort, Rosewood’s Caneel Bay. Both are first-class places to spend a holiday.

Nightly rates at the Westin range between $400 and $600 before taxes and fees. At Caneel Bay, nightly rates start at $900 including breakfast, though you’ll earn a free night if you book a seven-night stay. Multiply those rates by seven nights, and the weekly tab is $2,800 at the Westin, $5,400 at Caneel Bay.

The pool at Rapture.

Now consider Rapture. Four couples staying a week at the private villa would spend $2,750 each, or about $392 per night, per couple. At that rate, it’s less expensive than staying at the Westin or Caneel Bay!

Some travelers may prefer a resort for the health club, restaurants, bars, large pool and water sports equipment. Others might choose a home for the privacy and ease of preparing meals at costs far below the price of meals at Caribbean resorts.

If your choice is the villa, there are hundreds of companies worldwide that can help you find magnificent homes. St. John Ultimate Villas handles the rental of Rapture and other homes in its gated community. For vacation homes offered for rent by individuals, try VRBO, which stands for “Vacation Rentals By Owner.” Packlate offers rental homes with discounted prices from property managers at resort communities. If Spain, Italy, France or other overseas destinations are on your bucket list, simply type in keywords such as "vacation home rentals in Italy" for an extensive menu of rental agents.

Photos by Rudy Maxa

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About Rudy Maxa

Rudy Maxa

Rudy Maxa is host and executive producer of the public television travel series, Rudy Maxa's World. The 78 episodes he has hosted have won numerous awards, including a 2008 regional Emmy for his episode "Rajasthan." He's a contributing editor with National Geographic Traveler magazine and has written for a host of national travel magazines and newspapers. For nearly 15 years he offered consumer travel commentary on public radio's business show Marketplace as "The Savvy Traveler," which was also the name of a one-hour, coast-to-coast weekend show on public radio that he co-created and hosted for four years. Prior to his career as a travel writer and broadcaster, Maxa was an award-winning Washington Post investigative reporter, magazine writer, and columnist for 13 years, during which time his reporting was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. He was a senior writer at The Washingtonian magazine and Washington, D.C., bureau chief of Spy magazine. The author of two non-fiction books, Maxa lives in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota.