Central & South America
Brazilian Beach House Co.: Rio penthouses, beachfront villas, and private-island estates make up this small collection of 50 properties. Each has daily housekeeping and a concierge.
Standout: The fully staffed, palm-shaded Casa Azul feels secluded despite its location on a shared stretch of sand in Trancoso (six rooms; $20,790 a week). 55-21/2225-9476.
Mead Brown: The majority of the 45 villas, all located along Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, are exclusive. Agents are locals who have tested every excursion they book, whether it’s snorkeling off the white-sand beaches of Tortuga or ziplining through the Herradura highlands rain forest.
Standout: Your only neighbors at Villa Malibu 8, in the tiny town of Bahia Herradura, are scarlet macaws and howler monkeys (four bedrooms; $15,000 a week). 888/744-6599.
Oasis Collections: A third of the company’s 1,200 properties are in Buenos Aires; the rest are beachfront retreats, chic apartments, and sprawling mansions in Punta del Este, Uruguay; Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, Brazil; and Bogotá, Cartagena, and Medellín, Colombia.
Standout: The 1860 Casa Carlos Calvo, in Buenos Aires’s lively San Telmo neighborhood, has crystal chandeliers and a private rose garden (four bedrooms; $4,000 a week). 631/731-1677.
Blue Parallel Villas: This Buenos Aires–based outfit has 20 villas and penthouses in Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, Guatemala, and the Galápagos. Prior to guests’ arrival, properties are stocked with food, champagne, and fresh flowers.
Standout: In José Ignacio, Uruguay, the El Bosque estate has handcrafted wood furnishings and a pool that faces seven manicured acres (six bedrooms; $26,500 a week). 800/256-5307.
Explore, Inc.: Most of the villas listed by owner Cherri Briggs, who spends half the year in Africa, partner with safari lodges to ensure the best possible service, but all come with their own staff, vehicles, and guides. Her portfolio covers South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia, and Botswana.
Standout: Spot elephants and buffalo from the acacia-shaded Sirikoi lodge, on a northern slope of Mount Kenya (three bedrooms; $37,800 a week). 970/871-0065.
Touch of Spice: Based in both Auckland and Queenstown, this team has the North and South islands covered, yet is small enough to provide one-on-one service to clients. About two dozen town houses are centrally located, while rural retreats sit on postcard-worthy pockets of land.
Standout: The Residences at Mountain Landing has an on-site staff and a private jetty facing the Bay of Islands, and it’s a stone’s throw from a series of secluded beaches (four bedrooms; $13,488 a week). 64-3/450-0855.
Villas & Apartments Abroad: With 500 properties around the world, the company has one of the widest ranges of listings of any we’ve seen. Still, it provides personalized service, setting up, say, VIP seats to a concert in Florence or a surprise show by Shaggy in Jamaica.
Standout: Terra-cotta tiles, exposed beam ceilings, and a fireplace round out Sarageto, a country house near Siena (four bedrooms; $6,370 a week).
Red Savannah: Fancy a croissant-making lesson from a French baker in St.-Rémy? The bespoke tour outfitter and rental company—founded in 2011 by a former director at Abercrombie & Kent—has listings in Europe and the Caribbean (Mustique, Antigua, and Jamaica), and gets you supremely local access. 855/468-5555.
Time & Place: From a private tour of Versailles to red-carpet access at Cannes, the concierges at this 200-property agency can make it happen. They’re also on-hand to give one-on-one advice about where to get the best local cuisine and other insider tips. New additions include villas in Vail, Colorado, and St. Barts. 866/605-3542.
Kid & Coe: With curated rentals perfect for toddlers to teens, Kid & Coe is the new go-to site for jet-setting parents. There’s a flat in London that has a sandbox in the yard, and recently added houses in Trancoso, Brazil, are perfect for city kids who want to experience big, open spaces. 212/905-6065.
Eleven Experience: This growing collection has ski-focused properties in Le Miroir, France, and Crested Butte, Colorado (with Iceland on the way). Colorado’s Scarp Ridge Lodge comes with a personal chef, a professional guide, and access to private backcountry terrain via a luxury snowcat. Each property is pre-stocked with top-of-the-line gear, such as custom Wagner skis, for every member of the family, and a closet stuffed with Patagonia and Mammut clothing so you can shop for an extra layer or socks from your room. 970/349-7761.
One Fine Stay: Since launching in 2009, One Fine Stay has stuck to its vision: finding only the chicest apartments and houses in the world’s top cities—so far London, Paris, New York, and Los Angeles. (Expansion to two destinations each in the U.S. and Europe is in the works.) Stark white linens, Kiehl’s toiletries, and an iPhone loaded with insider tips are found in every rental, delivering that luxury hotel feel.
Private Residences by SLH: The 42 private chalets, villas, estates, and yachts in this portfolio are what you’d expect from Small Luxury Hotels of the World. Currently in 15 countries, with the majority in France and New Zealand, they come fully equipped with a chef and concierge. The best part: a booking automatically makes you a highest-tiered member of the Club of SLH.
BeMate: If the idea of giving up the lobby concierge, daily housekeeping, and 24-hour luggage storage is too much for you, consider booking one of the 1,500 apartments on this new peer-to-peer site from Room Mate Hotels. Each individually owned unit is walking distance from one of the brand’s hotels or partners.
Welcome Beyond: This rental company is the brainchild of two brothers from Berlin, and is a testament to their passion for architecture and design. They hand pick every property, currently available in 38 countries around the world. You can rent everything from the unusual (say, a yurt in Varen, France) to the magical (a historic castle in Portugal or a modern chalet in South Tyrol, Italy).
Spaces 42: You won’t find anything rustic among the properties from this TK-based rental company—it’s all contemporary, all the time. The majority of rentals are in Europe, though the inventory also includes homes in Africa (Kenya and Morocco), Asia (Goa, Bali, and Koh Samui), and the Americas (including Miami and Bahia, Brazil).
It takes a lot of up-front cash to join a membership-based company—but the payoff can mean a personal vacation advisor, 24/7 on-the-ground concierge service, and even savings. Three we love:
Inspirato with American Express: Two membership-based clubs—Portico and Inspirato—recently combined to form this new venture, the largest of its kind in the world. It offers luxury properties in more than 100 destinations around the world. For $7,500-$17,500 up front (plus $3,100 annual dues), members get unlimited access to the club’s 230 Signature Residences at nightly rates from $295 to $6,350, plus experiential travel opportunities and VIP treatment at celebrated events worldwide.
Getaway 2 Give Collection: These villas and yachts, spread across 30 countries, are aimed at travelers who want to give back. To join the club, there’s a one-time $15,000 fee, half of which is tax-deductible and goes to a nonprofit of your choice. Members pay reduced rates (between $395 and $1,195), with five percent going to charity. Over $800,000 has already been raised.
Exclusive Resorts: If you want to invest in a second home without committing to one place, this club is for you. Memberships cost $170,000 for 20 days of travel a year (at $1,097 a night), which can be shared with and transferred to family. Most of the 300-plus properties have four or five bedrooms—ample space for large gatherings. In 2014, the company announced the launch of the Gateway card, which lets you purchase three to 21 days of travel at a fixed rate of $1,550 to $1,995 per night. The company also introduced short-term Choice memberships, ranging from three to 10 years (regular memberships are for 30 years). Depending on membership length, average nightly rates are between $1,430 and $1,817 per night, inclusive of initiation fees and annual dues.
A Note on Pricing: Rates given are for high season; they often drop dramatically in low season.