Sometimes you want to takeover the entire place. We look at three private resorts, visiting The Bahamas, Costa Rica and Panama. Each provide the privacy and personalized service that comes with your own residence, but are more than a typical villa, and are perfect for friends or family groups, weddings and meetings.
1. Musha Cay, Exuma Islands, Bahamas (up to 24 guests)
Hidden among the out islands of the Exumas, in the Bahamas, 11 private islands – not just one — are yours to explore, and the only other guests are selected by you. Over 700 acres of lush natural beauty belong to you and 23 of your guests alone and ideal for a take-over in the Caribbean. Mushy Cay is the passion project of David Copperfield. There are five guest houses – each with their own private beach. Musha Cay and the Islands of Copperfield Bay have hosted Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Sergey Brin and Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz who have taken over Musha Cay for their wedding and other special celebrations.
Star luxury travel agent Jack Ezon recently told Bloomberg about how he booked the island for a surprise four-day birthday party: “There was a treasure hunt with clues informed by the birthday girl’s likes and dislikes, a game show riff on ‘This is Your Life,’ beach Olympics featuring her favorite sports, meals by her favorite chef (who flew in for the occasion), and a movie montage of well-wishes and memories from those in attendance. The resort sprinkles magic into the experience in all sorts of ways. She was totally blown away.” Just in January, Conde Nast Traveler chose it as one of its three best private island experiences. Robb Report listed a vacation at Musha Cay as one of its “21 Ultimate Gifts.”
The island’s accommodations feature 12-bedrooms and 13.5 bathrooms spread throughout five luxury homes (Pier House pictured above), each with its own private beach, and spacious living and dining areas. Not only is the island itself secluded, each of these five residences provide privacy from other guests.
Accommodations range from whimsical to romantic and exotic, all with unique colors in a tropical island style accented with art, odds and ends collected by David Copperfield during his worldwide travels. All homes are fully air conditioned and feature Wi-Fi, DVD and CD player, iPod docks, flat screen satellite television, international phone service, and butler service.
The High View (1)
On the crest of Musha’s highest hill sits High View, 10,000 square feet with commanding 360-degree view of Musha Cay and its 10 uninhabited neighboring islands. There is a soaring living pavilion, and two grand master bedroom suites, plus a cozy, hidden loft. The grounds feature expansive gardens, a steam room, an outdoor fireplace for romantic evenings, and its own private beach.
The Pier House (1)
Pier House is a 3,200 sq. ft. cottage featuring two master suites and a large living and dining room. The front door opens onto its own private beach and a pier.
Blue Point (1)
A 3,200 square-foot, two-bedroom beach house, Blue Point features two master suites and an expansive living and dining area. Intimate in feel and perched on a rocky outcrop, Blue Point is encircled by a wide, shaded wrap-around mahogany porch and located next to its own private beach.
Beach House (1)
Perhaps the most romantic of the accommodations, Beach House is an open-air one-bedroom, thatched roof cottage on a particularly secluded crescent shaped beach. It is enclosed by a small gate, where a private beach unfolds, inviting night time swimming under the stars.
Palm Terrace (1)
Palm Terrace is a 4,500 square-foot five-bedroom home perfect for families, with two master suites upstairs and three additional bedrooms downstairs. A mahogany porch wraps around the home, and its spacious living room overlooks a beautiful patio for entertaining, and its own private beach.
All food preparation is done according guests’ wishes and preferences. Prior to arrival, food preferences are requested and, if necessary, a special air charter is arranged to bring the necessary provisions. A personal Chef customizes the menu daily and enhances it depending on the catch of the day of the freshest fish paired with fruit salsas from island-grown trees, and other gourmet dishes based on what you like. The local catch includes lobster, tuna, wahoo, grouper and mahi mahi. For oenophiles, there is a 500-bottle wine cellar, and a sommelier available for wine tastings that can be arranged at an additional cost.
A favorite place to meet and dine overlooking Musha’s main dock and the amazing cerulean waters of Copperfield Bay. A stunning glass-topped table, with windows on four sides, is the perfect place to have early morning coffee or a celebratory dinner by candlelight.
For candlelit dinners over the sea, there is a very special table set right on our Main Dock where torches light the steps leading down from The Landings.
Depending on the mood, guests can enjoy an intimate candlelight dinner at the Balinese Beach Pavilion which is also a handy spot for daytime, open-air lunch buffets, as it is adjacent to Musha’s swimming pool and one of our many perfect beaches. For adventurous guests, the team can arrange dining escapes around Musha Cay or the surrounding islands or one of the 40 private beaches or romantic hidden cove.
A private sandbar (picture at the top of this newsletter) surrounded by the sea where guests arrive on a sleek flat bottom boat pulls up to a seemingly endless stretch of pure white sand.
Wellness & Fitness
Located on Coconut Beach, there is a state-of-the-art air-conditioned fitness center and steam room. A tennis professional, massage therapist, or a fitness, yoga, or pilates instructor can be arranged for an additional cost.
The days are spent living out your desires and dreams – seriously – as Ezon mentioned – they’ll create your own beach Olympics or come up with your own wish list. Water sports include snorkeling, windsurfing, paddle boarding, sailing, runabouts or wave runners, waterskiing, and fishing (from deep-sea, bone, and flats fishing) or touring the island to discover an untouched cay.
Guests enjoy a the three-mile sandbar that Copperfield calls Heaven on Earth. You can also explore by hiking, walking, or jogging on the tropical paths that surround the island. Or, enjoy a game of tennis on the championship lighted tennis court, volleyball or badminton court any time of day. For swimming and sunbathing, there is an oceanfront freeform pool and hot tub, plus a choice of seven white sand beaches circling the island, collectively spanning three miles.
At Musha Cay, any activity guests’ desire can become a reality. Enjoy goldfish or hermit crab races, shell hunts, daily arts and crafts, face painting, cave exploring, pirate party, tiki parties on the beach, football, whiffle ball, frisbee, croquet, kite flying, flashlight tag, table tennis, scavenger hunts, sandcastle competition, musical instruments, fortune telling and more. Musha Cay’s nautical fleet feature the best in boats and equipment, and water toys include a water trampoline, banana boat, wakeboard and tubes. There is also the 37-ft. Midnight Express, 28-ft. Nautilus Rib Catamaran, 23-ft. Jet Boat, and two 22-ft. Boston Whalers as well as Yamaha jet skis and two Hobie Cat sailboats.
Copperfield Bay can accommodate yachts up to 200-feet long if you feel like sailing in, however if you are coming by air Georgetown Airport in Exuma (GGT) has an 7,000 ft. runway with customs, fuel and limited hours of operation. Guests then take a 20-minute charter flight to Copperfield Bay Private Strip or a 45-minute boat ride to Musha Cay. Copper Field Bay Private Strip is2,100 feet long and can accommodate Cessna Grand Caravans and similar planes. The runway surface is tarred. There are no lights and if you are arriving from outside the Bahamas you will need to clear customs in Nassau.
2. Villa Manzu, Peninsula Papagayo, Costa Rica (up to 22 guests)
Perched on the cliffs of Costa Rica’s Peninsula Papagayo in the northwest province of Guanacaste along the country’s north Pacific Coast, Villa Manzu, is a private 30,000 sq ft. villa estate with a personal chef, dedicated staff and panoramic direct sea views. As Manzu means friends in the native Chorotegan language, this eight-suite villa is a very good option for a take-over celebrating a milestone birthday or another special occasion.
Peninsula Papagayo is currently home to the most expensive real estate in the country with two 5-star resorts – Four Seasons and Andaz – and custom designed private residences. You get access to the Papagayo Marina and an 18-hole Arnold Palmer-designed golf course, plus private beaches with incredible breaks, ideal for avid surfers.
From November to April, Peninsula Papagayo experiences little rain and consistent heat with a wet season starting late May until November. The hot, dry climate makes tropical dry forests the province’s natural vegetation type with monkeys cavorting in the canopy of the trees. The average temperature is 85 degrees year-round, peaking in the spring. During the green season, rains usually pass over in the late afternoons, leaving the mornings full of sunshine and a green landscape. The aptly named green season provides best fishing, surfing, and water conditions.
The Huffington Post writes, “More than a resort, more than hotel, more than a lodge, this remarkable private home, on Costa Rica’s rugged Pacific Coast promises luxury, comfort, fine cuisine, impeccable service, and hassle-free days.” Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian have both stayed. “Villa Manzu is one of the most spectacular villas I have stayed in and sold to clients several times for many different occasions. With nine bedrooms it is the perfect size for family gatherings, a group of friends, perfect for a yoga retreat, small wedding or surf trip,” say Tracy Lonsdale, a luxury travel advisor at Altour.
Designed by Costa Rican Architect, Abraham Valenzuela, Villa Manzu’s eight suites are spaciously designed with details of artisanal craftsmanship throughout. Each of the bedrooms is an oversized suite with direct ocean views. Fifteen beds are allocated as five king bed suites, a double queen bed suite, a double king bed suite, and a custom finished bunk room with four twins and two king beds.
All of the eight suites offer full bath, oversized televisions, a minibar with morning coffee service, walk-in closets with Costa Rican hardwood detailing, and aromatherapy diffusers. Antica Farmacista bath products are used in each of the villa’s bedrooms, as well as Italian linens and English towels. Villa Manzu’s main wing is located in a private section of the villa, accessible by its own entrance, elevator and staircase. The first master suite, La Lora, and children’s suite, Los Monos, are up one flight of stairs, while the penthouse suite, Pacifico, is by itself on the third floor.
Master Suites (2)
Located on the second and third floors of the main villa, the Master Suites – Pacifico and La Lora, both 1,150 sq ft. – offer California king beds; free-standing bathtubs; a his and hers walk-in shower with dual heads; imported fixtures, surfaces of marble and onyx and custom-built furniture; his and hers walk-in wardrobes with custom Costa Rican hardwoods; an outdoor private terrace connected to a beautiful green space, and breathtaking ocean views. Both suites have floor-to-ceiling windows. Each bathroom is a suite unto itself with sitting areas and outside views from the shower and bath.
Pacifico has access to a private outdoor shower where marble meets the trees surrounded by buddha belly bamboo and flowering vines. La Lora’s shower and bath is surrounded by three custom copper fountainheads that create a peaceful river sound. Pacifico has a private elevator entrance opening up into an office overlooking the entire estate and the ocean beyond.
Los Monos, the 980-sq. ft. Children’s Suite, is on the second floor of the main wing, and especially designed with younger guests in mind. There are three custom built-in bunk beds made up of two king-size and four twin-size beds. The suite becomes a playroom where oversized couches are a great place to play video games or watch a movie. The suite offers two walk-in closets and a large white marble bathroom with a freestanding bathtub and shower. Views encompass the courtyard and ocean beyond. Four custom wooden cribs and four portable cribs are available.
The Casita (1)
The Casita is a private two-story house with two suites, Flora and Madera. Flora is 400 sq. ft. and features a large living room while Madera is 970 sq. ft. It is connected to the Main Estate via a covered, open walkway. An internal staircase connects the two floors, creating a shared family atmosphere. The outdoor terrace of the Flora suite features a unique floating bed, where you can listen to the ocean crashing on the cliffs below. Inside, there is a kitchenette and lounge area. A separate bedroom offers a king-size bed, an oversized bathroom and a walk-in closet. The upper suite, Madera, exudes a temple-like ambience with its ornate light fixtures, imported Balinese wood and hand-carved accents and freestanding bathtub. The bathroom features his and hers shower heads, a walk-in wardrobe and a reading area overlooking the garden. The bedroom has a king-size bed and a private terrace with sweeping jungle and ocean views.
Garden Suites (2)
The two garden suites, Naciente at 622 sq. ft., and Arena at 1,000 sq. ft., occupy the lower levels of the home and offer two beds each, quiet garden vistas and limited ocean views. Both suites are accessible by private entrances and are in close proximity to the gym, spa and entertainment bar. The doors of the Naciente Suite open up directly to a plunge pool and Jacuzzi. The suite itself is appointed with two California king beds, a custom bathroom, antique Balinese doors, a freestanding tub and a huge mirrored wardrobe. The Arena Suite, located on the same level is slightly more private. This suite has two standard queen beds, a private foyer, a custom leaf-imprinted ceiling and a walk-in wardrobe closet. The views from the Arena Suite are a bit more dramatic than the Naciente with the jungle and ocean in the foreground.
Courtyard Suites (1)
Plumeria, a 500 sq. ft. courtyard-view bedroom is located just off the main entrance and offers a California king bed, a custom bathroom and a walk-in closet. While equal in size and decor, this suite does not offer the same dramatic views as the other suites.
Locally sourced with exceptional presentation, the culinary team at Villa Manzu can prepare anything that you wish from creative dishes that incorporate a variety of organic, specialized, local seafood and gourmet cuisines also tailored to special dietary restrictions, diets or detox. Guests can watch or jump in to cook with the chef in the open-air kitchen and prepare each meal. The Chef enjoys creating menus together with guests that are unique and distinctive each night of the stay. Meals are served in the main dining room and there are two bars and some open-air bars situated outside on the terrace. Several offsite dining options are available at The Four Seasons and nearby towns for a traditional Costa Rican fare.
Access to the 18-hole Arnold Palmer-designed golf course nearby at the Four Seasons Resort is included and transfers can be arranged. Villa Manzu is located nearby the Golf & Tennis Clubhouse, Residents’ Prieta Beach Club, Marina and a private boat ride away from the Four Seasons Resort.
Fitness and Wellness
Villa Manzu features a spa, yoga platform, infinity-edge heated swimming pool, heated splash pool, Jacuzzi, and gym. As requested, a spa therapist, yoga instructor or trainer can be requested.
Meetings and Events
Functions are available for groups of up to 60, including fully catered food service. Weddings are particularly memorable here at the villa, with a ceremony location just a short walk from the residence on a private peninsula with 180-degree Pacific views.
Watersports equipment available for use includes stand-up paddle boards, kayaks and surfboards, plus three vehicles. A naturalist guide is available to accompany guests on local tours and the staff is happy to create a unique daily itinerary with many diverse options and activities. A private beach club called Prieta is available for use at The Four Seasons, and the villa features a small private beach for guests only accessible via a short hiking trail. There is also Nazacol, a bayside beach a five-minute drive from Villa Manzu, with a long swath of sand and a shallow, calm shore, making it a favorite for wading, stand-up paddle boarding, snorkeling and swimming. For off-site excursions, the sky’s the limit. Whatever guests want to see in Costa Rica, the Villa Manzu staff can arrange, all accompanied by a professional English- and Spanish-speaking guide. For surfing, there are great breaks at Witch’s Rock and Ollie’s Point just a 30-minute boat ride. Villa Manzu has its own private boat and pro-surfing guides can be arranged. As requested, a photographer, edited guest photo book or adventure specialist to lead surf, fishing, snorkeling, scuba diving or other getaways can be arranged.
• Private helicopter charters
• Mountain bike tours
• River rafting & Zip-line jungle canopy tours
• ATV tours and Off-road 4×4 driving
• Diving & Snorkeling
• Jet skiing, Wake boarding, & Windsurfing
• World-class sport fishing for marlin, sailfish, mackerel and tuna• Surfing with a pro-guide• Sunset sails & Marine life tours
• Nicaragua tour
• Horseback riding
• Monteverde Cloud Forest, with 400 bird species and 5 cat species• Natural hot springs
Liberia Daniel Oduber Quiros International (LIR) is Costa Rica’s main airport with a 9,022 x 148 feet runway and customs, but does not operate 24 hours. It is 23 miles and about 40 minutes by car from Villa Manzu.
3. Sweet Bocas, Bocas Del Toro, Panama (up to 14 guests)
Perched on stilts over the smooth Caribbean waters off the coast of the biodiverse rainforest of the 97-square mile Bocas del Toro Archipelago in northwest Panama, Sweet Bocas is a 20,000 sq. ft., seven bedroom villa built from handcrafted Panamanian teak connected to a 15-acre island compound accessed by a 430-foot dock. It’s all-inclusive and perfect for a takeover for adventurous travelers, there are virtually no neighbors in sight.
It’s a passion project for the owner, Montreal Restaurateur Annick Belanger, who envisions Sweet Bocas as a homage to nature, sustainability and relaxation. Sweet Bocas is a self-sustaining natural ecosystem, known as a permaculture, where sustainability is woven in the heart of the property from the farm’s handpicked produce to the pure rainwater that guests drink. Erina Pindar, chief marketing officer for luxury travel agency SmartFlyer says she used the resort for a team building trip, and puts it this way: “The ultimate luxury here is privacy.” Altour’s Lonsdale adds, “The property works well for family gatherings or a group of friends. Boca Del Toro is a most exceptional surf spot (and) this property is perfect for someone into surfing or for beginners. The property has a few expert surfers to take you out on their boat to the best secret spots. There are villages to explore, hiking trails (where) you can help support the local people. They have a floating pontoon which is also great for yoga or evening cocktails or just float around after dinner looking at the stars. Dreamy!”
Each of the seven air-conditioned suites feature a king bed with 100% handcrafted linen sheets, silk blankets and cushions. All bedrooms have their own in-suite bathrooms, offering organic and handcrafted body products. There is an outdoor hammock, day bed, and lounge chaises. There are an additional two rooms upstairs, one with a king bed and the other was designed with kids in mind. The kids’ room comes equipped with a flat screen TV, a Nintendo Wii console with games, kids’ books, and LEGO toys. The kids room has two king size beds, two single size beds, and a pillow pen for kids to play. There are two luxury tents designed from bamboo structures to connect guests closer to nature for a special under-the-stars experience.
Drawing from her culinary background, owner Annick Belanger, created a special yet sustainable dining experience from international to local Panamanian-fare where guests can personalize their menus by selecting produce prepared by Sweet Bocas in-house chef. All produce is local, natural, and organic; most ingredients are seasonal and harvested on the property. Watch local fishermen catch fresh fish on the property. The kitchen is truly the pièce de résistance of the entire house. It’s made-to-measure, beautifully handcrafted Lacanche range cooker and the magnificent stainless steel and midnight blue stone kitchen islands make this kitchen one of a kind.
Meals are shared in the villa’s main dining room and a colorful 12- ft. long dining room table features handcrafted African chairs. There is also a luxury espresso bar and a candlelight floating pontoon where guests can enjoy sundowners and cocktails in the evening.
There are activities for all ages coordinated by the house concierge— exploring nearby beaches on the house’s 30-foot yacht, snorkeling, canoeing, paddle boarding, tennis, treasure hunts for kids, dolphin watching, and hikes through the rainforest. In the season, turtles come to nest on the beaches of Bocas del Toro Marine Park which visitors can view in carefully protected areas. Sweet Bocas has partnered with famous surfing pro, Terry Simms, to offer surfing lessons and packages.
- Snorkeling around the property (Big Bight/Little Bight)
- Kayaking & canoeing
- Paddle boarding
- Wake boarding
- Sub Wings
- Tennis Court & Gym
- AguaCat catamaran
- Tank less SNUBA diving around the property (Big Bight/Little Bight)
- Fishing from the deck of the house and/or from the boathouse
- Permaculture tour around the property for children and for adults
- Cooking classes with our chef for children and for adults
- Art classes, treasure hunts and fun challenges for kids
Activities with an additional fee include:
- Dolphin excursions
- Hiking tours
- Jet skiing
- Snorkeling & SCUBA trips
- Surfing trips
- Kite boarding
- Native village tour
The resort is a 5-minute drive, then 10-minute boat ride from Bocas del Toro International Airport (BOC) with a single runway 4,921 ft × 85 ft. A small terminal exists at the East end of the runway. It is an international port of entry, and the resort can handle all paper work for you prior to your arrival. There is no fuel and limited hours of operation. If you wish to land in Tocumen International in Panama City (PTY), you can park your aircraft in the resort’s hangar and refuel there. Flying time onwards is one hour.