In an attempt to help me convince my baby sister to go for a destination wedding here in the Dominican Republic, friends of mine at Everything Under the Sun Cabrera took us on a tour of some of the gorgeous villas for rent that are in our little town. Though as we walked through the picturesque tropical mansions, rather than feeling envy as I may have before, I found myself reflecting on how much island living has changed my perspective on homes like these.
It seems there are many mega villas in our area but fewer small rental homes. That is surprising to most people who have never heard of Cabrera. I was also pleasantly surprised at the prices. Some of these villas rent for cheaper than a week at an all-inclusive for a couple and also provide a private chef and cater to guests’ every wish. AND you don’t have to share it with anyone other than your friends and family. I already told my other half that I know how and where we are going to renew our vows one of these years!
Bonus: these mansions are a significant part of the local economy and provide good jobs for many in Cabrera, expat and locals alike, as well as serve as non-profits who then support local schools and Dominican owned businesses. Besides, I prefer these mega villas to all-inclusive resorts any day.
The villas we toured were all located in Orchid Bay which is literally a stone’s throw from the malecon in downtown Cabrera. But once you arrive through the gated entrance onto the only road that brings you to these houses, you would never know that “town” is right next door. Frankly, it’s louder up on the hill above town where our house is. These villas are upwind of Cabrera and seem way quieter. Who knew wind carries sound? (Ok, probably everyone except me, haha! Noise in a Dominican town is a force to be reckoned with.) We met some owners, some managers, and many of the hard-working staff. Everyone was smiling and friendly in spite of the work they were doing in the summer heat to prepare for their next group of guests.
Walking through the impressive ocean-adjacent mansions, however, didn’t make me wish our house were any bigger. On the contrary, seeing the labors of the entire grounds and house crews made be realize: smaller is better in the tropics… at least for those of us with meager budgets and an aversion to housework. Don’t misunderstand, the expansive views and lofty heights and one-of-a-kind pools were dreamy and if money were no obstacle… hell yeah! But, reality demands a simpler, less-expensive lifestyle for us. If I can’t sweep the whole house in about 5-7 minutes, then it’s too big. Certain building styles that I once yearned for have since lost their appeal. For example, a vaulted, exposed-beam wood roof used to be my vision until I saw every house in St. Martin that had had a wooden roof decapitated during Hurricane Irma. The cement roofs were the ones left in place. Point taken – no wooden roof for us. Less fodder for termites, anyway!
The ambiance of these villas and the tropical island style were still really beautiful. I understand why the rich and famous would want to relax in these fabulously appointed abodes. But as I looked at all the outdoor showers and whirlpool tubs, ornately carved wooden doors, and curated flower gardens, indoors and out, I couldn’t help but wonder:
Who gets to clean up and remove all the poop?
Seriously, the process of cleaning out unwanted bugs, spiders, frogs, geckos and their droppings is not something I imagined would dominate my fabulous Caribbean lifestyle. (I actually like the geckos… just not a big fan of the little gecko-droppings left all over!)
The absolute worst is when you have been gone for a few weeks to a month traveling. You return to what my friends and I refer to as “bug poo” which is probably not actually from bugs, rather a thank you gift from the house geckos and frogs. Whatever it is, it will definitely be all over your white linen curtains and randomly sticking to all vertical surfaces – doors, walls, windows… yuck. (Really the tree-frogs are the worst – those suckers poop a lot!) Large spiders and even scorpions have snuck their way in by the time you return and are hiding the damnedest of places: inside the loops of the curtains, inside any closed-toe shoes, or the absolute worst – inside the toilet paper rolls. Guess where you’re sitting when you find those! If I could stomach it, I would include some photos of all these fun events, but the last thing I’m thinking of in these moments is to take a picture of it. So, instead, I’ll leave you with more glamorous photos of the villas we toured, and some parting advice.
In the tropics, it’s the bugs’ world and you are just passing through. Learn to live with it or spend a lot of time shrieking and hyperventilating. Or, hope you can afford a housekeeping staff! (I keep telling my husband to quietly deal with some of the larger “houseguests” and not to let me know about it. It’s best for all involved.)
Have your “dream home” preferences changed now that you actually live on a rock and see the true realities of keeping an island house clean?