Basil’s Bar & Restaurant is a wooden shack of a beach bar located on the remote Caribbean island of Mustique. But despite its understated look, a night out at Basil’s could bring you face to face with Tommy Hilfiger, Mick Jagger, Denzel Washington or even Queen Elizabeth.
“Here, they get to let their hair down and be normal people,” says owner Basil Charles. “Bill Gates was sitting at the end of my bar reading a book one morning–I had no idea who this man was.”
This 30-year-old establishment is one of the liveliest–and one of the only–bars on Mustique.
Nicknamed “Billionaires Island,” the 1,400-acre Mustique is so exclusive, there’s only one hotel–the 17-room Cotton House Hotel. Most wealthy visitors rent one of 100 private villas, which run as much as $150,000 a week. Staffed with private chefs, butlers and maids, these full-service, two- to nine-bedroom residences give the mega-rich the opportunity to stay in what are essentially their own private hotels.
Mustique is one of a handful of exclusive and exotic hot spots billionaires go to relax and blow off steam. Whether they crave pristine beaches, rugged mountains or just a ridiculous resort in the middle of nowhere, billionaires have the megabucks to lap up luxury anywhere they desire.
In Pictures: World’s Hottest Billionaire Playgrounds
And if they want a destination with a little more glamour and action than remote Mustique, they jet to the French port town of St. Tropez to show off their hard-earned assets.
The French Rivera’s most popular summertime spot offers one of the most glamorous ports in the Mediterranean, where owners of some of the world’s largest yachts drop anchor to raise their glasses in the town’s bustling bars, restaurants and nightclubs.
“The boats are bigger and bigger every year,” says Anne Marie Dandin, director of public relations for St. Tropez Harbour. “It’s like a challenge–who will have the biggest boat this year.”
St. Tropez’s deep-water harbor is a magnate for seafaring billionaires, like media titan Rupert Murdoch and investor Jeff Greene.
“St. Tropez has a really great charm to it,” says Greene. “If you are in port, you look back at all the buildings and just the magnificent pastel colors–it hasn’t changed probably since Bridget Bardot was going there, 40 [or] 50 years ago.”
Behind the List
Tycoons who prefer terra firma stay at the Mediterranean themed Byblos Hotel to enjoy the chic pool scene and dine at Alain Ducasse’s famous Spoon restaurant. And while staying at the Byblos, the super wealthy often check into the hotel’s famous Riviera Suite. In the heart of the hotel with views of the pool, this two-bedroom, 1,900-square-foot suite can cost more than $3,500 a night.
For billionaires who prefer Western wilderness to posh ports, there’s Sun Valley, Idaho. The town’s Bald Mountain offers 3,400 vertical feet of skiing in the winter and hundreds of miles of hiking and biking trials in the summer.
Celebrities like Tom Hanks, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Steve Wynn all have homes in the area. The rich are not only drawn to this town for fly fishing in Silver Creek and rafting the north fork of Salmon River, but also for the seclusion Sun Valley offers.
“Local residents don’t bother the celebrities and just let them be,” says Bronwyn Patterson, public relations manager for Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber and Visitors Bureau. “They can live a normal life and have a normal vacation.”
Others choose to stay at the Sun Valley Lodge, located at the base of Bald Mountain. Built in 1936, lodge’s wilderness charm, fireplaces, and high-end amenities let billionaires “rough it” in style. The rich often stay in the lodge’s Parlor Suites, which offer two bedrooms and a fireplace and cost as much as $549 a night.
The suites are always booked when banking billionaire Herb Allen holds his annual media conference in Sun Valley. The event attracts so many big shots, it has earned the reputation of a “billionaire’s summer camp.” Each year, media moguls like Rupert Murdoch and Michael Eisner head to Sun Valley for meetings along with with rafting, fishing and golf.
True golf enthusiasts tee off at the birthplace of the game: St. Andrew’s, Scotland. While billionaires like Donald Trump might walk or take a cart down the storied links of the city’s ancient course, they can fly their helicopters to the landing pad of the Fairmont Hotel.
The 520-acre estate houses Esperante, one of Scotland’s best restaurants, along with two championship golf courses, and an executive suite can cost as much as $725 a night. Others choose to stay at the five-star Old Course Hotel, owned by plumbing plutocrat Herbert Kohler. Both hotels boast views of the ancient courses and coastline from a royal setting.
For a true piece of paradise, billionaires travel to Maui, Hawaii, where they often stay at the 370-room Four Seasons Resort to enjoy pampering by pool attendants equipped with chilled towels, Evian water misters and ice pops. When staying at the top hotel on the island, billionaires request the best room: the 5,000-square-foot Maile Suite, which costs $14,000 a night.
“The suite encompasses the entire 17th floor, and has three bedrooms, a private spa, a eucalyptus rain shower, six plasma TVs, an enormous balcony for tremendous views of the ocean and high-powered binoculars for whale watching,” says Mark Simon, director of marketing for the Four Seasons Maui.
Computer tycoon Michael Dell liked the Four Seasons in Maui so much that he bought the entire hotel in July 2004.
Also on the list of billionaire playgrounds: The Maldives, where billionaires head to enjoy a system of coral reefs off the coast of India; the Hamptons, where mansions, quaint beaches, and pulsing nightlife mix at the east end of Long Island, N.Y.; and Palm Beach, Fla., where perfect year-round weather and beachfront mansions have attracted billionaires like Donald Trump and John Kluge.
But the freezing of the credit market, the failure of Wall Street firms and the S&P 500’s 37% fall sive forced even the ultra rich to tighten their alligator belts. In 2009, the billionaires who sip cocktails at Basil’s might be more frugal, and could pass on the $150,000-a-week mansions, opting for the relatively practical $50,000-per-week estates instead.