It is said that paradise is a feeling, not a place, but anyone that has experienced a stay at Joe Francis’ Casa Aramara is likely to disagree. The luxurious resort-like property caters to the rich and famous, what with a 15-person full-time staff—including two five-star chefs—that can fulfill any request imaginable. We caught up with its owner, the contentious creator of Girls Gone Wild, to discuss luxury travel, his upcoming projects, and why he’s so sure there’s no vacation home on earth like his beachfront Punta Mita estate.
LUXURY RETREATS: Explain Casa Aramara for those that have never heard of it.
JOE FRANCIS: “Casa Aramara is like no other place that I’ve ever seen in the world. It has simply the best location, food, service, and accommodation. The photos and the videos do not do Casa Aramara justice. The guest has to go and experience it. When they do, I’m sure they will agree with what every other guest has said: It is the best villa experience in the world. And we’re constantly evolving to meet the standards of the global elite.”
LR: What are some of the ways it’s evolving?
FRANCIS: “There’s always something new; either the kitchen’s evolving, or the house has added a new spa which we did last year—there are always technological improvements, there are always renovations being done so that it remains Luxury Retreats’ number one property in the world.”
LR: How do you do this without interfering with the guest experience?
FRANCIS: There is no construction on the property ever when there are guests. The team comes in on the very few days it isn’t rented and works 24 hours to do all the maintenance and all the improvements. There’s a five-person maintenance and construction team on duty at all times. Every time a room is turned, it’s painted and everything is redone so the arriving guest receives it as if no one had ever been there—like it’s brand new. The staff works lightning fast; the house turns over in three hours. It’s 45,000 sq. ft., but there’s a huge team of people that do it and they do it amazingly well.
[Luxury Retreats Founder and CEO] Joe Poulin said it best during his company’s President’s Club trip to Aramara in December 2017. When his group first arrived, he said, ‘I can’t believe there were 20 guests here three hours ago. You would never know.’”
LR: How did you get the idea to build Casa Aramara?
FRANCIS: “I was the customer. In the late 1990s, I was a high-end villa customer and it was much harder to do in those days prior to Luxury Retreats being founded in 1999. I had rented all around the world—Africa, South Africa, Europe—and I was always disappointed. By being a high-end villa customer, I understand what I want to see and what is lacking in 99% of the places I visited. The list of things that could be better gets longer over time, and we make sure we listen to the guest and those changes are implemented at Casa Aramara.
I was the customer who just wanted to do it right because I hadn’t yet found it. Now, we have done it—we have created the best product in the world with the best guest experience. What sets Casa Aramara apart is we understand what our guests want. That’s why it’s been so successful.”
LR: What’s the best part about owning Casa Aramara?
FRANCIS: “Anyone who has a home or an estate like Casa Aramara doesn’t need money. There’s a reason you choose to do this business. The reason for me is the satisfaction I receive from the guests having such a great experience at Casa Aramara.
I get a lot of satisfaction working with Luxury Retreats too. Joe Poulin is a great example because he has seen everything—more than I have. It means what we’re doing is right, and that’s what keeps us moving forward and creating greatness.”
LR: Why did you choose to work with designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard and architect Jaime Barba?
FRANCIS: “I have worked with Martyn Bullard for many years—I was his first client when he was an actor in Los Angeles and wasn’t really a decorator but was decorating places for me. I introduced him to a lot of his clients, including the Kardashians. We work well together; we have a great chemistry, and I trust him. Casa Aramara was a huge project, and we had never done anything together of that size. He still works on the house today—18 years later he makes upgrades about once a month.
Jaime Barba is the best architect I know in Mexico. He’s done some amazing projects; he had done hotels and villas, though nothing quite like Aramara. But he was perfect for it and he was a pleasure to work with. I plan to work with him in the future as we expand. More on that later.”
LR: You see Casa as the benchmark for high-end villas. Is it the best luxury villa in the world?
FRANCIS: “For Luxury Retreats guests, who are the global elite, to say this is the best vacation we’ve ever had, the best house we’ve ever stayed in, the best food we’ve ever had, the best staff we’ve ever encountered—those are very powerful statements. It’s a huge deal.”
LR: You’ve welcomed big names like Jennifer Aniston, Russell Wilson, Vince Vaughn, and Eva Longoria. The Kardashians visit regularly. Why do so many celebrities choose to stay there?
FRANCIS: “It’s not only celebrities, but many celebrities travel a lot and they stay at properties all over the world. They’re the customer. Celebrities are just like any other wealthy guest—they’ve experienced it all, they’ve developed a taste, and once they find something they love, they stay with it and make it their home.”
LR: What is the ANYTHING™ button?
FRANCIS: “The ANYTHING™ button is a trademark of Casa Aramara and something I had as a concept from the beginning when the property was originally conceived around 2000 and we started construction. The ANYTHING™ button allows anyone, with the press of a button on the villa’s phone (there’s one in every room), to reach a bilingual concierge, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to be able to get anything they want. By anything, we mean anything. People love it. Some of the more basic requests include coffee in bed, dinner on your balcony, an in-room massage, or a margarita delivered immediately. But it can really be anything you want. Every request is accommodated.”
LR: What would you use the ANYTHING™ button for?
FRANCIS: “I use it for everything—mostly things like drinks and massages. I’m fairly simple—my wife uses it more! Right now? Oh my gosh, I can’t think of anything. I’m standing on the beach in Puerto Vallarta talking to you right now—I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing. I could use a massage later though.”
LR: Do you have any plans for a follow up to Casa Aramara?
FRANCIS: “Yes! We have plans to build five more Casa Aramaras in Mexico in different locations. We have deals with developers to do that. The first one should start construction in the next few months. Joe has toured the land, and we’re waiting for his approval to make sure it works for your guests.”
FRANCIS: “Thank you! It’s nice to have a successful product and know that through that success that other people want what you want.”
LR: Will they all be called Casa Aramara?
FRANCIS: “Yes. Casa Aramara is one of the top five most famous private residences in the world. It’s right there with Buckingham Palace, [Richard Branson’s] Necker Island, and the Playboy Mansion. So we’re going to stick with the brand because it’s pretty well-known.”
LR: Do you put Joe Francis and Casa Aramara in the same class as Hugh Hefner and Richard Branson?
FRANCIS: “I put myself way above both as far as properties go—I’ve been to those properties and Casa Aramara is just better. It’s newer, it’s nicer, and it’s not surrounded by water so guests can get what they want when they want it.”
LR: Can you share the locations of the five new Casa Aramaras?
FRANCIS: “I can’t right now. When I can, I’ll give the exclusive to Luxury Retreats Magazine!”