Jon Hammond on assignment:RIO GRANDE, Puerto Rico --
Destination: The Westin Ocean Villas at Rio Mar Beach, Puerto Rico. No expenses were spared on the new Westin Ocean Villas at Rio Mar Beach.
Created by the visionary founder of Reebok, Paul Fireman and Tishman Realty, these ultimately exclusive and well appointed resort accomodations are ideally situated nearby the Caribbean National Rain Forest, El Yunque.
Surrounded by 500 acres of palm-lined beach front, the beautiful one-,two-and three-bedroom villas are connected by shuttle or short walk to the Tom and George Fazio Ocean Golf Coursce.
As Marketing Director Larry Goldman put it: "Here we like to share the wealth. Every aspect of your vacation is prepared in advance, thanks to the personalized Online Conceierge Service designed by veteran hotel manager Philip Yu."
Upon arrival at San Juan Airport, I was smoothly whisked away in a black Lincoln Continental, driven by well known percussionist Ralph Lopez.
Lopez explained to me that Ocean Villas was now acknowledged to be the top of the line location anywhere on the island. Because Fireman vacations there himself, often accompanied by Reebok endorsed athletes such as the NBA Dream Team players and golf pros, it's nothing but the best for his guests.
This includes, of course,The World's Largest Heavanly Beds (7 feet long), to accomodate the basketball stars.
After a 25 minute drive from the airport, we were waved in by a guard. As soon as we entered the gates, I knew we had arrived in the closest thing to paradise.
The giant Iguanas were unfazed by the black Lincoln. I lowered the window and could hear the sounds of the famous Coqui frogs and the surrounding tropical forrest.
I was immediately struck by the palm lined beach and stunning landscaping.
Reinhard Werthner, managing director/vice president explained to me that it was no accident that the beach was perfectly symmetrically lined with palms, beautiful foliage, sparkling clean sand and a uniquely designed Infinity Pool that appeared to extend indefinitely into the blue ocean.
"It was a monster project to bring in the highest quality sand to build up our beach, plant the palms and foliage and the special attraction of our Infinity Pool," said Werthner with a wave of his hand.
Originally from Germany, Werthner came to the Westin Corporation after spending more than 25 years managing exclusive hotels around the world for Hyatt and Marriott in Egypt, Germany, Manila, St. Croix, Palm Beach, San Francisco, New York and Chicago.
He actually started his international career 30 years ago in Puerto Rico.
"And so, with a combination of meticulous personal touches of a Bavarian 'Gast Haus' and the grandest flare possible with mega-corporation Westin & partners, all the finest dreams can be realized." he said."
Dining: From casual outdoor to formal Four Diamond AAA Award in the Paleo, there are 12 restaurants on premises to choose from as well as theme lounges.
The sumptuous breakfast buffet was amply stocked with excellent smoked salmon and fresl sliced fruits, juices, bagels, custom cooked omelets with seafood. Really fantastic.
This same room in the villas is known as The Ocean Club. Lunch is served on the patio or in the air conditioned view room. At night, there is an amazing variety of grilled seafood creatively prepared.
From the classic Ocean Club Surf and Turf to Blackened Sea Bass with Tropical Fruit Salsa, Seared Potato Crusted Red Snapper, a choice of fresh fish of the day cooked to order. The desserts were totally decadent.
Every one of the restaurants at the Ocean Villas resort is different and a unique dining experience. It would take two weeks just to sample the on-premises foods ranging from Italian, Mexican, Asian, American, Sushi and Grilled Seafood.
Every villa has a fully equipped kitchen with a convenience store in the lobby, stocked with everything from disposable cameras and film, and food items. The Ocean Villas Pantry is open around the clock. Room Service is 24 hours.
Also noteworthy for dedicated golf players and tennis enthusiasts are the Har-Tru tennis courts and luxurious club house/pro shop connected to the Grille Room and one of the top two rated championship golf courses in the Caribbean, specially designed by Greg Norman, to conform to the curves of the coast line and flowing Mameyes River as it emerges from El Yunque rain forrest and meets the ocean.
I had the signature 16th hole right outside my villa and could watch from my deck, the championship golf action.
In addition to the beautiful River Golf Course, the Har-Tru courts and pro shop/Grille Room, there is a comprehensive dive shop, parasailing, kayaking on the Mameyes River, windsurfing and more.
In fact, parents will be happy to know, there is a program for the kids from ages 4-12, called Club Iguana, which will keep children happy and active with supervised fun and educational activities seven days a week. There is even a water slide.
There are several packages, such as The Caribbean Ultimate Unwind, and state-of-the-art corporate conference facilities, featuring the largest ballroom in the Caribbean.
The friendly staff and management team go out of their way to cater to every imaginable detail and desire, 24 hours a day on the 500 acre resort.
*For additional information, contact a travel agent or check the websites www.theoceanvillas.com and www.westinriomar.com for upcoming specials, or call (888) 625-4949.