RINCON, Puerto Rico -- It's not as if agents who book the Horned Dorset Primavera here have to twist their clients' arms to visit and revisit the Mediterranean-style estate, set on seven beachfront acres along Puerto Rico's rugged west coast.

The Relais & Chateaux-member property already does a healthy amount of repeat business as well as new business, according to Wilhelm Sack, general manager.

No matter. This winter, the property has even more reasons to toot its horn. Its 22 villa suites open their doors this month, just in time for the high season.

Located on a hill adjacent to the main hotel and connected to it by an arched stone footbridge, the two-story, privately owned oceanview units are managed by Horned Dorset.

Each of the whitewashed villas is available in the hotel's room inventory except during the 30 days per year that the owners can choose to stay in their own units.

The 1,400-square-foot suites are maintained and serviced by the hotel; villa guests have the same housekeeping, concierge and room services as guests in the hotel. In-room massages also can be arranged.

A new infinity pool is the centerpiece of the landscaped villa grounds. Villas are furnished with canopied four-poster beds from Indonesia; carved wooden desks, armoires, dining room sets, cedar cabinets and wet bar from Bali; and sconces, chandeliers and tiles from Italy.

The new two-story villas at Horned Dorset Primavera in Rincon, Puerto Rico, are set on a hillside adjacent to the main hotel. Each unit offers unobstructed views of the sea. The details have been well thought out: Closet space has been allocated for women's long dresses; bedside reading lights have strong wattage; French doors open to unobstructed sea views; and golf carts are available to transport guests from their villas to the main hotel.

Stone terraces and an 8-by-10-foot pool off each living area, along with a large bedroom, sitting area and a balcony overlooking the Strait of Mona, complete the layout.

Large marble bathrooms, long a fixture in the hotel's guest accommodations, have Kohler oval tubs, bidets, brass fixtures, double pedestal sinks and walk-in showers.

Cooking is not permitted in the villas, Sack said; however, a small kitchen provides counter space for setting up private dinners prepared by the property's chef or for room service items.

Horned Dorset's policy banning TVs, radios, telephones and Web access in the guest rooms carries over to the new villa units as well. Jet Skis and cellular phones also are off limits. In addition, parents are discouraged from bringing children under the age of 12.

The Horned Dorset's four-star, dinner-only restaurant, presided over by chef Aaron Wratten, offers French dishes and tropical selections from five-course prix-fixe or eight-course tasting menus. Dinners are priced from $68 per person, excluding beverages and tip.

In addition to the villas, other additions this season at Horned Dorset include:

• The Blue Room cafe will serve lunch and dinner from a bistro-style menu of fish dishes, salads, steak and local items, according to Sack. "This is a casual restaurant that offers our guests new choices at meal times," he said.

• The reception area has been enlarged and relocated to a space within the main building.

• A private catamaran anchored at the hotel's private beach will offer four-hour cruises for up to 24 passengers. The cruise is priced at $28 per person. Two-person kayaks are available for rent for $45 a day.

• The Horned Dorset's workout room has been enlarged.

The bulk of the hotel's business is from the U.S., and the age range of guests is between 40 and 55. Repeat customers tend to be older and stay longer, according to Sack.

Sack said close to 30% of the property's guests rent cars, 30% fly into Mayaguez from San Juan, "and the rest we transfer from San Juan." Transfers are $65 per person; the cost of transfers is included in stays of a week or longer.

The story behind the name

RINCON, Puerto Rico -- What does the name Horned Dorset Primavera come from?

Horned dorset is a breed of white-faced sheep with large horns and textured wool, originally from Dorset, England.

Hotel owners Harold Davies and Kingsley Wratten raised horned dorsets at their inn in upstate New York, which they named after the breed of sheep.

In 1987, the two set out to build a small hotel in the Caribbean with the same emphasis on cuisine and attention to detail that they had established 10 years earlier in their Horned Dorset Inn in Leonardsville, N.Y.

They chose Puerto Rico because of its beaches and people. Their search ended with the discovery of a semi-abandoned guest house on Puerto Rico's west coast called La Primavera.

They met with lawyers, architects and tourism officials, and the Horned Dorset Primavera was born. By 1988, a small hotel of 22 suites and rooms was fashioned from the hillside. Five guest rooms were ready for Christmas.

Meals were served on the ground floor because the second-floor kitchen and marble-floored dining room were not ready.

In 1992, Horned Dorset became a Relais & Chateaux member; in 1998 the new hacienda called Casa Escondida opened with eight rooms fronting the ocean, four with private plunge pools and four with private balconies or roof decks.

The property has won numerous awards, including Conde Nast Traveler's Gold List for the past four years.

At a glance: Horned Dorset Primavera
Location: Rincon, Puerto Rico. A two- hour drive from San Juan. Flights also serve nearby Aguadilla and Mayaguez.
No. Of Rooms: 31 rooms, including eight in Casa Escondida; 22 villas.

Gourmet dinner-only French restaurant, Blue Room restaurant and verandah. Computer center, boardroom, two pools, private beach and evening entertainment. Off-site excursions, such as whale-watching, windsurfing and golf can be arranged.
Rates & Commission: Through Dec. 14, from $280 per room, double, to $1,000 per villa; from Jan. 2 to late March, from $540 per room to $1,500 per villa. Five-night minimum stay required Dec. 20-Jan. 1. Rates range from $595 per room to $1,800 per villa. Commission is 10%.
Meal plan: MAP (full breakfast and prix fixed dinner, excluding tip) is included in the villa rates year round and in the hotel rates in high season.
Packages: Gourmet, honeymoon and getaway programs available from Classic Custom Vacations.
Reservations: (800) 633-1857

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI